David Maxwell, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
February 14, 2008
The Canaan Cumberland Presbyterian Church was located immediately northwest of the junction of Sparkman Drive with Jordan Lane. It was on the west bank of Dry Creek, which is the northern end of Broglan Branch of Spring Creek. The church was provided a title bond to one acre of land at that location in 1817 by Nicholas Reedy. His widow, Elizabeth, issued the deed to Canaan Church trustees David Maxwell, William Gray, and Daniel Friend in 1835. David Maxwell was listed in the 1830 census of Madison County as being a neighbor of William East, Charles Betts, David Bradford, and Elijah Hussey – all of whom are known to be associated with the history of the area where the town of Madison was established in 1857.
The Gray Cemetery, which is just east of Balch Road and south of Gillespie Road in Madison, was the burying ground of the Providence Cumberland Presbyterian Church for almost a hundred years. The five acres deeded to the church in 1838 by Robert Payne and by David Gray, a son of William (Sr.), provided the land for the cemetery, as well as for the meetinghouse. In the cemetery is a tombstone that is inscribed with “Margaret A. Maxwell, died September 16, 1835 aged 6 years, 2 months, and 26 days; daughter of David and Margaret Maxwell”.
Madison County marriage records state that David Maxwell was licensed to marry “Peggy” (Margaret) Gray on January 22, 1812. Revolutionary War soldier William Gray and his wife, along with several children of their family, are buried in the cemetery. William was born in 1755 in Scotland, and in 1780 he married Lady Eleanor Wardrobe Blackburn, a sister of Scottish Lord Wardrobe. She was born in 1757 and died in 1822. William Gray served on the first jury in Madison County in 1810. He owned land near where Gate 9 to Redstone Arsenal is located today. His sons obtained land in various parts of the county, including the area where the town of Madison was established in 1857. William Gray Sr. died in 1834, so the trustee of the Canaan Church in 1835 was apparently William Jr.
David Maxwell purchased seven parcels of land from the government between 1809 and the 1830s. Nearby landowners included David Gray, William Gray, Abraham Looney, James Manning, and Bartholomew (“Batt”) Jordan. David Gray was a captain of a company of militia volunteers from the western portion of the county in the War of 1812. Looney was another Revolutionary War soldier. James Manning was one of the wealthiest and most influential pioneers to settle in the county. Batt Jordan had been a Revolutionary War soldier, and he deeded land for Jordan’s Chapel, an early Methodist Church near today’s Botanical Garden.
David Maxwell’s ownership of government land parcels totaled around two square miles in the aggregate, over 1200 acres. By the time of the 1840 census, David and his family were in DeSoto County, Mississippi. He died there in January of 1847. Apparently, one of Madison County’s large landowners decided to pursue interests to the west after his daughter Margaret passed away and was buried here.