Select Stevens/Stephens Miscellany

 

Here are some Stevens/Stephens
stories
and
accounts over the years:

 

Airard Fitz Stephen and His Line

The Norman house of Fitz
Stephen was said to have originally taken its cognomen from the
Christian name
borne in honor of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.  A Norman noble, Airard Fitz Stephen,
commanded the ship Mora that brought
William the Conqueror across the Channel on his invasion of England in
1066.
His son Thomas was in charge of the White Ship
when it sunk off the Normandy
coast with all hands on board, including the King’s son Prince William,
in
1120.  Finely dressed bodies were being
washed
up along the Norman shoreline for months afterwards.  After
King Henry heard of
the disaster, it was said that he never smiled again.
The
Fitz Stephen line in Gloucestershire began with Thomas’s son Ralph who
was
Sheriff of Gloucestershire and died in 1190.
John Stephens was the first to drop the “Fitz” nomenclature
around the
year 1350.The main later lines in
Gloucestershire began with:

  • Edward
    Stephens from the 1570’s with Eastington Manor
    and the Chavenage estate
  • and Thomas Stephens from 1610 with
    Lypiatt Park
    .

Chavenage House is said to be haunted.   Nathaniel Stephens had agreed
to the execution of Charles I in 1649.  Some years later he was
taken
ill and died.  Ghostly apparitions then appeared:

“Following his death, a hearse driven
by a headless man was said to have pulled up at the manor house.
Legend holds that Nathaniel Stephens rose from his coffin and, having
knelt in reverence before the figure, was seen to climb into the hearse
which then sped away.”

One line from Eastington extended to Nathaniel Stephens, the rector of
Alphamstone in Essex, and to his son Sir Philip Stephens, First
Secretary
of the Admiralty in the late 18th century.  Port Stephens in
Australia was named after him.

Lypiatt Park is believed to have been the venue where the Gunpowder
Plot was hatched in 1605.  But that was before the Stephens had
acquired the property.  It remained in Stephens’ hands until 1802.

 

Samuel Stephens of St. Ives



The
Stephens family, which had been settled at St.
Ives since the 15th century, was Presbyterian, deriving their wealth
from the
local fishery and from mining.

Samuel
Stephens inherited this wealth and decided to live like a gentleman.  In the 1770’s, he disposed of everything
connected with trade or with fishing and began to build a splendid
mansion for
himself in the town, Tregenna castle.  He
also pulled down the local Presbyterian chapel and withdrew his support
for its
minister.

But
he never escaped the taint
of trade from his “betters.”  The
following was one report on him:

“Mr.
Stephens was born at or near St. Ives and is but of low origin.  When he offered himself as a candidate to
represent St. Ives an opposing candidate reproached him with this
circumstance.  In his reply he acknowledged
that he sprung
from the lower orders of the people, but that he could boast of having
a very
considerable number of the electors in the list of his relations and
hoped to
have the gratification of being returned a member by these near
connections.”

His
son Samuel, who also became an MP for St.
Ives, had another advantage.  He had
married
an heiress, Betty Wallis, who brought with her a fortune said to have
been in the
order of £100,000.

 

The Stevens of Bradfield


Richard
Stevens
was a London lawyer of the Inner Temple who had acquired properties at
Wargrave and Henley in
Berkshire in the 1670’s.  His son Henry
built Culham Court on the Wargrave land in 1706.  The
family left a legacy founding the Green
Coat charity at Henley in 1718.

The
Stevens’ first connection with Bradfield came in 1740, when the Rev.
John
Stevens, son of Thomas Stevens of Henley, became rector of the parish.  From then until 1881 the successive rectors
were all members of the family.  The last
rector, the Rev. Thomas Stevens, was the founder of Bradfield College,
converting the Bradfield manor for this use.

John’s brother Henry had acquired the manor of Bradfield sometime
around
1750.  Henry’s descendants were either
lawyers or merchants connected with the East India Company.

 

Stevens and
Stephens in the 1891 Census

Stevens
and Stephens have been mainly names of the south
of England.  Stevens outnumbered Stephens
overall in the 1891 census and was very much a name of London and the
southeast.  Stephens was strongest in the
west of England and in Wales
.

Numbers (000’s) Stevens Stephens Total
London/SE    18.0     4.0    22.0
West of England 6.5     6.0    12.5
Wales     0.5     3.0     3.5
Rest of England     8.0     4.0    12.0
Total    33.0    17.0    50.0

There
was a Stevens outpost in the west of England in
Devon.  And the spelling also appeared in
Cornwall.  The largest Stephens numbers
in the west were in Cornwall.  Stephens
was also a name in south Wales, mainly in Glamorgan.

 

Peter Stephens and Stephens
City, Virginia

Peter
Stephens was born Peter Steffen in Steinfurt in
the German Palatinate in the year 1687.  He
was thought to have come to Pennsylvania with his parents in 1710 after
a
particularly brutal winter in Germany. However,
the earliest record of him in America was in 1730 and it was
not until 1743 in Virginia that he was naturalized.

Peter
Stephens is one of the few persons
definitely named by historians as going to the Shenandoah valley in
Virginia with
the Hite party.  This group of 16
families was known to have been the first settlers in the valley.

After
buying 675 acres from Josh Hite in 1734,
Peter Stephens built his house there along what was then the Great
Wagon
Road.  A community developed there which
was unofficially called Stephens Town.  After
Peter’s death in 1757, this township would be chartered by the Virginia
General
Assembly as Stephensburgh at the special request of his son Lewis.  Today Stephensburgh is called Stephens City
and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2008.

Another
son of Peter, Henry, was a
close neighbor of George Washington when he lived in Frederick county. His line went west to Ohio after the
Revolutionary War.   Other Stephens
ended
up in Texas.

 

John Stevens
of Perth Amboy

John
Stevens who had come to New York in 1699 was the
patriarch of a very notable early American family. His
age on arrival was just seventeen.  He had
been sent by his father Richard
Stevens of St. Clement Dane in London as a clerk under a seven year
indenture
to the New York governor’s secretary.  He
learnt skills as a writing master there.

However, his real attention was elsewhere.  He saw the potential that America had to
offer and wanted to take his chances.
Some early privateering under Colonel Peartree did not turn out
that
well.  Land speculation became more his
game.  He learned the basics quickly and
very soon his name began to appear with great frequency in options,
deeds,
mortgages, and every conceivable lien upon land.

His main landholding came from his wife Ann
Campbell, whose inheritance included some 2,000 acres of land on the
west bend
of the Raritan river close by Andrew Hamilton’s estate.
Here, near Perth Amboy in New Jersey, he made
his home.  He involved himself in local
politics and was a prosperous member of the community when he died
there in
1737.

 

Samuel
Stephens in South Australia

Samuel
Stephens had lost his position with a Birmingham
commercial house after a quarrel and was seeking something new.  Through a distant relative he secured a position
as colonial manager of the newly formed South Australia Company.

For
a time everything went well.  In 1836 he
sailed for South Australia on the Duke
of York
and was the first of the settlers to step ashore at Nepean
Bay on
Kangaroo Island.  Later that year he
married
Charlotte Hudson, a fellow-passenger and daughter of the second in
command at
the South Australian Company.

However,
everything
soon went downhill.  His contract with the
company was cut short because of his lack of diligence and his frequent
bouts
of drunkenness.  In 1837 he was charged
with killing a sailor from a rival fishery and was subsequently
dismissed.  Three years later, he was
killed when he was
thrown from his horse on the Main Beaumont Spur while returning from a
River
Murray expedition.  The cause of death was a fractured neck
.

 

 

Return to Stevens/Stephens Main Page

 

Leave a Reply