The Stevens Family by Mrs. Albert V. Specht (Amesta Agatha Murphy) (1937)
(From a copy belonging to her son, Theodore R. Specht. The original is in the possession of Dr. Walter A. Specht, Jr.)
Following an emigration in 1700 from England to New York we find Isaac Stevens, land owner, married to Sarah Ballou. An only son, William, was born Sept. 21, 1796.
Emigrating westward to Terra Haute, Ind., the Stevens again took a large farm. Young William grew to be a tall, straight, dignified man, whose personality was respected by the title of "Squire". They always said "His word was as good as his bond". He married Cynthia Benjamin, of vicinity, a small, neat, self-willed young woman. (Some have remarked a tinge of Jewish in her family.) She gave birth to 2 children: Amelia (Nov. 21, 1825) and Isaac (Oct. 5, 1827) and died in confinement Oct. 1832, 27 years of age, losing her little daughter. Her husband (36 years old) remarried the following summer to a young 17-year-old girl, Elizabeth Ann Booth, who had two daughters, Phylinda (1830) and Julia Emerine (1840). Then followed years of financial success, but years of poor health for the young wife of the middle-aged farmer. After losing 3 babies, she died (1848). Her step-daughter Amelia was now a young woman rapidly reaching a marriagable age. During the last years of the step-mother's life Amelia took care of the household and her two little half-sisters, 10 & 8. Young Isaac was nearing manhood & was a great help on the farm. He was a most dependable young man who was being well-trained in handling of help, rotating crops, breeding of horses & business affairs.
The young step-mother had given very little sympathy to the dignified, cold, aloof step-daughter, Amelia. In her efforts to keep clean and neat she took a cold bath in a brook without a mother's warning. This brought asthma which clung to her all of her life and which made her a subject to short breath & coughing under an extra exertion. At 20 she was a slender dark-haired girl with deep-set, earnest blue eyes, and almost bashful smile. She didn't have the attraction promised in her coquettish, black-eyed, little half-sisters. But the quiet reserved English girl attracted the attention of a dashing young horseman who was living with his uncle, Basil Justice, a wealthy land owner and breeder of fine horses. A neat, dapper young fellow with eyes that always smiled with a grace full, easy manner. As he doffed his high hat & alighted at the Squire's gate, he impressed her very much. His stories of his trips on the flat-boat down the Wabash, Ohio & Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans with cargoes of horses to sell were most interesting. He had the manners and latest mode of clothes that gave no hint of the large struggling family he had left when he was taken by his uncle. Little did Amelia dream how his extravagent tastes and restless disposition would affect her future!
Amelia Stevens & William Cunningham Brown had a quiet wedding (Nov. 12, 1846) & moved to Wisconsin. Isaac Stevens soon followed. Isaac & his widowed father were glad to leave the warm, damp, rich, malaria-infected lowlands of Indiana to go to the rolling higher wooded lands of Wisconsin and later of Iowa.
Isaac Stevens (23 years old) married Mary Ann Rickman in 1850. He bought a large farm & soon had a big white house that was ample home to the father and half sisters. He took over all management and left to his father the care of the garden, orchards, & his hives. His wife was a healthy & capable woman. Seven children came to this union: Emma, Martha, Edward, Mary, Eva, Frank & Lee, a most happy, prosperous family. Isaac was a kindly, dark-haired, bearded man of medium build & always alert and active. He was not only mindful of his own household, but also of his kin & neighbors. This neighborhood (near Gratiot, Wisc., Lafayette Co.) was composed of Americans (mostly English) joined together not entirely by blood, but by church ties. The Stevens, always a peace-loving, law-abiding family, were not religious zealots. (Probably their ancestors were affiliated with the Church of England). But here in the wilds of Wisconsin among a few friendly Indians, they came into a community of a most earnest group of worshippers, the Old School Baptists. A large, barn-like building had been erected and gifted speakers among the farmers were ordained as ministers. Such names as Elder Jeffers, Norton, Sallee, & Long are still remembered from those early generations. Young and old attended and enthusiastically took part in these meetings. They were especially interested in the "associations" or conventions to which neighboring churches were invited. Every home was open to entertain visiting members & ministers. Meetings were held 3 times daily. The hymns were sung from little black hymn books by young sopranos and manly basses. The minister or a good singer led "a cappello" in songs of memory or tradition. Converts were baptized in the sunny Piccatonica.
When Isaac Stevens sold his big farm to move to Nora Springs, Iowa, his last days were not so prosperous. His two half sisters had married. Phylinda married George Jameson of Iowa, a cold self-contained Englishman, who provided a good living. Their only son, Vincent, received a good education. The other sister, Julia, was a lively, lovable, little dark-eyed woman. She married Charles Brown, *brother* of William Cunningham Brown. They bought half-interest in Spencer House in Nora Springs, a business hotel which proved successful. Their 3 children: Amanda, John F., & William H. had blessed this union. Alma [sic] married William Haffmuster of Nora Springs, & they all finally moved to Caney, Kansas, where Julia & Charles bought city & country property. Grandmother Julia lived to be over 90, a widow after the death of Uncle Charles in 1908 (?) from heart disease. Elizabeth Brown Murphy happened to be there on a visit at the time of his death. Aunt Julia (although only half aunt) had ever that youthful spirit that drew relatives near to her.
Of all Uncle Isaac's children there is but one of who our branch (EB Murphy) has knowledge -- & that was Eva. She was the same age as Elizabeth Brown. She married ___ Morgan, & they had one son, Robert.
In concluding this chapter we would like to sum up the characteristics of the Stevens tree: Mentally a family of pride, with honor in community, peace-loving, law-abiding, well-to-do, thrifty, with business ability, administration, loyal, religious (no ministers in the family, however), intellectual & studious-minded -- many reached old age -- but we find that these were of better circumstances. Later women of the Benjamin strain succumbed to the diseases of middle age as evidenced by the deaths of Mary (Brown) Vaughn, both of gallstones. To date (1937) Elizabeth (Brown) Murphy is alive & healthy at 78. Blue eyes, brown hair, beautiful white skin, slender fine bones, delicate wrists, ankles & hands, gentle-voiced (plumpness later in life) are physical characteristics. Above all -- they were excellent cooks & demanded ample provisions. The feminine predominated over masculine in line until 1900 when we find the opposites in the Crowells, Vaughns, Spechts, Sorensons, & Morgans.
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