Martin McCalley, A Vintage Vignette

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Martin McCalley
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
January 15, 2010

Volume I of Dorothy Scott Johnson's book “Cemeteries of Madison County, Alabama” (1971) shows a “McCauley Cemetery” located on the map for Chapter 5, on page 228. Her textual description of the cemetery is given on page 229. There she pinpoints the location as being “just south of Highway 20”. She meant Highway 72, and she printed “University Drive” in parenthesis. The cemetery location was also described as being in the east half of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 31, Township 3 South, Range 2 West. However, the map shows that it is located in Section 30, not 31, and that agrees other public maps that show the location as being in Section 30. Mrs. Johnson's description of the cemetery noted that it was in “deplorable condition” when she visited it before writing her book. She further noted that “there is hardly anything left to show it is a cemetery.” She told of four grave depressions being evident, with only “broken parts of two markers” being left at that time. Even with her careful probing of the ground, no other stones or fragments were found, but she wrote that “there were obviously several more graves.”

From the tombstone fragments that Mrs. Johnson found, she reported inscriptions for “Martha McCauley, Born 184.., died....” and “Martin McCauley, Born 18.., ....May.....”. No other data was given for them in the book. In January I searched for any sign of the cemetery that might remain, but none was found. There were two areas where dirt and debris had been heaped by bulldozers in the overgrown field, but no grave depressions were located. However, a bit of research produced some facts about these people. Most of the census and land records are listed for them under the name McCalley. They are found in census records only from 1870 through 1910 because they were both born into slavery, and they passed on before 1920. The white William McCalley family of Huntsville had many slaves before the Civil War, so it may well be that Martin was “owned” by that family until he was free. Martin was born here in March 1835 according to census records, but Martha was born here in April of 1847. Of course, the detail data for each of them in the census years varies significantly, but that is not at all unusual. They were married soon after being freed, with Madison County Marriage Book 5 showing a license dated December 28, 1866 for Martin “McColley” to wed Martha Ann Jones. The 1907 Civil War pension files list an application as an invalid filed in Alabama on December 19 for service by Martin McCalley in the U. S. Volunteers, so he may have successfully slipped away to join the Union forces during the war and before his marriage.

In 1870 Martin and Martha were enumerated in Township 5, Range 2W, an area served by the Triana post office. That census listed their children as Thomas, Lucy, William, and Mary. The 1880 census listed them in Township 3, Range 2W, in Madison Precinct 8. They were living by the Pike, Clift, and Sanderson families of the area, with children listed as Mary, Alonzo, Ollie, Sallie, Hermon, and William. The 1900 census showed them in the same place, living by the white family of Fletcher Jones, who was born in 1838 and could possibly have been of the family that “owned” Martha before her freedom and marriage. Their children were listed in 1900 as Alonzo, Burgess, and Percy. It also reported that Martha had given birth to seven children, all of whom were living. The 1910 census showed Martin as a widower, living with two grandchildren of Binford surnames. Next door were households headed by his sons Percy and Herman.

Martin had gotten his 40 acres of land around the cemetery in 1885 from the federal government. It was mortgaged several times, but after Martin's death in 1916, it was sold by his son Percy in 1918. Now there is no physical evidence at the McCalley home site or at their graves.

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