By Don G. Kirk - 2011

There is a very interesting letter from a Union soldier stationed in Jackson County, Alabama, writing home to his parents in Illinois. This is from Eliza Woodall's wonderful book, The Stevenson Story, page 163.  (This book is available from the Stevenson Depot Museum.) What we have is a first hand account, in his own words, of what happened to some of the early Jackson County marriage and other records.  At this time, the county seat was at Bellefonte and from where this letter was written on August 23rd 1863.  Here is an excerpt from this letter:

Yesterday morning Head Quarters was moved to the Court House and the Adjutant's Office located in the room formerly occupied by the Clerk of Court.  We found all the old records of the County (Jackson) scattered over the floor.  The documents dated as far back as 1820.  About 50 large books, we reserved while the remaining books and papers were collected in one great heap and burned.  There were not less than 3 bushels of marriage licenses and bonds signed by the Jeremiah's, his X mark, and Elizabeth's, her X mark- not one out of 10 could sign their own name.

This is very historical but we should also think about the time and place our ancestors lived. They first came into northern Alabama when the land was still in the possession of the native people. They suffered many hardships along the way and there were no schools to be had for the first generation or two.  Kennamer's History of Jackson County writes, "the poorer mountaineer...had neither time or facilities for education.  Life was one continuous burden of hardship, want and toil."  He also writes that the State school system was not established until 1854. There were local schools before that however, as the 1850 census had a column to check for those attending school. Kennamer also states "...the great and terrible Civil War began, which stopped all efforts to instruct the young in schools...Many persons born in the fifties and sixties were deprived of any education except that received in the school of 'hard-knocks', hard work, and self-denial".  I, personally, am proud of my ancestors who signed with an 'X'. They were the brave settlers of the new frontier and education for many at that time simply was not an option.


Jackson County Coordinator -
Jeff Kemp

ALGenWeb State Coordinator -
Ann Allen

ALGenWeb Assistant State Coordinator - Jeff Kemp

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 Last Edited: 11/20/14