COLBERT COUNTY, ALABAMA
MAJOR E. L. BICKLEY
MAJOR E. L. BICKLEY, one of the prominent and well known business men of Tuscumbia, Ala., proprietor and senior partner of the firm of Bickley & Raiford, the largest hardware store in the city, was born in Clinch Valley, Scott county, Va., June 30, 1843. He is a son of Chas. W. Bickley, who was born May 16, 1798, at the old Bickley Mills homestead in Castles Woods, Russell county, VA. His father, Charles Bickley, came from eastern Virginia, was the son of John who was the son of William Bickley, who was the first of the Bickley family to settle in America, at Williamsburg, Va., in 1670. He was a knight of the garter of Northamptonshire, England. Charles Bickley the grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and his son Chas. Wesley, the father of the subject of this sketch, though but a beardless boy of fourteen, volunteered his services for the war of 1812. After the wars were over he remained in Castles Woods with his father until 1823. He went to Scott county and bought what is yet known as the Bickley homestead in Clinch Valley, promising $1,500 for about 500 acres of river bottom land, made a cash payment of 4400 (about all he was worth) and had five years time granted him in which to pay the deferred amount, his neighbors predicting that he had simply lost or would have to forfeit his first payment, as it would be impossible for him without any operative capital to meet his obligations. He knew no such thing as failure, however, and went to work, built him an humble cabin, felled the timber, and made a fair crop, the first year. On March 16, 1825, he married Miss Mary P. Burdine, who was born in Russell county, Va., February 16, 1809. She was the daughter of Rev. Ezekiel Burdine, and itinerant Methodist preacher, who from the year 1809 to 1812 traveled a circuit, the territory of which now, constitutes the whole of the Holston conference. Charles Wesley, with his new made bride, returned to their new home on the Clinch, March 20, 1825. Realizing their situation, surroundings and obligations, they met the issues of life as a reality, and with their united efforts and labors they were enabled to and did meet the obligations in the purchase of the home, discounting the last note a year before it was due. They were the parents of eleven children, nine of whom lived to maturity, and seven of whom are still living, four sons and three daughters. Both were consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal church, south. Politically the father was an uncompromising democrat of the Breckinridge wing. After accumulating a competency for old age and seeing the children (all living) self sustaining, the mother died of diphtheria, December 29, 1866, and the father remaining at the old home with his son until May 17, 1880, when he passed from earth to his reward. The eldest of their children, Chas. Washington, was born July 3, 1827, and went west in 1852, was married to Miss Laura R. McFarland of Jackson county Mo., November 1, 1857. They had born unto them the following named children: Otelia, Charles D., Leroy Hopkins, Laura Emmagene, Willie E., Katie L., Jennie, Oscar, Paralee, and Hettie. At Pikes Peak and other points in the Rocky mountains his health was impaired and he came back to Alton, Ill., and from thence back to the Old Dominion; he is still living near the home of his youth. Nancy Elizabeth, born May 28, 1829, married to Col. James H. Godsey, an attorney at law of Prestonburg, Ky., September 6, 1853; they afterwards moved to Platte City, Mo., where they lived until the opening of the Civil war. Col. Godsey raised and organized the Fourth regiment, Missouri infantry, which he commanded under General Price and was killed in the battle of Osage, Kan., in 1863. Mrs. Godsey with her sons Willie and James returned to the old home, April, 1865, where she remained with her parents until May 18, 1868, when she married John W. Banner, of Russell county, Va., and is still living at St. Paul. Her oldest son, W. E. Godsey, of Spring Valley, Ala., is an employee of the B., S. & T. R. R. company; his brother, James H., Jr., is engaged in stock raising in Tazewell county, Va., and the younger brother, and only child of J. W. Banner, is with his parents on the farm. The third child, Martha J., was born December 1, 1831. Was married to Rev. W. P. Queen of the Holston conference; they raised two children, both girls. Mr. Queen was the representative of Scott county in the senate of Virginia at the time of his death. Mrs. Queen with her youngest daughter, Mattie, is still living at the Queen homestead, near Hagan Sulphur Springs. The fourth child was Mary Ann Eliza, born September 20, 1834, and died March 20, 1843. Emily Burdine and John Hopkins (twins) were born February 1, 1837. Emily died August 31, 1871. John H. was living at old Estillville (now Gate City) in 1861, with Col. H. A. Morison; he volunteered and went out with Capt. H. Clint Wood’s company of infantry., Col. Samuel J. Fulkerson’s Thirty-seventh regiment, twelve months Virginia troops, Confederate States army, was with Stonewall Jackson at Laurel Hill, Mt. Arry, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, after which he was transferred to cavalry, and commanded company C, Thirty-fourth battalion Virginia cavalry until the close of the war. Was married to Miss Rhoda Thompson, of Ryecove, Scott county, Va., January 10, 1867. They had born unto them the following named children, viz.: Anna Bell, Mary Ellen, Charles W. Lee, William Elbert, Clarence, Myrtle and Grover Cleveland. They still live at the old Bickley homestead on the Clinch, and the land that his father bought, in 1823, for three dollars per acre is now worth fifty dollars per acre. The captain established a postoffice in connection with a lucrative mercantile business at the old home. Henry Powell was the seventh child, and born February 10, 1840, died April 20, 1840. Elbert La Fayette was the eighth. Margarette Minerva Ellen and Joseph Wellington were twins, born February 21, 1846. Ellen was a gentle, loving Christian child, professed religion and joined the Methodist church, south, when but a girl and lived a consistent, cheerful member of the same; died in the triumphs of faith in the Saviour she had so early learned to love, and had so faithfully served, which was the greatest delight and joy of her short earthly life. She died May 24, 1870, leaving the saviour of her life, both precept and example, as a rich legacy, to her bereaved and sorrowing brothers, sisters and a host of other relatives and friends. Joseph W. being the youngest son, had some advantages more than his elder brothers, his education was more liberal, finishing up at Emory & Henry college. He was married to Miss Mary E. Petty, late of Texas (at the time of Cuba), May 24, 1874, they subsequently made their home in Virginia at the old homestead until about the year 1877, they removed to Alabama, where they now live at Hunter, having with the aid of General Joseph Wheeler, M. C., established this new post office, of which J. W. Bickley was the first postmaster appointed, and has served the office as such ever since. He has also run a general supply store in connection with a farm. They have a family of six children: the eldest, Miss Leila E., is about grown; second daughter, Miss Elberta, and Mary A.; George W. L., the first son was named for his kinsman, Dr. George W. L. Bickley, late of Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. G. W. L. Bickley, it will be remembered, was the originator and organizer of the order of Knights of the Golden Circle, about the year 1848, with the purpose of invading Mexico and making himself emperor of the same; he however failed to carry his scheme of conquest; notwithstanding the organization had reached a formidable point numerically, he was betrayed and his plans and purposes exposed. He wrote a history of Tazewell county, Va., in 1852, where he was living at that time, and was president of the Jeffersonville Historical society, he also published a work on botany, besides writing a number of novels and other miscellaneous matter of journalism. The fourth and last daughter is Josephine, and the baby boy Seldon Preston Hopkins, who is now six years old. The youngest daughter, eleventh and last child of Charles W. and Mary P. Bickley, was Melissa Catharine, born April 18, 1848. She was married to the Rev. J. M. Massey, of the Holston conference, November 5, 1868; they now live at Dungannan on the Clinch, Mr. Massey having located, studied and gone into the practice of medicine. They had only one child, a daughter, Ellena, who married John Hagan, son of the Hon. Patrick Hagan, of southwest Virginia fame and notoriety as a lawyer and capitalist. We now come back to the proper and central subject of this sketch, viz., the early life training, education and personal character of Elbert Lafayette, fourth son of Chas. Wesley and Mary P. Bickley. His early training in the home of his parents so impressed him as to develop, and establish in his character the principles of industry, economy, prudence and piety. Inheriting the most potent features of his father’s character, with strong convictions, and indomitable energy of purpose, he as it were forged his way, and built character from his boyhood. School facilities were very poor, and the most schooling he got was by walking about three miles to an old log school house, and this through snow and slush. after having made a full hand on the farm through the crop season, which he always did, leading the hands of the plantation from the age of twelve until he was grown, in the fall of 1855, on a camp-meeting occasion in Castles Woods, he joined the Methodist Episcopal church, south, and has lived an acceptable member ever since. He was at Stony Point Academy at school the winter of 1861-2, and in the spring he felt an impulse to go into the confederate army, and with the approval of his parents left home in March, 1862, going out as special courier with Maj. Ben F. Bradley, Humphrey Marshall’s brigade—was in the first battle at Princeton; in West Virginia; the following May was with Gen. John H. Morgan at Perryville and Hickman, Ky.; in Bragg’s campaign the following fall. He was kept in West Virginia along the mountain passes most of the year 1863, having been transferred to Col. V. A. Witcher’s Fifty-fourth Virginia cavalry, and was with Gen. Joseph Wheeler through Tennessee and Alabama. Thence back to Virginia under Gen. Preston, serving as adjutant of the Thirty-fourth battalion, Virginia cavalry. An attack having been made on the garrison at Winfield, W. Va., Maj. McFarland was run in and hemmed behind the block house with half a dozen other men—cut off from the command. Adjt. Bickley planned and led a charge upon the garrison in the night, and succeeded in liberating Maj. McFarland, losing Lieut. J. L. Williams and two or three other men. For this Maj. Bickley was presented with a beautiful sword which he yet has and prizes very highly. After the surrender of the confederate State of America, Maj. Bickley returned to the old home, spent the summer of 1865 in agricultural pursuits, and, not being satisfied with his education, he resolved to go to school one more session, which he did, at the rye cove academy during the winter of 1865-66. Leaving school he spent two years with Col. H. A. Morison at Estillville (as clerk in a dry goods store), and from thence with Dickenson & Alderson, in Russell county, where he was given general control of their mercantile business, until the year 1869, when he engaged in the stock business, and after going east with and selling a drove of cattle in Loudon county, he returned to the southwest and continued his journey, passing the old home with the purpose of visiting his uncle, Joseph Bickley, at Indianapolis, Ind. Stopped off at Tuscumbia, Ala., and visited a cousin, T. B. Bickley, of Spring Valley. While there he met and was introduced to Miss Sue Jackson, daughter of James and Sarah (Hodges) Jackson, whom he subsequently married February 14, 1871. Returning to Virginia with his bride they spent one summer and the succeeding fall returned to Alabama, locating in what is now Spring Valley, in Colbert county. Here he opened and established a mercantile business, which he runs successfully in connection with agriculture; he also, through the assistance of Maj. Joseph A. Sloss, member of congress, of his district, established a post office, the first the community had ever had. Remaining at Spring Valley until 1888, he then removed to Tuscumbia, where he erected a handsome residence where he now lives. Mr. Bickley was raised to the master’s degree in Free Masonry by Catlett Lodge No. 34, at Estillville, Va., in 1866, and took the degrees as a Knight of Honor about the year 1875, and in 1889 was made a Knight of Pythias by Colbert lodge, No. 12, and of which he is now the V. C. C. Mrs. Bickley, whilst delicately constituted, and almost an incessant sufferer, has borne it all patiently, and has been truly a helpmate to her husband temporally and spiritually. Her life has been a benediction to him and we might say to all with whom she has come in contact. With no children of their own they have adopted a niece, Miss Katie L., daughter of his elder brother, C. Washington Bickley, having taken her when but a child of six or seven. She is much the same as if their own, educating her in the Deshler Female Institute, Tuscumbia, and finishing in the Huntsville Female College. She is the pride of the household and truly an affectionate, dutiful child—the staff and comfort of her uncle and aunt—as they pass down the stream of time.
[SOURCE: Memorial Record of Alabama. A concise account of the state’s political, military professional and Industrial progress, together with the personal memoirs of many of its people. In Two Volumes. Illustrated. Brant & Fuller, Madison Wis., 1893. Volume I. pp. 687-691.]
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