Elinore Pruitt Stewart is known as the Woman Homesteader and was the subject in the previous post. After posting the piece on the Homestead Act and a letter written by Mrs. Stewart, I did a little research on her and found she is worthy of attention.
She was born June 3, 1876, probably in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. Her father died while in the military during the late 1870’s, somewhere on the Mexican border. Her mother was Josephine Courtney Pruitt. Josephine married her brother-in-law, Thomas Isaac Pruitt, after Elinore’s father died.
Elinore received a basic education at the Pierce Institute. The school closed in 1889. Elinore was orphaned when Thomas died in a work accident and her mother died of complications following childbirth in 1893. Elinore, age 18, was the sole care-giver for her five youngest siblings.
Elinore married Harry Rupert who was 22 years older and the couple filed for a homestead in 1902. The marriage did not last and Elinore began work a cook and domestic. While working for Mrs. Juliet Coney, Elinore began work in March, 1909 for Mr. Clyde Stewart of Burntfork, Wyoming.
In May she filed homestead on 160 acres adjoining her employer. One of the requirements was that the homesteader build a home on the property and live on it for five years after which they owned it. Because the line between Mr. Stewart’s claim and Elinore’s came within a couple of feet of Mr. Stewart’s home, they were able to add on an addition to his home that sat on Elinore’s claim giving them room to raise a family while fulfilling the requirements of keeping Elinore’s claim.
The law for married couples filing for homestead said that the husband and wife must live in separate residences so Elinore gave her claim over to her mother-in-law in 1912. By that time she and Mr. Stewart had begun their family as well as raising Elinore’s daughter from her first marriage.
The long, sometimes rambling, letters Elinore wrote to her old employer, Mrs. Coney, were published in “The Atlantic Monthly” and later were published in book form. When “Atlantic Monthly” asked more more letters, Elinore went on an elk hunt, both for writing material and meat for the homestead, and wrote several letters over about two months. Those were published under the name “Letters on an Elk Hunt”.
In 1979, the movie “Heartland” was released and was loosely based on Elinore’s life. It portrays very little of her work on her homestead and concentrates almost wholly on her life as Clyde Stewart’s wife.
Elinore Stewart died of a blood clot to the brain following gallbladder surgery on Oct. 8, 1933. She and Clyde are buried at the Burntfork Pioneer Cemetery. Clyde and their sons operated the ranch until 1940, leased it for a while, and finally sold it in 1945.