Chestertown resident Lyman Hall recently published his latest book “The Stewards of West River: A Maryland Family during the American Revolution.”
The book tells the story of the Steward family, who lived in Anne Arundel County in the late 18th century. Stephen Steward inherited a shipyard in the 1750s that had the distinction of being destroyed by the Royal Navy in 1781 and Steward’s son Lt. Col. John Steward fought in the Maryland Continental Line throughout the Revolutionary War and was decorated for gallantry for his actions in the Battle of Stony Point, N.Y.
Hall also describes the finding of the Steward shipyard’s remains on his former property called Norman’s Retreat at Ford’s Creek on the upper West River near Galesville, which contained what a press release said was “the most complete remains of a colonial shipyard that was excavated and documented by Bruce Thompson, the former State Underwater Archaeologist.”
The book is available at www.amazon.com.
How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
The account of the Steward family started in 1985 and created a whole new life and career. Shortly after buying the site, an archaeologist showed up and with him was a local who had told him about the story passed down through his family of this site. He said this was where they built the big ships during the Revolution War. We were then privileged to have the Archaeological Society of Maryland set up a 10-day archaeological excavation followed by an open house for the public. During the open house, I was approached by Terry Smith, an American journalist and special correspondent at the News Hour with Jim Lehrer said, “Dean, you have enough material to write a book”. The seed was planted and I started my research.
What inspires you to write?
My love for history. I started my research at the Maryland Hall of Records, collecting letters written and received by Stephen Steward. Reading these letters and walking this historical site created a deep historical excitement. I stood and walked where he had read and wrote these letters, and I felt that the stories had to be told and saved for future generations.
Do you consider writing to be a career?
No, however, I am working on an autobiography for my granddaughter. I have so many questions that I never ask my parents. I was too busy and now I have no way to get the answers. I don’t want her to be in the same position.
What kind of writing process do you use?
I started researching first, which created the need to trace each family member’s journeys during the war. Building a shipyard, serving as an agent for Congress, Maryland’s Council of Safety, exploring the battlefields, and any story local South County family that their generations were of that period. The first draft was a disaster in that the story was not well thought out. Once that was corrected, the draft was brought to the most critical position, editing and proofreading.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
William Dudley, Symonds Craig, Morris Radoff, Patrick O’Donnell, Kelly, Reaney, James McSherry, Linda Davis Reno, Charles Royster, and many other historians. They all wrote their books on research and their deep interest in preserving history.
Please include an excerpt from the book that you feel is compelling for local readers:
“Ya can’t live forever” was Jack Steward’s battle cry as he led his men into the teeth of death with savage, brutal fighting
Steward called Sergeant Phelps a coward and slugged him. He was arrested to be court-martialed for slugging the Sergeant.
His macaroni cocked hat exhibited his dashing manner of total confidence in himself and his men.”