Or, Subtitled: Legends of Witches, Native American Curses, and Drowned Towns
In this posting, I’ll discuss the records I’ve found tracking Dennis Lindsey from 1830 to his death in 1836. Almost all of these records are from Lawrence County, Alabama, where he had settled in 1817 when the area was still Madison County in Mississippi Territory. The following are records I’ve found for Dennis Lindsey from 1830 up to his death on 28 August 1836:
- On 20 January 1830, Dennis received a federal patent to a tract of river improvement land in Lawrence County, the northeast ¼ of the ne ¼ of section 15, township 7 south, range 6 west. If you consult the previous posting, you’ll see that the school Dennis Lindsey and John Stewart established in the late 1820s at what would soon become Oakville was very close to this tract of land, as was the settlement that would soon become Oakville. See also the BLM tract map for this area included in another previous posting.
- Dennis Lindsey and his family appear on the 1830 federal census in Lawrence County in the division of John Glass. Dennis’s surname is given as Lindsay, and his household has 2 males 5-9, 3 males 10-14, 1 male 15-19, 1 male 30-39, 2 females under 5, 1 female 10-14, 1 female 30-39, and 7 enslaved persons.
The older male and female in the household in 1830 are, of course, Dennis and wife Jane. The male aged 15-19 is their son John Wesley (born April 1814). In the 10-14 age category, Dennis and Jane had one son Mark Jefferson (born 9 October 1820). Dennis and Jane’s next son, Thomas Madison, was born in 1821, curiously enough, on the same day his brother Mark was born in 1820. I think it’s likely both Mark and Thomas are listed in the 10-14 age category in 1830.
I have no record of another son of Dennis and Jane born between 1816 and 1820. It seems that a son in that age range was living in 1830 but perhaps did not survive to adulthood. On one of my visits to the old Lindsey family cemetery in which Dennis and Jane and Dennis’s parents are buried, I noted a much-worn, broken tombstone that appeared to record the death of a James G. Lindsey, who died in November 1833, aged 17 years, 3 months, and 7 days — but the stone was so worn and broken that I was not certain I was transcribing the inscription correctly.
In the age range of 5-9 years on the 1830 census, Dennis and Jane had sons Charles Washington (born 1822-1824) and Samuel Asbury (born 1826). The female aged 10-14 is Dennis and Jane’s daughter Sarah Brooks Lindsey (born 1 August 1818), and the two younger females are Mary Jane (born 10 November 1826) and Martha Ann (born 11 August 1829).
As we’ll see in a subsequent posting, when an inventory of the estate of Dennis Lindsey was filed on 29 October 1836, 10 enslaved persons were listed in the estate inventory. Of these, nine are named, and one is listed as an unnamed child. Ages are not given for these enslaved persons in Dennis’s estate documents. The 1830 census shows the 7 enslaved persons owned by Dennis as 2 males 36-54, 2 males under 10, 2 females 24-35, and 1 female under 10. Some or all of these enslaved persons would likely be the enslaved persons named in the estate documents, but without information about their ages in the estate documents, it’s difficult to match the persons named in the estate to the enslaved people enumerated on the 1830 census.
As we saw in a previous posting, the 1830 federal census shows Dennis’s father Mark Lindsey holding 12 enslaved persons in Lawrence County, and several names of enslaved persons Mark held at the time of his death in 1848 appear in Mark’s estate documents. I have found no records indicating that either Mark or Dennis held enslaved people at the time they moved from Wayne County, Kentucky, to Alabama in 1817 and 1819. It appears that the enslaved people both had acquired by 1830 had been purchased after their settling in Alabama.
As LeeAnna Keith notes,
Early Alabamians demonstrated what observers would describe as the characteristic mania of the Alabama Fever, in which planters sold cotton to buy more slaves to produce more cotton, meanwhile always acquiring new acreage to maximize output. Roughly one third of the migrants were slaves, about 40,000 of whom were moved to the new state between 1810 and 1820. Alabama Fever thus greatly expanded the institution of slavery, allowing established holders to profit not only from cotton production but also from the sale and relocation of enslaved people for labor and reproduction. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, a significant number of the enslaved would be relocated more than once, to Alabama then to parts farther west, as dwindling cotton yields continually expanded the frontier.
As Keith S. Hebert writes,
As of statehood in 1819, slaves accounted for more than 30 percent of Alabama’s approximately 128,000 inhabitants. The slave population more than doubled during the 1820s and again during the 1830s.
Note that Huntsville, some 40 miles east of Oakville, where Dennis Lindsey lived, had by these years a slave market in which enslaved people were bought and sold. As this ad from the Huntsville Republican newspaper on 13 January 1818 shows us, already by that date, enslaved people were being offered for sale in Huntsville:
On the 1830 census, Dennis Lindsey is enumerated next to Richard Puckett, a name we’ve encountered in previous postings. As we’ve seen, in his Early Settlers of Alabama, James Edmond Saunders states that Puckett was the “leading man” of Oakville, who represented Lawrence County in the state legislature in 1836-7, and made much money during the cotton-boom period from statehood to the latter part of the 1830s, when the economy crashed, ruining cotton planters in Alabama and elsewhere. We’ve also seen that Dennis Lindsey’s brother William Burke Lindsey married Richard Puckett’s niece Carolina after her marriage to Alexander Mackey Brooks, brother-in-law of Dennis, had failed.
Also enumerated near Dennis Lindsey in 1830 were his wife’s uncle James Brooks and a Naomi Woodruff who, as previously discussed, had married James Woodruff after James’s first wife, a Dinsmore aunt of Dennis whose given name has not been found, had died. In addition, on the same page that has these names and Dennis Lindsey’s, one finds the John Birdwell discussed in the last posting, who gave affidavit with Dennis and others on 16 June 1828 attesting to the good character of John May, who had spoken in support of James Harris as Harris tried to vindicate his father against charges Andrew Jackson had made against him when he had the elder Harris, Reverend John Harris, executed in February 1815. The fact that Dennis Lindsey and John Birdwell are on the same page of the 1830 federal census tells us that they were neighbors.
- 23 June 1830: Dennis Lindsey appealed to Lawrence County Orphans Court to be released of his trusteeship for Littleberry (the name is spelled Littlebury here) H. Jones’s guardianship of the infant heirs of Richard Pain, deceased. Littleberry Jones is a name we’ve met previously in connection to both Dennis Lindsey and his father Mark. Littleberry Hardiman Jones was the son of Daniel and Catherine Crawley Jones of Nottoway County, Virginia.
- 23 October 1830: Dennis appears in county court minutes in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Court minutes note that in the case of Thomas Glidewell vs. Dennis Lindsay, Dennis had not responded and the court had ordered Glidewell to recover his damages. On 18 January 1831, a jury awarded Glidewell damages in amount of $79 plus court costs. A biography of Glidewell in Goodspeed’s biographical memoirs for central Arkansas indicates that he had moved to Lincoln County in 1823 from North Carolina (Wake County, apparently), where he had worked as an overseer. He farmed and operated a country inn in Lincoln County.
Fayetteville, the county seat of Lincoln County, Tennessee, is some 30 miles due north of Huntsville. From Alabama’s formative years forward, there has always been much interchange between the southern counties of Tennessee and counties in north Alabama, in particular, between Madison County, Alabama, and Lincoln County, Tennessee.
- 19 January 1831: Dennis was appointed guardian of Elizabeth, the daughter of Samuel Dutton, deceased, of Lawrence County. As I’ve noted previously, Dennis’s father Mark gave bond with Samuel Irwin on 19 January 1831 for Samuel Irwin’s administration of guardianship of Aaron, son of Thomas Dutton; Irwin was administrator of Dutton’s estate. Dennis Lindsey was one of the appraisers of Thomas Dutton’s estate.
I have not been successful in figuring out the connection between the Lindsey and Dutton family, or in identifying Thomas and Samuel Dutton. Joseph T. Richardson of Decatur, Alabama, maintains a website tracking descendants of his fourth-great-grandfather Zachariah Dutton, some of whom settled in Lawrence and Morgan Counties, Alabama. Zachariah was born in Charles County, Maryland, in 1750 and died in Granville County, North Carolina, in 1829, according to Joseph Richardson. I feel sure that the Thomas Dutton for whom Mark Lindsey gave bond with Samuel Irwin in 1831 to settle Dutton’s estate, and the Samuel Dutton for whose daughter Elizabeth Dennis Lindsey was guardian fit into this Zachariah Dutton family — but I have been unable to discover how.
- 20 June 1831: Dennis was the assignee of the southwest ¼ of section 15, township 7 south, range six west in Lawrence County 159.49 acres. Dennis was granted this piece of land on 3 June 1833: see below. Note Dennis’s acquisition of another piece of land on 20 January 1830 in the same coordinates, discussed above. Dennis’s estate documents will show that this is where he and his family lived; the coordinates are those of Oakville.
- 17 August 1831: Dennis affirmed in Lawrence County Orphans Court a list of personal property belonging to Elizabeth Dutton, of whom he was guardian.
- 30 March 1832: Dennis Lindsey, Spotswood Jones, Bennett Wood, William Prescott, and Richard Puckett were ordered by Lawrence County Orphans Court to appraise the estate of Lewis Bentley of Lawrence County. On Spottswood or Spotswood Jones, see the previous posting. And note the name Richard Puckett again, which is discussed above.
- July court term 1832: Dennis Lindsey, Samuel Irwin, Samuel White, David Knott, and Spotswood Jones were appointed by Lawrence County Orphans Court to appraise the property of Augustine Jenkins.
- 30 November 1832: Dennis Lindsey, along with David Hall, Henry Gregg, and George Stevens, gave an affidavit in Lawrence County court affirming William Butler’s service as a Revolutionary soldier as Butler applied for a pension. The original affidavit with the signatures of these four county commissioners is in Butler’s Revolutionary pension file.
- 20 May 1833: Samuel Irwin, Mark Lindsey, Dennis Lindsey, Ezekiel Thomas, and George Keyes were ordered by Lawrence County Orphans Court to appraise the estate of David Knott.
- 1 June 1833: Dennis gave permission for his daughter Sarah to marry James Beckham Speake in Lawrence County. Dennis’s permission note, written in his hand and signed by him, is in the original marriage file of James and Sarah Lindsey Speake held by the county courthouse (these may now be in the holdings of the county archives.) The permission note reads,
John Gregg at your office. Sir this is to sirtify that it is consentable for James B Speek to obtain lison of you to mary Sarah B Lindsey this 1th June 1833 — Dennis Lindsey
Sarah was not yet 15 years of age when she married James B. Speake — hence her father’s letter of permission for the marriage. This was not really unusual. As David Hackett Fischer notes, the pattern established early on in colonial Virginia, the mother state of the southeastern states, was for females to marry before they were 17. As Fischer notes, males were normally several years older than their brides in colonial Virginia — James B. Speake was 15 years older than Sarah when the couple married. Sarah’s mother Jane Brooks was a day short of 16 when she and Dennis Lindsey married; he was three years older. I haven’t found Mark Lindsey and Mary Jane Dinsmore’s marriage record, but judging from Dennis’s birthdate, Mary Jane would have been only 14 or 15 when the couple married, with Mark five years older.
- 3 June 1833: Dennis bought from the U.S. land office at Huntsville 159.50 acres, the southwest ¼ of section 15, township 7, range 6 west. The southeast portion of this land appears in a list of Muscle Shoals grants given by the United States to Alabama by a Congressional act on 22 May 1828.
- 18 September 1833: Benjamin Miller, Dennis Lindsey, James Kitchens, Asa B. Crosthwait, and James M(eader?) were appointed by Lawrence County Orphans Court to appraise the property of William Ross.
- 9 December 1833: the town of Oakville in Lawrence County was incorporated by an act of the Alabama legislature, with Dennis Lindsey, William Hodges, and Samuel White appointed commissioners to lay out the town and to see officers elected.
In a 1 June 1909 article in the Moulton Advertiser, Simeon W. Barbee of Los Angeles, a former teacher in Lawrence County who grew up at Oakville — the article is part of an “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” series he wrote in 1908-9 about the county’s early history — states that almost a century ago, Oakville had been “a lively village, resting in a valley of classic beauty and promise. Hither the best people from the older Southern States had come to make their future homes….” Barbee was 71 when he published this article.
Barbee notes that, though the town had vanished by 1909, with only its spring marking the locale, no place in the county other than Moulton had contributed so much towards giving “character and caste” to the county than had Oakville. Barbee notes, in particular, that the town’s educational system and religious establishments helped foster a democratic society that set a standard for the county.
Barbee observes that, by 1909, the only historical landmark left at this vicinity was the famous Oakville spring, which had been sought out since Indian days. In a previous article in his “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” series, Barbee notes that a “great lake” had at some point been “unaccountably formed” next to Oakville, to which a local merchant, James T. Irwin, had given the name “John Irwin’s pond.” The pond or lake had formed overnight more than a mile from Flint Creek, the nearest body of water. On contemporary maps of the area, this body of water appears as Oakville Pond, immediately west of Oakville.
As Dorothy Gentry recounts in her book Life and Legend of Lawrence County, Alabama, a legend has grown up in the region that the town of Oakville, which Gentry says was once a promising town with a general store and a saloon, was inundated suddenly when the Oakville spring flowed into a sink hole that became clogged, causing the water to back up and a large pond to be formed, covering the town.
In articles he published in the Decatur Daily newspaper in 1963 and 1964, local historian John Knox also records this local legend. He states that the town sank beneath water when its spring rose suddenly, and that some had opined that the town was cursed by the native peoples, since it lay between two mounds dating from their inhabitation of the area.
Knox followed this article a few weeks later with another in which he relays folk tales from the Speake community speaking of a tradition in the family of Dr. John Irwin of Moulton that Oakville had been suddenly inundated with water at some point. This article also references a speech by Lawrence County solicitor Thomas Pettus to the North Alabama Historical Association, which claims that a poor, friendless woman on Flint Creek had been at some time in the past accused of witchcraft and was committed to jail by Squire David Knott. When county clerk John Gallagher began to write commitment papers for her, he pointed out that if she were a witch, she could escape through the jail’s keyhole, so it would be wrong to commit her. Pettus wondered (facetiously, one hopes) if the witch were responsible for Oakville’s fate — this is assuming, of course, that a sudden uprising of water inundated the town.
But the committee who published The Heritage of Lawrence County, Alabama in 1998 cast cold water on the legend that Oakville was ruined by a sudden inundation of water. They cite John Wiley, who was born and raised in Oakville, whose parents also grew up in Oakville. Wiley points out that twice in his lifetime, in 1934 and 1954, drought caused the Oakville pond to dry up so that one could walk across its bed — and plainly see that no town lay beneath the pond.
In their book focusing on the Torrence family of Lawrence County and other families connected to the Torrences, Mary Novella Gibson-Brittain, Marie Brittain-Craig, and Marjorie Craig Churchill transcribe material from Barbee’s “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” columns that I have been unable to track down. Noting that in one of his articles in Moulton Advertiser Barbee speaks of Sylvanus Gibson, who married Elizabeth Grizelle Torrence, these authors state that Barbee says that the Gibsons “lived about two miles from Oakville, on Flint Creek, noted for its rich soil and fine homes.”
The authors then go on to say that Barbee asserts the following about Oakville:
[Oakville was] the second place in the County, in some respects rivaling the County Seat itself. Some of the most stirring and far-reaching political history of the County was made here. No place had bigger barbeques, and at no place in such occasions was more of political wisdom assembled, as demonstrated by the speeches of rival candidates and orators claiming the suffrage of the people….It was seldom the people of any community had the privilege of hearing the principles of political government described in a more intelligent and convincing manner.
The reason the town of Oakville began to wither away was not because the place was cursed by native Americans or a witch, and inundated by water: as James Edmond Saunders clearly explains, talking about what happened to Oakville merchant Richard Puckett,
When the “crash” of 1837 occurred it broke him and every merchant in the place. Not only so, but many of the most solvent farmers around were involved as sureties for Major Puckett and other merchants, and broken up. The town itself had been built up on a school section, and was sold by an act of the Legislature, and every building afterward rotted down, so that no vestige of the place is left.
Elsewhere, Saunders notes that, after the economic crash of 1837, Oakville, which had been a “flourishing village nine miles east of Moulton” was abandoned. As Cushing Biggs Hassell (1809-1880) of Williamston, North Carolina, notes in his autobiography, which appears to have been completed in 1840 and is now held as a manuscript by the Southern Historical Collection at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the spring of 1837, about 400 mercantile houses in New York City failed, and banks throughout the country were suspended. These events produced an economic depression that reduced thousands of Americans to bankruptcy.
In a letter he wrote from Oakville on 13 May 1837, Richard Puckett states that Lawrence County “partakes largely of the pecuniary distress & embarrassment that now pervades the world.” Puckett says he had lost $3,000 in cotton.As Alton Lambert notes, the 1837 depression caused many farmers in north Alabama to sell their land and move west. The deed, court, and tax books of counties in Alabama for several years after 1837 are full of notices of local planters and business folks leaving Alabama, leaving debts behind, heading to parts unknown. It was presumed that they were often heading to Texas, and county records often note next to the names of these citizens, G.T.T. — Gone to Texas.
The “valley of classic beauty” to which Simeon Barbee refers in his 1 June 1909 article about Oakville discussed above is the Moulton Valley. According to Saunders, the Moulton Valley has a large proportion of fine creek land. Saunders also notes that the Flint River rises in the Moulton Valley, and it and other branches spread “wide furrows to the richest alluvion” in this part of Alabama, though the valley also suffers from a lack of drainage, according to Saunders. Maps of Lawrence County show the Flint River flowing just north of Oakville, and readers may recall that, in his biographical notice of Mark and Dennis Lindsey, Saunders states that Mark was living on a branch of Flint River when Saunders first met him.
Contemporary maps of Lawrence County show a Lindsey Branch flowing south and east out of McDaniel Creek, off Flint River just southeast of Oakville. Lindsey cemetery, in which Mark and Dennis Lindsey are buried with wives Mary Jane and Jane on what was Dennis Lindsey’s farm, is just west of this branch.
- 4 February 1834: Dennis Lindsey was commissioned a justice of the peace for Lawrence County.
- 19 November 1834: William Hodges, James Jackson, Dennis Lindsey, Samuel Irwin, and Richard Puckett were appointed by Lawrence County Orphans Court to apportion Thomas Harwood’s share of the estate of Bennett Wood in right of Harwood’s wife Henrietta Thompson Harwood.
- 29 May 1835: Dennis Lindsey made a promissory note of $550 to Samuel White in Lawrence County. As we’ll see when we discuss Dennis Lindsey’s estate documents, in July 1838, White filed suit against James B. Speake and Samuel Irwin as administrators of Dennis Lindsey’s estate; the suit was regarding this debt of Dennis to Samuel White.
- 2 June 1835: Dennis was assignee of a tract of river improvement land in Lawrence County, the west ½ of the northwest ¼ of section 15 township 7 south.
- 17 June 1835: Dennis Lindsey, Samuel Irwin, John Bradford, Abner B. Crosthwait, and Benjamin Miller were appointed by Lawrence County Orphans Court to appraise the estate of Mitchell McFarling.
- 21 October 1835: Dennis Lindsey, Ezekiel Thomas, Nathan J. Gallaway, and Mark Lindsey were ordered by Lawrence County Orphans Court to dividethe estate of Asa Hodges among his heirs.
- 23 March 1836: the commissioners of the estate of Asa Hodges returned their estate report to Lawrence County Orphans Court. The report was signed by both Dennis and his father Mark, among other commissioners.
- 28 April 1836: Dennis received a federal patent to 79.91 acres in Lawrence County, the east ½ of the northeast ¼ of section 21, township 7, range 6 west.
- 9-10 August 1836: Dennis Lindsey purchased lumber at a cost of $24.34 from Thomas and Meredith Couch of Lawrence County. The debt is noted in a Lawrence County loose court papers file whose only document is Couch’s bill for the lumber to Dennis Lindsey, which Meredith Couch acknowledged in court on 15 June 1837.
Dennis Lindsey died on 28 August 1836, according to his tombstone record. In my next posting, I’ll discuss Dennis’s estate records, which span a number of years, since he left an estate which, though it was substantial for his time and place, was much encumbered by debt as the 1837 economic crash occurred, so that settling the estate — and all Dennis’s creditors — took time and effort on the part of the estate administrators.
 See Margaret Matthews Cowart, Land Records of Lawrence County, Alabama (priv. published, Huntsville, Alabama, 1991), p. 67.
 1830 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, p. 275.
 James Benson Sellers, Slavery in Alabama (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1950), p. 154.
 James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899), p. 123.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. C, p. 13.
 See Augusta B. Fothergill, Peter Jones and Richard Jones Genealogies (Richmond: Old Dominion, 1924), pp. 274-5.
 Lincoln County, Tennessee, County Court Minute Bk. 1830-1832, p. 123.
 Ibid., p. 140.
 Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs: Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland and Hot Spring Counties, Arkansas (Chicago: Goodspeed, 1889), p. 265.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. C, p. 77.
 Certificate 1103: see Cowart, Land Records of Lawrence County, Alabama, p. 68.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. C, p. 143.
 Ibid., Bk. D, p. 210.
 Ibid., p. 222.
 Ibid., p. 314.
 David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford Univ. Press), pp. 284-5.
 Huntsville Federal Land Office Credit Volume Patent Bk. 135, p. 229, certificate 1103.
 See Congressional Serial Set, Index to Reports of Committees, Second Session, Twentieth Congress (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1828), report 11.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. D, p. 345.
 Alabama Legislature, Acts 1833, #8, p. 57. See also John Knox, “Oakville Survived,” Decatur Daily, 22 March 1964; and Henry C. Lindsey, The Mark Lindsey Heritage, 1740-1982 (priv. publ., Brownwood, Texas, 1983), p. 13.
 S.W. Barbee, “Old Lawrence Reminiscent,” Moulton Advertiser, 1 June 1909, p. 1, col. 2-5.
 Ibid., 20 April 1909, p. 1, col. 2.
 Dorothy Gentry, Life and Legend of Lawrence County, Alabama (priv. publ., 1962), p. 117.
 John Knox, “Did the Earth Swallow the Town of Oakville?” Decatur Daily, 18 December 1963, p. A-14, col. 1-6.
 John Knox, “There Is Good Evidence of Oakville Calamity,” Decatur Daily, 5 January 1964.
 Lawrence County Heritage Book Committee, “Oakville,” in The Heritage of Lawrence County, Alabama (Marcelline, Missouri: Walsworth, 1998), p. 22.
 Mary Novella Gibson-Brittain, Marie Brittain-Craig, and Marjorie Craig Churchill, The History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families (Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland, 1969).
 Ibid., p. 87.
 Ibid., p. 88.
 James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899), pp. 123.
 Ibid., pp. 103-4.
 The letter is cited by Irene D. Gallaway in her book Puckett Points, Some Facts Concerning the Family of Richard Puckett of Lunenburg County, Virginia (priv. publ., 1931), p. 25.
 Alton Lambert, History of Tuscaloosa County, Alabama (Centre, Alabama: Stewart University Press, 1977), vol. 1 , p. vi.
 Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama, p. 40.
 Ibid., pp. 122-3.
 Alabama Civil Register of County Officials, vol. 2, 1832-1844, p. 170.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. E, p. 94.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, loose court papers, case #2293, box 171, folder 2.
 Cowart, Land Records of Lawrence County, Alabama, p. 67.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk E, p. 167.
 Ibid., p. 287.
 Ibid., p. 342.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, loose court papers, box 167, folder 8.