Dudley Sale, Sr., A Vintage Vignette

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Dudley Sale, Sr.
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 5, 2010

The history of the Sale family in Madison County perhaps exemplifies wealthy, prominent families who have praiseworthy things mixed with bits of “tarnish” when their story is thoroughly known. My own awareness of the Sales came while researching the history of Steptoe Pickett when I noticed that his widowed son Steptoe Jr. married Eugenia Sale as his second wife. The source I was using mentioned only that Eugenia was a daughter of Captain Dudley Sale, who was Quartermaster of Company F, 9th Alabama Infantry, Confederate States of America. Later I noted that LeRoy Pope, generally recognized as the “Father of Huntsville”, married Judith Sale. After a few more accidental encounters with Sale data, it seemed best to learn more.

So far, I have learned that the Civil War Captain Dudley Sale whose daughter married Steptoe Pickett was a son of another Dudley Sale of this county. The senior Dudley Sale was born in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1781 during the last phases of the American Revolutionary War. Dudley's father Cornelius is included in the “Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots”. Dudley himself was apparently a soldier in the War of 1812 while he lived in Georgia. His name is found as a Private in Freeman's Squadron of Cavalry in the Georgia forces. On May 4, 1812, he petitioned a Georgia probate court for guardianship of Eliza, illegitimate daughter of Margaret Ferguson Heard. Dudley was the reputed father of Eliza, and guardianship was granted to him. In 1822 Eliza Sale married William Powell in Madison County, Alabama.

Dudley was the sixth child of Cornelius and Jane Dawson Sale. Judith, wife of LeRoy Pope, was their second child. Their other children were Lewis, Anthony, Joseph, Leonard, Richard, LeRoy, and Elizabeth. It is known that Joseph also lived in Madison County, purchasing land from Dudley and his first wife Nancy Ann Hatcher in 1823. Dudley's land purchases in the county began in 1818 and centered around the east end of today's Burwell Road, with Carter's Gin Road on the east side of his final holdings of 640 acres. Other members of the Sale family purchased land around Dudley. However, his brother Joseph bought land to the northwest of today's Meridianville Airport and on both sides of Highway 231/431. Joseph's 510 acre estate was probated in 1839, leaving his wife Nancy Stubblefield Sale with 12 slaves, among all of his other possessions. When Nancy wrote her will in 1849, she included an unusual provision for the times. She stipulated that all of her land and personal property be sold to allow equitable distribution of the estate among her specified heirs, but she reserved a 15 foot square parcel from the sale for her grave and that of her deceased husband. She also excluded the slaves from public sale, providing that the slaves themselves select their own buyers from within the family as a private sale. Nancy further provided that Dudley Sale, her brother-in-law, should receive $1000 from her estate.

Dudley's first wife died in 1847. He is buried beside her in the Nance Cemetery on his land. However, in 1848 Dudley executed a prenuptial agreement with second wife Delia Coleman. By that agreement, Delia could not inherit anything from his estate if he died first. Likewise, he would not inherit anything from her estate if she died first. This was because her holdings were more extensive and valuable than his. They had no children together. According to probate records of 1867, among Dudley's children by first wife Ann were John (physician in Mississippi), Mary (married John Nance), Matilda (married Robert Nance), Elizabeth (married John Steger), Martha (married Basil O'Neal, lived in Texas), Gertrude (married Thomas Tate, lived in Tennessee), Henry (died earlier, leaving heirs), and Charles (deceased, leaving wife Sallie Connally as guardian of children Anna Odelle and Charlie). Dudley's estate provided for several grandchildren, including heirs of his illegitimate daughter Eliza Sale Powell, and for Eugenia Sale, wife of Steptoe Pickett of Madison. Even the estate of Dudley's sister-in-law Nancy, widow of Joseph Sale, made provision for Polly, daughter of Dudley's brother Richard in Georgia. The Sales were obviously a close-knit group, even with their slaves.

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