Alabamians traveled to Arkansas to escape poverty in 1841

(This story is about some descendants of my Pratt family. Joab was a son of  Richard and Rebecca (Beavers) Pratt. Richard and Rebecca settled in Bibb County, Alabama and are buried at the Pratt-Wallace cemetery in Riverbend, Bibb County, Alabama.  We will have our annual Pratt reunion on July 4th starting at 10:30 am at Schultz Creek Baptist Church, Riverbend, Bibb County, Alabama.  I am looking forward to seeing all my cousins and family there.  Descendants of Richard and Rebecca (Beavers) Pratt are scattered throughout the United States. If you are a descendant, email me at [email protected] and I’ll put you on our mailing list.)

The article below appeared in the Grant County Museum’s periodical Grass Roots – EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1841 Elder Joab Pratt left Bibb County, Alabama, with other families in a wagon train headed for Arkansas.

The Pratts settled in Saline County Territory that later became Grant County. Pratt’s Ferry, later known as Prattsville, bears their name today. Pratt also served as postmaster of Lost Creek Post Office in 1846. The following article regarding this journey originally appeared in the BIBB EAGLE in February, 1978, and was presented to the museum by Robert L. Crowson, a member of the  Museum Guild and a former resident of Grant County.

Alabama to Arkansas: An 1841 Journey

Bibb County, Alabama courthouse

Bibb County, Alabama courthouse

In the early days, if things got very bad economically, folks were likely to hitch up and move on and things were extraordinarily bad in 1841. Many of the first settlers of Bibb county had been soldiers under General Andrew Jackson, and some of them first saw their future home sites while serving in the Indian territory that was to become the state of Alabama.

A Financial Panic

But by 1837, General Jackson had become President Jackson, and quarrel with the National Bank kicked off a panic which eventually dislodged many people from the very land which his wartime victories had opened up for them. Collapse of the commodities markets followed on the heels of financial panic, and many farmers found themselves strapped.

So wagon trains began to form and move westward, leaving the land in many cases for creditors, tax collectors, and others to fight over. Stretched to the west was always new land for a fresh start in those days.

Leaving Alabama

In the fall of 1841 such a wagon train left Bibb County bound for Arkansas Territory and that new chance. One of its organizers was Elder Joab Pratt, one of the most energetic early Baptist preachers ever to ride horseback over the ridges of Bibb County. A son of Richard and Rebecca (Beavers) Pratt, early settlers of the River Bend Community, he was ordained at Enon Baptist Church in the early 1820’s and could serve as the very model of the indefatigable preacher on horseback. His pastoral circuit by 1840 included Mt. Moriah and Haysop Churches in Bibb County and extended as far as Gilgal Church in Tuscaloosa County.

Enon Baptist Church in Bibb County, Alabama


Elder Pratt led them to Arkansas

When economic disaster stuck in 1841, Elder Pratt gathered stricken families from his several congregations and set out. Only sketchy facts are known about the treck [sic] to Arkansas, but the wagons headed southwest instead of northwest toward Arkansas as U. S. 82 does today. Possibly they followed the old salt trail which early settlers used to use when going to Louisiana for salt.

In any case, they did go to mid-Louisiana and then headed north. Pushing up through Louisiana, they came to the end of any sort of road at a point just below the Arkansas border. This point in Union Parish, Louisiana is still known locally as Alabama Landing. (Click to read more about the Alabama Landing)

Alabama Landing in Louisiana today

Alabama Landing in Louisiana today

Union County, Arkansas

From there, the emigrants and the slaves they had brought along with them had to hack their way through what is now Union County, Arkansas. As they went, they noted that the soil was extraordinarily rich. But their destination was Saline Territory many miles to the north, and they continued their slow progress until they reached there by which time it was probably early spring and time to clear for their first crop.

In Saline Territory they founded the Philadelphia Baptist Church. This old church is still in existence, and some of the stones in its cemetery are marked with the names Mayfield, Pumphrey, McDaniel, Pratt, and Cobb, all traceable to early Bibb County.

Philadephia Baptist Church, Grant County, Arkansas

Philadelphia baptist arkansas

Prattsville, Arkansas settled by Pratt’s from Alabama

The community which grew up near Philadelphia Church is known as Prattsville, now in Grant County.i1035 FW1.1

Pratts became leading citizens of Prattsville

John Pratt, younger brother of Elder Joab Pratt, and his wife, the former Louisa Pumphrey, were leading citizens of the Prattsville Community. In the cemetery of old Philadelphia Church stand the markers of Berryman McDaniel (1788-1858) and his wife Sarah (1797-1845), former members of Mt. Moriah Church in Bibb County.

Nearby are buried a number of their children: daughter Louisa and her husband, Nathan Pumphrey, a brother of Louisa Pumphrey Pratt; son Jordan McDaniel and his wife, the former Mary Shuttlesworth; son David McDaniel and his wife, the former Tabitha Ann Mayfield, all from Bibb County originally.Prattsville sign

Many were married by Elder Joab Pratt

Bibb County records show that Nathan Pumphrey and Louisa McDaniel were married there by Elder Joab Pratt on 28 August 1834, long before the group thought of going to Arkansas.

David McDaniel and Tabby Mayfield were married in 1844 in Arkansas. The names of their first three sons in order of their births reveal perhaps the relative rank of certain household heroes. First there was Joab Pratt McDaniel, born 1846; second, Andrew Jackson McDaniel, born 1851; and third, William Archibald McDaniel, born 1854 and named for his grandfather Archibald Mayfield who died in Alabama before 1835.

Elder Pratt preached the first sermon ever preached in frontier town of Eldorado

Elder Joab Pratt and some of the other families liked the land they had passed through on the way up from the Louisiana border, and by 1845 a number of them had moved southward and settled in Union County. Elder Pratt never forsook his calling, and it is a family tradition among the Union County Pratts that he preached the first sermon ever preached in the frontier town of El Dorado. The early Baptist congregation there met in the courthouse in bad weather and in the open when the weather was good. Today their descendants meet in the magnificent building which houses the First Baptist Church of El Dorado.

Always the circuit rider, Elder Pratt traveled all over Union County churches, some of them now extinct, show Elder Pratt as a presbyter or first pastor or sometimes both. Old Springhill Baptist Church, later known as Caledonia for the community in which it was located, appears to have been a center for former Bibb County folks. Elder Pratt was its first pastor and continued in service there for a number of years.caledonia cemetery arkansas

Mayfields, Cobbs and others from Alabama

The old part of the Caledonia Baptist Cemetery contains the markers of Andrew Jackson Mayfield (1815-1859) and his wife, Rachel Cobb (1815-1885) who were married in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, on 9 September 1841, just before the wagon train left. A. J. Mayfield’s brother, Elisha Mayfield, who stayed in Alabama, is buried at Old Union Baptist Church near Keeton’s Corner in the Talladega National Forest. Rachel’s sister Rebecca, who married Rev. Daniel Ward of Bibb County, is buried in the Ward family plot at Antioch Baptist Church in Bibb County.

A. J. Elisha and Tabby Mayfield (of the Philadelphia Cemetery group) were children of Archibald and Tabitha Mayfield of Sardis Baptist Church just over the line in Tuscaloosa County. Their sister, Adaline Mayfield, married John H. Ward, ancestor of the Wards of Bethel Baptist Church and Brent in Bibb County.

Some stayed in Bibb County, Alabama

A number of others who made the move to Arkansas left relatives in Bibb county, but contact between the families appears to have failed to survive the passing years. Elder Joab Pratt himself was one of several children, and his brothers, Absalom  and Hopkins Pratt, have many descendants in Bibb County. The Elder’s wife, Frances Vernon was a daughter of Obadiah Vernon, many of whose descendants live in Bibb county, especially around Vernontown.

All of the children of Elder Joab Pratt1 and his wife went to Arkansas except daughters Adeline and Maria who were married to Jesse Miller and John C. Goodson, respectively. Adeline Miller died immediately after the birth of her only child, Joab Pratt Miller, in 1837.

By the time the wagon train left, Jesse Miller was remarried to Edith Kornegay, and they remained in Alabama, but Ezekiel and Mary Miller, Jesse’s parents, went to Arkansas. John C. and Maria (Pratt) Goodson raised a large family in Alabama, but by 1870 they, too, had moved with their children to Union County, Arkansas, where Goodson descendants are numerous today.”

1Elder Joab B. Pratt.— This brother properly belongs to the State of Arkansas, but as he did effective service in this State, in the country north of Farmersville. I have determined to give him a short notice. He was born in South Carolina in 1798; thence he removed with his father to Bledsoe County, Tenn., in 1819. In 1820 he was married to Frances Pierson, and the same year moved to Bibb County, Ala. Soon afterwards he united with the Baptist church at Enon. He soon began to preach, and was ordained a few years later. He labored very successfully in this part of Alabama for about sixteen years.

In 1841 he removed to Saline County, Ark. After laboring in that and the adjoining counties, he settled in Union County, where he continued to labor until his death, shortly after the war. For five or six years he preached to churches in Union Parish, Louisana. He was a man of ability, and deserves to be remembered. (A history of the Baptists of Louisiana : from the earliest times to the present by Rev.W. E. Paxton, 1888 St. Louis, C. K. Bakks Publishing

Additional Sources

Philadelphia cemetery Pumphrey listings

Grant County Cemetery Transcriptions

Grant County Cemetery Name Index with name of Cemetery

Caledonia Baptist Cemetery

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  1. […] a long stretch of low-lying swampy area. (The US Geological Survey has documented the Red River – Alabama Landing fault which created a 25 foot drop in land level, extending from Smackover Creek, south of present […]

  2. I can’t remember which — after the Civil War, or during the Great Depression — there were some Arkansaw towns where people were dying of starvation.

  3. My Moseley Family left Old Cahaba, Alabama in 1849–my 3d GG Jonathan Moseley and his son Elijah Baker Moseley migrated from Alabama to Bradley County Arkansas.

    The following story is of the migration of the Moseley family from Alabama to Bradley County, Arkansas. Three brothers, Jonathan, Peter, and Elijah Moseley Junior were all sons of the Reverand Elijah Moseley of Dallas County, Alabama. They migrated at various times along with their unmarried sister Anna (Susannah) to Bradley County around 1849.

    Around 1836 (though unproven by census records or even land deeds) Peter Moseley is supposed to have come to Bradley County then a part of Union County, Arkansas. By some method, then, around Dallas County, Alabama word got back that good land for cotton and corn was being granted in the new state of Arkansas. Brother Elijah Junior was the first to purchase land in Arkansas around 1846 from William Huchinson. He later acquired over three sections of land in the area. Somehow Peter homesteaded or purchased land in the county. In 1849 Jonathan arrived and settled about a mile and a half from his brother Peter on land he purchased from Hugh Bradley. With Jonathan came his 23 year old son Elijah Baker Moseley, born in Alabama in 1823. Elijah brought along his wife, Hilda Jones Moseley and three young children–a son and two daughters. Another daughter would be born in 1849 shortly after their arrival.

    The 1850 Pennington Township census of Bradley County shows the Jonathan Moseley family. Thus the census record dictates a migration date of 1849.

    Jonathan’s sister Anna married Robert Parnell after her arrival to Bradley County. They established a home about a half mile west of the large tract taken up by her Moseley brothers.

    I am interested about any history of the Moseley Family in Old Cahaba….have not found anything. Appreciate any help.

    Very Respectfully

    John B. Moseley Senior
    Williamsburg, VA

  4. Hello John: I have travelled several times to old Cahaba, Alabama and interviewed various family members in Orville, Moseley Grove, Selma areas. The Old cemetery where family members of Elijah (I) … are buried behind the old Seale /Moseley home, the original stone marker for Church started by Rev. Elijah and his grave not far through the woods from other relatives buried behind the Seale house…

  5. Well I’m a decedent from the farm they had in Eldorado where they had a farm called The Pratt farm off hwy 82 and there is where my history started I’m digging for Gems in my Ancestors and I final found the main ones so happy for the information I’m still going to continue in my search

  6. I am related to them. My dad was from Six Mile, in Bibb County.

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