Days Gone By - stories from the past

Alabama Supreme Court convened May 8th – this is what happened and these were the first cases

(Building below is the Supreme Court in Montgomery, Alabama)

SupremeCourt alabama

Met at Cahawba in Central Alabama

“The Alabama Supreme Court convened for the first time on May 8, 1820.  The court, first met in the capital of Cahawba.

The First General Assembly for the new State of Alabama authorized that the Supreme Court sessions should by held twice a year in Cahaba, beginning on the second Monday in May and the second Monday in November. It was composed of Alabama’s circuit court judges.

state house at cahabaThe State House at old Cahaba (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The early Court System

The five circuit judges who made up the first Supreme Court of Alabama were Abner Smith Lipscomb, First Circuit (counties of Baldwin, Washington, Clarke, Monroe, Conecuh); Reuben Saffold, Second Circuit ( counties of Henry, Butler, Wilcox, Dallas, Autauga, Montgomery); Henry Young Webb, Third Circuit ( counties of Marengo, Greene, Perry, Cahawba (later renamed Bibb), Tuscaloosa, Jefferson: Richard Ellis, Fourth Circuit (counties of Limestone, Lauderdale, Franklin, Lawrence, Marion); Clement Comer Clay, Fifth Circuit (counties of Shelby, St. Clair, Jackson, Madison, Cotaco (renamed Morgan)

Abner Smith Lipscomb was absent from the First Session.

Conditions must have been primitive

The conditions the judges found in Cahaba must have been primitive since the area had been a forest less than a year prior to the session. They met in the private home of William Pye, who was awarded the sum of $20 for his inconvenience.

After choosing Clement C. Clay, who later served in Congress and as governor, Chief Justice,  they issued nine published opinions, all of a civil nature which became the genesis of Alabama’s precedential case law.

The decisions

The most significant decision confirmed that the Supreme Court was a tribunal limited primarily to appellate jurisdiction. Most of the other published decisions concern technical matters.

However, there was a review of a civil action against a person accused of killing a slave. In this case, “the court ruled that no action can be brought for a private injury sustained in a felony until after acquittal of the felony.

In another case, they ruled that “former residents of the Territory of Louisiana subject to Spanish rule were not competent to serve as jurors in Alabama unless they could show they were naturalized U. S. citizens or citizens of Louisiana at the time of its admission into the Union.”

 Alabama Supreme Court Courtroomsupreme court of alabama



  1. Alabama Law Review Volume 61, Number 5, 2010
  2. Clearing the Thickets: A History of Antebellum Alabama By Herbert James Lewis Quid Pro Books, Mar 2, 2013



About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Please identify the photos. Did they build that building in Cahawba or is it the building in Montgomery?

    1. This is the building in Montgomery today. I labeled it on the page now. Thank you for the question.

  2. I love all of this history.My ggggrandfather Archibald McCarver,was living in Lawrence,county,was a Revolutionary soldier,died there.My ancestors are many in Alabama.I am a member of the DAR through his son,John.

    1. I am related to an Archibald McCarver and he lived in Lawrence County. Do you have any pictures to share of him or descendants? I have some of probably his sons. Some of the pictures I am trying to date without much luck. I inherited the photos from my Father and Uncle so I have more than usual.

      1. No, I do not have any pictures of him at this time. Good luck in your research.

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