The strange case of Stephen Stuckey, aka Stephen Smith

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Penelope Jane DuBose b. ca. 1791 m. abt. 1805 Stephen Stuckey s/o Edmund and Edith Howell Stuckey. They received from her parents Peter and Laney Witherington Dubose a “plantation.” In 1825 when Penelope returned from caring for her grandmother (don’t know who this could be since all 4 of her grandparents died before the incident – perhaps it was her mother or mother-in-law.) she went to the separate kitchen to see that her children were fed. After “words” with the kitchen slave girl, Penelope went into the main house to nurse her youngest child. The slave girl picked up a butcher knife and followed her. Some time later, the older children said, the girl returned with something wrapped in her apron which she removed and stuck behind the door. When the older children went into the house they found their mother still holding the infant, but with her throat cut and blood over the infant. It isn’t clear from the old newspaper article if the child was dead or alive, but Penelope was definitely dead.

Some time later, Peter DuBose threatened Stephen accusing him of being an accessory. It was at this time he “took up,” to use the language of the time, and married Temperance, commonly known as “Tempy.”  The threat must have been serious enough that Stephen deeded the land to his brother William and headed for St. Louis changing his name to Stephen Smith. Stephen was in the Republic of Texas by 1831 acquiring vast amounts of land. He died Jan 1, 1839 and his children with Penelope tried to inherit, but Texas was a foreign country at the time. There are many legal records on this case. Stephen sold whiskey and other supplies from his general store in Gonzales, Gonzales Co., TX to men going to the Alamo to battle Mexico.

Contemporaneous newspaper article

Copied from:
The Southern Chronicle
Camden, SC
Date: February 26, 1825

The following statement of a most diabolical deed is furnished us by a very respectable gentleman, residing near the spot where the act was committed.

On the night of the 27th, a Mrs. Stuckey of Sumter District, was inhumanly murdered by the servant maid. Mrs. Stuckey had for several days and nights been attending her grandmother who was extremely ill; on the evening of the 27th she returned to her residence to regulate her domestic affairs and enjoy some relaxation. At the proper hour she retired to repose; having two infants with her, leaving two children, who were in the kitchen with the servant. The servant in a short time left the kitchen, entered the mansion of her mistress, and there perpetrated the deed by striking Mrs. Stuckey two or three blows on the head, and, it is said, cut her throat, which caused her immediate death. Mr. Stuckey, the husband, was at the grandmother’s of the deceased.

When the servant returned to the kitchen, the children saw her throw an apron behind the door, to which they paid no attention, suspecting nothing. When the children entered the house they heard one of the infants strangling, they rushed into the room, called their mother and hearing no reply, put their hands upon her to awake her to relieve the child; but lamentable to tell, they found the bed clothes wet; a fire was immediately kindled and they beheld their beloved mother and one infant bathed in the blood of the deceased object of their affection and regard. They immediately alarmed the nearest neighbors who repaired to the dreaded spot, and to their regret and astonishment witnessed the reality of the doleful tale.

On an investigation of the matter, the children related the circumstances of the apron, which was immediately examined and found to be covered with blood. The servant was apprehended, tried and convicted and was to be executed yesterday.  (Italics added.  Temperance was, in fact, not apprehended nor executed, but hit the road with Stephen.  Surely a newspaper would not print an untruth, surely…)

Excerpt from “The History of Gonzales County, Texas,” by Dorcas Claire Baumgartner

Texas attracted settlers from many places and for all manner of reasons; however, one thing they all had in common was a hunger for land. Stephen Smith was no exception. Merchant, trader, speculator, banker, a real “Wheeler dealer”, Smith arrived in Gonzales early in 1830. With him were his wife Temperance and two young daughters, Adeline and Mary Ann Saphronia. Almost immediately he began acquiring land. Along with all of DeWitt’s other settlers he received a grant from the Mexican government. The land grant was located on the San Marcos River, and the Guadalupe-Gonzales County line ran through it as also did a small creek referred to in old deed records as “Stephen Smith Creek.” Next he purchased town lots, five inner lots and four outer lots. Within the next five years he managed to obtain a total of 20,128 acres in DeWitt, Gonzales, Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties.

Stephen died in 1839 leaving an estate that was tied up in the courts for years. When his holdings were finally divided, only two of the original five heirs were alive to benefit. The identity of Stephen before he came to Texas or where he and Temperance came from was unknown. “Smith” may have been an alias, and it was possible that his real name was Stephen Stuckey. However, extensive searching for both names was in vain, and the origin of the family remained a mystery.

By the end of 1831 a third daughter Eleanor was born, and the family had settled into a small log home on Block 3, Lot 6, the corner of St. Louis and St. John Streets. Adjacent to Smith’s home a larger structure was built which became “Smith’s Store.” Merchants in early Texas sold a marvelous variety of goods. Old book accounts told that Smith’s merchandise consisted of shoes, silk shirting, school books, fine hats, whiskey by the bottle (the one-half pint and most popular “by gourd”), lead bars, nails, “two dry hides wt. 26 lbs. and one panther skin.” Customers were local citizens and others passing through. Mathew Caldwell came for coffee and plug tobacco; Wash Cottle for whiskey, sugar and sire; and there were the customers Ezekiel Williams, Almeron Dickenson, Moses Baker, William B. Travis, Samuel B. Williams, Creed Taylor and the families Lockhart, Sowell, Nash, Davis, Fuqua, Floyd and others. Thomas R. Miller, also a merchant, was a frequent partner with Smith in transactions such as cash loans at the rate of ten percent, and of the purchase of land. George C. Kimball wrote on a scrap of paper, “February 27, 1836, Recd. of Stephen Smith 52 lbs. coffee….for the use of the men that has volunteered to go to Bexar to the relief of our boys.” Kimball, owner of a small hat factory and Miller, known as “….the richest man in town,” were among the thirty-two citizens who hurried to “the relief of our boys” and died with them in the Alamo.

1836 was a year of heartbreak and desperation for the Gonzales settlers. Stephen with Temperance expecting a child and their three young daughters joined in the Runaway Scrape. Traveling through mud in driving rain and over swollen rivers, the Smith family made their way to Louisiana in time for Temperance to give birth to a fourth daughter Caroline. After three months in Louisiana they returned to Texas, staying in Liberty County until it was safe to return to Gonzales in 1838. Stephen died, probably January 1, 1839, for Temperance paid John D. Wollfin twenty dollars on that date “….for making a coffin.

Temperance alone, unable to read or write and with four young daughters, was a widow for only six months. On July 12, 1839 Temperance and James Blair Patrick were married. Patrick, alcalde in 1832, member of the “war party” and county commissioner in 1840, had recently lost his wife Mary Jane Ponton. He was left with two young children, John age six and Sarah Jane eighteen months. On July 30, 1844 Temperance petitioned the court, her health being much impaired, to appoint Dr. Caleb S. Brown administrator of Stephen’s estate and guardian of minor daughters Elleanor and Caroline. Unable to conduct business or care for her children, Temperance lingered in poor health until her death in December 1845. Her place of burial was unknown.

Saphronia and Caroline were the only surviving members of the family when in May 1849 Stephen’s estate was at last settled. James B. Patrick had petitioned the court for his share but without success. Adeline had died by April 1848; she had first married William S. Morrison and in April 1846 married a second time to William H. Stewart. Elleanor died in July 1848 as Mrs. Joshua D. Brown; her marriage took place in July 1846. Caroline married Thomas Randolph Hodges in May 1851 and had at least three children before her death in 1871. Mary Ann Saphronia became Mrs. John Seborn Hodges.

Stephen’s reason for making a “fresh start” in Texas was unknown. However, like all of Green DeWitt’s other colonists, he was a bold, enterprising and courageous pioneer. He served as sindico procurador in 1832. He supplied cattle, wagons and money to the Republic of Texas army. He resided, worked and died in Gonzales and was very much a part of its history.

After completion of the above, further facts were uncovered: Stephen Stuckey born circa 1786, the third child of Edmund and Edith Howell Stuckey, of Sumter County, South Carolina, first married Jane DuBose, daughter of Peter and Laney Worthington DuBose, and had eight children. One source stated that after Jane’s death Stephen married her sister Penelope; however, there may have been only one wife, Penelope Jane DuBose. A South Carolina newspaper, February 26, 1825 stated, “Mrs. Stuckey and her infant of Sumter District . . . murdered by servant girl.” Stephen was charged as an accessory to the murders. He deeded his property to his brother William Stuckey. Stephen’s eldest son, Alexander Nelson Stuckey, was appointed guardian to Stephen’s minor children: Erasmus P., James Jefferson, William N., John Madison, Abbeline, Amelia and Penelope Jane. Stephen left South Carolina, changed his name to “Smith” and went to Texas. In 1848 Stephen’s children “as legal distributors” executed power of attorney to George Tarvin to handle property in Texas of “Stephen Stuckey alias Stephen Smith recently of Gonzales County, Texas now deceased.” When and where Stephen met his last wife Temperance was not known. Dorcas Baumgartner (Reprinted by permission of the Gonzales County Historical Commission).

Will of Peter DuBose Sumpter, SC

South Carolina )
Sumter District )

In the name of God Amen-I Peter Dubose of Said District and State being Sound in mind and calling to memorythat it is appointed for all men to die- do after commending my soulto him who gave it – declare this to be my last will andtestament

In the first place I desire my body to beburied in a decent Christian like manner – and all my Just debtspaid

My worldly Estate I dispose of as follows-

Item 1st I give and bequeath unto my son Middleton Dubose all my real Estate, of which I am die possessed, – to him and his heirs forever – but not to receive it into his possession untilthe expiration of one year from the following January after my death-

Item 2nd All the personal Estate of which I maydie possessed – I will and direct to be divided into five Equal partsif convenient – & if not Convenient I will and direct the samemay be Sold & the proceeds thereof thusdivided

Item 3rd To Middleton DuBose my Son I give one of the said five parts – whether of property or proceeds aforesaid asthe case may be to him and his heirs forever

Item 4th To Laney Woodham my daughter I give another of the said five parts – whether of property or proceedsaforesaid as the case may be to her and her heirsforever

Item 5th I give and bequeath another of the saidfive parts whether of property or proceeds aforesaid as the Case maybe – to Middleton DuBose my son – Asa Woodham – in trust for mydaughter Argent Jossey – during her natural life time – and after herdeath to her Children – the Same and the profits thereof to be in nowise Subject to any contracts or debts of any husband she mayhave

Item 6th I give and bequeath another of the saidfive parts whether of property or proceeds to Middleton DuBose my son- and Asa Woodham in trust for my daughter Harriett Stokes, duringher natural life – and after her death to her Children – the same andthe profits thereof to be in wise Subject and Contracts or debts ofany husband she may have

Item 7th I give and bequeath another of the saidfive parts whether of property or proceeds to Middleton DuBose my son- and Asa Woodham – in trust for my daughter Dupree Dixon – duringher natural life – and after her death to her children the same andthe profits thereof to be in no wise subject to any Contracts ordebts of any husband she may have

Item 8th I will and direct that my daughterHarriett Stokes – Shall have my plantation and all my propertythereon at the time of my death for the term of one year from andafter the first ensuing January after my death

Item 9th I give and bequeath to my grand son Alexander N. Stuckey Ten dollars

Item 10th I give and bequeath to grand son Erasmus Stuckey Ten dollars

Item 11th I give and bequeath to my grand son Jefferson Stuckey Ten dollars

Item 12th I give and bequeath to my grand son William Stuckey Ten dollars

Item 13th I give and bequeath to my grand son Madison Stuckey Ten dollars

Item 14th I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Abbeline H Smith Ten dollars

Item 15th I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Amelian Byrd Ten dollars

Item 16th I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Penelope Jane Galloway Ten dollars

Item 17th The last above named Eight grandchildren is the children of my daughter Jane Stuckey Decd

Item 18th I Will and direct that should Either ofmy children or grand children named in this my last will – die in mylife time leaving children that the children of those so dying shalltake whatever estate is herein by this my will given to suchparents—————

Item 19th I hereby Constitute and appoint Middleton DuBose my son – and Asa Woodham my son in law – Executorsto this the fifteenth day of February in the year of our Lord onethousand eight hundred and forty five and in the sixty ninth year ofthe independence of the United States of America

signed published and delivered by the said Peter DuBose to be his last will & testament in
the presence of us who have here-

Peter DuBose (SEAL)

unto subscribed our names as witnesses in the presence of the testator and of Each other

J. M Stuckey

John H Dixon

Abner Alexander

(Recorded in Will Book D 2 Pge 199)

Recorded 3 day of Aug 1846

W Lewis Ordy

Bundle 120 Pkge 8