Elizabeth Stevens Stuart

Elizabeth Stevens Stuart passed away on Wed., Sept. 7, 2011 at the Osgoode Care Centre where she resided for five years.

Elizabeth was born July 7, 1907 at Maplehurst Farm on Dalmeny Road in Osgoode. The farm, built by her father, John Cameron Stuart, was on her great-grandfather, Alexander McNaughton Stewart’s, land. She remained at her beloved Maplehurst Farm until 2006, managing the sugar bush and conserving her woodlot as a “natural legacy” for years to come.

This remarkable woman was one of five children of the late John Cameron Stuart and the late Florence Stevens. She was predeceased by her sister, Estella McLean, and her brothers, John, Steves, and James.

She grew up on the farm and attended the one room school in Dalmeny. She continued her education in Kenmore, then Lisgar Collegiate, and began training for a career in education by taking physical education at Queen’s University summer school, then entering Ottawa Normal School in 1925. While teaching at Lyndhurst, Ont., she began taking Queen’s correspondence courses. She completed her degree in English and history with honours in 1932. During the war years, she worked for Canadian Intelligence, and in 1945 and 1946 she returned to Kingston to teach war veterans. Her mathematical acuity drew the attention of other educators, who encouraged her to pursue and qualify for a career as an actuary. In 1947, she completed the actuarial exams and received a Masters Degree with Honours in Mathematics from Queen’s University. She was described in her yearbook as “Just another charming feminine contradiction, a young lady with a genius for maths and who specialized in English and history.” Teaching, however, remained her career choice, which she followed until her retirement in 1968.

Elizabeth was influenced as a young woman by the McLaurin family, who were pioneer missionaries for Canadian Baptist Ministries in India. She became a Christian when she was seven years old, and later fondly recalled, “I realized my name was not written in His book, so I told Him that I wanted it written in.” She earned a life membership in the Baptist Women’s Missionary Society and, until her death, continued to support Christian ministries as her way of helping change the world.

She was a cousin of Roger Stevens, the first European settler in Carleton County, which contributed to her interest in becoming a devoted local history researcher and preservationist. Although her health had been compromised by an adverse sulfa reaction in 1944, and a near-fatal car accident in the 1960s, Elizabeth embarked on a new vocation as genealogist and local historian for the township of Osgoode. This connected her to a wide network of scholars and researchers in immigration and historical demography. From 1949 to 1952, she was at the National Research Council in Ottawa. In 1970, she was a charter member of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

In 1972, she spearheaded the formation of the Osgoode Township Historical Society and Museum, which houses the results of her research; microform records from the National Archives, collections from Scotland, and chronicles of almost every pioneering family of Osgoode since the late 1700s. Her detailed research and boundless energy led to another 30 plus years as a trusted resource for families, genealogists, and historians, seasoned by tireless activism as an advocate for good local government, and the preservation of our heritage. She published many articles and books on the history of Osgoode Township, pioneering families, as well as genealogical histories of her own Stuart and Stevens families. In 1979, she forged a group of local farmers into the Osgoode Township Male Choir.

At the age of 81, she returned to school in order to master working with computers to expand her capabilities with research and publishing. She travelled extensively, and continued to use email, the Internet, and genealogical programs through her 104th birthday, as she once noted “my search continues for answers.”

Among her many other achievements and honours, she was awarded the Order of Osgoode, was a recipient of the Ontario Heritage Foundation Recognition Certificate and Pin, and recipient of the Ontario Bicentennial Medal for outstanding service as part of the Ontario 200th birthday celebration.

An ever faithful educator and activist, Elizabeth inspired many through her Christian devotion, love of family and community, generosity, mentoring, research, and her wealth of knowledge. She was a stalwart of her community and the matriarch of the Stuart family. She was a warm and open-hearted person who touched many lives, and we are all much richer for having known her.