1785 - 1872

Copyright 2005 by
Peggy A. Bowling
Presented here with the permission of the author.

The following is Peggy Bowling's thoughtful and delightful recreation of Burchet (Curtis) King's life told in journal format. Burchet did not keep a journal, but if she had it is not hard to believe that this is representative of what she might have written. It begins in 1794, when Burchet is a nine year old motherless child living in North Carolina. It ends with her death in 1872, in the Leighton area of Lawrence (now Colbert) County, AL at the age of 87. Burchet (Curtis) King was related to many of Leighton's early families.

1785 - 1872

1794 – My name is Burchet Curtis and I live in Wake County, North Carolina. My Mother, Mary Shaw Curtis, died this year at age 29. This must be the most tragic thing that can happen to a young girl. It is good that I have three sisters, but I am the oldest of the four girls in my family. I am 9 years old, Ann is 6, Martha is 4 and Mary is 2. We are fortunate to live with our father, John Curtis, in a safe home in North Carolina. I was born just two years after the Revolutionary War ended and there were battles fought in our state though not in the inland part if the state where we live. North Carolina is now a part of the United States of America and George Washington is our president.

1803 – Thomas Jefferson, our president who was elected in 1800, has purchased a large tract of land west of the Mississippi River from the French. I wonder if some of our friends and neighbors will some day move toward the west and occupy this new land.

April 24, 1805 - Today is a happy day for me. I am marrying Hartwell King, who like me is also 20 years old. We are getting married and will continue to live in Wake County, NC. This would be a much happier day if my father, John, approved of my marriage. Father is a very religious man and he does not feel that Hartwell is of a serious enough nature when religion is concerned. (Letter from Mary Curtis Napier Stephenson, Waco Texas, to F. R. King, Sept. 9, 1902,) I am sorry to leave my younger sisters and my father but I look forward to my new home.

June 19, 1805 – Today my sister, Martha, married John Rand.

April 27, 1806 – Today Hartwell and I were blessed with our first child, a son whom we have named William Oswald. We shall call him Oswald.

December 12, 1806 – My sister, Ann, married Aldridge Myatt today.

May 7, 1809 – Now Oswald has a baby brother. Robert was born today.

1810 – A portrait artist has come to Wake County and Hartwell has arranged for him to paint our portraits. I think I shall wear my white lace cap and white lace collar for the painting. (Note: This date can not be verified except that the artist who restored these portraits agreed on the time period of 1810 – 1815. There is no signature or date. )

March 4, 1811 - Our first baby girl was born today. We have named her Mary Curtis in honor of my mother. I’m sure father is glad to have the name Curtis in my family.

December 26, 1811 – My sister, Mary, married Drury Vinson today.

May 5, 1813 – Now Mary Curtis will have a playmate. We have named our second daughter Susan.

July 3, 1815 – My sister Mary Vinson has a daughter. They have named her Martha Ann.

July 15, 1815 – Our family is growing. A son, Philemon, was born today.

1816 – Sadness again visits. My father, John Curtis, Jr. died. He was 56 years old. He had made his will on May 6 of this year. In it he left one third of his lands including the plantation where they lived to his wife, Betsey, my stepmother. I am to receive one hundred dollars and my sister, Martha Rand, is to receive one servant girl. After the specified legacies are taken out of the estate, the remainder arising from the sale of property and possessions is to be divided between myself and my three sisters. We are to support his mother, Ann Womack, by paying five dollars each per year as long as is necessary. He provided for his servant man, Andrew, by giving him his wearing apparel and allowing him to choose to live with either my stepmother or any of his four daughters. We are each to pay yearly our proportionate part of his maintenance. If any of us refuse to pay our share of Andrew’s support we shall be disinherited. (Will of John Curtis, Wake County, NC dated May 6, 1816, Probated 1816, Records of Superior Court NC Wake Co. Book O, Pg 99)

March 31, 1818 – Out 6th child is born. We have a baby girl whom we have named Martha Burchet.

March 5, 1820 – We have another boy and we have named him Hartwell Richard for his father and his grandfather.

Sept. 9, 1822 – The birth of Paul H. makes a family of 3 girls and 5 boys.

October 1, 1824 – Our next child is also a boy. We named him Washington Lafayette in honor of our first United States president and Marquis de Lafayette who befriended the colonies as they were struggling for independence from England. Hartwell is beginning to talk of moving to new lands. Alabama became a state in 1819 and there is said to be rich farm land available there. Anne Royal, the journalist from the north, has traveled extensively in Alabama and has written of seeing cotton plants six feet tall.

December 7, 1825 – In preparation for our planned move to Alabama, we today sold 750 acres of land in Wake County, NC. John Bell purchased it for $3,500.

1826 – The long discussed move has finally arrived. I am sad to leave my birth home but it is good that we have many family and friends also making the long journey to the Tennessee Valley area of Alabama. I am blessed that my three sisters Ann, Mary and Martha and their families are joining us on this 650 mile move. Hartwell’s father and mother, Richard and Edith King, and his sister and her husband, Elizabeth and George Hinton, are making the move also. There are about 20 families of neighbors and friends who will travel with us and settle in this new land. Among them are the Liles, Maddings, Preuits, and Delonys.

1826 – After a long and arduous journey by covered wagon through mountains and Indian territory, we reached the head of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River near Courtland. Before crossing the shoals, we had prayer to thank the Lord for our safe journey and beseech His protection in this dangerous crossing.

Our home will be built southeast of the town of Leighton, which is located on the stage route, and about 6 miles northeast of LaGrange. There is a creek called Town Creek about a mile east of where we are building and there are Indian villages along the creek but they are very friendly to us. We have chosen this location because the village of LaGrange on Lawrence Hill already has schools established and we seek a good education for our children. My sister Ann and Aldridge Myatt will build just northwest of us on the route to Leighton and LaGrange. Mary and Drury Vinson and Martha and John Rand will each build there homes just southwest of Leighton in the valley but nearer to Lagrange. Martha and John are near a creek so he can build and operate a grist mill. Ann and I are in Lawrence County, but Mary and Martha are in Franklin County though we will be living within 10 miles of each other.

October 25, 1827 – The first tragedy to our family since moving to Alabama is the death of our youngest son, Washington Lafayette. He is only 3 years and 15 days old. We buried him in the cemetery that has been established at LaGrange.

May 18, 1828 - On March 11, 1828, we were blessed with a baby girl, Ann Lafayette. Sadly she lived just two months. Today we buried her next to her brother at LaGrange.

1829 – General Andrew Jackson from Tennessee was elected president of the United States.

September 24, 1829 – Our oldest daughter, Mary Curtis, today married James Fennel of Trinity. He is the son of Wiley and Sarah Fox Fennel. They moved from Virginia to Morgan County, Alabama prior to our move here. Though Mary is only 18 years old, she has graduated with honor from LaFayette Academy at LaGrange and then assisted Dr. D. P. Bester in teaching at the academy.

January 14, 1830 – Our son Oswald married Martha Rebecca Delony. She is the daughter of Capt. Edward Broadnax Walker Delony and Margaret Bonner Fox. Her brother is Dr. Edward Broadnax Delony. Her family also moved to Alabama from North Carolina.

April 22, 1830 – Today we were blessed with another baby girl. We have named her Ann Lafayette in honor of her recently deceased sister. Our family may be complete as I am now 45 years old.

1830 – Residents of the Valley are happy that we now have a school of higher learning for young men. LaGrange College was opened this year by the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church. Local men began working two years ago to get the college located on LaGrange mountain. Hartwell was selected as one of the twenty one local trustees.

July 17, 1830 – We are grandparents! Mary Curtis and her husband James Fennel have a baby daughter. They have named her Alabama Fennel. They live at Trinity in Morgan County which is about 40 miles distant. Hopefully our three month old daughter, Ann, and her niece Alabama will get to spend some happy days playing together.

October 13, 1830 – My young niece, Martha Ann Vinson, died today. She was only 15 years old. She and our daughter Mary Curtis were such good friends for they attended school together at the LaFayette Academy at LaGrange. Drury and Mary buried her in the garden at their home.

December 10, 1830 – Our first grandson was born this day. Oswald and Martha have a son whom they have named Edward in honor of his grandfather, Edward Broadnax Walker Delony.

December 27, 1830 – Hartwell’s father, Richard, died on this date. Earlier in the year Hartwell and his father traveled to Wake County, NC to attend to some business. While they were there Richard became ill. He implored Hartwell that if he should die to return his body to his home in his adopted state for burial. Hartwell carried out his father’s wishes by preserving the body in a barrel of whiskey for the long journey back to Alabama. He is buried near his home which is northeast of our home. (Though there is no written record of this event, it is recorded in family oral history handed down through four generations of family. A descendent is also in possession of the nails that were removed from the lid of the barrel.)

Richard’s will, which he had written July 30, 1830, decreed that his farm should be maintained and operated for the benefit of his wife, Edith. Land was to be purchased for his son, John King, for his use during his lifetime. His son, Hartwell and daughter Betsy (Elizabeth) were to each receive the loan of Negroes for their use during their lifetime and Betsy was to receive his lands and all other property was to be divided equally between Hartwell and Betsy. (Lawrence County Inventory & Will Book C, Page 64)

January 13, 1832 – Our son-in-law, James Fennel, has been very interested in establishing a railroad from Decatur to Tuscumbia in order to transport the cotton to market in a timely manner. The Tennessee River is only navigable through the Shoals in times of high water so time is lost in getting the cotton to market in times of low river water. Today a charter was granted for the organization of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad Company. James is among the stockholders of this company.

December 12, 1832 - Oswald and Martha have another son. They have named him Robert.

1833 – President Jackson has negotiated a treaty with the Indian people living in the southeastern United States. It is called the Indian Removal Act and under its terms all the Indians will move west of the Mississippi River to the Oklahoma territory. Many of these people have been friendly to us and we will be sorry to see them leave. The chiefs of the villages along Town Creek have given Hartwell forty specimen arrowheads as a token of their friendship with us. (The date of this gift is not known, but the 40 arrowheads are in the possession of two descendents of Hartwell.)

January 26, 1833 – Our family has once again been visited by death. Our first grandchild, Alabama Fennel, just 2-1/2 years old and the only daughter of Mary Curtis and James Fennel has died. She was buried in the Fennel Cemetery which is near their summer home Summerseat on Trinity Mountain. This summer home was built by Jame’s father, Wiley Fennel. James has written me a heartbreaking letter telling me the details of her illness and death. (Letter from James Fennel to Burchet King dated January 26, 1833) He has also expressed his grief in verse:

I mourn my lost child Alabama

Once the pretty little urchin so sweet and so gay

And while the sad parents doth pour out their grief

Hope of the future is but little relief

Wisdom says perhaps it is all for the best

The child is now numbered with the heavenly blest.

April 21, 1833 – Mary Curtis and James have been blessed with another daughter. They have named her Carolina Burchet. She is my first namesake grandchild.

1833 – President Jackson has authorized a state banking system and Decatur has been successful in being chosen as the site of the first State Bank in North Alabama. James Fennel has been deeply involved in organizing and constructing the building to house this bank. He had the massive limestone columns for the building quarried on his plantation at Trinity. On the opening day festivities for the bank he granted freedom to the five slaves who had made these columns. It was a grand day of celebration in the city of Decatur.

August 20, 1833 – Work is progressing on the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad. Today it is complete from Tuscumbia to Leighton.

November 12 – 13, 1833 – On both these nights the sky was ablaze with seemingly millions of falling stars. Though falling or shooting stars are common, there has never been such a display as on these nights. It was an awesome sight such as we have never seen before. Many of the Negroes were frightened by this heavenly display.

October 1834 – My son-in-law, James Fennel is traveling by stage on an extended trip to the north. He has written Mary about his stop in Fincastle, Va. to take care of some property for his sister. From there he traveled on to Washington City and was very impressed with the public buildings in our nation’s capital. His most impressive visit though was to call on President Andrew Jackson while he was in Washington. Next he traveled on to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. He wrote of seeing many sailing vessels on the Chesapeake and Delaware rivers, possibly as many as 150 in full sail. He told her of purchasing items in Philadelphia for their home. Letters from James Fennel to Mary Fennel written October from Fincastle and Oct. 13, 1834 from Philadelphia)

November 11, 1834 – Oswald and Martha have their third son whom they have named Benjamin Rush. His is named for the distinguished physician who served on the battlefield of the Revolutionary War and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps he shall also become a surgeon. (He did become a surgeon and served in the Civil War.)

December 14, 1834 – The railroad is complete from Tuscumbia to Decatur. This is the first railroad in Alabama. Not only will this be beneficial for transporting the cotton and other agricultural products to market, but passengers can now travel to Decatur by rail. Visiting with Mary Curtis and James will now be easier as their home, Walnut Grove, is located alongside the railroad at Trinity.

May 28, 1835 – Our second daughter, Susan, married Tignal Jones today. He is also of a North Carolina family. His parents are Redding Jones and Martha Bustin Grant. His grandparents are Lt. Col. Tignal Jones, Jr. and Penelope Cane.

December 1836 – During this year two grandchildren were added to our family. On February 16, Mary Curtis and James had a girl named Celia. Oswald and Martha had another boy December 12 whom they named Burchet Curtis. They must have despaired of ever having a daughter. They will call him Curt.

December 1837 – Only one grandchild this year. Susan and Tignal had a son on March 10. They named him John Curtis. We had two weddings this year though. On February 14, Robert married Margaret Peck and Martha married Thaddeus Felton on September 5.

January 1838 – As executor of his father Richard’s will, Hartwell has now satisfied the terms of this will and made a final settlement. Hartwell’s sister, Betsy, and her husband, George Hinton, have decided to remove to Mississippi, Hartwell’s mother Edith, is going to move with them also. Hartwell is going to purchase the lands his father left to Betsy for $2,000. (The date of their removal to Mississippi is not documented, but it is assumed it was at the time of the sale of this property. This was recorded in Lawrence County Orphans Court January Term 1838)

1838-1839 – Four more grandchildren and they are all girls. Martha and Thaddeus Felton had a daughter, Martha Burchet, born July 7, 1838. Robert and Margaret also had a daughter Celia on November 28. Oswald and Martha had a girl, Margaret Fox, born December 22, 1838 and on July 17, 1839, Mary Curtis and James had a daughter, Ann.

1840 – Hartwell has been rewarded somewhat for his dedication and work for our community. He was elected as one of three representatives to the state legislature from Lawrence County. The other representatives are Mr. Walker and Mr. James E. Saunders. This new obligation has required Hartwell to travel to the state capitol at Tuscaloosa. Travel to Tuscaloosa by horseback or carriage is relatively easy as the Byler Road extends there. On his return trip he brought a doll with a lovely china face for our youngest child, Ann. (There is no written record of this gift but fragments of a china doll face were found on the site where their home stood)

July 19, 1840 – My sister, Ann Myatt, died today. She was only 48 years old. I shall miss her greatly. She was a devoted Christian and a member of the Methodist Church. She is buried in a lovely location just southeast of their home. (Information from her tomb)

September 10, 1840 – Susan and Tignal have another son whom they have named Thomas Benjamin.

1841 – I am very pleased that Hartwell has decided to have a portrait painted of himself.

January 10, 1841 – Robert and Margaret have another daughter named Mary Ann.

August 1, 1841 - It is Sunday morning and I have hurriedly written a letter to my daughters, Mary and Susan telling them of their father’s sickness. Since he left their house and returned home, he has had a very bad week and has been attended by doctors Young and Delony. I think he is now out of danger though. Ann is quite sick also. (Letter to Mary Curtis and Ann from Burchet King dated Aug. 1, 1841)

August 31, 1841 – Being fully aware of his mortality, Hartwell today wrote his Last Will and Testament. He summoned his brothers-in-law, John Rand and Aldridge Myatt and Aldridge’s son-in-law, Dr. John S. Napier, to serve as witnesses to his will. I do not wish to serve as executor for this document, so I relinquished this duty to our two oldest sons, Oswald and Robert. Hartwell was thoughtful of me in specifying that in addition to my share of the estate I shall also retain for my use the carriage and carriage horses. (Lawrence Co., Al. Orphans Court Records November, 1841 Book G)

September 3, 1841 - Tragedy. Hartwell passed from this life into eternity today. He was 56 years old. We buried him in my flower garden just northwest of the house. I prefer the garden to the LaGrange cemetery, where our two young children are buried, so I can sit by his grave at any time I desire. (Her Great Granddaughter said Burchet later decided this was not as much pleasure as she had expected) Perhaps some day I can have the bodies of our two children and Hartwell’s father moved to the garden to be near him. (Note: This was done at some later date.) I shall continue to operate the plantation with the help of an overseer and my three unmarried sons, Philemon, age 26, Hartwell, age 21 and Paul H., age 19. My daughter, Ann, who is 11 will be a comfort to me.

December 27, 1841 – Life goes on even in the midst of our sorrow and grief. Mary Curtis and James have another daughter. They named her Susan.

January 6, 1842 – Today my niece, Mosley Ann Rand, the daughter of John and Martha, married my nephew and her first cousin, Fletcher Curtis Vinson, the son of Drury and Mary Vinson.

1842 – My son, Hartwell Richard, made a trip to New Orleans on business and traveled on the Natchez Trace which comes through our area of Alabama. He returned with a gift for me. In his saddle bag, he brought home a magnolia grandiflora tree seedling. I have planted it in the flower garden. (This is oral family history and the date can not be substantiated, but the tree still lives in the King Cemetery.)

December 22, 1842 – Oswald and Martha have twin sons. They named them Bruce and Oswald.

1844 – Three grandchildren were born this year. Mary Curtis and James had a girl April 20 whom they named Margaret. Oswald and Martha a girl, Mary T., born October 20, and Martha and Thaddeus a boy born November 16 whom they named Thaddeus for his father.

December 1844 – Thomas Benjamin Jones, the precious 4 year old son of Susan and Tignal died. We have buried him in the garden near his grandfather.

October 17, 1845 – Robert and Margaret had a boy whom they named George Peck.

December 25, 1845 – Christmas Day. My sister Martha Rand died today of consumption at age 55. She had been ill for quite some time. She is buried in the garden just east of her home. (An undated letter from Susan Jones to her sister, Mary Fennel, tells of Aunt Rand being in the last stage of consumption with no hopes for her recovery.)

1846 – On March 23 Oswald and Martha had a boy. They named him Philemon. September 3, Susan and Tignal had a girl whom they named Martha. On October 10, 1846 Mary Curtis and James at last had a baby boy. They named him James in honor of his father. This joy was overshadowed by the loss of their 13 year old daughter, Carolina Burchet on July 19. She had attended school in Athens and was close friends with her aunt, Ann, only who was just 3 years older. Burchy is buried in the Fennel Cemetery at Trinity. (Letter from Ann King to Burchy Fennel dated Oct. 20 1845. Ann was in school at Columbia, Tenn. Institute)

May 6, 1847 – Martha and Thaddeus had a boy that they named Hartwell King Felton.

March 1, 1848 – My son, Hartwell Richard, married Mary Henderson Smith. She is the daughter of John Smith and Susan Rogers.

1848 – Such a sad year for Oswald and Martha. They were blessed with a baby daughter whom they named Martha R. This joy was followed by sadness which was the loss of two of their children. On May 20, Mary T. who was not yet 4 years old died and we buried her near her grandfather. Then

September 29 their 2 year old son, Philemon, died and we buried him in the garden also. My garden is becoming a family cemetery far too fast.

June 6, 1849 – Hartwell and Mary Henderson have their first child. A boy that they named Paul Smith.

July 9, 1848 – Tragedy again. My son-in-law, James Fennel, died today. He was stricken with dysentery while living during the summer at his beloved Summer Seat on Trinity Mountain. He was 42 years old. At age 38, Mary Curtis is now a widow. She is left with four daughters and one son to raise alone. The oldest daughter, Celia, is 13 and her young son, Jimmy, is not yet 3 years old. James is buried near his parents, Wylie and Sarah Fennel, and his two young daughters in the Fennel Cemetery on Trinity Mountain near their summer home.

1849 – Hartwell, Jr. bought the home and plantation of Rev. William Leigh. The town of Leighton was named for Mr. Leigh who was instrumental in developing the community of Leighton into a town of importance. (Two Hundred Years at Muscle Shoals)

August 21, 1850 – Philemon married Eliza Jane Madding today. Philemon is 35 years old, so it is time for him to have a home of his own. He has helped me a great deal since his father died almost 9 years ago. Eliza is the daughter of Elisha Madding and Eliza Wren Croom. They came to Alabama at the same time we did in 1826.

October 8, 1850 – My brother-in-law, Aldridge Myatt, died and was buried next to his wife, Ann, in their family cemetery. For more than 30 years he lived as an exemplary member of the M. E. Church. (Information from his tomb)

November 29, 1850 – Mr. A. H. Faris came today to conduct the agricultural census. Though it is bothersome to have to enumerate all the agricultural accomplishments during the past year, I know it is good to have these facts recorded. I feel it will be helpful for me to keep a record of the items I reported to him. These figures are for the preceding year ending in June, 1850.

          I reported the farm as having 400 acres improved and 400 acres unimproved with a value of $10,000. The value of my machinery and implements is $675. I have 6 horses, 6 mules, 8 milk cows, 4 oxen, 30 other cattle, 30 sheep and 100 swine. The value of livestock $1,305.
          From June 1, 1849 until June 1, 1850 we produced 40 bushels of wheat, 50 bales of cotton, 50 lbs. of wood, 300 lbs. peas and beans, 100 lbs. Irish potatoes, 400 lbs. butter and 12 bales of hay.

December 2, 1850 – Today Mr. Faris came to enumerate the slave population. For his records I reported as having 36 slaves. Mr. Faris called at Oswald’s home today also and he reported having 50. He had already called on Mary Curtis on November 11 and she reported 38.

December 16, 1850 – It seems that counting people is very popular at this time of the year. Today the United States census enumerator came to see me. Since Hartwell died in 1841, this is the first time I have reported as the head of the household. My household only consists of myself and my daughter Ann. I also reported the value of my real estate at $10,000.

May 1851 – Mary Curtis has made the decision to send her daughter, Ann who is 13, to Salem Academy at Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately Oswald is making his semi-annual trip to Philadelphia to purchase goods for his store. Ann will travel under his care as far as Salem. They will travel by train to Chattanooga and then proceed by stage through the mountains to North Carolina. My daughters-in-law, Martha and Mary Mc.Warren, both attended school at Salem. (Annals of Ann Fennel Davis and Letter to Martha and Mary at Salem from their Mother, Nancy Emily Delony)

June 18, 1851 – Today my youngest child, Ann, married Edward Goodwin, son of Col. John Goodwin of Aberdeen, Mississippi. He is a graduate of LaGrange College and will continue there as a professor of Language and Literature. I am happy they will make their home with me.

July 3, 1851 – Philemon and Eliza have a baby girl. They named her Alice Wren.

July 15, 11851 – Hartwell and Mary Henderson buried their little 2 month old son, Hartwell Richard, in our garden cemetery today. He was born May 7 of this year.

October 1851 – This is such a sad time for Oswald. His son Edward, only 20 years old, died October 28. On October 31 his wife, Martha Rebecca died. She was only 40 years old. They are both buried in the garden near Hartwell.

1852 – Two grandsons were born this year. Hartwell and Mary Henderson have a boy whom they named William Oswald. On May 28, Ann and Edward Goodwin had their first child, a boy named Walter Reynolds Goodwin. On July 6, 1851, my oldest granddaughter, Celia Fennel married Francis Mark Davis who came from North Carolina to attend school at LaGrange. They will live with her mother, Mary Curtis, at Walnut Grove, her home near Trinity.

September 23, 1852 – Alice Wren King, the l year old daughter and only child of Phil and Eliza, died today. She is buried in the garden cemetery.

1853 – Philemon and Eliza had their second daughter January 28. They named her Ada. Hartwell and Mary Henderson had another son on August 17. They named him Duncan but sadly he died on Sept 16 and was buried in our garden cemetery.

1854 – Mary Curtis has made the decision to move back to Lawrence County to be near her childhood home and extensive family. She has visited with me frequently since the death of her husband, James. She is leaving the Morgan County home to her daughter and son-in-law, Celia and Frank Davis. The home she is building here is of wood and painted white. The interior is finished in the finest manner with an Italian marble mantle and beautiful plaster work in the drawing room. For her summer home she has purchased a two story brick home on LaGrange Mountain from her brother-in-law, Tignal Jones. It is located south of the cemetery. (Annals of Ann Fennel Davis) With three young daughters, LaGrange is a fine environment as the young men who are students are of the highest character. Her son, Jimmy, who is eight, will enjoy being associated with so many cousins.

1854 – Ann and Edward lost their only son, Walter Reynolds, not yet 2 years old, on January 16. We buried him in our garden cemetery near his grandfather and cousins. Ten days later they were blessed with another boy on January 26 and they named him Clarence. Philemon and Eliza had a girl May 6 whom they named Mary Eliza but they will call her Lilly. Hartwell and Mary Henderson had a boy on September 5. His name is Henry.

1855 – The residents of LaGrange and the surrounding valley are terribly distressed that the Methodist Church has made a decision to move the college to Florence. This is most unfortunate because the local community made great effort and sacrifice to secure the college for this location. However, enrollment has declined and apparently the church felt the college would prosper more at Florence. Most of the faculty and students have made the move. The name, however, has been strongly contested and the school at Florence will not be called LaGrange but will be named Florence Wesleyan University. The trustees and local supporters have rallied to continue LaGrange College for the students who remain. It will continue operating on a smaller scale but with many of our local qualified professors.

1855 – On February 21, Martha and Thad had a boy whom they named James Edward. On October 2, Ann and Edward had another son that they named Robert King Goodwin. Robert and Margaret had a boy on December 30 that they named Robert O. Walter.

December 20, 1855 – My oldest grandson, Robert, son of Oswald and Martha, married Martha Ann Warren. She is the daughter of Nancy Emily Smith Delony and the late Hugh Warren. Our friend, Dr. Edward B. Delony is her stepfather.

1856 – Phil and Eliza Jane had a boy May 28 whom they named Edwin Clifford.

February 5, 1856 – My second oldest granddaughter, Ann Fennel, married Absalom Leonidas Davis. He is a graduate of LaGrange and is a teacher. His brother is Francis Mark who married Ann’s sister, Celia. They were married at Mary Curtis’ brick home on LaGrange Mountain. Ann and Ab went on a wedding trip to North Carolina and while there visited with Ann’s sister, Susie, who was in school at Hillsborough and Ab’s brother, John, who was preaching in North Carolina. (Annals of Ann Fennel Davis and letter from Celia Davis to Susie Fennel, March 2, 1858)

On June 12, 1856 we had another wedding. Paul married Mary Ann Cummins. Her father was A. J. M. Cummins, a militia Major and Baptist preacher. Now all of my children are married and establishing their own homes.

1857 – LaGrange College has struggled to meet expenses since the move to Florence of many of the students and faculty. The trustees have decided to introduce the military feature as an incentive to increase enrollment. The name will become LaGrange College and Military Academy. With the rumblings of war on the horizon, it would be advantageous for the South to prepare young men for military service along with their general education. The school is closed for a short time while another building is constructed. It will reopen next year.

1857 – My daughter, Mary Curtis Fennel, gave her daughter Ann and her husband A. L. Davis a 300 acre farm near Trinity. This property is adjacent to Mary’s former home, Walnut Grove, which she had given to Celia and Frank when she moved back to Lawrence County. They have completed building their home there which they call Forest Home. This name was chosen because of the huge trees surrounding it.

May12. 1857 – After being a widower for almost six years, Oswald married Cynthia Wright today.

July 1, 1857 – Today my grandson B. C. (Curt) married Mary McWilliams Warren, the daughter of Hugh Warren and the sister of Curt’s brother Robert’s wife Martha. Both Martha and Mary attended school at Salem College in Salem, North Carolina.

1857 – On August 8 Hartwell and Mary Henderson lost their 3 year old son, Henry. They buried him in the garden next to his two young brothers. Mary Curtis’ daughter, Ann Davis, came to be with her mother while awaiting the birth of her first child. Her son James Edwin Davis was born August 18 and only lived until August 26. He is buried in the garden with his King relatives. 

1858 – On February 2 Ann and Edward had their first daughter. They named her Susan. Phil and Eliza had a son May 14 and they named him Silas Jasper. Susan and Tignal had a daughter and named her Mary O.

1858 – In addition to his teaching duties, my son-in-law, Edward Goodwin has been writing a book for some time. He completed it this year and gave it the name Lily White. He credited me with giving him encouragement and was so gracious in making the following dedication to me.

Mrs. Burchet King
Lawrence County, Alabama
My Dear Mother: As a feeble mark of my high regard and unchanging love,
permit me to inscribe your name upon the first page of this humble story.
If my book can claim no other merit, it can boast at least one name that would
honor and adorn the most brilliant literary achievement. In hours of gloom and
despondency your kind and cheering words have stimulated me to renew my labors;
and when others judged me harshly, your approving smiles awoke me to a newer
zeal. It is not on the first leaf of a Romance that your character must be written;
but allow me to say that all those ennobling virtues that add a luster to the name
of woman are yours, and a long and useful life attests the fact.
March 1, 1858 Edward Goodwin

December 23, 1858 – Today my granddaughter, Celia, the oldest daughter of Robert and Margaret married Prof. A. A. McGregor. He is the son of William McGregor and Elizabeth Carpenter. He graduated at LaGrange in 1854 and accepted the position as Professor of mathematics in 1855. He is a greatly respected professor at LaGrange.

1859 – As I am now advancing in age, in fact living much longer than many of my family, I have decided to have a likeness of me painted. I would like for my children and grandchildren to have a painting by which to remember me. (This date can not be proven, but this painting, which is not signed or dated, is owned by a descendent and she was of an advanced age.)

1859 – Margaret Fennel, youngest daughter of Mary Curtis has been in school in Huntsville Academy for some time. During her second year there an epidemic of typhoid fever erupted in the school Margaret became ill and died April 8 at the age of 14. She is buried in the Fennel Cemetery on Trinity Mountain near her two sisters and her father.

September 6, 1859 – Mary Curtis’ daughter Susie married Rev. John S. Davis today. Susie is only 18 and Rev. Davis is 14 years her senior. Now three of Mary Curtis’ daughters have married brothers of the Davis family. Susie and Rev. Davis will live at the home of her mother.

1860 – Phil and Eliza Jane had a daughter May 2 and they named her Camilla. Martha and Thad had a girl also on July 2 named Catherine. Sadly she only lived 15 days and we buried her in the garden cemetery on July 17. On July 24, Ann and Edward lost their almost 1 year old daughter, Mary Burchet.

1860 – Ten years have passed and it is again time for the agricultural census. Mr. McGee came to record our agricultural status for the preceding year. I reported the following:

Acres of improved land 400, acres unimproved 230, Value of land $15,750, Value of

Machinery $200, Horses 4, Mules 7, Milk Cows 6, Oxen 4, Other Cattle 6, Swine 33,

Value of Livestock $1550. Crops produced during the last year ending June 1, Indian

Corn 2000 bu., Rye 10 bu., Hay 25 bales, Butter 200 lbs., Cotton 53 bales.

Mary Curtis is operating a larger farm than I now am. She has 700 acres of improved land and 500 of unimproved land. During the preceding year she raised 166 bales of cotton. My sons are also operating large plantations.

January 11, 1861 – Alabama seceded from the Union. She is the fourth Southern state to do so, following South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. I fear we shall soon be at war.

April 12, 1861 – WAR IS DECLARED. I am certain that many of my sons and grandsons will become soldiers for the Confederacy. Though there is an air of excitement and anticipation among the young men of the area, we know not what is in store for us in the coming months.

July 10, 1861 – Ann and Edward have a baby girl whom they named Edith Ruth.

July 21, 1861 – The first battle of the war was today in a place called Bull Run in Virginia. This was a decided victory for the Confederacy. Hopefully this war will end as quickly as many people predict.

February 1862 – Two battles were fought in Tennessee near Nashville with defeats to the Confederacy. First Fort Henry fell and then Fort Donelson. Oswald’s son, Bruce who was a private in Company K of the 27th Regiment Alabama Infantry, was captured by the Federals at Fort Donelson. (CSA Records) After the earlier victory at Bull Run, the loss of these two forts on the Cumberland River was a serious blow to the South. A nephew of Dr. E. B. Delony, Benjamin Lafayette Smith, was wounded in the shoulder at Fort Donelson. Lafayette, as he often signed his letters, is a first cousin of my granddaughters-in law, Martha and Mary Mc Warren. My grandson, Robert, married Martha and his brother Curt married Mary Mc. The wounded Lafayette avoided capture and made his way to Nashville, then Columbia and from there was able to get a train to Leighton. He told of several people befriending him as he made his way south. Upon hearing of his nephew’s arrival in Leighton Dr. Delony sent his carriage to meet him and took him to his home. No care had been given to his wound up until now. Dr. Delony examined and dressed his wound and wrote to Lafayette’s father advising him that his son was in Leighton.

His father came from Mississippi and after about three weeks Lafayette was recovered enough to travel. They traveled by train to Corinth and then by conveyance from Artesia, Miss. On to their home. Many of our young men are facing serious wounds and possible loss of life in this terrible war. (Autobiography of Benjamin Lafayette Smith, Sr., West Point, Miss 1921)

March 1, 1862 – With the South involved in war, many of the cadets at LaGrange are anxious to enter military service for their country. Col. J. W. Robertson, who is head of the college, relented and closed the school. He asked for and received permission to raise a regiment. This became the Thirty-fifth Alabama Infantry, C. S. A. and many of the students joined. Among them was my grandson, Thad Felton, Martha and Thad’s son, who was a promising young student at the Academy.

My son-in-law. Edward Goodwin assisted in organizing this regiment and was elected Lieutenant Colonel. Ann and I are left here at home alone with her four small children. The war is reaching ever closer to us. There are Federal gunboats taking control of the Tennessee River and we can hear the roar of canon fire extending to our home. There are many soldiers in the area as some retreat from Tennessee and prepare to proceed to Mississippi to meet the enemy there. There are also Federal troops advancing into the valley. Some Tuscumbia residents are seeking safety in more rural areas such as LaGrange This war is a terrible hardship though I am fortunate to have most of my people remain to work the plantation.

October 3, 1862 – The Thirty-fifth Alabama Infantry left LaGrange and proceeded to Corinth, Miss. The Federals had occupied Corinth since they advanced there following their victory at Shiloh in

April. The battle by the Confederates to retake Corinth began on this day and my grandson, Thad Felton, who had been elected captain of a company, was killed on the first day of the battle.

1862 – On January 28, Hartwell and Mary Henderson had a boy and named him Richard Henderson. July 4 of this year Paul and Mary Ann had a boy and named him Claude. On May 31, Drury Vinson, my sister Mary’s husband, died leaving her with only one son, Fletcher Curtis, who has graduated from LaGrange College. Life and death are a part of daily life to those of us who remain at home.

January 1, 1863 – President Lincoln has signed a document called the Emancipation Proclamation that grants freedom to all slaves. I am sure this will have a devastating impact on our Southern livelihood.

1863 – Our valley seems to be of strategic importance to both North and South. The railroad from Corinth, Miss. to Decatur and on to Chattanooga, Tenn. serves to transport supplies and troops so it is therefore a target for the Federals. The river provides transportation and access for the Federals to invade the valley so we are truly in a precarious location. The river is now controlled by Federal gunboats. Our friend, Dr. E. B. Delony, has been molding bullets in his office for use against these gunboats. Dr. Delony’s office is in the yard of Hartwell, Jr’s. home in Leighton. General Roddy tries to give protection to this area whenever possible and General Forrest's troops have come through here. Even so, we have had numerous occupations by the Federals, especially in Florence, Tuscumbia and Decatur. Hartwell’s wife, Mary Henderson barely escaped death when a Federal soldier on a train traveling through Leighton fired at her as she stood in the doorway of her home. She was holding her son, Frank, in her arms and daughter Mary Susan was standing beside her and their garments were pierced by shot. After this Mary Henderson moved to a safer location in Walker County while Hartwell was away at war. (Two Hundred Years at Muscle Shoals pg. 186 and 198)

1863 – Our rural location has not allowed us to escape the ravages of war. General Cornyn marched on LaGrange and torched our beloved LaGrange Academy and many of the businesses and homes on the mountain and in the valley. Mary Curtis and I were both fortunate that we did not lose our homes. Hartwell’s home in Leighton however was burned. Robert had his piano taken from his home by General Dodge who sent it to Decatur in order to have it shipped to his home in the North.

No person or possession is safe in our beloved homeland. How I do long for peace. (Two Hundred Years at Muscle Shoals, pg. 207)

May 16, 1863 – Oswald’s son-in-law, George Hubbard, the husband of Margaret was killed in the Battle of Baker’s Creek in Mississippi. George was a 1st. Lt. in Company F of the 35th Alabama Infantry. Edward Goodwin was also present in this battle.

June 1863 – On June 7 my daughter, Ann, had twin girls. She named them Annie and Edie. Edward is away serving in the army. On June 27, Paul and Mary Ann had a baby boy whom they named Paul J.

September 25, 1863 - Will the tragedies of this year never cease? Today Ann’s husband and my beloved son-in-law, Col. Edward Goodwin, who has been as a son to me, died while attending a court martial trial at Columbus, Miss. His mother arranged to have him buried at his ancestral home, Aberdeen, Miss. He was only 33 years old and Ann is a widow at 33 with six children. Also during this year my brother-in-law, John Rand, died. Of the eight family members of my generation who moved to Alabama in 1826 only my sister, Mary Vinson, and I remain.

September 1864 – Due to the Federal blockade of our ports, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain even the most basic necessities of life. With no source of purchasing salt, we who struggle at home have adapted to previously unheard of scavenging. Under the smokehouses which are still standing the soil is somewhat saturated with salt that has dripped from the curing meat. This smokehouse dirt is boiled until the salt can be separated and skimmed from it. Now even this source has become depleted. We have learned that a Freeboater has brought a barge of salt to Mobile and by permission was allowed to come up the Tombigbee River to Columbus, Miss. to sell this salt. The asking price is very high and it can only be purchased with gold. Several of our friends and neighbors are sending wagons to make purchase of this salt. I am sending a wagon and my sons, Oswald and Robert, are each sending one also. This is a dangerous journey as they will be carrying gold for payment and the salt on the return trip is very valuable. It was fortunate that they were well armed in case of attack by Tories for there was a minor attack on their return home but no one was injured. (Letter from J. H. Spangler to F. R. King August 22, 1925, the precise date of this journey can not be verified)

December 1864 – In early November, Dr. E. B. Delony’s nephew, Benjamin Lafayette Smith, and his brothers Sherman and Penn made a short visit to Leighton. They were all three in the army under the command of Gen. John B. Hood. Their regiment had been from Mississippi, thru Alabama and into Georgia. From there they headed toward Decatur, Alabama and thence on to Tuscumbia. When these three brothers found they were going near Leighton, they went on ahead and came to visit at Robert and Curt’s home with their cousins, Martha and Mary Mc. They spent two nights there and enjoyed getting to sleep in a bed for the first time in many days. Then they went by to see their uncle, Dr. Delony, before rejoining their regiment in Tuscumbia. They camped in Tuscumbia for about three weeks before marching to Franklin, Tennessee and the terrible battle of Franklin. Lafayette was seriously wounded in the leg in that battle on November 30. (Autobiography of Benjamin Lafayette Smith, Sr., West Point, Miss. 1921)

January l, 1865 – Federal troops are laying waste to many of the homes and farms in the valley and on the mountain. Stragglers of both white and Negro troops have taken advantage of the home of Capt. W. H. Hunt on the mountain. They demanded food and ate all of it leaving none for even the children in the family. Chickens and dogs were shot at random in the yard and corn was stolen from the crib. The family granted a request for the captain, who was quite ill, to stay the night in their home. This act of kindness offered some chance of protection from further undisciplined troops. Fortunately they were all ordered to march elsewhere on the following day. (Mollie Hunt Littlepage, Some War Reminiscences, Leighton News June 8, 1906)

1865 – Paul and Mary Ann have a daughter. They have named her Cynthia.

April 9, 1865 – General Lee has surrendered his army to General Grant at the Courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia. Finally this tragic war is ending. Many of the young men in my family have served the Confederacy and some have given their lives.

Among those who gave their life were:
Thad Felton, Son of Martha and Thaddeus
Bruce King, Son of Oswald and Martha
Edward Goodwin, Husband of Ann Lafayette King
George Campbell Hubbard, Husband of Margaret King daughter of Oswald and Martha

Among those who served:
Hartwell R. King, my son
George P. King, son of Robert and Margaret
A. A. McGregor, husband of Celia daughter of Robert and Margaret
Parker Nathaniel Green Rand, my nephew and son of John and Martha Rand
Dr. Benjamin Rush King, son of Oswald and Martha
Robert King, son of Oswald and Martha
Frank Mark Davis, husband of Celia daughter of Mary Curtis
John Drury Vinson, my nephew, son of Drury and Mary Vinson

May 29, 1865 – President Johnson has issued his first amnesty proclamation which covers persons who “may have participated in the southern rebellion by support of the Confederate cause”. Many of the men of our valley who were not in active military service were supporters of the Confederate cause. Among my family, supporters who were pardoned by this act were Oswald, Philemon and Robert. (North Alabama Presidential Pardons, Lawrence Co. Archives, Moulton, Alabama)

1866 – There are still grandchildren to be born. Hartwell and Mary Henderson had a girl and named her Mary Susan. Philemon and Eliza had a son April 24 that they named Philemon, Jr. On April 15, my daughter, Susan Jones died. She and Tignal had moved with their family to Texas where she died and she is buried there.

Since the war has ended Ann desired to have her husband Edward Goodwin’s body moved from Aberdeen, Miss to our garden cemetery. We accomplished that sad task this year. Rev. Felix Johnson, a former president of LaGrange College, returned to Leighton to preach a funeral for this reinterment.

November 25, 1866 – My son, Robert, died suddenly today at age 57, just one year older than his father was at the time of his death. He is buried in the family cemetery with his father and numerous relatives.

Mary Curtis suffered the loss of her valley home in the autumn of this year. The family awakened to a fire and escaped the house but little else was salvaged. Susie and John Davis were living with her as well as her son, Jimmy, and her grandson, Frank Davis. She has decided to rebuild in the same location but considering the economy of the South since the war, her house will not be nearly as fine as the first one she built.

March 19, 1867 – Paul and Mary Ann have a baby boy whom they named Francis LeVert.

September 18, 1867 – Hartwell and Mary Henderson lost their 5 year old son, Richard Henderson, today. He is buried in the cemetery with three other brothers who were also lost at a young age.

December 19, 1867 – Today Robert’s wife, Margaret, lost her 12 year old son, Robert O Walter King. He is buried in the cemetery with his father and other kin.

December 21, 1867 –The entire family is so grieved for Margaret for just three days after losing her young son, her daughter, Mary Ann died. Mary Ann was the wife of Thomas Lile, Sr. She was only 26 years old and left a 2 year old son named Thomas Lile, Jr. She is also buried in the family cemetery with her father and younger brother along with many other relatives.

December 15, 1868 – My grandson, Jimmy Fennel, today married Rebecca Delony. She is the daughter of Dr. Edward B. Delony and Nancy Emily Smith. For the time being they will continue to live with his mother, Mary Curtis.

January 29, 1869 – Yesterday my grandson, Hartwell King Felton, the son of Martha and Thad, married Miss Mary Jane Leckey. Theirs was quite an elegant wedding and supper following. Her Uncle Leggett managed the details and ordered the supper from Memphis. About 20 Ku Klux Klan in their regalia came in following the supper, but they were invited to stay as many were local friends. The next day Martha and Thad had a big enfast which I attended along with many King relatives. (A Reminiscence and Short Sketch of My Life, Mary Jane Leckey Felton at age 75)

1869 – Paul and Mary Ann have decided to have their portraits painted. They are such a handsome couple I am pleased they decided to have this done. (Note: This date can not be substantiated, but the portraits are in the possession of a descendent.)

December 2, 1869 – Philemon and Eliza have a boy whom they named Richard Franklin, however they will call him Fred.

Spring 1870 – Once again Mary Curtis has lost her home to fire. The family which consisted of Mary Curtis, Jimmy and Rebecca and their baby daughter, Mary, escaped without harm. She will rebuild in the same location because her extensive flower garden is there.

July 22, 1870 – Mr. W. S. McDonald came today conducting the U. S. Census for Lawrence County. Ann will be listed as the head of our household as I am now 84 years old. Ann’s six children, ranging in age from 7 to 16, are the other members of our household.

1870 – Paul and Mary Ann have a baby girl whom they named Mary Paul. On October 2 of this year Mary Ann died leaving Paul with a family of six young children. She is buried in the family cemetery.

August 29, 1871 – Today, just 10 months later, Paul followed Mary Ann in death. He is buried by her in the family cemetery. I now have six orphan grandchildren. Fortunately with such a large extended family, there are plenty of relatives in the Leighton area to offer homes to these children. However, six year old Cynthia is going to live with my granddaughter, Ann, and Ab Davis in Trinity.

September 12, 1872 – Philemon and Eliza had another baby girl and they named her Ann Jones.

On October 23, 1872, Burchet Curtis King died at the age of 87. She was laid to rest in her flower garden beside her husband, Hartwell, who had preceded her in death by 31 years.

Two more grandchildren were born after her death, Leo King November 3, 1875 and Eliza Jane King April 7, 1878. There were both the children of Philemon and Eliza Jane.


Felton, Mary Jane Leckey, A Reminiscence and Short Sketch of My Life
Henry, Mary Davis, The Annals of Ann Fennel Davis
Henry, Mary Davis, One Mile From Trinity
James, Robert Leslie, Colbertians
Leftwich, Nina, Two Hundred Years At Muscle Shoals
Lile, Stella Sewell and Inklebarger, Alice Dubose, Various Alabama-Tennessee Cemetery Records and Family Information
McGregor, A. A., History of LaGrange College
Royal, Anne Newport, Letters From Alabama, 1817 – 1822
Smith, Benjamin LaFayette, Sr., Autobiography
Wythe, Dr. John Allen, History of LaGrange Military Academy and the Cadet Corps
U. S. Population Census and U. S. Agricultural Census 1850 -1860 - 1870


Mabel LeVert King, Robert Warren King, and Adele Moore Mullen,
Descendants of Michael Curtis, Elisha Felton, John Fennel and Richard King, Jr. 1982, Vol. I and II
Rachel M. King, Judy F. Vials, Carolyn P. Fennel and Peggy A. Bowling
Our Heritage, The Children of Hartwell King and Burchet Curtis
Information from the Frank R. King Papers in Leighton Public Library
Numerous Treasured Letters Written Between Family Members That Descendants Have Generously Shared With Me

Burchet (Curtis) King                         Hartwell King       

[These portraits are located in the Leighton Public Library]
[Photos taken by Pat M. Mahan]

1841 Letter from Burchet King to her daughters, Mary and Susan.
Contributed Feb 2006 by Peggy A. Bowling

                                                             August 1,841, Sunday morning
              Dear Mary and Susan,
                                                   bytha is waiting and I have but
              a minute your father has been very sick since he
              left your house  he got home munday night
              he has had a very bad week.  I think he is mending
              some   doctor yong and Deloney, has waited on him
              they think him out of danger.  Ann is also quite
              sick  she is taking medicene and I hope she will
              get better,  John has had sore eyes and Looks pale
              and thin but is up, [hole] we would be glad to see
              you all, my health is not very good tho I am up about
              our Children has been very kind and taken all
              the nursing of me
                                                               Burchet King

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