John Bibb, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
April 28, 2009
John Bibb owned a large parcel of Madison land across the road from where I live, but he owned it 150 years ago, until his death in 1862. John was a brother of merchant James Henry Bibb, one of the five members of Madison’s first Board of Aldermen in 1869. John and James were two of the ten children of Reverend James Bibb, who is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, as are John and several other members of the family.
The engravings and inscription on his tall obelisk grave marker reveal that John was a Mason, born in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1805. The book “Bibb Family in America, 1640 – 1940” by Charles William Bibb has John listed as born in 1803, but little else is noted of his existence here. John’s father James married Sally Alford in Amherst County in 1802. John was their firstborn child listed in the book, whereas his brother James Henry Bibb was their last child, born in 1826 a few months after his father James’ death. James was born in 1778, son of another James Bibb, who was reported to have served in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812. The senior James Bibb married Sally Nowlin. He is reported to have come with members of his family to Madison County after a short stay in Dickson County, Tennessee (near Nashville). The book referenced earlier states that he died in Madison County on the 16th of September, 1809, at age 62. His son James, the father of John, was admitted to the Methodist Conference in Nashville in 1810, and it is reasonable to expect that he played a role in attracting the first Methodist Conference held in Huntsville in 1819. Reverend James Bibb also served as Madison County’s Tax Assessor and Collector from 1824 until his death two years later. From the monuments in Maple Hill and from other records, it is known that Reverend James had living here a brother William, who married Sarah Garrett and had several children, including Martha Bibb who married Archibald Rison of Huntsville. Another brother, Thomas, married first Marian Fielder, then her sister Elizabeth Fielder in Huntsville. A third Bibb brother in Huntsville was Henry, who married Sarah Grant and brokered land transactions between the family and distant cousin Thomas Bibb, the second governor of Alabama, also residing in Huntsville.
In the year 1855, when Reverend James’ son James Henry Bibb married Laura Dillard (early Madison residents), his son John purchased two parcels of land in the area that officially became the town of Madison two years later. His land today contains the Abbington Downs and Cottonwood Estates housing developments, northward through all of Bob Jones High School grounds along the west side of Hughes Road to the Eastview Drive intersection and westward to Wall-Triana Highway at West Madison Elementary School. Altogether, John purchased four contiguous parcels in the area, totaling over 200 acres. Most of this property had initially been purchased from the government land office in 1818 by James Gray, a son of Madison area pioneer William Gray.
James Henry Bibb became Administrator of John’s estate, distributing its proceeds among his surviving brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews from 1862 until James’ own passing in 1870. Final settlement of John’s estate was made by James Robert Spragins, son-in-law and executor of James Henry Bibb. Some of John’s inheritors were the children of his deceased sister Elizabeth, who first married Stephen, son of Madison pioneer Elijah Hussey, then William Parham of Limestone County. One of her daughters, Mary Ann Parham, married Madison merchant Thomas Jefferson Cain. Another daughter, Cassandra Parham, married Thomas Allen, possibly the namesake of Allen Street in Madison. Another sister of John was Louisa Bibb, who married Melkijah Spragins and became the mother of three famed Methodist ministers -- Edward L., Charles Allen, and Hal Stith Spragins. While the local Bibb families of the first two governors of Alabama and the first Madison alderman James Henry Bibb were not closely related to their contemporary John Bibb of Kentucky, inventor of Bibb lettuce, they certainly all served prominent community roles.