Stephen Gardner Champlin was born on July 1, 1827, in Kingston, New York, the son of Jeffrey and Allis Champlin. After pubic school he attended the academy in Rhinebeck , and in 1842 began to study medicine in Harperfield. By 1845 he had a medical practice in Warwarsing, but decided to quit medicine in 1849 to become a lawyer.
Champlin went to law school at Balston Spa and then in Kingston. In 1850 he was admitted to the New York bar and started a law practice in Albany
He married Mary E. Smedes on January 1, 1851, and had a son, Alexander. In 1853 he moved his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he became partners with Lucius Patterson. In 1856 he was elected to t two year term as judge of the Recorder’s Court. On April 22 that year he was elected captain in the Grand Rapids Light Artilery. In 1857 he formed a new partnership with Harry Yale, and in 1858 was elected major in the Grand River Battalion and prosecuting attorney for Kent County.
With the outbreak of the war Champlin became the major in the 3rd Michigan Infantry Regiment. He fought at Bull Run and commanded a reconnaissance at Bailey’s Corners for which he was commended by General McClellan. In October he was promoted to colonel and command of the regiment. In the Peninsula in early 1862 he was wounded in the hip at Fair Oaks, but partly recovered to command the regiment at Second Bull Run, where he was wounded for a second time.
While recuperating from his wound in November he was promoted to brigadier general. He was originally given command of a draft depot in Ohio, but due to continuing problems with his wound he was given the depot near his home in Grand Rapids in September of 1863. But Champlin resigned his commission on November 8, 1863,
Champlin died from his wound in January of 1864. He is buried in Fulton Street Cemetery in Grand Rapids.
By 2001 his headstone had fallen over and was almost lost. A group of local citizens led by Bruce Butgereit and Jeannine Trybus marked the grave with a new headstone and restored it to its place of distinction in the cemetery.