1997 News Article

Woodinville, WA - December 14, 1997   With a free Sunday to spend digging on the internet, more information about "The Louisiana Stirlings" has been found.  Alexander Stirling and Ann Alston had 12 children, including their second born son, Lewis Stirling.  Lewis participated in the liberation of West Florida from Spain, and saw it's eventual inclusion in Louisiana.

The following article appeared in the Baton Rouge Sunday Avocate newspaper on May 20, 1984, Page 4I.  It's a little long, but gives a great picture of the important history of this large branch of the Stirling family. 
 
Lewis Stirling, son of Alexander StirlingSt. Francisville May 20, 1984 - When the Stirling family gathers for their second full-scale reunion next weekend, descendants will be celebrating three special anniversaries.

The event will mark the 200th wedding anniversary of Alexander Stirling, the 150th anniversary of the building of the family home, Wakefield Plantation, by his son Lewis, (Lewis, pictured at left) and the 50th anniversary of the first family gathering held there back in 1934.

The reunion is planned Saturday at Wakefield Plantation, north of St. Francisville.   The all-day affair will include baptisms,  picture-taking sessions, mule-drawn wagon rides, games for the children, bagpipe music, rides to family cemeteries, picnicking, and displays of treasured family momentos.

Some 600 Stirling descendants from 18 states and one foreign country are planning to come.  The reunion planners managed to locate relatives in 31 states and four foreign countries when extending invitations.  Some  of those in attendance will be veterans of the 1934 family gathering, anxious to see what half a century has wrought among the Stirlings.

The reunion commemorates, first of all, the 200th wedding anniversary of family founder Alexander Stirling, born in Forfar, Angusshire, North Britain, (Editor:SCOTLAND) in 1753.   Some 20 years later he was serving in the First Regiment of Genadiers under Spanish General Don Bernardo de Galvez against the British and regaining control of the area for Spain.

It was a strange quirk of fate which led Alexander to find a wife whose father was a loyal Tory not in sympathy with the revolution against England at all.  John Alston, tracing his ancestry back to Alfred the Great of England, had moved his family from North Carolina to the Mississippi territory and obtained a large land grant from the British near Natchez.

When the Spanish governor of Louisiana, with help from Alexander Stirling and other planters of West Florida, ousted the English, Alston and other loyal Tories took the Spanish Fort at Natchez., acting on a false rumor of British ships approaching via the Mississippi River.  The rumor proved unfounded, the anticipated English aid never arrived, and Alston fled in fear of his life.

Sending his wife and three small children overland to safety, John Alston was captured and sent to Moro Castle in Havana, sentenced to life imprisonment.  His wife was killed when her horse fell during the flight from the Spanish, but the children were hidden in a one room cabin in the swamp in the plantation of family friend Dr. Farrar in Pointe Coupee Parish.  There were cared for during the time by a faithful servant, Mammy Pratt (or Poll, in some records).

Additional assistance came from one Alexander Stirling, then acting as plantation manager for Farrar.  By 1784, the 31 year old Stirling had fallen in love with Alston's 17 year old daughter Ann and married her.  Another Alston daughter, Lucretia, would eventually become mistress of Oakley Plantation and mother of Audubon's pupil Eliza Pirrie.

John Alston, meanwhile, had languished in the Cuban prison until a visit by Prince William Henry of England in 1783 led to his release, but only after Galvez put a price of $5,000 on his head should he ever again set foot on Spanish soil.  Turning himself in to the Spanish authorities, Alston requested that the reward money go to his destitute children, an honorable move which so impressed Galvez that he allowed Alston to return home under oath not to interfere with the affairs of the Spanish Government.

The young Stirlings, Alexander and Ann, settled in the West Feliciana area on a place they called Egypt, with Alexander receiving immense Spanish land grants totaling some 10 square miles.  Serving as an alcalde, an official making and helping to carry out the political and civil regulations, Stirling was also a successful planter.

He and his wife had 12 children, their second son being Lewis, who built the Wakefield Plantation house.  Born in West Feliciana in 1786, Lewis Stirling became leader of the West Florida rebellion against Spain, calling together over 500 other patriots at Egypt in 1810 to set in motion the chain of events which led to the capture of the Spanish fort in Baton Rouge, the creation of the independent Republic of West Florida for 72 days and the eventual inclusion of the Florida Parishes in the United States of America, some time after the rest of the Louisiana Purchase has been annexed.

Lewis Stirling served with distinction in the Battle of New Orleans, married Sarah Turnbull (pictured below) and built the Wakefield Plantation house between 1834 and 1836.  Lumber for building the fine Greek Revival home Sarah Turnbullcame from a water powered sawmill on the middle prong of Thompson's Creek, and bricks for the six huge columns supporting the cypress-shingled roof were made by slaves on the place.

Cotton and sugar cane were grown on the acreage surrounding the house, and the tracks of the West Feliciana Railroad, the first standard gauge line in the country, came across Stirling land in 1835.  The handsome woodwork in the home is a tribute to the contractor, Joseph Miller, who came to the area as a railroad builder and in slack periods was employed for his architectural skill in homebuilding.

To furnish the large home with its 14 foot ceilings, Lewis and Sarah Stirling set off on a 1 1/2 year buying expedition by boat and stagecoach, visiting Philadelphia, New York, and other centers of culture.  Twelve matching four-poster beds of rare striated tiger maple were ordered from Philadelphia, one oversized to accommodate Lewis.

When Lewis Stirling died just prior to the Civil War, he left his wife the pain of seeing sons go off to war and never return.  The plantation bell was melted for bullets, battles raged all around the homeplace, and wounded soldiers were nursed inside.   One Union private is buried in the family cemetery.

After Sarah Sterling's death in 1875, Wakefield attained another distinction.   While it is fairly common for old house to have been added to by succeeding generations, according to the dictates of finances and family size, Wakefield is one of few to have been actually physically divided.  Sarah's four heirs in 1877 raised the roof, removed the top floor and then lowered the roof onto the remaining story and a half; of the portion removed, two separate homes were built.

Today Wakefield is occupied by the family of Lillie Stirling Sinclair, and the sense of family continuity is evident throughout the home, with treasured momentos of the past exhibited all over - portraits, samplers stitched in the 1800's, Sarah Turnbull Stirling's aged wedding handkerchief, and many of the original fine furnishings.  The home was the setting for the 1934 reunion as well.

If you have additional information or are a descendant of this line of the Stirling-Sterling family, please leave a message at [email protected]