Category Archives: Family History

A Poem by Elijah & Nancy’s Daughter Rebecca Margaret Stapp Stukes

Inspired by a fellow Stapp descendant’s recent discovery of the blog and her introduction in her comment to an earlier post, I google searched on Elijah and Nancy’s oldest daughter, Rebecca Margaret Stapp and came across the first part of a poem she wrote in 1882. In the opening lines of the poem she describes the difficulties of the Runaway Scrape and the battle for independence. The poem was published by the Texas State Historical Association in Oct. 1985 in The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. I could not access the entire poem, but maybe one of her descendants will come across this and share it with us in its entirety.

The publication adds this about Rebecca Stapp Stukes:

“Mrs. Rebecca Stukes was born in Palmyra, Missouri, the daughter of Nancy Shannon Stapp and Elijah Stapp, later a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. In 1830 Rebecca came to Texas with her parents. At age eight she was caught up in the Runaway Scrape and was a witness to the aftermath of the battle of San Jacinto. She married Captain Nat. M. Stukes in Victoria County, Texas, May 31, 1849. In about 1882 she wrote this untitled poem so that her descendents would know of her remarkable childhood experiences and the price in suffering that was paid for the independence of Texas. The poem clearly reflects the passionate feelings of someone who has experienced war. It also reveals nineteenth-century attitudes and stereotypes regarding the conflict and its participants. Rebecca Stukes died November 12, 1899, in Colorado City, Texas. The poem and portrait were made available to us through the generosity of Mrs. Stuke’s great-granddaughter, Mrs. Glen E. Harkins of El Paso.”

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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Descendant's Stories, Family History


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Elijah’s Brother, Milton Stapp

Milton Stapp, fifth son of Achillis and Margaret Vawter Stapp, was born in 1792 in Kentucky and later settled in Indiana. He was a brigadier general, lawyer, state senator, lieutenant governor, newspaper editor, mayor. Indian fighter, he bore a scar from a musket ball wound as a badge of honor.

He moved to Texas when he was 67. At first he lived in Texas temporarily. After the Civil War he returned to Texas and became an IRS collector in Galveston, where he died at the age of 76 following an illness which resulted from spending the night in a tree while trying to escape flooding.

Read a sketch written about him in 1883 here. And more detail here, which includes information from his memoirs.

Elsewhere, from Elijah’s first son William Preston Stapp’s book, The Prisoners of Perote, we learn that William Preston credits his uncle General Milton Stapp with gaining his release from Mexican prison. William Preston Stapp dedicates his book to his uncle:

Letter from William Preston Stapp to his uncle General Milton Stapp

This is from the end of Prisoners of Perote, page 163:

General Milton Stapp, pt.2


Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Family History


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Stapps who fought for the Republic of Texas 1835-1845

From this resource, four of Elijah’s sons were on the military rolls as fighting for the Republic of Texas.

Here’s a reminder about Elijah & Nancy’s offsprings’ birth dates and birth order.

Shown as listed on the resource with commander’s names as links to a description of their service (probably not the best word choice… I am very weak with military terminology.):

Stapp, D.M.                  Ward, Lafayette
Stapp, Darwin M.             Sample, David
Stapp, O.H.                  Mitchell, Isaac N.
Stapp, Oliver H.             Ward, Lafayette
Stapp, W.P.                  Mitchell, Isaac N.
Stapp, W.W.                  Mitchell, Isaac N.
Stapp, Walter                Ward, Lafayette
Stapp, William P.            Stevenson, Alexander
Stapp, William Preston       Reese, Charles K.
Stapp, Wm. P.                Reese, Charles K.
Stapp, Wm. P.                Fisher, William S. (Col)

How different would our world be without these men and their companions’ willingness to fight for the cause of independence?

I was wondering about my ancestor, Elijah’s son Achilles Stapp, why he might not have been on the rolls, since his brothers were clearly so devoted to the cause. I looked back at his birth date (thanks Marcie!), and doing the math I realized that he would have been very young in the early years of the struggle. He was born in 1822, so he would have been 14 when his father was in Washington on the Brazos signing the Texas Declaration of Independence and during the Runaway Scrape wherein families fled the region with the approach of Santa Ana and his army.


Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Family History


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1828 DeWitt Colony Census

I like using the blog as a place to centralize resources related to our Stapp family. I know we can all do google searches, and I like the idea of gathering the findings here and then sharing comments on what we already know and what we newly discover. Here is a link to biographical sketches of Elijah and several members of the family, including Darwin Massey Stapp, son of Elijah & Nancy, who was the first one of the family to arrive in DeWitt Colony.

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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Family History


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Art Lesson–Frederic Remington Meets William Preston Stapp

Every day a new discovery related to our family history thanks to the wonders of the internet and all the hardworking genealogists out there sharing info online. I came across this fascinating art & history connection by reading a post of one of my distant cousin’s (Anthony Buckalew) on a motorcycle forum. Yes, a motorcycle forum.

Okay, so famed western painter Frederic Remington painted this “The Mier Expedition: The Drawing of the Black BeanPrisoners Drawing Their Beans” in 1896. The 27 1/8 x 40 inches oil on canvas is in the Hogg Brothers Collection at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Here is some fascinating teaching detail about the painting itself, for those who are curious about that sort of thing.

I want to learn more about all of this stuff. I want to see the painting hanging on a museum wall. I want to find out if Mier still exists and go there (Later: nevermind, don’t think I want to go to Mier after all). I want to find out just who Bigfoot Wallace was… So many questions. I gotta get to it….

I just added “Dead Man’s Walk” to our Netflix queue. I understand it has a fictionalized version of the Black Bean Episode.

Okay, can you tell I’ve had enough coffee this morning? I usually don’t drink coffee, but it was hard to resist some fresh-roasted, hand-ground Colombian Popayan. I mean “fresh-roasted” in the cast-iron skillet. 24 hours ago. Right here… Okay, bye. For awhile. Please comment!!

[Oh, and I hope you realize that I meant the post title figuratively.]


Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Family History


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Dreadful Account Written by Elijah’s Son William Preston Stapp

Steve Bennett, descendant of William Preston Stapp

The account below was shared by one of William Preston Stapp’s descendants: Steve Bennett of Fort Worth. Steve is Elijah Stapp’s great grandson x3.

This moving and descriptive account relates to the ill-fated Mier Expedition and the Black Bean Episode wherein Texans were captured (including William Preston Stapp) by Santa Ana’s army and some were executed. I really appreciate Steve sharing this with us!

From the Account of William Preston Stapp 1845.  Jaded with the barbarous stages imposed on us in our fettered condition, and worn down with the severity of our morning’s tramp, we entered our former quarters (the corral of the ranch), and gladly sought repose for our wearied limbs upon the filthy floor of the shed that ran round the enclosure. The morning had been clear and beautiful, and the noon warm to sultriness; but a few miles before we reached the ranch the sky became suddenly overcast, and fierce gusts of wind came whistling along the plain, blinding us with clouds of sand, and whirling the heavy leathern caps of the cavalry from their heads as lightly as though they were children’s bonnets. So sudden and violent a transition of the element around us would have passed unheeded at any other time or place. But occurring on the eve of our return to a spot with which we were connected by memories of blood and violence, whose transactions vague rumor had also associated with some impending atonement, inspired a presentiment of approaching evil in the minds of most of us. Still there was nothing either in the communications or deportment of our guard along the road, to excite the slightest suspicion of their design, and by the time we had reached our pen and huddled under its shelter, the tempest began to lull and our apprehensions were departed.

But a few minutes had elapsed before a group of Mexican officers entered our quarters, and one of them, holding a paper in his hand, directed the interpreter to summon us around him, when he proceeded to read its contents in Spanish to the assembled prisoners. As no second order enforcing the execution of the one from Santa Anna commanding our deaths had been received at Saltillio, a hope had sprung up amongst many, that some possible clemency might be in store for them. A few, therefore, of the more sanguine, pushed their way into the circle, and bent their eager eyes on the reader, half expecting his communication to be a mandate for our release. Who can describe the thrill of horror and consternation that electrified every heart, when the interpreter, in broken and tremulous tones, announced it as an order from the supreme government, directing every tenth man amongst us to be shot! the lots to be decided on the instant, and the execution to follow immediately. So entirely unexpected was this murderous announcement, so atrocious in its character, and so inhuman and indecent in the haste of its consummation, that a stupor seemed to pervade the whole assembly, not a word escaping from the lips of any for more than a minute. The silence was at length interrupted by the interpreter, who, in obedience to his directions, proceeded to inform us further, that all had been sentenced to the same fate, but the humane government had been graciously pleased to commute the just claim to this decimal exaction. A low clatter of the handcuffs was now heard, as some of the most desperate of our fellows essayed to free themselves from their shackles. This had been foreseen and provided against. An order was promptly given us to fall back within the shed, and the doorway and top of the sunken wall bristled with the muzzles of muskets presented to enforce it. We were helpless as the bound victim under the sacrificial knife, and had no alternative but to obey.

Whilst we were marshalled in an extended file, a Mexican subaltern and soldier entered the yard together, bearing a bench and earthen crock. The bench was placed before the officer who had communicated the order, and the crock set upon it, containing one hundred and seventy-four beans, (the number of prisoners present amongst which were seventeen black ones. A handkerchief, so folded as to hide the colour of the beans, was then thrown over the crock, and a list of our names, taken down when we were recaptured, placed in the hands of the interpreter. When these funeral preliminaries were completed, the name of our dauntless leader was first called, who, with a step as stately and brow as serene as he ever previously wore, stepped forward and drew. Each name continued to be called in their order on the list, and the individual compelled to draw, until the seventeen black beans were taken from the crock. When a bean was drawn, it was handed to the officer, and the bowl well shaken before the lottery proceeded. As they drew, each person’s name was entered upon another memorandum, with the colour of his bean. In many instances the doomed victim was enforced to revisit the fatal urn, to allow the comrade to whom he was chained to try the issues of life and death. Appalling as was the first effect of the order, and rapidly and voraciously as our self-dug graves yawned around, not a step faltered, nor a nerve shook, as the sickening ceremonial proceeded. Several of the Mexican officers seemed deeply affected, shedding tears profusely, and turning their backs upon the murderous spectacle. Others again leaned forward over the crock, to catch a first glimpse of the decree it uttered, as though they had heavy wagers upon the result. Three-fourths of the beans were exhausted before the fatal seventeen were drawn. When the sacrifice was made up, the victims, names were called over, their persons scrutinized, and being removed outside, their irons were knocked off. A few of us were permitted to go out and take a hasty leave of them. A priest had accompanied the march from Saltillio, who was now present to offer them extreme absolution; but only two could be prevailed on to accept of his intercession. Major Robert Dunham, being importuned to confess him to the holy father, repelled the proposition with warmth, preferring, like a good Protestant, to shrive himself, which he knelt down and did mutely and earnestly. This brave and honest man was then solicited by the rest to offer up a prayer in their behalf; but, as he was about to comply, he was rudely stopped by the officer on duty, who sternly and profanely forbade it. As the hour of twilight advanced, two files of infantry, consisting of twenty men each, with the whole of the cavalry, escorted the doomed party to the eastern wall, selected as the site of their execution. Here, being made to kneel down, with their faces to their butchers, they were blindfolded and shot, in two parties, successively, nine first, and eight soon afterwards. Huddled together in the stalls of the corral, the surviving prisoners were forced to sit down, and a heavy body of sentinels placed over us, with their firelocks cocked and at a present, ordered to shoot the first man who should move or speak whilst the execution was progressing.

Tears forced their way down many a rugged cheek, as, silent and manacled, we listened to the mournful and plaintive notes of the dead march, swelling and sinking on the ear, as the procession rounded our prison, to the eastern flank of the ranch. The wall against which the condemned were placed, was so near us we could distinctly hear every order given, in halting and arranging the command for the work of death. The murmured prayers of the kneeling men, stole faintly over to us—then came the silence that succeeded, more eloquent than sound-then the signal taps of the drum-the rattle of the muskets, as they were brought to an aim-the sharp burst of the discharge, mingled with the shrill cries of anguish and heavy groans of the dying, as soul and body took their sudden and bloody leave. The names of the victims of this perfidious and most atrocious tragedy, were (spellings and full names modified from Stapp)…


Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Family History


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From the Vawters

Here are a few paragraphs about Elijah Stapp and Nancy Shannon and family from a collection gathered by Reminder: Margaret Vawter was the mother of Elijah Stapp.

Vol. 8 #2 page 10


From EDWARD M. STAPP, 109 S. Indianwood Ave., Broken Arrow, OK 74012 (New  VVVFA Member)

Elijah Stapp was born in Orange County, VA 16 Oct. 1783, the first child of Achilles & Margaret (VAWTER) Stapp. Margaret (Peggy) Vawter was born 15 Oct. 1763 the daughter of David & Mary (Rucker) VAWTER. Achilles Stapp moved his family to Kentucky ca. 1790. Here Elijah met and married Nancy Shannon.

In 1816 Elijah Stapp moved to Missouri with his wife and two sons. While living there he heard stories of land and life in the Mexican Territory of Texas. In 1825 he went to look it over and in 1831 he moved with his wife and six children to Jackson Municipality, in the contract colony of Green C. DeWitt.

On 16 July 1831, he was given title to a “League of land. When the Mexican government closed Texas to further settlement of Americans he saw danger for the future.

When the Consultation Convention was called at Old Washington-on-the-Brazos for 1 March 1836, Elijah was asked to stand for election as a delegate and was elected. The Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico was drafted with Elijah signing as a duly elected delegate. He was also selected by the convention as one of the “Committee of 26” to draft the constitution that governed the Republic of Texas from 1836 until Texas was admitted to the Union in 1856.

When peace returned after the battle of San Jacinto, Elijah Stapp returned to his home and was elected a Judge in Edna, Texas in 1839. He held this position until his death in March 1843. Elijah Stapp was buried on the old Russell Ward farm outside Edna, Texas. The actual gravesite is unknown, but the area is marked by a monument by the Texas Centennial Commission in 1936.

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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Family History, Genealogy


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