Willis Knox, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 29, 2007
Knox Creek lies in the west side of Madison County, with Knox Creek Estates on the west side of Balch Road north of Highway 72. The Knox name is first found in the historical public records of Madison County in the 1824 marriage of David T. Knox (born in 1793 Delaware) to Susan Cain. They lived in Huntsville very near leading citizens, such as LeRoy Pope (Founder of Huntsville), Stephen Neale (1st sheriff of Madison County), and Clement Comer Clay (attorney and 8th governor of the state). David was a silversmith and watchmaker per census records, but he was a maker of eyeglasses per family information. However, it is the 1831 marriage of Willis Knox to Jennette Dupree that signals the presence of the family associated with Knox Creek. Willis (born 1800, North Carolina) could well have been a brother of David. There was a male shown as age 20-30 in the 1830 census of David Knox’s household, and there were no other Knox families enumerated in the county. The male of that age did not appear with David in the 1840 census, but Willis was listed as head of his own household for the first time, after his 1831 marriage. His 1840 location is indicated by neighbors with surnames of East, McElhaney, Clutts, Pike, Cosby, and Dedman – all known as living in the Knox Creek area.
The 1850 census shows Willis and his family enumerated within the household of John Hilliard, a 33-year-old farmer born in Tennessee. John’s family consisted of a wife and 6 children, all born in Alabama. Willis’ family consisted of Jennette and 7 children at that time. Jennette was born about 1810 in Virginia. Historical records show that their children (with birth years) were William Thomas (1832), Martha J. (1833), James Simon (1835), Jannette (1838), Joseph (1841), Rebecca Ann (1844), Sarah Elizabeth (1848), John H. (1850), and Mary Frances (1854). A government land patent was issued for Willis in 1858, covering 160 acres along Knox Creek, immediately east of Knox Creek Estates, on the east side of Balch Road. Willis died before the 1860 census, and Jennette was head of her household in that and later censuses through 1880. However, she had died by 1887 when Madison County Probate Record 3993 addressed disposition of the estate among the heirs. The heirs included Smith, Rouse, and Vincent family members because Willis’ daughter Janette married Clement Vincent, Rebecca married Francis Smith, and Mary Frances married John Rouse.
A Knox descendant named Richard has been of great help in finding historical cemeteries of the area, including the Knox family cemetery located on the north bank of Knox Creek in Willis’ tract of land. The family’s linkage to President James Knox Polk via his mother Jane Knox of North Carolina is from family information. President Polk was born in the same part of North Carolina as Willis Knox. Additionally, there is likely linkage to John Knox, the religious reformer of Scotland, who is generally recognized as the founder of the Presbyterian denomination. Knox family connections per Ancestry.com’s One World Tree include several other U. S. Presidents plus notables such as Sir Isaac Newton. Knox Creek may run very deep through world history, if deep not through the red clay of Alabama.