Or, Subtitled: “Mark Was a Methodist, but Loved a Dram”
Mark Lindsey’s Death and Estate Records
As I’ve noted previously, Mark Lindsey is buried in a family cemetery that was established on the farm of his son Dennis at Oakville in Lawrence County, Alabama, following Dennis’s death in 1836. Mark’s tombstone states that he died 10 April 1847, aged 74. I also noted that the tombstone clearly dates from the period of Mark’s death and that Mark’s widow Mary Jane Dinsmore Lindsey likely provided the information recorded on the stone. Mary Jane died 10 March 1853 and is buried beside her husband.
But as I also pointed out in the posting I’ve just linked, the minutes of a Morgan County, Alabama, chancery court case filed by Mark’s daughter Nancy and her husband William Morris about Mark’s estate twice state that Mark died 10 April 1848 and not in 1847. I’ll discuss this document below. Because Mark’s son Fielding Wesley Lindsey filed for administration of his father’s estate on 8 May 1848, it seems likely to me that 1848 and not 1847 is the correct year — and this would place Mark’s year of birth in 1774.
Though Mark is buried in Lawrence County, he died in Morgan County, where he and his wife lived on Crowdabout Creek, a branch of the Flint River, in southwestern Morgan County near the Lawrence County line. Mark’s estate records are filed in Morgan County, and when his son Fielding Wesley Lindsey appealed for administration of his father’s estate in May 1848 in Morgan County (see below on this document), the appeal states that Mark was “late of said county.”
Two sets of Morgan County court records contain information about Mark Lindsey’s estate. The county’s orphans court minutes document the estate’s settlement from May 1848 to 10 June 1850. Orphans court minutes then state that the estate settlement had been referred to the county’s chancery court due to a case that had been filed there. The chancery case, which was filed by Mark’s daughter Nancy and her husband William Morris, provides documentation of some aspects of Mark’s estate and its disposition, but ends in medias res with no statement of how the case was resolved. I’ve asked a Morgan County archivist about the incompleteness of the account in the chancery court books of the county, and he tells me that for some inexplicable reason, the minutes of the book in which this case is documented simply end with the case unresolved. That is, the minute book itself appears to be incomplete.
I mention these details because the chancery court documents provide the only complete account I’ve found of the names of all of Mark Lindsey’s children. A number of published biographies had led many Lindsey descendants to think that Mark Lindsey and Mary Jane Dinsmore had only three children, all sons: Dennis, Fielding Wesley, and David Dinsmore Lindsey. In a previous posting, I cited James Edmond Saunders’s brief biography of Mark Lindsey in his book Early Settlers of Alabama. As I noted, Saunders states that Mark had a son Dennis; a number of records indicate that Dennis was Mark’s oldest son.
A 17 October 1889 biography of Mark by A.G. Copeland published in the Alabama Enquirer of Hartselle states that Mark also had sons Wesley (i.e., Fielding Wesley) and Dinsmore (i.e., David Dinsmore). I’ll discuss this biography later.
More recently, John Knox’s A History of Morgan County, Alabama, discussed in a previous posting, also leaves readers with the impression that Mark and Mary Jane Dinsmore Lindsey had only sons Dennis, Fielding Wesley, and David Dinsmore. But read the list of Mark’s heirs in the chancery court minutes documenting the case filed by his daughter and son-in-law William and Nancy Lindsey Morris, and you quickly discover that there were two other children whose names appear in few published accounts of this family: Nancy and her brother William Burke Lindsey.
Part of the reason, I suspect, that Dennis, Wesley, and Dinsmore were “remembered” in local family accounts when their siblings Nancy and Burke fell by the wayside is that Wesley and Dinsmore, the youngest of the siblings, remained in Lawrence County, as did Dennis’s widow Jane Brooks Lindsey and their children following his early death in 1836 (though in time most of Dennis’s children moved away from Lawrence County). But following her marriage around 1825, Nancy moved with husband William Morris to Obion County, Tennessee, and contiguous Hickman County, Kentucky, and Burke moved with wife Carolina Puckett to Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and then to Bastrop County, Texas.
Morgan County, Alabama, Orphans Court Documentation of Mark Lindsey’s Estate
The account of Mark Lindsey’s estate in Morgan County orphans court minutes begins with the appeal of his son Fielding W. Lindsey on 8 May 1848 to administer the estate. Court minutes state that F.W. Lindsey gave bond in the sum of $2,000 on that date and was granted administration. At the same court term, W.E. Baker, R.M. Johnson, M.W. Troup, James Wise, and H.T. Pendleton were appointed to appraise the estate. On other references to Henry T. Pendleton in Mark Lindsey’s records in Lawrence and Morgan Counties, see this previous posting.
On 2 October 1848, Fielding W. Lindsey made a return of the sales of Mark’s personal property. Court minutes provide no details about this personal property or how much the sale brought to the estate. At the same court session, Wesley filed an allegation that the estate was insolvent, and the court ordered a hearing of the matter at November term, with publication about this in the Huntsville Democrat, and with the creditors to appear at court in Somerville the fourth Monday in November.
On 20 April 1849, Wesley returned to the court a report of the sale of the enslaved people belonging to the estate.Again, court minutes provide no details about this sale — neither the names of the enslaved people sold by the estate, nor the amount that this sale garnered for the estate.
On 5 May 1849, F.W. Lindsey was issued a citation to renew his administration bond, and at this court session, he gave bond with brother David Dinsmore and with Drury Stovall. On 6 June 1850, Wesley appealed for final settlement of the estate. Four days later on 10 June 1850, orphan court minutes state that, on order from the Chancellor of the 33 District of the Northern Division of Alabama, orphans court had been enjoined to stop the estate settlement and transfer the matter to court.
Morgan County, Alabama, Chancery Court Documentation of Mark Lindsey’s Estate
From this point forward, the rest of the records I’ve found regarding the settlement of Mark Lindsey’s estate are in the minutes of chancery court. The chancery court account of the litigation regarding Mark’s estate shows that on 22 April 1850, William and Nancy Lindsey Morris of Obion County, Tennessee, had filed suit in chancery court to challenge the estate administration by Nancy’s brother Wesley (see the graphic at the top of this posting for the opening page of the court minutes documenting this case). The bill of complaint of William and Nancy Morris lists the heirs of the estate. The list initially provided is followed several pages later by an amended list correcting the list of heirs initially given. One of the allegations of the Morrises was that Wesley and Dinsmore Lindsey had sought to defraud the other heirs of the estate and had provided the court with an incomplete list of heirs.
The complete list of heirs includes the following names:
- The widow Mary.
- The children of Mark’s deceased son Dennis, who were Sarah Lindsey, wife of James B. Speake of Lawrence County, Alabama; John W. Lindsey of Itawamba County, Mississippi; Thomas J. [sic] Lindsey of Mississippi; Mark J. Lindsey of Louisiana; Samuel A. Lindsey of Lawrence County, Alabama; Frances R. Lindsey, wife of Samuel Kellogg of Itawamba County, Mississippi; Martha A. Lindsey of Itawamba County, Mississippi; Margaret and Dennis Lindsey of Lawrence County, Alabama; and John Fletcher Brooks and James D. Brooks, sons of Dennis’s deceased daughter Mary Jane Lindsey Brooks.
- Nancy Lindsey Morris (her name is erroneously given as Mary at one point in these two lists).
- William B. Lindsey of Itawamba County, Mississippi.
- Fielding W. Lindsey of Lawrence County, Alabama.
- David D. Lindsey of Morgan County, Alabama (his name is erroneously given as Dennis D. Lindsey at several points).
Among the information provided in the Morrises’s bill of complaint is that the date of Mark’s death was 10 April 1848, and that he died in Morgan County. In his answer to the complaint filed on 18 April 1851, Fielding W. Lindsey also states this date as Mark’s date of death. Another interesting detail provided in the bill of complaint is that Dr. Pendleton attended Mark in his last illness, and Mark’s coffin was made by a Mr. Ponders.
The gist of the litigation, which, as I have noted, unfortunately ends with no resolution in the account provided by chancery court minutes, is that Mark’s business affairs were entangled with those of his two youngest sons living near him at the time of his death, Wesley and Dinsmore, and that those two sons were benefitting themselves from the estate at the expense of the other heirs. The Morrises alleged, for instance, that Dinsmore Lindsey had taken virtual ownership of several enslaved people belonging to the estate, whose names are given: Eda, Eliza, Lucinda, Tom, and Anderson. They also alleged that the estate was not, as Wesley Lindsey had reported to court, insolvent, but that he had made improper charges against the estate to make it appear that it was insolvent.
The bill of complaint also states that the enslaved persons of the estate were sold on 1 March 1849 for a total of $3187.88, and that the other personal property of the estate was sold on 1 August 1849 for a total of $255.88. It’s clear from the account of the sale of Mary Jane Dinsmore Lindsey’s estate in Lawrence County on 29 April 1853 that a portion of the estate’s personal property (furniture, books, farm implements, etc.) had remained in her hands as widow, and was sold when she died, with sons Wesley and Dinsmore as the chief buyers. As I’ve noted previously, Mary Jane is buried next to her husband Mark in the family cemetery established on the farm of their son Dennis, with a tombstone giving her date of death as 10 March 1855, and her age when she died as 74. The 1855 date is clearly not correct, since her son Wesley filed for administration of her estate on 24 March 1853 and the estate’s property was sold on 29 April 1853.
This is the sum total of the records I’ve found documenting the estates of Mark Lindsey and his wife Mary Jane Dinsmore. Due to the unfortunate loss of part of the chancery court minute book in which the case filed by Mark and Mary’s daughter Nancy Morris following Mark’s death, it’s not clear how Mark’s estate was finally disposed of and how the suit initiated by the Morrises was resolved.
Biographical Notices of Mark Lindsey
A. James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama
In a previous posting, I shared the brief biography of Mark and his son Dennis written by James Edmond Saunders, who knew both men personally, and published in Saunders’s 1899 book Early Settlers of Alabama. As I noted when I pointed you to this biographical account, it was first published by Saunders in the Moulton Advertiser newspaper in December 1880.
Saunders was born in 1806 in Brunswick County, Virginia, and came to Lawrence County, Alabama, in 1821 with his father Reverend Turner Saunders. His Early Settlers of Alabama gathers together articles he had published from April 1880 forward in the Moulton Advertiser. In the original articles, Saunders provided eyewitness accounts of various early settlers of north Alabama whom he remembered personally.
As the posting at the preceding link indicates, Saunders’s biographical notice states that Mark and his son Dennis, “who was a second edition of his father, in person and character,” came to Lawrence County from Kentucky, having gone there from South Carolina when Mark was a young man. Saunders speaks of the hospitality Mark and his family showed the local Methodist circuit writer John Berry McFerrin, and of the “most excellent [sic] reputation” Mark enjoyed due to his “industry and good morals.” He also remembers Mak as a “tall, spare, old gentleman” who lived on a branch of Flint River.
Saunders’s biographical notice goes on to talk about the Speake family, noting that Dennis Lindsey’s daughter Sarah married J.B. (James Beckham) Speake, who represented Lawrence County in the Alabama legislature. Saunders notes that J.B. and Sarah Lindsey Speake were parents of Henry Clay Speake, Chancellor of the Northern District of Alabama, and later judge of the 8th Judicial District, and Daniel Webster Speake, also a judge and a member of the Alabama legislature. Saunders spells the surname as “Speak,” whereas the family in Lawrence County has long used the spelling “Speake.”
Saunders erroneously has Mark and Dennis Lindsey arriving in Alabama in 1827. Dennis patented land in Madison County, the parent county of Lawrence, in 1818, and had likely moved his family to Alabama from Wayne County, Kentucky, in 1817. Unless his parents Mark and Mary Jane Lindsey sold their land in Wayne County in absentia after they had moved to Alabama, they moved following the sale of their Kentucky farm in October 1819.
B. A.G. Copeland, Alabama Enquirer (Hartselle), 17 October 1889
Another biographical notice of Mark by a local citizen who knew him personally appears in A.G. Copeland’s October 1889 article in Hartselle’s Alabama Enquirer entitled “Reminiscences of Morgan County.” This is one in a series of such reminiscences Copeland published in the Hartselle paper over a period of time, providing first-hand accounts of early settlers of the county whom he remembered. The collection has been gathered together and published by the Morgan County Genealogical Society.
As does Saunders, Copeland (who was a Methodist minister) speaks of Mark Lindsey’s Methodist affiliation, his good reputation, and his industry. He also suggests that Mark and some of his descendants had keen intellects, noting that the “gifted and popular Judge Henry Clay Speak(e)” was a descendant of Mark Lindsey, and that “intellect and energy will tell.”
Copeland speaks as well of Mark Lindsey’s fondness for a dram, despite his Methodist piety, and recounts a story that also reminds his hearers that Mark was among the Methodists of the Southern states who held people in human bondage despite the church’s misgivings about slavery. Copeland has this to say about Mark:
Mark Lindsey was one of the first and noted of Croudabout’s earliest families. He was a good man and industrious, accumulated good property and was proud of his achievement. His friends still tell an anecdote on him. Mark was a Methodist, but loved a dram; on one occasion, he had been to town and indulged in his beverage too freely, and coming up to his house on the rear side, saw his man, and asked whose negroes were those about the yard, was told they belonged to Mr. Mark Lindsey. “How many,” said he, “does the gentleman own?” “Twenty-three,” said the fellow. “Pretty good for Mark,” said Lindsey, “open the gate and let your master in.” However, he was a good man and true citizen. He was the father of Dinsmore and Wesley Lindsey, two of the best men Oakville beat ever had. They each left good families. The late J.D. Lindsey was a grandson of Mark. So are William and Sam Lindsey. The widows of D. and W. Lindsey are still with their children and friends. No better women live this side of Heaven. None ever sung and shouted more, none will have a better right to the tree of life than they.
Copeland then goes on to discuss his “honored friend” James Beckham Speake, husband of Mark’s granddaughter Sarah Brooks Lindsey, a daughter of Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks. It’s in this section of his reminiscences that he talks about “the gifted and popular Judge Henry Clay Speak(e),” a son of James and Sarah Lindsey Speake.
C. Other Sources
Another source that alludes to Mark Lindsey and his ancestry are the biography of his grandson Daniel Webster Speake in Dictionary of Alabama Biography. This source states (erroneously) that the Lindsey family was “of Scotch-Irish descent,” and notes that its ancestors had come to America before the Revolution, in which they took an active part.
By contrast, a biography of one of Mark’s great-grandsons, Benjamin Dennis Lindsey (1856-1938), a son of Dennis and Jane Brooks Lindsey’s son Mark Jefferson Lindsey, in a source entitled Texas Under Many Flags states that the Lindsey family came early to the Southern colonies from England. The information for this biography was evidently supplied by Benjamin Dennis Lindsey himself. These two biographies of descendants of Mark Lindsey illustrate, I think, how traditions of origin not grounded in fact and solid documentation make their way into many families over the course of time. It’s interesting to compare them with accounts of Mark written by several people who actually knew and remembered him.
In my final posting about Mark Lindsey, I will share some of what I know of his children and their families. Because I have more information about the family of my own ancestor, Mark’s son Dennis, I will continue this series by tracing Dennis’s family for another generation or two in several lines.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Inventory and Wills Bk. A, p. 224. See also Lawrence County, Alabama, Probate Court Minutes Bk. A, p. 446, showing Fielding W. Lindsey applying for letters of administration on Mary’s estate on 24 March 1853, giving bond with David D. Lindsey and James I. Irwin. On the same date, John Kitchens, James B. Speake, and Darius Lynch were appointed to appraise the estate.
 See Tid-Bits, vol. 1: Births, Marriages, Deaths, and Other Interesting Items Including Reminiscences of Morgan County (Decatur: Morgan County Genealogical Society, 1995). The Mark Lindsey biography is on pp. 49-50 of this collection.