STEM, JESSE (ca. 1820–1854). Jesse Stem, Indian agent, was born about 1820, the son of Jacob and Sarah Stem, in Green Springs, Sandusky County, Ohio. He was admitted to the bar in Columbus in 1842 and later married Matilda Elizabeth Pittinger; they had four daughters. Because of poor health and the consequent need for a change in climate, he sought an appointment as a commissioner or Indian agent in California during the gold rush; unsuccessful, he accepted a post as Indian agent in Texas. When he left his home in Tiffin, Ohio, he was senior partner in the law firm of Jesse and Leander Stem. He arrived in San Antonio in February 1851 and met Judge John H. Rollins, the only other Indian agent in Texas following the expiration of Robert S. Neighbors's federal appointment. Rollins, like Stem, was an asthmatic, and he was so ill that many of his duties were taken over by the younger man, Stem, who welcomed to councils all Indians, including the hostile Comanches. These gatherings served to allay some of the sharp criticism Texans had directed at the United States government for sending ill, untrained, and uncooperative agents to Texas. Rollins and Stem were soon joined by John A. Rogers, who took the El Paso sector, and the Indian areas of Texas were divided among the three men.
Stem settled at the Grayson Ranch, four miles from San Antonio. He began writing letters to his family and to his friend Rutherford B. Hayes, later president of the United States, describing his activities. His health improved, and he became interested in acquiring cheap Texas land for investment. In August 1851 he returned to Ohio for his family, during which time Rollins died. Upon his return to Texas, Stem first settled his family in Seguin. During February and March 1852 he met with all the Texas Indian tribes except those on the Rio Grande and the northern Comanches; he was successful in gaining the confidence of the eastern tribes as well as that of the southern Comanches. He lived in a series of frontier stations-Fort Croghan (near present Burnet), Fort Graham (while Maj. Henry H. Sibley was stationed there), and Fort Belknap. It was on the Clear Fork of the Brazos that he bought land, built a house, and started a farm. When Maj. George T. Howard became superintendent of Indian agents, Stem resigned and returned to Ohio in 1853 with his family. By November he was back in Texas, accompanied by a friend, William Leppelman. In February 1854, after a wagon loaded with supplies for his farm broke down near Fort Belknap, he and Leppelman were slain by two renegade Kickapoo Indians, who were later caught and executed by their own tribe. Stem's body was later removed to Sandusky, Ohio; his ranch was sold to Judge John A. Matthews and his wife, Sallie Reynolds Matthewsqv, and it became part of the large Matthews ranch in Shackelford county.
Watt P. Marchman and Robert Cotner, "Indian Agent Jesse Stem: A Manuscript Revelation," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 39 (1963). Mildred P. Mayhall, Indian Wars of Texas (Waco: Texian Press, 1965). Mildred P. Mayhall Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. William B. Parker, Notes Taken during the Expedition Commanded by Capt. R. B. Marcy (Philadelphia: Hayes and Zell, 1856; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1984). Rupert N. Richardson, The Frontier of Northwest Texas, 1846 to 1876 (Glendale, California: Clark, 1963). Jesse Stem Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Library, Fremont, Ohio.