Dillon Blevins, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
May 28, 2011
Whether or not Blevins Gap over Green Mountain in Huntsville was named for Dillon Blevins, I can only assume that was the case. However, I do know that Dillon Blevins was an early north Alabama pioneer, arriving in the area by January 1809 or before. He apparently came here as head of a family of ten, with ten slaves. The data found in several historical accounts and family genealogical repositories seem to conflict about his family linkages. That is not surprising, since there were apparently several generations of Blevins men in Alabama who were named Dillon or Dillard, a variant spelling. Dillon didn’t stay in Madison County very long before moving ultimately to Dallas County, finally settling and in 1836 finding his eternal resting place near Selma, Alabama.
What is immediately striking about this pioneer’s history is the nature of the accusations levied against him when he was named in one of the early court cases adjudicated here. The minutes of the Superior Court meeting on the first Monday of April, 1811, record the complaint of the Mississippi Territory (which included Alabama then) versus Dillon Blevins, William Dorton, John Roller, and Jacob Roller plus James Moore. The wording indicates that these men “…did on the 24th day of February in the year of our Lord 1811, with force and arms tumultuously, riotously and knowingly did assemble together within the county of Madison… and did then and there riotously and tumultuously consult about the burning of hewed logs intended for a house, the property of Stephen Smith, …to the terror of the peaceable citizens of the county …did move forward and burn the logs of the said Stephen Smith.” Additional notations include an actual assault upon Stephen Smith. Later notes show that the sheriff of the county was ordered to jail the accused men until the October term of the court for further action. The sheriff’s report shows that the arrest warrant was executed upon “John and Dillon Blevins”, but that “Jacob Roller and William Dorton” were “not found,” and James Moore was not mentioned. This suggests that Dillon’s son John was perhaps the one named in the indictment as John Roller, unless the sheriff’s notes mixed up the surnames. Alternatively, the “Roller” could be phonetically confused with John “Rowland,” who was the bondsman when Dillon married Ann Armstrong in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on November 12, 1770. It may be that they came to Alabama together.
For the case of “The Territory versus Dillon Blevins” in the court meeting of October 1811, the minutes are worded as follows: “Be it remembered, that heretofore, to wit; at Superior Court… held at the courthouse in the town of Twickenham (initial name for Huntsville) …for the County and Territory aforesaid, upon their oath (witnesses) present and say that Dillon Blevins, laborer of said County, did on the 24th day of February in the year of our Lord 1811, within the county aforesaid with force of arms commit a trespass on the land of a certain Stephen Smith and did willfully and maliciously burn and destroy a number of logs hewed and intended to be made into a house, by said Smith, said logs being of the value of one hundred dollars and other enormities committed on the property of said Smith, to the great terror of the said Smith and all of the good citizens of the county, to the evil example of all others, in like case offending and against the peace and dignity of the Mississippi Territory. (Signed) J. W. Walker, attorney pro tem, a true bill; William Lanier, Foreman.”
“Whereupon the Sheriff of the county aforesaid is commanded, that he omit not for any privileged in his county, but that he take the said Dillon Blevins, if he may be found in his county, and him safely keep to answer the misdemeanor whereof he stands indicted.” Afterward, during the same term of the court, “…on the motion of the defendant by his attorney, it is ordered by the court that the bill of indictment be quashed and that the defendant go hence”…. Perhaps the “terrorized citizens” of Madison County were thereafter on edge until Dillon moved to south Alabama.