Stapp, Elijah (1783–1843)

By: L. W. Kemp

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 1, 1995

Elijah Stapp, a pioneer settler in DeWitt's colony and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in Orange County, Virginia, on October 16, 1783, the son of Achilles and Margaret (Vawter) Stapp. He married Nancy Shannon in 1811 and came to Texas from Missouri, where he had encountered the empresario Green DeWitt, who wrote a letter of introduction to Stephen F. Austin on Stapp's behalf dated March 9, 1826. James Kerr, DeWitt's surveyor general, who established Gonzales in 1825 as the capital of the DeWitt colony, noted that Stapp was among the few who visited the settlement by July 1826. Having investigated the new land, Stapp brought his wife and six children to settle in the colony about 1830. Three other children were born to the Stapps in Texas. On July 16, 1831, Stapp was issued a Spanish title to a league of land now in Victoria County. Stapp provided leadership in a meeting of settlers of Navidad and Lavaca held on July 17, 1835, to discuss growing dissatisfaction with the Mexican government. He was appointed second judge of the new Jackson Municipality on December 6, 1835, by the General Council of the provisional government. He was then elected with Kerr to represent Jackson in the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Kerr did not attend; Stapp took his seat on March 1 and signed the Declaration of Independence. After the convention Stapp and those of his family not serving in the army were forced to flee from their home during the Runaway Scrape. Stapp wrote a letter of character dated April 9, 1836, to ad interim president David G. Burnet in defense of John J. Linn, who had been arrested erroneously as a spy. Stapp was elected justice of the peace of Jackson County, Republic of Texas, in 1839, and in 1840 he was postmaster at La Baca, Jackson County. That year he owned 4,428 acres in Victoria County. Stapp died on March 21, 1843, in Jackson County and was buried in what became known as Russell Ward Cemetery, five miles northeast of Edna. In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission erected a monument in the cemetery in his honor. His son William Preston Stapp served in the Mier expedition in 1842, survived both the Black Bean Episode and captivity in Perote Prison, and wrote The Prisoners of Perote (1845), an account of his experience that remains valuable for its detail and insight into the tensions between Mexico and Texas.

Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

L. W. Kemp, “Stapp, Elijah,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995