Alabama Pioneers HonoredBiographiesGenealogy Information

Biography: Colonel John Acton born August 21, 1803

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Shelby County, Alabama

John Acton was a planter, lieutenant-colonel of militia, justice of the peace, and commissioner. He was born August 21, 1803, on his father’s plantation on Flat Creek, Buncombe County, N. C., and died on his plantation on the Cahaba River, in Shelby County. He is buried in the Acton cemetery.

John was the son, and fifth child, of Capt. John Acton and Jane “Jennie” (Roberts) Acton, the former a native of Virginia, who later removed to Wayne County, Ky., and in 1816 to Alabama territory, locating in Shelby, his sons having preceded him and where he and his wife, who was born on a vessel crossing the Atlantic, are both buried.

He was the grandson of Captain James Acton and Elizabeth (Mr Craft) Acton, the former a representative of one of the first families of England, the latter a beautiful and gifted young woman of Scotch descent, who was kidnapped in the old country and brought to America to be sold, and was set free by Captain Acton, whom she later married; brother of Rev. William Acton.

Capt. John Acton received the rudimentary education of the pioneer country, and was a man of powerful physical and mental attainments. He taught school, having to prepare his own text books in manuscript form, as it was impossible to obtain them otherwise. His books, carefully written, were bound in sheep skin that had b«en tanned by his brother. Although the country was full of Indians, and he a mere youth he would ride on horseback a hundred miles, to a grist mill or to Tennessee, with his brother, Samuel Acton, for corn when that staple food of the pioneer was exhausted. He was a planter, his father, brothers and himself owning adjacent lands of several thousand acres, on the Cahaba River. He built one of the first cotton gins ever erected in Shelby County; was a justice of the peace for more than forty years, and for many years a member of the commissioners court. From his eighteenth year, to his death, he held office, and such was the quality of his judgment that the people of the whole section sought his opinions on legal, political and agricultural matters.

Owing to the state of society and the restlessness of the Indians under the advances of civilization, every man was a militiaman, and Captain Acton was lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, and served in the Seminole War. He was a Democrat; Presbyterian, and a Mason. He was a total abstainer from intoxicants, took a strong stand against intemperance, and helped to organize the Sons of Temperance in his county. He was also one of the organizers of the Farmer’s Grange in Shelby County. He married: December 31, 1834, in Shelby County, to Martha Turner Boothe. daughter of Mrs. Louvina Boothe, who lived near the Capt. Jack Cross place, Cahaba Valley, a native of Buncombe County, N. C. His wife died in 1859, and he remained unmarried until his death at the age of eighty-six.

Their known children were

  1. Calvin Hamilton Acton (May 31, 1836 – June 29, 1857)
  2. Capt. Refus (or Rufus) McCraft Acton married Marilla Oldham
  3. Leonard M. Acton (May 5, 1840 – Nov. 11, 1861)
  4. John Henry Acton (Oct 17, 1842 – September 24, 1846)
  5. Virginia Ann Acton;
  6. Martha H. Acton (September 17, 1848 – 1861)
  7. Lucy Louisa Acton.

Colonel John James Acton’s last residence was Shelby County, Alabama. He is buried in the Old Acton Cemetery in Shelby County, Alabama along with his wife and several children.


  1. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume III
  2. 1850, 1870, 1880 US census of Shelby County, Alabama
  3. Find A Grave # 38509146 # 38508508 # 38508835 # 38508773 # 50445176 # 38508420 # 38508345 # 38508465

More on Col. John Acton and his family can be found in the books: Shelby County Alabama Pioneers Volume I 


 Some Alabama Descendants of JAMES ACTON (1746-1819)

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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