Cullen Earp, A Vintage Vignette

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Cullen Earp
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
February 7, 2011

The first divorce action recorded in Madison County was an October 1810 “bill of complaint” to the Superior Court of Law and Equity Sitting in Chancery in Twickenham, the old name of Huntsville. John Carter filed the bill against Catherine Blevins Carter, his wife. He stated that “some time in the year 1792” he was married to “Katherine” Blevins, living together as man and wife for about ten years, after which time he began to suspect infidelity as “the evil, loose, and idle practice of his said wife”. Thereafter, he “sought and found her in the bed and apparently in the embraces of another man, and also at different times with different persons.” He stated that he could “prove that she made her elopement with one Cullin Arp, to the the Moabbeal (Mobile) or Tombigbey (Tombigbee) settlement, sometime in the month of March last (1810), from which place she has never returned.” He claimed “...that also some time before she left this country, she took up her residence with the said Arp” without his (Carter's) consent. He stated that she continued to request his protection and provision, but that she “wholly refused to live with him”. He therefore became “...divested of the social comfort and assistance of a female companion”. Wherefore he prayed for divorce from his wife Catherine. It was granted after due deliberations and testimonies, as recorded in Chancery Court Book A, pages 4 and 5.

“The other man”, Cullen Earp, was born about 1763 in Virginia. He was listed in the 1809 census of Madison County. He was one of three illegitimate children born to Edward Earp by Susannah Lucas Ballenger, who was officially charged with adultery. Edward was a son of William Earp, who was in turn a son of immigrant Thomas Earp. On-line sources provide the Earp family history as being of English derivation. Its ancient meaning relates to appearance as “dark”, “dusky”, or “swarthy”. It is reported that a common personal name in Pictland was Erp or Yrp, appearing also as the name of a Welsh king. The name was used from the Picts by Vikings, becoming the label of the Icelandic family of Erplingi. Erp, a son of Scots earl Meldun, was captured by Vikings. When he was freed, he led a colony to Iceland at the end of the ninth century.

The Earps came to America in Colonial days, settling initially in Maryland by the 1680s and in South Carolina before 1669. There was an “Earpsboro” in North Carolina. During the Revolutionary War, many Earps served in the Colonial Army. More served in the War of 1812, including Cullen Earp. During the Civil War, most Earps were Confederates, but some wore the blue of the Union Army. One of the Confederates was Colonel Cullen R. Earp, who lead the 10th Texas Regiment in several battles of the Civil War.

According to family data, Cullen Earp married Patsy Robertson and was the father of William, James, and Benjamin Earp. Census records show that besides his three sons he had three daughters, whose names are not known. Cullen's son William was the father of Cullen R. Earp. William Earp was born around 1800 in Georgia. He married Matilda Watkins, in 1818, Marengo County, Alabama. He married Betsy Vaughan in 1819, Lawrence County, Alabama. He then married Hannah Parker in 1837, Marshall County, Alabama. Cullen probably went to Texas with William between 1845 and 1850. Some descendants say that Cullen had another son, which he named Cullen.

James Earp was born 1798 in Georgia. He married Mary Sanders in 1818, Lawrence County, Alabama. Benjamin Earp was born in Georgia or Alabama. He never married and had no known descendants. He was killed in Sequin, Texas, in 1837.

Cullen Earp of Madison County was a responsible citizen, appointed to survey and lay out primary roads during his time here, but he died between 1850 and 1860 in Upshur County, Texas. He is believed to be buried in Earp Cemetery, near Gilmer, Texas, where his son James is buried. Probably Cullen's other son William is buried there also.

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