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THE STEPP FAMILY CHRONICLES, PART I (ABSTRACTED FROM THE BOOK BY WILLIAM W. STEPP)

November 20, 1991

THE STEPP FAMILY CHRONICLES, PART I

(ABSTRACTED FROM THE BOOK BY WILLIAM W. STEPP)

By The Jonesborough Genealogical Society

     William Stapp, the proven ancestor of those Stapps who came to Upper East Tennessee, is though to be the son of James (born 1684) who was the son of Abraham (1646/50-1714), immigrant to America. William Stapp, and his wife Elzabeth, had a large family, among them John Stapp Sr., (I). This John had a son also known as John Stapp/Stepp Sr. (II). Among John Sr. II’s large family were three sons; Jacob, Abraham and John Silas Step/Stepp Jr. These three lines are those followed in this book.  The eldest son, Jacob, “stayed put” in nearby Page County, Virginia, but still in the beautiful Massanuttens – his descendants are there today. The brothers, and/or their descendants, John Jr. and Abraham to Indiana and John Jr. to Tennessee.

     John Silas Step Jr. was born 8 Feb. 1797 in Rockingham County, VA and died ca1854. He married Mary Jane (Polly) Haga 28 Dec. 1820 at the age of 23 years. Mary Jane was the daughter of George and Margaret Fridley Haga and was born 1 Apr 1803 in Rockingham County. She died 11 July 1879 in Washington County, Tennessee. John Jr. was the fifth son (and seventh child) of John Step Sr. and wife, Mary (Polly).

     The 1840 census of Rockingham County, VA shows John Jr. and his wife, Polly, and their family of that date: 2 males under 5 (William “Billy” and John “Jack”), 1 male 10-15 (Silas Haga), 1 male 15-20 (Wellington), 1 male 40-50 (John Jr.), 1 female under 5 , (Mary Jane), 2 females 5-10 (Martha Jane and Hannah), 1 female 30-40 (Polly).

     Wellington Step (named after the “Iron Duke” of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo), was the first to marry 7 Oct. 1847; his bride was Elizabeth Ann Hinton, born 10 Jan. 1828 and died 11 May 1891. Second son, Silas Haga Step, married secondly, on 18 May 1848. Lucinda Bennett, daughter of George Bennett. First born daughter, Martha Jane, was the next to marry. She married John Riley Laymon on 21 Aug. 1849 at the age of 21 years. He was killed during the Civil War. Martha remained in Virginia when all others of her family departed for Tennessee. She lived out her widowed life in the Mountain Valley area where she was raised, bringing up her surviving children as best she could. The next to marry was Hannah Stepp. She married Charles Beard in 1853. She and her husband did not go with the clan to Tennessee. She and Charles are listed in the 1860 Rockingham County census with their two children, Mary, age 4, and Silas, age 2. Shortly after this census they joined their people in Tennessee.

     In 1853-4, Virginia men and their families were leaving the tri-county area of Rockingham, Page and Shenandoah Counties of Virginia. The Stepps began hearing reports of the fertile hills and bottoms in the foothills of East Tennessee. Several of their friends had removed to farm lands in the “Chucky” River area in Washington County, Tennessee. The reports were good. The pioneer fever gripped the elder Wellington Stepp and his brother, Silas Haga Stepp, both married with their first children. The widowed mother, Polly, would go where her people decided to go. The decision was made to join the next East Tennessee wagon train. The caravan left in the Spring of 1855. The members of the Stepp clan I the caravan were:

  1. The widow, Mary Jane (Polly) Stepp, now aged 52.

  2. Wellington Stepp, his wife, Elizabeth, and their children, Sara Jane Francis, age 7, Henrietta, age 3, and Mary Elizabeth, a babe in arms.

  3. Silas Haga Stepp and his wife, Lucinda, and their children, George Oliver Perry, age 6, John William, age 4, James Silas, age 3, and Mary Catherine, age 1.

  4. John (Jack) Stepp, single age. 20.

  5. William E. Stepp, single, age 18.

  6. Mary Jane, age 16, Elizabeth Ann, age 14, and Lydia Margaret, age 12, all daughters of the widow Polly and sisters to Wellington and the other boys.

     The Stepp clan arrived in the Conklin, Tennessee area in time to make a garden and put out crops. Arrangements had been made prior to their coming, and the men apparently had farm employment and places to live until they were able to “start up” on their own. Their first tragedy occurred when Lydia Margaret died 15 Aug. 1856. She is buried at Telford, Tennessee in the Old Paynetown Cemetery. The Stepp men did not lack in skills. At various times and in various census tracts, Wellington, Silas and John (Jack) had all been listed as farmers, blacksmiths and shoemakers. William (Billy) the future Union Army Private of the Civil War, was to become both a farmer, shoe and boot maker.

     This writer has visited the Washington County, Tennessee area many times. The foothills of the Smokeys (near Conklin, Tennessee) where they initially settled is very much like the Mountain Valley area of the Masanuttens in Rockingham county, VA where they came from. It almost seemed as if they must live where they could see the beauty and the majesty of rugged mountain country – and to live partially from the bountiful hunting that such mountains provided. My father, Burney Stepp, who was born there and lived there until his coming to northwest Missouri in 1897, told me on several occasions that the Stepps were really mountain people. They were expert marksmen with both short and long guns and with the bow and arrow. Burney Stepp often told that when his mother sent him out to shoot a chicken for family meals she instructed him to use his bow and arrow and to shoot the chicken in the head.

     A look at the 1860 Washington County, Tennessee census informs us of how things have gone for our clan since their arrival in 1855. We first see Wellington and his wife Elizabeth in their household with a total of four children: Frances, Hennrietta and Mary born in Virginia; Hinton Silas Ruebush Stepp, age 3 in 1860, a future pioneer to Missouri, has been born in Missouri, has been born in Tennessee. The widow, Wellington’s mother, is living in her own household very close by, at age 57. She is listed alone We find, also, Silas Haga Stepp and his wife Lucinda in a nearby household. They now have six children, the two youngest, Hannah, Virginia, age 4, and Laura Alice, age 1, having been born in Tennessee.

     As 1860 dawned in our nation, a period of agony came upon our people of Virginia and Tennessee – and all other people of our nation. A conflict that was to rip at the very heart and soul of all Americans was about to begin.

To be continued

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