Major General Adam Stephen, Real-Life Model for Doctor Spurlock in My Tale, “Captain Stanwick’s Bride”

In my tale “Captain Stanwick’s Bride,” I based Elizabeth Spurlock on my own 8th great-grandmother, a Powhatan Indian Princess. But where did I find the inspiration for the lady’s husband? Easy enough to answer.

I am from West Virginia originally, and I have completed substantial research on soldiers in the different wars in which the United States participated, who came from West Virginia, or in this case the western part of Virginia, which became a new state in June 1863.

Major General Adam Stephen (1718-1791) was, like my character in Captain Stanwick’s Bride, a Scottish-born American doctor, who earned a degree at King’s College in Aberdeen and studied medicine in Edinburgh. Stephen later married and had one child, a daughter named Ann. In my book the daughter’s name is Beatrice.

Stephen entered the Royal Navy’s service on a hospital ship before emigrating to the British colony of Virginia in the late 1730s or early 1740s. He sat up his practice in Fredericksburg. His first military service came as part of the Province of Virginia’s militia, where he was a senior captain in Colonel Joshua Fry’s regiment, during the French and Indian War. He became a lieutenant colonel of the Virginia Regiment under George Washington. The regiment was based east of the Appalachian Mountains, near Winchester, the county seat of Frederick County. The regiment fought Native Americans at Jumonville Glen, and Fort Necessity, which is considered the opening engagements of the French and Indian War.

He was with Washington at Great Meadows and served with Washington during the disastrous Braddock Expedition, where he was severely wounded. Thankfully, he recovered, again commanding the Virginia regiment against the Creeks to assist South Carolinians (1756). By 1759, Stephen was in command of at Fort Bedford (on the west side of the Appalachian range near the South Branch of the Potomac River) and begged for cattle to be delivered to Fort Pitt (the future Pittsburgh).

Braddock, Edward Lithograph depicting the mortally wounded Edward Braddock being carried from the field after a battle near Fort Duquesne, 1755.
SOTK2011/Alamy ~

Stephen received the cattle and other goods necessary to organize and fund the Timberlake Expedition, which attempted to reconcile British and Cherokee interests following the Anglo-Cherokee War (part of the much broader French and Indian War). In the summer of 1763, settlers complained of raids by Delaware and Shawnees on South Branch settlements; many inhabitants of then-Hampshire County had abandoned their homes, so in August the Governor authorized Col. Stephen to draft 500 men from the militias of Hampshire, Culpeper, Fauquier, Loudoun and Frederick County militias, and the next month told them to continue guarding the posts on the South Branch and Patterson Creek, lest the Native Americans retaliate for their loss that summer at Brushy Run just south of Pittsburgh to British troops commanded by Col. Henry Bouquet. While Captain Charles Lewis escorted 60 former settler prisoners back to Fort Pitt in 1764, Stephen had assumed command of the Virginia Regiment from Washington, and traveled westward to assist in putting down Pontiac’s Rebellion.

In 1772, he became Frederick County, Virginia’s first high sheriff. In Lord Dunmore’s War, he was second in command to the Governor, and at Fort Gower made a speech in favor of the colonial cause.

He led a division of the Continental Army, again serving under Washington, during the American Revolutionary War. He was with the Continental Arm during the New York and New Jersey campaign (1776) and led a defense of Philadelphia in 1777. At the Battle of Germantown (October 1777), Stephen’s men fought in a thick fog against Anthony Wayne. He was accused of being drunk during the battle convicted in a court martial. He was stripped of his command and was cashiered out of the army, but continued to serve his beloved western Virginia, representing Berkeley County in the Virginia General Assembly.

Stephen had lived in western Virginia before the war broke out, and voters from Berkeley County (created in 1772) had elected him as one of their two delegates (alongside Robert Rutherford) to the Second Virginia Revolutionary Convention, which was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond between March 20 and March 27, 1775. When the war ended, he returned to Berkeley County (in what long after his death became West Virginia),. In 1778 Stephen laid out the plan for Martinsburg, and named the new town after his friend, Colonel Thomas Bryan Martin. Stephen became sheriff of then-vast Berkeley County, with Martinsburg as the county seat. Generals Horatio Gates and Charles Lee both later purchased property in the county and lived nearby. In 1780, Berkeley county voters elected Stephen as one of their (part-time) representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1788, Berkeley County voters elected Stephen to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, where he spoke (and voted) in favor of ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Despite opposition by political heavyweights such as Patrick Henry and George Mason, Virginia ratified the Constitution 89 to 79, in large part because western Virginia delegates (including Stephen) supported it 15 to 1.

Stephen died in Martinsburg in 1791and is buried beneath a monument erected in his honor.

The Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg, West Virginia ~

The Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg, and The Bower near Shepherdstown (on property he owned in what became Jefferson County, West Virginia), survive today and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other Sources:

Adam Stephen. Moland House Historic Park.

Adam Stephen (Wikipedia)

Adam Stephen Facts and Biography. The History Junkie.

To George Washington from Major General Adam Stephen, 9 October 1777. Founders Online.

Johnson, Ross B. West Virginians in the American Revolution. Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing, pg. 272.

Leonard, Cynthia Miller (1978). Virginia General Assembly 1619-1978. Richmond: Virginia State Library. pp. 112, 137, 141, 145, 149, 153, 172.

Taaffe, Stephen R. (2019). Washington’s Revolutionary War Generals. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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