Ranson Fowlkes, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 4, 2009
Ransom Fowlkes (also spelled Faulkes and Fulkes in old records) appears in the early land patent records of Madison County by May of 1810. He died in 1847, and his probate record shows that he owned 1053 acres of land in Madison County plus another 610 acres in Limestone County at the time of his passing. His land in Limestone County was just south of the Tennessee line and immediately west of the Elk River. In fact, he owned even more land at various times during his life here before his death. He lived along Indian Creek, where he owned the land that today is bounded by Blake Bottom and Mount Zion Roads on the north, running along both Indian Creek and Nichols Spring Branch to the south, between Hilliard Road on the west and King Road to the east. Capshaw, Old Monrovia, and Jeff Roads all run through this property now, known on the maps as Vaughn Corners. Ransom also owned for a time some property along Nick Davis Road, just west of Wall-Triana Highway.
It is strange that the Fowlkes Cemetery is not shown on the latest maps of the area. It is a large cemetery, located on the north side of Capshaw Road, west of Jeff Road, along Lynch Road. Ransom’s grave is there, along with that of his wife Cynthia Lowery Hamblen. Both were born in Virginia. Ransom was born in Nottoway County in 1798. Cynthia was born in Lunenburg County in 1801 and died in 1864. They were married in 1818 and had at least eleven children, four of whom predeceased their father and are buried with their parents in the Fowlkes Cemetery. The cemetery has been extensively used by the community, with over 280 marked graves by the time Dorothy Scott Johnson enumerated it for her book “Cemeteries of Madison County, Alabama, Volume 1”, published in 1971.
According to Ancestry.com postings, Ransom was a 17th great grandson of famous Englishman Geoffrey Chaucer, author of “Canterbury Tales”. Ransom’s father William served in the Revolutionary War. William’s father was John Fowlkes, and John’s father Gabriel (born in 1696) was the immigrant of the family from Wales to Virginia. Two of Ransom’s daughters married into the local Pettus family, one married a Johnson, and the youngest daugher (Cynthia H.) married Leroy F. Scruggs. Ransom’s son William Hiram Fowlkes married Margaret Lipscomb. She was a daughter of Richard Lipscomb and his wife Sarah McCargo, who lived on a plantation immediately west of today’s Redstone Arsenal airfield. Both the Lipscomb and the McCargo families were colonial settlers of Virginia. It was Richard’s son John T. Lipscomb who was the first public school teacher in the town of Madison.
When Ransom Fowlkes’ estate was probated, his wife Cynthia was executor and guardian of the minor children. The required twenty-six thousand dollars of security for proper settlement was made by Philip Dedman, Daniel Johnson, John Eldridge, and William Thompson, along with Cynthia Fowlkes. Most of the Fowlkes land was sold for equitable distribution among the heirs. The “perishable property” and 36 slaves were likewise auctioned. Fowlkes family members purchased much of the estate to keep it in the family, but many items were bought by neighbors, relatives, and other area pioneers. These included Bryant Reedy, William Hilliard, John Hilliard, Zadok Hilliard, John Landers, David Blackburn, William Cosby, John H. Clift, Richard Holding, William A. Pike, Henry Moore, William Hamblen, Dr. James Beasley, John Ward, Spottswood and Lafayette Perkins, and George Lindsey. This same Lindsey may be the one of that name who married Elizabeth Bibb, a daughter of William Bibb. However, Elizabeth’s father was not the William Bibb who was Alabama’s first governor. Rather, he was a brother of the Reverend James Bibb who preached at Jordan’s Chapel and became Madison County’s Tax Assessor and Collector from 1824 until his death in 1826. James Bibb’s last son, born five weeks after his father’s death, was another James H. Bibb, who lived as an adult in Madison and served the emerging town in several capacities. This Bibb line is connected to the governor’s line back in 1685 Virginia with common ancestry from Benjamin Bibb. The history of the Fowlkes family is well interwoven with the pioneers of northern Alabama.