Stell, John Dennis (1804–1862)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

John Dennis Stell, planter and legislator, was born on October 27, 1804, in Hancock County, Georgia, the son of Robert Malone and Elizabeth (Jones) Stell. He married Rachell Carroll on November 24, 1822; they had six children. On January 2, 1839, he was married a second time, to Mrs. Amanda Cox. They also had six children. Stell was a colonel in the Georgia Militia and participated in the removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia to Indian Territory. He was also a judge and, for seventeen consecutive years, a member of the Georgia legislature, both of the House and the Senate. In June and November 1850 he represented Georgia at the Nashville Convention, and from 1853 through 1854 he was president of the senate. The family moved to Texas in 1855. In 1856 Stell established a prosperous cotton plantation in Leon County known as the Bower. He was also involved in transportation on the Trinity River. He represented Leon County in the House of Representatives of the Eighth Legislature, 1859–61, and was a member of the Secession Convention. On January 28, 1861, he was elected president pro tem of the convention and was later elected its vice president. With John Henry Brown and Pryor Lea, Stell drew up the convention's "Address to the People of Texas," which detailed the delegates' rationale for supporting secession. With the outbreak of the Civil War Stell sold his Leon County property, valued at $90,000, and moved to Smith County, where he worked for the Confederate ordnance works at Tyler. He died in Tyler on October 28, 1862.

Leon County Historical Book Survey Committee, History of Leon County (Dallas: Curtis Media, 1986). Memorial and Biographical History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone, and Leon Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). E. W. Winkler, ed., Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas (Austin, 1912).

Time Periods:

  • Civil War

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Stell, John Dennis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995

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