|Born||March 4, 1787
|Died||January 29, 1867
New York City
|Resting place||Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia|
|Occupation||Plantation owner, banker|
|Known for||Wealthiest cotton planter in the South prior to the American Civil War; second largest slave owner in the country|
Catherine Bingaman (m. 1819)
|Children||(with Margaret): John Ellis Duncan, Sarah Jane Duncan
(with Catherine): Stephen Duncan, Jr., Charlotte N. Duncan, M. L. Duncan, Henry P. Duncan
Stephen Duncan (1787-1867) was born in Pennsylvania and became a major planter and banker in Mississippi, in the antebellum South. He became the wealthiest cotton planter in the South prior to the American Civil War, and in 1860 was the second-largest slave owner in the country.
In 1808, shortly before the War of 1812, Duncan moved as a young man to Natchez, Mississippi Territory, a developing river town that was important to trading along the Mississippi River. In the antebellum South, Natchez became a thriving city thanks to the booming cotton industry. Duncan purchased Auburn plantation from Lyman Harding in 1827.
Duncan owned the following cotton and sugar plantations: L'Argent, Camperdown, Carlisle, Duncan, Duncannon, Duncansby, Ellisle, Homochitto, Middlesex, Oakley, Rescue, Reserve, Attakapas, and Saragossa.
Duncan sold his crops through the merchant firm Washington, Jackson & Co. in New Orleans, instructing them to sell it through their subsidiary Todd, Jackson & Co. in Liverpool, England. The revenue derived from the cotton and sugar sales would then go to Charles P. Leverich & Co., a bank headquartered in New York. His plantations yielded returns of US$150,000 every year. As a result of these financial transactions, Duncan became the richest cotton planter in the South before the war. He reinvested his money in Northern railroad securities and in Midwestern public lands.
In the 1850s, he owned over 1,000 slaves, making him the largest resident slave holder in Mississippi. By 1860, Duncan's ownership of 858 slaves in Issaquena County made him second nationally to the estate of Joshua John Ward (1800-1853) of South Carolina, which controlled 1,130.
Mississippi Colonization Society
In 1830, Duncan, along with planter James Brown, a former sugar planter and US Senator from Louisiana, purchased 400 acres (1.6 km2) of land in the Huron Tract in Ontario, Canada, to establish the Wilberforce Colony of free American blacks. Most came from Cincinnati, Ohio, fleeing discrimination and especially a violent riot in 1829.
In the 1830s, prior to the American Civil War of 1861-1865 and together with major slave owners Isaac Ross (1760-1838), Edward McGehee (1786-1880), John Ker (1789-1850), and educator Jemeriah Chamberlain (1794-1851), president of Oakland College, Duncan co-founded the Mississippi Colonization Society. Their goal was to relocate (repatriate) free blacks and newly freed slaves to the colony of Liberia on the African continent. The organization was modeled after the American Colonization Society, but it focused on freedmen in Mississippi, a large slave state.
American Civil War and postbellum career
During the Civil War, Duncan opposed secession and the Confederate States Army. As a result, he was ostracized by other Southerners. He had investments worth $1,060,000 unrelated to his plantations, and he would be able to live comfortably regardless of the outcome of the war.
Duncan married Margaret Ellis, and they had two children together, John Ellis and Sarah Jane Duncan. After his wife died, Duncan married again in 1819, to Catherine A. Bingaman. They had four children: Stephen, Jr.; Charlotte N., M. L., and Henry P. Duncan.
In 1911, his heirs donated the Auburn mansion and its gardens to the city of Natchez.
- Natchez Guesthouse
- Engerman, Stanley L. (1976). Owens, Harry P., ed. The Southern Slave Economy. Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery. University Press of Mississippi. p. 107.
- Alan Huffman, Mississippi in Africa: [the Saga of the Slaves of Prospect Hill Plantation and Their Legacy in Liberia Today, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2010, pp. 91-92 
- David G. Sansing, Sim C. Callon, Carolyn Vance Smith, Natchez: An Illustrated History, Plantation Pub. Co., 1992, p. 88 
- William P. Baldwin, Elizabeth Turk, Mantelpieces of the Old South: Lost Architecture in Southern Culture, The History Press, 2005, p. 192 
- Ann Patton Malone, Sweet Chariot: Slave Family and Household Structure in Nineteenth-century Louisiana, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1992, p. 287 
- Louisiana State University Library: Stephen Duncan Correspondence
- Harold D. Woodman, King Cotton and His Retainers: Financing and Marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800-1925, Beard Books, 199, p. 160 
- 'Plantation Economy', American Cotton Planter, N. B. Cloud, 1854, Volume 2, p. 118 
- Blake, Tom (2004). "The Sixteen Largest American Slaveholders from 1860 Slave Census Schedules". Ancestry.com.
- Mary Carol Miller, Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2010, Volume II, pp. 53-54 
- Martha Jane Brazy, An American Planter: Stephen Duncan of Antebellum Natchez And New York (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2006).