Generation 2: Henry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens (b.1823 – d.1871)

STEPHENS_Henry Monroe_ photos_gravestoneHenry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens– my third great-grandfather.

Henry Monroe Stephens was born 03 Feb 1823, supposedly in Tattnall, Georgia. He died 15 Aug 1871 in Hamilton, Florida. His parents are believed to have been Henry Stephens and Elizabeth () (last name unknown). I wrote about his father, Henry Stephens, in an earlier blog this week– find it here.

Henry Monroe Stephens was born in Tattnall, Georgia (per the book, “Cracker Times and Pioneer Lives: The Florida Reminiscences of George Gillett Keen and Sarah Pamela Williams,” edited by James M. Denham and Canter Brown Jr). Tattnall County is located significantly more northeast in Georgia than Lowndes County (where his father is believed to possibly have been born), and definitely farther north than Hamilton, Florida, where the family relocated to in 1832— all of which doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure why Henry Monroe would have been born so far north in Georgia, so my research continues.

The book noted above provides his nickname of “Hamp.”

Our first record in the life of Hamp Stephens is his service in the Second Seminole War—also called the Florida Wars. The Seminole Wars were three conflicts which took place between 1816 – 1842 in Florida between various groups of Native Americans, collectively known as Seminoles, and the U.S. government. The Second Seminole War began in 1835 and was the result of attempts to force the Native Americans to leave Florida. Service records show a Henry M. Stephens joined the Johnsons’ Co., Florida Mounted Volunteers for four months in 1839 – 1840. He enlisted as a private. There is also a Henry Stephens, 2nd Lt, in the Johnson’s Co, Florida Mounted Volunteers. This is possibly Henry Monroe’s father.

STEPHENS,_Henry_Monroe_VARN_Louisa_M_documents_marriage_certif_Hamilton,_FL_1845On 20 Apr 1845, Hamp married the first of two wives, Maria Louisa Varns, in Hamilton, Florida. Together, they had four children and then Maria passed away on 10 Sep 1849 at the tender age of 21. Her death certificate notes a cause of death as “Inflam fev” or inflammatory fever. Very possibly from childbirth. Census records note their children to be Floyd Stephens, Mary Ann Stephens, Harriet M. Stephens, and Alfred C. Stephens.

We don’t know of his education, but he was likely literate and at least reasonably educated as he held office as clerk of the circuit court for Hamilton County. In a record found from 1847, clerk of court Henry M. Stephens certified a transcript as “correct.”

In 1848, an interesting turn in his life takes place. A young boy, listed as a “minor” — George G.W. King who was an orphan of Hickerson King (late of Alachua County) — is made a ward of Henry M. Stephens. Three men, Henry M. Stephens, William Dees and Benjamin Rawlins, pay $1,000 in probate court to act as executors of the estate. Then young George disappears from the records. I haven’t found additional information referring to this George living with Henry Monroe Stephens or his family.STEPHENS_Henry_Monroe_documents_1850_Hamilton_FL_census_Ancestry

By 1850, Henry M. Stephens is 26 years of age and “a planter.” He now owns $3,800 in real estate and is the head of a household made up of him and his siblings (though the orphan George G.W. King is not listed). The 1850 Slave Schedules notes that he owns ten slaves. Names of these slaves remain lost to history but they ranged in age from six to 50. Most were males in their 20s who, most likely, were working King Cotton.

It’s time for a new wife. On 06 Jan 1852, he marries Elizabeth Dees. She was born in Tattnall, Georgia, which supports the belief that Henry Monroe Stephens may have been born in Tattnall as well. Her father, Matthew M. Dees relocated his family to Madison County, Florida and then Lowndes County at about the time the Indian War began. About 1845 he moved the family to Hamilton, Florida. Together, Hamp and Elizabeth will have four children: Elijah, Worth, Mary Elizabeth, and Delia.

By 1855, he is on a land buying spree, purchasing in this year 110 acres and then 40. In 1860, he purchases 32 acres, then 80, and then 116. He paid cash for all acres. This is several years before the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Southern Homestead Act of 1866. Though prices per acre are not provided, a record from Marion County in 1855 indicated a price per acre of $8.55, which translates to about $214 per acre in today’s dollars.

1855: Name: Henry M Stephens. Issue Date: 1 May 1855. Acres: 110. Meridian: Tallahassee. State: Florida. County: Hamilton. Township: 2-N. Range: 12-E.  Section: 12. Accession Number: FL0230__.246.

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907: Name: Henry M Stephens. Issue Date: 1 May 1855. Acres: 40.12. Meridian: Tallahassee. State: Florida. County: Hamilton. Township: 2-N. Range: 12-E. Section: 11. Accession Number: FL0230__.245.

Florida, Homestead and Cash Entry Patents, Pre-1908. Name: Henry M Stephens. Land Office: Tallahassee. Sequence #: 1. Document Number: 14055. Total Acres: 32.

STEPHENS_Henry_M_documents_Land_Office_Records_80acres_Hamilton_FL_1860_AncestryU.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907. Name: Henry M Stephens. Issue Date: 2 Apr 1860. Acres: 80.03. Meridian: Tallahassee. State: Florida. County: Hamilton. Township: 2-N. Range: 12-E. Section: 10. Accession Number: FL0280__.221.

U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907. Name: Henry M Stephens. Issue Date: 2 Apr 1860. Acres: 116.26. Meridian: Tallahassee. State: Florida. County: Hamilton. Township: 2-N. Range: 12-E. Section: 14.

By 1860, 35-year-old Hamp Stephens has moved way up in prosperity. He is now listed as a merchant, with $27,000 in real estate holdings and a $26,000 personal estate. Unfortunately, he also owns 18 slaves now.

After Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860, Florida chose to secede and sever ties with the rest of the U.S. In 1861, the Civil War broke out and young men were needed to support the effort. Florida was asked to recruit 5,000 soldiers; in three months, the state had almost 7,000 volunteers—primarily small farmers who owned no slaves! The book, U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, records Henry Monroe Stephens as enlisting 12 Mar 1861 at the age of 38. He enters the war with a rank of First Lieutenant and enlisted in Fernandina, Florida. He is commissioned an officer in Company B, Florida 10th Infantry Regiment on 03 Dec 1861 and then mustered out on 12 May 1862.

President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring slaves in the seceded states free but the proclamation went unheeded in Florida until after the war.

In 1868, just three years prior to his death and the same year that Florida was re-admitted to the Union, Henry Monroe Stephens is found in bankruptcy court. The reasons remain unknown but, likely, it is a result of the war as everyone from planter to slave was impacted by it. On the site it states, “The large toil of deaths of veterans just several years after the close of the war are indications of the indirect effects of war injuries and disease. Yet they were not totaled as war casualties nor were their entitled to disabled benefits like their Union counterparts.”

On 15 Aug 1871 at the age of 48, my 3rd great grandfather, Henry Monroe Stephens, died in Hamilton County—like his father, he died intestate, without a will. The administrators of his estate were Floyd Stephens (his first-born son), George M. Turkett (Floyd’s father-in-law), and a Benjamin F. McCall (unknown relationship). The probate record notes that “he died leaving considerable property of a personal nature liable to perish & to be wasted, and whereas the said George M. Turkett applies for temporary letters of administrators on said Estate.” I wish that I could find an inventory of that estate. I’m quite curious as to what could have been “of a personal nature liable to perish & to be wasted.” A crop—probably. Rice? Tobacco? A death certificate for him has not been found either.

Henry Monroe “Hamp” Stephens was laid to rest in Sasser Landing cemetery, which is located in Jennings, part of Hamilton, Florida. According to Find A Grave ( records, at least 20 other members of this family are buried here, including both of his wives. It’s hard for me to grasp, but Sasser Landing cemetery is broken into two distinct parts: The White cemetery and the African American cemetery. They are separated by a chain-link fence. A reflection of the times.

My research continues. If anyone has information on these lives or additions to the stories, feel free to contact me! I’d welcome hearing from fellow members of the Stephens family.


Note: There are two other Henry Stephen’s in the Hamilton, Florida census records that I haven’t placed yet. One of these two should be the Henry who is the son of Joshua Stephens, born about 1837 in Georgia. But which one? I tend to think the 2nd/1880 record.

What doesn’t make sense is that these 1870 and 1880 census records seem to be for the same person, until one looks at the lists of children. The children change names and genders, though birth dates are similar.

  1. 1870 Jasper, Hamilton, Florida census: Name: Henry Stephens. Age 36, est birth year: abt 1834. Birthplace: Georgia. Occupation: works on farm. Real Estate Value: $300.00 [illegible]. Personal Estate Value: $200. Household Members: Henry Stephens, 36; Mary Stephens, 32 (birthplace: GA; keeping home). Children: Joshua Stephens, 10 (abt 1860); Joseph Stephens, 8 (abt 1862); Laura Stephens, 6 (abt 1864); Mary Stephens, 4 (abt 1866); Henry Stephens, 2 (born 1868).
  1. 1880 Precinct 2, Hamilton, FL census: Henry Stephens, Born abt 1838 in Georgia. Married to Mary Stephens (born in GA). Occupation: Farmer. Dwelling Number: 284. Children: Fielding (abt 1859), Royann (female; abt 1861), Milsey (female; abt 1867), Henry (born 1871), Sarah (abt 1874), and Elizabeth (abt 1878).

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