THE JULY 2003 NEWSLETTER
ALONG THE THREE NOTCH
Sketches of Covington County and Andalusia, Alabama History
Copyright by the publishers 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
by G. Sidney & Polly Waits
-Mail Version to friends and family
Vol. 1 No. 2 July 1, 2003
GATES VS MCDANIEL & SPURLIN - This was a suit in equity, tried on bill and answer in the Circuit Court of Covington County, at the October term, 1827.
Samuel Gates had filed his bill in March 1827, charging, that before the sale of the public lands at that place by the United States, Thomas McDaniel had established a ferry on the Conecuh River, below the falls, in Covington County. When the land was sold by the Government, it was purchased by several persons jointly, among whom are the complainant and defendants. That after the purchase, the owners applied to the County Court of Covington County, and obtained an order for a public ferry, at the same place at which the defendant had before kept his ferry. That a part of the land purchased was laid off into lots, for the purpose of making a town; that in the division, the complainant drew the lots attached to the ferry; that before the drawing, it had been agreed, that no ferry should be kept on any other part of the land. He alleged, that after the division, he had obtained from the County Court and order for the public ferry at the same place in his own name. He further charged, that notwithstanding this agreement, the defendants had erected a bridge across the river on a part of the lands drawn by them, very near the ferry, on which all persons were permitted to cross, on foot, on horseback, and in carriages, free of charge, but which the profits of the ferry were entirely destroyed; although he , the complainant had complied with the law in keeping a good boat and ferryman, and kept the banks in good order, etc.
I don’t know the final outcome of this suit but it is considered the first lawsuit in the County. There is a second record of this case that I may print later. William Spurlin appeared on the Conecuh County census of 1820, and he purchased land at the Sparta Land Office the W1/2 of the NW1/4 Section 14, T4N, Range 15E, and the W1/2 of the NE1/4 Section 14, T$N, Range 15E. Spurlin, McDaniel and Gates were among those early citizens who helped found the town.
A MONOLOGUE BY GL SIDNEY wAITS
I gave this as one of the programs at the Historical Society meeting. I was dressed in overalls and a wig, along with my walking stick. I thought it was a good program but it never made the local paper.
Good Evening friends, my name is John William Devereux. As most of you may know, I lived much of the early history centered around your first County Site at old Montezuma on the banks of the Conecuh. My family resided near the village for about ten years and those were great times in my life.
I was born March 15, 1769. My parents were Charles and Nancy Woods Devereux. We lived in the Colony of Virginia where my father worked in the lead mines as a smelter and mineralogist. There were eight children in our family. In 1785 my family migrated to the State of Georgia where my father had purchased a plantation. I was the oldest son and my father named me overseer of the plantation. I had no experience in farming and no turn for driving slaves. I simply did not like the work so when I became 16 years of age, I left home and went to work for a Mr. Rhesa Howard who operated a general store in Wrightsboro.
I worked for Mr. Howard about three years and he loaned me some money so I could go into business for myself. I did just that and stayed in Hancock County a couple of years until 1789 or 1790 after which I moved to Greensborough in Green County. I managed to pay back the money Mr. Howard had loaned to me. On April 19, 1795 and at the age of 25 I married sixteen year old Elizabeth Few. Her family was prominent in Georgia and America. While I was on a trip to New York my wife at the age of twenty died while giving birth to a son. I gave back to my father-in-law
The wedding gift of a plantation and slaves.
After the loss of my first wife I returned to merchandising and settled in Sparta, Hancock County. Not only did I run the store but also I served as Justice of the Peace from 1799 to 1801. I also held positions in Hancock County of Justice of the Inferior Court for five years. On January 15, 1801 I married Sally Grigg, daughter of Jesse Grigg. A son Albert was born on December 6th. We moved to Montpelier and a daughter Louisiana was born there on September 16, 1803. At the same place on July 23, 1805, son Julien Sidney was born. Then we moved down to Milledgeville in Baldwin County where a second daughter Antoinette was born. Both my wife and Antoinette were in bad health and on November 1, 1809 Antoinette died, then my wife died the following January 28th
Following the death of both my wives and their infants I made plans to move westward. I was at the advanced age of 48 in 1817 when we made the move. This was before Alabama had become a State. I did leave daughter Louisiana at age 14 with her Uncle Samuel so she could continue in school. So I took my two sons with me to Alabama - 16 year old Albert and 12 year old Julien Sidney.
We came down the Federal Road and settled near what you call today the McGowan’s Bridge area. We were just north of the bridge and a little to the right on the west bank of the Conecuh River. I was appointed Justice of the County Court of Conecuh on December 18, 1820. I thought my son Albert would make a fine doctor and I wanted him to study medicine. I gave him great encouragement. However, he opted to study Law and he read law under Arthur Pendleton Bagley who had married a neice of mine. Bagley as you will recall later became Governor of Alabama.
I served eleven sessions as state senator in the Alabama Legislature. I traveled to Huntsville for the early session and then to Cahaba for the other sessions. I wrote most of the enabling acts that created your County of Covington. On August 5, 1822 I was again elected Senator to represent Conecuh, and the new created County of Covington, Henry and Dale. Before the end of August tragedy struck my family. Son Albert had been on a business trip to Pensacola and while there became ill with Yellow Fever. He was just twenty years old and lived only ten days dying on September 6th. I have never gotten over the loss of my son Albert. He was very dear to me and I shall remember him forever. I buried him at our residence on the bank of the Conecuh at Hobson’s choice under a small stooping white oak tree in a little Plumb Orchard.
It was in 1823 and we moved to Covington County. I recorded in my diary that we purchased land very near the little community of Montezuma. That phrase “near the little community of Montezuma” and the map should prove to all the location of old Montezuma - about a mile below the bridge at River Falls. I had written the enabling acts that Created Covington County and I had heard about the little community developing along the east bank of the Conecuh that we called Montezuma. While in Montezuma and during the 4th , 5th, and 6th, sessions of the legislature I represented Conecuh, Covington, Pike and Henry Counties as Senator. I also served as Judge of the County Court of Covington for about ten years. During my stay at Montezuma, I served as its first Postmaster having established the post office in 1826..
We lived a short distance east of the River at the foot of a big hill. People started calling it Devereux Hill back when we lived there and today I note you have recognized it as “Historic Devereux” Hill. Most people have always shortened the name and just call it the “Debro”. Anyway, our modest little home was a log cabin and we called it “The Hermitage”. We were very proud of this humble abode.
We had great plans for Montezuma. We drew a map and divided the land into lots to start a real town. I understand you have a copy of this map in your local museum but it was missing from the display when I was in your Museum recently. The ferry crossing was active and many travelers crossed the river at the falls of the river near the little community. Roads came from Daleville, and Buttsville which you call Greenville today. There was a road that led south toward Brooklyn and the wolf trail into Pensacola and the Bay region of the Tensas.
I remember the problem between Tom McDaniel, the ferry operator and Samuel Gates. Mr. Gates built a bridge across the Conecuh and Mr. McDaniel was afraid it would put him out of the ferry business. A lawsuit was filed and extensive court proceedings followed. This was the first lawsuit in Covington County and is recorded in Stuart's Alabama. Some of the early settlers at Montezuma were Elias Spencer, William Duncan, William Spurlin, Henry Jones, Seaborn Jones, Michael Carter and Julian and myself. Our land was adjacent to the acres containing the Courthouse and the ferry.
The old trail used by the Indians and early settlers extended northeast to Pike County and ultimately to Ft. Mitchell in the Indian Territory. Another road would take a traveler to Claiborne. Claiborne and Pensacola were our two main resources for staple goods and a great deal of travel between those points and Montezuma occurred.
When I first came to Montezuma I think most of the people respected me and that is evident through the many times I was elected to serve in the legislature. As judge I probably made some people disagree with my decisions and some did not approve my actions in the legislature. I got in a heated political battle with the Sheriff Vining Howard and that caused much discontent. Many of my friends sided with Howard. Howard had failed to post bond in accordance with the law and was so charged. The Indian Territory to the north was coming open and tremendous opportunity existed there. We thought about moving there.
While at Montezuma my son Julien Sidney had become well respected and he had made tremendous strides and was very popular among the people. In 1826 at the age of 21 he was appointed Clerk in the Circuit Court. Before the end of the year on December 28, 1826 he married Adaline Rebecca Bradley. She was from a very prominent and wealthy family at that time. They had one child, a daughter named Mary Emily December 16, 1830 but she lived only until January 28, 1831. The marriage ended in separation and finally a divorce. Julien had served in the Alabama legislature from 1833 to 1836 and was also on the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.
We did move to Montgomery County which later became Bullock County but we stayed only a few years there. One of our trips to our new place in Montgomery County took the greater part of six days. We called the place Val-Verde and the countryside was beautiful. A couple of bad crop years and the depression of 1837- 1843 painted a bad picture for us. I was getting on up in age but Julien took his slaves and possessions and moved to Texas in an area that is now Montgomery County and the town of Conroe, near Houston. Some months later after Julien had moved, I too made the move. I scratched the letters “GTT” over the door of my humble cabin and made the long journey to Texas. We ultimately settled in Rusk County near the little community of Glenn Fawn. Julien operated quite a successful and large plantation, made many friends and was elected to the State Assembly. He built a large two story home on the place and called it “Monte Verde” or green mountain. It was actually named after Montezuma and Val Verde the place in Montgomery County, Alabama.
Dr. Dorman H. Winfrey wrote a book entitled “Julien Sidney Devereux and His MonteVerdi Plantation”. He told the story of our lives and our plantations. Today the old homeplace still stands, fully restored and is a lovely place. The area around the home is much smaller today but they still plant peaches, cotton and the things we planted back in the early days. Dr. Winfrey mentions the graveyard near the home where many of the Devereux’s are buried. John W. Devereux born March 15,1769 and died June 22, 1847. Julien Sidney Devereux born July 23, 1805 and died May 1, 1856 at the age of only 50.
Julien’s and my personal papers, books and records of the plantations eventually wound up as the Devereux Collection in the Barker Library at the University of Texas in Austin. The papers and diaries date back to our stay in old Montezuma. Some man and his wife from Alabama came and examined many of the records. They located the Map I drew of early Montezuma and brought the copy back to your Museum.
Well, it has been nice visiting with you folk tonight. Its always good to go back home. I have enjoyed telling you a little about my family and its experiences in early Alabama and in particular at old Montezuma. On my way back, I thought I would go down the Historic Devereux, look about the Devils Den and see if I could see any remnant of “The Hermitage” my old cabin. And I will probably see if I can catch the ferry across the river at old Montezuma. It will be good just to stand on the banks of the river and recall all the happy days and fine people I knew there. Well, I must be on my way now --- Thank you and good night!