Berkeley County, West Virginia The STEPHENSON Family Biography


         JAMES A. STEPHENSON traces his ancestry to an old and prosperous family of Berkeley County, Va. (now W. Va.), where Richard Stephenson, the first of his ancestry of whom we have any authentic record, was born and reared. Richard Stephenson married Mrs. Onora Crawford. She was the widow of Hugh Crawford (an old Indian trader), and bore him two sons, William and Valentine. William Crawford was colonel of the Fifth Virginia Regulars, having been commissioned in 1781. The circumstances of his death (which event occurred June 11, 1782, at Sandusky, Ohio), are recorded in nearly every U. S. history. He was burned at the stake by Indians who had captured him, for the evident purpose of wreaking vengeance on their victim, in return for the historic massacre at Gnadeuhutten, Tuscarawas Co., Ohio, many Indians being there slaughtered by the whites. At the time of his capture Col. Crawford was conducting a campaign against the Wyandotts, and Senecas and other tribes who were associated with The British and Moravians. To the union of Richard and Onora (Crawford) Stephenson children were born as follows: John, Hugh, Richard, James, Marcus and one daughter. Mrs. Stephenson possessed great physical strength, and was a kind and affectionate mother. She died in 1776. Gen. George Washington was a frequent visitor in this home, often taking part in athletic contests with the sons. The early friendship ripened with the passing years, and when General Washington rose to prominence in military life, James Stephenson was yet his dearest friend and constant companion.

         James Stephenson, son of Richard, was born in Berkeley County (W. Va.), where he married Rachel McKeevers. Their children were Moses, William, Mary, Theodosia, James and Sarah. In 1781 Mr. Stephenson concluded to take advantage of the cheap lands then open in Western Pennsylvania. He was then in the prime of life, and a splendid specimen of physical manhood. In company with a negro slave, named Fortune, he started on foot on a journey of exploration, leaving his family at home, not wishing them to undergo the perils of such a hazardous expedition. The two men arrived safely in Washington county, Penn. and Mr. Stephenson took up a "tomahawk claim" of 500 acres of choice land, four miles southeast of Burgettstown. A humble cabin was soon erected some rude improvements made, and a crop of corn planted. The negro previously mentioned was then left to manage the place. He was originally the property of George Washington, from whom James Stephenson purchased him. The latter then returned to West Virginia, the negro subsisting on game and roots during his absence. The entire family were soon located in their pioneer home, which was afterward supplanted by a larger log cabin. The wife and mother died December 14, 1789, and for his second wife Mr. Stephenson was married to Martha Barr, the following children being born to their union: Benjamin, Richard, Joseph, Achsah, and John. The land increased in value as civilization progressed, and at the time of his death Mr. Stephenson was a wealthy man. He died in 1813, being followed by his wife in 1816. The comforts and luxuries of our modern days are largely due to the patient effort and brave courage of these early pioneers.

         James Stephenson, a son of James and Rachel Stephenson, was born August 5, 1784, passing his boyhood among the exciting and dangerous scenes of frontier life. He received a very limited education in the subscription schools, much of his time being employed in hunting, and the old "flint lock" which he used was instrumental in bringing down a large amount of game. He was a volunteer in the war of 1812, enlisting at Hickory, Penn., and serving until the close of the war. In 1827 he was united in marriage with Emeline Honeywell. She was born in 1808 in New York State, and at the age of fourteen years came to Washington county, Penn., with her parents, Israel and Judith (Spicer) Honeywell. James and Emeline Stephenson were the parents of Rachel (deceased wife of Christopher Matchett, of Robinson township), Sylvester (deceased when four years of age), Sylvester (deceased in infancy), Elmira, (living on the home place), James A. (subject of this sketch) and Amanda (wife of J. J. Campbell, living in Hardin county, Ky.). Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson resided on the home farm some time after their marriage, then moved to the place now occupied by James A., where the father followed farming and stock raising with marked success. He died June 7, 1852, his wife passing away May 20, 1853, and was buried by the side of her husband in Prospect cemetery.

         James A. Stephenson was born June 22, 1837, on the home farm in Smith township, which he now owns and occupies. He received a meager common-school education, afterward learning the carpenter's trade, which he followed some time, but has devoted the greater part of his life to agricultural pursuits with the exception of seven years passed at Candor, this county. He was formerly a well-known hunter, and today keeps, as a relic of the exciting adventures of boyhood, a rifle-ball, with which, when but ten years of age, he killed his first fox. He also retains in his possession the old hoe which was used by the Negro slave Fortune over a hundred years ago, when working for James Stephenson, the grandfather. Mr. Stephenson takes great delight in the preservation of old relics and curiosities, being assisted in the gratification of this taste by many contributions from friends. Although owning and residing upon a valuable farm, he has never taken an active part in the agricultural work, which is done by his tenants or croppers or crofters. He invented a superior beehive, and can duplicate, almost any article which he once examines. In politics his sympathy and influence are given to the Democratic, party, although he is not a strict partisan.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania, 1893

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