BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
(ca. 1796- 1839)
Lawrence and Mobile Counties, Alabama
John Gallagher, an Irishman, lived in Moulton, Lawrence Co., Alabama as a merchant but was unsuccessful in this endeavor. He spoke English like an American, with scarcely a perception of brogue From his language one could discern that he was well-educated. He was the son of James Gallagher, Esq. of Swilly View, near Letterkenny, Ireland.
Gallagher was elected clerk of the county court in 1822 at the first election held. He was “a small man, with dark fine hair and dark-blue eyes, and always had his face clean shaved. His manners were very popular. They were easy and graceful, sufficiently dignified to maintain his own self-respect, and deferential without being at all sycophantic. They would have been a good model for any young man studying to improve himself in this respect.”
“An event occurred (in Lawrence County) which added greatly to his reputation, and that was the trial of the Witch. On Flint river, there lived a poor, friendless woman, who had the misfortune of being suspected of witchcraft. At first, it was spoken of in whispers, then more boldly, until it culminated in a warrant issued for her arrest by David Knott, Esq., living near Oakville.
A day was fixed for the trial….and a good many witnesses were examined without a definite result, until a young woman (who was pale and seemed to be in bad health) was introduced, who swore that she was washing on the creek one day, got very tired, and sat down at the root of a beech tree to rest herself, and that the old woman, who was accused, came down the tree in the form of a squirrel with his tail curled over his back, barking at her and put a spell on her, and that she had been sick ever since, and had puked up a good many hair balls. The squire, who seemed before to have been in a brown study, seemed relieved of his perplexities, straightened up and announced that as the proof was now positive, he should send the prisoner to jail, and commenced writing the Mittimus.
An expression of dumb amazement settled on the face of every sensible man in the crowd, except Gallagher’s. He was calm and self-possessed. He rose and very modestly asked permission of the court to make a single remark. The squire replied: “You can make as many remarks as you please.” “Then sir,’ said Gallagher, “allow me to remind you that it would be useless to send the woman to jail, for if she is really a witch, she can escape through the key-hole; and if she should be innocent, it would be a great pity for her to be sent to prison.” The old squire was in a great quandary, muttered to himself: “That’s so’ that’s so!” and added, “but what shall we do with her?” Gallagher answered, “that the case might rest just where it was until the grand jury met, and then it could be laid before them.” This course was adopted, but the matter was never more moved.
John Gallagher served as county clerk for six years, then he was elected clerk for the Circuit Court He married Caroline Martin, the eldest daughter of Joseph Martin on August 11, 1825, in Lawrence County, Alabama. “She was very large but of fine proportions; very pretty, and as good as she was pretty. Many wondered why a dumpling of a man, like Gallagher should have fallen in love with such a queenly majestic woman. I never did.”
Joseph Martin was from Georgia and married a sister of George Walton. The Martin family was well respected in Georgia. They were “near neighbors to the family of Dr. Thomas Watkins, formerly of Courtland and Mrs. Martin was so much attached to Dr. Watkins’ mother that she named one of her daughters in her honor. (Mrs. Watkins was a sister to Governor Peter Early.)”
Caroline’s father Joseph Martin and his neighbor George Walton left Georgia together and settled in Lawrence County, seven miles northwest of Courtland, Lawrence Co., Alabama. Walton Martin, son of Joseph Martin, a very fine young man died in the epidemic of 1824 and his sister Rachel Martin, a tall beautiful girl, married Abraham Battle. Abraham and Rachel lived on the place occupied by their son-in-law John H. Houston. Rachel died in 1873 and her husband preceded her in death.
John and Caroline Gallagher moved to Mobile, Alabama where John became and officer in a bank. He died in Mobile, Alabama Jan. 26, 1839 of yellow fever and Caroline returned with her children to Lawrence County, Alabama, lived several years near Red Bank in Lawrence County raising her family. She later moved to Mississippi. “The last time her friends heard from her, she was in Arkansas with only three living children.”
Possible children of John and Caroline Gallagher were:
- Catherine Convell Gallagher (b. July 13, 1825, Alabama – d. Nov. 6, 1882, Phillips, Arkansas)
- Louise Caroline Gallagher (b. 1820 – d. 1901)
- Martina Gallagher (b. 1831AL)
- Joseph Gallagher ( b. 1834 AL)
- Saunders, Col. James Edmonds, Lawrence County, Alabama EARLY SETTLERS OF ALABAMA, NOTES AND GENEALOGIES, by his granddaughter Elizabeth Saunders Blair Stubbs, New Orleans, LA. 1899, p. 49-50
- January 26 1839- Of yellow fever, at Mobile, state of Alabama, on the 4th of October last, Mr John Gallagher, at the age of 44 years, eldest son of the late James Gallagher, Esq., of Swilly View, near Letterkenny. He was called to the American Bar in 1820, and since that period succeeded to many of the important local offices of Alabama, with honour to himself and his country. (Donegal Genealogy resources website:
- Ancestry.com family trees
- 1850 Arkansas census
This biography is included in the book Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Volume I