is our first known immigrant ancestor with the surname of Menefee. Carolyn Murray Greer wrote this biography which is posted on WikiTree for the progenitor of the Menefee family…which extends down to Giles County, Tennessee and into northern Alabama.
- George Menefee Esquire, spelled Minifye in earliest documents
- Born: circa 1596
- Devon, England, UK
- Probable: George Minifie and wife Mary Pendleton
- Sister Minife who married John Bishopp
- Sister Menife who married Roger Booker
- William Minifie who George Minifye sponsored in 1639
- Jane Pierce
- Mary Potts
- Married first to widow of John Rolfe whose maiden names was Jane Pierce
- Married second to
- Married third to
- Married fourth to Mary Potts
- Elizabeth Minifye who married Capt Henry Perry by Mary Potts
Immigration to America
- Name: George Minifie
- Arrival Year: 1623
- Arrival Place: Virginia
- Source Publication Code: 3520
- Primary Immigrant: Minifie, George
- Annotation: From state papers in the Public Record Office, London, a census of the inhabitants of Virginia taken between January 20 and February 7, 1624 or 1625. Lists 1,232 names, with ages and ships taken. Item no. 1272, Colonial Records of Virginia, has many more
- Page: 31
- His death date is given as 1646 in records I have researched.
- Parish Church of Weston(Westover) Virginia
The name Menefee has had numerous spelling variations over the centuries. Some spelled the name: Minife, Minefie, Minifye, Menifye and other variations of the surname, but the most prevalent spelling has become the surname written as Menefee. Those Menefee men were important people to lend their name to the history and the formation of this country, the great United States of America.
First settled by the English colonists in 1607 at Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, the County was formally created in 1634 as James City Shire by order of King Charles I. James City County is considered one of only five original shires of Virginia to still be extant today in essentially the same political form.
To further information on his immigration to America, George Menifie, who was born in 1596 or 1597, came to Virginia in 1623 on the Samuell from Wiltshire, England.
George Menefee is listed as counted among the living in James City on the first census taken in February of the year 1623. This first census was taken after the 1622 great Indian massacre who took the lives of a quarter of the 1,240 inhabitants within an hour of the start of the bloody ordeal.
George Minify was listed among those in the VA Early Census Index in 1624. He lived in Virginia Pioneer Township, James City County in Virginia.
George was born about 1596. George Menefee passed away in 1646. George Menefee was responsible for bringing over immigrants from England and with each sponsorship he received a grant of land.
In 1639 George Menefee sponsored William Minifie to be brought over to Charles City with a large group of people, and George received a bounty land warrant of acreage in Charles City.
George Menifie arrived in Virginia in 1623, was Burgess for James City County, 1629, and member of the Council, 1635-1646.He was one the wealthiest men of his day in the Colony, and was probably the leading merchant.
In 1634 he lived at “Littleton,” or “Littletown,”‘ not far below Jamestown.His large garden here ” contained fruits of Holland and Roses of Provence.” His orchard was planted with apple, pear and cherry trees, and peach trees. George Menifie introduced the first peach trees to America as he cultivated the first peach trees.Around the house grew, in the fashion of the times, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram.He took a prominent part in the deposition of Governor Harvey.
Later he removed to “Buckland,” an estate of 8,ooo acres in Charles City County. His only child, Elizabeth Menifie, married Captain Henry Perry of Charles City County. Captain Perry was a member of the Council. They left two daughters and co-heiresses. Daughter Elizabeth Perry married John Coggs, gentleman, of Rainslip, Middlesex, Esq. Daughter Mary Perry married Thomas Mercer, stationer, of London.
George Menifie helped raise an native american boy after he reached about ten years of age. It can be presumed that he took care of him after the death of William Perry. The following is an account:
- Pg 281
- [June 10, 1640.] Mr. George MeniFye, Esqr., this day presented to the court an indian boy of the country of Tappahannock, Christened and for the time of ten years brought up amongst the english by Captain William Perry, deceased, and […]”The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography”
- Pg 282
- Mr. George Menifye: the indian was examined and found to have been well instructed in the principles of religion, taught to read, instructed to writing: and whereas there hath formerly been given by will, a stock of three hundred pounds sterling by Nicholas Farrar, late of London, Merchant, deceased, by [for?] the Indians, whereof 24 pounds sterling was yearly to be paid to any person that should bring up three of the indian children the said Mr. Menifye for his better supportation in the education of the said indian boy desire certificate from the court of the bringing him up and instructing him in christian religion as is said: the governor and council approving and commending the care that hath been used towards this youth have condescended to the request of the said Mr. Menifye and have thought goo to recommend hereby his suit for the allowance of 8 pounds per annum, part of the said 24 pounds. towards the maintenande the said youth and to that purpose in testimony of the premises have thought good to cause the seal of the colony to be hereunto affixed.Given at James city the tenth day of June, a domini 1640.
The site of old Westover Church, near the house at “Westover,” still contains a number of tombs formerly in or near the old building. The name John James supplies information as to one of the early ministers of the parish. John Bishop was an early resident of Charles City County, as was Walter Aston. Howell Price was once clerk of the county. Virginia Council, 1641.
George Menefye was present at Court held at James City October 13, 1641. Those in attendance were:Sir Francis Wyat, Knt., Governor, Captain John West, Captain Wm. Pierce, Mr. George Menefye, Mr. Wm. Brocas, Mr. Amb. Harmer, Mr. Richmond Bennet.
The land owned by George Menifye, at least at the time, might be located using the information from this source:
[…]The area of the plat of John Harvey being given, also its northern boundary. Back Street, its eastern boundary “the Swamp lying on the East side of the said New Towne,” its southern boundary, **upon the highway close to the banke of the Main river, the approximate position of the tract was ascer- tained after several trials.
From the descriptions of the Harvey and Hamor tracts the position of those of George Menefy J and Richard Stephens, and also those of the two cross streets, all of which are men- tioned in the descriptions of the two first named, were readily found, and finally the tract of John Chew, all as shown on the Map of lames City, Va., 1607-1698.
N. B. — Lines indicated on the *’ Plat of the Tracts ** by numbers I, 2, 3, 4, II, 10, 9, are part of Sherwood (5) survey. 
- GEORGE MENEFIE of Buckland in Virginia, Esquire.Will 31 December 1645; proved 25 February 1646-7.To be buried at discretion of my wife in parish Church of Weston [Westover]. All debts in Virginia to be satisfied.All Tobacco or money debts in England to be transferred to my books, “The shipp Desire now Iyeinge before Buckland may with all possible expedition be dispatched way for England, and to bee part loaded with what Tobacco is ready here above, and receive the remainder of her ladeinge belowe, vizt, tooe hundred Hoggsheads on the partable account” 100 hoggshead my own account and the rest by discretion of a note to be found in a small book of tobacco shipped and to be shipped.
- My 100 hogsheads and my part in the ship Desire and cargo, and my 1-16 part of the William and George be consigned to Captain Peter Andrews, he to give an exact account to my heirs and executors.
- To my daughter Elizabeth Menefie all my land at Weston, att James Citty, and at Yorke River.
- To my brother John Bishopp, the money he owes me, and one-third part of my crop of Tobacco made the last summer at my plantation of Buckland.
- My sheep at Buckland to be a joint stock between my daughter Elizabeth, and son-in-law Henry Perry.
- To Mr. Jo. James £20 and 1000 lbs of Tobacco, he to preach a sermon at my funeral.
- To Mr. Jo. Converse, Chirurgeon, 2000 lbs of Tobacco.
- To my brother Roger Booker £50, he to assist Humphrey Lister in collecting my debts.
- To Jo. White, Merchant, £50, provided he continue one year longer in Virginia and collect my debts as formerly.
- Tobacco not able to go in the Desire to be sent in the Flower of London Goods consigned in the William and George to be returned in Kind.
- Everything to my wife and daughter.Executrix and guardian to my daughter; my wife Mary.
- Tobacco due to me from Captaine Tho. Varvell shall be Satisfied by Walter Aston. Satisfaction to be made to Mr. Humfrey Adlington for his care in my business concerning Chamberlaine, by Captaine Peter Andrews. Overseers friends Captain Peter Andrews, Richard Bennett, Esq.
- Witnesses Howell Prise, Hunifrey Lister.Fines, 31.
- ↑ Source Bibliography: JESTER, ANNIE LASH, and MARTHA WOODROOF HIDEN. “Musters of the Inhabitants in Virginia 1624/1625.” In Adventurers of Purse and Person; Virginia, 1607-1625. N.p.: Order of First Families of Virginia, 1607-1620 [Princeton University Press], 1956, pp. 5-69.
- ↑ Original Lists of Person of Quality, by Hotters
- ↑ Virginia, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1607-1890
- ↑ Complete listing of Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666 (from book published 1912 by George Cabell Greer, now copyright-free)
- ↑ The Virginia Council & General Court Records 1640-1641 From Robinson’s notes, Virginia Historical Society Collection.
- ↑ Virginia Land Patent Record, Book I, p. 3. t /did, Book I, p. 5. J /did, Book I, p. 4.
has been written in parts by Beth Terry Murray. She has approved our posting some of them here. They will come in the parts as written. Enjoy.
One Man’s Life (cont.)
I should mention here that most people remember him being called Wilbo or as his family called him “Bo”.
We had been living in a house next door to my Uncle Glen and Aunt Stella, I loved it because I got to see my cousin Pam every day and there were kids around the neighborhood that we saw all the time. In that house we slept on a sleep porch at the back, my daddy and Ricky slept in a full size bed at the very end of the porch, then I slept in a baby bed that was turned to touch the foot of their bed, and my mother slept in a half bed that touched the end of the baby bed. Yes…..from what I remember I slept in that baby bed until we moved into our new house in 1961, where I had my own bedroom with a new bedroom suit.
Mother had inherited 4 1\2 acres when her parents died and my daddy had bought one of her sisters 4 1\2 acres which then meant he had 9 acres. I really didn’t know what exactly that meant, but I knew by the smile on his face that it meant a lot to him. He bought me and my brother Shetland Ponies and himself several Black Angus Cows. Now the cows were by no means a huge herd, but it was his dream to have something that belonged to him and his own family that he could love and knew would always be there for him. I never doubted for one minute that he loved me and would have done anything for me. As a matter of fact, I remember when we were studying how to tell time in school. I could not get the hang of it and when the teacher would give us a test on clocks I would break out in a cold sweat. My daddy knew I couldn’t read clocks so he took off work 1\2 a day when I was out of school. He went into his and mother’s bedroom and got his Big Ben alarm clock and sat with me all afternoon until the light went on over my head and I had the hang of it.
His mother moved to Town Creek when I was about 8 years old, and he treated her as if she had never left. By the time she came home my grandfather Tom had been killed in Leighton at a little store he managed. A man had come in late one night and stabbed him to death. When Mama Terry moved back to Town Creek it was as if she never left, daddy went to see her every morning before he went to work. His work consisted of being a meter reader for the gas department, I know he would mention wanting a higher paying job periodically, but with the one he had he got to talk to people and that was something he loved to do. He came into my bedroom every Sunday morning and read the comic paper to me, in a very deep voice. To my knowledge he never culled anybody, no one was beneath him or better than him. He never met a stranger and he helped anyone that he saw in need. He called the brothers and sisters that lived out of town to schedule vacations and to let them know when they were expected to be home. I can assure you if Bo wanted you at home at that time, then you were home. The brothers and sisters would fish and sit around and talk about all the old times. Most of the kids would sit there and listen as long as we could, at least until the mosquito’s came out.
John Birdwell is one of my heroes and ancestors. John Birdwell led a very storied life. He is the son of George Birdwell and Mary L Looney Birdwell. His father was a Revolutionary War Patriot. He is likely one of yours, too, if your surnames include Allen, Looney, Harmon, Isbell, Murray, Birdwell, Gregory, Sparks, Lenz, and a myriad of others.
The featured image is where John Birdwell’s property was located in Mississippi Territory, later Madison County, Alabama. He owned property in Tennessee, and in the counties of Madison, Lawrence, Franklin County, and Fayette County, Alabama. He also owned property in Texas, Rusk County and possibly Nacogdoches County.
John Birdwell was born in the Bent of the James River (sound familiar Peebles family?) on 24 Sep 1770. He lived and owned property in the states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas. He died at Mt Enterprise, Rusk County, Texas on 16 Feb 1854 at the home of his son, Allen Birdwell. The account of his death is tragic.
The Birdwell descendants are eligible to join:
- First Families of Tennessee
- First Families of Alabama
- Daughters of the Republic of Texas
- Sons of the Republic of Texas
- Daughters of the American Revolution (#A098196)
- Sons of the American Revolution
- Colonial Dames of the XVII Century
He first came to Texas in 1838 by some accounts  , while one reference gives a date as early as 1835, he did not move permanently until 1842 after the death of his wife, Mary Allen Birdwell. His son, Col. Allen B. Birdwell, wrote in his own notebook ledger that he moved to Texas in 1842 and that his father John Birdwell lived with him in Nacogdoches County. John Birdwell was still living in Allen Birdwell’s household in Rusk County in the 1850 census. The Handbook Of Texas by the Texas State Historical Association, says: “Allen Birdwell’s father John may have moved to Nacogdoches County, Texas, in 1838, and Allen and his wife Lucinda (Ross) followed by 1842.” 
John Birdwell was in Houston on July 8, 1838, when he wrote a letter of recommendation for George Nixon which is preserved in the George Antonio Nixon manuscripts collection at the University of Texas Arlington 
A family history states that John Birdwell moved to Nacogdoches County in 1838 and “lived at Old North Church two years,” then moved twelve miles to Mt. Enterprise in what became Rusk County when Rusk was formed from part of Nacogdoches.
John Birdwell signed his will Jan. 24, 1854, and it was entered in Probate Court April 27, 1854.Will is provided as image in this narrative.
John Birdwell died Feb. 16, 1854. The estate included $1,400 cash and included slaves and possibly other property since Col. Allen B. Birdwell posted a $4,000 bond with the Rusk County Probate Court to serve as administrator of his father’s estate, a considerable bond in those days.
FIRST FAMILIES OF TENNESSEE Descendants of John and Mary Birdwell are eligible for membership in the First Families of Tennessee, First Families of Alabama, the Sons of the Republic of Texas, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
1770 John Birdwell and Mary Allen grew up in Sullivan County, N.C., which later became Sullivan County, Tennessee. They married and lived there several years before moving to Alabama.
1781 John Birdwell (born 1770 Virginia, died 1854 Texas) and wife Mary Allen… in 1781 were in Sullivan County, North Carolina (now Tennessee), 1809 Madison County, Alabama; 1819 Lawrence County, Alabama.
FIRST FAMILIES OF ALABAMA 1805 The Birdwells settled in Madison County, Alabama in 1805, where they were charter members of the Enon Baptist Church which later became First Baptist Church of Huntsville. John Birdwell was the first clerk. (Alabama Historical Society marker in Marshall County lists their daughter “Sarah Birdwell Isbell, one of the earliest settlers of Madison County, 1805.” His son Allen Birdwell stated in his ledger that his parents took him to Alabama in 1805, when he was three years old).
1808 “Birdwell Family Tree” by Velma Stovey Schonder, p. 59: “JHB thinks that JB was living in Madison Co., AL by 1808. He was one of the organizers and first clerk of The First Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL. …The church minutes for 6-1-1811 state that the church authorized Brethren Watkins, Pruet Brock, Birdwell and Powell to view a place for a meeting house (Dale Langston, from microfilm notes at Madison Co. Library Heritage Room, Huntsville). “JB is on the 1809 census Madison Co. Al/Ms Territory, p.7, with 2 males under 21, 1 male over 21, 6 females under 21 and 1 female over 21. According to JHB his last 4 children were born there, while his first 4 children married there.” Page 23 (different version, p.72): “John Birdwell…moved Tx 1838.”
1809 Enon Baptist Church Records (Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama), Sept. (2?), 1809:
1809 September (1st?) Saturday 1809. 1st The Church Met & after Prayer proceeded to Business– …5th The Church Appoints Brother Birdwell to Write the Association Letter & Bring the same to next meeting–
1810 Enon Baptist Church Records, Sept. 1, 1810: September 1st Saturday–1810 The Church met and after proceeded to business– 1st Opened a door for the reception of member– 2nd the church took up a reference from last meeting and laid it over till next meeting– 3rd The Church agree to delegate Bros. Hellums, Childress and Birdwell to The Association.
1818 Madison Co. DB E, p. 133 #500: item 500: dated 8-18-1818 Grantor, John & Mary Birdwell Grantee, George Oglethorpe Gilmer For the sum of $3300 Ind. SW/4 Sec. 18-2-E lying east of Briar Fork of Flint River, & 10 Ac. in 3/2 & 10 a. N/2 NW4 sec. 17-2-1E. Proven 11-3-1818 & DR (Pope) (Note: 10 a. in S/2) purchased by Birdwell from Joseph Powell. Witnessed by: Lewis B. Taliaferro, Jacob Pruett, and Levi Isbell.
1818 1818, Aug. 18 – Madison County, Alabama; John Birdwell and wife Mary deeded land to George. Oglethorpe Gilmer. Witnesses: Lewis B. Taliaferro, Jacob Pruitt, Levi Isbell. Levi Isbell was John and Mary Birdwell’s son-in-law.
1819 In January 1819 John and Mary Birdwell moved to Lawrence County, Alabama where they purchased large tracts of land and were also founders of this church,Birdwell Springs Baptist Church, which later changed its name to Enon Baptist Primitive Baptist Church. They were both established within the Mississippi Territory since Alabama was still a part of the native american nation and not yet a state.
The First 200 Years of the First Baptist Church of Huntsville [Alabama] gives the origin of that Enon Church as several years earlier: “All of Enon’s very first members were squatters since the government’s Nashville land office, which handled the sale of Madison County lands, did not even open for business in the Madison County area until August 1810, more than a year after Enon was established.
Page 3: “After having met in private homes for two years, the church in June 1811 appointed a committee —- William Watkins, Jack Prewit, Isaac Brock, John Birdwell, and Joseph Powell –‘to view a place for a meeting house.’ That led to the start of construction of a log building on the western bank of the Brier Fork of Flint River, a few hundred yards north of the present terminal of the North Huntsville Executive Airport. The small building, exact location unknown, was close to the river bank…, affording a convenient place for baptismal services. For some reason, perhaps a shortage of funds, construction was halted short of completion. Almost two years later, Feb. 6, 1813, a new committee was named, consisting mostly of the first group plus William Hellums, to complete the work, and while there was apparently no fanfare to herald its conclusion, the structure was finished and in 1815 did accommodate the second annual meeting of the Flint River Association. …”with regard to the squatter hypothesis, it is interesting to note that the providers of Enon’s one-acre lot, John Birdwell and Joseph Powell, did not themselves receive title to their jointly-held property until April 1814, the church construction having begun on their proffered land three years earlier. But things were ‘looser,’ less formal in those days.”
“A History of Early Settlement: Madison County Before Statehood,” The Huntsville Historical Review (2008) by the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society provides this information of the church and its: “The closest meetinghouse was Enon Baptist Church on the Briar Fork of the Flint Reiver. Established in 1809, one of its three founders, and its first pastor, was a preacher who lived and owned two pieces of property in the region, John Canterbury. There is no evidence that he was a slaveholder, but the second Enon pastor, Richard Shackelford, was a major landowner who at his death had more than a dozen slaves. He was called as a pastor in 1815 and served until his death in 1823. Enon’s first meetinghouse was a lot building constructed in 1813 on the Briar Fork. (This is on land of the present Madison County Executive Airport.) “Joseph Powell and John Birdwell, charter members of the Enon Church, jointly owned the land adjacent to land owned by both Canterbury and Shackelford. The church building had been erected and in use for a year before Powell and Birdwell themselves received title to the property that they had provided to the church.”
1819 1st Saturday January 1819 (Jan.2) “John Birdwell and Mary his wife” were granted letter of dismissal from the Enon Church in Madison County on the first Saturday in January, Jan. 2, 1819. (ref., First Baptist Church Minutes, James K. Harrison, First Baptist Church History Committee.)
They moved to Lawrence County near Moulton and established a new church.
1819 “F.W. Helmbold, Curator of the Society, in his historical presentation, revealed the fact that the Enon church was constituted originally as Birdwell Springs Baptist Church on the third Monday in June (June 21), 1819.”
1820 The 1820 Federal Census Record reads: Lawrence County, AL.
- John Birdwell & wife over 21,
- 3 sons under 21,
- 6 daughters under 21.
The 1820 Federal Census Record in Franklin County, Alabama has John Birdwell listed there as well. He owned property in many places.
The 1820 Federal Census Record for Giles County, Tennessee lists a John Birdwell, but this one is John Birdwell’s nephew John (son of Robert) and family His nephew was probably the John Birdwell in Giles County, Tennessee.
1820 John Birdwell was assigned by an act of the Alabama legislature to review the Flint River in Cotaco County (later Morgan) Alabama, from its junction with the Tennessee to its main fork, to see if it was navigable.
3 Dec 1820 “On December 6, 1820, an act of the Alabama Legislature was approved which designated David Parker, Jonathan Burleson, and John Birdwell, or any two of them, to make a careful “review” of Flint River, from its mouth to the main fork therein, and report the practicability of its navigation, the distance examined, and the expense necessary to improve the river for navigation. On the 20th of December an act was approved to incorporate the Flint River Navigation Co. The incorporators were Fleming Jordan, George Taylor, James McCartney, John Sprowl, Stephen Pond, John P. Brown, John Grayson, Dial Perry, David Walker, Ebenezer Byram, Stephen McBroom, William Derrick, and David Cobb, and they were authorized to improve the navigation of the Flint River in Madison County, from Capt. Scott’s Mills to the Tennessee River. Section 2 of the act provided a penalty of $3 for each day a tree cut or felled into the stream so as to obstruct navigation was allowed to remain, the proceeds of such fine to be applied to the improvement of the river.” The Act is quoted in Alabama Genealogical Quarterly, vol. 1, p.216, and also the Alabama Genealogical Society, Inc., Magazine (1976) vol. 18, issue 1-4, p.38.
Owen, op. cit., p. 595: “It does not appear that much, if any, work was done under either of these acts. In any event, there was none of sufficient permanence to affect the navigation or other characteristics of the stream at the present time. References.—Acts, 1820.
1819 “Enon Church. This church is situated in Lawrence county, ten miles east of Moulton. It was originally called Birdwell’s Spring Church. It was one of the constituent members of the association. It was organized in July, 1819, on nine members, whose names are as follows: Stephen Penn, Mary Penn, John Birdwell, Mary Birdwell, Ezekiel Thomas, Jenny Thomas, George Keys, Elizabeth Keys, and Sarah Simpson.”
They left this church for a few years and helped organize Hopewell Church near Danville.
Page 169: “Hopewell Church, Morgan County. This church was received into the association in July 1825. It was constituted on the first Saturday in December, 1824. The presbytery was Elders Featherstone, Walden, Stephen Penn and John Birdwell. …We suppose it is the place where the church house now stands, about two and one-half miles east of Danville.”
SOME EARLY ALABAMA CHURCHES (ESTABLISHED BEFORE 1870) (1973) by Mabel Ponder Wilson, Dorothy Youngblood Woodyerd, Rosa Lee Busby, Daughters of the American Revolution Alabama Society, p. 95: “Organized in 1819, this church was first known as Birdwell’s Spring Church. The nine organizing members were Stephen Penn,…John and Mary Birdwell….”
Page 130: “Hopewell Baptist Church (located two and one-half miles east of Danville) Hopewell Baptist Church was constituted… l824, with the Presbytery composed of Elders Featherstone, Walden, Stephen Penn, and John Birdwell.”
‘LIFE AND LEGEND OF LAWRENCE COUNTY, ALABAMA’, by Dorothy Gentry (Tuscaloosa, 1962): “Enon, originally called Birdwell’s Spring Church, located ten miles east of Moulton was organized in July, 1819 on nine members, whose names were Stephen Penn, Mary Penn, John Birdwell, Mary Birdwell, Ezekiel Thomas, Jenny Thomas, George Keys, Elizabeth Keys and Sarah Simpson.”
1823 In October 1823, one William Birdwell (1766-1823), age 57, was executed at Moulton, Lawrence Co., AL. for the murder of Mr. Rhea. Thought to be the son of John Birdwell’s older brother Robert Birdwell (1751-1815) of Giles County, Tennessee. The two had had a dispute 10 years before.
1824 The Morgan Baptist Association: “One of the oldest churches in Morgan County, Hopewell was organized on the first Saturday in December 1824. It is mentioned in Hosea Holcombe’s 1840 A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists of Alabama. The presbytery was composed of Elders John Birdwell, Stephen Penn, Walden, and Featherstone. Charter members were Barkley Ballard, Polly Ballard, William Johnson, Sarah McDowell, Martha Rodgers, James Simmons, Stacy Simmons, Elizabeth Simmons, Polly Simmons, Solomon Simmons, Mary Simmons, Nicholas Gillentine Sr., Jane Gillentine, Richard L. Gillentine Jr., Martha Gillentine. Annie Gillentine, Gideon Spalden, and Nancy Spalden.” The first deacon was Nicholas Gillentine and the first clerk was William Johnson. The first recorded pastor was Henry W. Hodges in 1827. The church was located on land deeded to the church by William Johnson, “near the well of Brother Simmons” about two and one-half miles east of Danville, eight tenths of a mile south of what is now Highway 36, between Hartselle and Danville. The church was received into the Muscle Shoals Association in July, 1825.”
1828 Lexington (KY) REPORTER, July 23, 1828, p.1 contains a letter John Harris of Moulton, Lawrence Co, AL., to Andrew Jackson on the character of his late father John Harris, Justice of the Peace of Lawrence County. Column 1 cites “John Birdwell, Esq.” among those vouching for him. Column 5 is signed by John Birdwell, Allen Birdwell, and others.
John Birdwell received letter of dismission from Enon in 1842 when his wife Mary died and he moved to Texas. He was known to have visited Texas already by 1838 and probably made several other trips between Texas and Alabama.
Alabama Genealogical Society, Inc. magazine, Volume 21, Issue 1-2 (1958), (reissue? 1989) p. 24: “The First Meeting House. On Saturday, June 1, 1811, the church appointed the following committee ‘to view a place for a meeting house’: …John Birdwell and Joseph Powell.” p. 25: “…west bank of the Brier Fork of the Flint River, on a triangular piece of land about one acre in size. It was in the Northwest Quarter of Section 17, Township 2, Range 1 East of the prime meridian. This entire section (160) acres) was patented (or deeded) by the United States of America to John Birdwell and Joseph Powell…” p.26: “John Birdwell was the son of George Birdwell and Mary. John Birdwell was born in 1770 in Virginia. He married Mary Allen in Tennessee. Some of his children were born there. He moved to Mississippi Territory, Huntsville Meridian about 1805. According to the minutes of Huntsville First Baptist Church, his last Sunday as clerk was January 2, 1819. From there he moved to Lawrence County Alabama where he donated land and helped form the Birdwell Springs Baptist. About 1836 he moved to Fayette County, Alabama, then into Walker County, Alabama. Around 1845, after the death of his wife, he moved with his son, Col. Allen Birdwell, to Rusk County, Texas, where he died in March 1854. He has many descendants in Texas.”
FOOTPRINTS (Ft. Worth Genealogical Society, 1979), vol. 23-23, p. 107 says John Birdwell moved to Rusk Co, Texas in 1845.
His will is published in Alabama Genealogical Society Magazine (Birmingham, AL: 1985), Vol. 19, Issue 1. (Reissue 1989?)
Isbell Country: Genealogy of an Isbell Family by Odessa Morrow Isbell (2000), pp. 11, 19-20: “John Birdwell was in Alabama by 1805; settling north of Huntsville in 1805. He owned land in Sullivan Co., Tennessee and kept two homes so he could homestead Alabama property. He came to Texas in 1842-43 with son Col. Allen Birdwell. …”
1842 George W. Birdwell administered the estate of Robert Bell estate in 1842 in Rusk County, Texas (one book states incorrectly it was John Birdwell). Robert Bell (27 May 1797 TN-13 June 1842 Rusk Co, Tx) was former sheriff of Cherokee County, Alabama. His wife Belinda Scott (b.4 Jun 1795 TN d. 1842) also died in 1842 not long after her husband.
Some Mallorys and Bells (Greenville, Tx.: 1950) by James Robert Mallory, pp. 21-22: “Robert Bell…sent down to Cherokee County, Alabama, for John Birdwell, who was County Judge when Robert Bell was Sheriff.” (Correction: Robert Bell was sheriff of Cherokee County when John Birdwell’s nephew George, son of Joseph Birdwell, was county judge there.) Page 22: “The three families, Bell, Gray and Birdwell came out to Texas together, arriving in 1839. Bell’s headright joined that of Houston….” The author recites his grandfather’s descriptions of Sam Houston visiting the Bell home when he was a young boy. p.26: “John Birdwell, who had come to Texas with Robert and Belinda Bell and had been very close to the Bell family since their days in Alabama, was made Administrator of the Estate of Bell, at Bell’s dying request. Creditors immediately asked for an accounting and Birdwell auctioned off the farm and all the personal belongings of the family for benefit of the creditors.” p.27: “Birdwell, who had taken a headright and then bought up several more from disgruntled settlers, saw that it was impracticable for the Howeths to try to take care of all these children, so he ordered that the two boys, James, fifteen, and William, eleven, be bound out to Robert Gray, who had married Cynthia Scott, a sister of Belinda Scott Bell.”
1854 Birdwell family records show that John Birdwell died Feb. 16, 1854, at age 83 years, 4 months, 23 days, in the home of his son, Col. Allen Birdwell, and was buried in the family cemetery on the site. A fairly large number of the Birdwell family was buried in the cemetery, along with some related families and a number of slaves. After the farm had passed out of the Birdwell family, the later owners rather callously plowed the cemetery under. Trees marking some of the graves were cut down, while the gravestones were thrown into a ditch and covered. A partial list of those known to be buried there was supplied by Mrs. Bohannon of Mt. Enterprise, and a descendant of the Birdwell family, and printed. Some burials were recorded in the Birdwell family bible and appear in the book The Mitchells of Linn Flat by Gwenneth Mitchell, including the notation that John Birdwell’s grave is there.
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas, 1854-1857, by A.S. Ruthven, Grand Secretary and Past Grand Master, vol. II (1857), p.242: Mount Enterprise Lodge, No. 60. p.243: Past Masters. Master Masons. …Allen Birdwell, John Birdwell
The Mitchells of Linn Flat, by Gwenneth Aenone Marshall Mitchell (Austin, 1981), refers to the Birdwell Cemetery on pp. 174, 202, 214 and 215. Page 174: John Birdwell, his grandson John C. Birdwell, and John A. Birdwell Jr. were buried in a row, side by side, “at the Birdwell family burying ground on the Allen Birdwell place, not far from the family residence near Orton Creek,” three miles from Mt. Enterprise. On p. 202: “The cemetery has been abandoned for some years and pine trees grew over it. Some twenty years ago the ground was smoothed over and seeded in range grass.” From Gwenneth Aenone Marshall Mitchell (posted 10-29-1999 on Birdwell List, on Rootsweb.com): “Rusk Co., Texas History by the Rusk Co. Historical Society, 1982: page 112: John Birdwell, “old great-grandpap”, John C., his grandson, and John Birdwell (Old Uncle John) are all 3 buried in a row side by side. John C. in the middle, Grandpap on the southside, and Uncle John on the north side. Lucinda Ross Birdwell was most likely the first buried there.
1809 census shows 2 sons and 6 daughters born 1788-1809.
1820 The Federal Census record for Lawrence County, Alabama shows:
- John Birdwell & wife over 21
- 3 sons under 21, 6 daughters under 21
1830 Federal Census for Lawrence County, Alabama shows:
- John Birdwell & wife,
- 1 son (John),
- 2 daughters 15-19 (Lucinda & Ann),
- 1 dau 5-9 (Talitha).
1840 census shows all children gone from home.
The combined censuses of 1809, 1820 and 1830 show these children:
- 1 m b1788-1809 Moses 1796
- 1 m 1788-1809 Allen 1802
- 1 f Nancy 1795
- 2 f Eliz 1797
- 3 f Sarah 1799
- 4 f ?Mary Polly c1800-1804?
- 5 f Susan c1805-7
- 6 f Jane 1807
- 1 male 15-19 (1811-1815) John 1814
- 1 f 15-19 (1811-1815) Lucinda 1812
- 1 f 15-19 (1811-1815) Ann 1813
- 1 f 5-9 (1821-1825) Talitha 1821
Children of John Birdwell and Mary Allen:
- 1 Nancy Birdwell b Nov. 3, 1795 married James S. Romine
- 2 Moses Birdwell b 1796 married .1815 Sarah Duncan
- 3 Elizabeth Birdwell b Dec.31, 1797 (Jan. 1, 1800?) married 1813 James Isbell
- 4 Sarah H. Birdwell b Feb 14, 1799 married Levi Isbell
- 5 Allen B. Birdwell b Mar 22, 1802
- 6 ? Mary/Polly Birdwell c1800-5 (on some lists), (died young?)*
- 7 Jane Birdwell 1806- m. Samuel Neal (Jane Birdwell m. 10/27/1825 Samuel Neal (10/29/1825 recorded Lawrence Co. Marriage Book 1A, p.226; Gandrud, p.27); lived there 1830 w/ 1 son under 5. Lived in Panola Co., MS in 1850.
- 8 Susan Birdwell 1807- married Joel S Watkins
- 9 John Alexander Birdwell 1812-1871
- 10 Lucinda Birdwell 1809-1811 married James M. Vaught
- 11 Ann Birdwell Feb. 15, 1813-1868 married James B. Fowler
- 12 Son bc1816 (1810-20) on 1820 census, d 1820-30*
- 13 Talitha R. Birdwell June 18, 1821 married James Smyley Wright
- It is possible that one of the married daughters and her husband (Romine or Isbell?) was living with them in the 1820 census and there was no son who died young. However, both James Romine and Levi Isbell were born well before 1800 and do not fit the 1810-20 age bracket.
Some lists of children online include these:
- 1 Mary Birdwell 1800-1888 m1 John McCormack,2Josiah Phelps. This Mary was the daughter of John, son of Robert Birdwell
- 2 George William Birdwell 1811-1831, some lists show him as another son, and some say died at Moulton, Lawrence Co., AL. (confusing him with Moses?), but he was not in the household in the 1830 census.
- 3 Matilda Birdwell Jan 20, 1816-d 1895 Bristol, Ellis Co, Tx is on some lists as another daughter, but note that Talitha R. Birdwell’s name is incorrectly transcribed as Matilda by some researchers. The Matilda Birdwell of Bristol, Tx. was the daughter of John Birdwell of Giles Co., Tn.; granddaughter of Robert and Ellen (Sanford) Birdwell, Robert being the brother of John Birdwell who married Mary Allen. Matilda married in Giles CO., TN. 12 Dec 1834 Neal C. Dever (1802-1878).
- 4 Judge Thomas Gaines Birdwell b1804 Giles Co, TN was not a son. He was a son of John Birdwell’s nephew John (son of Robert), and a brother of Mary and Matilda above. Interestingly, his son Thomas J. Birdwell’s daughter Pearl married John William Culver, son of Susannah (Culver) Isbell Culver, widow of Zach Isbell, son of Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell Conway.
- 5 William McElree Birdwell 1837-1906 was a grandson (son of John A.), rather than a son as some lists incorrectly show.
1912 “For My Children: Memoir of Rev. George Preston Birdwell” (1912): “My grandfather, John Birdwell,…died at my father’s house near Mt. Enterprise, Texas, at the age of 84 years. He was never sick in his life, never had a chill nor a fever. There were nine boys in the family, and all died between the ages of 84 and 90. My father, Colonel Allen Birdwell, was born in West Tennessee…moved with his parents to North Alabama and settled about one mile from Raleville in Lawrence County…. In 1838 he came to Texas to look at the country. He was well pleased and in 1841, he moved to Texas. He settled first near Old North Church in Nacogdoches County. I think he made two crops there before he bought his home, three miles south of Mt. Enterprise, in Rusk County. This was all Nacogdoches County then, in Rusk County. This was all Nacogdoches County then….”
Family links: Parents:
- George Birdwell (1721 – 1780)
- Mary Birdwell (1742 – 1811)
- Mary Allen Birdwell (1780 – 1840)
- Nancy Birdwell Romine (1795 – 1885)
- Moses Birdwell (1796 – 1832)
- Sarah H. Birdwell Isbell (1799 – 1876)
- Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell Conway (1800 – 1872)
- Allen B. Birdwell (1802 – 1893)
- Susan Birdwell Watkins (1809 – 1888)
- Lucinda Birdwell Vaught (1811 – 1873)
- John Alexander Birdwell (1812 – 1871)
- Ann Birdwell Fowler (1813 – 1868)
- Talitha R. Birdwell Wright (1821 – 1905)
- Robert Birdwell (1745 – 1815)
- George Birdwell (1760 – 1816)
- Benjamin Birdwell (1765 – 1840)
- Moses Birdwell (1769 – 1848)
- John Birdwell (1770 – 1854)
- William Birdwell (1772 – ____)
- Find A Grave Memorial# 50518424
- Find A Grave Memorial# 50518424
- Find A Grave Memorial# 50518424
- The Mitchells of Linn Flat by Gwenneth A.M. Mitchell, pp. 184, 201
- Col. Allen B. Birdwell Journal
- Jennifer Eckel, “BIRDWELL, ALLEN,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association
- Special Collections, George Nixon Collection, Box GA122, Document 00189
- Rusk County Deed Book N-O (1860), p. 367
- FOOTPRINTS, vol. 23-24 (Ft. Worth: Fort Worth Genealogical Society, 1979), p. 107:
- Madison County, Alabama Deed Books A-E, 1810-1819, by Dorothy Scott Johnson (1976)
- Madison County, Alabama Deed Book E Page 133
- The First 200 Years of the First Baptist Church of Huntsville by Joseph M. Jones, p. 2
- The First 200 Years of the First Baptist Church of Huntsville by Joseph M. Jones, p. 2
- A History of Early Settlement: Madison County Before Statehood, The Huntsville Historical Review (2008) by the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society, p. 69
- “A Dream Come True, The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Vol. 1, James Record. (Huntsville: Hicklin County, 1970), pp. 39-40.
- The Alabama Baptist Historian (1970), p.20
- History of Morgan County, Alabama by Knox, p. 54
- History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, published 1921 by Thomas McAdory Owen and Marie Bankhead Owen page 595
- Betts, Early history of Huntsville, by Betts, 1916, pp. 33, 70
- History of the Muscle Shoals Baptist Association by Rev. Josephus Shackelford, 1891, p. 165
- Find A Grave Memorial# 50518424
- Birdwell Family, East Texas Families, pp.233-34, 279-80
Joseph Manuel was born in 1912 in Town Creek, Lawrence County, Alabama. He passed away in Memphis, Tennessee 15 Jul 1959.
Joe Manuel was born in rural Alabama. He moved to the Arkansas delta with his family as a young boy and was raised on farms in the area until he was a teenager. His family were sharecroppers. When he was a teenager, he left home and started his career in show business by joining a carnival. A vaudeville comedian by the name of Dave Perkins took Joe under his wing and taught him the art of entertaining an audience. Joe learned to play the guitar and sing. In the early thirties, Joe was performing on radio stations in the Arkansas Delta country. By 1933 Joe had moved to Memphis and was broadcasting on W.N.B.R. Later the station was bought by the Memphis Press Scimitar and the call letters changed to W.M.P.S. The station also became the Memphis affillate of the Blue Network, which was the forerunner of A.B.C.
For a period of time Joe Manuel’s broadcasts were carried on the Blue Network – Prior to World War 2. In the middle forties, Joe moved to Dallas Texas and began broadcasting on a radio station there. The station’s call letters are unknown because so much time has passed, but the station made Joe an offer he couldn’t refuse. After a short period of time, because of family matters, he returned to Memphis. He was immediately hired by W.H.B.Q., where he stayed until 1950.
Freddie Burns, a historian of WHBQ and a former radio star of that era, relates this story: “When WHBQ changed owners in the middle forties, they increased their power from 500 watts to 5000 watts. Since the station was at the lower end of the band (56 on the dial), it had a much stronger signal than had it been on the higher end of the band … say 1000, 1250 or 1400.”
At this time, WHBQ moved Joe’s broadcast to the 5:30 am slot. His show would be broadcast between 5:30 and 6:00 am daily. When Joe’s show was moved to this time slot, it became one of the most popular radio programs in the south at that time. What happened was the farmers around the countryside would get up around 4:00 to 4:30 am to do their chores and come in to eat breakfast about 5:30. They would turn their radios to 56 on the dial and listen to Joe’s broadcast with their families while they ate their breakfast.
This show built up a tremendous listener following. Joe received fan mail from Georgia, Louisiana, the panhandle of Florida, Illinois, Kentucky and points east and west. That 5000 watt station was blasting out all over the south. There were not that many radio stations the time, and being that early in the morning and being that low on the band, they had tremendous coverage. During this time WHBQ ran a promotional event to promote their shows. They would send out pictures of the radio stars if the listeners would write in and request them. Freddie Burns says that during this event WHBQ was receiving over a thousand letters a day for Joe’s pictures. Sometimes Joe would take his band out for personal appearances and they would draw huge crowds.
During this period, the people who handled the advertising for the Holsum Bread Company approached Joe about writing a commercial jingle. Joe wrote and recorded “Holsum Bread Boogie.” a full length song which the advertisers condensed into a commercial. The jingle became so popular in Southern Illinois that the Holsum Bread Company brought Joe and his band up to Anna Illinois to do a show. He walked on stage in front of 11,000 people. It was a tremendous crowd for a country music singer in the forties.
Television came to Memphis in 1948 and the popularity of the radio shows, in general, faded quickly. Joe did not make the transition to television and ceased broadcasting his show in 1950. He stayed out of broadcasting for about two years, then moved across the river to KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas and started doing a daily radio broadcast on this station. He stayed with this station off and on until his death in 1959.
Jimmy Rodgers was a hero of Joe’s and his influences can be heard in some of Joe’s music, particularly “Alimony Blues.” which Joe wrote and introduced on his radio broadcast around 1940. It became his most requested song. Joe was renowned as an accomplished yodeler and was the inventor of the Four Triple Swiss yodel.
In 1950, because of the vast amount of talent in Memphis, Joe convinced the idea of a stage show similar to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He wanted to bring this talent to the attention of the public. Out of this idea was born the Saturday Night Jamboree at the old Goodwyn Institute Auditorium at Third and Madison. The Saturday Night Jamboree ran for two years (1953-54), and a lot of young Memphis musicians made some of their first public appearances on this show.
A unique thing about this was – that the young players and singers that appeared were going into the recording studios that had recently sprung up all over town. The artists were experimenting with their new found sounds. This sound combined country, blues and gospel. The world would soon call it “rockabilly.” Some of these singers and musicians would go on to become legends in the music industry.
Joe’s stage presence was strong and he knew how to entertain an audience. Whether he walked out on stage with his band or with just his guitar, his ability to hold an audience is still talked about today by old timers in the music business. Joe’s medium was live radio, therefore, there is very little recorded material today with his voice on it.
If Joe left a legacy, it was the inspiration that he gave to the young musicians of that era to do the best that they could do when they walked up to this microphone and the spotlight fell upon their shoulders.
Recently the State of Arkansas erected an historical marker in front of the building in West Memphis, that housed the k.w.e.m. studios until 1955. The Marker is dedicated to k.w.e.m. radio for the period 1949-1955. There is a picture of Joe and his band on the front of the Marker.
THE BEGINNING The Saturday Night Jamboree was a local stage show held every Saturday night at the Goodwyn Institute Auditorium in downtown Memphis, Tennessee in 1953-54. It was founded by Joe Manuel, a popular Hillbilly Radio Star of the 1930’s and 40’s.
A lot of young musicians around Memphis grew up listening to Manuel’s radio broadcasts and as young adults would congregate around him during their off time. Manuel recognized the talent in a lot of these young people. He realized that they they might succeed in the music business if given the opportunity. What they needed was a forum to show their talents to the public. He conceived the idea the idea of a stage show similar to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. From this idea came the Saturday Night Jamboree.
The First show consisted of Joe Manuel and his band and Marcus Van Story and his band. (Joe and Marcus were old friends). Marcus would open the show, then, after intermission, He would come back on stage (hat turned around backward, front teeth blackend, tattered clothes,etc.), Joe would play straight man, and they would do a comedy routine. Then Joe and his band would close the show
After a few weeks several of the young singers and musicians from the area started coming on the show. They were rapidly joined by others. Even entire bands began coming on the show. Soon the audience began to fill the Goodwyn Institute Auditorium. K.W.E.M. radio began broadcasting the jamboree. The show took off far beyond anything Joe Manuel expected.
Some of the Memphis area musicians who later became major artists, made some of their first public appearances on the Jamboree. Johnny and Dorsey Burnette were early performers before joining Paul Burlison to form the Rock N Roll Trio. Eddie Bond and his band came on the show. Charlie Feathers was a weekly performer. Johnny Cash was a regular the second year. He sang gospel at the time. This was before he signed with Sun Records.
Lee Adkins, Bud Deckleman, Harmonica Frank Floyd, Barbara Pittman, The Lazenby Twins, Lefty Ray Sexton, Lloyd (Arnold) McCoulough, Tommy Smith, Major Pruitt, Johnny Harrison and Larry Manuel (Joe’s son), were all regulars on the jamboree.
A very young and totally unknown Elvis Presley performed on several of the early shows in 1953.
But of more historical significance was something that was going on backstage in the dressing rooms. Every Saturday night in 1953, this was a gathering place where musicians would come together and experiment with new sounds – mixing fast country, gospel, blues and boogie woogie. Guys were bringing in new “licks” that they had developed and were teaching them to other musicians and were learning new “licks” from yet other musicians backstage. Soon these new sounds began to make their way out onto the stage of the Jamboree where they found a very receptive audience.
Within a year these musicians were going into the recording studios around town and recording these sounds. A couple of years later these sounds were given a name: “rockabilly.” The Saturday Night Jamboree was probably where the first live rockabilly was performed.
THE BUSINESS END
As the show became a success, Joe Manuel knew he would need help in the business end. Joe was a highly talent entertainer, but he was not a businessman. He approached an old and close friend, M.E. Ellis to ask his help running the business. Ellis had experience in business matters, owning a barber shop, half interest in another, and at one time was involved in the automobile business. He was both a fan and a friend of Joe’s, and had been trying for some time to become Manuel’s manager. After several discussions, the men reached a handshake agreement. Ellis would become Manuel’s manager and in return would step in and help with the business needs of the Jamboree. M.E. Ellis played a valuable role in the success of the Saturday Night Jamboree.
CLOSING DOWN THE SHOW
The show lasted for two years. At the end of 1954 the Goodwyn Institute owners informed Joe Manuel that they were closing the auditorium for a year for remodeling. Also, by the end of 1954, many of the performers had signed recording contracts, were having hit records played on the radio, and were going out on the road on Saturday nights. With no other appropriate location available to hold the Jamboree and the talent dwindling, Joe decided to close it down.
The Saturday Night Jamboree was never intended to play an important role in the launching of the Memphis rockabilly movement, but it did. It was an event that was in the right place at the time. Not only did many performers become major rockabilly recording artists, many members of the various bands became session musicians at different recording studios around the Memphis area. Many of the sounds that were born in the dressing rooms backstage at the Jamboree were making their way into the studios and would soon be heard around the world.
After closing the, Joe Manuel began a slow withdrawal from doing stage shows on the road, but continued doing radio broadcasts. He and M.E. Ellis dissolved their management agreement but maintained their close friendship until Joe’s death in 1959 (from melanoma cancer).
Joe Manuel died, never realizing the unique role he had played in the conception of rockabilly music. He did, however, know that he had proven his point, that these young musicians that he saw around Memphis, could succeed in the music business if given the opportunity.
CASES IN POINT
LEE ADKINS – Became a SUN recording artist.
JOHNNY and DORSEY BURNETTE – Teamed with Paul Burlison to from the Rock N Roll Trio, winning Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour 3 times, then becoming the Grand National Champions. They signed with CORAL Records and had a hit called, “Tear It Up.”
EDDIE BOND – Signed with MERCURY Records and had a huge hit, “Rockin’ Daddy.” Eddie became a major rockabilly recording artist of the middle and late ’50s.
JOHNNY CASH – became an American music institution.
BUD DECKLEMAN – Signed with METEOR Records and had a big country hit with “Day Dreaming.” This song gave Bud the opportunity to became a star on the Louisiana Hayride radio show.
M.E. ELLIS – Became an independent record producer, owning both the RIVERFRONT and the ERWIN labels. He produced a hit record on Kimball Coburn, “Dooby Oby Pretty Baby.” He Also produced “It’s a Little More Like Heaven Where You Are,” by an unknown singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton. The song was such a country hit in the middle ’50s that M.E. Ellis’ estate still receives royalties on it over 40 years later.
CHARLIE FEATHERS – Signed with METEOR Records and had am early rockabilly hit called “Tongue Tied Jill.” Charlie is not only regarded as a pioneer of rockabilly music, he is considered a music legend in many countries.
HARMONICA FRANK FLOYD – Although a drifter as his legend suggests, Frank made several records for SUN including “Rockin’ Chair Daddy,” which was released released three weeks before Elvis’ “That’s All Right Mama.” He is considered a legend in several countries.
JOHNNY HARRISON – Moved to Nashville and became a songwriter. He wrote the B side of several Louvin Brothers hit records.
ROBERT “DROOPY” HOWARD – Comedian in Joe Manuel’s band. Went on to be a comedian in Eddie Bond’s band and became comic relief for western movie star Sunset Carson.
THE LAZENBY TWINS – Signed with PEPPER Records and had a top forty record, “Ooh Ooh La La I Fooled You.”
LARRY MANUEL – Continued to work in the music scene around Memphis in the late ’50s. In 1959 Larry made a record for STOMPER TIME Records, “Don’t Try to Call Back Tomorrow.” It was a fairly commercial record receiving a lot of radio play and getting on the Top Forty in some areas. Larry became Memphis’ last new artist of the ’50s to actually make a record and take their band out out on the road doing shows.
LLOYD McCOULOUGH – Changed his name to Lloyd Arnold and became a big recording star in Canada, middle 1950’s.
BARBARA PITTMAN – Signed with SUN Records and had a huge hit with “Two Young Fools in Love.”
ELVIS PRESLEY – Became the most famous recording star of the second half of the Twentieth Century.
MAJOR PRUITT – Worked the music scene around Memphis and became a Disc Jockey.
LEFT RAY SEXTON – Continued to work in the music scene in Memphis with his band throughout the ’50s.
TOMMY SMITH – Signed with DACCA Records and had a big hit in the middle ’50s with a song he wrote, “I’m a Fool.”
MARCUS VAN STORY – Switched from playing guitar to bass fiddle and became a session musician at SUN Records. He played on my of their hit records. In later years, he toured the world as a member of the SUN RHYTHM SECTION.
Joe Manuel sing, Alimony Blues SUN 1954 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NoOEXdsW84]
Larry Manuel sings, Pin Stripe Suit [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfS10eLTUn0]
Levi Casey had many names bestowed upon him during his short lifetime. He was an Overmountain Man, Militia Man, Captain, Colonel, Brigadier General, Congressman, Senator, son, brother, husband, and father; most importantly of all was the title Patriot.
Levi Casey was born in the year 1749 in the state of South Carolina according to records submitted and accepted into the D.A.R. files. That would seem accurate considering he died in the first day of February 1807 in his 59th year which would put his birth year at 1749, unless he died on his birthday. He was born in what was then the old Ninety-Six District in which he had a hand in dividing into what would become Newberry County.
In the Revolutionary War, brothers Benjamin, Randolph and Levi lent service as did their father, Abner Brooks Casey. Abner gave service and provided aide to the cause. Abner Brooks Casey was awarded a Bounty Land Grant in Kentucky for his effort.
The Casey brothers were in the Second Carolina Regiment under Col. Elijah Clark and fought in the Battle of King’s Mountain. Levi Casey became a (started out as a Captain) Lieutenant, then a Colonel of South Carolina Troops, and finally a Brigadier General, commanding the brigade consisting of the Laurens, and Newberry regiments. He commanded a company at the attack on Savannah and distinguished himself at Rocky Mount, King’s Mountain, Hanging Rock, Musgrove’s Mils, Fishing Creek, Blackstocks, and Cowpens.
After the fall of Charlestown, the British authorities considered South Carolina under British control, and some of the rebels even went to the British camp and sought protection. Levi and others would not entertain taking that action for one second. They were true blue and staunch patriots of the American cause and would willingly take any risk to secure Independence.
US Congressman. Elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Eighth and Ninth Congresses, he served from 1803 until his death. Casey was a South Carolina native but very little is known of his early life.
During the Revolutionary War he was commissioned a Captain in the Continental Army and fought with distinction at the Siege of Savannah (1779) and at the battles of Rocky Mount (1780), Hanging Rock (1780), and Cowpens (1781).
At the end of the conflict he was a Colonel in command of South Carolina’s Little River Regiment, and subsequently became a Brigadier General of the State Militia.
He was a five-term member of the State Senate (1781 and 1782, 1800 to 1802) and served nine terms in the State House of Representatives (1786 to 1788, 1792 to 1795, 1798 to 1799), prior to his election to the US House.
In 1802, he was elected as a Republican to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives within the 8th and 9th Congresses representing the state of South Carolina. There he served the 7th District that included Abbeville, Laurens and Newberry Districts. He served in that capacity from 4 March 1803 until his death 1 February 1807.
He was elected to the 10th Congress before the close of the 9th Congress, but died, likely in the state house, in Washington D. C. on the first day of February from a massive heart attack.
He was the first elected dignitary in our nation to die while in office (followed closely by another elected official who was buried in the Congressional Cemetery before Levi Casey was disinterred) and was initially buried at the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Cemetery [Rock Creek Cemetery] in Georgetown. Being the first experience in our young nation of someone dying while serving in office, there was no official burying ground for dignitaries at the time and that fact created a little bit of a conundrum. Efforts were quickly made to secure and dedicate a spot for just such dignitaries, and thus the Union Cemetery known as the Congressional Cemetery came to fruition.
Levi Casey was reelected to a third term but died before taking his seat in the Tenth Congress. Originally buried in a cemetery outside the Washington city limits, he was re-interred with honors at the Union (Congressional) Cemetery on 10 August 1832. 
It must have been good to have been one of Levi Casey’s constituents when he served them, his state, and his country. They were fortunate that a patriot and politician like him would share his and his colleagues’ progress and lack thereof for the young nation and its citizens. His wife, Elizabeth from the respected Duckett family of Maryland, had a lot of influence on his service as a political figure. The rule and custom of the Caseys was when he returned home from the “Federal City” he issued and sent out invitations ‘to all the people in his district (covered several counties), to assemble at his house on a day named, at which Gen. Casey would have a large barbecue and ample provisions for man and beast, and his friends were required to spend a week as his guests, during which time he would render to them a full account of his acts in Congress; and the balance of the time was spent in feasting and dancing and such other amusements as suited the tastes and inclinations of his guests
- Abner Brooks Casey (1700 – 1796)
- Harriet Green Casey (1700 – 1786)
- Elizabeth Duckett Casey (1759 – 1839)
- John A Casey (1775 – 1862)
- Sarah Siner Casey Rhodes (1789 – 1872
- Levi Garrett “Old Flynn” Casey (1791 – 1855)
- Elizabeth Casey Johnson (1795 – 1872)
- Jacob Duckett Casey (1796 – 1853)
- Samuel Otterson Casey (1801 – 1866)
- Christopher Casey (1755 – 1840)
- Randolph Casey
- Benjamin Casey
Part of Levi Casey’s Service Record
- Name: Levy Casey
- Event Type: Military Service
- Event Date: 1782
- Event Place: United States
- Event Place (Original):
- Military Rank:
- Birth Year (Estimated):
- Death Date:
- Affiliate Publication Number: M246
- Affiliate Publication Title: Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783.
- Affiliate Film Number: 1
- GS Film Number: 000830280
- Digital Folder Number: 007196920
- Image Number: 00109
1783: Commissioners Appointed to Divide Districts into Counties
Levi Casey changed the landscape of our country in more ways than one. In the article written in The Edgefield Advertiser, a South Carolina Newspaper, Levi Casey is mentioned. The text that mentions Casey reads as follows:
- “It is recorded in Judge O’Neal’s Annals of Newberry County that in 1783 an ordinance was passed appointing Commissioners to divide the Districts of Charleston, Georgetown, Beaufort, Cheraw, Camden, Ninety-Six and Orangeburg into counties of convenient size. In Ninety-Six the Commissioners were “Andrew Pickens, Richard Anderson, Thomas Braddon, Levy Casey, Philemon, Waters and Arthur Simkins.”
Rank of Colonel in the Revolutionary War
- Name: Livy Casey
- Event Type: Military Service
- Event Date: 08 Jun 1782
- Event Place: South Carolina, United States
- Event Place (Original):
- Military Rank: Colo
- Birth Year (Estimated):
- Death Date:
- Affiliate Publication Number: M246
- Affiliate Publication Title: Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783.
- Affiliate Film Number: 89
- GS Film Number: 000830368
- Digital Folder Number: 004171622
- Image Number: 00326
1768 South Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index: 1790-1890
- Name: Levi Casey
- State: South Carolina
- County: Newberry (Old 96 District)
- Township: No Township Listled
- Database: South Carolina Census Index
1790 Federal Census Record
- Levey Casey
- United States Census, 1790
- Name Levey Casey
- Event Type Census
- Event Date 1790
- Event Place Newberry, South Carolina, United States
- Page 53
1800 Federal Census Record
- Name: Levi Casy
- Event Type: Census
- Event Date: 1800
- Event Place: Newberry District, South Carolina, United States
- Page: 68
- Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records ::Administration (NARA)
- Affiliate Publication Number: M32
- Affiliate Film Number: 50
- GS Film Number: 181425
- Digital Folder Number: 004955934
- Image Number: 00136
Levi Casey Burial
- Name: Levi Casey
- Maiden Name:
- Event Type: Burial
- Event Date: 1807
- Event Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District Of ::Columbia, United States of America
- Photograph Included: Y
- Birth Date:
- Death Date: 03 Feb 1807
- Affiliate Record Identifier: 6984077
- Cemetery: Congressional Cemetery
“Gen. Levi Casey, Representative in Congress from this State died at the City of Washington, on the 1st inst. The usual mourning and funeral honours were voted him.”
There are researchers who list Brigadier General Levi Casey’s death date as 3 February 1807, but his death occurred on Sunday, the first day of February in the year 1807. His obituary was published in The National Intelligencer on Friday, the 6th day of February 1807 and states that Levi Casey died on Sunday. This man must have been larger than life, for he was the first, or one of the first that received the high honor of a state funeral. The text of his obituary follows:
Died, in this city, on Sunday morning at 4 o’clock, 1st instant of a pulindnick disease, Brigadier General Levi Casey, of South Carolina, in the fifty-ninth year of his age.
The fatal illness of this amiable gentleman was but of short duration; his closing moments were passed with that serenity which arises from the reflection of a well-spent life; his last breath was drawn with a calmness, resulting only from true fortitude and virtue.
Early in the revolutionary war, General Casey received the command of a company, with which, he gallantly assisted at the siege of Savannah, in the attempt made by the Americans and French to storm the British works. He was afterwards distinguished as a brave and prudent officer in the battles of Rockey Mount, Hanging rock, Musgoves, King’s mountains, Fishdamford, Blackstocks and at the Cowpens, where, he performed very important services to General Morgan. Through the whole war he enjoyed, as a brave and valuable officer, the applause, friendship and confidence of General Sumpter.
During many years after the close of that war, in which his conduct was so important and successful, he represented Newbury district in the state legislature, both in the Senate and House of Representatives, and was, at the time of his death, on the fourth term of service in Congress, a representative from South Carolina.
The friends and family of no man have more cause to lament a loss of this land, than those of General Casey; for in sweetness and equanimity of temper, he was equaled by few; in the tenderness of affection, of domesticities, surpassed by none.
He was from the commencement of the revolution, a uniform patriot; he has left behind him, the surest testimony of public confidence and private worth, the universal love of his neighbors. Painful as the regrets of his family must be, they will derive some consolation from the marked respect which was paid to his funeral by the national legislature. In this too, will the old revolutionary soldier participate; because, he will be in it, the memory of the brave is not forgotten.
The following is the order of procession as it moved from the capitol.
- 1. Marine Corps
- 2. Chaplains of Congress
- 3. Ministers
- 4. Physicians
- 5. Corpse
- 6. Pall bearers, (six Generals)
- 7. Mourners
- 8. Speaker preceded by the sergeant of arms, and followed by the Clerk
- 9. Members of the House of Representatives
- 10. President of the Senate preceded by the sergeant at arms, and followed by the Secretary
- 11. Members of the Senate
- 12. Heads of Departments and officers thereof
- 13. Citizens.
When the procession arrived at Rock Creek, it was formed on foot, (two and two) the carriages following behind, and proceeded in that manner to the grave.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, and the Pall-bearers, with white scarves over the right shoulder and white gloves. The chaplains of Congress and other ministers with white scarves over the right shoulder and round the hat, and white gloves.
The sergeants at arms, clerk of the House, and Secretary of the Senate, with white scarves over the right shoulder only.
The members of the House of Representatives, with black crape on the left arm.
- ↑ The Overmountain Men, Publisher: Overmountain Press; Second edition edition (January 1, 1986)
- ↑ D.A.R. Patriot Index, Volume 1, page 467 as LCol PS SC)
- ↑ http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000226
- ↑ Charleston Courtier, periodical published Monday, February 16, 1907
- ↑ Citing this Record: “United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2DG-4DS4 : 21 December 2016), Levy Casey, 1782.
- ↑ The Edgefield Advertiser, a South Carolina newspaper, year not known, page 2
- ↑ Citing this Record: “United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2DG-W77L : 21 December 2016), Livy Casey, 1782.
- ↑ 1768 South Carolina, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index: 1790-1890,
- ↑ Citing this Record “United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2DG-W7SD : 21 December 2016), Livy Casey, 1782.
- ↑ Citing this Record: “United States Census, 1800,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHRC-363 : accessed 14 June 2017), Levi Casy, Newberry District, South Carolina, United States; citing p. 68, NARA microfilm publication M32, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 50; FHL microfilm 181,425.
- ↑ Citing this Record: “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVV3-3F96 : 13 December 2015), Levi Casey, 1807; Burial, Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, United States of America, Congressional Cemetery; citing record ID 6984077, Find a Grave,http://www.findagrave.com.
- ↑ Charleston Courtier, periodical published Monday, February 16, 1907
- ↑ The National Intelligencer, February 6, 1807
- ↑ Research compiled and tribute written by a fourth great-granddaughter of the patriot Br. Gen. Levi Casey, Carolyn Murray Greer, completed on 15 June 2017
was a good Christian man. He is my paternal grandfather, we called him “Grandpa”.
James Alexander Murray was born in 1904 likely near Spring Valley in Colbert County, Alabama He was born to parents Levi Murray and Lou Ella Vandiver Murray. He married Methel Estelle Gregory, daughter of Elmer Gilbert Gregory and Alice Sparks Gregory, on the 31st day of December 1922 in Tuscumbia, Colbert County, Alabama. 
For those attending to detail in family research, it is self evident that so many things in official and government records are riddled with errors. An example would be the marriage record for James Alexander “Alex” Murray and Methel Estelle Gregory.The notation of race in the marriage record is completely in error. Their race was WHITE. The same is to be said of transcription errors; that is evidenced in the marriage record for his second marriage. His parents’ names are incorrect; should read Levi Murray and Lou Ella Vandiver.
James Alexander “Alex” Murray and Methel Estelle Gregory had four living children: James Arlander Murray, Edward Lee Murray, Elmer Hillard Murray, and Alice Estelle Murray.
James Alexander “Alex” Murray and Thelma McGee Murrayhad five children: Gary Thomas Murray and Sarah Murray who died as infants, Linda Marie Murray, Thelma Fay Murray and Ella Susan Murray.
He passed away in 1981 after a battle with chronic Leukemia. He is buried at the Morning Star Cemetery, as are his wives.
- Marriage of James Alexander Murray and Methel Estelle Gregory
- Name: James A. Murray
- Gender: Male
- Race: Black
- Marriage Date: 31 Dec 1922
- Marriage Place: Tuscumbia, Colbert, AL.
- Spouse: Miss Methel Gregory
- FHL Film Number: 1031169
- Reference ID: vol L 1922-23 pg 418
- Marriage of James Alexander Murray and Cecil Thelma Mcgee.
- Mentioned in the record of James Alexander Murray and Cecil Thelma Mcgee
- Name: James Alexander Murray
- Gender: Male
- Event Type: Marriage
- Event Date: 27 Dec 1941
- Event Place: Colbert, Alabama, United States
- Age: 37
- Birth Year (Estimated): 1904
- Father’s Name: Leve Murray
- Mother’s Name: Lou Ella Vandauer
- Spouse’s Name: Cecil Thelma Mcgee
- Spouse’s Gender: Female
- Spouse’s Age: 22
- Spouse’s Birth Year (Estimated): 1919
- Spouse’s Father’s Name: Tom Mcgee
- Page: 387
- James Alexander Murray
- Find A Grave Index
- Name: James Alexander Murray
- Event Type: Burial
- Event Date: 1981
- Event Place: Tuscumbia, Colbert, Alabama, United States of America
- Photograph Included: Y
- Birth Date: 26 Jan 1904
- Death Date: 16 Jul 1981
- Affiliate Record Identifier: 48935440
- Cemetery: Morning Star Cemetery
- ↑ Citing this Record: “Marriage of James Alexander Murray and Methel Estelle Gregory. “Alabama, Select Marriages, 1816-1957 about James A. Murray Name: James A. Murray Gender: Male Race: Black Marriage Date: 31 Dec 1922 Marriage Place: Tuscumbia, Colbert, AL. Spouse: Miss Methel Gregory FHL Film Number: 1031169 Reference ID: vol L 19”
- ↑ Citing this Record “Alabama County Marriages, 1809-1950”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:29NV-PH7 : 16 July 2015), James Alexander Murray and Cecil Thelma Mcgee, 1941.
- ↑ Alabama, Select Marriages, 1816-1957
- ↑ Citing this Record “Alabama County Marriages, 1809-1950”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:29NV-PH7 : 16 July 2015), James Alexander Murray and Cecil Thelma Mcgee, 1941.
- ↑ “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVKV-Q5NR : 13 December 2015), James Alexander Murray, 1981; Burial, Tuscumbia, Colbert, Alabama, United States of America, Morning Star Cemetery; citing record ID 48935440, Find a Grave,http://www.findagrave.com.
From long ago now and far away, there are memories that are cherished. Home. Family. Gran. Aunts and uncles and first cousins. Family like my children have never gotten to be a part of, extended family. It made you feel safe, secure, loved. You learned what was important even when you did not know that you were being instilled with values and wit and humor. My ancestors James Richardson Isbell and Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell lived in that little community of Paint Rock while other kin lived in Larkinsville and other surrounding towns and communities. In Jackson County during those days Isbell was a fairy common name. There was John Isbell, James Isbell, Allen Isbell, Levi Isbell. There were Birdwells, too. John Birdwell, Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell’s father, with all his family were in Jackson County before statehood as well. There were the Houk and the Peters families, and the
Murray lines. Rev Simeon Houk whose wife was Tobitha Murray Houk married William Deaton Jackson Murray and Susan Anna Isbell Murray in the year 1848 in Jackson County.
My Birdwell/Isbell line settled in Jackson County, Alabama after they had brought their family into the Mississippi Territory a good fourteen years before statehood. And then moved to Franklin, now Colbert County, Alabama. But first were the towns of Paint Rock and Woodville, Trenton, Pleasant Grove, and the communities of Aspel and LimRock and all the surrounding little towns and communities.
When I read the account of one man named Hodges recount in a speech in 1993 his experience and delight in being born and raised in the little community of LimRock and Aspel. His title is Judge Bob Hodges and his story sounds so much like one that my Gran may have told. It made me feel at home, safe, and longing for the good old days, the simple days, the days of extended family. The content of his speech follows:
AN ADDRESS AT LIM ROCK ‐ ASPEL HERITAGE DAY on October 9 , 1993 by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bob Hodges
Before you take anything else I say seriously, I want to read to you my father’s business card he used at Hodges Drug Store for over 30 years: “Robert Leslie Levi Buchannon Fairbanks Hodges, Jr……. Born on land lying N W One-fourth o f S E One ‐ fourth of Sec 10, Township 4 , Range 7E, Berry’s Cove, North Lim Rock, Alabama…… Now located in trading business about, 1 2 miles N E born site…….Come’n see me…. T
elelphone: Day: 2 longs and 1 short Nite: 2 longs and a half….” As you can see, he never forgot where he came from, and he was one of the best representatives o f the Lim Rock Chamber of Commerce who ever served. My roots go back here a t least three generations before me, and my memories of this community go back to the years of my childhood just before World War II. I want to share some of them with you today, because the heritage of a place, to me, means what culture that place has left us ‐ that unique and special quality a community has that is measured not just by its physical boundaries and its geographical features, but by its people: Who they were, what they believed in, and what they raised their children to be. And so, as I began thinking about what to say today, I considered In any memories of this community and its people, and ‘the special place it has occupied in my heart and in my family.
It began, for me, over 60 years ago, when three brothers left the cotton fields here on a sharecropper farm and moved ten miles up the road to the big city of Scottsboro. Each of them, my Dad, my Uncle Mess, and my Uncle Charles, never missed a chance t o remind travelers who stopped at Hodges Drug Store ‘that Lim Rock and Aspel were not just places you passed by on your way from Woodville to Scottsboro ‐ Lim Rock and Aspel, to them, was an oasis where you could come from Huntsville or Scottsboro or wherever else and quench your thirst for plain and simple beauty and good solid. working people who loved a good laugh and a rocker on the porch in the evening after a plate of pinto beans and corn bread and turnip greens, and the sound of the animals in the barn at night. The stuff a farm boy never finds, no matter how long he has been gone from the farm and no matter how far removed he has become in his dress and his income, from that simple beginning. The stuff he always longs to return to, and he can only find in a place he called home.
From my great ‐ grandfather George Johnson Hodges, known to the folks in this community only as Crockett, or my Grandfather Bob, for whom I was named, to my father, I learned legends of the people who lived here. They were told over and over to me and to others in my hearing so many times that they have become the stuff of this community. Whether they ever really happened or not is now not important to me when I think of them and of this community ‐ What i s important is the humor and the dignity of those who were portrayed in the stories I heard and the respect of the storytellers for them and for this community.
M y memories begin with evenings spent with. my grandfather here as a very small child on the porch of a two ‐ story log house which sat just over yonder around the curve from the Methodist Church. And I remember the smell in the springtime in those evenings of freshly turned earth, and of his eagerness over the crop he thought he could coax out of it, and of our watching and waiting for the sound of the Joe Wheeler to come churning through the night, its whistle blowing for the people of Lim Rock.
I remember Clyde Gentle’s store, where my father had his first job as a boy clerking and keeping up with the eggs and chickens on the rolling store, and the smell of pine wood floors and kerosene, and the sight of mule harnesses hanging from pegs, and glass jars of candy, while we waited for the Joe Wheeler to return me to Scottsboro after a weekend. Even as a child, there was a sadness on leaving, a sense that the old man in the overalls who was waving bye to me as the train pulled out from Clyde Gentles’ store, and so many others like him in this community were somehow special parts of my beginning that I wanted to come back to and hold on to until I understood the peace and the simple virtues of this place.
I remember cotton fields and hoes and long pick sacks and the hot day in the field when my grandfather and Charlie Stewart watched me drink in gulps from a cool thermos jug and then cackled and told me it was a chamber pot they kept under the wagon for themselves.
Some of the past citizens of this community, many of them now dead and gone, have become legends in my mind, because of the stories I was told about them. The athletes in Lim Rock took on superhuman proportions for me. Dr. Rayford Hodges swore to me in the drug store as he was sipping his coffee, time and again, that Rabbit Gray, the catcher for Lim Rock’s baseball team, played barefooted and once caught a foul ball that traveled 200 feet and never got higher than his head. M y father swore to me that Shine Lusk kicked a 50 yard field goal barefooted for Lim Rock’s football team, against the wind, in the closing seconds of a big game against Aspel.
The people of this community were always church ‐ going people on Sundays. My father’s earliest memories were of being carried in a wagon by my Grandmother to the Primitive Baptist Church. He remembered it well, because when they got to my Grandfather with the footwashing, he always let out a cackle when they got to the foot with the stub of a little toe he had cut off when cutting railroad ties.
The people of this community“ have always stood out for me as being folks with a never ‐ give ‐ u p attitude. Through the droughts, the flooding rains, the bitter winters, the poverty of the depression, the great tornado that swept through Paint Rock and here, the infant flu deaths that struck family after family ‐ through all those times when it seemed that a mother and father and children could not possibly hold up for another day ‐ your ancestors and mine ‐ and some of you who are older and here today ‐ squared up your shoulders and spit on your hands and went back to work and endured. I think that never ‑ give ‐ u p attitude is best remembered by me in a little story by Bob Hodges my grandfather told me that happened back in the late twenties.
My Uncle Mess, an older and larger boy than my father by far, had my father down, pinned flat to the ground, pummeling him at will, when my grandfather discovered them on his way back from milking. “What’s going on here?”, he asked. Immediately, my father, who was flat on his back and taking a mighty whipping, said: “Papa, you better get him off of me or I’m gonna kill him.”
The generations of the people of Lim Rock and Aspel before us were hard ‐ working, church ‐ going, mostly quiet ‐ spoken people, it seems from my memory and from stories I heard. But in all that toil and adversity they faced as farmers and farmers’ children, there beat within many of them the pulse of a sense of humor that no other community surpassed.
My father never got past the little nine ‐ grade school house that used to sit down the road over yonder, and he always envied his older brother, Charles, for being so bright and for getting a college education. There came a day when my father’s old school teacher came in the drug store to get a prescription filled and my father” waited on her. He was working there as a teenager then, and he had some conversation with the lady, and then called all of us employees over t meet her.
We gathered around, and he said, “Now, Miss Birdie, tell all these people what you just told me.” She looked at u s and said: “He was the brightest student I ever had. He made all A’s and h e could work any problem I ever gave him. He was a brilliant student.” My father swelled up and beamed at all of us, and the little old lady made her way to the store going out, and she turned, looked back at my father, and said: “CHARLES (not R.L.), it sure was nice to see you again.”
My grandfather and my father had the same name, except for the junior and senior that separated them. One day a juror summons came to the drug store delivered by the sheriff and made out to just R . L . Hodges. My father made a call to the courthouse and discovered that, by the birthdate, it was intended for my father. He called my grandfather to the store and told him he had a jury summons delivered there for him.
M y grandfather took the subpoena, never said a word, went to the courthouse the next week, and served on the jury. Many months went by, with never another word being said. Then, just before Christmas, Mr. Brad Stewart, a long ‐ time friend and customer of m y father’s, delivered a nice big country ham to m y father as a gift, wrapped in brown paper and labeled “R.L.Hodges.” My father put it on a table at the back of the store until he could take it home at quitting time. In comes my grandfather, walks straight to the back room, picks up the ham, and starts out the drug store. “Papa” screamed my father. “Papa ‐ that’s m ham!” “Son,” my grandfather said, “If that was my name on that jury summons, that is my name on this ham.” And off he went.
Lim Rock and Aspel people have always been known as good neighbors. My grandfather Bob Hodges’ neighbor was Charlie Stewart, who lived on the next farm down the road toward the school house. One cold January day, when the snow was on the ground and more predicted, a Saturday, my grandfather told Charlie that h e was taking his wife and children down to Paint Rock Valley to sit with a sick relative for the night, would be gone the whole weekend, and would Charlie milk the cow and feed the mule the next day. Charlie readily agreed to help out.
The next morning, more snow having fallen during the night, and bitter cold, Charlie came trudging up in the darkness, milked the cow, set the pail on the back porch, fed the mule, and on his way out through the snow, just as he passed my grandfather’s bedroom window, my grandfather threw up the shade and the window, and said, “Much obliged, Charlie.” You don’t find good neighbors like that any more.
There are many, many other stories I could tell which reflect the solid kind of people who founded this community and those who came after them. It says something about what we revere in this community and its people that those of us who have ties here come back and back again and are here today to celebrate it.
Someone once wrote that you can never really go home again, but I think we can, time and again, in our memories. Less than thirty days before my father died, just before Christmas of 1983, we took our last ride together. He was s o frail I had to help him in the car, and he was so weak he could hardly talk above a whisper. “We’ll o anywhere you want,” I said as I backed the car out of his driveway. “I’ll show you,” he said, and he just from then on, pointed his finger where he wanted me to turn.
W e came here, and w e rode through Aspel and by Jenny’s Chapel and past Gentry Hastings’ house and down to Pinky’s Store to say hello and then by the old Clyde Gentle store where he first worked as a boy. And then on we went, by the fields where there used to be cotton and by the piece of ground where the barn and log house once stood, and around the curve where the old schoolhouse once stood, and then out into Berrys Cove where he was born, until. he became too tired to continue. He wasn’t talking during the ride, but both of us were thinking of these communities and his childhood and all the years that had brought him full circle back to here. You see, he never ever forgot that this was home. And you never ever forgot to take him in. That is why I am here today, and that is why I thank you for letting me be a part of it.
The phone number has changed for us – It’s no longer ” 2 longs and 1 short”, but our “trading business“, as he said on his card, is still about 1 2 miles northeast of Berrys Cove, and, for our family, this is still home.
Robert L . (Bob) Hodges practiced law before being elected Circuit Judge of Jackson County, Alabama. He is a highly esteemed judiciary by profession, much sought after as a speaker, and without equal as a storyteller and writer. Bob is the son of the late R . L and Zelma (Nichols) Hodges, Jr. who set an impeccable example before him.
memories die with them as do life experiences and lessons learned. It is imperative that those of a younger generation preserve the memories of their forefathers; if one does not know their own and family history, how can he or she judge what the future should hold?
How I wish I could find photos and information on the Golden Gloves boxing of yesteryear, especially on those who got into the ring. And that would include Daddy, James Murray.
A name that you may recall from history is that of Governor George Wallace. He was also a boxer in his youth. He and my Daddy knew each other, were friends and that was a life long friendship. Perhaps they were introduced to each other during their boxing days. They had a lot in common. They were both stubborn, especially if they knew they were right about something. Neither would forfeit a fight even when encouraged to ‘fix’ a fight. They would rather quit than lose when victory could be theirs.
JFK and George Wallace visited TVA in Muscle Shoals to be the keynote speaker at the 30th anniversary of TVA.The date of the event was 18 May, 1963. Here is a photo of JFK and George Wallace on the TVA grounds on that date.
The fighting years of their youth must have been exciting. George Wallace received the moniker “The Fighting Judge” and James Murray, well he simply became known as “Daddy” to five children.
My brother related a story to me that I will treasure. He said that we were at one of George Wallace’s rallies, and when George Wallace saw our Daddy something notable happened. He came over and body hugged him and greeted him warmly. That was likely the rally I remember that was held at Spring Park in Tuscumbia. If only someone had a camera handy at that moment. What a treasure a photo would have been.
It was a sweltering hot day in the south in the 1960s, and a memorable one. The political rallies held at Spring Park in Tuscumbia, Alabama every year on the Labor Day weekend were touted as late as 1993 in the Times Daily newspaper as Alabama’s oldest continuously held Labor Day rally. The festivities were varied, the crowds were big and the snow cones were cold.
George Wallace came to Muscle Shoals, Alabama along with President John F Kennedy to present at the anniversary of the TVA Authority. He later endured an assassination attempt while running for President. The bullet did not kill him but he was in agony for the rest of his life as a result of the gunshot wounds. He endured the pain because he was a trained fighter.
As a country music singer, he is best remembered as the “King of Country Music” and is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and “hoedown” format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally renowned. He was a prolific songwriter and established Acuff-Rose Publishing that held the rights to a multitude of songs which were hits. Acuff-Rose signed acts such as Hank Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Don Gibson, John D Loudermilk, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Redd Stewart, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers and Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Waltz.”. In 1952 Hank Williams told Ralph Gleason this about Roy Acuff, “He’s the biggest singer this music ever knew. You booked him and you didn’t worry about crowds. For drawing power in the South, it was Roy Acuff, then God.”
His parents are Simon E Neill Acuff who was born 1877 and died in 1943 and Ida Carr Acuff who was born 1879 and died in 1969. His siblings included Paul Briscoe Acuff 1900-1984 and Claude Acuff 1909-1971.
He was born Roy Claxton Acuff, the third of five children, into a musical family. His father was a Baptist preacher and accomplished fiddle player and his mother played the piano. During his early years, the Acuff house was a popular place for local gatherings and at these events, he would often amuse people by balancing farm tools on his chin. He also learned to play harmonica and jaw harp at a young age. The Acuffs were a fairly prominent Union County, Tennessee family. Roy’s paternal grandfather, Coram Acuff, had been a Tennessee state senator, and Roy’s maternal grandfather was a local physician. The talent was passed through to Roy’s father and mother, and himself.
In 1919 his family relocated to Fountain City (now a suburb of Knoxville), Tennessee, where he attended Central High School and sang in the school chapel’s choir as well as performing in school plays. His primary passion was athletics and he was a three-sport standout at Central, and after graduating in 1925, he was offered a scholarship to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, but turned it down.
He played with several small baseball clubs around Knoxville, worked at odd jobs, and occasionally boxed. In 1929 he tried out for the Knoxville Smokies, a minor-league baseball team then affiliated with the New York (now San Francisco) Giants. After a series of collapses in spring training following a sunstroke, ended his baseball career prematurely and the effects left him ill for several years to the point where he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1930. Not only was he attracted to the sport of baseball, he had a penchant for fighting – after his family moved to Knoxville, he was frequently arrested for fighting.
While recovering, he took up the fiddle, often playing on the family’s front porch in late afternoons after the sun went down. His father gave him several records of regionally-renowned fiddlers, such as ‘Fiddlin’ John Carson and Gid Tanner, which were important influences on his early style. In 1932 he hired on with Dr. Hauer’s Medicine Show as one of its entertainers where he met legendary Appalachian banjoist Clarence Ashley, from whom he learned “The House of the Rising Sun” and “Greenback Dollar,” both of which he later recorded.
In 1934 he left the medicine show circuit and began playing at local shows with various musicians in the Knoxville area. That year, guitarist Jess Easterday and Hawaiian guitarist Clell Summey joined Acuff to form the Tennessee Crackerjacks, which performed regularly on Knoxville radio stations WROL and WNOX. Within a year, the group had added bassist Red Jones and changed its name to the Crazy Tennesseans. The popularity of his rendering of the song “The Great Speckled Bird” helped the group land a contract with the American Record Company, for whom they recorded several dozen tracks (including the band’s best-known track, “Wabash Cannonball”) in 1936 and 1937 before leaving over a contract dispute.
Acuff headed north to Chicago for a recording session, which resulted in 20 different songs. In addition to “The Great Speckled Bird,” he recorded “Steamboat Whistle Blues” and “The Wabash Cannonball,” another Tennessee standard that featured the singer imitating the sound of a train whistle; he also made a handful of risqué numbers during these sessions, which were released under the name the Bang Boys.
In 1938 the Crazy Tennesseans relocated to Nashville, Tennessee to audition for the Grand Ole Opry and they were offered a contract. He changed the group’s name to the “Smoky Mountain Boys,” referring to the mountains near where he and his bandmates were raised. Shortly after the band joined the Opry, Clell Summey left the group, and was replaced by dobro player Beecher (Pete) Kirby, or “Bashful Brother Oswald.” His powerful lead vocals and Kirby’s dobro playing and high-pitched backing vocals gave the band its distinctive sound. By 1939, Jess Easterday had switched to bass to replace Red Jones, and Acuff had added guitarist Lonnie “Pap” Wilson and banjoist Rachel Veach to fill out the band’s line-up.
Within a year, Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys rivaled long-time Opry banjoist Uncle Dave Macon as the troupe’s most popular act. In 1940 he and his band traveled to Hollywood, California, where they appeared in the motion picture “Grand Ole Opry.” He also appeared in several subsequent B-movies, including “O, My Darling Clementine” (1943), in which he played a singing sheriff, and “Night Train to Memphis” (1946), the title of which comes from a song he recorded in 1940.
In 1943, Acuff was initiated into the East Nashville Freemasonic Lodge in Tennessee and he would remain a lifelong member. Later that same year, Acuff invited Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper to be the guest of honor at a gala held to mark the nationwide premier of the Opry’s Prince Albert show. Cooper rejected the offer, however, and lambasted Acuff and his “disgraceful” music for making Tennessee the “hillbilly capital of the United States.” A Nashville journalist reported the governor’s comments to Acuff, and suggested Acuff run for governor himself. While Acuff initially did not take the suggestion seriously, he did accept the Republican Party nomination for governor in 1948.
In 1942 he and songwriter Fred Rose formed Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. He originally sought the company in order to publish his own music, but soon realized there was a high demand from other country artists, many of whom had been exploited by larger publishing firms. Due in large part to Rose’s ASCAP connections and gifted ability as a talent scout, Acuff-Rose quickly became the most important publishing company in country music. In 1946, the company signed country singer Hank Williams, and in 1950 published their first major hit, Patti Page’s rendition of “Tennessee Waltz”.
Later that year, he left the Grand Ole Opry after a management dispute. In 1948 he made an unsuccessful run for the governor of Tennessee on the Republican ballot. He then spent several years touring the Western United States, although demand for his appearances dwindled with the lack of national exposure and the rise of musicians such as Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold, who were more popular with younger audiences. He eventually returned to the Opry however, by the 1960s, his record sales had dropped off considerably.
After nearly losing his life in an automobile accident outside of Sparta, Tennessee in 1965, he contemplated retiring, making only token appearances on the Opry stage and similar shows, and occasionally performing duos with long-time bandmate Bashful Brother Oswald. In 1972 his career received a brief resurgence in the folk revival movement after he appeared on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” paving the way for one of the defining moments of his career, which came on the night of March 16, 1974, when the Opry officially moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland, Tennessee. The first show at the new venue opened with a huge projection of a late-1930s image of Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys onto a large screen above the stage. A recording from one of the band’s 1939 appearances was played over the sound system, with the iconic voice of Opry founder George Hay introducing the band, followed by the band’s performance of “Wabash Cannonball”. Here is the access to his 1940 rendition of “Wabash Cannonball” on youtube (you will have to click on the link to go to youtube because the embed feature has been disabled):
Roy Acuff was called the King of Country Music, and for more than 60 years he lived up to that title. If any performer embodied country music, it was Roy Acuff. Throughout his career, Acuff was a champion for traditional country values, enforcing his beliefs as a performer, a music publisher, and as the Grand Master of the Grand Ole Opry. Acuff was the first country music superstar after the death of Jimmie Rodgers, pioneering an influential vocal style that complemented the spare, simple songs he was performing. Generations of artists, from Hank Williams to George Jones, have been influenced by Acuff, and countless others have paid respect to him. At the time of his death in 1992, he was still actively involved in the Grand Ole Opry, and was as popular as ever.
The beginning of the 1980s was a difficult period for Acuff, as he experienced the death of his wife and several longtime band members, including pianist Jimmie Riddle and fiddler Howdy Forrester. In 1987, he released his final charting record that was an inspirational duet with Charlie Louvin called “The Precious Jewel.”
In the 1980s, after the death of his wife, Mildred (Mildred Louise Douglas Acuff 1914-1981) he moved into a house on the Opryland grounds and continued performing. He arrived early most days at the Opry, performing odd jobs, such as stocking soda in backstage refrigerators. In 1991, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts and given a lifetime achievement award by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the first Country music artist to receive the esteemed honor. Additionally, in 1962 he became the first living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Two museums have been named in his honor, the Roy Acuff Museum at Opryland and the Roy Acuff Union Museum and Library in his hometown of Maynardville. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1541 Vine Street. He died of congestive heart failure in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 89.
During his musical career, he recorded a total of 43 albums (from 1949 to 1987) and 20 singles (from 1936 to 1989). One son, Roy Neill Acuff was born 1943; and died in 2015. Roy Claxton Acuff is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery at Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He rests in a plot in Hill Crest Garden.
What is so interesting about Roy Claxton Acuff is his kin to our Isbell line through his mother Ida Carr Acuff.
Ida Carr’s parents were: Alonzo Willett Carr born 1855 and Mary Paralee Sharp
Roy Acuff’s descent from Zachariah Isbell:
Zachariah Isbell born circa 1722 and wife Elizabeth Polly Miller. Zachariah Isbell and Elizabeth Polly Miller had a daughter Lovisa Isbell.
Lovisa Isbell was born 21 November 1743 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina and died 6 April 1808 in Jonesborough, Washington County, Tennessee. She married John Carr, a soldier of the Revolutionary War, in 1756 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina. John Carr was born 1737 or 1743 in Charleston, Dorchester County, South Carolina and died in 1818 in Washington County, Tennessee. His birth is given as 10 or 19 Jan 1737 by some researchers and as 21 Nov 1743 by other researchers. His death is given as 6 April or 11 June 1818 by other researchers. John Carr and Lovisa Isbell Carr are buried at Carr-Crumley-Krouse Cemetery in Jonesborough, Washington County, Tennessee.
Ralph Bolton Carr made application to DAR on the Revolutionary War service of John Carr, husband of Lovisa Isbell Carr, as a fourth-great-grandson of John Carr. John Carr’s service is documented in the South Carolina Archives as having served in Captain Thomas Woodward’s 8th Company of Rangers under Col William Thompson, and also having served later in Col William Thompson in the 3rd Regiment of South Carolina. John Carr’s Revolutionary service is documented through the genealogical line as provided by 1) the family Bible, 2) the family Bible in possession of Mrs Peter Naher (who is the aunt of Ralph Bolton Carr) of Johnson City, Tennessee, by by the Will of Alfred Carr, 3) by the family Bible in possession of Mr Paul Carr (uncle of Ralph Bolton Carr) in Johnson City, Tennessee and marriage records of Washington County on page 44 Marriage Records 1787-1840 by Mullins, 4) by Willis of Washington County, Tennessee, Book 1, page 302 of Richard Carr, and 5) Will Book 1, page 166 Will of John Carr, Washington County Will, State of Franklin DAR Publication.
The descent of Roy Claxton Acuff continues with the son of Lovisa Isbell and John Carr through their son John Carr who married Dorcas McCubbin. One of the children of John and Dorcas McCubbin Carr was James McCubbin Carr.
James McCubbin Carr was born 5 February 1801 in Claiborne County, Tennesssee and died 8 September 1889 in Union County, Tennessee. He was amarried to Sarah Sallie Rogers and one of their seven known children was Richard Jackson Carr. Richard Jackson Carr was born 26 February 1826 in Claiborne County, Tennessee and died 12 February 1899 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. Some give his death year 1889, but it is likely that 1899 is correct. His burial place has not with certainty known. Richard Jackson Carr married Nancy Ann Marshall and one of their sons was Alonzo Willet Carr.
Alonzo Willet Carr was born 1 July 1855 in Union County, Tennessee and died 2 July 1933 n Clinton, Anderson County, Tennessee. He was laid to rest in Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee. Alonzo W Carr married Mary Paralee Sharp and they had seven known children: Ormiston T Carr born 1876, Charles A Carr born 1877, James Carr born 1883, Ollie Carr born 1883, Nellie M Carr born 1891, Trula F 1896 and Ida Florence Carr. Ida Carr was born 21 October 1879 and died 17 September 1969 in Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee.
Ida Florence Carr and Rev Simon Ed Neill “Eddy”Acuff were married 25 September 1898 in Union County, Tennessee, USA, likely in Maynardville. By 1930 they were living in Knoxville, Tennessee. and later located to Nashville. There may have been a good reason for that re-location. Their known children were: Paul Briscoe Acuff 1900-1984, Nancy Juanita Acuff 1901-1985, Roy Claxton Acuff 1903-1992, Susie Lee Acuff 24 September 1905-22 December 1990, and Claud R Acuff 1910-1971. Nancy Juanita Carr married Harstell D Phillips. Susie Lee Acuff married Robert L Allen.
Roy Acuff’s ancestors with the surname Isbell included many Revolutionary War Soldiers and veterans of many of wars and boatloads of Ministers of the Gospel. The state of Tennessee was founded by Zachariah Isbell. He was a member of the Watauga Settlement and among the original 13 Commissioners who set up the settlement. Zachariah and many other Isbell kin were at King’s Mountain and some of the fiercest and most pivotal battles of the Revolution.
And the beat goes on with talent of the musical variety in our local Isbell family in northwestern Alabama. A local Isbell relative, Jason Isbell. He earned two Grammies this year. His group is known as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.
Isbell cousin, Roy Acuff seems to have been the first to record “The House of the Rising Sun.” His rendition dates back to 1938.
Hmmm, the Crackerjacks are not just Tennessean, but Alabamian, too.
as evidenced even as far back as 1860.
Documented in the 1860 Lauderdale County, Alabama Slave Schedule for District 2 a 33 year-old female slave had five sets of twins in succession and all but three were alive at the time of the census record. The enumeration took place first day of June, 1860.