Lawmakers pass bill to rename SR 99 after black civil war veteran William P. Stewart

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Civil War Veteran William P. Stewart, 1839 - 1907

OLYMPIA – (AP)  The Washington Legislature has passed a measure to rename a state highway in honor of a black Civil War veteran.

The House unanimously agreed to changes made by the Senate to House Joint memorial 4010.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

The measure calls for the Washington State Transportation Commission, which names the state’s highways and bridges, to start the process of naming State Route 99 after black Civil War veteran William P. Stewart of Snohomish.

Stewart served during the Civil War, when he volunteered to fight in the 29th Colored Infantry.

He and his fellow soldiers faced terrible odds.  Historians say close to one in three became casualties during the war.  While battling against General William Smith’s 18th Corps, Stewart saw combat nearly daily at the front.

In the last few months of the war, Stewart and his fellow soldiers fought near Petersburg, Virginia in the Appomattox Campaign.  In May of 1865, Stewart’s regiment was assigned to Texas along the Rio Grande River as part of the XXV Corps, an all-black unit stationed along the border with Mexico to challenge French control of that nation.

Stewart was a farmer before he volunteered for combat.

He married Elizabeth Thornton in 1868.  Eventually he became a highly-respected pioneer in the Snohomish area before he died in 1907.

He lived on a farm south of town, where his house still stands today.

Markers along what used to be State Route 99 near Blaine and Vancouver, Clark County, once honored Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.  The highway currently has no official name and the markers, blessed by state officials in 1940, have since been taken down.