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Stephens Surname

The surname Stephens is usually of English origin. It is a derivation of the given name Stephen, meaning crown, wreath or garland. By tradition, our line of Stephens is Scottish. Unfortunately, we have not been able to trace our family beyond the early 1800s, when they were in Tennessee. The spelling of the name has often been interchanged as Stevens. Any help on this family is greatly appreciated.

1st Generation:

James Stephens was born circa 1798 2 in Tennessee or North Carolina. He died circa 1870-1871 (*see below) in Houston County, Tennessee.

Details of James' life before 1830 are uncertain. One source indicates that James moved with his family from North Carolina to Tennessee in his youth 1. In spite of that, all of his census records suggest that he was born in Tennessee. (Census records for his children also mostly provide his birthplace as Tennessee, although one lists North Carolina and another lists Virginia). The names of his parents are unknown, but we know that he had at least two brothers: John Stephens and another whose name is not known. His unnamed brother was the father of Thomas Henry Stephens (born c. 1827) who lived in Montgomery County, Tennessee during the 1850s. In a September 1853 deed, Thomas Henry Stephens described his uncles John Stephens and James Stephens as securities for one of his debts. In 1854, the same Thomas H. Stephens sold a horse to J.W.B. and F.M. Stephens [his cousins]. Then in January 1859, Thomas H. Stephens was one of the witnesses to a deed when John W. B. Stephens purchased property adjoining his father James Stephens. Thomas H. Stephens might have been a relative of sisters Margaret Stephens (who married Absalom Davidson in 1847) and Mary Stephens (who married John Hill in 1859).

James was married to a woman named Nancy and their first known child was born in April 1823. They lived somewhere in Tennessee before settling in Montgomery County, Tennessee by 1830. Given these details, it is possible that he was the James Stephens who married Nancy Head in 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee. That James had moved to Sumner County by 1820, where he was documented on tax lists in 1820, 1821, 1822 and 1826. If so, he was probably related to other Stephens that lived there, including a Wallace Stephens. There, they were in the southeast part of Sumner County, probably in the vicinity of Goose Creek (and possibly in what is now Trousdale County).

Sometime during the 1820s, James moved with his family to Montgomery County, Tennessee where they were first documented in 1830. There, they apparently first lived in a rural area east of Clarksville, probably in the vicinity of what is now Sango. In September 1849, James entered into an agreement to purchase 100 acres of land in District 11. James probably began living there at that time. Nearly 10 years later, in April 1859, he paid off the property and finally got a deed/title to the property. This property was southeast of Clarksville in the McAdoo community. The family attended the McAdoo Cumberland Presbyterian Church there (James and his wife Nancy and their children Sophronia, James, Amanda, Eldridge and Eginarra were all listed as members of the church during the 1850s). James was a farmer and a shoemaker. It seems though that he was never very successful or wealthy. In August 1852, James deeded much of his personal property (a horse, a mule, 2 cows, all of his hogs, a wagon, farming utensils and his household furniture) to his son John in "trust" for various debts. After his wife's death and his remarriage in 1858, James decided to move away. In 1860 he was living with his second wife in Waverly, Humphreys Co., Tennessee. In April 1868, James sold 40 of his acres in Montgomery County to his son-in-law William R. Brown and then in March 1870, he sold the remaining 60 acres to his son John. Sometime during the 1860s James and Ann moved again to the part of Stewart County, Tennessee that is now Houston County. James was enumerated there in August 1870 and died sometime after that.

* One source indicates that James died in July 1880 1, yet that is not possible because the 1880 census (enumerated on June 7, 1880) indicates that James was already deceased. The last definitive record of James was the 1870 census, enumerated in August 1870. He probably died before August 1871, when Ann Stephens (probably his widow) purchased one acre of land in Houston County from K. McAskill.

James married Nancy (Forest or Head) possibly on March 26, 1823 in Sumner Co., Tennessee 10. Nancy was born on November 26, 1802 22 in Tennessee or Kentucky. She died on June 6, 1855 22 or June 6, 1856 1 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee.

Nancy's parents and origins are unknown. It is also unclear what her maiden name was (see below). The 1850 census records Nancy's birthplace as Tennessee. The census records for her children variously list her birthplace as Tennessee or Kentucky.

The 1884 History of Christian County, Kentucky provides her name as Nancy Forest, and that she was born in Stewart County, Tennessee. There is weight to this because one of her granddaughters was named Nancy Forest Stephens. Although we have no definitive record of where our James or Nancy lived before 1830, James moved to the general area of Stewart County in about 1859 and remained there until his death in about 1871. Perhaps he had moved back to the area where he and Nancy lived in their youth? Research to date has not been able to connect our Nancy Stephens to any known Forest/Forrest families. Nor have we found any reference to a James Stephens living in the Stewart County area. However there were Forrests and Stephens documented in Humphreys County (which had been carved out of Stewart County). Unfortunately most of the early records of Humphreys County were lost in multiple fires, and it might be impossible to prove a connection using primary sources.

If the Forrest connection is accurate, then my guess is that she was related to the family of William and Margaret Forrest of Humphreys County, Tennessee. William Forrest and Margaret Guthrie were married before 1792. They lived somewhere in North Carolina during the 1790s. By 1811 (and probably much sooner), they had settled in Humphreys County, Tennessee; where William died between 1812 and 1820. Their documented children were Elizabeth T. Forrest (1792-1858) who married Thomas Hamilton; John Forrest (c. 1793-aft. 1860) who married Lydia; and Rev. James Forrest (1795-1856) who married Sarah Dunlap. They were also related in some way to a Thomas Forrest. It is certainly possible that William and Margaret had additional children, but legal records from Humphreys County that might have described those connection were lost. There are various circumstantial clues that possibly tie these families together: all of these families were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church; all of these families had the somewhat uncommon custom of giving at least one of their children two middle names; and some (albeit common) first names were repeated between the Stephens and Forrest families: Margaret, Elizabeth T., and Nancy.

However, there was a James Stephens who married Nancy Head on March 23, 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee. That James Stephens was documented in Sumner County in 1821, 1822 and 1826 tax lists; but he left no other trace there and presumably moved away during the 1820s. It has long been the assumption of most researchers that these were the same people; since we know that our James and Nancy Stephens had moved to nearby Montgomery County, Tennessee by 1830, and their names and the timeline generally matches. However research to date has not been able to connect Nancy Head to any of the Head families that were living in Sumner County, Tennessee at that time. Nor do we have any proof that our Stephens family was in Sumner County before Montgomery County. My guess is that Nancy Head who married James Stephens might have been related to Manuel Head who married Prunetta Dugger there in 1824 and then moved to Illinois.

It is also worth considering that James and Nancy Stephens' oldest documented child was born in April 1823, just a few days after the marriage of James Stephens and Nancy Head.

Is Nancy Head the same person as Nancy Forest? (Perhaps she was born a Forest but had married to a Mr. Head before she married James Stephens). Or is it possible there were two James and Nancy Stephens couples during the 1820s - one James Stephens and Nancy Forest possibly in Stewart or Humphreys County, Tennessee and the other James Stephens and Nancy Head in Sumner County?

Nancy's place of burial is unknown; she was probably buried in the vicinity of the McAdoo community southeast of Clarksville, where her family lived and attended church. In February 1892, her tombstone (and also the tombstone of her daughter Eginarra) was discovered next to a warehouse in Clarksville 22.

They had the following children:

1 Elizabeth Theresa Stephens was born on or about April 2, 1823 23, in Tennessee and died on December 28, 1899 23 in Dickson Co., Tennessee. She is buried in the Freeman Cemetery, Dickson Co., Tennessee.
She married James S. Jobe on November 13, 1845 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 8. (He was born in 1806 23 in Virginia and died on November 19, 1864 23 in Dickson Co., Tennessee.)
They had the following children:
James S. Jobe (1846-1924)
md. 1st. Anne Elizabeth Butcher (or Smith)
md. 2nd Rebecca O. Boyd
md. 3rd Bettie Belle Carter
William Henry Jobe (1848-1922)
md. Catherine "Kate" Texas Gray
Eudorah "Dora" V. Jobe (1849-1905)
md. James Cowan Trotter
(Dr.) Bellfield Newell Jobe (1851-1917)
md. 1st Mary Susan Gray
md. 2nd Ethelyn Ella Churchill
md. 3rd Celia E. Cheatham
Francis "Frank" A. Jobe (1852-1932)
Elizabeth "Kitty" Catherine Jobe (1855-1914)
md. James Thomas Wall
John Millard Jobe (c. 1856-1939)
Robert P. Jobe (1859-1883)
Eldridge T. Jobe (1861-1888)

Elizabeth moved with her husband to Dickson Co., TN sometime between 1845 and 1850. There, they lived in the northern part of the county - near the communities of Beefrange and Cumberland Furnace.

Most online family trees provide her birthdate as May 26, 1823; yet that date apparently derives from a mistranscription of her tombstone. Most sources transcribe the stone as December 22, 1899, aged 76 years, 6 months and 26 days. Yet a close inspection of the actual stone shows the real dates as December 28, 1899, aged 76 years, 8 months and 26 days.

2 Sophronia "Fronia" Jane Stephens was born on March 12, 1825 in Tennessee 8. She died on September 26, 1896 in McCracken or Graves Co., Kentucky 8.
She married Frederick Grimes on May 8, 1851 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 6. (He was born circa 1823 in North Carolina. He died on September 17, 1869 in McCracken Co., Kentucky 8.)
They had the following children:
Thelbert Grimes (1852-1859)
Emily Grimes (1853-1937)
md. Wiley Johnson Rudolph
Ellen Grimes (1855-1901)
md. James Wesley Smith
Rufus Grimes (1858-1940)
md. Frances Elizabeth Harris
Albert Grimes (1860-1922)
md. Lou Emma Myers
Fannie Grimes (1862-1879)
James Grimes (1864-1910)
Eudora Grimes (1866-1866)
After their marriage in 1851, they continued living in Montgomery Co., Tennessee. Sometime during the 1860s, they moved to McCracken Co., Kentucky, where they remained. In 1884, Sophronia was listed as a resident of Graves Co., KY; which was the adjacent county to the south.
3 John W. B. Stephens was born in March 1829 in Tennessee 2. He died in 1909 15 in Florida. He is buried in the Oakdale Cemetery, De Land, Volusia Co., Florida.
John married first to Malinda Carlisle Brawner on February 27, 1861 6 or March 27, 1861 12 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee. (She was born March 8, 1843 in Tennessee 8,18. She died August 12, 1882 8 or August 18, 1883 18 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee. She is buried in the Sango Cemetery, Montgomery Co., Tennessee.)
They had the following children:
(Dr.) James Walter Stephens (1863-1927)
(Dr.) William Russell Stephens (1869-1917)
md. Mary Inez Tanner
infant Stephens (c. 1876-1876)
infant Stephens (unknown, died young)
John married second to Ann Wright Carney on March 11, 1886 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 12. (She was born in March 1845 in Tennessee 2 and died after 1900, probably in Kentucky.)
They had no children.
John was a farmer, and a slave owner. He was living in Montgomery Co., Tennessee as late as 1886 and was in neighboring Todd Co., Kentucky by 1896. He probably moved to DeLand, Florida with his son William in 1908, where he died the following year.
4 Francis Marion* Stephens was born circa 1831 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 2. He died after 1900, probably in Carlisle Co., Kentucky.
Francis married first Mary Jane McKinnon on September 27, 1856 in Stewart Co., Tennessee 9. (She was born on October 2, 1834 21 in Tennessee and died circa 1864* in Kentucky or Tennnessee. She is buried in the Riverview Cemetery, Clarksville, Montgomery Co., Tennessee.)

*Her tombstone - including her date of death - is partially buried.
They had the following children:
Alice "Allie" S. Stephens (1857-1935)
md. Unit Ural Magraw
Margaret "Maggie" Ida Stephens (1859-1939)
md. James Edwards
Eva Christian Stephens (1862-1938)
md. Robert P. Anderson
James Daniel Stephens (1864-1951)
md. Alice Mary Garrett
He married second Jane "Jennie" M. Campbell, widow of Henry Dawson Wheatly, on November 13, 1866 in Christian Co., Kentucky. (She was born in 1836 in Tennessee and died after 1900.)
They had one child:
Nancy "Nannie" Forest Stephens (1869-1948)
md. Robert Bedford Carey

James was a wheelwright and a blacksmith. He and his family settled in Trigg Co., Kentucky by 1860. He was living there in 1884. Sometime during the 1880s he apparently moved to Carlisle Co., Kentucky, where he remained. He and his second wife probably died there before 1910.

* Francis' middle name is unknown, as he is only listed on known records with a middle initial. However, "Marion" is an educated guess. In a October 1859 list of letters remaining at the Clarksville post office, there was one addressed to a "Marion Stephens", possibly him. Francis Marion was a rather famous Revolutionary War soldier and a frequent namesake of American boys in the 1800s.

5 Margaret M. Stephens was born circa 1833 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 2. She died between 1850 and 1884.
Some researchers indicate that she married to Absalam Davidson in 1847, but that Margaret Stephens was a different person.
6 James Harvey Stephens was born on September 23, 1835 15,16 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee. He died on September 28, 1919 in Chattahoochee, Gadsden Co., Florida 15,16,17,25. He is buried in the Oakdale Cemetery, De Land, Volusia Co., Florida.
James first married Louisa "Lou" Narcissus Blair on October 4, 1866 in Christian Co., Kentucky 7. (She was born circa 1837 in Tennessee 2. She died between 1870-1875.)
They had two children:
Susan "Sue" Ella Stephens (1867-1950)
md. Edward T. Summerhill
Nancy "Nannie" Priscilla Stephens (1870-1934)
md. Gus Longstreet Hord
James married second to Mary E. Ballard on December 28, 1875 8. (She was born in January 1853 in Kentucky 2. She died in 1948 in Palm Beach, Florida. She is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Co., Florida.)
They had three children:
James Harvey Stephens (1879-1966)
md. Beulah B. Carroll
Mary Wilmoth Stephens (1885-1936)
md. Posey Henderson McClendon
Bertha Jane Stephens (1888-1948)
md. Robert Emmett Goodman
James served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was by occupation a house carpenter. In 1870 he was living with his family in Graves Co., KY. By 1880, they had settled in southern Christian Co., KY. In 1910, James and his family were living in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They moved to Florida during the 1910s. In 1920, his widow was living in Palm Beach, Florida.
Bobby Taylor at is a researcher/descendant in this line.
7 Amanda "Mandy" Ann Stephens
8 Eldridge T. Stephens was born on February 20, 1841 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 1. He died on July 18, 1905 in Nashville, Davidson Co., Tennessee 20. He is buried in the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers Home Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson Co., Tennessee.
Eldridge married Mary Jane Reves, widow of James William Coleman, on March 28, 1867 in Christian Co., Kentucky 1. (She was born on February 9, 1821 in Virginia 1. She died on October 8, 1884 in Christian Co., Kentucky 1.)

They had no children.

At the age of 14 (about 1855) he began apprenticeship as a carpenter. In May 1861, Eldridge enlisted in the Tennessee Infantry for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was wounded during the Battle of Manassas. In 1867, he decided to take up farming and in that year moved to Christian Co., Kentucky. He was a Methodist, a Democrat and also a Mason.

In 1867, Eldridge was married to a widow named Mary Coleman, who was 20 years older than him and who had two sons who were about his age. Sometime between 1884 and 1900, he moved to Montgomery Co., Tenn., where he lived with his nephew Christopher C. Brown. After 1900, he had moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he entered the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home, where he died.

9 Eginarra D. Stephens was born on May 25, 1844 22 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee. She died on September 11, 1859 22 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee.
She married James T. Smith on November 25, 1858 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 12.
10,11 2 others

One source indicated that that James and Nancy had 11 children, and only the names of 9 of them are known. These additional children definitely died before 1884, yet the absence of additional children in the 1830, 1840 or 1850 censuses suggest they died in infancy or as young children.
James married secondly to Ann McKinnon on February 28, 1858 in Montgomery Co., Tennessee 6. Ann was born circa 1820 in North Carolina 2. She died after 1880 in Houston Co., Tennessee.

There had no children.

There was some kind of extended connection between the McKinnon and Stephens family. James' second wife Ann McKinnon was the sister of his son Francis' wife Mary J. McKinnon. Ann and Mary were likely related to Kenneth McKinnon, who John W. B. Stephens sold slaves to in 1859.

2nd Generation:

Amanda "Mandy" Ann Stephens was born on June 9, 1838 in Montgomery County, Tennessee 3,24. She died on November 10, 1923 in Clarksville, Montgomery County, Tennessee 3,5,24. She is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery, Clarksville, Montgomery Co., Tennessee.

Father: James Stephens
Mother: Nancy Head/Forest

Amanda was raised in rural Montgomery Co., Tennessee. She probably met her husband, William R. Brown, because both of their families lived in the same general area and attended the McAdoo Cumberland Presbyterian Church southeast of Clarksville, Tennessee. There is a possibility that Amanda and William Brown may have been involved in some kind of relationship that necessitated a "shotgun marriage." She was about two months pregnant at the time of her marriage. Afterwards, they began married life together living with William's parents at their farmhouse. Sometime in the early 1860's, they were able to acquire their own farm, which was near the McAdoo community, southeast of Clarksville. Amanda's husband was a farmer and a produce broker and they were mildly successful. Amanda and her family continued in attendance at the McAdoo Cumberland Presbyterian Church near their home. They were living at their rural farmhouse when William died in 1904 and sometime after 1910, she moved in with her son Robert Brown.

Multiple sources provide her name as "Mandy," which must have been a nickname since childhood. According to descendants, Amanda was a very healthy woman, and she never needed glasses or had any cavities.

Amanda married William Riley Brown on December 15, 1859 in Montgomery County, Tennessee 6.
For information on their children, see his page.


1. Perrin, William H., History of Christian County, Kentucky. (Chicago and Louisville: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884).
2. Assorted Federal census records
3. Tombstone Inscriptions, Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery Co., TN
4. Information from Carolyn Smithfield at ----
5. Obituary of Amanda Brown, Clarksville Leaf Chronicle, Nov. 10, 1923, Pg. 1
6. Tennessee Marriages, 1851-1900,
7. Kentucky Marriages, 1851-1900,
8. Online gedcom family files
9. International Genealogical Index
10. Marriage records, Sumner Co., TN
11. Obituary of Christopher C. Brown, Clarksville Leaf Chronicle, October 11, 1938
12. Marriage records, Montgomery Co., TN
13. Death Certificate of Georgia Current Brown, Montgomery Co., TN
14. Illinois Death Index
15. Tombstone inscriptions, Oakdale Cemetery, De Land, Florida.
16. Online cemetery index, Oakdale Cemetery, De Land, Florida.
17. Florida Death Index, 1877-1939.
18. Tombstone inscriptions, Sango Cemetery, Montgomery Co., Tennessee.
19. Death notice of Mrs. E. T. Stephens, Semi-Weekly South Kentuckian [Hopkinsville, KY], Oct. 14, 1884, Pg. 2
20. Online death index - Davidson Co., TN, 1900-1913. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
21. Tombstone inscriptions, Riverview Cemetery, Clarksville, TN
22. Article "Curious Relics", The Leaf-Chronicle [Clarksville, TN], Feb. 17, 1892, Pg. 4
23. Tombstone inscriptions, Freeman Cemetery, Dickson Co., TN
24. Death certificate of Mandy A. Brown, 1923, Montomgery Co., TN, #305
25. Death certificate of J. H. Stephens, 1919, Gadsden Co., FL, #8887