Monday, November 19, 2012

The Stuart Pecan

You should know by now that one of my favorite things to do is to prove or disprove family traditions. I have already told you about Daniel Boone and Will Purvis. I am also planning tell you about John Wesley Harden, Meriwether Lewis and Brittany Spears but today it is the “Stuart Pecan.”

I have a cousin (1st cousin, once removed to be exact), named Stuart S. Simmons. Stuart was born 09 Sep 1924 in Crossroads, Pearl County, Mississippi. 1 He died 12 Aug 1993 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 2 His wife, now also deceased, told me something about Stuart in 1998. She said:

“Stuart was born at Crossroads, MS which was a small sawmill town near Poplarville. Stuart's father, Lem, set blocks for a lumber company there. The doctor that delivered Stuart was old Dr. Stuart and that is who he was named after. This same doctor got tied in with Bass Pecan Company and this is who the "Stuart" Pecan is named after.” 3

I thought it might be kind of cool to have a cousin named after a nut so I decided to prove/disprove this bit of family history. I turned to the internet and the first thing I found was this:

The Stuart Pecan tree was originally discovered by Colonel Stuart in Mississippi, growing on a fence row, and immediately he was recognized as the father of modern pecan orchards.” 4
I also found this:
“There are more acres of Stuart pecan trees than any other cultivar, and it all began in Jackson County, MS. It was originated by J.R. Lassabe and named for Col. W.R. Stuart of Ocean Springs, MS.” 5
And this:
“Propagated about 1890 by J. Keller and Col. W. R. Stuart of Ocean Springs, MS under the name 'Stuart'.” 6

We already have a problem. The Stuart Pecan was cultivated by Col. W. R. Stuart of Ocean Springs in 1890. This was 34 years before Stuart Simmons was born. This man already has the title of Colonel in 1890 which means he was probably an older man. Let’s say he was 50. That would make him 84 at the time Stuart Simmons was born. That would be pretty old for a doctor to be delivering babies. The Colonel was from Jackson County. Pearl River County is a couple of counties over. If the Colonel was still in Jackson County it would be a bit odd for him to travel that far to deliver a baby.

So now I need to figure out who this Col. W. R. Stuart was, where he lived and when. It didn’t take me too long to find an obituary abstract:

April 19, 1894 Colonel W. R. STUART, Ocean Springs, Miss., buried "last Friday," as per recent notice in the NEW ORLEANS CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE. 7

Colonel W. R. Stuart died 30 years before Stuart Simmons was born. Oops. So let’s look at it from another angle. Was there a Doctor Stuart in Pearl River County in 1924? I searched the 1920 and the 1930 federal census records with no Doctor Stuart found. The fact that Stuart Simmons was even born in Crossroads in Pearl River County is suspect. Stuart’s parents were both in Lamar and Forrest counties their entire lives. Stuart’s obituary states he was a native of Lumberton which is in Lamar County.8 I checked both Lamar and Forrest Counties as well with no luck, however, Doctor Stuart could have easily been simply been listed as a farmer.

There is still plenty I could do to track down the elusive Doctor Stuart (if he exists) but suffice to say that Colonel W. R. Stuart of nut fame was, most likely, not a medical doctor and he was long dead before Stuart Simmons was born. Many old family tales have some basis in truth so my first guess would be that perhaps Dr. Stuart was Colonel Stuart's son or grandson but that isn't the case. I found this:

"Colonel Stuart was married to Elizabeth McCauley (1841-1925), a Mississippi native of North Carolina heritage. Mrs. Stuart had an invalid brother, Robert W. McCauley (1837-1912), who lived with them. She and Colonel Stuart had no children, but were very philanthropic people." 9
I have some feelers out and I will let you know if I discover "the rest of the story."

1 Marie Knight Simmons (Baton Rouge, LA), telephone interview by Michele Simmons Lewis, 1998.
2"Stuart S. Simmons [obituary]," The Advocate, 12 Aug 1993, p. 7D.
3 Marie Knight Simmons, interview, 1998.
4Ty Ty Nursery, "Stuart Pecan," (http://www. Tytyga. Com/stuart-pecan-p/stuart-pecan-tree,htm).
5 Bass Pecan Company, “Stuart Pecan Tree Container,” (
6 LJ Grauke, “Pecan Cultivators,“ (
7 Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith, “Genealogical Abstracts From Reported Deaths, The Nashville Christian Advocate, 1894-1896”, (
8 "Stuart S. Simmons [obituary]," The Advocate, 12 Aug 1993, p. 7D.
9Ray L. Bellande, "Ocean Springs Archives," (

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Hey, it's still cool to have a cousin named after a nut -- whether the chronology holds up or not. I have only one question. To me, all pecans have always tasted pretty much alike. Is there a difference between the "Stuart" pecan and the "non-Stuart" pecan? I suppose I'm asking, Is there more than one pecan tree "cultivar"? I am no pecan expert. But I like a good family legend as much as the next person. Fact or not, the legend carries a lot of family personality and perceptions of what counts in life.

  2. According to the Bass Pecan Company, Stuart Pecan trees can tolerate colder weather, they produce larger nuts and they are easier to shell.

    I still want to find out if Stuart was actually delivered by a Dr. Stuart. I can't get Stuart's birth certificate so I will have to find another way.