22 December 2020

Samuel Steward and His Family

Samuel Steward. From
Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry
Meet Samuel Steward (1870-1952) who was the caretaker of a SLC comfort station (see previous post) for more than 30 years.

Samuel and his wife, Allie, lived in Pueblo, Colorado for more than 20 years where Samuel was one of three Black police officers. In 1913 Samuel, his wife, and their 9 living children relocated to SLC where they had another 3 children.

At first, the Steward family rented a house near the railroad tracks on 400 North and Samuel got a job as a construction worker at the site of the Utah State Capitol where he mixed cement by hand.

But in late 1913 he was hired on by the SLC Health Department to be the caretaker of the 300 South and State Street men’s Comfort Station. At the time of his retirement in 1946 his salary was $60/month which equates to about $800/month in 2020 dollars (new hires were given $40/month in the 1940s).

Samuel made additional money from tips and fees while performing his caretaker duties. He would check shopping bags and parcels for a dime. A shoeshine was a dime. For a nickel he would provide soap and towels for workers who wanted to wash up before dinner or shopping. And there was a private stall with a toilet that was for Samuel’s personal use that he would keep just a little bit cleaner than the rest and charged a nickel for its use.

He worked long hours as the caretaker of the comfort station, from 7am to 9pm. When his son Edward was old enough, he would help his dad after school.

In an oral history interview Edward wondered why his dad left Pueblo where he had a higher status job, but Samuel never explained the move. Samuel never complained about the job at the comfort station and by 1919 he was able to purchase a large home in Liberty Wells at 1946 S 400 East (now demolished).

The Steward family lived in that house for decades and it remained in the family until at least 1963. It was demolished and replaced with a duplex in 1970.

Sources: Edward Steward Oral History, Marriot Library; Ancestry.com

Samuel’s daughter Thelma and her husband Clarence Beridon purchased the house next door at 327 Ramona Ave in the 1930s. It was in the family through the 1980s and is still standing. Thelma was instrumental in organizing the Utah chapter of the NAACP.

Also, his son Edward was the first Black person to be a licensed master plumber in Utah. After WWII he took his GI school benefits out of state for his master plumbing license and came back to SLC and worked for SLC, eventually becoming supervisor. Very well-liked and respected and opened opportunity for others.

    Samuel and Allie Steward. From Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry

Samuel on the Pueblo Colorado Police Force. 1-3 from Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry

       The stall that Samuel would rent out for a nickel, from UDSH.

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