Submitted 30 Sep 2005
by Howard Bryant

Howard Bryant writes: "This biography of John Calvin Carrithers of Colbert
County was written by Cecil Hayes who gave it to me three or four years ago.


John Calvin Caruthers the fifth child of James Edward Caruthers and Mary Elizabeth O’Connor, born January 12, 1828, on the coast of northern Ireland in the town of Donegal. Although small in size and population, Donegal was once an important seaport. It was involved in the export in fine furniture, seafood, potatoes, woolen textiles, and numerous other products. Ships from all over the world came to this port, great ocean-going vessels from Canada, South America, and the United States. Citrus fruits, spices, nuts, and sugar came the tropics, cotton, indigo, and farm equipment came from the U.S. and lumber came from the forests of Canada, to be worked into some furniture and shipped back to the U.S.

John Caruthers, at the age of 16, worked as a stevedore, helping to load and unload cargo from ships. John was apparently waiting for his opportunity to go to the US. When a Canadian ship, the STORM PETRAL, arrived from Halifax, Nova Scotia with a load of lumber, John helped unload the lumber and reload the ship with furniture. The furniture was lighter than the lumber, so the ship took on a few passengers at half fare. Many immigrants took advantage of these half fares on merchant ships. When John made his last trip onto the boat, he concealed himself among the stacks of furniture and waited for the ship to leave port as a stowaway. For three days he huddled in his hiding spot. Then thirst and hunger forced him to reveal himself. Let us hope that the crew and the captain knew the young Irishman. While he could have been severely punished for his action, all that is really known was that he was allowed to work out his passage for the rest of his voyage. The Storm Petral was bound for Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1844, the immigration laws stated that a young person must be at least 18, or have an adult assume full responsibility. John was only 16. He must have known the law and on the four week voyage, John became involved with an immigrant family named MacClough. He persuaded this family to "adopt" him and pass him off as one of them, thereby entering the U.S. under the name of John Calvin MacClough. The MacClough family journeyed from Maryland to Coldwater, Michigan, where they probably had relatives. Young John Caruthers went with them. Records show that John lived at Coldwater two years.

On March 10, 1846, 18-year-old John Carithers made a trip to Lansing, Michigan, where he filed for U.S. citizenship, this time under his own name. The photo shown here was the one submitted with his application. He apparently left Michigan immediately after applying for citizenship. Why he left the MacClough family is not known but he seems to have severed all relationships with them and to have struck out on his own. It's about three hundred miles from Coldwater, Michigan to Parke County, Indiana, where John finally settled and where, it is believed, he received his final citizenship papers in the spring of 1849. An immigrant had to be in the U.S. at least five years before he could receive his final papers.

John started as an apprentice blacksmith, near the small town of Fountanet, Parke County, Indiana. He evidently received room and board, and a small amount of pay while he was being trained. John trained well. In later years he would prove to be one of the best blacksmiths in AL. A blacksmith in those days did much more than just shoe horses. He could repair almost any piece of farm equipment, a plow, wagon, or almost anything made of wood or iron. If necessary he could make a complete buggy or wagon.

During the time he worked in Indiana, he made and saved enough money to send back to Ireland to enable his three older brothers to come to the U.S. , where they joined him in Indiana. The first brother to arrive in America was James Thomas. He came in 1847 and was 26 years old. He got a job and helped his younger brother send back money to another brother to join them in Parke County. This brother was Howard Duncan. Howard was 24. And finally Charles Edward Caruthers arrived. All three of John's brothers were single when they came to America. They later married Indiana women and reared large families of their own. From these three families have come hundreds of offspring. Most of them lived all their lives in Indiana.

There is an old burial site there called the Sulphur Springs Cemetery. It's overgrown in weeds and no longer used. Most of the early Carrithers people were buried there, including James Thomas, who died in 1902. When James Edward Caruthers died in Ireland in 1851, he left a wife and two daughters living in County Donegal. His widow, Mary Elizabeth (Molly), decided to come to America and join her four sons. She brought with her the youngest daughter, Mary. The other daughter, Rebecca Ann, was probably married at that time. She remained in Ireland. Molly Caruthers lived to be 85 years old. She died April 3, 1884, and was buried in the Sulphur Springs Cemetery.

From an old family journal, it was learned what happened next to John Calvin. In about the middle of September, 1849, young John Caruthers saddled a fine Morgan mare, stuffed his saddlebags with spare clothing, food, and books and started his migratory journey south. For days he followed the winding course of the Wabash River, as it flowed through peaceful farm country. At night he slept on the ground, beneath the stars, his horse tied nearby and a small fire blazing. In the morning he prepared a hasty breakfast over the fire, saddled up and resumed his lonely journey. At Evansville, Indiana, on the Ohio River, he sold his horse and saddle, and hired onto a riverboat that plied the Wabash, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers. He worked as a deckhand (called a roustabout, or 'Rouster) loading and unloading the boat's cargo, just as he had done as a boy back in Ireland.

It is not know why John Caruthers abandoned his family and left Indiana. However, working on a river steamboat gave him a chance to see much of the country. His boat stopped at every town and every 'landing' along the way. He was evidently looking for the right place to settle down. He seems to have found that place in north Alabama. In 1849 the town known as Riverton, Colbert County, Alabama, was known as Point Smith. It started out as an Indian Trading Post, in about 1820, and was owned and operated by a man named Henry D. Smith. The first steamboat came up the Tennessee river in 1821. Soon many other boats were to follow. River navigation opened a whole new world for this part of the country. Rich produce in cattle, lumber, and farm produce could be shipped to markets in New Orleans. But point Smith became the head of navigation on the Tennessee. A long series of shoals or sand bars stopped steamboats from going any farther upriver. All shipping was made at Point Smith.

Point Smith began to grow. On December 28, 1846, it got its first Unites States Post Office. New houses and cabins were built. A hotel was constructed by Henry Smith. On May 26, 1851, Point Smith changed its name to Chickasaw, honoring the Chickasaw Indian tribe that once claimed all of this region. On May 28, 1890, the town changed its name once more, this time to Riverton. It remained Riverton until it was destroyed by the backwaters of Pickwick Lake in 1938.

When John Caruthers decided to give up the river for land once more, he took a room at the Smith Hotel. Then he found a job working for the local blacksmith, whose name was Henry B. Wallis. Wallis was 56 years old and in ill health. He was more than glad to get a strong young man who knew the blacksmithing business. The two soon became partners and the business began to grow rapidly. After about a month in the hotel, John occupied a room in the Wallis home. Henry Wallis was married with a large family. He lived in a large home in a valley called Dark Hollow.

Again from the old family journal, it was learned when John was married.

"On a cold, snowy day, December 19, 1850, Miss Sarah Ann Hyatt was married to John Calvin Caruthers, a 22-year-old Irish immigrant whom she had known less than a year. The wedding took place at the home of Carter Blanton Barton and was attended by some 70 persons, including Gill Shorter, Governor of Alabama. The officiating minister was the Rev. Greenberry Davis, who rode a horse all the way from Iuka, Mississippi to be present. Many students from the Franklin Female Institute, Tuscumbia, were present. The three daughters of Henry Wallace (Wallis) served the bride. An outdoor festival was given. A whole beef was barbecued on a turnspit over a pit of glowing hickory coals. The bride was "given away" by her proud step-father, Mr. Carter Blanton. Sarah Ann was still 19 at the time of her marriage. She was a senior student at the local seminary, with one more semester to go before graduation. Even before she graduated she had accepted a job as schoolteacher in the Chickasaw-Riverton area. She was the first female and the youngest teacher in this locality. Her first schoolhouse was the Methodist church building which also served as a Town Hall, for dances, and for many other purposes. Sarah Ann was an accomplished pianist and taught music in her home.

The Hyatt’s came from England very early in the settlement of the colonies and settled in the Tidewater region of Virginia, as tobacco farmers. When the land was depleted, they moved to Northampton County in NC to raise cotton. In the summer of 1826, many of the family left for north AL by wagon train. Benjamin Franklin Hyatt and his wife, Mary Seiver, were newly weds. They bought two sections of land at Mhoontown community in Franklin (Colbert) county. They had three children, the youngest, Sarah Ann. Benjamin died a sudden, mysterious death. Mary remarried later to Carter Blanton Barton, who adopted and raised the three children.

Soon after their marriage, or maybe even before, John started construction of a large, lovely home in Dark Hollow, within a short distance of the blacksmith shop where he worked. Legal documents in the courthouse at Tuscumbia show that John purchased a sizable loan from his new father-in-law, Carter Blanton. The house was two-story and had many rooms, and a large, deep veranda. It was the "picture place" of that region. A large white picket fence surrounded the place.

John and Sarah Ann had nine children. See the other sections of the Carrithers history for detail.

Following are some photographs from that era. The first shows John as the sole proprietor of the blacksmith business in about 1875. Next is Sarah Ann Hyatt Carrithers and the last is John Calvin, taken just before his death in 1907.

Also see John Calvin Carrithers, Sr., Pictures
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