When Johann Franz Steup emigrated from the Westerwald to the United States, he and his wife Sofia Barbara (née Horn) founded a new branch in the Steup's family tree. The name Steup was Americanized and was now called Stipes.
In the American Civil War, Cornelia Stipes (nee Mitchell), Thomas Stipes' wife, ran a boarding house (Mrs. Stipes´ Boarding House) in the small town of Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, West Virginia. The great-grandfather of Thomas was Johann Franz from the Westerwald.
Both government buildings and private residences served a variety of military functions during the Civil War occupation of Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War, Building 34/35 was a 2 1/2-story brick house with a one story kitchen attached at the southwest corner. The house had been occupied from 1818 to 1858 by the master armorers employed at the Harpers Ferry Armory. For a brief period, from 1858-1859, the armory's paymaster's clerk occupied the building.
Building 34/35 was probably vacant when the Civil War broke out. During the Civil War, Building 36, immediately to the east of Building 34/35, was "a favorite Army Headquarters from the opening of hostilities."198 Because of its proximity to headquarters, Building 34/35 was a logical place for military officers to board. In 1865, Brig. Gen. Edward D. Ramsay stated that Building 34/35 was "occupied as quarters for Officers."199
However, in 1864, James Taylor, a newspaperman, described this building as the Stipes' Hotel, or boarding house. 200 James E. Taylor was employed as a visual reporter for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper during his five months' sojourn in the northern Shenandoah Valley in 1864. The contents of Taylor's The James E. Taylor Sketchbook are, in the author's words, "the amplification of a Diary I kept and Sketches I made while accompanying General Philip H. Sheridan in the capacity of a Special Artist during his Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, in 1864. " 201 Sketches by Taylor and other "special artists" were commissioned by newspapers to illustrate the written stories submitted by the correspondents. These sketches served as the only immediate graphic illustrations of the war for the rest of the populace, since the technology for mass producing photographs did not exist at that time. Intending to join the Valley Army near Harpers Ferry, Taylor arrived in town for the first time on Tuesday, August 9, 1864. He was immediately approached by a IM Taylor, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook, p. 30. "runner," sent out to drum up business, who conducted him to a local hotel run by Mrs. Cornelia Stipes. Taylor occupied a room under the eaves on the top floor of Stipes' boarding house. 202 Taylor's sketch of his room appears in this section. His drawing of the exterior in which he identifies Mrs. Stipes' boarding house as Building 35 appears in the illustrations section (figure 1). Taylor relates that "Mrs. Stipes catered to sojourners at the Ferry to the extent of table board and lodging, not from choice but necessity caused by her husband's business reverses owing to the War, and his inability to catch on again, when it fell to the lot of Madam to entertain transients to keep the wolf from the door." 203 Taylor must have gotten his facts wrong in this case, since Mrs. Cornelia Stipes was widowed in 1840 when her husband Thomas died of consumption, 204 and she is listed as the head of household in every census from 1840 until her death between 1880 and 1883. 205 Research efforts have failed to locate a formal agreement granting Mrs. Stipes permission to run a boarding house in a government building. We know that the provost marshal routinely granted licenses to local merchants to operate businesses in vacant buildings in town.206
Keeping borders was a common way for widows to earn a living in Harpers Ferry, and Mrs. Stipes may have applied informally for permission to use an empty building. Seven of the eight people listed as boarding house keepers in the 1860 Harpers Ferry census are women. Mrs. Stipes was not listed as a boarding house keeper in the 1860 census, although at least one apparently unrelated person, a 25 year old male machinist, was living in her household. 207 Also living in her household in 1860 and presumably in 1864 as well were Mrs. Stipes' three daughters, Anna, Martha, and Medora. Taylor particularly remembered Medora, "a tall stately fluffy-haired blonde," 208 who was about nineteen years old in 1864. At the time of the 1870 census, Medora is listed as having two children, aged 5 and 3, and is living with her mother. 209 In The James E. Taylor Sketchbook, Taylor mentions that a coterie of newspapermen were staying at Stipes' boarding house. On reaching the house, I found on the porch two new arrivals by the morning train who, much to my satisfaction, proved to be newspaper men, with whom I was not slow in brushing up an acquaintance. The newspaperman gathered information and exchanged leads with each other during mealtimes and while gathered on the front stoop. 211 A group of them decided to "join forces" and "proceed to the front without delay." 212 Taylor left to join the army at the front the day after he arrived in Harpers Ferry. He returned to Stipes' boarding house many times during the next five months, frequently obtaining the same room. While in the area he drew many sketches of Harpers Ferry and the surrounding countryside. On December 20, 1864, Taylor left Harpers Ferry after receiving instructions from his employer to cover Benjamin F. Butler's Army of the James positioned at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. In April of 1865, Mrs. Stipes purchased property "nearly opposite the Presbyterian Church," 213 and may have gone into the boarding house business whole- heartedly at that point, since she is listed as a boarding house keeper in the 1870 census. 214 Perhaps she moved out of Building 34/35 at this time, because by July 1865, Building 34/35 was described as officers' quarters.
199 Ramsay to Dyer, as quoted in NPS, "Historic Building Report, Part II, Historical Data Section. ..The Samuel Annin House," p. 25.
200 Taylor, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook, p. 30.
201 Ibid., p. 3.
202 Ibid., pp. 29-30.
203 Ibid., p. 30.
204 Virginia Free Press, February 20, 1840, p. 3, col. 3.
205 Taylor, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook, p. 43.
206 Banes, History of the Philadelphia Brigade, p. 124.
207 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Jefferson County, Virginia, pp. 198-199. Six other people are listed in the same dwelling house as Cornelia Stipes but are enumerated as a different family.
208 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Jefferson County, Virginia: Sixth Census, 1840, p. 243; Seventh Census, 1850, p. 409B; Eighth Census, 1860, p. 198. Jefferson County, West Virginia: Ninth Census, 1870, p. 458; Tenth Census, 1880, p. 3.
209 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Ninth Census of the United States (1870), Jefferson County, West Virginia, p. 17.
210 Taylor, The James E. Taylor Sketchbook, p. 41.
211 Ibid., pp. 41-43, p. 215, and p. 250.
212 Ibid., p. 41.
213 Deed Book 1, p. 156, JCC. The reference to the property being across from the church appears in an 1866 deed in which Cornelia Stipes transfers this property to her daughter Ann Stipes (Deed Book 1, p. 359, JCC). Ninth Census of the United States (1870), Jefferson County, West Virginia.