The Life of Benjamin Stephenson
Benjamin Stephenson was a child of the American Revolution. Born in York County, Pennsylvania on July 8, 1769, Stephenson grew up surrounded by the events that led to the Revolution. During the revolution he celebrated his eighth birthday only four days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Two years later the British occupied Philadelphia and the Continental Congress fled to the town of York only a few miles from Stephenson’s home. His father became a member of the Pennsylvania militia and was a wagon driver in Washington’s army. His future father-in-law, Swearingen, was a lieutenant in Morgan’s Rifles, one of the most storied units of the revolution; Swearingen also spent the winter at Valley Forge. Throughout his lifetime, Stephenson was surrounded by people that had been involved in the Revolutionary War and his early experiences seem to have profoundly influenced his beliefs. He served in a number of public capacities and public service was a hallmark of his life. True to the principles of the American Revolution, he became a champion of the common citizen.
At the age of 19, Stephenson moved to Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). Very little is known about his activities in this period. In 1799, Stephenson married Lucy Swearingen. Lucy was the daughter of “Indian” Van Swearingen. Swearingen, the veteran of Morgan’s Rifles, was a wealthy land owner in the Virginia area. At his death his will provided a significant amount of land, a slave, and money for Lucy’s education. By 1803, the Stephensons were living in Harpers Ferry where their oldest daughter, Julia, was born.