James Craig was one of the 1st families in state

Published 1:54 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Today’s column consists of a narrative written by Thomas Horton Jr. with assistance from his cousin, Cookie (Daugherty) Keller. Tom and Cookie reside in Shelby County and Huntsville, respectively. Appreciation is expressed to them for such thorough research and making it available to interested readers.

A much earlier coverage of the family only served as an introduction with a closer look at later generations in Butler County.

“The ancient surname ‘Craig’ is found in many locations of the Old World and with many different spellings. It is believed its earliest beginnings were in Scotland, and then later in Northern Ireland. Some of the different spellings are ‘Craig, Creag, Craigue and Creigh.’ In Scottish Gaelic, ‘craig’ means “rock,” and throughout Scotland, many forts and defensible positions were built on the massive rock outcroppings on both the shoreline as well as the interior areas of the country.

By extension the surname of Craig, was applied to the people that occupied these rocky fortifications and environs.

“There is a long history of Craig’s in Scotland even before the Norman conquest of 1066 as a surname as well as a clan name. Many of these descendants came “across the pond” to the wild untamed new settlements in America. Many early English, Irish, and Welsh families came with their Quaker, Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic religions. On the Northwestern Frontier of the Carolinas there were no Anglican or Catholic churches before 1768. There were only 6 Church of England ministers in the entire colony in 1765.

It is believed that there were Quaker meetinghouses at that time also. The names Bailey, Craig, Gardner, Little, Tate and Thompson were names represented in the burying grounds of the Scotch – Irish Presbyterian Churches in Carolina.

Since James Craig was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Greenville we must assume the Craig’s were of the Presbyterian faith even before coming to Alabama.

“There were several Craig’s that fought in the American Revolutionary War. Our trail in this story will be of a direct descendent – James Jr.’s father James Craig, Sr. who was born about 1745 and married Rhoda Niblock around 1770. James Sr. and Rhoda settled in the Long Cane Creek area of old 96 District in Abbeville, South Carolina.

During the Revolutionary War he served under Lt. Col. Henry Hampton, and was active in a number of battles including Hanging Rock and Blackstock’s Plantation.

He also fought in Sumter’s defeat under Col. Joseph Howe. He was killed in battle 1 Feb. 1781 in Rowan County, North Carolina when his son James was three and one half months old.

“James and Rhoda’s other children were: John born 1772 and died 1850 . He married Elizabeth Andrews in 1795 in Rowan, North Carolina. Elizabeth died in 1822, after having all of their 8 children. John died in 1850 and they both are buried in Lawrence County, Alabama. Samuel was born 1773 and died 1854. He married Jane Cochran in 1799 in Abbeville, South Carolina and moved to Johnson County, Missouri. Samuel and Jane had 10 children.

“Rhoda was born 1778 and died in 1854. She married Thomas Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina in 1800 and moved to Arkansas. Rhoda and Thomas had 4 children. Thomas died in 1807. A point of interest is that John, Samuel, and Rhoda had children named Ebenezer. Is Ebenezer the Father of James or Rhoda?

“In the 1790 census Rhoda is the head of household with two white males over 16, one white male under 16, and two white females. She owned one slave. We know Rhoda continued to live in Abbeville until 1810 since she is in that census with three slaves. As a widowed woman she gave help to the American Revolution so is also listed as a Patriot with James,

“Our “Grandcestors” like all men and woman standing on the brink of an awful chasm, blindfolded, not having knowledge of what lay ahead of them, but with that great American pioneer spirit forged ahead into the unknown. They wanted to seek a place for themselves and their families—a place to live and provide for themselves the rest of their lives and their present and future children.

“James Craig (Jr.) was born 5 May 1780 and died 14 April 1860. He was married to Rosannah Gray on 18 April 1805 by Minister Moses Waddel for a fee of two dollars. Rosannah was the daughter of William and Rosannah Griffin Gray. Rosannah’s father William Gray also fought in the Revolutionary War.

The Gray family was natives of South Carolina. James and Rosannah and family traveled from their birth home in Abbeville District of South Carolina by 1810 into the Mississippi Territory around the Elk River.

He is recorded on a document entitled “Petition to the President and Congress by intruders on Chickasaw Lands”.

This petition says essentially that the settlers moved in on Indian lands and they wanted to stay there.

They thought they were buying Government land for $2 an acre on the north side of the Tennessee River.

They sold their possessions, left their homes, bought land, and settled there in the winter and spring of 1807.

The Chickasaw said it was their land and would not sell it to the settlers for a reasonable price.

The 2250 settlers felt that they had as much right to the land at a fair price as the Indians since the Indians each had approximately 100,000 acres apiece and were not doing anything with it.

The settlers were requesting to be allowed to remain as tenants-at-will until the Chickasaw’s agreed to sell. The settlers would cultivate it and feed their families. This was a petition to President James Madison by 450 of the intruders upon Chickasaw Territory dated 1 October 1810. James and John Craig were on the list of signers.

“The next place we find James is Autauga County, Alabama. While living there he or an assignee bought him some land in Butler County. This was one of the first recorded land purchasers in Butler County, Alabama on 13 December 1817. James or his assignee purchased 2 parcels filed under certificate numbers 377 and 2217. This makes Craig family members eligible to become a First Family of Alabama. “James purchased many additional parcels of land amassing a lot of acreage with his last purchase being on 11 October 1858. James is found on record as voting in the elections for the Sheriff in Butler County the 1st Monday in August of 1820.

“James and Rosie had 4 children. William Gray born 1806 married Jincy Elizabeth Jay and had 11 children, Anna N. born 1808 and married John Tarpley Camp had no children, John Fleming born 1818 died at 3, and Ester Cinderella born 1822 married William A. Roberts and had 7 children. Esther Cinderella died May 7, 1860 and her husband William died in 1863 fighting in the Civil War. Anna N died on May 18, 1860 and her husband died on May 22, 1860. What happened in May of 1860 to kill the family? They are all buried in Craig Ebenezer Cemetery. Here pops up Ebenezer again.

William Gray Craig married Jincy Elizabeth Jay in 1831. Her father and Mother were John and Edna Stinson Jay. William died in 1855 after having 11 children.”

The earlier column on the Craig family included the children for William Gray Craig and information on another Craig line, which resided in Covington County.

Anyone who might have any correction or additional information on the Craig family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.