Mr. Alexander “Alec” Stuart

Alexander Stuart Saloon Passenger Lost
Alexander Stuart image credit:  Peter Wood/The East Rand Express, 15 May 1915.
Born Alexander Stuart Banffshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died 7 May 1915 At sea
Age on Lusitania ?
Ticket number 013433
Cabin number E 55
Body number Not recovered
Occupation Cartage contractor
Citizenship British (South Africa)
Residence Germiston, Transvaal, Union of South Africa
Other name(s) Alec Stuart
Spouse(s) ? Gravett (? - 1915, his death)
Alexander Stuart was a Scottish-born builder living in Germiston, South Africa.  In 1915, Stuart traveled to the United States with his stepson Jerry Gravett.  Alexander Stuart was a transfer from the Cameronia and was lost in the Lusitania sinking.  A newspaper account says that Jerry Gravett was also a passenger and survived the Lusitania sinking, but Jerry Gravett is not listed as a passenger on Lusitania's last voyage.

Life


Alexander Stuart was born in Banffshire, Scotland, United Kingdom.  In the 1890's, he emigrated to South Africa with his brothers John and Robert and two sisters. The family settled at Germiston on the East Rand, where several members of the Stuart family became prominent citizens.  One of Alexander's sisters married one of the local doctors, Dr. Spaulding.  His brother John was a town councilor at Germiston. The second sister was still unmarried at the time of the Lusitania sinking.  The father of the family was then still alive in his home town in Scotland, aged 86.  At the time of the Lusitania sinking Alexander Stuart had been a resident of South Africa for over 20 years but was still a British citizen of Scottish birth. Alexander Stuart was a builder and cartage contractor in Germiston before the Boer War.  When the Boer War broke out, Alexander joined the locally recruited Railway Pioneer Regiment and fought for the British.  He became a Captain.  After the British occupation of the Transvaal in 1900, Stuart re-commenced business in Germiston.  Late in 1901, he married the widow of General Gerhardus Gravett.  Gerhardus Gravett was the grandson of a British settler who came to South Africa in 1820.  He was, like Stuart, a cartage contractor in Germiston.  Gravett joined the Boksburg Commando during the Boer War and became a Combat General.  He was killed fighting the British near Roos Senekal in the Eastern Transvaal in 1901. According to the article in the local newspaper of 15th May 1915, Stuart was travelling to the USA together with his stepson "Jerry" Gravett (one of the sons of his wife's first husband, General Gravett). The 1915 newspaper account says that Jerry Gravett survived the Lusitania sinking, but Jerry Gravett is not listed as a passenger on Lusitania's last voyage. This may be an error of the newspaper or the passenger list. Alec Stuart originally booked passage aboard Cameronia, but when that ship was requisitioned, he was transferred to Lusitania. Stuart was drowned in the Lusitania sinking.  The following is article from pages 18 and 19 of The East Rand Express, 15 May 1915:

Germiston’s Great Loss

Mr. Alec Stuart – Missing with the “Lusitania”

The horror which Germistonians felt at the torpedoing of the Lusitania was intensified on Monday when the ill-news gained currency that Mr. Alec. Stuart, one of our leading townsmen, was a passenger on the liner and was missing. It was known that Mr Stuart crossed from England to America by that steamer and had expressed his intention of making the return journey in her if he could get through his business in time. To relieve the worry. and suspense of Mrs. Stuart and other relatives and friends a cable asking for information was despatched to the steamship owners, and a reply was received:  "A.  Stuart, saloon passenger, missing; Gravett unknown." Mr. Stuart was accompanied to America by his step-son, Mr. "Jerry" Gravett, who has been in England for a couple of years studying for a medical degree. At first it was feared that Mr. Gravett was also missing, and the worst was anticipated, but happily on Tuesday a cable was received stating that he had been saved but giving no details. No information was vouchsafed regarding Mr. Stuart. On Wednesday a further cable was received intimating that the search for Mr. Stuart had been fruitless, and there seems only too good reasons for fearing that he has gone down with the ill-fated vessel.

An Appreciation.

Mr. Stuart was a Scotsman by birth but at an early age he went to America, where he commenced his connection with the building trade. Prior to the Boer war he came to South Africa, and in partnership with Mr. Grattan started business as a builder and contractor. When hostilities broke out he joined the Railway Pioneer Regiment, and his practical knowledge was of great service in the reconstruction of bridges destroyed by the Boer forces. When the British occupied the Rand the regiment was employed policing the Reef, and Captain Stuart, as he then was, had charge of the Germiston district and carried out his duties to the general satisfaction. Prior to the declaration of peace he recommenced business on his own account, and since then he has carried out many important contracts - principally for the mines and the V.F.P. Company. He was a man of boundless energy, and he had the happy knack of gaining the esteem and affection of his workmen, so that he could not fail to make headway in his undertakings. He had plenty of confidence in the future of Germiston district, and about three years ago, when many other people were deploring the bad times, he showed his trust in our commercial future by erecting the Alexander Hotel at a cost of about £40,000. Lately, too, he was contemplating a further big expenditure of money in our midst. He intended starting a large iron foundry, and it was principally in connection with this that he made his trip Home. It is understood that he inspected several foundries in Great Britain, and actually ordered the machinery for the works which he intended to equip here. Despite his many business activities Mr. Stuart found time to take a keen interest in all branches of healthy sport, though Rugby football was undoubtedly his favourite game. Since its formation he has been the principal supporter of the Germiston Rugby Club, and he has always contributed most liberally to its funds. There was an instance of this just before he left on his trip. The hon. secretary (Mr. J. Grossmann) showed him the draft balance sheet and Mr. Stuart, remarking that the cash balance - though it was a substantial one - did not look too good, promptly wrote out a cheque for ten guineas to improve the appearance of the statement of accounts. The Germiston Tennis Club had also a generous friend in Mr. Stuart, and he had arranged that on his return he would furnish the club with a much-needed club-house and also further playing accommodation. When the war broke out Mr. Stuart offered his services to the local authorities, and with great liberality offered to enlist and equip a regiment of 500 men, mostly mechanics, to undertake the same class of work as was performed by the Railway Pioneer Regiment in the Boer war. On it becoming known that Mr. Stuart had made this offer many of his old comrades volunteered for service with him, and in a very few days the regiment would have been complete. However, it came as a bitter disappointment to Mr. Stuart, and a surprise to everyone else, when the Government declined his offer. Nevertheless a regiment on similar lines to those proposed has since been enlisted at the country's expense. In 1901 Mr. Stuart married the widow of General Gravett, and together they have taken a prominent part in the business and social activities of the town. Mr. Stuart was probably the man who could least be spared in Germiston. He was one of our few progressive men, and he had the means and the desire to further the town in every way. Unlike plenty of successful men, he was exceedingly popular with all with whom he came in contact, and it can safely be said that he had not an enemy in the world. To Mrs. Stuart and to his brothers and sisters – Town councillor. John Stuart, Mr. Robert Stuart, Mrs. Dr. Spaulding, and Miss Stuart - and other relatives we extend our sincerest sympathy in their great loss.
The news of the sinking of the Lusitania -- and perhaps especially because of the news that one of the prominent local citizens had been killed -- sparked off a wave of anti-German riots on the East Rand.  Several businesses that were owned by Germans or people who were thought to be Germans were burned down in Germiston and the nearby towns of Boksburg and Benoni. The hotel which Alec Stuart built three years before the Lusitania sinking, referred to in the 1915 article, still stands as the "Alexander Hotel" and is one of the landmarks of Germiston. Contributors: Peter Wood, Researcher, Boksburg Historical Association References: "Germiston's Great Loss," The East Rand Express, 15 May 1915, pg. 18-19.

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