Southern Methodist University

Stephen Chappell Christian family papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Christian, Stephen Chappell, 1831-1864?
Title: Stephen Chappell Christian family papers
Dates: 1841-1974
Abstract: The bulk of the collection is comprised of letters written by or to Stephen Chappell and Hannah Greer Christian and their children. Though the material dates from 1841 to 1974, much of it falls within a forty-year period, from 1862 to 1901. Most notably, this part of the collection includes Stephen Chappell Christian’s Civil War letters. In addition to the letters of the Christian family, the collection contains genealogical data, records of land purchases in Texas, legal documents, financial records, employment records, school papers, account books, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
Accession No: MSS 100
Extent: 2 boxes (1 linear foot)
Language: Material is in English
Repository DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Stephen Chappell Christian was born in Edgefield, South Carolina, on December 26, 1831 to Stephen Thomas Christian and his wife Lucy. A farmer by trade, he married Hannah Greer, the daughter of Richard and Nancy Greer, on December 27, 1857 in Chattahoochee County, Georgia. They had two sons, John LaFayette Christian (1858-1912) and Jesse Whitfield Christian (1862-1947). Along with men from neighboring counties in Georgia, Chappell Christian (also "S. C." or "Chap" Christian) volunteered for the Confederate army, joining Company F, 39th Alabama Volunteers prior to January 12, 1862. In May 1864 he was wounded at the battle of Resaca, Georgia. According to one who witnessed the event, the "Enimey threw a burn shell into our co[mpany] killing and wounding 14 in number," including "Chap." His right arm was amputated at the shoulder, after which he was sent to a field hospital subsequently captured by the Union army. Neither his fellow company member, nor his captain, William D. Banks, knew what became of him, but both presumed him dead. He was never heard from again. His wife later searched for his grave, but without success.

In 1876, Hannah Christian moved from Georgia to Texas with her two sons. After staying in Mexia for one year, they moved near the town of Tenaha, Texas, where Chappell’s brother Whitfield (Pinkney Whitfield, or P.W.) had moved in 1870. Hannah died there in 1906. Her son John married Josie King, and they had three daughters. He died in 1912. Hannah’s son Jesse, who served as a sheriff’s deputy in Shelby County, Texas in the late 1890s, married Dora Storey (1870-1932) on December 24, 1885 and they had eleven children. He died in Tenaha, Texas in 1947. Jesse’s daughter Nance later married Walter E. Allison.

Many other family members appear in the collection as correspondents. These include Hannah’s sister Elizabeth Greer, Chappell’s two brothers (Thomas W. Christian and Whitfield Christian), Whitfield’s wife Mattie, and three of their eight children: Leila, Lucy, and Lizzie. Additional letter writers, who are likely children of Jesse W. and Dora Storey Christian, include: Emma, Ella, "Cousin Dora," Lila, and Lucie.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Stephen Chappell Christian family papers consist largely of letters exchanged between three generations of Chappell and Hannah Christian’s family: themselves, their children, and grandchildren. The content of these letters ranges from the abysmal condition of Confederate soldiers fighting during the Civil War to daily life in rural nineteenth-century Texas, including cotton farming and other business dealings. Most of the letters, however, are primarily concerned with news of family and friends in Georgia and Texas. These letters cover the period 1862 to 1901, and 1930-1932.

In addition to letters, the collection contains two small portrait-style photographs of young boys, account books, receipts, seed and herb advertisements, a doctor’s prescription, legal documents (such as land sales records, indentures, bonds, deeds, summons, promissory notes, an estate inventory, and a bankruptcy document), a child’s school papers, a lock of hair, a notice from the Texas Department of Education regarding a "Summer Normal Institute" in 1885, newspaper clippings, a songbook, a catalog of musical instruments, blank pocketbooks, a date book, and a recipe book from 1949.

The collection also includes genealogy and family history information, material from the 1850 and 1880 censuses, a Christmas card from 1957, and a 1974 letter regarding family records.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 8 series:
Series 1: Family History Data
Series 2: Stephen Chappell Christian’s Civil War Letters, 1861-1864
Series 3: Letters to Hannah Greer Christian, 1864-1899
Series 4: Letters to Jesse Whitfield Christian, 1879-1898
Series 5: Christian Family Letters, 1877-1932
Series 6: Legal Documents and Printed Matter, 1841-1902
Series 7: Photographs, unidentified
Series 8: Ephemera, circa 1880-1949


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Christian, Stephen Chappell, 1831-1864?
Texas --Social life and customs --19th century.
United States --History --Civil War, 1861-1865 --Correspondence.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Stephen Chappell Christian family papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Gift, Margaret Allison LaPrade, 2006.

Margaret LaPrade, wife of John H. LaPrade, emeritus professor of Spanish at SMU, donated this material created by the Stephen Chappell Christian family, whose members are her maternal ancestors, to the DeGolyer Library in November 2006.

Processing Information

Processing began with the Civil War letters of Stephen Chappell Christian to his wife Hannah Greer Christian. These have been arranged chronologically. Next, all other letters written to Hannah were divided into folders according to the sender(s) and arranged chronologically. These letters, along with those sent to Chappell and Hannah’s sons Jesse W. and John L. Christian, form the core of the collection.

Because the bulk of the correspondence came from numerous members of the extended family to a small number of Margaret A. LaPrade’s direct ancestors, most letters have been filed according to who received them rather than wrote them. Often, more than one person used the same sheet of paper to write to different relatives living either with or near the addressee. In cases where multiple letters appear on a single sheet, the paper has been filed with whichever recipient was deemed most central to the collection. Consequently, researchers interested in the correspondence between extended family members (i.e., those who are not LaPrade’s direct ancestors) will find some material on the reverse sides of letters filed in folders devoted to Hannah Christian or her sons Jesse W. and John L.

Because the envelopes often contain date or location information not found in the actual letters, where possible, envelopes and the letter(s) they contained have been filed together. At the time of processing, many letters had been separated from their envelopes. These envelopes have been arranged in a separate folder.

Finding aid written by Dale F. Topham, 2007.

Processed by

Dale F. Topham, 2007.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2007.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Family History Data
1 folder

Box Folder
1 1 Stephen Chappell Christian Family History and Genealogy

Series 2: Stephen Chappell Christian’s Civil War Letters, 1862-1864
4 folders

Box Folder
1 2 Stephen Chappell Christian Civil War Letters, 1862
3 Stephen Chappell Christian Civil War Letters, 1863
4 Stephen Chappell Christian Civil War Letters, 1864
5 Stephen Chappell Christian Civil War Letters, undated

Series 3: Letters to Hannah Greer Christian, 1864-1899
2 folders

Box Folder
1 6 Letters to Hannah Greer Christian from Family Members, 1864-1898
7 Letters to "Aunt Hannah" (Hannah Greer Christian), 1880-1899

Series 4: Letters to Jesse Whitfield Christian, 1879-1898
2 folders

Box Folder
1 8 Letters to Jesse W. Christian from John L. Christian, 1879-1898
9 Letters to Jesse W. Christian from cousins and friends, 1881-1898

Series 5: Christian Family Letters, 1877-1932
9 folders

Box Folder
2 10 Letters to John L. Christian from Family Members, 1877-1901
11 Letters to or from Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Christian, circa 1879
12 Letters from Thomas W. Christian, circa 1879-1882
13 Letters to Leila Christian, 1879-1889
14 Letters from Ella and Lucy A. Christian, circa 1881-1889
15 Letters re: W. Kincheloe (a boarder at "Mrs. Christian’s"), 1889-1890
16 Letters from "Ma" (likely Dora Storey Christian) to "Dear Children," 1930-1932
17 Letters – Unidentifiable
18 Envelopes

Series 6: Legal Documents and Printed Matter, 1841-1902
4 folders

This series contains the following legal documents: indentures, a bond, an estate inventory, a promissory note, a notice of sheriff’s sale, a summons to court, a land deed, a "Land Note with Vendor’s Lien," and a bankruptcy document. It also contains a notice from the Texas Department of Education, newspaper clippings, receipts, seed and herb advertisements, a doctor’s prescription, and a child’s school papers.
Box Folder
2 19 Legal Documents, States of Tennessee and Georgia, circa 1841-1861
20 Legal Documents, State of Texas, circa 1897-1902
21 Printed Matter, circa 1884-1901
22 Document Fragments

Series 7: Photographs, Unidentified
1 folder

Box Folder
2 23 Photographs, Unidentified

Series 8: Ephemera, circa 1880-1949
4 folders

Box Folder
2 24 Jesse W. Christian’s Memorandum and Account Books, 1880-1881, 1892-1893
25 Musical Instrument Catalog and Songbook
26 Blank Pocketbooks
27 Recipe Book and Date Book, 1949