Dr William Stewart 1842-1916
William Stewart was born in Pitairn, Grandtully, Scotland, on August 6, 1830. In 1842 he entered the Perth Academy and in 1847 in the University of Edinburgh Humanities. He obtained a Doctor of Medicine diploma in 1853 and an Obstetric Surgeon at Marischal College in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was head of the “D” Division of Military Health in front of Scutari, in the Crimean War.
He was then commissioned to the Río de la Plata by the War Office in 1856 and while in Corrientes he received an invitation by President Carlos Lopez of Paraguay to organize a Military Health Corps. This led to a varied and exciting life in Paraguay.
When President Carlos Lopez died in 1862 his son Francisco took control and the country deteriorated into chaos, culminating in 1864 in the War of the Triple Alliance when Paraguay took on the combined forces of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and lost up to 90% of its adult male population.
In October 1864 Dr Stewart married Venancia Triay Yegros, one of the richest heiresses in the country, and, since women there could not own property, he became the owner of several large and well-stocked estancias. However the situation of Dr Stewart during the war is disputed. On the one hand he claimed that he was in fear of his life when the President was executing anyone who annoyed him in the least. On the other hand, as claimed by Eliza Lynch (the President’s Irish mistress, Lopez gave him gifts of yerba, Paraguayan tea, and was favourably disposed towards him.
After the war ended in 1869 Stewart returned to Scotland and became involved in a major court battle with Eliza Lynch who claimed she has given him security to money to take out of the country for her and that Stewart and his brother George had misappropriated shipments of yerba. Eventually they came to an agreement and Stewart paid her £7,000 out of the £40,000 she claimed he owed her.
He returned to Paraguay to look after his estates and become involved in banking, railroading and diplomacy up till his death in Anuncion on June 27, 1916.
“Eliza Lynch, Queen of Paraguay”, by Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning
“Dr William Stewart in Paraguay, 1857-69” by Harris G. Warren
Post by: Sheila Magee, Downe U3A