James Henry Bibb, A Vintage Vignette

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James Henry Bibb
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
September 11, 2007

In 1984 the Bibb-Whatley home at 11 Allen Street in Madison was placed on the Alabama Historical Register and the National Historical Register by current owners, Phil and Ann Whatley. In 1998 the Whatleys opened the home to guests as a bed and breakfast establishment under the name "The Bibb House", built in 1867. It is located about one block west of the boundaries of the historical district of Madison, but it is one of the oldest homes in the town. James Henry Bibb, the original owner, was related to the first two governors of Alabama through common descent from Benjamin Bibb of colonial Virginia in the 1600s. James died of measles at age 44 in Madison in 1870, leaving a widow and seven children. He was among petitioners who in 1869 requested authorization from the state legislature to change the town name from “Madison Station” to just “Madison”. He was elected to the first town council that year. He is buried in the Dillard-Bibb Cemetery on the north side of Mill Road, west of Sullivan Street. James Bibb purchased numerous parcels of land around the town. For a time he had a "storehouse" Main Street adjacent to Sarah Clay's residence, which we know today as the Clay House Museum.

Madison's James Bibb was a son of Reverend James H. Bibb of Huntsville and his wife Sally Alford. The father was from Amherst County, Virginia, by way of Nashville, Tennessee. He was an early Methodist minister of this area, preaching at Jordan's Chapel and Methodist camp gatherings. He also served as Madison County Tax Assessor & Collector from 1824 until his death in 1826. He and Sally had ten children, of whom only one died young. When James died, Sally was left with seven minor children, according to descendant Kathleen Apperson Williams. James Henry Bibb of Madison was the youngest, being born five weeks after his father's death. Sally lived for another 42 years as a widow, outliving all but four of her ten children. Sally and her husband are buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.

On February 13, 1855, Madison's James Bibb married Laura Dillard, who was 23 when she died in 1859 after four years of marriage. She is buried in the Dillard-Bibb Cemetery, along with her husband and his second wife, Rebecca Robinson. The little private cemetery contains markers for James, Laura, Laura's father Joshua Dillard (1789-1859, born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia), and Laura's mother Catharine (1794-1855, born in North Carolina). Also there are tombstones for James Edward and William T. Bibb, sons of James and Rebecca. Another marker is for James Bibb Spragins, son of James Robert and Sallie K. Spragins. Sallie Kate Spragins was a daughter of James Bibb and his first wife, Laura Dillard.

The 1870 Madison census shows a household headed by Rebecca (Robinson) Bibb, widow of James. Nearby were households headed by Sarah Clay, blacksmith Seymour Doolittle, and wagonmaker James Strong. Martha Robinson, age 56, was included in Rebecca's household, as were Sarah ("Sallie") K. Bibb at age 13 and Robert Spragins, age 23. Sarah and Robert became the parents of James Bibb Spragins, who was born in 1872, when Sarah was only 15 and Robert was 25. Robert Spragins was not only a son-in-law of Rebecca Bibb, he was also the Administrator of the estate of her husband, James Bibb. In the 1880 census, Spragins was listed as a merchant in Madison.

One of James Bibb's sisters, Elizabeth Alford Bibb, married first to Stephen, a son of Elijah Hussey, one of the first landowners in the Madison area. The Hussey land was 320 acres located immediately south of today’s Eastview Drive and east of Hughes Road. Elizabeth Bibb Hussey had one child, Edmund, by Stephen. When Stephen died, Elizabeth married William Parham of Limestone County, who was born in Virginia in 1792. They had two girls -- Mary Ann, who married Thomas J. Cain in 1857, and Elizabeth Cassandra, who in 1860 married Thomas F. Allen. Any relation of Mr. Allen to the street name where the Bibb House is located in Madison is unknown.

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