John Lemley, A Vintage Vignette

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John Lemley
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 26, 2011

Among Madison County's early pioneers was John Lemley. He came here in or before 1807 from Fairfield District of South Carolina with his wife, Priscilla Kennamer, and with his father-in-law, Hans Kennamer. The two large families settled along the Paint Rock River in eastern Madison County and northwestern Marshall County. Now Madison County's Lemley Mountain and the town of New Hope (originally “Vienna”) are shown on maps in that area. As a descendant of Ephraim Lemley, I was able to acquire one of the last available copies of the last edition of the 1985 book “History of Ephraim Lemley and Descendent Families” by J. B. Lemley of Russellville, Arkansas. We corresponded and visited for several years before his passing. Ephraim, born in 1796 in Fairfield District was my third-great grandfather, and is generally believed to be a nephew of John Lemley. The book records that John Lemley Sr. was born in Virginia in 1763. He and Priscilla were married about 1793. John had bought land along Beaver Creek in Fairfield District in 1792. They had at least eight children. After Priscilla died, John married Mary T. McDonald in Madison County in 1840, but they had no children together.

According to J. B. Lemley's book, the eight known children of John and Priscilla Lemley were David, John Jr., George, Reuben, Peter Sieman (or Simeon), Elizabeth, Priscilla, and an unnamed daughter who was the wife of Benjamin Alexander, as recorded in Madison County Probate Court Case 2304. This case number was for settlement of the estate of John Lemley Sr. in 1859, after John's death in November or December of 1858. Based upon ages, birthplaces, and names of their children, it is likely that the unnamed daughter was Mary, who was born in 1804 South Carolina and lived with her husband Benjamin F. Alexander in Tennessee's Hardin County in the 1850 census. At least no other such logically-fitting possibilities were found in census records or other reference sources.

John's son David Lemley was born about 1794 in South Carolina. He married first to Betsey Snole in 1817. His second wife was Eady Rice. They married in 1827. David died before 1859 when John's estate entered probate. John's son John Jr. was born in 1798, and he also married twice and died by 1859. The name of his first wife is unknown, but his second wife was Louise Smith. Reuben was born in 1806 and married first to Martha Hornbuckle, then to Nellie Riddle. He was living in Marshall County in 1859 according to the probate records. John's son Peter Simeon was born in 1809. He apparently married twice, according to land records. In a property deed of 1849 his wife is recorded as Mariam. In a deed of 1855 Simeon's wife was Sarah Ann Lemley. J. B. Lemley's book has his wife listed as Wannie. Elizabeth Lemley, daughter of John Sr., married a Mr. Waters and lived “beyond” (out of the state) per the 1859 probate files. John's daughter Priscilla married Robert Lee and remained in Madison County, with children Joseph Lemley Lee and Susan Lee shown in the 1850 census.

George, son of John Sr., was born in 1802. He married Mary Calloway. He died about 1873. George's first son, John, was born in 1820. This later John married Margaret Biggs in 1847. Their children included Hiram Clifton Lemley, born in 1850 and died in 1916. Hiram in 1870 married Sarah Catherine Hunt. George, Hiram, and Charles Lemley all were involved in land transactions in the early 1900s that included parts of Sections 14, 15, and 20 in Township 4S, Range 1W. These parcels include the land between Weeden and Madkin Mountains on the arsenal plus property south of Drake Avenue and on the east side of Jordan Lane (Patton Road) with Johnson Road running east-west through the middle of it today. Descendants have told me that most of the family worked in the Merrimac cotton mill during times before Huntsville expanded over their property. There are still Lemley families in Madison County, but many more of John Lemley's descendants are now integrated by marriages into other surnames of residents of the area.

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