Stephen Morgan Greene was born March 22, 1838, to Joseph S. and Mary “Polly” Collis Greene in the Greene Cove area on Cane Creek, Yancey County at the time and now Mitchell. He was named Stephen Morgan after his uncle Rev. Stephen Morgan Collis, his mother’s brother. Greene lived with his brother William while teaching, perhaps at least for a time in the Roan Mountain School.
On July 11, 1861, he volunteered for the Confederacy in Bakersville under Captain John C. Blalock. He enlisted in Co. I, North Carolina 29th Infantry Regiment with the rank of sergeant and served a variety of posts until May 1862. At Morristown, TN, he became ill with chronic hepatitis and recurrent camp fever (a type of epidemic typhus). He was discharged July 22, 1862, after surgeon M. L. Love stated that “said soldier has been unfit for duty in the last sixty days.” His brothers Joseph, William, and Aaron served in the 13th Tennessee Calvary of the Union Army. William Collis Greene was killed in action at the battle of Morristown, and his three children were placed in guardianship, first with Stephen then Moses Young after William’s wife remarried. Stephen’s older son was named William Collis Greene in honor of his brother.
Stephen’s first marriage was to Susannah “Susie” Sparks, born Nov. 10, 1846, to Wilson and Mary “Polly” Buchanan Sparks in Ledger. In his brief autobiography, Stephen refers to his mother-in-law as Callie. Stephen and Susie were married Dec. 16, 1865, by Justice of the Peace W.W. Buchanan. She died at 37 on May 26, 1883, in the Bakersville Township when Stephen was 45. They had eight children, William Collis, Thomas, Joanna, Margaret Melissa “Maggie,” Jane, Mary A., and Laura Matilda. While he says they had eight children without listing their names in his autobiographical sketch, we can only find evidence of seven. Speculation is that one died at birth.
Stephen married a second time to Elizabeth Ann Pitman Duncan Buchanan, born in 1844 to Aaron and Frances Pitman. They were married March 19, 1884, by Rev. Stephen Morgan Collis and witnessed by Braddy Buchanan and Lora Greene. This was the third marriage for Elizabeth, best known as Betty Ann and reported to be admired by the community for taking on such a large responsibility with so many children and a very active preacher.
Betty Ann’s first marriage was to Phillip Duncan on Sep. 2, 1860, performed by the Rev. Stephen Morgan Collis. Private Phillip Duncan was killed in action in 1864 while serving in the 58thInfantry, CSA. They had a daughter, Evaline.
Betty Ann, 24, then married David Buchanan, 21, in Mitchell County on Dec. 8, 1865, with Stephen Morgan Greene officiating. David served in the 13th TN Calvary but died of unknown causes at 38 in 1879. They had children William Manning, Arthur E, and Frankie. On Nov. 9, 1880, David’s brother, Joseph M. Buchanan, applied for guardianship of the children, which apparently was granted.
Stephen was 74 when Betty Ann died on Jan. 31, 1913. She was known as “Aunt Betty Ann” by many in the community, and they knew how much she loved flowers. With a large family on a preacher’s income, she could not afford to buy seeds, so often she went into the woods and brought wild flowers back to their home to transplant. One story is that a traveling salesman gave her a packet of “Sweet Rockets” which she planted in her garden. The May flood of 1901 washed all her flowers away, including the Sweet Rockets which can be seen every spring blooming all along Cane Creek. It has been told she once said: “If I live until I die, I want to be buried on Chestnut Hill.” This is where she rests today near her second husband, David, about ½ mile due east of Rev. Stephen Morgan Greene.
Betty Ann and Susie have the same type of grave stone which Stephen proudly indicates that he had erected. On Susie’s: “She wears a Crown of Glory” and on Betty Ann’s: “She Hath Her Dawn of Flowers.”
Stephen Morgan Greene died 12 years later, on Feb. 9, 1929, in Grassy Creek Township. At his memorial service at Roan Mountain Baptist Church where he had preached many sermons, the congregation was asked, per his request, that if they had been baptized or “brought to the Lord,” by Rev. Greene, to go out to the creek beside the church, pick up a rock, and bring it back and place it on his grave. Later, those rocks were used to create the memorial marker on the church grounds today.