Dr. Preston Capshaw, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. Preston Capshaw
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
September 5, 2010

The Capshaw Baptist Church history website states that it began as Lax Baptist Church. Later the community and the church were renamed as Capshaw. It may be that the Capshaw family had something to do with the names of the church, the community, and the road running east-west from Jeff Road in Madison County to Mooresville Road in Limestone County. Perhaps there was concern that the word “lax” had transitioned from early Hebrew definitions as “dead, deceased, or ghost”. In the Greek language it meant a quarried rock or a watcher, sentry, jailer, or keeper. The word lax later became associated with laziness, diarrhea and laxatives, deriving from its unabridged English definitions of “loose (relaxed bowels), undisciplined, lacking in strictness or tightness, slow, or sluggish”. In fact, some renderings of Hebrews 6:12 are “Be not lax....”, perhaps thereby giving a perceived Biblical injunction against the name. Of course, the original community name was derived from resident Benjamin Franklin Laxson, who established the first post office there. As far as the church name goes, it followed the community name. There were several Smith, Dupree, and Balch families in the early membership of both the community and the church, but no Capshaws were found in the early historical accounts examined so far.

Still, the family of David Capshaw (1779-1839) did in fact live in the nearby area, owning land in Madison County on both sides of Nick Davis Road near the county line. David's wife was Mary McCracken (1778-1857). They were married in Madison County January 5, 1808, according to records in their family Bible. That Bible lists their children as Cassia (born 1809), Preston (1811), James McCracken (1813), Robert Smith (1815), David Granville Jr. (1817), Aroma (1819), John William (1821), Mary Jane (1823), Calvin Rush (1825), Caswell Carver (1826), and Benjamin Franklin Capshaw (1828). Of these children, Robert Smith Capshaw never married. He became a bricklayer and enlisted in the army for the Mexican War of 1846-8. His enlistment occurred on May 25, 1847. He was described in the enlistment record as having brown eyes, black hair, and blond complexion, standing 5 feet 11-1/2 inches tall. Robert was assigned to the 15th Infantry, Company F. He was killed at Matamoras, dying on July 15, 1847, one of the relatively few casualties of the United States troops during that war. His name is commemorated among the “Fallen Heroes” in a plaque on east wall of the Madison County courthouse.

David Granville Capshaw married Ann Christopher in 1839. In 1843 and 1845 he patented land along Easter Ferry Road and Hunter Gates Road in Limestone County. Aroma Capshaw married Sterling Smith, perhaps of the Smiths that lived in the Lax (Capshaw) area in 1839. Mary Jane Capshaw married Richard Graves Bouldin. The local Bouldin family was mentioned in a Vintage Vignette of 2008 about Eli Hammond, whose daughter Mary married James M. Bouldin here in 1831. Calvin Rush Capshaw married Ann Elizabeth Adams in 1857, became a lawyer, and drowned in 1859 at the age of 35 years. James McCracken Capshaw married first to June Charm in 1842, then second to Martha Charm. Both James and Martha died of yellow fever in Texas in 1859, two days apart. Mary Jane Capshaw Bouldin also died in Texas in 1859. That is likewise where Aroma Capshaw Smith died.

Preston Capshaw married Amanda Catherine Jane Hobbs in Limestone County in 1840. Amanda was a daughter of John and Keziah Fennell Hobbs. John's father, Hubbard (1755-1817), was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. Keziah's father was Isham Fennell of Marshall County, and they owned Hobbs Island in the Tennessee River. Preston became a physician and was enumerated in Madison County (1850 census, living beside the separate households of his mother and his mother-in-law), then Holmes County, Mississippi (1860 census, living beside Amanda's brother David Hobbs), then Limestone County (1866 state census after the Civil War). The 1870 federal census shows him in Athens with no wife. In 1880 he was enumerated in St. Johns County, Florida. The 1880 census recorded that for two months he had malaria, unable to work. He died in 1884 in Picolatta, Florida.

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