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PATRON – Biography: Dr. Jack Shackelford born March 20, 1790

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Shelby County, Alabama

Dr. Jack Shackelford was born in Richmond, Virginia on March 20, 1790. His father, Richard Shackelford was married three times. His last wife was the mother of Jack Shackelford, and died when he was an infant. Catharine Allgood ( a sister of one of the first wives) took the little orphan Jack (for that was his baptismal name) and reared him with all the love of a devoted mother.

When grown, he left Virginia to seek a new home and went to Winnsboro, S. C., where he married Maria E. Yongue, daughter of a Presbyterian minister Jan. 2, 1812. She was a lady of small person and much beauty, with most estimable qualities.

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They had the following children:

  1. Fortunatue Sydor Shackelford born 1811, died 1817.
  2. Harried C. A. Shackelford born 1812, died 1902. She married John Jordan McMahon Aug. 20, 1835, in Lawrence County, Alabama.
  3. Samuel W. Shackelford born 1827, died 1893. He married Susan Adelaide Sherrod July 10, 1842, in Lawrence County, Alabama.

His wife, Maria (Yongue) Shackelford died Aug. 11, 1842, in Courtland, Lawrence Co., Alabama, USA. Dr. Jack Shackelford remarried to Martha Watkins Chardavoyne Dec. 20, 1843, in Courtland, Lawrence County, Alabama. She died Oct. 24, 1875, in Courtland, Lawrence County, Alabama. Martha and Dr.Jack Shackelford had the following children:

  1. William Shackelford born 1843.
  2. Lavenia Shackelford born 1849.

Dr. Jack Shackelford served in the British war of 1812 and was in a skirmish near Charleston and his face was slashed by a British officer’s sword. He served at one time on General Andrew Jackson’s staff. After the war, he joined thousands of Georgians, Carolinians and Virginians lured westward by the “Alabama fever.”

In 1818 he moved to Shelby County, Alabama, where he became a cotton planter and practiced medicine very successfully. His formal education is unclear but at the time in the southwest frontier, a man’s capability to practice medicine was judged more on abilities.

As a strong Democrat who was a vocal supporter of Andrew Jackson, Shackelford decided to take an active part in government. In 1820 he was elected member of the House of Representatives of the State Legislature and served in the State Senate from the district composed of Shelby and Bibb counties for the years 1822-23-24. In one election, he carried every vote, save one, in Shelby County, and nearly a majority in Bibb.

Dr. Shackelford was natural and unaffected in his manners. He was a charming companion. He had a strong mind, well stored with information, and a large fund of anecdotes (and, having histrionic powers which would have made his fortune in one profession) he told them better than any man who ever was in the State, except Baldwin, author of “Flush Times in Alabama.”

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He was a member of the Methodist church and a sincere and humble Christian. It is true, he never carried a long, sanctimonious face. These are the mere shells of plenty. With a most sympathetic heart, he relieved suffering wherever he found it, without distinction of color, to the best of his personal ability, and the extent of his fortune. He had unbounded hospitality. To the young disciple who had pursued his weary way until he was oppressed with home-sickness, he not only “gave a cup of cold water” but every comfort of his house, and made him feel completely at home; so that he took fresh courage and went on his way reinvigorated.

His kindness created difficulty for him when he decided to personally guarantee a loan received by one of his cousins. The cousin’s mercantile schemes failed and Shackelford was left to pay off his debts, resulting in Shackelford selling his land and the majority of his slave-holding. He still kept his good name and was elected to the office of receiver of the land office in Courtland, Lawrence County, Alabama where he moved in 1829 with his family and remaining slaves. Shackelford then started rebuilding his fortune and helped finance the construction of the Tuscumbia Courtland and Decatur Railroad in 1834, the first railway in Alabama and one of the first in the nation. Shackelford served as treasurer of the railroad. However, the railroad was not successful and had many maintenance problems. Dr. Jack Shackelford was again faced with business problems and when a call for volunteers to help the Republic of Texas fight the Mexican colonial overlords.

Dr. Jack Shackelford, at the age of forty-five, raised a company of fifty-five Alabama volunteers for service in the Texas Revolution. “He supplied arms and uniforms, including red jeans, causing the unit to be named “Red Rovers.” Dr. Jack and his company landed at Copano Bay in January 1836 and joined James W. Fannin’s “Fort Defiance” at Goliad.

In March, after it was known that the Alamo had fallen and Goliad was not to be defended, Dr. Jack urged the commander to speed his retreat. Shackelford begged Fannin not to halt on the open prairie, only to have his pleas ignored.

But Colonel Fannin dawdled so that even the Mexican Gen. Josė Urrea was baffled and held off attacking the Fannin forces, thinking they were preparing for a costly stand. But the next day, when Colonel Fannin halted his troops on a broad open prairie near Coleto Creek instead of using nearby woods for cover, General Urrea attacked. After nearly two days of bloody fighting, Colonel Fannin, on March 20, signed a surrender document affecting more than four hundred men, including the Red Rovers- at the time the largest Texan army.

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General Urrea may have tried to gain clemency for the captured troops, as he claimed, but General Santa Anna ordered all shot, including the wounded. On March 27, the death march began. Three groups were sent in three different directions, then each group was executed. Mexican Gen. Francisco Garay came to the mission fortress and took three captive doctors, including Dr. Shackelford, to his tent, where they were kept. The centralistas spared the doctor’s life because they required his medical expertise, yet his son and virtually his entire company were slaughtered during the Palm Sunday massacre. Helplessly, they heard the shots and their comrades’ dying screams. Dr. Jack’s son Fortunatus and two nephews were among the fifty-two Red Rovers killed.

In April, Dr. Shackelford was ordered to Bexar to treat Mexican wounded from the Alamo battle, after the Mexican surrender following San Jacinto, he returned to Goliad. He was so incensed at the “humane” treatment of Santa Anna by Gen. Sam Houston that he went back to Alabama. Although he visited Texas twice more, he never became a resident. In his diary, he wrote and an account of Goliad. It is the most valuable original record of the massacre in English. Shackelford County in west Texas is named in Dr. Jack’s honor.”


  1. Early Settlers of Alabama results for Shelby County, Saunders, James Edmonds, Col; New Orleans, LA, USA: Graham & Son, printers, 1899.
  3. Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution By Stephen L. Hardin, Gary S. Zaboly
  4. Sketches from the five states of Texas By A. C. Greene 1998, Texas A&M University Press
  5. Wheeler Plantation Preserving Our Past –

Dr. Jack Shackelford’s biography is included in the book Shelby County Alabama Pioneers Volume I

Check out all historical and genealogy books by Donna R. Causey



  1. It was my 3rd great grandfather, Col Isaac M Johnson, that purchased his land in 1828. It is located in the Cahaba Valley along present day Highway 119. near the headwaters of Bishop Creek It remained in the family for some time. I have a copy of the deed for this transaction

  2. […] Dr Jack Shackelford, a pioneer of Alabama, moved to Shelby County, Alabama in 1818 after he served in the War of 1812 on Andrew Jackson’s staff. He had been wounded at Charleston. […]

  3. Dr. Jack Shackelford is my great, great, great, great grandfather. Enjoy learning more about his history. I have been fortunate that things have been passed down through our family.