Alex Stewart

cooper/woodworker, Sneedville

National Heritage Fellowship (1983)

Photo by Roy Overcast


Alex Stewart (1891- 1985) received the 83.  He lived in the remote Panther Creek community of Hancock County, and it was not until late in his life that he gained recognition for making staved cedar buckets, churns, and tubs as “America’s last living cooper.”  The craft was only one of many folk skills and bodies of knowledge that he had mastered.  Also a chairmaker and woodcarver, Stewart exemplified the resourceful self-sufficiency of traditional Appalachian farm life.


For Alex Stewart’s National Heritage Fellowship profile, go to

For further reading, see:

Alex Stewart: Mountain Man. Oak Ridge, TN: Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, 1980. (exhibit catalog)
Brunson, Laurie, “Butter Churns,” in  Eliot Wigginton, ed.,  Foxfire 3  (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1975),  pp. 269-97.
Cogswell, Robert, Tradition: Tennessee Lives & Legacies (Nashville: Tennessee Arts Commission, 2010), pp. 138-43.
Elick, Catherine, “Artisan and Apprentice: A Master Cooper Conserves his Craft,” Tennessee Conservationist 50, #6 (Nov/Dec 1984):  8-12.
Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 598-600, 736.
Greear, Veronica, “The Legacy of the Last Traditional Cooper,” Tennessee Conservationist 71, #6 (Nov/Dec 2005): 30-33.
Henry, Bill, “Alex Stewart: A Personal Reminiscence,”  Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin  67, #2 (June 1981): 48-66.
Irwin, John Rice,  Alex Stewart: Portrait of a Pioneer.  West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing Co., 1985. 

Masters of Traditional Arts, Documentary Arts (CD-Rom, 2002)
Alex Stewart, Cooper, by Thomas Burton (film, 1973). Can be viewed online at,224 .