James F. Bailey, A Vintage Vignette

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James F. Bailey
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 15, 2010)

On the south side of Mill Road, about a quarter mile east of County Line Road and on the northeast edge of the Cedar Springs Station development, is very likely the oldest house still standing within the Madison city limits. In fact, it may well be the oldest house still standing in the entire region. The house is a two-story log cabin that was built by pioneer James F. Bailey for his family residence and also to serve as an inn along the stage and mail route between Huntsville and Mooresville in the early 1800s.

James Bailey was born in 1779 and married Sarah F. Johnston in 1803 in Warren County, Georgia. Before 1818 he, along with several brothers and the man believed to be their father, Moses Bailey, a Revolutionary War soldier, came to the Madison area while it was still Indian land. The Bailey brothers bought rights to lands west of the Indian Boundary Line as soon as legal purchase was allowed, in February of 1818. David Bailey had already legally purchased land on the north side of what is now Highway 72 and along Indian Creek and Dry Creek at the site of the Providence development. In 1816 he deeded over 3 acres of the land to the already-existing Salem Baptist Church on land wherein he was living, due to “…the love and good will that he has for the church” for a period “…so long as the church shall use it for a place of public worship”. James F. Bailey was one of the witnesses to the deed, which was not recorded until 1829. The deed refers to Dry Creek as “Funnell Creek”, and when it was written, it stated the location as being in “Maddeson County, Mississippi Territory”. In fact, in those days, even what is called Indian Creek today was named on maps as Hurricane Creek and later as Price’s Fork (or Branch) of Indian Creek. The original “Indian Creek” is today known as Huntsville Spring Branch.

James Bailey recorded land purchases several times in the area, including one parcel adjacent to David and to his father-in-law, Samuel Johnston. The parcel that contains James’ old cabin, and the family cemetery, was purchased in 1830. The cabin is not visible to the public today, even though it is intact. The reason that it still stands is what hides it from public eyes. It is completely contained and incorporated within the more modern house of local veterinarian Dr. Charles Whitworth. Without that protection, the old logs would have rotted long ago, but for now it is very well preserved and still in use, with its construction plainly visible inside Dr. Whitworth’s house. It no doubt hosted a number of VIPs of its day, as the Bailey family was well-connected to prominent families of the early 1800s, including their neighbors, the Bibbs. Even Reuben Crutcher, the well-known Primitive Baptist preacher of that time married one of the Bailey daughters and is buried in the family cemetery about 250 yards south of the cabin. Likewise, it is believed that an uninscribed tombstone at the center of the little cemetery is that for Moses Bailey, the Revolutionary War soldier and progenitor of the local Bailey clan. Moses was also the father of Elijah Bailey, who was father of the James E. H. Bailey that purchased three lots in the embryonic town of Madison Station in 1857 and 1859. His 1859 purchase was on Main Street, very near the lots of George Washington Martin, the town’s first lot owner. This younger James Bailey was a son of Martha Vaughan, who married Hezekiah Bradley Cartwright, son of area pioneer John Cartwright after Elijah Bailey’s death. James E. H. Bailey was in partnership for the 1859 lot with John W. Cosby, who was related by marriage to Mr. Martin. They operated a brick kiln and provided bricks for the early storefronts along Main Street, including Martin’s store, which still stands as the Whitworth Realty office. The Baileys were apparently builders of the Madison community in many ways.

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