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From These We Came -
The Descendants Of
George Washington Stever
(1788-1858)
and
Sarah Payton Stever
(1792-1868)


By:Frank Stever

Frank Stever was the tenth child of Edward Wright Stever and Josie Elmarine Gower. He was reared on a farm in Dallas and Webster Counties. He finished the eighth grade at Pack, a rural school in Webster. He attended Conway High School, Conway, Mo., for one year after which he became a "drop out". In 1936, he was married to Mary Etolia Hollis, at which time he began working for, and farming with, his wife's parents, John M. and Virginia T. Hollis, near Elkland, Missouri.

In May, 1942 Mr. Stever received, and answered, the call to the ministry of Jesus Christ. His entire ministry has been spent in central, western and southwestern Missouri, serving through the Methodist Church.

On entering the Ministry, Mr. Stever sold his small farm and returned to school.

He holds degrees from Southwest Baptist College, Bolivar Mo., Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, Mo. and Scarritt College, Nashville, Tennessee.

He is currently retired(1999) and living in Odessa, Mo.

December 30,1980


INTRODUCTION

We began working on this family history in early 1946 and are grateful to Ida Stever Gann for giving us some forty-five old letters written to James Madison Stever between the years 1848 and 1880. Being James' granddaughter, she had came into possession of these old letters along with James' old pocket billfold (which is now in our possesion), and his small hand-made trunk.On her learning that we were planning to put together a family history she gave us the letters which were wrapped in the billfold. These letters have proven to be invaluable to us in our search.

We worked on the family history during 1946, then due to the pressure of time, our church work and our school work, we laid the matter aside until 1970 when we began with earnestness to pursue the matter again.

In an endeavor to find as much information as possible, we have driven hundreds of miles, searched couthouse records in Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Ilinois. We've hired researchers in Kentucky and Virginia.

We have written hundreds of letters, to many of which there has been no response. We have also searched the U.S. Census records--1790-1880 --in many states and counties.

If time would permit, we would like to spend another ten years in searching, but feel it is now time to put together what information we have and relieve our mind of the matter.

In our search we found a strain of the Stever Family that roots in Pennsylvannia, one in Virginia and one in New York. Apparently whatever connection there may be between these family lines roots in Germany. We have also found a line that traces their origin to Ohio, but they know nothing beyond there. It is our opnion that these have branched off from one of the other three lines.

We have also discovered some who spell the name Stevers. We think these to be the descendants of George Stever (ca.1765-1837) and his wife, Barbara, in Virginia.These trace their line to Illinois, but know nothing deyond that.

We have also found a line that spell the name, Steever.

Also, Steuver, in Illinois. These came here about 1865 from Germany. Some of them now spell the name Stever.

Researching the Stever family has been difficult due to the variation in spelling in census records and legal papers. We have found Stever , Steever, Stener , Stebar , Steaver , Staver , Stiver , Stivers , Stevers , Stevens , Steves, when we know beyond question the name to be Stever, and could identify the person(s) referred to.

One of the problems in finding some information we should like to have grow out of the fact that in 1867, the Dallas County, Missouri courthouse burned and all their records were destroyed.


THE GEORGE AND SARAH STEVER HOMESTEAD IN MISSOURI

August 11, 1974, we visited the old homestead where George and Sarah settled with their family in the year of 1837. It is located one and one-half miles north of the village of Elkland, Misssouri. This was our first visit to the homestead, though we had been to the cemetery many times.

The spring at which they located is a most productive fountain of water. It is not a large spring, but very steady and dependable. Our father's generation spoke of it as a spring "that never goes dry". When we where there it was flowing freely despite the fact that it was being trampled by cattle and it was a very dry time. The spring flows out of a gentle slope , rising to the southwest, beginning it's flow to the northeast winding it's way into a broad fertile valley.

The homestead is located less than one-fourth mile southeast (more east than south) of the cemetery. About twenty feet north of the spring are the remains of a rock foundation, one room. This may have been the "spring house". Across the spring branch, east and a little north of this foundation, are the remains of a second foundation. It gives evidence of having been a two room structure, which might have been the fundation for the house they built. It is about twice as large north to south as it is east to west.

The homestead afforded a beautiful view to the four points of the compass, with the longer view being southeast to northwest, with the valley. The landscape is a beautiful scene, if one loves the open spaces.

Our father, Edward Wright Stever, and his brother and sister told the story that George Washington Stever, Sr. was born in Germany. However, all of the census records we checked list his birthplace as Virginia. The family stories are of four brothers coming from Germany and settling on the James River in Virginia. From these brothers the family descended. It is our impression from what we find in the records that the ancestors coming from Germany was one generation farther back.

The family has always held that George W., Sr.has three brothers-- John, William and Samuel. Our fathers oldest full sister, Louella, reported that William and Samuel settled in the St. Louis area. We have no record of either of these brothers. You will note in the "old letters" that a William Stever wrote to James Madison Stever, giving his address as Centerville, Mo., and calling him "cousin".

The Stever name is definitely of Germanbic origin. We have corresponded with Dr. Robert Stever,M.D. of Seattle, Wash. who shared with us that he had visited Germany and found a Stever Creek in the northern part of that country. We were told that the name means "dweller by the stream". Dr. Stever descends from the Pennsylvannia line.

There are members of the Stever family in Iowa, at Fairfield and Winterset. Both of these groups descended from the Pennsylvannia line.

In the Virginia census records we find four Stever men owning land on the James River in Virginia in the late 1700s. They were George, Michael, Henry and John.

George Stever was apparently the older of the group, and seems seems to have been the "father advisor" to Michael and Henry. From the records of Botetourt County, Virginia, it would appear that George was a man of considerable means for his time. His wife's name was Barbara. We have not discovered her maiden name. Their children were:

  1. George
  2. ,
  3. Joseph
  4. ,
  5. Jefferson
  6. ,
  7. Catherine(m/ Adam Peck)
  8. ,
  9. Elizabeth(m/Joseph Boyer)
  10. ,
  11. Rebecca(m/Michael Minnick)
  12. a daughter(m/ ? Deal).
The Deal children were: John, George, Peter, Mary Ann and Rebecca . This information was taken from George's will, dated 11 Jan., 1828.

George died in 1837. George aquired land as early as Nov., 28, 1785, buying 215 acres and 42 acres from J. Wood. "joining Lauderdale, Kelly and Henry".

In the 1810 U.S. Census, the above George Stever was listed as George Stever, Sr.. A George Jr. appears in both the 1820 and 1830 Botetourt Co. census.. Therefore, this younger George Stever is NOT the George Stever who came to Missouri in 1837.

Henry Stever was married to Catherine Thrasher. At the time of his death, in 1813, he and Catherine were operating a boarding house in Union, Virginia. No will of Henry's has been found. But we do have copies of the bill of sale for his possessions and settlement of his estate. No children are mentioned. The estate settlement indicates that Henry was deeply indebted to George Stever. Catherine later remarried. In the "History of Monroe County, West Virginia" by Oren F. Morton, Kentucky State Library, Frankfurt, Ky. we found the following:

"STEVER, Henry,
one of the earliest inhabitants of Union,
died there in 1837".
(p. 407)
West Virginia was part of Virginia until the Civil War.

Michael C. Stever was married to Mary Magdaline Seagle. The first land record we find of Michael was dated Jan. 26, 1798. We find that in 1804, Michael Stever gave power of attorney to John Stever to sell 500 acres Columbia County, South Carolina, deeded to said Michael Stever in 1794. From the records to which we have access, it appears ther never was a Columbia County Co., South Carolina. At this time we are unable to clarify this. Michael Stever died in Botetourt Co., Va., in 1818. His descendants according to his will were:

  • Lucinda P.(m/John R. Foutz)
  • ,
  • Mary S.(m/William P. Thrasher)
  • ,
  • William I.(never married)
  • Magdalin S.(m/Wyatt See)
We have corresponded with Gearldine Obershain of Buchanan, Va., who is a great-granddaughter to Michael C. Stever, but she does not know if the four men were brothers.

John Stever first owned land in Botetourt County, Va., 9 April , 1798. His wife's first name was Sarah. In 1805, John and his wife sold 154 acres to George and Barbara Stever. We do not find John in the 1810 U.S.Census.

It is our opinion, only our opinion, that this John and Sarah Stever were the parents of George Washington Stever(1788-1858), that on selling his land to George and Barbara, he took his family west to the frontier in Kentucky.

George Washington Stever was first married to Elizabeth Lewis (10 Oct.,1793-15 Sept.,1814) in the year of 1812. Their first son, Michael Lewis Stever, was born August 21, 1813. A second son, was born and died, Sept., 15, 1814. Elizabeth died at this time.

Michael was reared by George W. and his second wife, Sarah Payton Stever. He came to Missouri with the family in 1837. He never married. He was reported to be an excellant student of the Bible, spending much time alone absorbing it's contents. He also taught school. In one of the letters from Nichalos Stever to his brother, James Madison, he wrote: "Now I give you a short history of Michael Stever. He is teaching school on Bear Creek in Camden County". Michael bore the reputation of being a great talker. He liked to wash any new garment he secured before wearing it. He died December 26, 1851, of tuberculosiss, and was buried in the Stever Cemetery.

We find George Stever's bond to Sarah Payton in Madison County, Kentucky, dated May 22, 1815. It was common procedure at that time that every male upon being egaged to a woman to be placed under bond. The marriage reads as follows:

"Know all men by these presents George Stever and Thomas Burgin are held and fully bound with the common wealth of Kentucky in the just and full sum of fifty pounds current money which payment will and truly be made we bind ourselves and our heirs only to these presents sealed with our seal and dated this twenty-second day of May, 1815. The condition of the above obligation is that whereas there is a marriage shortly intended to be had and solemized between the above bound George Stever and Sally Payton, both of the County of Madison, if there is no lawful cause to obstruct the same then this obligation is to be void else to remain in full court and virtue. Signed in the presence of George Stever, Thomas Burgin." >
Burgin could not write but his mark is on the bond. Thomas Burgin was married, 1810, Madison Co., Ky., to Melinda Peyton. Was she a sister to Sarah?

In the Madison County, Kentucky records we find the account of George and Sarah's marriage. Record is made in Book 1A, Pg. 96. It reads as follows:

"George Stever to Sally Payton, I do certify that I have celebrated the rite of matrimony between the following persons agreeable to the dates annexed to their names to wed. George and Sally Payton, 22nd October, 1815. Sign William Marsh."

The family has always reported that Sarah's mother was a Randolph. We question this in light of the following paragraph which was sent to us by James G. Peyton, Sr.,who at that time lived in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Peytons have made extensive research of the Peyton family. The paragragh is as follows:

"1766Leroy Payton, Sr. b. ca. 1766. Stafford Co., Virginia. M/ ,Millie Rogers(b. 1771 --half Cherokee) full sister to Jesse Rogers (1775) who were the children of Captin John Rogers, III(1749-1823) and Tahlonteeskee, sister to Cherokee Chief Olooteeskee, known to the white man as John Jolly. (Indian research--by John Payton Brown. Affidavits, dated 1896 by Jesse Brown and Candy S. Dunagan.)Leroy Payton had a sister, Margaret Payton, (b. 1764, N. Car.) who M/ John Russell, Sr.,(b. 1762, N. Car.) and they had John Russell, Jr. (ca. 1789, Tenn.) who had Phebe Jane Russell (ca. 1827, Tenn.) who married James Madison Stever,(b. 27 Dec., 1825, Indiana) son of George Stever(2 Dec.,1788) and Sarah Payton, (b.1792, Tenn.) daughter to Leroy Payton, (1766)."

From the above it would appear that the Pocahontas (given elsewhere in this material) comes through Sarah Payton's father rather than her mother as the family has always supposed.

In the above paragragh Phebe Jane Russell's birthdate is given as about 1827. We do know that she was born Nov., 27, 1825. Sarah Payton's birthplace is listed above as Tennessee. All the Census records since 1850 give her birthplace as Kentucky.

George Stever and Sarah Payton Stever settled in Missouri in 1837, within Polk, County. In 1841 the area in which they lived became Niangua County. Because the incoming settlers had such difficulty pronouncing the name it was changed to Dallas County in 1845. The area in which they lived in Dallas County became a part of Webster County in 1855. Therefore, George and Sarah lived in four different counties without ever moving from their homestead.

George and Sarah had eleven children. The first four Elizabeth , George Washington, Jr., Sarah and Polly were born in Kentucky. In 1820, George and Sarah were living in Clay County, Kentucky. (Note: The 1880 Census gives their son, Nicholas' birthplace as Kentucky. All other census records give it as Indiana.). We find other Stever families in the 1810, 1820, 1830 Kentucky Census, but no tie between them and George. Undoubtely, there was a relationship. Early in 1821, George and Sarah moved to Indiana, in the area of Terre Haute (possibly what is now Parke or Vermillion County).

During their stay in Indiana, Their children, Nicholas, Peter, James Madison, Rachel, Daniel and Margaret, were born. In the year 1834 they left Indiana and settled at Kaskaskia, Illinois, where their yougest child, Martha, was born in 1835. In the year 1837, they left Illinois and came to Missouri, settling one and one-half miles north of what is now Elkland, Missouri. The site at which they settled is about one-fourth mile east and a little south of the Stever cemetery. In this broad, rolling valley they settled near a spring which was their source of water. I'm told by older family members that even in the driest times the spring never goes dry.

When they settled in Missouri, game was plentiful. There were deer, elk, wild turkey, bears and plenty of small game. On these they could readily depend on for their meat supply. The animal pelts were used, too, for family needs such as gloves, caps, rugs and lap and bed covers.

Indians were in the area during the early years of the families life in Missouri. Often they came to drink from the family well or spring. John Wesley Stever shared with his family that he could remember mant times when the Indians stopped for a drink of water. He remarked, if they saw the Indians coming, if time permitted, they would hide the saddle, or other items the Indians might want.

One can hardly imagine what it was like to stop at a spring, survey the landscape, and then with a wife and ten children begin to make a crop and build a house! Of course, at the time of George and Sarah's coming to Missouri, the older boys were big enough to assist the father in preparing the logs for the house while the younger boys did the plowing and planting of the crops. Sarah and the girls were left to do the gardening.

Likely, the family traveled from Illinois to Missouri in covered wagons, drawn by oxen. With a family the size of theirs, it is likely that two wagons were required to transport the younger children, the family's meager supplies anr the women.

George and Sarah built near the spring, the traditional log cabin of the time, which consisted of a story and a half. There two rooms downstairs with a breeze-way between. The entrance into each of these rooms was from the breeze-way. There was a stair in the breeze-way that led to the one large room above, which was only a half story. Our aunt Lillie Stever Cavin Davis, told us that she could remember seeing the ruins of the old house, when the logs were still standing. she described the building to us.

When the family settled in Missouri their closest neighbors were the Derricks about one mile to the northeast. East of them some six miles were the families of James Ervin Hollis and William Marlin. (James Ervin Hollis was our wife's great-grandfather.)

There are some stories that go with their first years in their Missouri home. James Madison, who was eleven years old when they settled in Missouri, told his children that he and the other boys plowed up the prairie, plowing barefoot, and it was a common practice to kill a rattlesnake as they broke up the prairie sod. He told of spending his first winter in Missouri without shoes. In place of trousers his only garment was a long flannel shirt. George Stever made his living farming and operating a whiskey still. In one of the old letters dated 1848, Peter Stever wrote to James Stever, who was then living in Illinois, and told him that he had bought his father's still for 300 gallons of whiskey. Peter informed James that he had hired Timothy Tracey to operate the still for a fourth of the profit.

We have in our possession some letters from George Stever to his son, James Madison, During the time James was living in Illinois, (1847-1849) in which George begs James to return home. He tells him that he wants to "set him up" as he has the rest of the children.

The first burial in the Stever Cemetery was made sometime around 1840. As the framily told the story, Georges brother, John, came to Missouri, became ill, died and was buried in the cemetery. The family seemed to know nothing about John's family. They did know of two children: Margeret, James Madison Stever's first wife, and also his first cousin, and Jack, often in the letters in our possession, who later married George and Sarah's youngest daughter, Martha. From searching the records, we verified that Jack, whose full name was Andrew Jackson Stever, were the children of this John Stever. Jack Stever died in 1913 and his death certificate lists John Stever as his father.

In searching the Randolph County, Illinois, census records and courthouse records, we find that a John Stever rented land from "Jack Baccus, a man of color," in the year 1839. The legal document and description of property was "all the land under fence." John was to have the use of the property for the next four years at the price of seven dollars and fifty cents per year, payable in produce at market value. It is our opnion that John Stever came to Missouri exploring the idea of settling there, but died and was buried on the hill west of the homestead.

There was some contact between some Stevers in Randolph County, Illinois and the Stever family in Missouri as late as 1872. James Benton Stever, sons of George Washington Stever, sons of James Madison Stever went back to Illinois in 1872 to visit the Stevers there. George W. returned home before James B. did. One of them brought with him from Illinois a small pecan tree in a bottle. It was planted near the spring on James M. Stevers farm. The pecan tree stil stands by the spring, huge and tall, probably 60 feet.

George Stever bought his first land in 1839, from the federal government, with the transaction taking place in Springfield, Missouri. At the time of his death in 1858, George owned 560 acres of land, 120 of which was in Dallas County.

George Stever died December 8, 1858 and was buried in the Stever Cemetery. In 1859, during the September term of court in Webster County, the children of George and Sarah filed a petition to partition the estate of George Stever, deceased. Settling of the estate was dragged out over a period of years due to the Civil War and some legal technicalities. When the children filed the petition, the failed to mention that one of the children, Sarah Stever, was living out of state. She and her husband, Willis, were in Illinois. Therefore atb the March, 1860 term of court the petition was refiled mentioning that one of the children lived out of state. In the September, 1860 court term, the petition was filed again because the 120 acres in Dallas County had not been so designated. The Dallas County Sheriff was instructed by the court to sell that acreage at the courthouse door in Buffalo. Later court records in Webster County indicate that the sheriff neglected to sell the land. The following is a record of that sale:

Book "B"--Page 47, Webster County Court records--

  • Geo. Stever, Etal ( "Petition for
  • againest ( Partition"
  • Sarah Stever (

"It is ordered by the court that the report of the sheriff of Dallas County, Mo., of the sale of lands of said estate be approved. Sept. 22, 1865, Regular Sept. term, 1865."

Note: Land was sold 22 Mar., 1865, at courthouse steps, 120 acres for $180.00 to William R. Martin.)

The estate was not finally settled until 1866. James Madison Stever, George and Sarah's son, was administrator of the estate. He left the state in 1863 and went to Illinois, coming back to Missouri in 1866. As the estate was settled, the court gave Sarah, George's widow, a dowry of one hundred eighty-six and two-thirds acres which included the homestead and the area around the cemetery.

We have this note:

$7 Recd. Webster County, Mo., of James Stever the sum of (7) seven dollars as a balance given to him to settle the taxes by Sarah Stever, deceased. W.H. Jones, Public Admr.

We have been unable to determine exactly when Sarah Payton Stever died. The records are clear that she died prior to August 14, 1868, at which time Peter Stever purchased James M. Stever's interest in "in the dower land of Sarah Stever, deceased." (Purchase for one-ninth of the 186 2/3 acres was sixty dollars.) We have wondered why the heirs waited so long in having her estate appraised and sold.

CONTINUED

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