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Marion County

Genealogy and History


History of Marion County - by Willis Brewer, 1872

Excerpt from book ALABAMA AS IT IS by Benjamin Franklin Riley, D. D., 1887

1854 Marion County Business Directory


1887 - Fire Destroys the Court House at Hamilton - (Marion Herald, April 5, 1887, pg 8)

1887 - Building of the New Court House

1888 - Buttahatchie Bridge Washed Away

1888 - Marion County - by Smith and DeLand

Sketch of JOHN D. TERRELL and early Marion County written in early 1890s

1891 - History of Lamar County - (includes Marion County history) from The Vernon Courier (Lamar County, AL)





Excerpt from::

ALABAMA AS IT IS by Benjamin Franklin Riley, D. D., 1887 , Transcribed by C. Anthony

Lying directly south of Franklin is Marion county. It was created in 1818 and named for General Francis Marion. The extensive natural advantages possessed by the county are serving to attract capital and enterprise, and though not enjoying the transportation facilities of many other counties, it is rapidly coming to the front as one of the most important in the State. It joins Mississippi on the west, and is situated in that portion of the State where some of the richest mineral deposits exist. The county has an area of 810 square miles.

Population in 1870, 6,059; population in 1880, 9,364. White, 8,841; colored, 523.

Tilled Land; 42,925 acres.—Area planted in cotton, 7,269 acres: in com, 21,835 acres; in oats, 2,321 acres; in wheat, 3,925 acres; in tobacco, 44 acres; in sugar-cane, 15 acres; in sweet potatoes, 477 acres.

Cotton Production: 2,240 bales.

The surface of the county is, for the most part, broken. The soils are of moderate fertility, and of such variety as to favor a diversity of production. In the western portion, near the Mississippi line, the most fertile lands in the county are to be found. These are the cotton lands. It is doubtful whether any county in this portion of Alabama has soils which exceed in fertility those which lie along the western border of the county of Marion. Many excellent farms are found throughout the county. They are mostly located upon the wide extended tablelands which form a prevailing feature. These lands are most desirable, both on account of the generous soil and the favorable position of the surface with respect to drainage. Along these broad tablelands the soil is a red loam. In other sections are found soils which are of a sandy loam of a brown color. The readiness with which the best grasses are produced is attracting the attention of stock-raisers, and many good stock farms are found in different sections of the county. The value of the county as a stock-raising district is further enhanced by the fact that it is favored with a great number of perpetual streams. Indeed, the greater part of Marion county is drained by a single large stream—the Buttahachie river—whose numerous tributaries, flowing from all directions from the lofty tablelands and hillsides, furnish inexhaustible supplies of the purest water. The principal streams of the county are Battahatchie, Looxapalila, and Sipsey rivers, Beaver, Bull Mountain, and Bear creeks, together with many smaller streams. These streams flow southwest and empty into the Tombigbee. It is reasonable to suppose that at some future time some of these streams will serve for purposes of local transportation. In many portions of Marion are to be found extensive forests of timber. Chief among the numerous specimens are short-leaf pine, hickory, post, red, and white oaks, sweet and black gum, chestnut, poplar, cherry, beech, and bay. Through these hilly forests is to be found much game, especially such as deer and turkeys, and, indeed, all kinds of game usually found in the forests of the South.

In addition to farming and stock-raising the people devote themselves, to a limited degree, to manufacturing. On Bear creek are two flourishing cotton mills, known as Allen's Factory and the Fall Mills. The former has a capital of $20,000, and the latter $15,000. Both are run by water-power, which serves to illustrate the utility to which these bold mountain streams may be devoted in the manufactures. Beneath the ranges of hills which exist in every section of Marion are considerable deposits of coal, the extent of the prevalence of which is indicated by the outcroppings in every portion of the county. Gold has also been discovered in some sections of Marion. The railroad which is being rapidly constructed between Sheffield and Birmingham will be within convenient reach of the people of the county, and will afford advantages for transportation which have not yet been enjoyed.

Such is the prevalence of valuable ore in the county that roads will doubtless be built as branches to the main thoroughfare running between Sheffield and Birmingham.

The brace of mountain air everywhere felt is a sure guarantee of health. In no part of the county are there to be encountered pestilential vapors or death-breeding lagoons.

The people, especially about the centers of interest, are fully alive to the importance of education. Good schools are found in every portion of Marion.

Unusual inducements are afforded in this county for investments in laud. No matter for what purpose desired, they can now be bought at a figure far below their intrinsic value. Of course, this will cease when the county is penetrated by railroads. The stock-raiser, the farmer, or the investor in mineral lands, will find it advantageous to examine the inducements offered in Marion county.

Hamilton, Pikeville, Shottsville, and Barnesville are the points of greatest importance in the county. The first of these is the county-seat, which has recently been established, and is said to have one of the best court-houses and safest jails in the State.

Extensive tracts of land may now be purchased at figures wonderfully low, even as low as $2 per acre. Anxious to have the material wealth of the county enhanced, the inhabitants of Marion look with great favor upon immigration.

There are in Marion county 85,000 acres of land belonging to the government.

Source: "Alabama, her history, resources, war record, and public men : from 1540 to 1872"; by Willis Brewer; Montgomery, Ala.: Barrett & Brown, 1872 - transcribed by Kim Mohler


Marion was formed from Tuskaloosa by an act passed February 13, 1818. It originally extended to the Sipsee fork of the Warrior, and to its mouth on the southeast, and embraced a large portion of the present counties of Walker, Winston, Fayette, and Sanford; but soon was cut down very considerably; and much mutilated within the past few years by the formation of Sanford. In 1832 the northwestern corner of the county was added when the Chicasas made their last cession.

It lies in the northwest quarter of the State, south of Franklin, west of Winston, north of Fayette and Sanford, and east of Sanford and the State of Mississippi.

It was named to honor General Marion,* the military partisan of 1776.

Its area is about 745 square miles.

The assessed value of real estate in 1870 was $236,787; personal property $54,506; total $291,293.

The movement of population decennially is thus shown:

                                      1830   1840   1850   1860   1870

Whites                              3452   5094   6922   9893   5835

Blacks                              606     753     908     1283   224

The cash value of farms – 18,315 acres improved, and 96,806 acres unimproved – was $80,438.

The live stock – 820 horses and mules, 3641 neat cattle, 2999 sheep, and 5765 hogs – were valued at $138,122.

In 1869 the productions were 90,429 bushels of corn, 5108 bushels of wheat, 20,612 bushels of potatoes, 25,335 pounds of butter, 2713 gallons of sorghum, 1010 pounds of tobacco, 463 bales of cotton, and 9691 pounds of wool; the value of animals slaughtered was $48,629; and the value of farm productions was $149,365.



On last Wednesday night about half past 10 o'clock the Court House at this place was discovered to be on fire. Before any possible effort could be made toward rescuing anything in the house, it was in a solid mass of flames, and it was only by Herculean efforts that the business houses adjacent were kept form burning, so intense was the heat. The wind was very high, which fact rendered the staying of the flames much more impracticable and difficult. Some idea of the intensity of the heat can be gained from the fact that from the front of the store houses of W. R. WHITE & G. B. MIXON, both of which were near fifty yards distant, the rosing was drawn so as to disfigure the houses. Mr. WHITE in trying to save his store ran between it and the burning building without having on his hat, and the heat blistered one side of his neck, and singed his hair a little. Mr. HAMILTON'S Store house, which is now unoccupied, caught fire two or three different times, and his fodder house, in his lot, once, but by prompt action the fire was extinguished before it had time to make any headway.

The loss to the county cannot be estimated. All the records, dating back to the time when the county was established, were consumed. If it could be known what amount of money would be required to adjudicate the claims, disputes and contentions that will now arise, and which the records would have settle, then an estimate could be placed upon the loss that Marion county and her citizens have sustained. The house was a wooden structure and was a splendid building, and cost the county a remarkably small amount - only about four thousand dollars. The County Library, said to have been one of the best and most complete in the state was worth about fifteen hundred dollars, several of the books being almost out of print and valuable on account of their scarcity. The indictment record, and all the books, papers, etc, belonging tot eh offices of the Circuit Clerk, sheriff, tax Collector, and Assessor, and all the bonds and notes taken by Mr. LODEN as County Administrator were destroyed. In fact no books nor records belonging to any of the offices were saved except those of the County Superintendent and the County Treasurer.

Besides the great and inestimable loss to the county, several individuals sustained considerable loss, the heaviest of which was probably upon W. H. KEY, Esq. he having about seventy-five dollars in money burned besides a large number of notes and accounts which had been placed in his hands for collection and about sixty-five dollars worth of law books. Mr. A. J. STANFORD lost about one hundred dollars worth of books and Mr. B. R. FITE about fifty dollars worth.

Nothing is known as to how the fire originated, and nothing but theories and conjectures can be advanced, and after all the theories in the world were given, the grim and lurid fact still remains that the court house is in ashes and that the cause thereof is enveloped in mystery. - (Marion Herald, April 5, 1887, pg 8-)


[Special Correspondence to Age]

Hamilton, Ala., March 31 – Last night about 1:30 o’clock the court house at this place was discovered to be on fire.  It was completely enveloped in flames, and nothing could be done toward saving any of the records, papers, county library, etc., which were in the offices, and not in vaults or safes. The building was a wooden structure and cost about $4,000.  The county library was valued at about $1500, and is said to have been as good as nay in the state. The records are absolutely beyond replacing and dated back to the time the county was first established. There were also about one or two thousand dollars worth of blank records in the office of the probate judge. The tax assessment for the past year, and all the books and papers belonging to the tax assessor’s and collector’ offices were destroyed. In fact, everything was destroyed that belongs to the court house.

                Besides the great loss of the county, several individuals sustained considerable loss.  W. H. KEY, Esq. had about $75,000 in money in the office, which he had collected for various parties, all which he will have to restore from his own pocket. He also had several valuable law book burned and about $4,000 worth of notes that had been placed in his hands for collection.  About $2,500 worth of these notes belonging to Messrs. FRAZIER & GAST, merchants of this county, the others to different parties. MATTHEWS & GUYTON’S mercantile ledger, which was in Mr. Key’s hands, was also burned. A. J. STANFORD, Esq. lost about $100.00 worth of law books in the conflagration.

                It was only by Herculean efforts that the stores around the court house were saved, the resin being drawn from several of them by the heat.  The wind was very high, which rendered the fighting of the flames very difficult.  It was feared at one time that the whole business portion of the town would be consumed, but luckily the wind shifted and the buildings were saved.  It was a grand and awful sight, and represented a lost to Marion County of at least $40,000 and is a severe burden to the already debt-burdened county.  At this writing it is impossible to estimate the loss, but it is believed that $40,000 is a conservative estimate. Nothing is known as to how the fire originated.  It may have been the act of an incendiary or it may have originated in some of the offices. (Lamar News, April 7, 1887)


The specifications for a new court house drawn up by Mr. FRANK ALLEN was presented to the Honorable Court of Commissioners on Monday last and accepted. Bids of contractors will be taken until January 9th. (Marion Herald, Nov. 17, 1887)

LETTING OF THE COURT HOUSE TO BE BUILT AT HAMILTON - Notice is hereby given that the Plan and Specifications of the Court House to be built at Hamilton, Marion County, Ala. is on file in the Probate Judge's office of said county for the inspection of anyone wishing to see it. The bids for the building of said Court House will be received by the Probate Judge at any time from this date until the 9th day of January 1888. The bids accompanied with a bond double the amount of the bid with good and sufficient security, with all rights of exemption waived, shall be sealed up in an envelope and delivered to the Probate Judge and on the 9th day of January 1888 the Court of County Commissioners will meet and break the seals and award the contract to the lowest bidder with approved bond. Said Court House to be completed by the 10th day of November 1888. Done by order of the Court of County Commissioners, this Nov. 14th 1887. WALTER H. MATTHEWS, Clerk. (Marion Herald, Nov. 17, 1887)

Mr. JOHN C. CAMP, of Pine Springs, was awarded the contract of the building of the court house. His bid, $3,750.00 being the lowest. (Marion Herald, Jan. 12, 1888)

Mr. JONES BAYETTE is removing the rubbish from off the ground to be occupied by the new Court House. (Marion Herald, Feb. 2, 1888)

Mr. JOHN JAGERS of Fulton, Miss. spent part of last week in town. Mr. JAGERS is a painter by trade, and has taken the contract for painting the new Court House at this place. He returned to Fulton on Monday last. (Marion Herald, Feb 9, 1888)

Mr. J. T. WHITE is putting up the pillars for the new court house this week. Mr. CAMP has found a suitable location for his mill about five miles from town, and will soon be cutting the lumber. (Marion Herald, Feb 9, 1888)

The pillars for the new court house are completed. (Marion Herald, Feb. 23, 1888)



BRIDGE WASHED AWAY - The bridge across Buttahatchie River, one mile southeast of this place, was washed away by the heavy rain of last Sunday night, which is conceded to have been the heaviest known in this section for years, if, indeed, not the heaviest ever known here. The bridge was a wooden structure erected some three years ago at a cost of $2,100, and its loss will be sorely felt by our people from the fact that it cannot immediately be replaced, owing to the present depressed condition of finances arising from the late loss of the court house. (Marion Herald, March 29, 1888)

1891 - The Vernon Courier - August 27, 1891



                The history of Lamar County is part of the history of Fayette and Marion.

                Lamar County is composed of the territory lying east of Range 13, south of Township 11, east of the Mississippi line, and north of Township 18, and covers an area of 13 full townships and 5 fractional townships.  The line that divided Fayette and Marion formerly was from east to west two miles north of the township line between 14 and 15.  This township line has for a long time been known as a District line.  The land north being subject to entry at Huntsville and that south of it at Tuscaloosa and Montgomery now.  Sections 1, 2, 11 and 12 in township 12 range 14 belong to Marion county.  The old town of Pikeville being situated on that parcel of land, and was the country site when this county was established under the name of Jones in 1866.  The county was called Jones in honor of Hon. E. P. JONES, of Fayette who was then State Senator from the counties of Marion and Fayette.

                The convention of 1867 abolished the county, but before that date an election had been held and the place where Vernon now stands was chosen for the county site and named Swain.

                On the 8th day of October 1868 the county was re-established and this time given the name Sanford, in honor of H. C. Sanford, a senator from Cherokee County.

                A great deal of bitter feeling prevailed in the counties of Fayette and Marion for several years after this county was on a solid footing. The new county divested both the old counties of their best territory at that time.  The rich coal lands of those counties were then considered worthless.  A muzzle loading shotgun or a milk cow were easily exchanged for a quarter-section which is now worth up in the thousands.

                The county was attacked on ground that it did not have 600 square miles of area, the constitutional area. The area of square miles is said to be only 599 with every inch measured, which substantially fill the requirements of the constitution.

                The best agricultural lands of Marion were cut off to this county.  Marion had been trimmed so often before that it had become a rule for the people to vote for no men whom they considered lacking in a knowledge of “county boundaries”

                Marion was formed on the 18th day of February 1818 from territory taken from Tuskaloosa and composed largely the territory now embraced in the counties of Walker, Winston, Fayette, Lamar, and Lowndes and Monroe in the State of Mississippi. And in 1832 the Chickasaws made their last cession, a large part of what is now Marion county.

                The State Senators from Marion down to 1825 were: JOHN D. TERRELL, 19 – 21; WM METCALFE 22 – 25; and from that date they were same in both Fayette and Marion and are as follows:

JESSE VANHOOSE                          1825 – 27

RUFUS MOORE                                1827 – 29

RUFUS K. ANDERSON                  1829 – 34

HENRY BORROUGH                     1834 – 37

BURR WILSON                                 1837 – 43

ELIJAH MARCHBANKS                1843 – 47

DANIEL COGGIN                            1847 – 50

E. P. JONES                                         1850 – 61

A. J. COLEMAN                 1861 – 65

E. P. JONES                                         1865


Marion had the following Representatives from 1819 to 1844

              SILAS MCBEE

             JAMES MOORE

             LEMUEL BEENS

            JOHN D. TERRELL

            JAMES MOORE

            JAMES MOORE

           GEORGE WHITE

           WM H. DUKE

           WM H. DUKE

           WM. H. DUKE and JAS. METCALFE




          GEORGE BROWN and D. U. HOLLIS


          HIRAM C. MAY

          JOSHUA GANN

          JOSHUA GANN


          THOS. C. MOORE

          THOS. C. MOORE



          JOHN L. MCCARITY

1845 – LEROY KENNEDY, 2 year terms





         K. T. BROWN and LEROY KENNEDY

         K. T. BROWN and W. A. MUSGROVES

         M. L. DAVIS and J. W. LOGAN


      (Continued next week)


Population: White 8,841; colored 523. Area, 810 square miles. Woodland, all. Coal measures, 660 square miles. Gravelly and pine hills, 150 square miles.

Acres- In cotton (approximately) 7,269; in corn 21,835; in oats 2,321; in wheat 3,925: in tobacco 44; in sugar-cane 15; in sweet potatoes 477. Approximate number of bales of cotton, 3,240.

County Seat - Hamilton; population, 225; on Buttahatchee River, 45 miles from Aberdeen, Miss.

Newspaper published at County Seat - Marion Herald.

Post offices in the County - Allen's Factory, Allhill, Barnesville, Bexar, Bull Mountain, Candle, Chalk Bluff, Gold Mine, Hackleburgh, Haleys, Hall's Hills, Hamilton, Hodges, Ireland Hill, Pearce's Mills, Pikeville, Shottsville, Texas, Thorn Hill, Ur, Young.

Marion County was created in 1818, and was named for Gen. Francis Marion, the celebrated South Carolina soldier, whose brave deeds and the sore privations he endured during the Revolutionary War endeared his memory to every American heart. This county forms a portion of the Warrior coal field, and as such it is rapidly coming into prominence. Source: Northern Alabama - Historical and Biographical by Smith & De Land, Birmingham, Ala 1888 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

PIONEER TIMES - A Sketch of Marion County and One of Her Most Prominent Citizens -
           The boundaries of Marion county Alabama were defined on the North, East and South but on the West it was to be bounded by the line between Alabama and Mississippi when it was run out.  The country east of the river was regarded in Alabama, and the old pioneers for several years voted with Marion county.  The Alabama judges held courts, whose jurisdiction extended over Monroe to the river.   When delegates to frame the constitution of Alabama were elected, Monroe voted with Marion.  JOHN D. TERRELL was one of the delegates elected from Marion and served in the convention with Dr. JOHN L. TINDALL, Sr. from Tuskaloosa.
           Although it was found he lived in Marion after the State line was run out, it seems legitimate that he should be sketched in these series, because he had been identified with Monroe.  He settled in a very early day on Buttahatchie, near the crossing of the military road, between the Toll Gate and Pikeville.  He got his first year's supply of corn from LEVI COLBERT, who lived on the bluff west of Cotton Gin Port, near the old cotton gin erected during Washington's administration, and near the enormously large spreading oak, known as the Council Tree.
            LEVI COLBERT was the head chief of the Chickasaws, a half-breed Indian of the highest order of intellect, and though he could neither read nor write he was not surpassed by any Indian in the south, not excepting ALEXANDER MCHILLIVARY, the chief of the Cherokees, who had a splendid education.
            JOHN D. TERRELL had a superior mind, and was educated thoroughly, being familiar with all the sciences.
 The acquaintance made between those two extraordinary men was cemented into a lasting friendship.  JOHN D. TERRELL often visited the old chief, and they remained in close consolation for a week or more at a time it never transpired on what subjects they conversed.
             JOHN D. TERRELL was a practical surveyor.  It was known his services as surveyor, were devoted to making surveys in the Chickasaw nation agreeably to the direction of the old chief.  After the death of LEVI COLBERT, which took place soon after the treaty with the Chickasaws, there was found among the chief's papers, a plat 10 miles square in the Tennessee Valley, below Tuscumbia.  This plat was drawn and in the hand writing of JOHN D. TERRELL, for what purpose is not known as he family did not own these lands after the treaty.  In a former treaty there was a reservation made on the north of the Tennessee River.  It is still called "Colbert's Reserve."  Expecting a treaty would be made, the old chief may have prepared, in case there were reservations granted.
           After the constitution of the State was made, JOHN D. TERRELL was elected a representative in the Legislature, and served as Probate Judge in Marion for many years.  He often surveyed tracts of land for the accommodation of his neighbors.  He was so thoroughly informed on all subjects that it was a pleasure to converse with him.  He was hospitable; delighted to have company, and invited numbers to make his house their home while hunting or fishing.  All kinds of game were abundant, but he never hunted. The Buttahatchie was noted for its trout fishing; he would have the bait procured for his friends, but he never fished, asked to be excused and turned to his books; he devoured every book to be procured and that most thoroughly, and delighted in solving the most abstruse problems in all the sciences; he was a perfect book worm.  As a public speaker his oratory was of the first order.  He had no love of money beyond its use; was kind and charitable to the poor and those in distress. Should there be a difficulty between his neighbors, he devoted himself to heal the difference, and with his great talents and popularity, he was regarded as a peace maker among his neighbors.
            Men of towering intellects have solid convictions, think for themselves, and are governed accordingly, and are more or less regarded as eccentric.  He belonged to the hard-shall Baptist Church.  His grace was "Lord, bless us and our supper," or "Lord bless us and our breakfast" etc.  Were I sufficiently acquainted with his character many eccentricities could be given.  Let one suffice.
            His lands on the river were very rich, and had a growth of timber only found on rich soil.  He selected a walnut tree, had it cut down and into stocks; these were hauled to a mill and sawed into lumber as he directed.  Out of this lumber he made, with his own hands, his coffin.  It was made somewhat like a chair, and when finished he got into it to see if it would fit.
            He valued very highly a panther skin vest, likely the gift of some chieftain or valued friend; of course its value was in the associations connected with it.  He gave direction to his sons that after this death the panther skin vest should be put on him, he then should be placed in his chair-coffin, and with a blanket around his shoulders should be buried in a grave dug on the top of a high mound in the river bottom.  His wishes were carried out. A deep grave was dug on the top of the mound, he was placed in his chair coffin as directed, and a large box was let down over him, and so was buried JOHN D. TERRELL, a man of talents of the highest order.
          [The above was given us for publication by a granddaughter of J. D. TERRELL.  It was clipped from a paper published at Aberdeen, Miss many years ago. - Ed]


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