Days Gone By - stories from the past

1826 Frontier Evangelist, Henry Bryson-Part III



(Transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 42, Nos. 01 & 02, Spring and Summer 1980)



I went up into Perry county, and stayed with one esq. Thomas Craig’s. From Johnston’s nearly up here there are large prairies the distance of 16 miles. ‘”Bernard Johnson, “pioneer physician, legislator and militia colonel,” built the first grist and saw mills in the area. He served in the legislature in 1826. According to the “Way Bill” (see below) he was an elder in Bryson’s denomination, as was Thomas Craig

March 1st. Thur. This was a most tremendous day of thunder and rain. And consequently I stayed here another night and day.

2nd. Fri By appointment we had sermon up here in miles of Craig’s. There were but few out here this day. I went home with James Johnston and preached at his house by candle light, there were but few here also.

3rd. Sat. His family and I came down this evening to David Chesnut’s in the settlement where I preached on Tuesday last.

4th. Sab. We all came up to Mrs. Johnston’s. Here we collected a considerable congregation, and appeared much affected with the subject. I went home this evening with Col. and Dr. Johnston, a distance of about 15 miles.

Covington County, Alabama Courthouse ca. 1930


5th. Mon. This morning in company with the Rev. Alexander I started for the people of Covington County, came on and crossed Alabama River one mile above Portland. And then crossed pine barren Creek [sic], on the tole bridge. 121/2 cents, and came on and stayed all night at a good old methodist brother who only charged us 75 cts. for our supper and horse feed etc.

6th. Tues. We came on this morning to Widow [Mrs. James (Mary Laird)] Bonner’s 39 for breckfast 11 miles. Then we shortly separated and I went on to one Mag. Bovey’s a formerly of Abbeville District South Carolina. I was well treated and charged nothing, living 2 miles from Belleville. The Bonners were part of a settlement of Bryson’s coreligionists called Hamburg, near today’s Oak Hill, to which heights they later moved when the lower location proved malarial. Bryson was apparently supposed to discuss with them the organization of a congregation. A church, Lebanon, was organized under the jurisdiction of his home presbytery, apparently before the end of the decade. It is no longer active, but Bethel Church at Oak Hill, which was founded as an off-shoot of Lebanon, is.

James Bonner (1753-1825), a veteran of the Revolution, is buried at “Old Hamburg” Cemetery, as is the “the widow (Mary Laird) Bonner” (1762-1832). Their daughters, Mary (1782-1862) and Margaret, married brothers, Joseph (1780- 1861) and Robert Jones (1775-1856), respectively. The Joneses, whom Bryson also met, moved from South Carolina to Missouri at the time the Bonners came to Alabama, but after the death there of Margaret, they, too, came to Wilcox County and are also (except Margaret) buried at “Old Hamburg.”

The William, James, and Samuel Bonners whom Bryson mentions were also among the elder Bonners’ nine children. William, whose wife was Anne Lee Joel of South Carolina, came to Alabama at the same time as his parents. She died in 1842, and he and several of his children moved to Texas, where he is buried, sometime before 1851. James (m. Mary P. Foster of South Carolina) also came to Alabama with his parents, but because he disapproved of slavery and because he wanted educational advantages for his children, he later moved to Indiana. Samuel’s wife was Sarah Hearst, also of South Carolina. I am indebted for most of this information to the Widow Bonner’s great, great granddaughter, the late Mrs. William J. (Joyce Carothers) Jones of Oak Hill, Alabama (letters, April 2 and June 19 and interview, April 15, 1979). More information about this settlement and its people are available in her books, Bethel A.R.P. Church (n. p., 1978) and Bethel’ Shadow (Oak Hill, 1980). Birth and death dates cited here are from tombstones.

Wed. This day I came on to one Bab’s store, (Probably Rabb) here stopped and took dinner, was charged nothing, and then came on to MacFarlin’s an elder in the presbyterian church. Day travel from Bovey’s to Murder Creek, 10 miles. And 7 to Bab and 14 to McFarlin’s.

After breckfast I came over [presumably an illegible word in the manuscript] and came on to Mr. Mitchell’s, the place appointed by synod, and stayed here this day and night.

9th. Fri. William Mitchell this morning went over to Josiah Bradley’s and from that to Mathew [sic] B’s where I stayed this night.

10th. Sat. I remained here until the breckfast was over and then went over to the Widow Bradley’s, took dinner, stayed until evening, and then returned to Matthew Bradley’s again this evening.

llth. Sab. This day was cloudy and very warm. I came to Mr. Mitchell’s, the place intended for sermon to be at, found a small, but quite a respectable assembly of people. We had a quite pleasant day’s meeting. I stayed here this night.

12th. M. This day I stayed with Mr. Mitchell’s family and attended to my studies until evening, then went over to the widow Bradley’s and then spent the evening and night.

13th. T. After breckfast we came over to Matthew Bradley’s and about 12 o’clock, word came that Mr. Mitchell had returned from Pensecola [Pensacola], we then went over to see him and spent this night there.

14th. W. The male members met here this morning to see what they wanted, as to their church affairs, and after some time’s conversation they requested some time to reflect on the subject, then asked me to return in a short period, and then they would have made up their mind on the subject. After this I left them and went on to one Mr. Rab’s [William Rabb] and stayed the night. William Rabb (b. Jan. 10, 1775 in Fairfield District, S. C.) settled at Rabbville or Rabb’s Store five miles east of Evergreen on the post road from Greenville to Sparta in 1819. His wife was Sarah McDonald of Edgefield District, S. C Owen, History, IV, 1404; William Letford, People and Places of Conecuh County, Alabama: 1816-1860 (Montgomery, 1970), 30; and Benjamin Franklin Riley, History of Conecuh County (Columbus, Ga., 1881; reprint ed., ed. J. Vernon Brantley, Blue Hill, Me., 1964), 55-57, 89-90.


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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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