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John G. Stewart Papers

Identifier: SC 0157
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The John G. Stewart Papers consists of five boxes, measuring 2.12 cubic feet, spanning the years 1761 to 2002. The collection contains a wide array of facsimile documents pertaining to Germanic folklore and culture in the Shenandoah Valley including notes from Stewart's own lectures and presentations on particular Valley topics. Documents consist of photocopies and drafts of articles written by Stewart and his colleague Elmer L. Smith, information compiled from interviews with Valley residents, as well as photocopies of primary source materials such as images, recipes, correspondence and medicinal remedies from individuals living in Rockingham, Augusta, Wythe and Shenandoah Counties in Virginia and Pendleton County in West Virginia. Most of the photocopied articles are reprints from the Pennsylvaanisch Dietsch Eck and "Valley Folklore" articles from the Highland Recorder (Highland County, Virginia.) spanning from November 1953 to November 1973. A detailed list of those articles is included in the Contents List below, as a link to a pdf document, and is also on file in Special Collections. The collection has been left largely in the order in which Mr. Stewart used it, with minor exceptions. It is arranged in six series: Topical Research Files, Folk Medicine and Remedies, Pow-Wow Documents, Lectures and Administrative Files, Henkel Materials, and Folk Culture Posters. Numbers in brackets in the contents list below indicate item count within a folder.

Topical Research Files, 1961-1995, are further divided into subseries: Calendar Events and Other. The series consists of drafts of articles written by Elmer L. Smith and John Stewart, reprinted articles from the Pennsylvaanisch Dietsch Eck (1953-1963), and "Valley Folklore" columns from the Highland Recorder (1965-1973), and miscellaneous notes taken by John Stewart. Of particular interest in the Calendar Events subseries are folders pertaining to traditional German holidays such as Belsnickeling and Martinmas. The Belsnickel was the Christmas gift giver, who disguised himself as an evil man. For good children he gave presents, but for naughty ones he carried whips or sticks. Martinmas, or the Feast of Saint Martin, was celebrated on November 11th and typically marked the first day of winter. Materials in the "Other" category cover a wide range of topics and are arranged alphabetically.

Materials in Folk Medicine and Remedies, 1790-1984, were left in the donor's original order and primarily consist of photocopies or photographs of original primary source documents obtained from individuals in Rockingham, Shenandoah, Augusta and Wythe Counties in Virginia and Pendleton County, West Virginia. Also represented are articles by John Stewart, Kurt Kehr, Elmer Smith, and Billie Jo Monger. Documents include medicinal remedies for ailments such as arthritis, dog bites, and blisters. Information regarding provenance of various items in this series, if available, resides in the administrative file for this collection in the Special Collections office.

The series Pow Wow Documents, 1883-1900, contains materials pertaining to the handwritten, unpublished Pendleton County Pow-Wow Book of West Virginia and other related materials. The Pow-Wow Book demonstrated the art of healing people through prayer and the placing of hands on the body, which was ostensibly a custom among the Pennsylvania Germans. The series contains the following: photographs of the original Pow Wow book, which was written in German; English translations of part of the book; an undated typed article by Elmer L. Smith and John G. Stewart entitled An Occult Remedy Manuscript from Pendleton County, W.VA; a reprint of Elmer Smith's c.1976 article "The Medical Therapy of Powwowing: Early History in Europe to Surviving Practices in Modern America," typed notes taken from Folk-Medicine: a Chapter in the History of Culture (1883), by William George Black, and Der Deutsche Volksaberglaube der Gegenwart (1900) by Adolf Wuttke, regarding folk healing practices.

Lectures and Administrative Files, 1966-2002, include various papers and notes on topics Stewart presented at conferences, seminars, and other speaking engagements in the Valley and abroad. Topics generally concern Valley folklife and folklore. Material pertaining to his teaching and research obligations include course syllabi, a grant application, an oral history program proposal, and bibliographies.

Henkel Materials, 1796-1963, document the general history of the Henkel Family and Henkel Press of New Market, Virginia and consist of photocopies of publications and medicine labels printed at the press. Materials pertaining to Paul Henkel include an index and trascriptions from his daybook and diary as well as materials documenting his sermons and correspondence. A list of Solomon Henkel correspondence is also included. Photographic images of broadsides printed at the Henkel Press and woodcuts and impriints used in various publications are present. The donor's research nots concerning materials at Special Collections at JMU are also contained within this series.

Folk Culture Posters, undated, is a collection of oversized photographs taken by the donor of Frakturs, tomb stone rubbings, folk medicine recipes, and Henkel Press broadsides. The images are mounted on cardstock and numbered according to the donor's description list.


  • 1761-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1973


Language of Materials

English, German

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

John G. Stewart was born in 1918 in Vienna, Austria under the name Hans Gideon Stein to Wilhelm Stein and Margarethe Pick Stein. Practicing Jews, the family was subject to scrutiny and Hans was arrested during Kristallnacht. Fearing for their safety, the family obtained visas to come to the United States soon after Hitler invaded Austria in 1938. Hans Gideon Stein attended the College of the Pacific, now called the University of the Pacific, from 1939 until he was drafted into the United States Army in October 1941, where he served as Staff Sergeant in Military Intelligence. He became a United States citizen in 1943 and officially changed his name to John Stewart. After World War II, Stewart decided to complete his education. He attended Columbia University from 1945 to 1948, obtaining a masters degree. Stewart taught at Harrisonburg High School from 1951 to 1958, when he was offered a teaching position at Madison College in the language department, for which he taught German and Latin until 1973. Until 1989, he continued to teach classes on folklore and folk culture in the Department of Sociology. After retirement, Stewart continued to research and write about Shenandoah Valley German folklore and culture. He passed away August 27, 2010.

Elmer L. Smith was born in 1920 in Newark, New Jersey. After earning a B.S. at Florida Southern College, an M.A. at Western Reserve University, and a Ph.D. at Syracuse University, he taught government, economics, and sociology in several Pennsylvania colleges and universities. In 1958 he came to James Madison University (then Madison College) as Director of the Social Sciences Division, serving until his death in 1981. Smith recognized that there was a large German-speaking segment of the population that had settled in the Shenandoah Valley. He conducted research and interviews to document the folk culture of the Shenandoah Valley, and published a wide variety of books and papers. Most of Smith's papers and many of his publications are available at the Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia.

Smith and Stewart collaborated on research and conducted interviews with descendants of the German settlers in the Valley, much of which is documented in this collection. Together, Stewart and Smith established the Valley Folklore Society in the early 1960s. They compiled and published information on many folk traditions of the Shenandoah Valley Germans, including holiday traditions, food recipes, medicinal remedies and favorite pastimes.


2.29 cubic feet (5 boxes, 1 flat file)


Research materials and topical files pertaining to Shenandoah Valley folk culture including recipes, cures for ailments, folklore stories, and other traditions gathered and documented by John G. Stewart and Elmer Smith, former professors at Madison College (James Madison University).


The collection is arranged in six series. Series 1: Topical Research Files is arranged further into subseries.

  1. Topical Research Files, 1761-1995
  2. Folk Medicine and Remedies, 1790-1984
  3. "Pow-Wow" Documents, 1883-1900
  4. Lectures and Administrative Files, 1966-2002
  5. Henkel Materials, 1796-1963
  6. Folk Culture Posters, undated

Acquisition Information

John Stewart donated this collection of research material and notes in August 2007 and June 2009.

Location of Originals

Many original documents may still be in the hands of the owners cited by Mr. Stewart in his notes, or their heirs.

Related Material

Elmer L. Smith Papers, undated, SC 0166, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.

Separated Material

Due to copyright restrictions, photocpoied materials from the following collections were removed: Henry Z. Jones, German Origins of Jost Hite: Virginia Pioneer, 1685-1761 (Edinburg, Va.: Shenandoah History, 1979); John Brown, Circular-schreiben an die deutschen Einwohner von Rockingham und Augusta, und den benachbarten Caunties. Erster band. Von Johannes Braun. Prediger des Evangelii in den Caunties Rockingham und Augusta, Virginia (Harrisonburg, Va.: Gedruckt bey Laurentz Wartmann, Rockingham County, Virginia, 1818); Adolf Spamer, Romanusbuchlein: historisch-philogischer Kommentar zu einem deutschen Zauberbuch. Aus seinem Nachlass bearb. von Johanna Nickel (Berlin: Akademie-Verag, 1958); "Schreiben eines deutschen Juden, an den Prasidenten des Kongresses der vereinigten Staaten von Amerika," Deutsches Museum 1.6 (1783): 558-566. The map Deutsche Einwanderung 1750-1850 entlang shenandoah und Potomac sowie heutige Dialektinseln des Virginiadeutschen has been removed from folder German Immigration and placed in the map drawer.


  • Aurand, A. Monroe. The "Pow-Wow" Book; A Treatise of the Art of "Healing by Prayer" and "Laying on of Hands", etc... Harrisburg, Pa.: Aurand Press, 1929.
  • Obituary of John Gideon Stewart. Daily News-Record August 30, 2010.
  • "John Gideon Stewart," Shenandoah Valley Folklife Society Newsletter 23, no. 3 (Sept. 2010): 1-2.
  • Stewart, John G. Oral History Interview, John G. Stewart; interviewed by Carol Maureen DeHart, 2003. SdArch no. 25-1. Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Stewart, John G. Memoirs of Hans Stein/John Stewart, 2003.
  • Smith, Elmer Lewis, John G. Stewart and M. Ellsworth Kyger. The Pennsylvania Germans in the Shenandoah Valley. Allentown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Folklore Society, 1962.
  • Smith, Elmer Lewis and John G. Stewart. A Collection of Papers from the Virginia Folklore Collection, Valley Folklore, and Specialized Collection of Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore from the Region, 1965-1967.

Processing Information

Original newspaper clippings were photocopied onto archival paper and acidic originals discarded. In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 4016.

A Guide to the John G. Stewart Papers, 1761-2002 (bulk 1953-1973)
Kristie Kendall and Tracy Harter, Tiffany Cole
December 2008, March 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2013-11-21: Converted to schema conforming EAD by dtd2schema.vh.xsl.

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612