Days Gone By - stories from the past

First Settlers of Huntsville – see names of property owners on this vintage map from 1875

The founder of Huntsville, John Hunt, was the first white man to build his hut on the banks of the Big Spring. His cabin was located on the slope of the bluff overlooking the spring, on the property which was later occupied by the residence of Mr. Frank Murphy.

Criner and McBroom were some of earliest settlers

Joseph and Isaac Criner, accompanied by Stephen McBroom, explored the northern part of the county in 1804 and built a hut on the banks of a stream, which was later known as Mountain Fork of Flint River.It is believed by some researchers that the Criners with McBrooms explored the country and then returned to their homes for their families and supplies, before erecting cabins. In the early days of 1805, Isaac Criner and his brother Joseph arrived in Mountain Fork and built a cabin for Joseph’s family, then one for himself. Shortly after the erection of their cabins, John Hunt and a man named Bean came to their cabins and spent the night, then they continued their journey the next morning.

bean-creekMap reveals Beans Creek in left corner (Library of Congress)

Hunt and Bean traveled from the north of what is now New Market along a trail that was later called the Winchester, Tennessee road. They heard of the Big Spring and of the abundance of big game and sought a place to settle in the area.

A few weeks later, Bean returned and stated that he was going back to what is now Bean Creek near Salem, Tennessee but Hunt was going to locate at Big Springs, and both would return and bring their families later. Several more families came from north of New Market along the same course traveled by Hunt and Bean. Some of their surnames included the Walkers, Davises, McBrooms and Reeses.

Fertile land brought settlers

As word spread about the unusual fertility of the soil, the beauty of the country, and the wonderful Big Spring, droves of settlers began to come into the land from Middle and East Tennessee as well as Georgia. Because the Government land sales did not begin until 1809, the first of the settlers were ‘squatters’. Generally, they were law-abiding people of modest means and they lived peaceably without law or government for many years.

Great numbers os prospective purchasers poured into the settlement in 1809, eager to bid on the lands offered for sale by the Government. Many of these potential settlers were wealthy and owned large bodies of slaves. They followed the New Market Road to the Flint River and when they reached Madison County, they set out on separate courses. Some came to the settlement by the Deposit Road, while others came along the road which led north from the settlement to the Flint River.

map-of-1875-huntsville-with-names-of-property-owners-library-of-congressClick here to enlarge this Map from 1875 and see names of property owners (Library of Congress)

Large tracts of land along the road which led north from the settlement were bid on by William Moore, Nathan Strong, James Roper, Matthew Weaver, and John R. B. Eldridge. Closer to the settlement, but along the same road (which is now known as Meridian Pike) purchases of land were made by R. Thompson, Thomas Bibb, J. Manning, B. S. Pope, J. Lowery, J. W. Watkins, J. Connally, P. Cox, J. W. Walker, Hugh McVay, and C. Cabaniss.

Around the settlement and in different locations, large tracts of land were bought by Dr. David Moore, Archie McDonnell, and J & S. Acklen, while out toward what was later known as Russell’s Hill, just west of the settlement, purchases were made by E. Dilworth, E. Ward, and J. Allison.

huntsville inn, built 1817 officesHuntsville Inn built 1817 by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)


  • Library of Congress
  • Early History Of Huntsville, Alabama: 1804 To 1870

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. Rejetta Balentine

    My grandmother Quillen was Ollie Bell Hunt, descendant of John Hunt.

  2. Cassie Marshall

    Steeles, Brahan, Jones, Moore

  3. My Crawley ancestors were farmers in the Big Cove area, around New Hope and Owens Xroads. Others, in Jackson County, adjacent to Madison County, were Kennamer and Robinson. Is there a Jackson County map available? Thanx for your extensive work, Donna Causey!!

  4. My early family members lived in Huntsville and New Hope.

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