Stephen Heard Darden, public official and soldier, son of Washington Lee and Ann (Sharkey) Darden, was born in Fayette County, Mississippi, on November 19, 1816. He traveled to Texas in 1836 as a volunteer under Capt. David M. Fulton for service in the Texas Revolution. Darden served as clerk in the office of the comptroller in September 1836. He returned to Madison County, Mississippi, in the early 1840s but was back in Texas in 1841 and purchased land on the Guadalupe River in Gonzales County. He represented the county for two terms in the state House of Representatives and once in the state Senate. In 1861, as a state senator, he initially opposed secession but finally voted with the majority; at the coming of the Civil War he was elected first lieutenant of Company A of the Fourth Texas Infantry in Hood's Texas Brigade. He served under colonels Robert T. P. Allen, John Bell Hood, and John F. Marshall. He was elected captain of his company on May 20, 1862, but after the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) that September he resigned due to ill health. Darden was the appointed colonel in command of the Fifth Infantry regiment of state troops on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1863 and, upon the death of John A. Wilcox, was elected to fill the unexpired term in the Second Confederate Congress, where he took his seat on November 21, 1864. As a Confederate congressman Darden served on the Naval Affairs Committee. As a firm states'-rights advocate he opposed the growth of the central government of the Confederate States of America and thus generally voted against the Jefferson Davis administration. While he supported higher taxation, a larger army, and a powerful commander-in-chief, he fought against taxation in kind, centralized control over transportation and production, and the confiscation of slaves for public works.
Darden was financially ruined by the war and apparently returned to his Gonzales County farm. When Reconstruction ended he was appointed comptroller of public accounts and served from 1873 to 1879. He recommended that the school money be invested in state bonds and thus raised the bonds to par. Although he retired from office in January 1881 because of his age, he accepted the chief clerkship in his old department. He was appointed superintendent of public buildings and grounds on February 9, 1884, and chief clerk of the comptroller's department in January 1887. He assisted in organizing the state Democratic party in 1871 and was secretary of the Texas Veterans Association from 1886 until his death. Darden may have been married four times; the last time to Catherine Mays in March 1862. He died at Wharton on May 16, 1902, and was buried in the State Cemetery, Austin.