THOUGHTS ON LACK OF EARLY INSCRIBED MARKERS IN JACKSON COUNTY CEMETERIES
- Since I have answered 3 emails this week from family researchers
looking for grave sites and/or markers for their ancestors who were
early settlers in Jackson County, it prompted me to share my thoughts on
This also ties in with our group's earlier discussion of so many of
Jackson County's earliest settlers being "squatters" until government
land was first offered for sale in this area. The original Plat Books
show the first Public Land Sale was made on June 25, 1830, to Peter
McClanahan under warrant numbers 2189 and 2190 in Section 5, Township 3,
Range 3 East. The second oldest purchase I found in the original Plat
Book is dated June 26, 1830, under warrant number 2195, when John M.
Moore purchased 160.25 acres in Section 7, Township 4, Range 3 East.
John Redmond purchased 80.435 acres in Section 8 of Township 4, Range 3
East, on June 28, 1830, under warrant number 2199. Several other
purchases were made on June 28, 1830, in various other areas. It is
not surprising that all the earliest purchases were located in the
western half of Jackson County, since that area was the shortest
distance required to travel to the north Alabama Land Office located in
Huntsville in 1830.
Within days or a few short weeks after receiving 640-acre reservations,
several Cherokee heads of households sold their reservations to white
men. Some documented examples are:
Richard Riley sold his 640-acre Cherokee reservation located to David
Larkin and R. B. Clayton.
R. B. Clayton's wife died in 1828, and her death and burial place are
documented via an inscribed marker recorded in TVA's cemetery survey
made prior to TVA operating the Guntersville Dam locks in 1939.
James Riley, sold his reservation to Stephen Carter and G. W. Higgins,
and these men founded the town of Bellefonte and began selling town
lots. Carter and Higgins allocated 3.5 acres for the Bellefonte
Cemetery. The earliest inscribed marker in Bellefonte Cemetery is for a
Martin child who died in 1826.
Capt. John Woods (Cherokee name was Toochester) gave his reservation to
James Doran. In 1818, James Doran obtained a work passport from Bureau
of Indian Affairs Agent Return J. Meigs for himself and the 3 men who
helped James Doran build the Doran House. James Doran sold a small
part of his acreage to William Jenkins who soon built a house almost
identical to the floor plan of the Doran house.
In 1821, John Benge sold his reservation to William Dawson and James
Gilliland who soon sold small acreage to Dr. Lemuel Gilliam and to
William D. Gaines (illegally) purchased the Thomas Jones reservation and
then sold it to his son-in-law, William M. King for whom King's Cove
(west of Bridgeport) is named. In 1817, William Jones, head of a
Cherokee family, was granted a 640-acre reservation for life (located in
Mount Carmel area west of Bridgeport), and (unlawfully) sold it to
William James Price in 1819.
In 1819, William Ore sold his 640-acre reservation located just south of
Mink Creek to William Barclay.
Many years ago, I obtained copies of documents from The Bureau of Indian
Affairs covering the way Charles Roach and other white men obtained
access to one of the Keys reservations in what became Roach's Cove.
There are other documented cases involving how white men acquired
Cherokee reservation land that Patty Woodall and I have researched and
written about in past editions of the JACKSON COUNTY CHRONICLES.
Other than the relatively small amount of land acquired as cited above,
our ancestors cleared government owned land in Jackson County with the
hope that their improvements would eventually entitle them to a
homestead claim AND a price per acre they could afford when the
government surveys were completed and the U.S. Congress finally enacted
legislation to permit sale of government owned land in Jackson County.
In some cases, the settlers' plans worked. In some cases, the men were
outbid by their neighbors and/or by land speculators.
This brings me to the main reason for sharing these thoughts:
I strongly suspect there are three good reasons why there are so few
inscribed markers for early burials in Jackson County.
ONE: Money was scarce. People were trying to carve a new life out of
TWO: Families thought twice before spending their limited funds on
inscribed makers unless they used cemeteries such as the old Bellefonte
Cemetery or could bury the deceased on land that had been purchased from
a Cherokee reservee.
THREE: Of course, this is merely supposition on my part, but before
1830, their thinking most likely ran something like this: We will
place a native stone or a wooden cross at the grave now. IF, in the
future, we are lucky enough to buy this plot of ground, we will buy an
inscribed marker for our loved one. I have often wondered if this could
be the reason there are some discrepancies in tombstone death dates.
COULD IT BE that the marker was placed several years after the actual
death? We will never know exactly how these early settlers thought,
but I try to go back in time and place myself in their social and
economic situations. I do know inscribed markers were purchased and
placed in the family cemetery adjacent to their home for my early Barbee
ancestors 25 years after some of their deaths. The very same thing
occurred in my husband's family in the Woodville area.
Ann B. Chambless
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]