Or, Subtitled: “Hers Was a Strong Character — One on Which One Could Rely”
Often, when it comes to female ancestors, we have limited evidence to document their lives, especially as we move back in time. In the Southern United States, it was not the norm for women, including those of higher social status, to read and write from the colonial period into the 18th century. As a result, we have few documents from that time frame written by Southern women recording details of their daily lives, how they viewed what was happening around them, and so on.
The system of coverture that the Southern colonies (and, later, Southern states) inherited from English law assured that women were under control of their fathers until they married, and then under the control of their husbands after they married. Women could not make legal or financial decisions independent of their husbands, and they could not enter legal or financial agreements without the consent of their husbands. Unless legal documents signed prior to their marriage dictated otherwise, they could not control their own property after marrying. All of these historical factors have assured that we often do not know a great deal about the lives of women in our family trees until the fairly recent past.
Sarah Lindsey Speake is something of an exception to these norms, however. Because she married a man, James B. Speake, who held political office, and the couple had two sons who were noted judges, we can find more biographical information about Sarah than is often the case with women of her time and place. She also came from a family that valued education and made it available to daughters. A number of Sarah’s letters to her sister Margaret Lindsey Hunter in Coushatta, Louisiana, have survived. They give us a glimpse of her life and that of her family as she moved into the final years of her life. They also show us that she was a literate woman with a keen interest in and perspective on the world around her.
Sarah’s Early Life in Lawrence County, Alabama
Sarah Brooks Lindsey, daughter of Dennis Lindsey (1794-1836) and Jane Brooks, was born 1 August 1818 in Lawrence County, Alabama. This date of birth is stated in an obituary notice for her in the Moulton Advertiser newspaper on 24 January 1889. She had died on the 10th of January at Oakville in Lawrence County. The obituary is signed only with the initial C. Since the obituary ends by speaking of her children’s loss of their mother (they were all adults at the time), and since letters Sarah sent to her sister Margaret in May 1877 and May 1880 state that her son Charles and his family were living with her and her husband, I’m inclined to wonder if Charles W. Speake wrote this death notice, which includes Sarah’s dates of birth and marriage.
The 1 August 1818 date of birth also appears on Sarah’s tombstone in the Speake cemetery at Oakville, Alabama, which was evidently erected not long after her and her husband’s death. She’s buried next to her husband James B. Speake, who died in 1890, a year and some nine months after Sarah died. The couple share one obelisk-style tombstone that has her name and dates of birth and death on one side, and James’s on the other.
About Sarah’s name: as the first-born daughter of Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks, she was given the name of her maternal grandmother Sarah (Whitlock) Brooks. The next daughter in the family, Mary Jane, who was born 10 November 1826, was named for her paternal grandmother Mary Jane (Dinsmore) Lindsey. As we’ve seen, Dennis and Jane Brooks named their first son after the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. The next two sons were named for their paternal and maternal grandfathers: Mark Jefferson and Thomas Madison Lindsey (but no document I’ve seen suggests that Dennis’s father Mark Lindsey had the middle name Jefferson).
As I noted in a previous posting, in his book Early Settlers of Alabama, James Edmond Saunders, who knew Sarah’s father Dennis and grandfather Mark personally, states that Sarah was the first child born in what would later become the Oakville community in southeastern Lawrence County. Her family had just moved to Alabama from Wayne County, Kentucky, in the previous year. Jane would have been expecting Sarah at the time they made this move.
Sarah’s Marriage to James B. Speake
On 4 June 1833 in Lawrence County, Sarah married James B. Speake. James gave bond for this marriage on 1st June with Sarah’s uncle Alexander Mackey Brooks. As I noted in a previous posting, Sarah’s father Dennis wrote county clerk John Gregg a note of permission for the marriage on the same day; the posting I have just linked has a digital image of the permission letter. James and Sarah received license to marry on the same day. The marriage file in Lawrence County that contains these original documents also contains the return of Methodist minister Moses Stroude Morris stating that he married the couple on the 4th.
I discussed Reverend Moses Stroude Morris in a previous posting about Sarah’s brother John Wesley Lindsey, noting that he married John and wife Margaret S. Gibson. He also married Sarah’s brother Mark Jefferson Lindsey and wife Mary Ann Harrison.
As a previous posting has indicated, when Dennis Lindsey and John Stewart set up a school for the Oakville community, Dennis brought James B. Speake, a Kentucky native, to the community in 1830 to teach in the newly erected school. James was born 18 April 1803 in Washington County, Kentucky, son of Basil Speake and Elizabeth Kennett. A descendant of James and Sarah who was a lawyer in Moulton and who did much research on the Speake and Lindsey families, Harold L. Speake (1922-2012), concluded that James’s middle name was likely Beckham, the surname of his paternal grandmother, though as descendant Susan Speake Sills has noted, no document has yet been found spelling out James’s middle name.
A letter James and Sarah’s son Charles Washington Speake wrote on 17 February 1924 to A. Howard Speake of Brooklyn, New York, indicates that, before settling in Lawrence County, James had first gone to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1824 to study with a relative, a Mr. “King Kade,” whom James was assisting in his teaching duties. Members of the Beckham family are known to have come to Tuscaloosa at an early date. In a 31 January 1983 letter to me providing this information, Harold Speake suggested that the Tuscaloosa relative with whom James was teaching from 1824 to 1830 was likely named Kincaid.
In Harold Speake’s view, James B. Speake probably had some education in Kentucky prior to going to Alabama at the age of 21. Harold Speake’s January 1983 letter recounts a family tradition that, prior to leaving home for Alabama, James was studying for the priesthood. The Speakes were among English Catholic families that had moved to Maryland during the colonial period, and later, in a Catholic colony to Kentucky. The 1983 letter notes that St. Rose College is located two miles from the birthplace of James B. Speake’s mother in Washington County, Kentucky. The February 1924 letter that Charles W. Speake wrote to A. Howard Speake states that when James B. Speake arrived in Alabama in 1824, he was a Catholic, but later became a Baptist. He was, Harold Speake’s letter indicates, a member of Enon Baptist church, the oldest Baptist church in southeastern Lawrence County.
James and Sarah’s Married Life, 1830s-1870s
As a previous posting indicates, when James B. Speake’s father-in-law Dennis Lindsey died at Oakville on 28 August 1836, James gave bond with his brother-in-law John Wesley Lindsey in October 1836 for the administration of Dennis’s estate. James then appears in the estate’s documents as co-administrator up to May 1846, when the final settlement occurred. John resigned as administrator in April 1837 and Samuel Irwin was then appointed co-administrator with James. The estate documents show James accounting for his guardianship of the minor children of Dennis Lindsey up to December 1852. (See also here and here.)
I haven’t located this Speake family on the 1840 federal census. In 1850, they are enumerated on the federal census in the 8th district of Lawrence County. The census lists James B. Speak as 47, a farmer with $2500 real value, born in Kentucky. Wife Sarah B. Speak is 21, born in Alabama. In the household are children H. Clay, 15, John, 13, Dennis, 10, and James, 7, all born in Alabama and all in school. Henry Clay is also listed as a “labourer,” probably on his father’s farm. The 1850 slave schedule for Lawrence County lists “H.” Speake holding 9 enslaved persons in district 8 of Lawrence County.
On 25 March 1853 in Lawrence County, James B. Speake was appointed with John Kitchens and Darius Lynch to appraise the estate of Mary Jane Lindsey, widow of Mark Lindsey — grandparents of James’s wife Sarah. On John Kitchens and his ties to the Lindsey and Torrence families, see this previous posting. John Kitchens’s 5 July 1870 will in Lawrence County names Darius Lynch as his executor. Lynch married Nancy, daughter of Judge Charles Gibson and Clarissa McDowell. Charles Gibson was a first cousin of Sylvanus Gibson (1783-1851), whose daughter Margaret S. Gibson married John Wesley Lindsey, brother of Sarah Lindsey Speake.
In a diary she kept while she was a schoolgirl in the 1850s at Moulton’s female academy, Frances Jarvis Torrence states that on 22 January 1855, Mrs. Speake and the two Mrs. Barbers had stayed the night with the Torrence family. Frances was the daughter of Adam Torrence and Grizelle Caroline Matthews, who lived near Danville in Morgan County, where Adam Torrence had a plantation and tannery. Sarah Lindsey Speake’s brother Thomas Madison Lindsey married as his first wife Frances’s sister Margaret Jane Torrence on 26 December 1843 in Morgan County. As we saw in a previous posting, Fannie Torrence wrote in her diary on 26 December 1855 a tribute to John Kitchens, mentioned above, who was a business partner of her brother Sylvanus Gibson (1819-1855), and was with Sylvanus when he died in Arkansas on 11 December 1855.
In a biography of James B. Speake in his “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” series, Simon W. Barbee notes that James was Superintendent of Schools for Lawrence County in 1857. In his commentary about James B. Speake in Early Settlers of Alabama, James Edmond Saunders also notes that Speake was county superintendent of education for many years prior to the Civil War. Barbee’s biography also states that in 1858, Speake purchased from his wife’s uncle David Dinsmore Lindsey an enslaved mulatto man named Tom, aged about thirty — the last enslaved person Speake bought, according to Barbee. I discussed this point in a previous posting.
In January 1857, James and Sarah Lindsey Speake’s oldest son Henry Clay Speake (1834-1900) graduated from the law department of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He had entered law school after having been educated in his father’s school at Oakville and then at the male academy in Somerville, Alabama, under Professor Z.F. Freeman. Henry then taught a common school for some years before going to Cumberland University. He opened a law practice in Decatur in 1857 after his graduation from Cumberland, then married Caroline (Carrie) Olivia, daughter of Jonathan Mayhew and Elizabeth Neal, in Madison County, Alabama, on 27 January 1860.
In the month following Henry Clay Speake’s graduation from Cumberland University, tragedy struck the Speake family when James and Sarah’s second son, John Marshall Speake (1836-1857), died on 20 February 1857 at the Somerville male academy to which his parents had sent him along with his brother. John died of measles, and according to Simon W. Barbee, his father never overcame his grief at the loss of this son at the tender age of 18. Barbee writes,
The boys [i.e., Henry Clay and John Marshall] were placed in the academy at Somerville under the tutelage of that prince of teachers, Prof. Z.F. Freeman. Satisfactory progress in study was being made, but on a day unbetokened John Marshall, the younger of the two boys, was taken ill, and in a short while death had claimed him and tender hands laid him away to rest.
More than half the light of the father’s eyes had thus gone out, and he cherished his sorrow even unto his grave, for his love for his dead boy was like to that of David for the beautiful, tho’ erring Absalom.
John is buried at the Speake cemetery in Oakville along with his parents and other family members.
The family of James B. and Sarah Speak(e) is enumerated on the 1860 federal census in the southern division (Moulton post office) of Lawrence County, Alabama. James is 56, born in Kentucky, a farmer with $3,500 real worth and $12,760 personal worth. Most of that personal value would have been due to the enslaved persons James was holding in 1860.
The 1860 census shows James’s wife Sarah as 42, born in Alabama. In the household are their children Dennis, 20, James, 17, Charles, 7, and Daniel, 4, all born in Alabama. Also living in the household is James and Sarah’s niece Louvisa Lindsey, daughter of Samuel Asbury Lindsey and Mary Jane Hunter. Mary Jane died in Lawrence County in 1858, and Samuel had gone to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, by 15 July 1860, when he married a second wife, Leonora Elizabeth Bickley, there. James and Sarah Speake raised Louvisa and her brother John Dennis Lindsey, who is in their household in 1870, as we’ll see in a moment.
The 1860 federal slave schedule shows James B. Speake holding 12 enslaved persons in the southern division of Lawrence County, a female, 32, a male, 30, a female, 24, a male, 21, a female, 12, a male, 8, two males, 6, two females, 4, and females aged 6 and 4 months. The male aged 30 is listed as mulatto, and is very likely the Tom whom James purchased in 1858 from David Dinsmore Lindsey.
J.B. Speaks is on the 1860 federal agricultural schedule in the same location in Lawrence County (southern division, Moulton post office) with 300 acres of improved land and 340 acres unimproved, a farm valued at $3,500, on which he had raised that year, inter alia, 143 bushels of wheat, 16 of rye, and 1,250 of corn. His livestock included horses, oxen, cattle, hogs, and sheep. He had produced 18 bales of cotton and 30 pounds of wool.
In his previously cited unpublished typescript tracing James B. Speake’s family history, James’s descendant Harold Speake states that in a 7 May 1860 election in which James was elected Superintendent of Education for Lawrence County, 50 votes were cast, 48 of which were for James B. Speake.
In December 1861, Lawrence County Commissioners Court appointed James B. Speake to see whether any family members of Oakville precinct whose sons or husbands were in Confederate Army service required assistance. James filed his report about this on February 1862. The report notes, among other items, that Mark Jefferson Lindsey had enlisted in the 9th Alabama Regiment, Captain Warren’s company, in May 1861, and had gone off to war, leaving his wife and three children in Lawrence County. Mark was later killed on the second day of the battle at Gettysburg.
This Mark Jefferson Lindsey (1822-1863) is a different man from James B. Speake’s brother-in-law Mark Jefferson Lindsey (1820-1878). He was son of John and Susanna (McBride?) Lindsey of Lawrence County. John, who was born in South Carolina in 1788, is, in my view, likely a brother of Mark Lindsey, grandfather of Sarah Lindsey Speake. John’s son Mark Jefferson Lindsey married Cornelia Rachel Williams in Lawrence County on 25 September 1845.
The Speake family suffered another loss during the Civil War, when the third of James and Sarah’s children, son Dennis Basil Speake (1838-1863), died on 2 March 1863 as a Confederate prisoner in the Union prison camp at Camp Douglas in Cook County, Illinois. Dennis had enlisted in company D (Russell’s Cavalry) of the 4th Alabama regiment on 9 July 1862, and was captured at the Battle of Parker’s Crossroads in West Tennessee on 31 December 1862, then taken to Camp Douglas, where he died of smallpox and is buried. Dennis’s brothers Henry Clay Speake and James Tucker Speake (1842-1901) served in the same CSA unit, with Henry Clay serving as sergeant-major, adjutant, and quartermaster, and James as lieutenant. On his return from the war, James T. Speake, who suffered lifelong crippling arthritis as a result of his war service, married Sarah Elizabeth, daughter of James Madison Echols and Sarah Emily Simpson of Morgan County. I have not found a marriage record; the couple are thought to have married in 1867.
The biographical notice of James B. Speake in Thomas McAdory Owen’s Dictionary of Alabama Biography states that he was a member of the Alabama constitutional convention of 1865. The defeat of the Confederate states in the Civil War voided the constitutions those states had drawn up as they seceded from the Union and required new constitutions to be written by delegates elected from each county to pursue that goal.
The family of Jas. Speake family is listed on the 1870 federal census in township 6, range 8 of Lawrence County at Dry Creek post office. James is a farmer, 67, born in Kentucky, with $2,000 real worth and $150 personal worth. Wife Sarah B. is 57, born in Alabama. In the household are children Charles W., 19 and David W., 15, both born in Alabama. The latter is James and Sarah’s son Daniel Webster Speake, whose name the census taker has misrecorded.
Also in the household are James and Sarah’s niece Louvisa (20) and John Dennis Lindsey (17); Louvisa is enumerated with the occupation of school teacher and John as a farm laborer — very likely on his uncle’s farm. A James Wiggins, aged 17, is also listed in the household as a farm laborer. As noted previously, Louvisa and John Dennis are children of Sarah’s brother Samuel Asbury Lindsey, whose wife Mary Jane Hunter died in 1858, and whom James and Sarah raised. On 31 October 1872 at Oakville, Louvisa would marry Jasper Newton Wade, son of William Wade and Aletha Landers.
As James Edmond Saunders notes in his biography of James B. Speake in Early Settlers of Alabama, in 1870, James B. Speake was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives from Lawrence County. Saunders notes that James (whose surname he spells as Speak) had represented Lawrence County in the state legislature several times after that, adding, “Our county never was represented by a man who performed his duties with more industry or a more honest purpose than J.B. Speak.” Harold Speake’s manuscript entitled “James B. Speake” indicates that James served in the Alabama legislature for Lawrence County in 1870-1, 1871-2, and 1876-7.
On 27 January 1876 in Lawrence County, James and Sarah’s son Charles Washington Speake (1850-1929) married Stephen Dixie, daughter of Stephen Berry West and Susan Childress Stover. After marrying, the couple lived with his parents and provided care for James and Sarah in their final years.
Sarah’s Letters to Sister Margaret Lindsey Hunter in Coushatta, Louisiana
As I noted at the start of this posting, several letters Sarah Lindsey Speake wrote from Oakville, Alabama, to her sister Margaret Lindsey Hunter in Coushatta, Louisiana, have survived. These are transcribed in Henry C. Lindsey’s Mark Lindsey Heritage, which notes that when he published that volume in 1982, the letters were in the possession of Barbara (Morgan) Kellogg of Coushatta, whose husband John Ewan Kellogg was the son of Samuel Hiram Kellogg and Louvisa Frances Hunter. Samuel and Louvisa were first cousins: Samuel’s parents were Samuel Hiram Kellogg Sr. and Frances Rebecca Lindsey, and Louvisa’s parents were William Hunter and Margaret Tranquilla Lindsey — Frances and Margaret both being sisters of Sarah Lindsey Speake.
Mark Lindsey Heritage transcribes two letters of Sarah to her sister Margaret, the first dated 1 May 1877, the second dated 31 May 1880. This source’s notes about these letters also indicates that Barbara Kellogg had an 1882 letter of Sarah to Margaret, which is not transcribed in Mark Lindsey Heritage. The book does not provide photocopies of the originals; I have not seen the original letters, and do not know who might have them now. Because these letters have, as far as I know, appeared only in Mark Lindsey Heritage, which is out of print and unavailable to many readers, I will summarize Sarah Speake’s letters to Margaret Hunter in detail, and hope that the detail will not bore readers of this posting.
In her 1 May 1877 letter to sister Margaret, Sarah opens by stating that she is responding to a letter Margaret had sent her, and that she had made it a practice to write all of her brothers and sisters at the start of each year, and would continue writing if they responded to her. Sarah describes herself to Margaret as “very feeble and … nearly worn out.” She notes that James was away serving in the state legislature. After this, according to Harold Speake’s notes (he apparently transcribed and annotated the letters for Henry C. Lindsey), a portion of Sarah’s letter follows, and appears to have been illegible. Harold Speake thought it spoke of Charles W. Speake’s marriage to Dixie West, noting that she was a granddaughter of Elijah Stover, an early Lawrence County settler.
The letter goes on to state that Charles and Dixie were living with his parents, and Sarah was teaching Dixie, who was 14 at the time she married Charles, how to work. According to the letter, Charles’s brother James was living below the Mrs. Kitchens on the Elliott land, but was severely handicapped by rheumatism. Sarah indicates that James had five children, four of them daughters, and that she highly esteemed James’ wife, and helped her all she could, doing most of her knitting and sewing.
Sarah then speaks about son Henry Clay Speake, noting that he had moved to Huntsville from Moulton, having lost three children there, the youngest a baby girl and his idol, who had died last summer. Henry’s oldest child was Kate Mayhew Speake, who would be 13 in July. Sarah tells Margaret that Henry was chancellor of the northern division of Alabama, with an annual pay of $3,000. He’d be 43 in June, and was graying.
The letter then goes on to talk about James and Sarah’s son “Webbie,” Daniel Webster Speake, noting that he was at the university in Tuscaloosa, and would graduate in July next year. The letter describes this son as “a promising young man and has the name of being the best boy in the school.” Sarah tells Margaret that Webbie had been teaching school to help pay for his education, and would be 21 in July.
After saying this, Sarah observes,
I often think of what I used to hear our dear mother say she wanted to live to see her children grown and after they were grown she wanted to live to see her grandchildren grown. That is the way with me. I think now I want to live to see my grandchildren grown and see what they will make. I love life and this beautiful world. I am like father was. I would like to live always if I could be young and able to help myself, but I never want to be helpless and dependent on any one.
The letter then speaks of Sarah and Margaret’s aunts Clarissa and Sally, both Brooks women married to Lindsey brothers: Sarah, who married Dinsmore Lindsey, was a sister to Jane Brooks who married Dennis Lindsey (1794-1836); and Clarissa was a first cousin of Sally and Jane, who married another brother of Dennis, Fielding Wesley Lindsey. Sarah tells Margaret that both aunts were doing well and living with sons. Their children, too, were thriving. Wesley and Clarissa’s son Jim Dennis Lindsey had bought the old Elijah McDaniel place, and his brother Bill had acquired the Tom Livingston place. Clarissa’s brother Tom (Thomas R.) Brooks was living at Oakville with a number of his grandchildren, children of his daughter Nancy Caroline Brooks and Edward J. Bracken, and another son of Wesley and Clarissa, Jim (James Irwin) Brooks was living near the Antioch church. His brother John (Johnson H.) Brooks was dead.
After this, Sarah’s letter speaks of various old settlers of the neighborhood who had died or moved away, and of the fierce winter weather the county had seen in 1876, with snow 14-20 inches deep and cold that had killed the limbs on many peach and other trees. Sarah notes that there had been frost the day before she wrote Margaret (30 April), and farmers were very behind in planting due to the cold, rainy weather.
According to Sarah, times were very hard in the county, with money difficult to come by and meat scarce and expensive, due to many hogs having died last winter, though the Speakes had lost only one hog and had put up 5,000 pounds of pork. The wheat crop was looking bad. The Speake farm was milking 6 cows and had 9 goslings and 70 chickens, with some turkey eggs sitting.
Sarah notes that Margaret’s letter to her had told her the Hunter family had had “a heap of sickness.” Sarah advised her sister and husband to “pull up and move to a healthier place.” Margaret had also told Sarah that her son Marshall (William Marshall) Hunter (1859-1935) was leaving home, which was a worry to Margaret and his aunt Sarah since “he is just right to be ruined by bad associations” — but Sarah reckoned he would be glad to be back in a year.
(Note: Marshall Hunter’s first cousin Benjamin Dennis Lindsey, son of Mark Jefferson Lindsey and Mary Ann Harrison, had gone to Texas in 1873, spending a year working on the farm of his uncle Thomas Madison Lindsey in McLennan County, then going “up the trail” on a cattle drive before joining the Texas Rangers. Marshall and other younger Lindsey cousins had itchy feet in these years to join their cousin B.D. in his life of adventure in Texas. If Marshall joined his cousin B.D. Lindsey in Texas in 1877, his stay there was brief, since he married Laura Jane Dupree on 8 January 1879 in Red River Parish and settled down after that to a life as a merchant in Coushatta and Baptist preacher.)
Sarah goes on to tell Margaret that she had heard from their niece Louvisa (Sarah spells the name as Lavisa), who had married Jasper Newton Wade in 1872 and was living at Trinity in Morgan County. The couple now had two daughters (Sarah’s letter does not name them; they were Anna Laura and Mary Lethe). The letter then speaks of a Bill whom I cannot place.
After this, Sarah tells Margaret that B. Dennis, who was only 18, was eager to go Texas and take Billy with him. This does not appear to be referring to Sarah and Margaret’s nephew Benjamin Dennis Lindsey, who was 22 in 1877 and had already gone to Texas in 1873. I think it is more likely that Sarah is speaking of another nephew, Dennis Edward Lindsey (1862-1935), son of Sarah and Margaret’s brother Dennis James Lindsey. Around 1880, he went to Texas and joined his cousin B.D. Lindsey as a Texas Ranger in west Texas. Again, I can’t place the Billy to whom Sarah refers here, unless this is a reference to Margaret’s son Marshall Hunter, whose first name was William.
Sarah goes on to tell Margaret that she had had a letter from their brother Mark (Mark Jefferson Lindsey), who told her that all of the children of their sister Frances Lindsey Kellogg children had left her except for two sons, and Frances wanted to come to Alabama and live her final days there. The letter speaks of an “old man” who “had told lies and caused her to see enough trouble to kill her.” (Frances’s husband Samuel Hiram Kellogg had died of bronchitis on 10 December 1863, according to a Confederate pension application that Frances filed [as Rebecca F. Kellogg] in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, on 8 February 1913. The application was rejected on the ground that Rebecca offered no proof of her husband’s CSA service. By May 1877, Rebecca [she appears to have gone by that name, while her family called her Frances] had only two sons at home with her, Samuel Hiram Kellogg Jr. and James Richard Curry Kellogg.)
About her sister Frances Rebecca’s desire to return to Alabama, Sarah tells Margaret that their sister Martha, who had married James Madison Williams and was living with her family near Tupelo, Mississippi, wanted Sarah to tell Frances to come and live with her, but Sarah had misgivings. She says that her husband James was aging and becoming childish, and had turned the management of their place over to their son Charles. Sarah was not confident that Frances’s two sons would want Charles governing them
Sarah then tells Margaret that she would, however, be happy to have Frances live with her as long as she (i.e., Sarah) was still living, noting that she had always felt closer to Frances and their brother Mark because they had had a harder time than the rest of her siblings. Sarah thinks that Frances and her sons would do well in Alabama, if the boys were willing to work, and they would be a help on the plantation, since Mr. Speake had to hire all of his work done by others. She also notes that helping their son Jimmie (James T.), who was crippled by arthritis, and educating son Webbie both took money, and that, though the family had plenty of stock, the livestock couldn’t be sold for money, since “there is no money in the country.”
This May 1877 letter ends with Sarah saying that she would be happy to see her distant siblings again in this life, but despaired of doing so, since she was too feeble to travel to distant places, and Margaret couldn’t come to Alabama because she had small children. (At the time Sarah wrote, Margaret and husband William Hunter had just lost a son George Washington Hunter, aged 3, in 1874; another son, Thomas Jefferson Hunter, would die in July 1877 just short of his fourth birthday. Margaret would have a last child, William Sockwell Ross Hunter, in 1879.)
Sarah tells Margaret that, though traveling to Alabama with small children was not feasible for her, she might send her husband William Hunter and his daughters. The daughters (Mary Jane, Louvisa Frances, and Ida Tranquilla) would see and learn a great deal in Alabama, and travel would be made easier for the Hunters because Louvisa Lindsey Wade lived only a mile from the railroad in the next county from Sarah and James B. Speake. Sarah also tells Margaret that she would like very much to visit their sister Martha in Mississippi, since Martha was in bad health. Her daughter Fannie (Frances Lindsey Williams) was teaching. (Fannie would marry James Monroe Hightower, son of Thomas S. Hightower and Keziah Monroe Armistead, in Tupelo on 27 March 1879). Sarah ends this letter telling Margaret that she would write their brother Mark soon.
Sarah Lindsey Speake’s 31 May 1880 letter to her sister Margaret Lindsey Hunter opens with Sarah noting that she had gotten a letter from Margaret, which she had not answered in quite some time, since she had been poorly since the first of January. She and her husband were both “nearly worn out,” and neither was able to work, having to hire out all the work done on the farm and in the house. Sarah could not make her bed or sweep the house due to shortness of breath, though she could still do as much work with her hands as ever before. She had pieced two quilts — evidently since the new year — and had another half done, and had knitted five pairs of cotton socks, besides finishing a good deal of other sewing. Sarah observes that her husband was stouter than she was and still teaching school at the age of 77. Sarah liked to say to him that he was teaching the great-grandchildren of children who had gone to school with him in the past.
The letter goes on to note that son Charles and wife Dixie and and their two children (Sallie Mae and James Berry Speake) were still living with Charles’ parents, with Charles receiving half of all that was made on the farm and paying half the expenses. But Charles’ wife wanted the family to live on its own, and Sarah was encouraging this. Charles, however, refused, saying that he would never leave his parents as long as he lived. In Sarah’s view, Charles was “one of the best boys to his parents in the world” — though Sarah tells Margaret she had no reason to complain of any of her children: “They are all good [but] he is with us and has a better chance to show his goodness.” Sarah then observes that it is a great consolation to parents to have good, obedient children, and that if she could see all her children good Christians, it would be a satisfaction to her. She notes that sons Henry and Webster were in the church, and that she was praying with all the faith she had for the others to join the church.
The letter also expresses gratitude that Sarah had lived to see all her children raised and settled, and that she now wished to live to see how her grandchildren would turn out, but was so feeble that she didn’t expect to live very much long. She had been patched up for so long that she couldn’t be patched up much longer. She had been an invalid for the past 10 years.
Sarah then proceeds to talk about her children, noting that son Jimmie was still afflicted with rheumatism and had seven children, the oldest two being girls, who could not plow because of their sex, though daughter Ella wanted to plow. Son Henry was in Huntsville and still chancellor, though his term would expire in the fall. He was being pressed to run for U.S. Congress, but had declined. According to Sarah, he was thought to be the only Democrat who could win, but he did not want to make a move into that field.
Sarah’s letter ends with a request that Margaret give her love to husband William and all, and with a wish to see her sister Margaret, though she didn’t expect to see her anymore in this world, and therefore expected to see her in heaven.
As we’ll see in my next posting, James and Sarah’s son Daniel Webster Speake graduated from the University of Alabama with an A.M. degree in 1878 and an L.L.B. degree in June 1879, and then opened a law practice in Moulton in September 1879. On 14 December 1881 in Tuscaloosa, he would marry Sarah Carolina, daughter of Richard Calvin McCalla and Margaret Elizabeth Lewis.
Sarah’s Final Years
The 1880 federal census shows James and Sarah Speak living at Oakville, with their son Charles and his family in the household. The census shows James as 77, a farmer, born in Kentucky with a father born in Maryland and a mother in Kentucky. Sarah is 61 and born in Alabama; the census gives the birthplace of both of her parents as Kentucky, information that is incorrect, since her father Dennis Lindsey was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, and her mother Jane Brooks in Wythe County, Virginia.
As noted at the start of this posting, Sarah Lindsey Speake died 10 January 1889 at Oakville in Lawrence County, Alabama. A death notice in the Moulton Advertiser on Thursday, 17 January says that she had died the previous Friday at Oakville and was “one of the oldest and best women in Lawrence county,” and says that she was the mother of several children, all of whom were making splendid citizens. Her oldest son, Judge Speak, was well-known throughout the state, and her youngest son, D.W. Speak, was a lawyer at Scottsboro and solicitor for Jackson County. Two other sons were “cultivating the soil” in Lawrence County. The death notice states that Sarah’s husband was quite old and feeble, had been often honored by the people of the county, and the time would not be distant before he would follow his beloved wife into the spirit world.
As indicated at the start of this posting, an obituary that appears to have been written by Sarah’s son Charles appears in the same newspaper on 24 January 1889. It gives her dates of birth, marriage, and death. Sarah’s husband James followed her in death on 18 September 1890, and they are buried in the Speake cemetery at Oakville with a tombstone giving their dates of birth and death. A photo of the side of the tombstone with Sarah’s information is above.
The biography of Sarah’s son Daniel Webster Speake in Notable Men of Alabama says that Sarah was “of Scotch-Irish extraction, a woman of pronounced character.” The information about Scotch-Irish ancestry is certainly true of Sarah’s grandmother Mary Jane Dinsmore Lindsey, whose parents were Ulster Scots immigrants to South Carolina. Quite a few indicators suggest that Sarah’s ancestry on her Lindsey and Brooks family lines is largely English, however, with Irish (as distinct from Scots-Irish) roots added to the mix through the immigrant ancestor in the Lindsey family, Dennis Linchey, who came to Virginia in 1718 as an indentured servant from Ireland.
In my next posting about Sarah and her family, I’ll share various biographical notices about James B. Speake, and will provide further information about their children, with published biographical material about their sons Henry Clay and Daniel Webster Speake.
 On this point, see David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (NY and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989), pp. 345-7.
 See Claudia Zaher, “When a Woman’s Marital Status Determined Her Legal Status: A Research Guide on the Common Law Doctrine of Coverture,” Law Library Journal 94,3 (2002), pp. 459-486; Merril D. Smith, Women’s Roles in Eighteenth-Century America (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010), p. 9; Angela Robbins, “Alice Morgan Person: ‘My Life Has Been Out of the Ordinary Run of Woman’s Life,’” in North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times, ed. Michele Gillespie and Sally G. McMillen (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 2014), pp. 152-173; and Thomas E. Buckley, “Placed in the Power of Violence: The Divorce Petition of Evelina Gregory Roane, 1824,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography110,1 (January 1992), pp. 29-78.
 “In Memoriam [Sarah Lindsey Speake],” Moulton Advertiser, 24 January 1889, p. 2, col. 5.
 See her Find a Grave memorial page, created by David Young, which has two photos of the tombstone by a Find a Grave site user named Familygen99. See also Phil Waldrep, Cemeteries of Lawrence County, Alabama, vol. 1 (privately published, Trinity, Alabama, 1993), p. 280.
 James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899), pp. 123.
 Note that Saunders thought that James B. Speake came from Kentucky to Alabama in 1830, but he appears to be speaking specifically of when Speake arrived in Lawrence County: see Early History of Alabama, p. 123. Thomas McAdory Owen, Dictionary of Alabama Biography, vol. 4 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1921), p. 1605, has Speake arriving in Alabama in 1832. Harold Speake concluded that Dennis Lindsey brought James B. Speake in Lawrence County specifically to teach in the new school he and John Stewart were establishing for Oakville: see a 4 April 1996 article in Moulton Advertiser written by Deangelo McDaniel (pp. 1-2), on this point.
 1850 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, 8th dist. p. 428 (dwelling and family 894; 23 December)
 1850 federal slave schedule, district 8, Lawrence County, Alabama, unpaginated (28 October).
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Probate Court Bk. A, p. 446.
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Will Bk. C, p. 276.
 Frances Jarvis Torrence’s diary is transcribed in Mary Novella Gibson-Brittain, Marie Brittain-Craig, and Marjorie Craig Churchill, The History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families (Flagstaff, AZ: Northland, 1969).
 See Vivian Cormany Land, “Thomas Madison Lindsey,” in The Moody Area, Its History and People 1852-1981, ed. Estelle Mabray Rice (Waco: Texian Press, 1981), which states that Adam Torrence had a large plantation had a large plantation in Morgan County on which he raised many sheep, whose hides were tanned and shipped over the world for fine leather products (p. 367). The History and Genealogy of Some Pioneer North Alabama Families also notes that Adam Torrence had a tannery in Morgan County, for which he raised sheep whose leather was sent many places (p. 93). In a brief biography of Adam Torrence in his “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” series in Moulton Advertiser, Simon W. Barbee also notes that Torrence had a tannery that afforded his family a good living, but only modest landholdings — Moulton Advertiser (23 February 1909), p. 1, col. 3-4.
 S.W. Barbee, “Old Lawrence Reminiscent,” Moulton Advertiser (16 February 1909), p. 1, col. 3-6.
 Early Settlers of Alabama, p. 123.
 See Thomas McAdory Owen, Dictionary of Alabama Biography, vol. 4 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1921), p. 1605 on Henry’s graduation in January 1857 from Cumberland; and also his obituary in Moulton Advertiser, “Death of Judge Speake,” (20 December 1900), p. 2, col. 2. See also John Knox, A History of Morgan County, Alabama (Decatur, Alabama: Decatur Printing Co., 1967), p. 126, on his opening a law practice in Decatur in 1857, which is also mentioned in Owen’s biography.
 On Henry’s schooling at the Somerville academy by Z.F. Freeman, see Barbee’s “Old Lawrence Reminiscent” column cited supra, n. 13.
 On Barbee’s biography of James B. Speake, see supra, n. 13. See also an unpublished typescript by Harold Speake of Moulton, dated December 1978 and entitled “James B. Speake,” which Harold Speake kindly sent me in 1983. And see Harold Speake and Maxine Gibson, “Speake Family,” in The Heritage of Lawrence County, Alabama (Clanton, Alabama: Heritage Publ. Co., 1998), p. 242.
 1860 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, southern division, Moulton post office, p. 966 (dwelling and family 567, 6 August).
 1860 federal slave schedule, Lawrence County, Alabama, southern division, p. 17 (of original), 4 August.
 1860 federal agricultural schedule, Lawrence County, Alabama, southern division, Moulton post office, p. 21, line 12. See also Myra L. Borden, “1860 Agricultural Census,” Old Lawrence Reminiscences 12,4 (December 1998), p. 155.
 On this typescript, see supra, n. 17.
 Spencer A. Waters, Confederate Soldiers of Lawrence County, Alabama (Carrollton, Georgia: Blastoid, 1992), pp. 12-13, citing Lawrence County court minutes).
 Ibid., p. 15.
 See Early Settlers of Alabama, p. 91; and ibid., p. 119.
 See his CSA service record, National Archives and Records Administration, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama NARA M311, RG 109; and Harold Speake, “James B. Speake” (typescript, 1978).
 See Early Settlers of Alabama, p. 123; and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, vol. 4, p. 1605.
 See Dictionary of Alabama Biography, vol. 4, p. 1605. John Knox also notes that James B. Speake represented Lawrence County at the 1865 constitutional convention: see History of Morgan County, Alabama, p. 126.
 1870 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, township 6, range 8, Dry Creek post office, p. 28A (dwelling and family 53, 10 August).
 Early Settlers of Alabama, p. 123.
 See “James B. Speake” typescript, cited supra, n. 17.
 See Harold Speake and Maxine Gibson, “Speake Family,” p. 733.
 Henry Carlton Lindsey, Mark Lindsey Heritage (priv. publ., Brownwood, Texas, 1982), p. 29.
 See Benjamin D. Lindsey, “One Trip up the Trail,” in The Trail Drivers of Texas, ed. J. Marvin Hunter (San Antonio: Jackson, 1920), pp. 1003-1006; Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas Under Many Flags, vol. 4 (Chicago: American Hist. Soc., 1930), pp. 221-2; and Robert W. Stephens, Texas Ranger Sketches (priv. publ., Dallas, 1972), pp. 83-6.
 See Texas Ranger Sketches, pp. 86-90.
 1880 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, township 7, range 6, beat 9, p. 400D, ED 171 (dwelling 182, family 182-3; 14 June 1880).
 Moulton Advertiser (17 January 1889), p. 3, col. 2.
 See supra, n. 3.
 Joel Campbell DuBose, Notable Men of Alabama: Personal and Genealogical, vol. 2 (Atlanta: Southern Hist. Assoc., 1904), p. 194.