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: http://huntsvillehistorycollection.org/hh/index.php?title=McClung_Avenue,_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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3fUjq2KI-Y

  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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