1826 Frontier Evangelist, Henry Bryson – Part I

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




Henry Bryson was born February 20, 1799, to Scotch Irish parents in Laurens District, South Carolina. He studied at Union Academy in Abbeville District, and in 1823 he graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He wanted to enter the ministry, but because his father had died and he was needed at home, he studied theology privately with John T. Pressly, the pastor of the local congregation of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which his parents had joined while he was at Transylvania, rather than going to a seminary.

Bryson was probably well trained, for this was not as informal an arrangement as it may seem. Pressley, who, incidentally, had some years previously journeyed to Tennessee on a mission much like the one his protege’ was to undertake.

In Alabama, Bryson traveled almost due south through Hazel Green, Huntsville, and again across the Tennessee River. He continued south to Blountsville and to Elyton in Jefferson County before turning back up Jones Valley and across to the Coosa Valley near New London. He then passed through Montevallo, Centreville, and down the Cahaba Valley to Selma. After some time in the Selma area, including a trip northwest to Perry County, Bryson crossed the Alabama River near Portland. He traveled through Wilcox County and probably a corner of Monroe on the way to Conecuh County. Here he again made side trips, including a retracing of his steps back to Portland, before setting out for Florida.

The evangelist’s route then took him near present-day Andalusia, across the Pea River to near today’s Daleville, across the Choctawhatchee, and over the Chattahoochee into southwest Georgia. He spent some time in the areas of Quincy and Tallahassee, Florida before following a similar path back to and through south Alabama. He visited Claiborne and then went north up the Alabama Valley, crossing the river at Portland again

At this point the journal per se ends. What follows is a “Way Bill.” In the journal Bryson kept a careful record of his expenses and of the distances he traveled, apparently in order to be able to present an accurate account to his presbytery. The way bill is this record without the interesting comments of the journal. The way bill, however, is incomplete.

Miscellaneous Notes on Families

Alexander, Bonner, Bovey. Bradley, Brown, Carothers, Chesnut, Coon, Craig, Crawford, Ditto, Elliott, English, Fagan, Fairchild, Flemming, Foster, Galloway, Glenn, Hamilton, Hanby, Harpers, Hearst, Hodges, Hudson, Irwin, Joel, Johnston, Jones, Kelley, Kimmy, Laird, Linsey Lockridge, McAdams, McDonald, McFarlan, McFarlane, McFarlin, McLanians, McNeelys, Miller, Mitchell, Nash, Nicholas, Parkerson, Pearman, Peerman, Porters, Potts, Rabb, Sawyers, Shepherds, Seely, Smith, Sprawls, Strain, Turner, Watson, Wiggins, Willson, Wilson, Windham, Wiseman, Woods

Extracted Alabama Travels of Henry Bryson


This morning, having heard of John Crawford who was living about one mile off the road, I concluded that I must go and see him. I went to his father in laws old Mr. Irwin’s, and took breckfast, and then went down to Crawford’s. After this I came on to Mr. Alexander English’s son’s house about 14 miles from where I stayed all night. He is a Ceceder [Associate Reformed Presbyterian]

Old Man” John Ditto, a Pennsylvanian, was perhaps the first white resident of Madison County. He lived among the Indians, working as a trader, at Ditto’s Landing (or Cherokee-Old-Fields) near present-day Whitesburg. Edward Chambers Betts, Early History of Huntsville, Alabama (n.p., 1909; rev. ed., Montgomery, 1916), 6; Thomas McAdory Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography (4 vols., Chicago, 1921), II, 923.

Col. or Gen. Gabriel Hanby of Henry County, Va. and his wife Nancy, the daughter of a Col. Nicholas of North Carolina and later of the Knoxville area, moved to Alabama in 1817 and settled “on a tract near the Polly Martin Ford on the Warrior River, just below the junction of the Little Warrior and the Blackburn Fork of the Warrior River” near today’s Locust Fork. They built and operated a three-story log inn. Hanby was the Blount County representative in the constitutional convention, and he later served in the legislature. The county court met for the first time in 1820 at the Hanby’s inn, with George Nash as Chief Justice. Hanby died in 1824 or 1826. Heritage of Blount County, 24-26, 71, 266; and Owen, History, III, 739-40.

This morning, having heard of John Crawford who was living about one mile off the road, I concluded that I must go and see him. I went to his father in laws old Mr. Irwin’s, and took breckfast, and then went down to Crawford’s. After this I came on to Mr. Alexander English’s son’s house about 14 miles from where I stayed all night. He is a Ceceder [Associate Reformed Presbyterian]

I went home with Joseph Hodges. I received nothing for my services. 12 miles.

I left T. [sic] Hodges to go to Coosy [Coosa] Valley. But Cahaba River being between me and it, and the River being raised by rain so as I could not ford it, I concluded that I would head it, and did so. I traveled this day up Jone’s Valley up to near the head, to one McAdams. I stayed at a place called the Big Spring. It rained on me all day. This night I stripped off and dried my clothes and things in my saddle bags (Jones Valley is in Jefferson County, Alabama)

Paid 623/2 This was a rainy dark morning. I hated much to start out in the rain, but had to do so. I found by enqiury that there was a creek which would swim a horse a short distance from this place, and therefore my passage the roadway into the Cahaba Valley was not passable. I enquired if there was no way of wading the creek. The reply was, that there was none without going part of the way through the woods. I was afraid to try it my lone and endeavored to hire the old man to go with me but as it was raining so hard he would not. I then resolved to try it my lone. There was a little path way for about 4 miles, then for 5 or 6 miles there was none. I concluded that I could steer the course right, but got lost and wandered about up and down through the mountains for the greater part of the day. In the evening, however, I got out into the Cahaba Valley to one Watson’s, and there stayed all night. I was wet through all my clothing, cloke, coat, jacket and shirt. A wonderful day’s rain indeed.

This morning is fair. I stayed until after breakfast, and was charged nothing. The man was so kind as to take his horse and put me into the trail which crossed over the mountains into the Coosa Valley. The distance was only about 12 or 15 miles. I got along tollerably well this day. I landed at tailor Lockridge’s this night in Coosy V.

After breckfast I started down the valley to Wm. Flemming’s and, when attempting to swim my horse across Kelley’s creek I had like to have gotten my horse drowned. However we were both preserved. I came on to Wm. Flemming’s this night.

Sab. This day we had sermon at Wm. F’s. There was a considerable collection of people for such a thinly settled place. The people conducted with becoming respect. This night I stayed also here.

12th. Mon. After dinner I went over to Hugh Wiseman’s and stayed there this night. H.W. lives about a quarter of a mile off Wm. F’s

W. This morning I left John N’s, and went up to Robert N’s, stayed a short time, and then went on by John Strain’s and from that down to John W.’s. I tarried here this night.

Th. I stayed here from this till Monday morning all except one night I went over to stay with Mr. Elliott, Wiseman’s son-in-law.

(Continue Part II)

Some Descendants of JAMES CRAWFORD (1789-1839) Hale County, Alabama

James Crawford died in 1839 and is buried in Mount Hermon United Methodist Church Cemetery in Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama. Some descendant surnames of James and Nancy (McCarter) Crawford include: BARNES, BLACKBURN, BOYLES, BROADNAX, BROWN, CANNON, CHRISTENBERRY, COLE, DONAVAN, ELLIS, GRIFFIN, HANNAH, HOLLEY, HOPKINS, HOWARD, JOHNSON, JONES, LANE, LATHAM, LEWIS, LYLES, MADISON, MARTIN, MCCARTER, MCCURDY, MURPH, PAYNE, POOL, RAYFIELD, RHODES, SMITH, SPENCER, STOKES, THIGPEN, THOMAS, TURK, VAUGHN, WILLIAMS


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