It is only assumed that Sallie Stephens, aged 63 in the 1860 census of Stokes County, is John H. Stephens mother. I also once assumed this. But it makes more sense that Sallie Stephens is his aunt. In other words, Sallie Stephens maiden name was Throckmorton, she was the daughter of Julius Throckmorton of Halifax Co., VA and the sister of James Throckmorton, next door neighbor of Gardner Stephens in the 1870 Stokes county census. The Throckmortons and Stephens family were closely connected. Mary Stephens (my gr-gr-greatgrandmother) married Robert Throckmorton in 1845 and her brother John H. Stephens married Robert's sister Susannah. Both families originated in Virginia counties just north of the border of both Stokes and Rockingham counties (counties that both families lived in). If Sallie Stephens is the mother of John H and Mary Stephens, wouldn't it make more sense that she would be living with Robert and Mary Throckmorton or John and Susanna Stephens, her children, than with James Throckmorton, unless of course James was her brother. Gardner Stephens is a better fit as parent of John and Mary. Of course, it is entirely possible that Gardner is the father and Susanna the mother and that they were divorced before 1860 (although I think this is a less likely scenario). The ages of Gardner's children match up perfectly with the ages of John and Mary in the 1830 census. And if not Gardner, than who? What other candidate fits? Occam's Razor applies here - when all other theories seem equal choose the one that mostly fits. In this case I believe it is that Gardner Stephens of Patrick County, Virginia is the father of John H. and Mary Stephens.
Incidentally, my records on his last marriage show this -
SHELTON POLLY STEPHENS GARDNER 06 SEP 1862 090 02 297 M 07 SEP 1862 BY J M HILL, JP http://files.usgwarchives.net/nc/rockingham/marriages/sheltn02.txt
According to this Gardner Stephens was married to Polly Shelton in Rockingham County, North Carolina.
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