Bat Guano and the Demise of Levi STEPHENS

1864 Battlefield of Resaca GA by Matthew Brady

1864 Battlefield of Resaca GA by Matthew Brady

Levi H. STEPHENS not only survived the Civil War but became a prolific family man.  He had his first 2 children, William ’60 and Thomas ’64 with his wife Rachel during that time.  Son James was born in 1864 and daughter Martha (Mattie) Elizabeth about 1869.

Levi was born about 1834 probably in Madison County, GA to a farming family.  He married Miss Rachel, whose life events and surname are still being investigated.

The Civil War Website created by the National Park Service has a list of soldiers and sailors that fought in the Civil War.  Levi H. STEPHENS is found in the roll of the 36th GA Regiment.  The unit was formed in the northwest corner of Georgia near the city of Dalton. Here is the information from the NPS:

My Kindred Tree - Confederate Troop of Levi STEPHENS

After the war, the south was figuring out how to rebuild it’s damaged areas as well as how to farm without the use of slaves. A book written by Professor Willard Range describes part of the challenges of agriculture immediately after the war:

Excerpt from "A Century of Georgia Agriculture 1850-1950" by Willard Range

Excerpt from “A Century of Georgia Agriculture 1850-1950” by Willard Range

The entire book ‘A Century of Georgia Agriculture 1850-1950’ published by the University of Georgia Press can be found here.

One of the jobs of the times was the production of fertilizer for crops.  The southern fields needed fertilizer especially if the heavy feeder crop of cotton had been grown. Bat excrement or guano was a popular source of fertilizer at the time.  Levi lived and worked in the northwest corner of Georgia near a system of caves which was probably the location for the black gold.  Stories and advertisements about guano are found in the newspapers of the time including the following humorous one:

Clipping from the Dublin Post 10 March 1880

Clipping from the Dublin Post 10 March 1880

During the year 1880 the U.S. Census was taken to find out who was living in the country but the government also wanted to find out who died and why.  It’s called a  ‘Mortality Schedule’.  Levi died that year and is found on record:

Levi H. STEPHENS age 52, born in GA,  farmer, died April, constipation of the bowels, had ailment 20 days . . . 

What does guano have to do with Levi’s demise?  In a newspaper clipping from the Gordon County, GA library we read:

“Mr. Levi Stevens, who lived at Resaca, died last Monday of hemorrhage, caused by straining himself in lifting guano, which broke some internal blood vessel.”

Levi STEPHENS was the father of Mattie STEPHENS DENTON,  who was the mother of Myrtle Faye DENTON HOPKINS, who was the mother of Charles Eugene HOPKINS.


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