Findings on Wilson Harper Letter of January, 1860, Henry County, Alabama
The Wilson Harper Letter
Henry County, Alabama
Written in January 1860
This Study Made February 2002 by J. Steven Elliott
From the office of J. Steven Elliott, a Henry County Historian:
My first knowledge of the Wilson Harper letter came from the Henry County GenWeb Page on the Internet where Nancy Atwood noted she had the 1860 letter from Henry Countyâ€™s native son, Wilson Harper. In a follow-up e-mail post writes:
â€œI found this letter in documents from my grandparents. I'm not sure about which grandparents, but suspect it comes from the Effie Lorene Selman and Fred Robinson side of my family. Effie and Fred lived in Leon County, Texas. Family names include: Burleson, Robinson, Selman, Copeland.
I do not recognize the name Wilson Harper, or any other names in this letter. I'm guessing that the "brother" to whom this letter is written may have migrated to Texas. I do not know how this letter came to be in my family.
If you recognize any of the people mentioned in this letter, please send me as much information as possible. I'd really like to know which town or city this family lived in and also would like to learn Susannahâ€™s last name.
Please note that I have scanned this letter in black and white to make it a small enough file to go on the internet. The original letter is a golden color and clearly read. Someone taped it together before it was in my possession. It's possible that I have other material that goes with this letter. I have several boxes of tintype photos, land deeds, tax receipts and other materials. I've not seen these names on any of those documents. I have some of the photos on this website.
Feb. 11, 2002
On the page where the letter was actually posted, Nancy added:
â€œI'm guessing that [the letter is] written to James Harper by his brother, Wilson. One theory is that James came to Texas in 1860 or so and then died in the [War Between the States] a couple of years later. Death: 17 NOV 1862 in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas [2nd Militia]: Confederate States of America, 22nd Texas Infantry, Company F, according to the info that I sent to you earlier today.â€ This author agrees with these astute observations by Ms. Atwood.
The letter is as follows:
Henry County, Alabama January the [__A__] 1860
My Dear Brother
I seat my self with great pleasure
to write you a few lines informing you
that I am well at this time an
the rest of the Family Friends an
Nabors are all enjoying good helth
and I truely hope this will find
you all enjoying the same and
Brother we receved a letter from
you the 11 of this month and Father answered
it next day and your letter
was red with grate pleasure
[_____B______] all the connection and in
satisfied to hear you had got to
your unkles and Friends you did not write
anything about Mr. Guy
though we have heard from
him and Brother ther has ben
a grate many changes hear
since you left Sister Susan
has a fine Daughter she has
named it Nancy Jane and
ther has ben some wedings hear:
James Addams married to
Nancy Aycock and John W.
Williams married to Luezar
Aycock and Briant Pullin
married to Mary ellece he lives
turn to the other sid
Mr Pullen lives in the uper part
of this county and Berry Spurlock
is married to Elizabeth Cellers
and Thomas L. Stapleton is
married to Miss Page and ther
has been severl other wedings about
hear and ther had ben a grate many
partys about hear and the Methodist
has neat it all lost this Methodist
in the party room and Dear Brother
Unkle William and his son Thaddeus
has ben to see us this winter
and he left all his Family
and connection well in Bourber
and he was sorrow that may
[____________D________] he should
never see your face agane and
Brother the last I heard from
Aunt Mary Ann they wer all well and
Brother B. H. is going to leave Father in
about a week as he is twenty-one
years of age the day he is twenty-one
he weighed 136 lbs. and my weighed
is 124 and brother your age is in record
in our Bible and perhaps you would
like to know what it was your age
will be 2th next March you was borned
March the 24th 1836 though I hope you
have not forgot your self. Dear
Brother I heard that you was gone to
Kansas and I am glad you failed
to go ther wher you had no friend
and Brother you must write to me
as often as you can and I will
answer your letters with great
pleasure and when you write
to me send Sister Nancy a
small lock of your hair in the
letter for she says she fears it
will be the last of sister susanah
hair that Brother B H gave to me
[__E__] my Dear Brother little did I
think that when you was hunting
them shose that it would be such
a long time before I should see your
[___F____] face again if ever
I have heard your voice many times
which I never shall hear
agane unleast Provedence Smiles
on us I want you to remember
me while you are in a foreign
land unknown to me I am
glad you have one loving mate
to cheer you while in a
foreign land Brother you must
write to me as soon as thist
comes to hand and write
often as you can and I will do
the same for I have no other way
to show the warm affection I
feal for you both so nothing more
I remain yours untill Death
To Sister Susannah
My dear Sister
I enclose a few lines in Brother's
letter to let you know that
I have a grate regard for you
I love you more than tounge or
pen can express Dear Sister your
voice has once cheered my heart
which I now can not hear and
I have seen the time that
I imagined that I heard your voice
once yoiu sung to us that night
Joseph Kemp was hear it appears
to me overnight When I was come
I could hear you singing as I
was alone. Dear sister your Fathers
Family is all well at your Fathers
is wher I saw the last of your red
rosey cheeks sister I am glad
that you have one to kiss your red
rosey cheeks away in a foreign
land Pleas Sister write to me as
often as you can I hope you are
satisfied with your country ther
don't pass a day without my
thinking of you so nothing
more at this time only I am
your most affectionate Brother
remaining so until Death.
Findings from the Harper Wilson Letter by J. Steven Elliott:
It is evident that Wilson Harper was an educated man to have written this letter with as few spelling errors as he did and in such great penmanship for the day. It is a complete run-on sentence with â€œandsâ€ serving as the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. There was a terrible lack of schools in the Deep South in antebellum times for there did not exist any type of public education. The wealthy planters were elected to the statehouse and they were not going to tax themselves to teach the "white trash" under their own "station" in life. Many of these statesmen thought more of their chattel property, the African slave, than they did the poor whites of the South. The poor whites supported slavery, for without it, they would be on the bottom of the caste system of the antebellum South. This is true in the modern South and you find the most rabidly racist white people, by and large, among the poor whites known as slurs such as "trailer trash" or still as "white trash." But due to the strides made by the African American culture since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, there has grown a strong middle class of African-Americans as well as an upper class of African-American lawyers, doctors, statesmen, engineers, and other professionals taught in the mainstream traditionally and historically white universities, such as the University of Alabama.
Some things that I will comment about the letter is this:
1) Having the lock of hair of a family member or loved one that had gone off to a "foreign land" was a common practice during this period. Please excuse the references to my own family, yet they are good examples of a custom that was wide spread. My great-great grandfather, Davis Andrew Jackson Elliott who lived in the area near "Mr. Pullin", that being Mr. Benjamin Pullin the father of Bryant M. D. Pullin that married Mary E. Ellis [ellece in the letter] on November 24, 1859 according to Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868. Grandpa D. A. J. "Jack" Elliott had a sister, Francis Jane Elliott who married Harrison Shadrick in 1859 in Henry County as well. In the early days of the War of Yankee Aggression (1861-1865), Harrison Shadrick volunteered for the 39th Alabama Infantry to turn back and invading army from the North. He was wounded on September 19, 1862 in the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi. He died from these wounds on October 6, 1862 in Iuka in a makeshift Yankee Prison/Hospital. A trip to Iuka in the 1990s led me to his burial ground; a mass grave with 264 Southern patriots from all across Dixie at the edge of what was in 1862 a slave cemetery and now a very large African American Cemetery. The Yankee dead we buried in shallow graves and move later to the Shiloh National Cemetery and Park. There, the women of nearby Corinth, Mississippi came to the battlefield after the hostilities of the battle ended begging General U. S. Grant for the bodies of the fallen Southern soldiers to give them "Christian burials" in Corinth. Grant would have nothing of it and thousands of Confederates are in mass graves that dot the Shiloh Military Park off the beaten trail of the main attractions, the United States in its creation of the National Parks of the battles of the War of Secession still hiding the atrocities of the Yankee warrior and trying to make Southerners forget how the previous generations had been treated and that Dixie was host to this very brutal blood letting and the 10 years of Radical Republican Reconstruction [better said as "further destruction"] of the Southland. Frances Jane Elliott was yet a bride when her husband Harrison Shadrick was killed. But in a green bottle, she had a lock of his jet-black hair. When she was old and terribly poor as were many of those who survived the War, all she had in her truck as keep sakes was that lock of hair, two letters from the battlefields of Mississippi Harrison had written back to Henry County, and the deed to the 40 acres that they had dreamed of building a life on. In that mass grave in Iuka, among the bones of the Confederates, is very possibly a small jar that contained a lock of her hair and of their small son's that had been mailed to Shadrick in Mississippi.
2) The ending of the letter "until Death" was a popular ending salutation for letters I have transposed from antebellum Dixie like this one and many that came from the Confederate soldier writing home to Alabama and other Southern States.
3) The only place name that I read as a misspelling of the neighboring county to the north of Henry, "Barbour County." In the letter, Wilson Harper spells it as â€œBourber.â€
4) In the United States Census of 1850, we find Wilson Harper as an 11-year-old lad in the home of Benjamin and Elizabeth Harper, Household #164 in the Census:
HARPER, Benjamin age 45 male born in Georgia Farmer
HARPER, Elizabeth age 38 female born in North Carolina
HARPER, Sarah Jane age 18 female born in Alabama
HARPER, James age 15 male born in Alabama
HARPER, Hale age 13 male born in Alabama
HARPER, Wilson age 11 male born in Alabama
HARPER, Malinda age 9 female born in Alabama
HARPER, Eliza age 7 female born in Alabama
HARPER, Washington age 5 male born in Alabama
HARPER, Joseph age 3 male born in Alabama
HARPER, William age 2 male born in Alabama
5) In the letter, Wilson Harper uses the last page to write to his sister-in-law in a most affectionate manner. From Mrs. Helon Cutlerâ€™s book, Henry County Recordsâ€”Marriages 1821-1901, 1994 we find the following:
HARPER, James married Oâ€™NEAL, Susannah on March 21, 1859, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 307.
From this notation in the marriage record, we see that Wilson Harper was writing to his brother, James Harper and his wife, Susannah Oâ€™Neal who married in March of 1859 and must have moved very soon to Texas where the Wilson Harper letter is now in the County of Leon in a â€œforeign land.â€
The Oâ€™Neals were an early family in the area near present day Haleburg, Henry County, Alabama near the crossing of the Yatta Abba (Abbie) Creek and the Columbia to Franklin Road or otherwise known as the Old River Road. This area was known in early times as the â€œThomas Robinson Community.â€ Issac Oâ€™Neal lived here on lands that were later the lands of the McDaniel Family. In the Thomas Robinson Community as early as 1824 we learn from the writings of the history of Early County, Georgia, across the Chattahoochee River from the Community, there was an attorney-at-law and a doctor. In 1817, Rev. Joseph Hartley, a Methodist circuit-riding preacher, held the first religious services of the Protestant faith at this point on the Old River Road. Some historians hold fast that a Methodist Church was established in this area possibly called the Abba Church. In 1823, the first â€œCamp Meetingâ€ in Southeast Alabama was held where Brother Hartley had held services six years earlier. This Camp Meeting was a spin off of the â€œGreat Awakeningâ€ that began in the American Colonies in the late 18th Century. At the Camp Meeting, families would travel from many miles around and camp for a week to two weeks of revival style, hell fire and damnation preaching by the best Christian orators of the times. The aisles were covered with sawdust to keep down dust, and â€œhitting the sawdust trailâ€ was a popular phrase for those who made a spiritual decision during the revival meeting. The 1823 Camp Meeting was attended by hundreds of people from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Elder Ada â€œEllaâ€ Glover, of Haleburg, the wife of John Elbert Elliott, II, said, â€œmore souls were born after a camp meeting than were saved â€œatâ€ that camp meeting.â€ Perhaps the camping in the woods, the spirited social activities that surrounded the grand collection of people on the frontier caused married couples to have some time alone from children and other distractions of the frontier, yeoman farmer, â€œpiney woodsâ€ home front. The reason that we get early documentation from Georgia across the Chattahoochee River, then the third swiftest river in the world, can be attributed to the facts found in Historical Atlas of Alabama, Volume I, by W. Craig Remington and Thomas J. Kallsen, University of Alabama Press, 1997, pages 163-164. Here they place the â€œMcKissack Ferryâ€ on the southern bank of the mouth of the Yatta Abba (Abbie) Creek into the Chattahoochee River. The ferry crossed into the County of Early in Georgia and on the same north latitude of Blakely, Georgia, the county seat of Early County, give or take a degree or two. The McKissack Family of Archibald McKissack were neighbors to the Oâ€™Neal family. The McKissacks were settlers here as soon as 1818. Others in the area during this time were Churchbell Penuel, the Pullin family further in the â€œpiney woodsâ€, the Blackshear family in 1823, the Matthew T. Allen family, the family of William Brown, Sands Stanley, Thomas S. Kettler, Bartlett Smith, Wiley Alford, the Purcell family, and the families of Don, Abner Hill, Matthew Perryman, and others.
In earlier research from The History of Henry County, 1961, by Mrs. Marvin (Clyde Stovall) Scott, this was found in the Columbia area eight miles south of the Thomas Robinson Community: â€œAfter William Oakleyâ€™s first wife, Margaret Moses, died, Oakley married a woman of Columbia fame, whose maiden name was Dora Ann Paramore. The bridge that crossed the Ommussee Creek on the south of todayâ€™s Columbia on the Old River Road has been called â€œJacksonâ€™s Traceâ€ in reference to the unproven fact that Gen. Andrew Jackson supposedly crossed this area in route to his fight with the Seminoles in Florida. The localâ€™s of Columbia up until the mid-twentieth century called the iron bridge that crosses the creek and the road leading up to it as â€œLizardâ€™s Lope.â€ In the beginning of this bridge over the Ommussee Creek, from the site of Old Columbia, southward, nearer to the Ommussee Creek and the present town on the bluff was owned by Dora Ann Paramore. Paramore charged a toll to cross her wooden bridge, sat on her porch to collect the said toll of the day, and no one crossed her. Dora Ann must have been a â€œmanâ€™s ladyâ€ with possible good looks and a cordial way with the suitors. She was married five (5) times. Her first husband was Loftin Neuthecut. Second came planter Issac Oâ€™Neal from the prosperous Thomas Robinson Community east of Haleburg where the Old River Road crossed the Yatta Abba. The third husband was Benjamin Hogan and number four was Calvin Hawkins. Her fifth and last husband, that we have records on, was William McGriff, one of the three McGriff brothers who came to the Columbia area in 1822. One of these brothers was known as â€œDevil Dickâ€ McGriff and moved to Texas. The two other McGriff brothers were Richard McGriff who became a wealthy innkeeper and gentleman planter in Columbia as well as brother Thomas McGriff who died in the service of his country fighting in the Confederate States Army, being a single man. Richard McGriff married into the affluent King family of the Columbia and Camp Springs area in 1834 with his November 20th marriage to Sarah King. Richard and Sarahâ€™s daughter, Nancy McGriff married Nathaniel Oakley, a Columbia carpenter who also died in the fight against the invading Northern Army in Dixie during the War of Yankee Aggression (1862-1865). By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Oakleyâ€™s â€œownedâ€ Columbia.
6) According to the United States Census of 1850, those living in the area of the Harperâ€™s at that time were as follows with all farming until otherwise stated:
Lewis and Mary J. Atwell (#154); L. B. and Mahala Casey (#155); Washington and Netty Williams (#156); John and Martha Silcox (#157); William and Sarah Silcox (#158); David and Martha Page (#159); James and Jane Skinner (#161); James C. and Lucinda Daniel (#162); William P. and Elizabeth Johnson (#163); Benjamin and Elizabeth Harper (#164); John L. Hayes and Daniel Saunders (#165); F. B. and Susan Wakefield (#166); A. J. and Elizabeth Binson (#167); Willis A. and Ann Tharp (#168); J. W. and Nancy Bass (# 169); Joseph and Elizabeth Irvin, married March 5, 1829 in Henry County, Book 1821-1868, page 12, and living with them, James W. Trupwell (# 170); White and Sarah G. Pynes, White Pynes married Sarah G. Lewis, August 26, 1836, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 27. (#171); Sidney A. and Sarah Smith (#172); James and Wyneyfred Pynes (#173) J. H. and Elizabeth Cochran (#174); William and Sarah Barnard [William was a Ginsmith] (#175);
This gives the â€œcommunityâ€ in which the Harper family was living in at the time of the Census in 1850. The census was begun in Wrightâ€™s Beat, old Beat 18, in the present Edwin Community of Henry County in the northwest corner. William Barnard kept the cotton gins in the area operating as a â€œginsmith.â€ The word â€œginâ€ in cotton gin came from the original name of the contraption, a â€œcotton engine.â€
7) Marriages mentioned in the Wilson Harper letter:
a) Henry James L. Adams married Nancy C. Aycock on December 21, 1859, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 336.
b) John W. Williams married Louisy (?) Aycock, March 27, 1859, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 332. This is from the Helon Cutler Book of Henry County Marriages and apparently Luezar as Wilson Harper spelled it and Louisy as Mrs. Cutlor spelled it was Louiser (lou-e-zer). The Aycocks were not in Henry County in 1850, but are there by 1859 for sure!
Bryant M.D. Pullin married Mary E. Ellis November 2, 1859, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page, 330. It is not clear if this is Bryant Pullin, M.D. or not. So there is a possibility that we had a Dr. and Mrs. Pullin marriage. Wilson Harper spells Ellis as Ellece. B. H. Harperâ€™s marriage to Mary Ellis was his 2nd marriage. Jackie Hines, an Ellis Family researcher quotes in a February 11, 2002 post, â€œI am NOT a descendant of the Pullin line but I do descend from a sibling of Mary E. Ellis that married #2, Bryant M.D. Pullin. If anyone of this line
desires Ellis information, I can be of help to them.â€ This should perhaps rule out any further research of Bryant being a M. D. but that those were indeed his initials. In the mid-19th Century, there were multiple names and initials that had been given to people since the earliest of the century. My great-great grandfather was D. A. J. Elliott or Davis Andrew Jackson â€œJackâ€ Elliott.
c) Richmond G. Spurlock married Elizabeth J. Sellers on November 17, 1859, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 328. Wilson Harper refers to this as â€œBerry Spurlock married Elizabeth Cellers.â€ The â€œGâ€ in Spurockâ€™s name could be an old Henry County name: Granberry giving the nickname of â€œBerryâ€. This is stretching the limits of historic opinion!
d) Thomas L. Stapleton married Harriett Page on January 7, 1860, Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 337. This had just happened when Wilson Harper wrote his letter to brother James Harper in Texas in January 1860.
8) The location of Wilson Harperâ€™s home when he wrote the letter from Henry County has some indications in the context of the letter itself. Wilson Harper wires that both the Pullins and the Ellis families lived in the Haleburg, Henry County, area. Further on Wilson Harper says that Mr. Pullin lives in the â€œupper part of the county,â€ which meant they his location must be in the old lower half of old Henry County that was carved off as George S. HOUSTON, County, Alabama in 1903, the stateâ€™s youngest county. A look at old land records is in order. In the book, Old Sparta and Elba Land Records & Military Records 1822-1860, by Maryilyn Hahn Davis, 1983 shows these land purchases:
a) James Pynes, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 29 on November 2, 1836.
b) John Handley, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28 on January 13, 1837.
c) William Silcox, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28 on February 16, 1853.
d) Jesse Skinner, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28, on March 5, 1853.
e) John Adams, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28, on July 25, 1854.
f) Benjamin Harper, Sr., a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28, on August 17, 1855. Township 2, Range 28 could have been where the Harper Family was in the United States Census of Henry County, Alabama in 1850, however, the neighbors are not matching. Township 2, Range 28 is located near the present town of Ashford, Houston County, Alabama that in the 1850s was a very sparsely populated area largely in virgin Yellow Southern Long Leaf Pine timber, thus the name for the interior of Henry County away from the Chattahoochee River known as the â€œpiney woods.â€ This land was on the edge of the frontier. Henry County was first settled in an inverted â€œLâ€ shape with the territory north of Abbeville from old Franklin across the Chattahoochee River from Fort Gaines, Georgia (established 1816) across the upper tier of the county to the old communities of Lawrenceville, County Line, and Edwin, and then south about one to two miles into the interior along the Chattahoochee River where there thrived a plantation culture and including the Thomas Robinson Community mentioned earlier. Columbia was the center of this planter culture with the Columbia Institute, a college with Ivy League professors, the planter religion of the Episcopal Church. An antebellum saying among Southern gentry was, â€œThere are many ways for a man to reach heaven, but a gentleman will surely chose the Episcopalian way.â€ Columbia was also a booming river port for the cotton plantations as well as the yeomen farmers in the interior or piney woods. Also, the names of Pynes, Adams, and Sellers in the weddings, and others point to the Ashford area where these old families still reside and are in the history of the area since early times. See Hub of the Wiregrass, by Fred S. Watson, 1972.
g) Mary Register, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28, on August 27, 1855. The Register family also had roots in the New Hope Community of Florida near Vernon.
h) Joshua Bryan, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2,
i) Range 28, on September 19, 1855. This is an old aristocratic name from the Columbia area just about 15 miles to the northeast. The Bryan Home on Main Street Columbia is a historic landmark and is the home of â€œGood Hope Farmsâ€ with Dr. Hope Christian in the lineage of the family at Columbia.
j) Garrett B. Sellevent, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 28 on November 19, 1855.
k) Matthew Grimsley, a resident of Henry County, purchased land in Township 2, Range 29, on September 16, 1855. This is one township to the east in the Open Pond/Woodville/Gordon area of old Henry. Gordon was also a port city that never overcame the popularity nor planter power of Columbia to its north. Matthew Grimsley was born March 6, 1800 in Robeson County, North Carolina, Matthew Grimsley took a much younger wife in Ethel (Ethyl) Sabrina Rawls who was born in the year 1812 (one source states 1814 as the date of birth and yet another places the date of birth in 1815 in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia). Some sources indicate Matthew Grimsley may have been born in Dobbs County, North Carolina. The Rawls family had adopted Ethel Sabrina and her bloodline surname was Winslow. Matthew had moved as a single man from North Carolina and married Sabrina at either Eufaula or Clayton in Barbour County, Sabrinaâ€™s place of birth. Though much younger than Matthew, Sabrina would not live to an old age and died April 27, 1857 at age 45. Matthew would out live his first wife, Sabrina Rawls, by nearly 30 more years dying September 10, 1886 in Jackson County, Florida in the community of Grand Ridge. Both are resting in peace at the Gunnâ€™s Church graveyard in Alabamaâ€™s youngest county of Houston (cut away from Henryâ€”the â€œMother Countyâ€â€”in1903), in the southeastern corner of the state along the Chattahoochee River. Henry County is known as â€œthe Mother County for all or portions of nine counties were craved from the once vast county as it was created at the origination of the State of Alabama in 1819 in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama. No longer is the place of burial of the Grimsleysâ€™ known as Gunnâ€™s Church, but as Friendship United Methodist Church. This church is located on Houston County Road Four (4). Also in this olden cemetery are off spring of Matthew and Sabrina Grimsley. When Matthew was widowed in 1857, he remarried to Madlina Summers. Matthew Grimsley left his extended family behind in Robeson County, North Carolina and settled in Early County, Georgia in 1821. He proceeded his father, Lewis Grimsleyâ€™s arrival to Early county by four years. By 1830, according to Joseph â€œChuckâ€ Grimsley, Matthew and his family were in Henry County, Alabama though the United States Census of that year does not enumerate the family. The Grimsleyâ€™s could have easily moved into Henry County after the Census had been completed. Matthew was a farmer like his father before him and owned land on White Oak Creek in 1836 and lived in Clayton. This property would later be in the Alexander family of Barbour County. The second war with the Creek and Seminole Indians occurred in 1836. Matthew Grimsley joined the Indian Fighters of the area in defense of hearth and home. He was mustered in at Irwinton, Barbour County, Alabama into Keenerâ€™s Company, Wellbornâ€™s Regiment of Alabama Mounted Volunteers. Irwinton was the first name given to Eufaula by the pioneer settlers of Henry County. General William Irwin had land holdings that reached from his large plantation home in todayâ€™s Shorterville, Henry County, Alabama along Alabama Highway 10, just south of McRaeâ€™s Mill Creek on the highest point in the area. Matthew was discharged from the Volunteer Alabama Mounted Volunteers at Camp Holloway, Eufaula (Irwinton), Alabama on August 21, 1836 at the end of the Creek Indian War. After this date, all of the Native Americans, the â€œAncient Onesâ€, were shackled and driven by foot to reservations in Oklahoma, in the infamous â€œTrail of Tears.â€ In a patent numbered 7184, Matthew Grimsley acquired land in Barbour County, Alabama in the sum of 80 acres located in Township 11 North and Range 26 East. This land was purchased at the land office in Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama dated October 10, 1840. It was not unusual for settlers in this period to be â€œsquattersâ€ on land as they moved into the frontier of the Alabama frontier and to actually purchase the land several years later to get a clear deed and title to property they had worked out and claimed from the wilderness. The earliest settlers in Henry County wrote in an 1873 Abbeville newspaper that the land was overgrown and the creeks and streams â€œthe densest of canebrakes.â€ Surely Matthew fought back this flora as he cleared land for his farming purposes. Also on October 10, 1840, Matthew received the patent for land in Henry/Barbour County in Township 9 North Range 29 East in the amount of 40.075 acres registered in the Montgomery Land Office. This land is patent number 7469. Again in patent #7456, Matthew received another 0.074 acres in the same township and range listed in this paragraph also dated on the 10th day of October 1840. On October 26, 1844, it is recorded in Book Number 505 in the Sparta Land Office in Conecuh County, Alabama, the Matthew Grimsley, a resident of Henry County purchased land in Township 8 North, Range 28 East. Today this land is located just south of â€œthe nookâ€ a peninsula type of land in the north east corner of the county. Streams running into the Chattahoochee River in this township and range are Thomas Mill Creek, Liberty Creek (that is named for the long established Liberty Methodist Church nearby), Hartridge Creek and McRae Mill Creek. This land that Matthew acquired in 1844 was south of the land on White Oak Creek. Also found in this area is the old Indian Boundary Line established in 1814 by the Treaty of Fort Jackson after General Andrew Jacksonâ€™s victory over the Creek at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend near present day Dadeville, Alabama. In the United States Census of Henry County in 1850, we find household #879:
a. GRIMSLEY, Matthew 50 Male born in North Carolina
GRIMSLEY, Sabrina 38 Female born in North Carolina
GRIMSLEY, Nancy A. 18 Female born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, James 17 Male born in Georgia
GRIMSLEY, John P. 14 Male born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, Felix 11 Male born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, Harmon 11 Male born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, Mary 8 Female born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, Joseph 7 Male born in Alabama
GRIMSLEY, Elizabeth 3 Female born in Alabama
ELLIS, Berry 22 Male born in Alabama
Berry Ellis could be a brother to Mary Ellis (Ellece) that Wilson Harper mentions in his letter as marring Bryant Pullin â€œin the upper part of the county.â€ It will be in this section, the upper part that Matthew Grimsleyâ€™s descendants will settle and become very affluent and influential by the end of the 19th Century. Matthew Grimsley was an upper middle class yeoman farmer with a total of eight slaves on his plantation in 1850 and nine on the farm in 1855. The Slave Census of 1850 describes the African American slaves on the Grimsley Place:
1 Female Age 35 Black 1 Female Age 9 Mulatto
1 Female Age 20 Black 1 Male Age 22 Black
1 Female Age 3 Black 1 Male Age 19 Mulatto
1 Male Age 21 Black 1 Female Age 3 Mulatto
According to land grant #10349 in the Sparta Land Office in Sparta, Conecuh County, Alabama, Matthew Grimsley received land in Township eight north and Range 29 east. This land was issued to Matthew on December 1, 1851 and is in the northeast portion of todayâ€™s Henry County. This was in Section Five of the Township and Range described. In 1996, the Old River Road, then County Road 93 intersected County Road 97 or the Will Powell Road on this land. Also running into this section was the Old Liberty Church Road. This is according to a Henry County Plat Book created in 1996 by the Abbeville and Headland Chambers of Commerce. Matthew Grimsley received land in southeast Henry County, now in Houston County, by military warrant #5484 at the Elba Land Office, land warrant was for Matthewâ€™s service in the Creek Indian War of 1836. Book Number 342 on September 16, 1855. This land was described, to wit: All of Section 24, Township 2 North, and Range 29 East. Joseph W. Bass located the land for Grimsley. This portion of Henry County was sparsely populated until after the War Between the States except for the lands that lay in an area along the west bank of the Chattahoochee River and about two miles inward. All lands further into the interior were referred to as the â€œpiney woods.â€ It is in this general area of Houston County that you find Gunnâ€™s Church Cemetery and the final resting place of Matthew Grimsley and his first wife, Ethel Sabrina Rawls. Records in the Henry County Courthouse in Abbeville, Alabama state that Elizabeth F. Grimsley married J. W. Granger on January 10, 1879. This is very possibly the descendant of Matthew Grimsley for his land in Houston County was in the area known as Grangerburg. In the Dykes Cemetery in Jackson County, Florida, there is found the grave of Madeline Grimsley with no dates of birth or death. This very well could be the second wife of Matthew Grimsley. Also in the cemetery is the grave of Fletcher L. Grimsley, born July 20, 1876 and died August 8, 1958. This could have been one of Matthew and Madeline Summers Grimsleyâ€™s children. Fletcherâ€™s wife, Stella Grimsley, maiden name unknown, was born February 6, 1883 and died December 11, 1939. One child of Fletcher and Stella is buried in the Dykes Cemetery, Allie Grimsley born June 18, 1906 and deceased August 30, 1926. The Grimsley Family Bible, a viable document in the search for ancestors, was left to Jeremiah, son of Richard Grimsley and grandson of Joseph Grimsley. From it we learn that the Matthew Grimsley Family lived at Clayton in Barbour County, Alabama. From there the family moved to the south end of pre-Houston County, Henry County to live at the Chattahoochee River Town of Gordon. Gordon was first called Open Pond, then Woodville and finally Gordon, being named for General Alexander C. Gordon of Franklin and Abbeville in Henry County and the father of popular and beloved Probate Judge Dan C. Gordon. The Bible also lists the children of Matthew and Sabrina Grimsley:
1) James Grimsley was the second child of the Grimsley couple according to United States Census Records, being born March 30, 1835 in Alabama and died May 24, 1895. James Grimsley married Sarah Caroline Grimsley, the daughter of Richard B. Grimsley and wife, Harriett Hawkins of Early (later Clay) County, Georgia. James and Caroline were married March 5, 1859. The couple had three sons:
The Children of James Grimsley and Sarah Caroline (Grimsley) Grimsley are:
a) J. B. Grimsley was May 2, 1860 and died on February 12, 1930 in Halesburg, Henry County, Alabama and buried in the cemetery of that place. J. B. Grimsley married Anelone Hubbard. The spelling of her first name is different in other sources. This spelling appears in the James Grimsley Family Bible, in the possession of Carrie Grimsley, Lower Smithâ€™s Ferry Road, Halesburg, Alabama in 1961. Miss Carrie Grimsley was the granddaughter of the couple.
b) Thomas Grimsley was born December 10, 1862 and died a single man on December 9, 1894, and became the first person to be buried in the Halesburg Cemetery on Main Street of that village. Ada Brown, wife of Oscar Winston Zorn, recalled that Thomas was buried wearing his black hat and spectacles. The grave is located near the front of the Halesburg United Methodist Church that the Grimsley Family was a driving force in its existence.
c) Robert Brenton Grimsley was born February 12, 1866 and died June 3, 1931. â€œSquireâ€ R. B. â€œBobâ€ Grimsley, as he was known by the citizens and environs of Halesburg sent a written letter to Mrs. Rebecca Autry, wife of the late Jonathan Hales, whom the village of â€œHALESBURGHâ€ was named, to ask for the hand of Miss Caroline Elizabeth â€œCarrieâ€ Hales in marriage in 1889. He received an affirmative nod from Mrs. Hales and the couple married in that year, 1889. The first home of residence of Bob and Carrie Hales Grimsley still stands on Main Street in Halesburg today. In 1885, the village of Halesburgh had received a post office with Alexander Napier as the first postmaster. In 1889, Bob Grimsley became the postmaster and soon moved into the Hales home with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jonathan Hales. Hales had moved to this site on the Lower Smithâ€™s Ferry Road circa 1870 from Barbour County. He had met and married Rebecca Autry in Goat Rock, Georgia north of Columbus, Georgia in his route to the western frontier of Alabama and Mississippi in 1845. A letter of recommendation for Jonathan Hales is a part of the Grimsley familyâ€™s possessions. Hales served his country, the Confederate States of America, in Kolbâ€™s Light Artillery. Other Barbour County settlers to follow Hales were Council Stephenson, Matt Griffin, and Capt. Dennis Harrison Zorn. R. B. â€œBobâ€ Grimsley was the enumerator of the 1900 and 1910 United States Census of Henry County in the 18th Precinct, which had Halesburg as its center. When the town was incorporated in 1911, Squire R. B. Grimsley ran against Ashley Henry Bascom Davis for the highest office of the new town and was successful in becoming the first mayor of Halesburg. He was also the Justice of the peace for the area. He operated a patent drug store on Main Street in Haleburg from the 1890s until his death. The corner upon which his storehouse stood was destroyed by fire in May 1905. All that was saved from the Grimsley Drug Store was the soda fount and its marble counter!
The children of Robert Brenton Grimsley and his wife Caroline Elizabeth Hales were:
2) Nancy A. Grimsley is identified as the first child of Matthew and Sabrina (Rawls) Grimsley being born circa 1835.
3) John Pelham Grimsley was born, according to his enumeration in the 1850 United States Census of Henry County, Alabama, in 1836 in Alabama.
4) Felix A. Grimsley, who born April 29, 1839 at or near Clayton by one source and at Gordon located south of Columbia by another. Felix Grimsley died September 27, 1917 and is buried in the Grimsley Family lot in the antebellum Columbia City Cemetery located in Columbia, Alabama, the second courthouse of Henry County. The original courthouse was at â€œRichmondâ€ located along Alabama Highway 134 west of Headland near Wiggins Church Cemetery. When Dale County was created from Henry County, Richmond fell inside the Dale County territory. The Henry County Commission was charged to find another courthouse. They chose the settlement near the A. M. Attawayâ€™s Trading Post and the Emmussee Indian village along the Chattahoochee River and the mouth of the Ommussee Creek. The Commissioners declared the name of the new county seat would bear the patriot All-American name: COLUMBIA. Felix A. Grimsley married November 12, 1868 at Gordon (then in Henry County), Alabama to Dora McGriff. Those present for the nuptials were J. E. Bryan (an old Columbia family name), Nate Pace, and E. F. Grimsley. This marriage is recorded in Henry County Marriage Book 1868-1871, page 14, in the Probate Judgeâ€™s vault in Abbeville, Henry County, Alabama. Dora McGriff Grimsley was born March 27, 1846 in the Columbia area and lived until August 25, 1912. She was then buried in the Grimsley Family plot in the Columbia City Cemetery.
The Children of Felix A. Grimsley and Dora
d) Virgil Horton Grimsley who was born July 19, 1870 at Gordon, Alabama. He died on February 18, 1909 and was buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Tipton County, Tennessee.
e) John Clifford Grimsley was born in Gordon, Alabama on February 20, 1872 and died in Fayette, Fayette County, Alabama on January 14, 1959 in West Alabama. His earthly remains were interred in the Grimsley Family Plot in Columbia.
f) Alva McGriff Grimsley was born at Corsby, Alabama in West Alabama on September 7, 1874. Alva died at Fayette, Fayette County, Alabama February 23, 1948 and was buried in the Grimsley family plot in Columbia.
g) Everett Miller Grimsley was born November 10, 1876 in Houston County, Alabama and died at Ashford, a town in that county, on February 3, 1964 and was subsequently buried in the Ashford City Cemetery.
h) Matthew Roscoe Grimsley was born in old Henry County in a section now located in Houston County, created in 1903 and named for the first Democratic Governor of Alabama after the end of Radical Republican Reconstruction (â€œFurther Destructionâ€) of the South in 1874, Governor George S. Houston. Matthew R. Grimsley entered this life on November 6, 1880 and departed on September 27, 1982. Matthew Roscoe Grimsley is buried in the Grimsley Family plot in Gunnâ€™s Churchyard.
i) Roslin Grimsley died very young and her place of death is not known.
j) Virgil Horton Grimsley was born near Gordon, Henry County, Alabama on July 19, 1870. Virgil was a doctor taking a course in diseases of children at Vanderbilt University when he died February 18, 1909 at Nashville, Tennessee. Virgil was buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Tipton County, Tennessee. He had been married at Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church, Tipton County, Tennessee on August 5, 1896 to Maybelle Mayes. She was born in Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee on May 1, 1875 and died in Memphis, Tennessee on July 6, 1959 and was buried at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Tipton County, Tennessee. The children of Virgil Horton Grimsley and wife, Maybelle Mayes are:
A) Vergil Mayes Grimsley born October 23, 1897 at Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee. Virgil married Carrie Elizabeth Campbell in Clinton, Hickman County, Kentucky on September 25, 1930. Carrie Elizabeth (Campbell) Grimsley was born February 16, 1899 in the Oakwood Community of Clinton, Kentucky. The children of Vergil Mayes Grimsley and his wife, Carrie Elizabeth Campbell were:
I. Ann Mayes Grimsley was born February 6, 1936 at Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee and married in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia to Peter Miles Taulbee on August 26, 1956. P. M. Taulbee was born May 20, 1935 at Fort Banks, Winthrop County, Massachusetts. This couples children were:
aa) Ann Laura Taulbee was born November 9, 1958 in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia.
bb) William Preston Taulbee was born on June 30, 1961 at McDill Air Force Base, Hillsbrough County, Florida.
cc) David Miles Taulbee
Born April 18, 1965
B) William Ashley Grimsley born February 28, 1902 at Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee.
C) Dora Lucile Grimsley, named for her grandmother Dora McGriff Grimsley, was born May 7, 1904 at Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee. Kathleen Grimsley born February 27, 1899 at Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee and departed this life on July 21, 1899 and was buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery at Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee.
5) Harmon Augustus Grimsley was born December 30, 1840 in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia. He departed this life in Phelps, Walker County, Texas and is buried near Huntsville in that state. As a young lad, Harmon A. Grimsley went to live with an uncle. After the creation of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama, he joined his new nationâ€™s army as a sergeant and colonel in a Regiment of the Georgia Infantry. With the war over, H. A. Grimsley moved to the State of Texas where he changed his name to W. D. Winslow, which was the surname of his motherâ€™s biological family. In Texas, Grimsley/Winslow married, raised a family, and died in their care on September 30, 1927.
6) Mary Grimsley was born in 1842 in Alabama and was buried in the Gunnâ€™s Churchyard in Houston County, Alabama after her death on September 3, 1935. (The 1850 United States Census of Henry County, Alabama indicates that Mary was born in 1847.)
7) Joseph D. Grimsley was born September 22, 1844 and died on October 5, 1857 and was laid to rest in the Gunnâ€™s Churchyard in todayâ€™s Houston County, Alabama.
8) Elizabeth Bettie Grimsley was born October 28, 1848 in Alabama and died February 22, 1886. She was buried in the Grimsley Family lot in the Gunnâ€™s Churchyard in Houston County, Alabama.
9) Louis P. â€œDocâ€ Grimsley was born February 28, 1851 and died September 27, 1917 and buried in Columbia City Cemetery.
10) Mose [Mosley (?)] Grimsley was born circa 1854 and was only three years old when his mother, Ethel Sabrina Rawls, wife of Matthew Grimsley died. Mose Grimsley was buried in the Mount Pleasant Churchyard on U. S. Highway 90 between Quincy and Chattahoochee, Florida. After the death of his first wife, Ethel Sabrina Rawls, Matthew Grimsley took for himself a second wife. The Widow Madlina Summers became Matthew Grimsleyâ€™s wife on September 23, 1858 in a marriage outside of the County of Henry because no record of their marriage is registered in the Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868 in the Probate vault in the county courthouse. Mrs. Summers had two children from her previous marriage. Matthew and Madlina (Summers) Grimsley continued Matthewâ€™s migration south by moving to Grand Ridge, Jackson County, Florida. Children of this couple were:
11) Myrtle K. Grimsley born August 8, 1861.
12) Isabelle Grimsley born November 24, 1862.
13) Alice C. Grimsley was born June 27, 1867.
14) Benjamin Franklin â€œFrankâ€ Grimsley was born between 1857 and 1872. Frank Grimsley died as a young child.
15) Annie May Grimsley was born March 3, 1872.
16) Fletcher Grimsley, the last child sired by Matthew Grimsley was born July 20, 1876 and was only 10 years old when his father passed away and Matthew Grimsley was laid to rest beside his first wife, Ethel Sabrina Rawls at Gunnâ€™s churchyard near the area where the Harperâ€™s lived.
l) By Military Warrant # 17036, William Robinson received Section 31, Township 3, Range 29 on October 25, 1856. This was northwest of the Harper lands.
m) By Military Warrant # 25373, Jeremiah Kimbrel received Section 13, Township 2, Range 28 on August 25, 1852.
n) By Military Warrant # 24373, Thomas Glass received Section 19, Township 2, Range 28, on August 25, 1852.
o) By Military Warrant # 56876, John Adams received Section 25, Township 2, Range 28, on December 18, 1852.
p) By Military Warrant # 18070, Thomas Hewett received Section 33, Township 2, Range 28, on January 13, 1852.
q) By Military Warrant # 26569, David Temples received Section 25, Township 2, Range 28, on January 29, 1853.
r) By Military Warrant # 1573, David Adams received Section 30, Township 2, Range 28 on January 29, 1853. Benjamin H. Harper located this land. This gives us the full name of Wilson Harperâ€™s father, Benjamin H. Harper, Sr.. Also, it gives us the name of the brother Wilson Harper referred to as â€œB. H.â€ in his 1860 letter. This must have been the two brothers,' James Harper in the â€œforeign landâ€ and Wilson Harper in Henry County, younger brother â€œHaleâ€ that is in the 1850 United States Census of Henry County. Placing all of these together, the father of James, Wilson, and Hale (B.H.) Harper was indeed, Benjamin Hale Harper, Sr. and â€œB. H.â€ was Benjamin Hale Harper, Jr. B. H. Harper married Sarah Ann Cain on September 4, 1861 according to Henry County Marriage Book 1821-1868, page 413. It should be noted hear that in this same Marriage Book, that there is a record that Benjamin Harper married Jane Stanley on July 16, 1829, which would have been a most acceptable date for Benjamin Hale Harper, Sr., and the head of the Harper family. The Stanley family at that period of time were living in the Thomas Robinson Community of Henry County as described earlier herein at the present location of Haleburg, Henry County, Alabama. It is very possible that this wife of B. H. Harper, Sr. was the daughter of the earliest known settler of those parts, one Sands Standley (Stanley) according to Mrs. Marvin (Clyde Stovall) Scott in The History of Henry County, page 71.
s) By Military Record # 28468, Timothy T. Smith received Section 35, Township 2, Range 28, on February 26, 1853.
This makes up the basic community of the Harper Family in the mid-1850s. A search of the 1860 United States Census of Henry County could divulge more and clearer information on the Harpers.
9) Harper Post Office is listed in the Historical Atlas of Alabama, Volume 1, by W. C. Remington and T. J. Kallsen, 1997, University of Alabama Press, pages 166-169, as being southwest of Ashford. This location is east of Cowarts Creek in todayâ€™s Houston County. To the east on the same road was the Grafton Post Office. No dates are given for either, but they are all the general area of Township 2, Range 28. The Posey Post Office was to the southwest and Terryâ€™s Crossroads was not far to the west as well.
10) There was the mention of the Adams marriage in the Wilson Harper letter. According to Fred S. Watson, in The Hub of the Wiregrass, 1972, page 39, he writes that Bob Adams was the first mayor in Ashford, while others say the first mayor was J. M. Watson. Two of the original mayorâ€™s sons, C. O. Adams and R. C. Adams were later elected as mayor of Ashford. Also in Ashford politics was O. W. Sellers, an early mayor, and another of the surnames in the Wilson Harper letter.
11) Kansas was mentioned in the Wilson Harper letter as a place that James and Susannah Oâ€™Neal Harper might be moving but according to Wilson Harper they had â€œfailedâ€ in so doing. Kansas in 1860 was yet a hotbed of the slave issue and was at one time called â€œBloody Kansasâ€ because of the civil war that broke out in that territory on between the â€œslaversâ€ and non-slaveholders.
12) In the land records of the Elba and Sparta Land Office, there is a notation that Charles H. Guy, a resident of Covington County, purchased land in Township 5, Range 28 on May 14, 1854. This is the ONLY mention of a Guy purchasing land in Henry County at these offices. A â€Mr. Guyâ€ is mentioned in Wilson Harperâ€™s letter.
This concludes my attempt of finding as many facts about the Wilson Harper letter as possible, though I am sure there are angles I have missed.
Respectfully submitted to the Historical Research Community,
J. Steven Elliott
Haleburg, Henry County, Alabama Historian
February 19, 2002