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Concordia, MO - El Paso, TX Connection?

 
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roger.pape
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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
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Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:55 pm    Post subject: Concordia, MO - El Paso, TX Connection? Reply with quote

Has anyone heard of a Hugh Stephenson living in early Concordia? Hugh Stephenson was an early settler of the El Paso, TX area. According to a number of articles, some that appear to be relatively scholarly (see Handbook of Texas Online), Hugh Stephenson spent his early years in Concordia, MO. Later, he bought land in what now is part of El Paso, Texas and called his ranch El Rancho de la Concordia in honor of his “boyhood” home.

The only problem with this story is that Hugh was born in 1798 and no one was living in the Concordia, MO area during his childhood years. The city was not named until after he purchased and named his ranch. How do such legends get started?


Last edited by roger.pape on Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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roger.pape
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Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:16 pm    Post subject: More about Concordia at El Paso, TX Reply with quote

As noted in the posting above, there was a ranch and community in El Paso County, TX that was named Concordia by Hugh Stephenson, supposedly after “his childhood home”. A surprising number of references on the web can be found that repeat the story that they were named after Concordia, MO. Tracing this alleged connection, one finds that Hugh’s history is an interesting tale of the early expansion of the U.S.

Rex W. Strickland's history of early El Paso, entitled "Six Who Came to El Paso" pg 35ff. provides details of the life of Hugh Stephenson. Hugh was born on July 18, 1798, in Kentucky. According to family history, he was orphaned at a young age and moved with a cousin John Stephenson to Lafayette County, Missouri, where he grew up. Note that early Lafayette [or Lillard] County was first settled by people from Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Hugh was initially a trapper and became trapper/trader with the wagon trains that headed West.

Based on this historical account, he arrived in El Paso on a wagon train about 1824, becoming possibly the first Anglo-American in the El Paso area. He left the wagon train at Old Mesilla, New Mexico, acquiring land and building a home on the site of present Las Cruces. Shortly thereafter he settled in El Paso del Norte (present Juárez, Mexico) and later acquired two land grants: one of 900 acres, south of land belonging to Juan Maria Ponce de León in present El Paso, and the other a 23,000-acre Brazito tract south of the site of present Las Cruces, New Mexico. Stephenson married Juana María Ascárate, the daughter of a wealthy El Paso del Norte merchant, in August 1828.

His connection to Missouri appears plausible. The Santa Fe Trail was established by William Becknell in 1821 taking advantage of new trade opportunities with Mexico which had just won independence from Spain in the Mexican War of Independence. The trail was used to haul manufactured goods from the state of Missouri to Santa Fe, which was in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Mexico. From there, many of the traders continued on to Chihuahua, Mexico. The eastern end of the trail was in the central Missouri town of Franklin on the north bank of the Missouri River. The route across Missouri first used by Becknell followed portions of the existing Osage Trace and the Medicine Trails. The trail crossed the Missouri River near Arrow Rock, after which it followed roughly the route of present-day U.S, Route 24. It passed north of Marshall, through Lexington to Fort Osage, then on to Independence. Being an enterprising young man, Hugh may well have signed on with one of these wagon trains.

When he applied the name "El Rancho de la Concordia" to his property in the El Paso area is not known for certain. It may have been sometime after 1844 when he returned to the area from Corralitos [NM] where he had been managing a silver mine. He settled on the property that he owned and established a community that he called Concordia (also known locally as Stephensonville and Stephenson's Ranch). In the 1860 census, his residence is listed as Concordia, El Paso, Texas. A page from that census is shown below. (63 year old Hugh is listed in dwelling number 25.) These census records indicate that the community of Concordia, TX had 62 dwellings and 213 residents by that time.

An interesting side note. In November 1867, after the Rio Grande flooded the old garrison at Magoffinsville, Fort Bliss was moved to Concordia and known as Camp Concordia until March 1869.

Since Rev. Biltz did not name Concordia, MO until 1860, it is highly improbable that Hugh would have gotten the name from there. The appearance of the name Concordia in the 1860 census records for Texas would rule out Concordia, MO as the source. Furthermore, Strickland's account notes that a February 10, 1854 newspaper article in the Western Texan (San Antonio) refers to Mr. Hugh Stephenson as the proprietor of "Concordia". So the mystery remains as to where he got the name Concordia.

Hugh did maintain ties with Missouri, sending his oldest son Horace to Missouri to be schooled there in the latter 1840s. (Horace can be found in the 1850 St. Louis census listed as a 16 year old student at St. Louis University.) He returned to the El Paso/Las Cruces area and Hugh lived with him in his latter years. Interestingly, in the 1880 census, Horace listed his father's birthplace as Missouri; whereas, by the 1900 census, he listed it as Kentucky.

When the Civil War broke out, Hugh Stephenson attempted to maintain a neutral stance, although his sympathies were clearly with the Southern cause and he bought Confederate bonds. Consequently, Union officials confiscated and sold his properties at Concordia and Brazito in an auction. However his son-in-law, Albert H. French, purchased the Concordia property at the federal marshal's sale in 1867. French sold each of the Stephenson's heirs an equal portion of the property for a dollar.

The name Concordia lives on in El Paso. A huge multi-denominational cemetery (65,000 gravesites) was built on part of Hugh’s former property and named Concordia Cemetery. The first person buried there was Hugh’s wife who was killed when she was gored by a deer that she had raised from a fawn. The cemetery is known as the “Boot Hill” of El Paso. In addition to a number of dignitaries, it is the final resting place of scoundrels, gamblers, heroes, scallywags, lawmen, Buffalo Soldiers, circus performers and lots of outlaws. If you are ever in El Paso, you might want to check out the Concordia Cemetery. It is designated as a Texas State Historic site and is part of the city’s walking tour. You can find its website at http://www.concordiacemetery.org/. [Note. You might enjoy listening to the song that accompanies the opening page of that website.]



1860HughStephenson.jpg
 Description:
Pg. 3 of the 1860 census for Concordia, El Paso County, Texas. Hugh Stephenson is the sixth entry, followed by what appear to be his four youngest children.
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1860HughStephenson.jpg


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