Generation 1: Henry Stephens, father of Henry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens
THE STEPHENS FAMILY
GENERATION 1: HENRY STEPHENS (b. abt. 1800 – d. bef. 17 Jan 1849), father of Henry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens.
Henry Stephens, the father of my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Monroe Stephens, was born about 1800 somewhere in Georgia. I start with Henry’s lineage– and not an earlier ancestor– as he is the most distant person in this line whose lineage I can definitely record with any accuracy (though even tracing his lineage correctly has been a challenge).
As to a birthplace– well, I’m not sure. The 1830 Lowndes, Georgia census has a Henry Stephens, that may or may not be him. Lowndes is just north of where this family ends up residing in 1832 (in Hamilton, Florida), so it is likely to be him.
I haven’t found many records for Henry Stephens, though a military record—that may or may not be him– exists. In the records of U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865, there is a Henry Stephens who fought for the Confederacy in Georgia. This Henry served with the 11th Georgia Infantry, Company C, G and entered as a Private.
In the book, “Cracker Times and Pioneer Lives: The Florida Reminiscences of George Gillett Keen and Sarah Pamela Williams,” we learn that the family moved to Hamilton, Florida in 1832. In 1821, the transfer of Florida from Spain to the U.S. had created a mass migration of “planters” to Florida, mostly into Middle Florida. In the Antebellum South, planters were those who owned a plantation and held a number of slaves, mostly for agricultural labor. Though we don’t have records of Henry Stephens’ ownership of specific property or a plantation in the area, we can assume he did. At the time, enslaved persons made up much of the population, toiling on plantations and most likely growing cotton, which was the major cash crop of the area. In the Hamilton County Territorial census records in 1840, there is record of a Henry Stephens with a family of nine and seven slaves. This is likely his family.
I have seen a number of online trees listing a Joshua Stephens, not this Henry Stephens, as the father of Henry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens. I disagree. For starters, Hamilton County Probate records note that Henry M. Stephens and his wife, Elizabeth Stephens, were appointed administrators of the estate of Henry Stephens, deceased. Henry M. Stephens should, then, be the son of Henry Stephens. The persons named in the record are: Elizabeth Stephens (second wife of Henry Monroe Stephens), Henry M. Stephens, John S. Sharp, John G. Smith, Allen G. Johnson, Matthew M. Dees (the father-in-law of Henry Monroe’s son, Floyd Stephens). This Henry Stephens must be the father of Henry Monroe Stephens. Unfortunately, Henry died intestate (without a will) but this probate record was recorded 17 Jan 1849.
Those thinking Joshua is Henry Monroe’s father use the 1850 District 2 Hamilton, Florida census (for the family of Joshua Stephens) as proof. This census record notes that Joshua has a son named Henry Stephens– but this Henry can’t be our Henry Monroe Stephens. The census states that Joshua’s son Henry was born in 1837. My records all indicate that Henry Monroe was born in 1823. This is a 14-year-difference in birthdates, which is far too wide of a time span. This Joshua Stephens is most likely Henry Monroe’s uncle or another family member. I believe him to be an uncle, the brother of Henry Stephens. (Side note: I have also found a James H. Stephens, born abt. 1804, whom I believe to be the brother of Henry Stephens as well, though I don’t have proof of these relationships.)
An important accomplishment of this family is their recorded participation in Florida’s first statewide election in 1845. To participate, individuals had to reside in the county in which they registered to vote, had to own land there, had to demonstrate that it had been their place of permanent abode for at least six months preceding the election, and had to have resided within the Territory and the State of Florida for the two years prior. Only free white citizens of 21 years of age and older could vote. Able-bodied men under age 45 were obligated to become members of the State Militia before voting. All this proved land ownership of our Henry Stephens, Henry M. Stephens, Joshua Stephens (brother of Henry M.), as well as William Stephens (likely the son of Joshua) – all listed as registered voters of Jasper, Hamilton County, Florida; Precinct #2 on May 26, 1845. This must have been a fairly prosperous and well-educated family.
As for a death date for Henry– well, in an 1850 census, son Henry M. Stephens is listed as head of household and is residing with a combination of both his siblings and children (his wife had just died) but he is not residing with his parents. This record suggests that his father, Henry, and Henry’s wife, Elizabeth, are probably deceased by 1850.
Better information as to a death date is this: In the Hamilton County Probate records, Elizabeth Stephens and Henry M. Stephens are appointed administrators of the estate of Henry Stephens, who is now deceased. To be appointed as administrators, they should have been closely related to Henry. Henry would be expected to be the father of Henry M. Stephens. Here, we have found out that Henry Stephens died without a will. As the probate record was recorded 17 Jan 1849, Henry Stephens obviously passed away before this date.
I haven’t found an estate inventory—unfortunately. I also do not know where Henry Stephens is buried.
If you have information on this family, please contact me.