A Guide to the Stephens and Yount Family Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk 1812-1938):SC 0251

A Guide to the Stephens and Yount Family Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk 1812-1938):SC 0251

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number SC 0251


Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Special Collections
Carrier Library
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807
Phone: (540) 568-3612
Fax: (540) 568-3405
Email: library-special@jmu.edu
URL: http://www.lib.jmu.edu/special

© 2017 By JMU Libraries. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Tiffany Cole, October 2017

Special Collections, James Madison University
Collection Number
SC 0251
Stephens and Yount Family Papers1812-19911812-1938
1.41 cubic feet; 4 boxes
Stephens, Richard A., 1831-1890
Stephens Family
Yount Family
The Stephens and Yount Family Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk 1812-1938), primarily document the Richard Stephens family of Rockingham County, Virginia and his descendants. Materials include correspondence, receipts, financial documents, indentures, deeds, and ephemera.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Stephens and Yount Family Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk 1812-1938), SC 0251, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Acquisition Information

Acquired in many parts from eBay auctions and directly from the seller, Tim Abbott.


The materials that comprise this collection descended through the Stephens and Yount families of Rockingham and Augusta counties. After the October 2, 2016 death of Joseph Byron "J. B." Yount III, much of the Yount estate was sold by Green Valley Auctions in Mt. Crawford, Virginia on June 9, 2017.

Processing Information

Given the age and condition of the collection, select items underwent preservation treatment for stabilization, including flattening. Particularly fragile documents are housed in Mylar sleeves. The materials in this collection were largely received piecemeal, in addition to one large acquisition. There was no particular arrangement to the materials and as a result, the archivist imposed an arrangement based on material type, creator, and date. Photographs related to presumed genealogical research trips were removed from their paper backing and foldered in their original order. All corresponding captions were written on the backs of the photographs.

Bio/Historical Note

Richard Anderson Stephens, variously spelled Stevens, Steven, and Stephen, was born January 6, 1831 to John Stephens (1804-1848) and Martha Burnsides Stephens Cowan (1806-1895) of Melrose, Rockingham County, Virginia. He is the grandson of Ludwig/Lewis Stephens (1747-1817) and Elizabeth Wolf Stephens (1775-1836). Documentary evidence contained within this collection confirms that John Stephens owned enslaved persons and Richard Stephens was involved in financial transactions concerning said enslaved persons after the death of his father and prior to the end of the Civil War.

Stephens married Mary Dovel Stephens and together they had nine children, six of whom lived into adulthood – Martha Josephine "Josie" (1856-1899), Laura Belle (1862-1934), Myrtie Alice (1867-1946), Sallie Georgiana (1870-1938), Bettie Lee, and John W. All of the aforementioned children are documented in this collection, with some to a lesser degree than others.

Documentary evidence suggests Stephens likely did not serve during the Civil War. As early as June 19, 1861, he was deemed medically unfit from serving during the Civil War. His exemption was due to a chronic "disease of stomach and bowels of long standing."

According to the U. S. Census, Stephen's occupation was that of a farmer though he also held other positions in the community. He acted as the administrator of the estate of Reuben Holt Humbert of Augusta County and also served as the guardian for his younger siblings William L. Stephens and Fannie Stephens. In November 1861, Stephens was appointed Collector of the Confederate States War Tax for the 3rd District of Rockingham County. As early as 1887 he was appointed director of the Valley Turnpike Company. Richard Stephens died November 5, 1890 and is buried in Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg alongside much of his family.

A large portion of this collection also documents Myrtie Stephens Yount (1867-1946), daughter of Richard and Mary Dovel Stephens. Myrtie married Joseph Byron "J. B."Yount (1848-1934) of Augusta County on September 23, 1891. The wedding was held at the home of Mary Stephens, near Melrose. The courtship between Myrtie and J. B. is chronicled in this collection with dozens of letters written between the two. It is likely that Myrtie and J. B. were semi-distant cousins as J. B. often refers to his future wife as "Cousin" in his letters to her. Additionally, Myrtie's maternal grandmother was named Barbara Yount Dovel (1797-1863), and it is through this family line that the couple was likely related. Myrtie was a school teacher for at least part of her life. This collection documents her career with lesson books, teaching contracts, and correspondence.

Scope and Content

The Stephens and Yount Family Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk 1812-1938), primarily document the Richard Stephens family of Rockingham County, Virginia and his descendants. Materials include correspondence, receipts, financial documents, indentures, deeds, and ephemera. Documents of particular interest relate to the sale, purchase, and hire of enslaved persons, and Richard Stephens' medical exemption from military service during the Civil War.


The collections is arranged in four series:

1. Personal Papers, 1813-1938 2. Correspondence, 1857-1931, 1991 3. Ephemera, 1916-1957 4. Genealogical Materials, 1812

All series are arranged chronologically.

Separated Material

The May 16, 1844 issue of The Sentinel of the Shenandoah Valley and a copy of A Choice Selection of Hymns: From Various Authors, Recommended for the Worship of God… have been removed from the collection and cataloged as part of Special Collections rare book collection. The right edge of the newspaper has been trimmed and, as a result, the issue is incomplete.

Index Terms


Find a Grave. Myrtie Alice Stephens Yount, Memorial # 40849297. (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/40849297) Accessed October 18, 2017.

Find a Grave. Richard A. Stephens, Memorial # 76255269. (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/76255269) Accessed October 18, 2017.

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFGC-MP2 : 12 April 2016), Richard Stephens, Virginia, United States; citing p. 69, family 485, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 553,175.

Yount, J. B. III. "Fifty-seven quilts from four generations," Augusta County Historical Bulletin 50 (2014): 155-165.

"Yount-Stephens." The Rockingham Register, September 25, 1891.

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

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Container List

Series 1: Personal Papers, 1813-1938
Scope and Content

Series 1: Personal Papers, 1813-1938, is generally comprised of tax receipts, financial documents, agreements, promissory notes, deeds, indentures, insurance policies, wills, and other miscellaneous papers documenting Richard Stephens primarily, and also other immediate Stephens family members.

Of particular interest are the papers documenting the buying, selling, and hiring of enslaved persons between the Stephens family and other community members. Many of the enslaved persons were purchased or inherited from the estate of John Stephens, Richard Stephens' father. The enslaved persons are only referred to by name in three documents and are otherwise described as "negro" or "slave." They are identified as Ellen, Hester, Hannah, and five children named Henry, Isaiah, Margaret, John, and George.

A folder of papers documenting Richard Stephens' medical exemption from military service during the Civil War is also included. The papers include surgeons' and doctors' description of Stephens' maladies, certifying that he is incapable of military duty. Additional documents mention his substitute, Benjamin Barr. Stephens' amnesty oath, dated June 20, 1865, is also included and is foldered chronologically with his papers.

A sizable portion of this series documents Richard Stephens acting in the capacity of estate administrator, particularly for Reuben Holt Humbert, and guardian to his younger siblings, Phebe Francis "Fannie" Stephens and William L. Stephens. These documents are primarily receipts with additional materials documenting the estates of the aforementioned persons, particularly Reuben Humbert. Humbert's personal property inventories are included as is a Confederate States of America registered bond.

The wills of Richard Stephens and his daughter Sallie Stephens are included. Sallie's will is notable in that she directs her executor to move "all of my dead relatives that are buried in the family lot [Dovel-Stephens Family Cemetery]" to her "lot in Woodbine Cemetery, and there placed along with sister Laura and I, at the expense of my estate." Sallie died in 1938 and all of her deceased family members were removed to Woodbine Cemetery in 1940.

Materials related to Myrtie Stephens Yount's career as a teacher include two teaching contracts, printed examinations, and handwritten school material. Though many of these are not identified, it is presumed that they were used by Myrtie in her teaching.

Three military furloughs dated 1862 and 1863 and signed by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Rodman Drake DeKay (1836-1886) are also included, but have no apparent connection to the Stephens family.

Oversize materials include an 1813 land indenture between Valentine and Nancy Wolf and Jacob Wolf. Valentine Wolf was Lewis Stephens' father-in-law. Lewis Stephens was Richard Stephens' grandfather and is also mentioned in several documents pertaining to Stephens' father, John Stephens. Also housed in oversize is a January 8, 1891 broadside advertising the public sale of Richard Stephens' personal property. The broadside describes 26 head of stock cattle, 100 tons of prime timothy hay, 300 bushels of wheat, and various farm implements.

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Series 2: Correspondence, 1857-1931, 1991
Scope and Content

Series 2: Correspondence, 1857-1931, 1991, contains letters to and from several members of the Stephens and Yount families. Corresponding envelopes are included as are envelopes with no corresponding letter.

A significant portion of the collection comprises the correspondence of Myrtie Stephens Yount, daughter of Richard and Mary E. Stephens. The correspondence is largely comprised of letters addressed to Myrtie with many of the letters from her future husband and cousin Joseph Byron Yount. Generally, the subject matter of the correspondence is newsy, providing updates on family and community members. While most of the correspondence between the couple dates prior to their marriage, a few letters date to after their September 1891 marriage. Of interest is a hastily written letter dated July 10, 1899 from Myrtie to Yount in which she delivers the news that her sister Josie has passed away. In the letter, Myrtie requests her husband bring her mourning clothes to her as soon as is possible. Another notable letter is dated June 14, 1899 to Myrtie Yount in which the correspondent recounts going to Harrisonburg for the unveiling of the Turner Ashby monument. Much of Myrtie's correspondence also discusses her and her colleague's teaching careers. One particular letter dated November 6, 1890 is written to Myrtie by a fellow teacher. He writes about his experiences teaching children in Brocks Gap.

A limited selection of correspondence addressed to or written by Richard Stephens, Mary E. Stephens, Josie Stephens, Sallie Stephens, and Laura Stephens is also included. Of note is a letter from Henry T. Garnett, Chief Collector of the Confederate States War Tax for Virginia, to Richard Stephens, dated November 6, 1861, appointing Stephens Collector of the Confederate States War Tax for the 3rd District of Rockingham County. A handwritten note by Garnett on the back of the letter reads: "The owners of slaves are to give me the value and pay the tax upon all their negroes, whether said negroes are hired out or in their service." Stephens' November 1887 letter and certificate of reappointment as director of the Valley Turnpike Company is also included.

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Series 3: Ephemera, 1916-1957
Scope and Content

Series 3: Ephemera, 1916-1957, includes newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, and a few miscellaneous items including a half stick of chewing gum dating to 1916. Noteworthy items include a folder of seven vinegar valentines featuring color illustrations and corresponding poems. These lithographs likely date to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and feature racist sentiments or are otherwise insulting in tone. Two of the lithographs evoke Jim Crow era values and depict African Americans with stereotypical physical characteristics.

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Series 4: Genealogical Materials, 1812
Scope and Content

Series 4: Genealogical Materials, 1812, were presumably collected by Joseph Byron Yount III, the last private owner of the Stephens and Yount Family Papers, as part of his genealogical research into his family. The subject files include undated photographs and facsimiles of primary source material relating to the Yount family in Pennsylvania. Of interest is a handwritten genealogical note relating to Ludwig/Lewis Stephens, the grandfather of Richard Stephens.

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