Mary Harriet Stephenson.

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DR, B, F, STEPHENSON,



FOUNDER OF THE



Grand Army of the Republic.



A MEMOIR,



BY HIS DAUGHTER,

MARY HARRIET STEPHENSON,



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^^



'APB13 \m^ .1



SPRINGFIELD :

THE H. W. EOKKBR PRINTING HOUSE.
1894.






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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1894.

By MARY HARRIET STEPHENSON.

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. G.



DEDICATION.

To THE Grand Army of the Republic.



To that army of heroes, christened by the smoke
and blood of battle-fields, sealed their country's own
by the hardships, privations and dangers endured in
her cause; who left their pleasant firesides and offered
their comfort, their worldly prosperity, yea even life
itself, on the alter of their native land, the smell of
which offering went up as a sweet savor to the God
of Battles; our country's stay and pride; they who
stand now, as they stood in the terrible days of
1861-G4, the Bulwarks of the Nation's defense, in the
van of Freedom's great hosts; pledged to Loyalt^^,
Fraternity, Charity; that army whic^i has dried the
tears of so. many soldiers' widows and orphans, which
has enabled the scarred and aged veteran to tread
the last steps of his way to his reward surrounded by
comforts and honored by his country; which takes
tender and beautiful care of the helpless and the
afflicted; which lives in every day of its life its beau-
tiful motto: to this army of great hearts, from the
brave Major General to the humblest wooden-legged
hero who is proud to don the blue on G. A. R. days,
this little volume, eontaining the history of one who
loved them all, and labored for their good, is respect-
fully and affectionately dedicated, by its author.

January 12, 189^. "



PREFACE.

A very great majority of the veterans of the Grand
Army of the Republic know but little more of their
founder than his name, and until a few years ago, few
outside of Illinois knew even the name of the man who
originated their order. I have deemed it my duty to
set forth my father's life and character, so that all
veterans might know him and his work.

The memoir is not so complete as I had wished it to
be, on account of the material for collecting informa-
tion being meagre and scattering. Great quantities of
my father's papers were destroyed soon after his death
by my mother. She did not think them valuable.
Had she known their importance she would not have
destroyed them.

I desire to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to those
who have so kindly assisted me by furnishing anec-
dotes, items of interest, and various data. My father's
very dear friend, and mine, also, I am proud to believe,
Major John F. Nolte, of Independence, Kansas, not
only very promptly and enthusiastically responded to
my request for items, but has cheered, enthused, and
encouraged me amid the discouragements of my under-
taking, so that I feel that I owe him a debt of grati-
tude which mere words can never express. I wish to
thank, also, very cordially. Col. Daniel Grass, of Inde-
pendence, Kansas, for his valuable information so
kindl^^ furnished, and for his many kind wishes for the
success of my undertaking. Mr. Samuel Walker, of Lay,



VI PREFACE.

Kansas, Gen. James C. Veach, of Kockport, Indiana,
Miss Josephine P. Cleveland, of the State Historical Li-
brary, Springfield, 111., D. C. Brinkerhoff, Commander
Stephenson Post, Springfield, 111., Col. Frederick Phis-
terer, present Adjutant-General, G. A. R. U. S., and Mr,
J. H. Spears, of Elmwood, Neb., have all very kindly
furnished me with items, for which I take the present
opportunity to renew my thanks. Gen. Beath's History
of the Grand Army of the Republic has furnished some
of the items relating to the Indianapolis convention,
and three succeeding ones.



CONTENTS



PART I.

PAGES.

Dr. Stephenson's Youth and Early Manhood 1-15

PART II.

His Army Life 16-37

PART III.

The Founding of the Grand Army of the Republic 38-71

PART IV.
Conclusion 72-7(3



DR. B. F. STEPHENSON,



FOUNDER or THE



Grand Army of the Republic.



PART I.



"Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
'Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn,

Brushing with hasty steps the dews away.
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

'There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.

His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.' "

"Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.'^

The self-made man does not exist, has never existed.
The environments of circumstance mold us to an extent
Ave often fail to realize. But sift out these environ-
ments, and a larc^er residuum of individuality would
remain in some characters than in others. Here and
there we find a soul so great that it wages war against
circumstance, subdues it, and well nigh molds it to its
will. Before, however, the great soul has gained the



2 A MEMOIR OF

power of overcomino- all opposing circumstances, envi-
ronments will have left their indelible impress on it.
And even in its all-conquering career, the sensitive
•essence is being constantly modified by forces outside
itself. The mark of the conflict is impressed on the
Ibody, over which circumstance must finally prevail.

Most men, if they would form noble characters and
achieve worthy things, must gird on their armor and
do valiant battle with hostile environments, and the
earlier they enter the fight the greater the degree of
probable conquest.

The achievement of an end is called success. A man
may esteem himself unsuccessful, may even be so judged
by his friends, and yet, for all that, he may have
achieved those ends toward which the bent of his nature
tended, which were the natural sequence of his charac-
ter. Such an one, in the opinion of the writer, was the
subject of this sketch.

James Stephenson, the father of Dr. Stephenson, was
a native of South Carolina, but emigrated to Kentucky.
There he met and married Margaret Clinton, a native
of North Carolina. After residing here for a time, he
again removed his household goods to a new country,
this time taking up his abode in IHinois.

In Wayne county, Illinois, October 3, 1823, Benjamin
Franklin Stephenson was born. He was one of the
younjrer members of a large family. Since ancestry
combines with circumstance in forming character, some
further account of James and Margaret Stephenson
seems admissible.

Mothers are very important factors in the molding
of character, and, in studying the life of a man, one of
the first questions which presents itself is always "What



DR. STEPHENSON. 6

kind of a mother had he?" But, although Dr. Stephen-
son had a very o;ood mother, it would, in all proba-
bilit\', be fair to estimate the influence of his father's
character on his to have been fully as ^reat as that
of his mother.

James Stephenson was a man whom to know was
to esteem and love; the ideal father, kind, yet firm.
His was the philosopher's nature, calm and logical.
His heart was kind, his judgment ripe, his nature
manly. Well do I remember tlie tones of reverence
and pride with which his children spoke of him after
they had become gray-headed men and women. He
was a man of strong religious convictions, and be-
lieved that the religious code was for every-day use.
A careful student of the Bible, and what other books
his limited means admitted of his possessing, he im-
planted in his children a love for knowledge. His na-
ture was large and broad enough to take in the idea
that others might hold different opinions from his
own and yet be honest in their convictions, holding
them by the same right by which he held his. Liberal
minded, large hearted, he was neither inclined to strain
at a gnat nor to swallow a camel.

Margaret Stephenson was one of those model house-
wives, energetic and capable, warm-hearted and hos-
pitable. A woman of extraordinary spirit and deter-
mination. One of her relatives, not a. direct ancestor,
however, was Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declara-
tion of Independence. It is related that when, in
company with those other bold men who took their
lives in their hands, Charles Carroll affixed his name,
the other gentlemen remarked, "You can sign safely
enough. There are so many Carrolls the British Gov-
ernment will never know which one it is." Carroll,



4 A MEMOIR OF

who had laid down his pen, immediately seized it
ap^ain and wrote after his name "of Carrollton," thus
distinguishino; himself from others of the same name.

When Frank, for this was the abbreviation by which
Dr. Stephenson was known in his youth, was about
three years of age his father removed from Wayne to
Sangamon County, and in the latter county Frank
passed his early youth. There were eleven children in
the family'-, and Dr. Stephenson was the seventh. Only
three of this large family now survive, Mrs. Jacob
Swingle, Mrs. A. E-. Houghton, and Mrs. Wm. Spears,
all residing, at present, near Petersburg, 111.

Many a hard task did these hardy pioneer children
accomplish, many a simple pleasure did they enjoy
together. And among them none was more mischiev-
ous or fonder of fun than Frank. He teased his
younger sisters, and played pranks on the older ones,
and often was the worth3^ mother driven to her wits
ends to preserve order among her large and lively
family.

The schools to which my father was sent were such
as the new country afforded. One end filled with a
big fireplace which roasted your face while your back
froze, or vice versa, the seats of split logs and walls
innocent of plaster. The spaces left between the logs
for the purpose of admitting light were nicknamed
windows. The "master" flourished a big ferule, and
was not sparing of its use, for in those days "lickin'
and larnin'" was the creed. Notwithstanding these
extremely primitive educational advantages, Frank
learned rapidly what the rural pedagogue professed
to teach. The curriculum, however, extended but lit-
tle beyond the three R's. When still quite young, he



DR. STEPHENSON. 5

was noted for his proficiency in spelling, and, in the
rural spelling schools, he was quite a champion.

In those early days, in my grandfather's neighbor-
hood, the more intellectually inclined had an institu-
tion which they called polemics. It resembled the
modern lyceum or debating club. My father, even as
a child, took great delight in these meetings. Noth-
ing could please him more than to be taken to the
polemics. I have heard one of my aunts say that,
after attending one of these meetings, my father could
remember and repeat almost everything he had heard.
Perhaps these rude country debates sowed the seeds
of that patriotism which was such a passion with him
in after life.

The fare of these early Illinois settlers was simple in
the extreme. Of course they had plenty of meat, what
with game, and the stock for which there was very
little demand in the markets in those times. They had
plenty of corn meal, also, and quantities of vegetables;
plenty of butter, honey, and berries in their season.
Honey was a very useful article of food to the early
settlers ; for they, like the ancients, used it in place of
sugar. This was because of the scarcity of money and
distance of the markets. If the settler's wife's honey-
jar was empty, he could soon find a bee-tree, and thus
replenish the larder. They knew nothing of canning
fruit, and, of course, had to wait for apples, pears and
peaches, until their orchards grew up; but they dried
berries, and, occasionally, made preserves of them,
sweetening with honey. My grandmother made several
varieties of corn bread, but the favorite kind was that
called corn pone. It was a loaf baked in an iron oven,
surrounded by glowing coals, and with coals heaped on
the lid. When baked, the bread was white and sweet.



6 A MEMOIR OF

Wheat bread and cake were baked only on rare occa-
sions; such as weddino's, or, occasionally, when strange
company was present.

The country was so infected with malaria, in those
times, that the settlers were obliged to prepare for the
regular yearly attack of chills and fever. Their clothes
were both home-made and homespun, the spinning and
weaving of cloth being a regular occupation of the
women of the household.

The settlers' families were widely scattered. Spring-
field, even, was only a village, and the nearest church,
or preaching station, was several miles distant. My
grandfather used to call the family together on Sun-
days, and have scriptural reading. Sometimes, they
would meet at the house of a neighbor and read the
Bible together. My grandfather's library consisted
chiefly of books on church doctrine, expositions of the
Bible, moral philosophies, etc. There were, however,
among the books, some histories and a few volumes
of poetry. Of these, Frank's chief favorite was Milton,
over whose sublime pages he was accustomed to pore
in his boyhood's leisure hours. In politics, my grand-
father was' a Whig, and took several newspapers,
among others, the "New York Observer." The children
were entertained and instructed b^^ the excellent stories
of the "Youth's Companion."

One of my grandfather's near neighbors was a very
superstitious old woman, who used to tell my father
marvelous stories about Yahoos. These gentry were
a headless species of ghost, of frightful aspect. Not-
withstanding the counteracting precepts of his parents,
these stories made considerable impression on him.
Apropos of Yahoos, a story I have heard my father



DR. STEPHENSON. 7

tell comes to me from the dim regions of the past.
As nearly as 1 can recall, it was as follows :

One day my father was sent to the mill for meal.
By the time the miller got ready to serve him, it w^as
quite late, and, as soon as he had gotten a little meal
ready, my father, whose imagination was so much in-
flamed by the stories of the above-mentioned neigh-
bor that he had become nervous about riding alone
in the dark, begged the miller to let him take what
was already ground, and go without waiting for any
more; but the miller insisted on filling the meal sack,
and made him wait for it. So, when he at last started
for home, it was late, and he had quite a distance to
go. The shadows thickened around him rapidl^^, and
soon night was upon him. As the solitary boy rode
through the dark w^oods, all the dreadful stories of
Yahoos to which he had listened came vividly ta
mind, and the poor child's nerves became completely
unstrung. Straining his eyes along the dark path^
suddenly an apparition appeared, which caused every
hair to stand on end, sent the chilled blood back to
his heart, and caused the perspiration to stand out
in great beads on his forehead ! A Yahoo ! There wa»
the horrible headless monster right before his eyes!
He was lost! Nearer and nearer it came; the fright-
ened boy, shaking as with ague, crouched down on his
horse and had not even the nerve to turn and flee.
At length it suddenly emerged from the deeper shadows
close to him, and lo, blessed relief! it was a belated
neighbor, wending his way along the woodland path!
The greatly relieved but somewhat mortified lad pur-
sued the even tenor of his way home, but encountered
no more Yahoos. It amused my father greatly to
tell this story in later years.



8 A MEMOIR OF

Frank, like the other boys of his time and locality,
only spent a brief portion of his life in the school-
house. He attended school a little in the winter, and
worked on the farm in spring, summer, and autumn;
but he was eager for what knowledge he could acquire.
Especially as he grew older, approached young man-
hood, the craving to know what was to be known, to
mingle with others in the busy outside world, and
accomplish great and worthy things, possessed hiui.
This feehng was doubtless fostered by the example of
an elder brother. William Stephenson had gone out
from his father's roof, chosen the profession of medi-
cine, and, settling in Iowa, had become quite success-
ful. He had built up a good practice, and was running
B> drug store. Feeling that this profession, with its
glorious possibilities, was also his choice, my father
went out to his brother, at Mount Pleasant, Iowa,
about 184G, or when he was about twenty-three years
old. On this period of his life, I have not been able
to get much light. He clerked in his brother's drug-
store, and read medicine with his brother and Dr.
Clarke. There were many Indians around Mount
Pleasant at that time, and Frank had many amusing
experiences with them. While here, he was quite an
enthusiastic member of a society called Sons of Tem-
perance. His father had always been a strong tem-
perance man, and had been very careful about the
habits acquired by his sons. One winter, while mak-
ing his home here, he attended medical lectures at
Columbus, Ohio. He returned, however, to Mount
Pleasant. Finally, erysipelas attacked both Dr. Wil-
liam Stephenson and Frank. The latter, after a severe
-and protracted illness, finally recovered, but his brother



DR. STEPHENSON. 9

died. As soon as Frank was able, he left the place
and came home to his father, in Illinois.

During the winter of '49 and '50, he attended medi-
cal lectures at Rush Medical College, Chicago, and re-
ceived his diploma from that institution, dated Feb-
ruary 7, 1850.

Meanwhile, my grandfather had removed to Menard
County, Illinois, and was living on a farm about seven
miles south of Petersburg. Hither my father came,
broken down in health, as a result, probably, of the
severe sickness which had brought him so near death's
door, combined with the exertions he had put forth
to finish his medical education. Here, in the neighbor-
hood of Rock Creek, Menard County, my father rested
and recruited his strength for a period of about a year
and a half. In his own words : " I came to this county
(Menard) with fifty cents in my pocket. * * j ^yag
weak, cadaverous, and entirely out of health."

During this period of rest and recuperation, my
father "read Shakespeare and other kindred works,"
mingled with the young people of the neighborhood
in their rural pastimes, and practiced medicine a little.
His health improved considerably, and he decided to
locate in Petersburg, 111., a pretty little village nestling
among the green hills on the banks of the historic
Sangamon. Here he soon built up a large practice.

About this time. Dr. Stephenson's father removed
from his farm to Petersburg. At the time of the re-
moval, there were two unmarried sisters still at home,
but the elder of the two married soon after the father
went to Petersburg. The younger remained at home
a few years longer, and kept house for her father, the
mother being blind and almost helpless.



10 A MEMOIR OF

Dr. Stephenson and his next older brother were very
social young men. It was "hail fellow, well met, and
won't yon come up to dinner?" to all their acquaint-
ances. They were a very hospitable family, but the
constant unheralded stream coming up after dinner
was on the table, was a little hard on the housekeeper,
Dr. Stephenson's sister. ''But," she said to me once,
in recalling these reminiscences, "I never minded any
trouble I. took for Frank." He had so many virtues,
and he made people love him so that they ignored
his faults.

Dr. Stephenson was very genial and companionable,
and gathered about him many friends. He early
showed great skill in his profession, which he followed
with the energy that characterized all his undertak-
ings. He was vitally interested in each patient, at-
tending him assiduously, and, if necessary, watching
night and day by his bedside. Mor did he neglect the
study of medicine and surgery from books and peri-
odicals, thus keeping up the studies which he had pur-
sued when attending lectures.. He was diligent, both
in acquiring theory, and in putting that theory in
practice. Socially, he was always at the service of his
friends, and he w^as universally considered a "good
fellow."

Deciding to share the cares of his practice, Dr.
Stephenson entered into partnership with Dr. Cabanis.

Let us see, now, what had been the influences at
work on the pioneer boy, and into what manner of
man he had developed. Growing up in a new country,
bis young eyes constantly beholding the face of un-
tamed nature, the rude cabins and ruder barns and
smokehouses of the settlers, scattered sparsely over



DR. STEPHENSON, 11

the face of the wide prairies and surrounded by their
corn patches, seeming but to emphasize the insignifi-
cance of man as compared to nature, what wonder if
great mother Nature herself touched the eager impres-
sible boy's heart with her magic wand. What wonder
if, all unconsciously, he drew in largeness of heart and
breadth of soul, that comprehensive vastness of s^-m-
pathy which included in its grasp all human nature.
Observant, eager, impressible, he absorbed into his
rapidly expanding nature the impressions he received
day b^^ day,

I see the boy some star-light night after the hoes
have been laid aside, the cows milked, and supper has
been eaten, lying prone on the dewy grass, his 3'oung
head resting on his arm, gazing up at the blazing
jewels of the sky, I imagine him inquiring, "Father^
what are the stars? What gives them their beautiful
light? Are the}'' so very far away?" and kindred ques-
tions. His father gives him some information; he
longs to know more. His reasoning power is knock-
ing at the gate of consciousness, his mental and moral
powers begin to expand, and he feels a half-conscious
thrill of power, as yet untried and in its infanc3\ The
country debates delight the child's heart. He hears
patriotic speeches made. His country begins to be an
object of. reverence to him. Men have died for love of
country. Ah, when he becomes a man, he, too, may
sacrifice his life for his native land ! That would be a
glorious death, thinks the boy. He learns something
of political and economic questions, too, at these de-
bates, and, perhaps, begins studying the Constitution
of his country.

The Black Hawk War and other Indian wars were
discussed by his father and older brothers, and doubt-



12 A MEMOIR OF

less he listened to many a thrilling tale of adventure
with Indians. Sitting at the knee of father or mother,
he drank eagerly in stories of the revolutionary war,
and the adventures of his ancestors, or other relatives,
in those troublous times. Ever eager for a story
of life and experience or a scrap of knowledge, the boy
grew year by year both in stature and mental calibre.

At length, however, a new and startling experience
touches him. An elder brother is stricken by death.
The parents are distracted by grief, the children awe-
stricken. The father leads his sons to a solitary place,
and there pours out his soul in earnest prayer for
those still left him. The solemnity of this death, and
its accompanying circumstances, sink deep into Frank's
heart. Within a few years, five of his brothers and
sisters are claimed by death, nearly half that large
family say their last farewell to earthly friends and
pass over to the great beyond. Upon so loving and
faithful a heart as Frank's all this must have made a
powerful impression. The breath of the fell destroyer
had brushed his cheek, warning him that life is uncer-
tain, that sorrow follows joy with fleet and noiseless
footstep. When death comes near us, it marks our
souls indelibly. We are never the same afterwards.
The successive deaths left their impress then on the
boy's heart, broadening and deepening it, although,
at the same time, touching it with the shadow of the
world's pain.

When he left his childhood's home, and went out to
learn his chosen profession and make for himself a
place and a name in the world, his horizon broadened;
he met new faces, came into contact with new charac-
ters. He made warm friends; the reciprocal affection



DR. STEPHENSON. 13

expanded his nature, called into play its great, unself-
ish tenderness. He also experienced coldness, selfish-
ness, and ingratitude. These had, of course, their
inevitable result of tending to weaken his faith in
human nature; but so great was his heart, so bound-
less his faith in his fellow men, naturally, that, all
through his life, he was constantly pinning his faith to
others, but, eventually, to be deceived and wounded.

When, after receiving his diploma, he returned to his
father's house, during the period of recuperation he
had time to reflect, to assimilate the impressions he had
received. He communed with great minds in literature.


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