Reuben Crutcher, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
My own encounter with Reuben Crutcher began about 1994 with the discovery of a fallen tombstone buried underneath years of overgrowth in the old Bailey Cemetery south of the west end of Mill Road. The tombstone was inscribed with “R. W. CRUTCHER; A BELOVED MINISTER OF THE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH; BORN April 2, 1812; DIED Jan. 10, 1867”. I was there to examine the Bailey family burials and became intrigued about the additional surnames found in the small cemetery. Historical public records soon revealed that R. W. Crutcher was Reuben William Henry Crutcher. Reuben was married in 1833 to Mary, daughter of James and Sarah Bailey, who were the original owners of the land around the cemetery. Mary died in 1848 at age 35, and she and at least two of their children are buried in the cemetery beside Reuben. A single tombstone has the inscriptions for Mary and her children Sarah E. (died 6 months old) and James Bailey Crutcher, who died at the age of 8 years.
Before her death in 1971, Mary Irby Mastin compiled a booklet of almost 200 pages about the genealogies of the Crutcher, Bolling, and Spragins families. Mary, born in 1883, was a daughter of Alexander and Lucy Anne Spragins. Mary’s grandparents were Robert Stith Bolling Spragins and Sarah Agnes Crutcher (1835-1916). Sarah was a half-sister of the Reuben Cruther who married Mary Bailey. There were several Reuben Crutchers in the area then, but the subject of this article is the one who married Mary Bailey. Without Mary Mastin’s booklet, it would be almost impossible to keep the Reuben Crutchers separated in some of the public records.
Mastin was a spinster, but she carefully and extensively documented the recollections of Susan A. Dupree Crutcher (born 1840, married John Lawler in 1882), daughter of Reuben and Mary Bailey Crutcher. Mastin also had access to an old Crutcher family Bible that documented the line back to Henry of Essex County, Virginia. Henry’s third child was a Reuben Crutcher, 1741-1819, who married Elizabeth Cheaney. Their son William married Susanna Dupree and had three children (including another Reuben) before Susanna died in Kentucky (1814) on the way to Madison County, Alabama. William and his children returned from Kentucky to Virginia, where he married Mrs. Tabitha Bruce Harris Fulks, a widow with two small children. The family came to Madison County before 1822, initially settling in the New Market and Plevna area. Several other descendants of Henry Crutcher had come earlier to Madison and Limestone Counties, resulting in the multiple Reuben Crutchers being found the area.
Reuben and Mary Bailey Crutcher had seven children, three of whom were named above. The others were Ann Frances (married James Wesley Farley), William Henry (married Mary James, then Mary Jane Pride, and finally Rowena Crutcher, a cousin), Andrew Benton (married Henry Ellen Gay, then Annie Johnson), and Joseph Robert Hollaway Crutcher. In the 1860 census, Reuben and his unmarried daughter Susan were listed in the household of Reuben’s son-in-law, James Wesley Farley. Reuben was listed as a Baptist Minister (as his father William had been), while Susan was a schoolteacher. Madison notables Jim Bronaugh and Robert Shelton had ties to the Crutcher line in local history. Other area notables with historical Crutcher connections include the surnames of Pettus, Sneed, Word, Pike, Harper, McCargo, Rawlins, Carter, Fowlkes, Matthews, Manning, Russell, Echols, McCrary, Strong, McGaha, and Gillespie.