State Transportation Commission votes to name SR 99 after black Civil War veteran from Washington

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The Washington State Transportation Commission unanimously approved naming State Route 99 after William P. Stewart, (1839 - 1907), a Civil War veteran and early black settler in Snohomish County.

EVERETT, Wash. — A state highway you may drive on every day is getting a new name.

The Washington State Transportation Commission agreed this week to name State Route 99 after black Civil War soldier William P. Stewart of Snohomish.

The Everett Herald reports several of Stewart’s relatives, including three of his great-granddaughters, stood and clapped after the commission’s unanimous decision in Olympia Tuesday.

The naming of the highway is the result of a Snohomish lawmaker’s efforts over several years to replace highway markers honoring Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America.

It started in 2002, when then-state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, was on his way back from a kayaking trip in Canada.  He noticed a granite highway monument honoring Davis at the Peace Arch crossing in Blaine.

It had been there since before World War II and was installed in 1940 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  Dunshee says he found a second one in Vancouver.

Years later, the granite monuments were moved to private land.

The lawmaker continued his drive to get the highway renamed for Stewart, who is buried in the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in 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.

 

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