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STEPHEN BIRLEW is a native Tennessean, born in Smith County, January 1, 1842, the son of John and Wilbrey (Robinson) Birlew, the father a native of North Carolina and the mother of Tennessee. John Birlew was a young man when he went to Tennessee, and he there met and married Miss Robinson, who later moved with him to Christian County, Kentucky There they resided until 1853, when they came to Missouri and located three miles east of the present town of Winona, in the woods, then Pike Creek Valley, and here Mr. Birlew died in the valley in 1872, when about sixty-two years of age. Mrs. Birlew is still living and is now seventy years of age. She finds a comfortable home with her children. Mr. Birlew was justice of the peace for years, and at the time of his death was county treasurer. Farming and blacksmithing were his principal occupations during life, and he was unusually successful. Mr. Birlew was a Union man during the war and was for the Constitution. In politics he was a Democrat. Mrs. Birlew holds membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their family consisted of ten children, of whom our subject was second in order of birth.
Stephen secured a fair education in Shannon County, and in 1861, when nineteen years of age, he enlisted in the Missouri State Guards, Confederate Army, but later joined a regiment in the Confederate service. On account of sickness he did not get back into service until the fall of 1862, when he joined Col. Burbridge’s regiment, cavalry, Company H, under Gen. Marmaduke, in which he remained until the surrender in May, 1865, at Jacksonport, Arkansas He was at home during the winter of 1864 and 1865. During service he participated in the battles of Wilson’s Creek, Fort Scott, Lexington and others. After joining Marmaduke he was at Cape Girardeau, Old Jackson, Chalk Bluff, St. Francis River, Helena, Little Rock, Mansfield, Camden, Pine Bluff, Jenkins’ Ferry and Pleasant Hill. He escaped without being wounded, and was only once taken prisoner and held a short time. After leaving the service he commenced farming on the old homestead, but was there only a few years when he homesteaded the place where he now lives. Winona now stands on a part of this land, for he sold a considerable portion, and he has improved his place in every way. Mr. Birlew has held the office of constable, and although he has often been solicited to accept office he has refused, preferring to keep on in the even tenor of his way. In politics he is a Democrat, and socially an Odd Fellow and a member of the Farmers Alliance. In 1873 Miss Nancy J. Taylor became his wife. She was born in De Kalb County, Tennessee, and is a worthy member of the Free-Will Baptist Church. Nine living children have been born to their union, five sons and four daughters, and one son is deceased.