There are clusters of Stewarts around the Moneyreagh area who we may, or may not, be related to. The earliest mentions of a Stewart family in the area occur in the Montgomery manuscripts (1603 - 1706) which document the Protestant plantation of the area. A huge number of settlers had come over to north County Down from Ayrshire,Scotland, with Sir Hugh Montgomery during the first four years of his colonisation.
'In 1718, William Hannyngton Esq., who had been a captain in the army, on his return to his estate at Moneyrea, found that the Presbyterian interest had increased during his absence, consented to join his tenants and other neighbours in founding a congregation of Protestant Dissenters. In order to encourage the measure, he granted, on 18th of May 1719, to David Black, Archibald Stewart and John Orr, in favour of the congregation, one acre and a half of land, and half an acre of turf bog, forever at a nominal rent.'
Among the earliest settlers were the Stewart family of Clontinacally which is a townland immediately west of Moneyreagh.
The name which keeps recurring in the records for Clontinacally (and there are various wierd spellings of this townland) is Dr. Hugh Stewart who seems to have been deeply involved with the local church and school.
In 1822, government papers record that £73 was granted to H.Stewart of Moneyrea for the building of a school.
In 1825, Hugh Stewart Esq., was again in receipt of a grant to build a schoolhouse in the Moneyrea area.
In August 1832, Hugh Stewart of Moneyrea was granted an arms licence for 'one fowling piece and rifle' and 'one brace of pistols'.
On April 25th 1832, the Remonstrant Presbytery of Bangor (ie: Unitarian) held one of its annual meeting at Moneyrea. Amongst other things, the minister of Moneyreagh Non-Subscribing Church, the Rev. Fletcher Blakely, proposed various resolutions in approval of the plan of national education. Following the meeting, the congregation entertained the ministers at dinner in the school-house, Dr. Stewart R.N. presiding.
And in 1838: ' The Rev. Joseph McFadden....on Thursday last, was entertained at Moneyrea, the place of his nativity, on which occasion 52 ladies and 96 gentlemen were present in the large schoolroom. As soon as tea was over, the Rev. Fletcher Blakely took the chair, and a number of sentiments were proposed which were made the subject of some interesting speeches. The principle speakers were Mr.McFadden, Dr. Stewart R.N., Messrs. Alexander Orr McGowan, David Lindsay Blakely, William McGowan and William Cowan.'
Dr.Hugh Stewart R.N.: 'Died, on the 18th January 1840, at Moss-Brook, Moneyrea, in the 57th year of his age, Hugh Stewart, Esquire, Surgeon, R.N. Having received a liberal education at the Belfast Academy and Glasgow University, he entered the Navy when very young, and was soon after appointed Surgeon. During his residence for several years past in his native neighbourhood, he distinguished himself by his successful treatment of various cases of Dropsy and Cancer. As a general practitioner, he was deliberate, clear-minded and eminently successful. In his dispositions he was truly benevolent and amiable. A Unitarian from settled conviction, he gave his countenance and support on all occasions to what he believed to be the truth of God. His death is not only an irrecoverable loss to his family, but to a numerous circle of attached friends.'
Hugh Stewart's widow appears on the list of subscribers to Robert Huddlestone's book of poetry published in 1844. She appears as 'Mrs. Doctor Stewart, Clontnacalley'.
A Miss Jane Stewart of Clontinakelly, who was born about 1797, married William Kennedy about 1816.
In 1863, a Margaret Jane Stewart was farming eight acres in Clontonakilly in partnership with John Orr.
There were very strong links between the Stewarts and the Kennedys and these families seem to be associated with the Moneyrea townland of Ballymaglaff. Andrew Stewart, the son of Alexander Stewart, married Jane Kennedy, the daughter of Archibald Kennedy, in Moneyreagh Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on 12th June 1847. In 1863, Andrew Stewart was listed as farming in Ballymaglaff. Their son was Archibald Kennedy Stewart who was a hardware merchant and farmer and also a staunch member of the Moneyreagh Unitarian community. In 1905 he accompanied the Rev. Richard Lyttle - who had witnessed the will of John Stewart in 1893 - to the Unitarian Congress in Geneva.
A note on the name 'Hugh' as it appears in County Down at this time: I've noticed that this name seems to appear over and over again in the Bangor area of the county. Just as 'Hugh' appears to be associated with Bangor, the name 'Andrew Stewart' seems to be associated with the Moneyrea area.
An Andrew Stewart of Moneyreagh had a son, Andrew, in 1785. His son, also Andrew, was born in Moneyreagh in 1836 and emigrated to America in 1852 where he married Sarah Emery of Zanesville, Ohio, in 1867. Their son, Charles David Stewart, of Hartford, Wisconsin, later became the Executive Secretary to the Governor of Wisconsin (1915- 1916), and was the author of 'The Fugitive Blacksmith' in 1905.