Or, Subtitled: Weathervane Turns on Fortunes of North Alabama Merchant Planters in 1830s
John Wesley Lindsey’s Birth in Wayne County, Kentucky, April 1814
In line with their strong Methodist commitments, Dennis Lindsey (1794-1836) and Jane Brooks named their first child (and eldest son) John Wesley, after the founder of Methodism. As we’ve seen, Dennis had a brother who also bore the name Wesley — Fielding Wesley Lindsey. Another brother, William Burke Lindsey, was named for the first Methodist circuit rider in Wayne County, Kentucky, at the time the Lindsey family lived there. John B. McFerrin, another Methodist circuit rider whom James Edmond Saunders mentions in connection with Mark and Dennis Lindsey in his Early Settlers of Alabama, as we’ve noted, provides abundant information about William Burke in his History of Methodism in Tennessee.
I mention these naming patterns and the Methodist connections of this branch of the Lindsey family as a reminder that, as we do family history, we can find valuable clues by paying attention to given names within families. Those sometimes point us to the religious background of a family, even to particular ministers within a region in which a family lived, and can open the door to further information in church histories and church minutes. As an example: I’m confident that Miles R. Lindsey, whose father Dennis Lindsey (1793-1855/1860) was, I believe, a half-brother of Mark Lindsey, was named for Reverend Miles Rainwater, who pastored Cedar Shoals Baptist church near Woodruff, South Carolina. This clue points us to a particular church that Dennis Lindsey and his wife Anna Woodruff may well have attended before they moved to Franklin County, Alabama.
For a long time, John Wesley Lindsey created quite a puzzle for me: I could track him easily through the years in which he lived in Lawrence County, Alabama, and Itawamba County, Mississippi, but after he disappears from Itawamba County records around 1870, I seemed to lose track of him. I wondered when and where he died — until I realized that he is the J.W. Lindsay who married M.A. Wester in Red River Parish, Louisiana, on 15 December 1878. This record showed me that, after his first two wives Margaret Gibson and Mary Louisa, a widow Maupin when he married her, died in Itawamba County, Mississippi, John had gone out to Red River Parish, Louisiana, to join the families of his brother Mark Jefferson Lindsey, my 3-great-grandfather, and his sisters Margaret Lindsey Hunter and Rebecca Lindsey Kellogg. Finding that record opened a door to me to track John to the end of his life at Marthaville in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, the parish from which Red River Parish was formed.
John’s tombstone in the Marthaville cemetery, erected many years following his death, does, however, create unfortunate confusion about when he was born and when he died: the years given for both events are incorrect. I’ll discuss that when we reach that part of John’s history.
Every federal census on which John W. Lindsey appears from 1850 to the end of his life points to 1814 as his year of birth. The 1900 federal census specifies that he was born in April 1814. Every federal census enumerating John from 1850 to 1900 except the 1880 census shows him born in Kentucky; the 1880 census has John born in Arkansas rather than Kentucky. Kentucky is obviously correct, since John’s parents Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks were living in Wayne County, Kentucky, at the time of his birth.
Marriage to Margaret S. Gibson, Lawrence County, Alabama, 18 March 1836
John W. Lindsey was a small boy of three years when his parents moved from Wayne County in 1817 to what would soon become Lawrence County, Alabama, where they settled at what would become the community of Oakville, where John was raised. John married in Lawrence County on 18 March 1836, after having given bond the previous day with David G. Ligon. His spouse was Margaret S. Gibson, daughter of Sylvanus Gibson and Mary Orr. The marriage return was submitted by Reverend M.S. Morris, who married the couple on the 18th.
A biography of Sylvanus Gibson, in which the picture above is found, appears in Samuel Boykin’s History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia. This notes that he was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, on 21 November 1783 and was a Baptist minister in Georgia before he moved his family to Alabama in 1830. He continued in the ministry in Alabama and died in Lawrence County on 25 July 1851.
We’ve met Sylvanus Gibson’s son of the same name in a previous posting, which noted that the younger Sylvanus Gibson (1819-1855) was a business partner of John Kitchens. As that posting also indicated, the younger Sylvanus married Elizabeth Grizelle Torrence, whose sister Margaret Jane Torrence married John W. Lindsey’s younger brother Thomas Madison Lindsey. John W. Lindsey also formed a business relationship with his a brother of Sylvanus Gibson Jr. and Margaret Gibson Lindsey, something I’ll discuss in a moment.
The Reverend M.S. Morris, who married John W. Lindsey and Margaret S. Gibson, also married John’s siblings Sarah (married James Beckham Speake, 4 June 1833), Mark J. (married Mary Ann Harrison, 22 October 1839), and Mary Jane (married James Irwin Brooks 25 February 1840). This is Moses Stroude Morris, a Methodist minister who was licensed to preach for the Franklin [Alabama] circuit on 28 October 1828. Moses S. Morris married 1) Isabella D., daughter of David Knott, on 11 Oct 1833 in Lawrence County, and 2) Sarah Fennell, daughter of Wiley Fennell and Sarah Fox, on 2 September 1841 in Morgan County. The National Banner and Daily Advertiser of Nashville announces his appointment as a Methodist minister in Lawrence County on 14 November 1832.
On 13 December 1849, he was shot to death in a tragic incident near Decatur, Alabama, in which his son-in-law Dr. James H. Delony was the assailant, and in what is assumed to have been a family dispute. This murder was widely publicized in newspapers from Boston to Baltimore to Buffalo, Charleston (South Carolina) and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Moses Stroude Morris is buried in the Fennell family cemetery in Morgan County with a tombstone stating that he was aged 41 when he died in 1849. Morris Chapel Methodist church at Hillsboro, Alabama, is named after Moses Stroud Morris. I suspect, but do not have proof, that Moses S. Morris is a relative of the William Morris who married Dennis Lindsey’s sister Nancy, and who had a brother Nimrod Morris who was also a Methodist minister.
We’ve met Squire David Knott, whose daughter Isabella married Moses Stroude Morris, in a previous posting. In July 1832, he and Dennis Lindsey were appointed (inter alia) by Lawrence County court to appraise the property of Augustine Jenkins, and on 20 May 1833, the court appointed Dennis Lindsey and his father Mark among others to appraise David Knott’s property. David Knott’s loose-papers estate file in Lawrence County has a 15 January 1835 document signed by Mark and Dennis Lindsey along with James A. Trice and Davis C. Whitted showing that these four divided David’s property and apportioned shares to his heirs on that date. The document states that this division of property took place at Moses S. Morris’s house and notes that his wife Isabella was among the heirs.
I refer to David Knott as Squire David Knott because we have met him with that title in notes from a speech Thomas Pettus gave to the North Alabama Historical Association cited in a previous posting. David Knott was appointed a justice of the peace for Lawrence County on 2 September 1820. Justices of the peace functioned as judges in the first half of the 19th century in Alabama and elsewhere, and were commonly given the title “squire” as a result.
Lindsey and Gibson Firm of John Wesley Lindsey and William A. Gibson
John Wesley Lindsey appears to have entered into business with his brother-in-law William A. Gibson (1813-6 – 1853) in a firm with the name Lindsey and Gibson, a business arrangement I noted in a previous posting. The Lindsey and Gibson firm appears to have been formed when the two were both rather young men, perhaps around the time that John W. Lindsey married Margaret S. Gibson in 1836.
The 1850 federal census shows William A. Gibson as a merchant in Jones Bluff, Sumter County, Alabama, along with his brother Sylvanus. As Mary Novella Gibson-Brittain, Marie Brittain Craig, and Marjorie Craig Churchill explain in their History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families, Sylvanus was a merchant farmer, growing and trading cotton on the Flint River in Lawrence County, where he had a cotton exchange, shipping his cotton to Aberdeen, Mississippi, on the Tombigbee River, and to Decatur, on the Tennessee River, using an old military road to haul his cotton for shipping.
In 1855, as Sylvanus Gibson was looking to expand the reach of his cotton business, he set out with his business partner John Kitchens for the Mississippi River, where he died of typhus at Aberdeen on the Arkansas side of the river on 11 December 1855, and where John Kitchens buried him. Jones Bluff, where William A. Gibson and his brother Sylvanus had a mercantile business in 1850, sits on the Tombigbee River, which rises in Itawamba County, Mississippi, then flows south through Aberdeen in Monroe County, Mississippi, in the direction of Mobile. In other words, the choice of the two brother-merchants to open a business by 1850 at Jones Bluff was directly related to their enterprise of shipping cotton that they and others were growing in Lawrence and Morgan County to markets outside those counties.
Notices in the Sumter County Whig in July 1851 show William A. Gibson standing for office at that time as brigadier general of the local militia, a position to which he was apparently elected in August of that year. These articles also note that he was a resident of Jones Bluff. On 23 April 1853, the Sumter Democrat reported that Gen. William A. Gibson had died at Jones Bluff on the 19th inst. In about the 40th year of his life. This would place his birth about 1813, a year before John Wesley Lindsey’s birth. The 1850 federal census shows him born about 1816. Subsequent notices in the same newspaper show Henry G. Johnston and Sylvanus Gibson being given administration of William A. Gibson’s estate in Sumter County by that county’s court on 30 May 1853. As far as I can determine, William A. Gibson died unmarried.
As an indicator of at least some of the diverse business John W. Lindsey and William A. Gibson were handling in their mercantile firm at Oakville in the latter part of the 1830s: the loose-papers estate file of John’s grandfather Thomas M. Brooks in Morgan County contains a receipt to Lindsey and Gibson for purchases made when Thomas Brooks died, including a white vest (handled via Simpson & Co.), 1½ yard cambric, and silk and a shroud. These were, it seems, items bought for dressing Thomas Brooks for his burial; the next item in the list of purchases is “making one coffin.” John W. Lindsey signed a receipt for payment from the estate on 10 May 1839.
John Wesley Lindsey and Oakville
At some point in 1836 — not long after he married Margaret Gibson, I suspect — John began acquiring property in Itawamba County, Mississippi, where he’d move his family in 1839. His uncle Charles Madison Brooks apparently moved to Itawamba County at the same time. Itawamba County Abstract Books show John purchasing land in that county by 1836. Note that subsequent records show John continuing his mercantile business in Mississippi, after he moved from Alabama, so he may well have continued collaborating with members of the Gibson family in that business after he went to Mississippi.
Though Oakville had been incorporated as a town by an act of the Alabama legislature dated 9 December 1833, Alabama legislative acts document a second act incorporating (or re-incorporating?) the town on 19 December 1837. (I have seen no explanation of why there are two separate acts of incorporation on two different dates.) Th 1837 act appoints John W. Lindsey (his name given as John Lindsay) along with William H. Price, N.J. Galloway, and William S. Elliott to manage the election of councilmen for the new town. According to John Knox, John W. Lindsey was Oakville’s third postmaster, following Richard Puckett (1830) and Fleming Hodges (1836). Note that the Puckett served as postmasters prior to the 1833 incorporation of the town, which indicates that the community was already in existence before it was formally made a town.
John Wesley Lindsey and Final Years in Lawrence County
Lawrence County loose-papers court case files document a circuit court case in 1837-8 involving John W. Lindsey. The case was regarding a note to David Johnson for which his administrators Robert M. Johnson, Edward Wise, and Drury Stovall were seeking payment. The note, dated 30 January 1837, had been jointly signed by A.M. Stewart, A.M. Brooks, Richard Puckett, and John W. Lindsey with A.M. Stewart not being sued in this action — so perhaps he was the surety for the other three men. A.M. Brooks was John’s uncle Alexander Mackey Brooks, also a merchant in Lawrence County who was in business with John’s uncle William Burke Lindsey. Richard Puckett was, of course, the merchant whom James Edmond Saunders calls the leading merchant of Oakville at the time the economy crashed in 1837, ruining planters throughout the region. We’ve met him in many previous postings and have noted that his niece Carolina Puckett married Alexander Mackey Brooks, and then, after that couple divorced, William Burke Lindsey.
A.M. Stewart was Abram/Abraham M. Stewart (abt. 1817 – abt. 1858), who married Emeline G. McWhorter in Lawrence County on 28 September 1837. By 1850, he and wife Emeline and their children had moved to Coahoma County, Mississippi, where he was a physician. Abraham Stewart was a son of John Stewart and Elizabeth Cornelius, daughter of Rowland Cornelius and Eleanor Watkins. John W. Lindsey’s uncle Charles Madison Brooks married Elizbeth Stewart’s sister Deniah Cornelius. As noted previously, Dennis Lindsey and John Stewart petitioned for the erection of a school at Oakville in which Dennis’s son-in-law James B. Speake taught for many years from 1830 forward.
According to Dorothy Gentry, by 7 May 1838, John W. Lindsey was serving as Oakville’s postmaster. John had definitely formed his business with Sylvanus Gibson Jr. by this time, since — as a previous posting showed us — that firm is mentioned in an 1838 debt case in Lawrence County involving a promissory note of John Keys dated 1 June 1838 that Keys had passed to James N. Leeper, who then passed it to Lindsey and Gibson.
On 2 October 1838, John W. Lindsey witnessed the will of his grandfather Thomas M. Brooks in Morgan County, along with Dr. Joel W. Hickey. Thomas Brooks’s loose-papers estate file contains the original handwritten will, which appears to have been written by Joel W. Hickey. See the top of the posting for a snapshot of John’s signature to the original will. On 25 February 1839, John proved the will in Morgan County court and gave bond with his uncle David Dinsmore Lindsey on behalf of Charles M. Brooks, the will’s executor (and John’s uncle).
The Lindsey and Gibson firm appears in an 1839 Lawrence County circuit court case file showing that John G. Rushton and Alexander Chambers filed a suit of debt against John W. Lindsey and William A. Gibson in March of that year. Rushton and Chambers received judgment on their behalf on 17 October 1839. The debt was $50.28, and the court papers speak of the firm of Lindsey and Gibson as “late” by March 1839.
The late 1830s were, as we’ve seen previously hard years for both planters and merchants in many regions of the country, with the economic crash of 1837 spurring the relocation of many people from both classes to other areas. By 1840, John W. Lindsey had moved his family to Itawamba County, Mississippi. I’ll resume his story in that county in my next posting.
 John B. McFerrin, History of Methodism in Tennessee, 3 vol. (Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Publishing House, 1886-8).
 1850 federal census, Itawamba County, Mississippi, district 6, p. 348 (dwelling 826, family 838; 7 October); 1860 federal census, Itawamba County, Mississippi, Mooresville post office, p. 65 (dwelling and family 421, 4 August); 1880 federal census, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, p. 379C, ED 45, 6th ward (dwelling 167, family 171; 16 June); 1900 federal census, p. 34, ED 75, ward 5, Marthaville post office (dwelling 687, family 593; 30 June).
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Marriage Bk. B, p. 18. See also the original bond and license in the couple’s marriage file in Lawrence County.
 Samuel Boykin, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia, vol. 2 (Atlanta: Jas. P. Harrison & Co., 1881), pp. 225-6.
 For more information about Sylvanus Gibson, see Mary Novella Gibson-Brittain, Marie Brittain Craig, and Marjorie Craig Churchill, The History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families (Flagstaff: Northland, 1969), pp. 71f.
 See Marion Elias Lazenby, The History of Methodism in Alabama and West North Florida (Nashville: Parthenon, 1960), p. 119, which says that Morris was licensed to preach for the Franklin circuit with William McFerrin at a meeting at Spring campground on this date.
 National Banner and Daily Advertiser, 14 November 1832, p. 3., col. 2.
 In his History of Methodism in Tennessee (vol. 3, p. 349), John B. McFerrin alludes to the tragedy without providing details about it: see supra, n. 1, on this work.
 1850 federal census, Sumter County, Alabama, Jones Bluff post office, p. 270B (dwelling 201/family 212; 28 September).
 Gibson-Brittain, Craig, and Churchill, The History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families, pp. 76-81.
 Sumter [Alabama] Democrat, 23 April 1853, p. 3, col. 2.
 See loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks (died 1838), Morgan County, Alabama.
 Itawamba County, Mississippi, Abstract Bk. 12, p. 277, lists as its first item in 1836 a purchase of land in section 17 township 10 range 7 east by John W. Lindsey. Another purchase in section 31 township 10 R7 east is in ibid., Bk. 14, p. 159.
 John Knox, “Oakville Survived–At Least Part of It,” Decatur Daily, 22 March 1964.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, loose-papers court case files #2470, box 125, folder 54. See also case #2926, box 94, folder 25, which has further material from this same case, now also including John W. Lindsey’s grandfather Mark.
 Dorothy Gentry, Life and Legend of Lawrence County, Alabama (priv. publ., 1960), p. 60.
 See the loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks (died 1838), Morgan County, Alabama; and Morgan County, Alabama, Orphans Court Minute Bk. 5, pp. 343 and 354.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, loose-papers circuit court files, case #2038, box 28, folder 35.