Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST Why was there a mystery about John Hunt the sheriff, founder of Huntsville?[film & photographs]

(This is a great story about John Hunt, founder of Huntsville, Alabama. It is sad that his gravesite was ignored for many years.)

The Mystery of John Hunt

By Tom Carney, Editor “Old Huntsville”

For well over a hundred years, John Hunt, the founder of Huntsville, has been shrouded in mystery.  Where did he come from?  Where and when did he die?  Was he the illiterate backwoodsman that history has made him out to be?

John Hunt was born in 1750 in Fincastle County, Virginia, to parents of Irish and Dutch descent.  His family first immigrated to America in 1635 and after living in New Jersey and Maryland moved to Virginia around 1730.  The family appears to have been fairly prosperous.  In 1752, records show that a man by the name of Thomas Foster was appointed con­stable in the home of John Hunt, Sr.

East Main street, Fincastle, Virginia 

Fincatle, Virginia

Among the families living in Fincastle County were the Acklins, Holbrooks, and the Larkins.  Many of these families would later play prominent roles in the early development of Huntsville.

In 1769, John Hunt married the daughter of William Holbrook, a close friend of his father.  The following year the Holbrook family moved to Hawkins County, North Carolina, and John moved with them.  Within a few years the Larkins, and Acklin families had joined with them in the new settle­ment.

Huntsville (Images of America)

With the advent of the Revolutionary War, many of the settlers took up arms to fight for their new country.  Many historians would later contend that John Hunt served as a captain during the war.  This mistaken claim would later lead to confusion in trying to establish Hunt’s early years.  In fact, Hunt’s only military service consisted of several months enlistment as a private under Captain Charles Polk of the Company of Light Horses, in Salisbury District, North Carolina.

Although John did not see much service, records seem to indicate that his father was a member of the Colonial army while his uncle served as a Colonel in the British army.

Short service periods of a few months were common in North Carolina as the settlers had crops and Indians to deal with and could not be gone for long periods of time.

At the end of his short military career, Hunt returned to his home in Hawkins County.  Young John and his wife probably lost several children at childbirth, as it was not until eight years after their marriage that they had their first recorded child.

In 1779, John Hunt was appointed a lieutenant in the state militia, serving as a paymaster.

John Hunt Becomes Sheriff

As the young community grew in size, the North Carolina government began to realize the need for some type of civic jurisdiction.  John Hunt had established himself as a leader of the community and in 1786 was appointed the first sheriff of Hawkins County.  It was required at that time for a sheriff to post a bond as a prerequisite to taking office.  The bond, signed by John Hunt and four sureties, can still be seen at the North Carolina Archives, located in Raleigh.

In 1789, when North Carolina voted to ratify the Constitution, John Hunt was a delegate at the convention.

One year later, in 1790, when North Carolina ceded the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains, William Blount, the newly appointed governor of the territory, made John Hunt a captain of the militia.  The duties of a captain in the militia and a sheriff had many similarities–they were both charged with keeping the peace, and as Hunt’s term of sheriff had just expired, he was a logical choice.  As he was also the first and only sheriff at the time, he was probably the only choice.

Gov. William Blount


Everyone living in the territory had heard stories about the new, rich land lying across the Clinch River.  This was Indian land and supposedly protected from settlement by the treaties with the federal government.  Many families, ignoring the treaties, began to move into the new lands.

John Hunt, along with the Acklins and Larkins moved across the river in the mid 1790s into an area known as the Powell River Valley.  Years later this community would become known as Tazewell, Tennessee, and John Hunt would be recognized as the founder.

Many stories have been written about the romantic fron­tiersmen who were bitten with wanderlust.  Legends have us believe that the early pioneers kept moving to escape the con­fines of civilization, constantly moving to see what lay over the next mountain range.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  In reality, greed was the motivating factor.

In Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and many other states, vast areas had been set aside as Indian territories.  Although federal law supposedly protected these areas, it did not prevent “squatters” from settling.  These squatters knew that it would only be a matter of time before the government recognized their rights and then they could gain possession of large tracts by simply paying a registration fee.  If they settled on the right land, with a little luck, they could become wealthy.  Basically it was a get-rich-quick scheme that worked for many people.

The other alternative was to wait until the lands had been “opened” for settlement and bid for them at auction.  Few pio­neers could afford to acquire prime land in this manner.

John Hunt had carved a respectable homestead out of the wilderness when he learned, to his dismay, in 1797, that President John Adams had sent 800 federal troops to evict the settlers.  In an attempt to stall his eviction, and probably using his title of Captain in the Tennessee State Militia to help his cause, he wrote the newly elected governor, John Sevier, asking for help.

On November 25, 1797, Governor Sevier wrote Hunt:
“Yours of yesterday I am honored with and am sincerely sorry for your embarrassed situation, and would 1, to God, I had it in my power to render you relief.  You may assure yourself that everything will be done for you that is possible for me, but it is in the president’s own power to do whatever he may think best on this very important and alarming occasion.  I hope in three or four weeks to hear from Congress and whether or not anything is likely to be done in your favor.  In the meantime, I earnestly beg the people, for their own interest, to conduct themselves in a peaceable, orderly, and prudent manner.”

Shortly afterwards, the squatters’ claims were recognized.  By 1801, the land John Hunt had settled became part of Claiborne County.  When the new community held its first elec­tion, David Rodgers was elected sheriff, but was unable to post bond.  Hunt was elected in his place.  There were no facilities for the new government in Tazewell, so the first term of court was held in the home of John Hunt. (This log cabin later became the first school in Tazewell.)

The sheriff was not only responsible for keeping the peace, but also for administering justice.  A book describing the early days of Tazewell included the following description of the sheriff s duties:
“A whipping post stood between the jail and courthouse.  As near as I remember, it was made similar to two ox yokes, the one below fastened in a frame and turned upside down; the one above to fit down and form two holes large enough to confine the head and neck.  Debtors were taken out two at a time and the duty of the sheriff was to whip them until they would promise to go to work and pay their debts.”

Not exactly a job for the fainthearted.

John Hunt appears to have been living a fairly contented life.  He had recently given land for a church and was a well-respected figure in the community.  His daughter, Elizabeth, had married Samuel Black Acklin, the son of his old friend, Samuel Acklin.  The newly married couple made their home with John and the rest of the family.

Busy time for Hunt

This was a busy time for Hunt.  Besides serving as sheriff, he was also heavily involved in land speculation and running a stagecoach inn.  Bishop Ashbury, in his travels through the south, spoke of staying, and preaching, at Hunt’s Tavern.

Even though the Hunt family had prospered, John was already looking to the future.  Hunt, along with the Larkins and many other families, had staked everything on Tazewell’s future.  The town simply refused to grow.  The land was poor for farming and the community itself provided no incentive for commerce.  The only thing the town had going for it was its close proximity to the Cumberland Gap, “gateway to the western lands.”

By the time Hunt’s term of sheriff was up on September 1, 1804, he had already made plans to leave Tazewell.  For the previous six months he had been selling off land holdings that he owned in Tazewell and the adjoining areas.

Popular legend tells us that he went south in search of a big spring he had heard stories of. Again, the truth is much simpler.  There were already rumors that territory belonging to Indians in what is now North Alabama would be opened for settlement.  Anyone already living there would probably be able to exercise their squatters’ rights by paying a small registration fee.  Everyone else would have to purchase their land at a public auction, which by its very nature tended to drive land prices up.big spring marker

John Hunt was determined to have squatter’s rights.

Hunt’s Station Becomes Center of Community

Early in September 1804, John Hunt and Andrew Bean left their cabin in East Tennessee and struck out into the wilds on foot (not on horseback, as many historians have claimed).  They traveled in a southwestward direction, guided only by the sun and the stars.  Almost a month later they arrived at the stream of water now known as Beads Creek, at a spot near where Salem, Tennessee, now stands.  At that place they made camp for several days in order to make observations and in­vestigate the surrounding country.  According to legend, it also became necessary to replenish the larder.  Their unerring rifles soon procured several bear and fat deer, the choice parts of which were jerked and packed for future use.

Traveling further south the explorers came upon the newly completed cabin of Joseph Criner near the Mountain Fork of Flint River.  Criner and his brother, Isaac, were the first white settlers in this area.  According to later accounts given by Criner, Hunt and Bean spent the night and inquired about land further south.  It was at this time that Hunt first heard of the big spring.

The next morning, Mrs. Criner made bread for their journey and the men left to seek out the big spring.

John Hunt and Andrew Bean were not the first white persons to reach the spring.  Earlier, in 1802, John Ditto had built a crude shack there and camped for a short while before moving southward to the Tennessee River, where he opened a trading post.  When Hunt arrived, he found the beginnings of a cabin that Samuel Davis had started.  Unfortunately, Davis, in his haste to return to Georgia for his family, left the cabin unfinished and when he returned found Hunt had completed the cabin and was living in it.

The cabin was a rough one-room affair.  People searching for it today will find only a parking lot across from the present-day Huntsville Utilities.

The area where John Hunt settled would be beyond com­prehension to a resident of Huntsville today.  The area above the bluffs, where the courthouse now stands, though reason­ably flat, was a maze of thick vines and bushes.  Below the spring, toward Meadow Gold Dairy, was an endless swamp inhabited by bears, geese, and rabbits.  Where Huntsville Hos­pital is now located was a thick hardwood wilderness teeming with deer.

After hastily completing the cabin (frontier law did not recognize a squatter’s claims unless a home was built on it), Hunt and Bean turned their sights north.  Bean had decided to settle near Salem, Tennessee, and Hunt returned to Tazewell for his family.

The Big Spring, basis of street plan in Twickenham (renamed Huntsville)

The Big Spring, basis of street plan in Twickenham (renamed Huntsville)

The early spring of 1805 found Hunt occupied in selling off the remainder of his land around Tazewell and making preparations to move his family to the “Big Spring.” Other families, upon hearing of John’s upcoming departure, also made plans to move.

Accompanying Hunt when he returned to the spring was his wife and three of his sons–William, George, and Samuel–as well as members of the Larkin and Black families.

It was early summer, 1805 when Hunt returned with his family.  He spent most of that summer clearing and fencing a small field, which lay in what is now the best part of the city of Huntsville, running from Gates Street as far south as Franklin.  The land was exceedingly fertile and produced bountifully in return for little labor.  William would recall years later how he had killed a bear between the present location of the First Alabama Bank and the courthouse while clearing the field.

The brave old pioneer, scout, and hunter was now happily fixed.  His farm gave him employment during the spring and summer.  Hunting, fishing, dressing meats and skins, and prospecting occupied his time in the fall and winter.

Neighbors were few and far between

Other pioneers were coming in and settling in other parts of the county.  Neighbors were few and highly valued in those primitive days.  When the proper time arrived in the fall, all the hunters for miles around went out together to lay in their stores of meat for the year.  Whenever a settler died, his family continued to share in the proceeds of the hunt.  When a division was made, a proportionate share of bear and deer meat was always taken to the families of widows.  These rough men knew charity as well as courage.  Legend has it that John Hunt was always foremost in providing for the poor and helpless.  One Christopher Black, an Irishman, who assisted Hunt in removing his family from East Tennessee, was famous for delivering game to the fatherless and the widows.

Hunt’s Station, as the spring was now called, was fast becoming the center of the community.  More and more settlers were pouring into the valley.  Much evidence suggests that Hunt, who had already enlarged his cabin, ran a public house at this time.  A public house was where a traveler might get a meal or purchase a few basic supplies.  This probably explains the persistent rumor today that Hunt operated a shop that sold castor oil.

In 1807, his daughter, Elizabeth, moved to Huntsville from Tazewell along with her children, husband, and five slaves.  They had been delayed from joining Hunt until they could dispose of the inn.

Elizabeth and her family moved in with Hunt in anticipa­tion of the land sales. Congress had already called for a land sale, with squatters being given preemptive rights to one section of land each.  With the Hunts occupying the best land in the county, it seemed as if their fortunes were made.

Unfortunately, when the sales were held it was discovered that John Hunt had not registered his claims.  The wealthy planter LeRoy Pope outbid the other purchasers and ended up with legal title to all of John Hunt’s dreams.  Hunt was forced to move from his beloved Big Spring.

With all the prime land in Huntsville already taken, Hunt purchased a quarter section of land far outside of town, paying eighty dollars as down payment.  This parcel was located approximately where the old airport on South Park­way is now.  Hunt’s daughter and son-in-law purchased the adjoining land.

Leroy Pope mansion built 1815 by George Steele located 405 Echols Avenue


Pope had forced the name of Twickenham upon the new community, but many people resented the fact that he had bought Hunt’s land.  One of the first actions the new city government took was to change the name to Huntsville, in honor of the intrepid pioneer.

Sold land to Absalom Looney

The next few years of Hunt’s life are well documented.  He joined the Masonic Lodge, served on juries and was ap­pointed coroner.  In 1809 he sold his land to Absalom Looney.  By selling this land, he also lost the right to vote or serve on juries in the very city that he had founded.

According to the law of that period, a man could not do any of the above unless he was a landowner.

An old man by now, Hunt moved in with his daughter and son-in-law.  In 1820, Hunt, probably prompted by his grandson who was studying law in Huntsville at the time, applied for a Revolutionary War pension.  He was turned down because the unit he served with was not considered a part of the Continental Army.

Like old men everywhere, Hunt probably spent his last days recounting tales of when he was young and adventurous, hopefully surrounded by his grandchildren.

On February 27, 1822, John Hunt died at the age of 72.  He was buried in the Acklin graveyard, now known as the Sively graveyard, a short distance from where he spent his final days.

Ironically, the grave of John Hunt, the man who founded Huntsville and who settled on some of its most beautiful land, lies unmarked, just a few feet from the city dump. According to a long time city employee much of the land around the small cemetery was graded and used in the construction of the new city stadium.

“Ol’ John Hunt,” said the employee, “is now probably playing third base at Joe Davis Stadium.”

Additional information:

The story of John Hunt being buried in the Sivley Cemetery is my relatives.  The Sivleys are related to me.  My grandfather’s mother on my Daddy’s side was a Cherokee and a Sivley.  They camped with John Hunt on the banks of the everflowing springs in downtown Huntsville, Al.  The also came down the Tennessee River by flatboat and some of the Sivley’s were born on the flatboat before getting to Huntsville.  Huntsville Library has a lot on the Sivleys.  The graveyard where they are buried is by the city dump and if not for one of the Sivley’s being recognized by the the city and the gov’t, we would not have the nice metal fencing around all the graves. I know the Sivley grave was recognized with a medal and Honors, which made the city clean it up and do improvements to the small cemetery.
Mary Elizabeth (Elliott) Barrington

Audio of a story of John Hunt

You Tube link

Books by Donna R. Causey 


Faith and Courage: A Novel of Colonial America Inspired by real people and actual events, the family saga of colonial America continues with Ambrose Dixon’s family. Faith and Courage presents the religious persecution of Quakers in Pre-Revolutionary War days of America intertwined with a love story.


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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. […] Hunt and they were early pioneers of Madison County, Alabama. Elizabeth Hunt was the daughter of John Hunt, the founder of Huntsville, Alabama. They settled in Madison County around 1808. Samuel was the […]

  2. […] Hayes Acklen was the grandson of Samuel Black Acklen and Elizabeth (Hunt) Acklen, daughter of Captain John Hunt, founder of Huntsville, Alabama and of Oliver Bliss Hayes and Sarah Clements/Clemmons […]

  3. […] Parish, Louisiana. He was the son of Samuel Black Acklen and Elizabeth (Hunt) Acklen; grandson of Capt. John Hunt, the founder of Huntsville. He was United States Attorney of Alabama under Presidents Van Buren, […]

  4. I am a descendant of the Criner, Gardiner,Toevett and Terry families of Madison County. I am also related to the Scott family from Scottsboro. My great grandfather (Henry Edward Poarch) was a Merhodist minister circuit rider in the area.

    The Scott family operated a ferry at Ft Deposit.


    1. Note: The Mysterious First Settler published in the August 2000 edition of the Old Huntsville Magazine.

      Samuel King Davis – The Mysterious First Settler of Huntsville

      by: Robert Edward Davis and Lynn Wilhelm-Melberg, Ed.D.

      What would have been the destiny of Huntsville had John Hunt not built his house on the foundation laid by Samuel Davis at Big Spring? Historians have published stories stating that John Hunt was the first settler in Huntsville; however, this is in error. Isaac Criner and Stephen McBroom were the first white men to settle in Madison County (which was then Mississippi Territory) around 1802. Samuel Davis headed the second colony to the area and settled at the Big Spring. John Hunt headed the third colony into the territory. Davis put down his house logs and foundation and improved the land. Then he went back to Tennessee for his family.

      When Samuel Davis returned to Big Spring, he found that John Hunt had arrived with a third colony and had completed the cabin, which he had begun. Davis vowed he’d “live neighbor to no man who’d use another’s logs”; and moved north to what became known as “the Ward Place’ in the New Market area. Thus John Hunt became known as the city’s original founder.

      Who was this Samuel Davis of whom so little seems to be known? From whence did he come? What happened to him and his family after they found John Hunt had taken their land? Did Samuel Davis contribute to Huntsville’s destiny?

      Samuel King Davis was born on December 24, 1755 in Beverley’s Manor, Augusta
      County, Virginia. He is said to have been the youngest of Nathaniel and Sarah Davis’ eight sons and of Welsh Descent. Around 1758, Nathaniel Davis, then only about 36 years of age was killed by the Shawnee Indians in a massacre on Kerr’s Creek. At that time, Samuel Davis was only three years of age. In later years, Davis would state in his application for a Revolutionary War Pension, that he had been reared by his Mother and eldest brother, Captain John Davis.

      In 1776, Captain Robert Craig was searching for enlistments in his Company in
      Colonel Christie’s Regiment, Samuel Davis enlisted in Washington County, Virginia at the age of 21. In the years 1777 and 1778 he was assigned to regiments guarding and defending the frontier forts, which made up the “Clinch Settlement”, then in Rutherford County. It was here that Davis preferred to be, fighting against attacks by the Shawnee Indians who had killed his father. He served at Moore’s (Gladehollow) Fort and Gilmore’s Fort (Burk’s Garden).

      In 1779 Davis was in Kentucky at Wafer’s Station on the Salt River and was part of a campaign against the Shawnee Indians under the command of Colonel Benjamin Logan. The company organized with several others at Elkhorn Station (near Lexington, Kentucky). From there, they marched to Riddle’s Station for provisions and then to a Shawnee town on the little Miami River, probably in Ohio. They then marched to the Ohio River above the mouth of Licking Creek. Colonel Logan and his men attacked a town defended by the British in a blockhouse. Even though the battle was unsuccessful and nine men were lost, the Revolutionists burned the major part of the town.

      The companies, of which Davis was a part, fell back to their boats on the Ohio, followed by the Indians. Three small battles followed. During the last an Indian was killed whom Samuel Davis said was supposed to have been Chief Blackfish.

      In 1780, Davis entered the service again under Colonel Arthur Campbell on a campaign against the Cherokees. His brother, John Davis, was his Captain. They marched to Chota and burned Chilhowee town. They then made a garrison at Tellico Plains where six men were stationed. Colonel Campbell took a party of men, of which Samuel Davis was one, to Hiwassa where they killed some Indians and took others prisoner. They returned to Tellico.

      Davis stated in his pension application that sometimes he was “an informal substitute” for his brothers who had families before he did. In the early years of our country, military service could be performed by a substitute (usually paid), or men with families could find another person, (usually a relative, as in the case of Davis) to fulfill their duty.

      The authors who are the great-great-great grandchildren of Samuel Davis have an interesting side note to the article. In the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, there rests a powder horn, encased in a glass case made by a Revolutionary War soldier named Samuel Davis. Could this be the same Samuel Davis, our ancestor? The powder horn was inscribed with the British coat of arms and the name Samuel Davis.

      In 1797, Davis moved to Maryville, Blount County in East Tennessee. He lived there until moving into northern Alabama around 1805. Family history tells of Samuel Davis and several of his grown sons going to the Big Spring; which he decided would be a suitable place to settle. Water was plentiful, the soil was rich, and the woods were filled with game. In spite of the thick underbrush and rattlesnake infestation, Davis cleared the site and prepared his logs and foundation. Northern Alabama was virtually Indian Territory at the time.

      It was customary for settlers to mark their land either by “tomahawk”, (notching trees to mark the perimeter); and begin building a cabin. This was a sign for others that the “land was taken”. Then, they would return for their families and bring them to the new territory to settle.

      Family lore has it that when Samuel Davis went back to Tennessee, others became aware of his find. Historians have written that Isaac Criner, (said to have been a cousin of Samuel Davis’) was believed to have checked out the Big Spring as a home-site; but chose not to settle there because of the great numbers of rattlesnakes present. It appears that Davis and Hunt lived near each other in Tennessee; and this is probably how the word of Davis’ find got out. It has also been reported that John Hunt visited with Isaac Criner in Alabama. No matter how it happened; Hunt became aware of the possibilities of settling in the Big Spring area. Some say he was an “advance man” for the Yazoo Land Company. It is also said that Hunt eventually lost all his land near the Big Spring and probably returned to Tennessee, where he died.

      Davis greatly prospered in his new home near New Market. He was a successful farmer and by 1819 had purchased over a thousand acres of land. He grew crops such as cotton and corn (his pension application states he was the first white man to plant corn in Madison County); and raised bees, poultry, pigs and cattle. Davis and his family performed much of the farm work themselves; however, he did own slaves. At the time of his death records show his estate included about 10 slaves and their children. The value of his property (excluding land) when he died was over $4,000. The balance due his estate from the account of sales was over $5,000.

      Davis was a highly devout Christian man believing in the Presbyterian faith.
      The family has said that they were “blue-stocking” Presbyterians. These were strict Cumberland Presbyterians; given this name because of the thick, blue stockings the women and girls were required to make and wear.

      On a peaceful hill overlooking Mountain Forks of the Flint River, a 6-acre tract of land owned by Samuel Davis was used as a campground for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It was given the name of the Mt. Parron Camp Ground and is now locally known as ‘Graveyard Hill”. It is considered one of the oldest Cumberland Presbyterian campgrounds in Madison County. Members of the church held gatherings there, often lasting as long as a week. There were long sermons, singings, prayer services, baptisms, and marriages. These “camp meetings” were considered one of the biggest social events of the year, since neighbors lived so far apart and had little time visit. Many a courtship began at a camp meeting. The Rev. Robert Donnell was said to have been one of the first “traveling preachers” at this campground.

      In his will, Samuel Davis left this campground to the Mt. Parron Congregation as a campground; and he specified that this tract would forever be used as such. It is the final resting place of Samuel Davis, his wife Jane (Jenny) Allison, and many of their descendants. Many of Madison Counties earliest known names are found there such as Criner, Pettipool, McCain, and Williams. Today the sound of water trickling over rocks from the nearby creek, wind gently blowing across the ground and birds singing from the oak trees are keeping a watchful eye over the graves of these original settlers in Madison County and numerous others. The cemetery also contains a section where the slaves of these early pioneers were buried. Unfortunately, today many of the graves are unmarked. Tombstones were destroyed in the 1950’s or 60’s when loggers, lured there by the abundance of large cedar trees, unlawfully entered and cut timbers.

      Samuel Davis applied and was approved for Revolutionary War pension in 1832.
      Davis was inscribed on the role for Revolutionary War soldiers, Alabama pension certificate number 4754 in 1833 and received 26 dollars and 66 cents per year. His descendants served in the Creek War, the War of 1812, The Confederacy, and World Wars I and II with distinction. Many descendants belonged to the Masonic Order and were prominent deacons and elders in their respective churches. They married into such well-known Madison County families as: Criner, Scott, Bayles, Rice, Walker, Williams, Campbell, Cresswell, Hewlett, McDaniel, Erwin, Clunn, Dameron, Humphrey, Salmon, Strong, Henderson, Hill, Fanning, Hambrick, Hamilton, Olds, Johnson, Hyman, Bridges, Flippen, Wofford, Gaylor, Scott, Sloan, Evans, Jones, Allen, and Reece.

      Thus, Samuel Davis settled and lived in a remote area just northeast of present day New Market until his death in 1842. Even though his dream of settling at Big Spring did not come true, records indicate that he lived a peaceful and prosperous life. He was not only an integral part of the legacy of the settlement of Huntsville, but he also left an indelible imprint on the community, which came to be his home. Long after he was laid to rest on that quiet little hill overlooking the Huntsville-Winchester Highway, his family continued to make contributions and improvements to New Market, Madison County, and the City of Huntsville. His descendants continued to live in the area for many generations.

      What would have been Huntsville’s destiny had John Hunt not confiscated Samuel Davis’ land at Big Spring? The most obvious is that we might now be living in “Davisville” or “Davistown”. Being a close family man, and well imbued in his faith, there would probably have been little other difference. He was not a “public man” nor one who was eager for fame. Therefore, it is supposed that he would have quietly gone about his way, nurturing his family and lands, and causing no furor with his neighbors.

      Samuel Davis’ grandson, William Newton Davis, was a successful farmer and elder at New Market Cumberland Presbyterian Church. During his tenure as elder, he gave liberally of his time and money for construction of the church building. The church has been listed on the Register of Historical Sites. He also served one term as Madison County tax collector. He died in 1893 and is buried in Graveyard Hill.

      Two of Samuel Davis’ great-great grandson’s made contributions within the city of Huntsville. In the early 1950’s, Robert Edward (Rob) Davis Sr., a World War II veteran, was appointed Secretary to Senator Bob Jones and spent several years in Washington DC, aiding in the representation of Alabama. Robert was a teacher by heart and profession; and spent over 35 years with the Huntsville City School System. He was Assistant Principal at Huntsville Junior High School and was named the first Principal of Mountain Gap School. He grew up in the New Market Community and was a life-long member of the New Market Presbyterian Church; except for a period of time when he was a member of Central Presbyterian Church while residing in Huntsville. While at Central, he served as deacon and Sunday School Superintendent. After returning to New Market, and moving his membership again to the New Market Presbyterian Church, he was elected elder and served many other positions in the church. He died in 1987 and is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery.

      Joe W. Davis was Mayor of Huntsville from 1968 to 1988. The city experienced steady growth during his tenure; and gained greatly from his steady and sure guidance. During his administration, the I-565 spur was constructed and minor league baseball began. This man is a story in itself because of the many things that the Davis administration left to the City of Huntsville. He died in 1992 and is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery.

      1. I find this very interesting Robert. I am also a Davis with family from New Market. I have never traced back my roots too far, but I am very interested in finding out if I have any relation to these Davis’.

  5. […] is said that he preached in Mr. John Hunt’s house before it was finished. He, no doubt, followed in the steps of Mr. Bell, holding and […]

  6. John hunt was my GGG grandfather ! His daughter Leola Elizabeth was my great great grandmother

  7. I’ll get my paper work what I have that’s been passed down a lot is right most of it some is left out its cool glad it was posted

  8. After going over what’s been passed down all this is correct Other what I have goes on about his kids grand kids etc

  9. You may find the homes on McClung Avenue, Twickenham of interest. Includes homes of Leroy Pope Walker, James White McClung and others in later 1800’s. James W. McClung, Sr. was an attorney who moved to Huntsville about 1819. See the following address:,_Twickenham James W. McClung, Sr. was my gggrandfather and served Madison County as an attorney and Representative, AL as Speaker of the House, ran for Gov. of AL in1842, US Senate in1848. Died in 1848 before uncontested election. Son of Col. Charles McClung, Knoxville, TN

  10. Another great story. Thanks.

  11. I wonder if Christopher Black is related to my ancestor Owen Black in Athens, AL.

  12. […] history books, John Hunt has been credited with being the first white settler of Huntsville, but there was another white […]

  13. Does anyone know who the presenter is in the audio recording? My son is doing a presentation on John Hunt for his 3rd grade class and we have not found a lot of pictures or documents that he can print and use on his trifold board. I would love to be able to get some of the pictures from the powerpoint/slides that were used. The project is a wax museum where he has to dress like John Hunt and give a four sentence presentation when someone “presses his button”. Any information would be helpful.

    1. The film is a You Tube film. Here is the link.

  14. So this is not the same John Hunt who became John Hunt Morgan’s grandfather? Wasn’t J.H. born in Huntsville? I have read that but want to be sure.
    Thank you.

  15. John H. Allen. did you see this?

    1. Did not. But I know the story. This reply space does not offer the option of a picture. Otherwise, I would post one of the small cemetery where Hunt is believed buried in an unmarked grave.

    2. The name Andrew Bean caught my attention. My Beans were the first white settlers in Tennessee.

  16. The Creek where John Hunt and Andrew Bean stopped on his way to Huntsville was Bean’s Creek Not Bead’s Creek, Near Old Salem, Tennessee. There is a sign marking the creek, you cross over it going north towards Winchester, Tn.

  17. Does anyone know whether John Hunt was a slaveowner? This well researched biography doesn’t say.

  18. […] history books, John Hunt has been credited with being the first white settler of Huntsville, but there was another white […]

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