Moses Smith, A Vintage Vignette

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Moses Smith
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 7, 2009

There is a truly remarkable unpublished draft of a little book found in the Heritage Room of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library that documents the recollections of Susannah Dupree Crutcher Lawler about pioneer families of the Madison area. It is entitled “CRUTCHER GENEALOGY” and was compiled by Mary Irby Mastin before her own passing at age 88 in 1971. Mary included data from an old Crutcher family Bible to expand and update Susannah’s notes. Susannah Dupree Crutcher was born in 1840. She married John Lawler in 1882. She was a daughter of Mary Bailey and Reuben William Crutcher. Mary Bailey was born in 1813, according to Susannah. Mary’s husband was born in 1812 and died in 1867, whereas Mary died in 1848. In the book, Susannah tells of the seven children of her parents and the eight children of her Bailey grandparents, as well as their many descendants in the 1800s.

Susannah’s Bailey grandparents were Sarah Johnston (born 1780) and James Bailey (born 1779). They were married in Warren County, Georgia, in December of 1803. There are some indications that James may have been the son of a senior James Bailey, who married a Sarah in Ireland before coming to America. It is known that the Bailey clan arrived in northern Alabama by 1809, with some of them “squatting” on Indian lands west of the old Chickasaw Indian Boundary that ran along part of what is Slaughter Road today. James and Sarah lived less than a mile east of the Limestone County line, on the south side of today’s Mill Road, where the Bailey family cemetery is located.

Elizabeth Bailey, another daughter of James and Sarah, was born in 1797. Her birth year suggests that Sarah was a second wife of James Bailey, since they married in 1803. Another possibility is that Elizabeth was actually a sister of James Bailey (Jr.), a daughter of James Senior. However, that relationship would require Susannah’s memory to be incorrect when she described Elizabeth as one of four sisters of her mother. It could well be that Susannah didn’t chose to make a distinction between “sister” and “half-sister”.

Susannah said of her aunt Elizabeth Bailey that she “…married Moses Smith, a worthless drunkard.” They were married in 1831 in Madison County. Indications are that Moses Smith was married at least two times. The identity of his first wife is unknown, but he had several children before he married Elizabeth Bailey. Moses had at least five children born before 1831. The 1830 census showed Moses with three sons and two daughters plus the unknown first wife. His son Roland was born in 1818, and William was born in 1827. Therefore, Elizabeth was at least his second wife. The 1840 census of Madison County showed Moses with three sons and three daughters in his household, as well as his wife, who would be Elizabeth at that time. In 1840 Jesse Smith (same age bracket as Moses) was living two houses away, while Roland Smith lived next door to Moses.

According to Susannah, Elizabeth bore four children to Moses: James, Sarah, Jane, and Mary Smith. The family moved after 1840 to Winston County, Alabama. Moses and William Smith in 1859 were listed as members of Winston County’s Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church. They were also their church’s messengers to the Lost Creek United Baptist Association meeting that year. In 1869, Moses’ son William was Pastor of the Elam Creek Baptist Church in Lawrence County. Both William and another son of Moses, Zachariah, were enumerated in Lawrence County in the 1880 census. These brothers married sisters, Mary and Frances Peek. The brothers’ lines were later fused again when William’s grandson William Henry Smith married Lucy Etta Smith, granddaughter of Zachariah Smith.

I often think back to Susannah Dupree Crutcher Lawler’s description of Moses Smith as a “worthless drunkard”. Perhaps Moses’ brother-in-law, Reuben Crutcher (Primitive Baptist preacher and husband of Mary Bailey) influenced him. It is certain that Moses’ life turned around. He produced a godly line of descendants, who included at least one preacher and dedicated church members in later generations. Even “worthless drunkards” can turn around and make something good of their lives with help from above.

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