McAlister's CrossroadsJohn McAlister was born in Lurgan, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in the year of 1751. He was the first child of James and Mary McConnell McAlister and a grandson of the McAlister immigrant, Archibald McAlister, who came to America about 1720 from Kintyre, Scotland. His first recorded land grant to be found was 900 acres in Chester County, later became Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He erected a grist mill and built a black smith’s shop on this land, he also farmed this land. He helped organize the Great Presbyterian Church in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Archibald had two brothers who soon followed, Hugh and Daniel, and that left the oldest brother John in Scotland. Their Uncle Charles McAlister, who was their father Iain’s youngest brother, followed the nephews to America. Charles McAlister was the ancestor of Hill McAlister, the Governor of Tennessee from 1933 until 1937. This McAlister family is supposedly the nineteenth generation to follow Somerled, Local King of Argyll and King of the South Isles, who was their ancestor from Scotland. He was killed in 1164 A.D.

According to a Deed dated in the year 1774, John’s father, James and his wife, sold his farm and grist mill in the Township of Lurgan, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, to James McCarrol of the Township of Straban in the County of York in Pennsylvania and moved to Frederick County, and then Berkeley County, Virginia, and became engaged in the mercantile business. In 1743, James was issued a license to trade with the Indians. In 1756, during the French War, James joined a Pennsylvania Regiment and served until 1763 achieving the rank of Lieutenant. Through the Court system in 1780 in Frederick County, Virginia, James was able to prove that in May 1763, he was a Lieut, in the Pennsylvania Regiment and served during the French War, and produced his commission under the hand of James Hamilton the Lieut. Governor of Pennsylvania, and that he was an inhabitant of Virginia and had been for the past four years. This Court action entitled him to collect the land and money compensations he was entitled to and had not collected. In Berkeley County, Virginia he was considered a leading citizen and was appointed to the commission to lay-out the town of Martinsburg. Sometime after this he moved to Springfield, Hampshire County, Virginia and this was where he was living when he wrote his Will in 1804. His Will was probated there in 1807 when he died July 20, 1807. James McAlister is in the DAR Patriot Book as 72 - 106, with the name of his wife Sally Vance who was his second wife and the mother of his last two daughters, Sarah (Sally) McAlister King (Alexander), and Ann McAlister Glass (Reverend Joseph). (Today, both Berkeley and Hampshire Counties are in West Virginia).

John fought in the American Revolutionary War with the Baltimore Troops of Cavalry. The last battle I have found him to be involved in was the Battle of York, which was York, Pennsylvania. John’s two brothers, James, Jr., and Archibald were also fighting with other Maryland Regiments. Archibald was credited with leading the attack at Paulus Hook, New Jersey to victory and earning him a membership in the Society of the Cincinnati and the Brevet of Captain. (Paulus Hook was in the vicinity of present day Jersey City, New Jersey.) The Society of the Cincinnati was an organization founded by General George Washington honoring his exceptional performers during that War. He signed Archibald’s Certificate of Membership at Mount Vernon on March 31,1787 “ in the seventh year of the Independence of the United States.” John and James, Jr. did not fit into that category, obviously, for they were not so honored. They did purchase land in Frederick County, Virginia as well as in the town of Winchester, Virginia. “In Winchester they owned a very large General Store at the sign of the Tobacco Hogshead opposite the bridge in Winchester. This was one of the largest stores in town and aside from their regular grocery business, bought largely “leaf tobacco, ginseng, deerskins, and military certificates.” They also secured privilege to erect a building South of the old clerk’s office for a nail factory. Court required them to make it of “heavy stone and shun the risk of fire.” The building was at the East end of the alley where it enters the county property.” This information was taken from “Cartmel's History of Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants, 1738-1908.” There are many other references to this family throughout this history book. John owned land in the county where Abrams Creek emptied into the Opecquon and it was there he built his “Greenwood Mill”, which was a grist mill, in the year of 1785, and one of the largest and best appointed brick flouring mills in Frederick County. He also built a very substantial house on the land and lived there. He named his plantation, “Greenwood Mills”. John ground flour at his mill, and after his second marriage in 1797, was shipping flour to Liverpool, England by way of Alexandria, Virginia as his (then) brothers-in-law owned Jolliffe and Brown Shipping Company there. John was a good miller and this was a most profitable business for him and his brothers-in-law.

John married his first cousin, Elizabeth McAlister, the daughter of his father’s brother, Colonel Richard McAlister the founder of the town in York County, Pennsylvania known today as Hanover. It was originally known as McAlister’s Folly, then as the town became successful Folly was dropped and it became known as McAlister’s Town until about 1823 when the name became Hanover. The wedding was performed at Elizabeth’s family home about 1792. (This entire area was under heavy orders to seize and destroy during the Civil War and a lot of records were burned). John and Elizabeth had two children, John Jr., and Eliza. Eliza was born in December of 1795 and died in June of 1796 at the age of six months. Elizabeth died October 27,1796 and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Hanover, Pennsylvania with the daughter Eliza, and her parents Richard and Mary Dill McAlister, two of their children Margaret and Abdiel, and Elizabeth’s grandmother Jean McClure McAlister. The marker John placed on her grave read, “Although it is vanity in the living to erect monuments to the dead, let this be so, as this is in memory of one of the best of women”.

John re-married on October 4,1797 to Elizabeth Jolliffe of Frederick County, Virginia. Elizabeth was a member of the Society of Friends (or Quaker if you prefer) and she lost her membership soon after she married John. She attended many functions and events at the Church, but she just could not be a member as she had married a man of fame, fortune and wealth so to speak which the Church considered to be a “man of the world”. Elizabeth enjoyed her new life for she and John entertained on a large scale, not only family but their friends in a lavish and hospitable manner so common among the old time Virginians and around their board were often gathered such persons as Light-Horse Harry Lee,( the father of General Robert E. Lee), General John Smith, General Singleton, Major General Horatio Gates, General Dark and other prominent leaders of the Revolutionary War period. The McAlisters were staunch Presbyterians both in Scotland and America. As the generations continued to produce, there were many other religious denominations mixed and mingled into the families. Elizabeth Jolliffe McAlister and John had no children together.

John’s brother Archibald (of Paulus Hook, New Jersey battle fame) now lived in New Hanover County, North Carolina (Wilmington) and operated his rice plantation, Bellville. After his first wife (?) Hagel McAlister died and was buried in a cemetery on the Plantation, Archibald married Mrs. Mary Hasell Ancrum Grainger Moore. She was the widow of Roger Moore, Archibald’s business partner. Mary was the mother of two children, Sarah Eliza Ancrum and James Hasell Ancrum. In addition to her children, Mary brought with her, her Hasell property in Charleston, South Carolina and other properties there also, in addition to the properties Roger Moore left her in North Carolina and properties left her by Caleb Grainger. The Kendall Plantation had been in the Moore family for a number of years. Brother, James McAlister, Jr., had gone to North Carolina to help his brother Archibald get all the legal matters in order and set up his own law practice, when Archibald died on February 25, 1792 in Charleston, South Carolina and was interred by the Society of Cincinnati in the St. Phillips Church yard. He died from some after effects of the Revolutionary War wounds he had received. Archibald named his two brothers, John and James Jr. as his executors and as James Jr. was already in Wilmington, North Carolina in law business, he got the job of executor. James Jr. was in law practice with Richard Quinn, Jr. in Wilmington, North Carolina. Executors from South Carolina were, General Charles Pickney, signer of the U. S. Constitution, became Governor of South Carolina, U. S. Senator, Congressman, and Minister to Spain; Edward Rutledge, signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Delegate to First and Second Continental Congress, South Carolina Legislator and Senator, and Governor of South Carolina; and John Julius Pringle, Esquire who was a most prominent and wealthy person of Charleston, South Carolina, served as Attorney General for 16 years, and was the son of Judge Robert Pringle whose brick mansion built in 1774 still stands on Tradd Street in Charleston’s Historic District. These three Executors are also buried in St. Phillips Church Yard in Charleston, South Carolina.

James McAlister Jr. married Sarah Eliza Ancrum, the daughter of Archibald’s second wife, and they produced a daughter, Sarah Louisa McAlister. Within three years, James Jr., died and John, as the other executor of Archibald’s Will, went to North Carolina and went through the Court system to get everything settled. These Court records are in the Archives Library in Raleigh, North Carolina. This Bill was filed January 30,1797.

While in North Carolina, John was contacted by Sarah (Nash) Waddell, who lived in Brunswick County, North Carolina, and she wanted to buy John’s share of the Bellville Plantation that had belonged to Archibald, and Archibald had willed it to his two brothers, John and James Jr, and two sisters Elizabeth (Betsey) Bush and Mary (Polly) Chambers, and two half sisters Sarah King and Ann Glass. Sarah (Nash) Waddell had inherited 12,000 acres of land in Montgomery County, Tennessee, from her father, General Francis Nash, deeded to him by the state of North Carolina for his 84 months of military service during the Revolutionary War. Francis Nash is also the person for whom Nashville, Tennessee is named. General Nash died never having lived on his 12,000 acres, which was North Carolina Military Grant #690, Military Warrant #755 per Judge John Overton’s copy of the North Carolina Military Warrant Book in the Tennessee Archives Library in Nashville, Tennessee. John sold to her for $9000 dollars his North Carolina property on October 26, 1807. Recorded in Montgomery County, Tennessee Record Books with the date of October 26, 1807, is the deed to John McAlister for the 12,000 acres of land originally deeded to General Francis Nash and willed to his daughter Sarah Nash, now Waddell, for the amount of $13,000 dollars. It appears that the two land transactions took place effective the same date in the North Carolina Courts and John paid Sarah (Nash) Waddell an additional $4000 dollars. I do not know how much land was sold to Sarah in North Carolina.

John made arrangements for Thomas and Elizabeth Ives Batson to come to Montgomery County, Tennessee where the deed was registered, and pay the taxes on the land. The tax on the 12,000 acres was $12.00. It is believed that John and the Batsons knew each other before this time. Mrs. Batson is believed to have had relatives in Maryland and this may be where they knew each other, again this is strictly speculation. Thomas and Elizabeth Ives Batson were given lifetime living rights on the land and rented land for a “com rent”. Their children were grown and some were married with families but they all came to Tennessee. Montgomery County is rich with their descendants. Brown Harvey, with the help of MANY others compiled and published a book in the 1980’s,” The Southside Cousins,” ...about these descendants. (One of the persons who helped with this book is responsible for building a “Genealogy Fire” within me is David Hinton.)

John McAlister still had his Greenwood Mills Plantation in Frederick County, Virginia so he needed Thomas Batson to see after his Tennessee land, as John’s time was divided between the two plantations. Virginia and Tennessee were some distance apart and travel was done by horse or horse drawn carriage and either way of travel, took a long time to go that distance.

John wrote a letter dated May 17, 1815 to his cousin, Archibald McAlister, the son of Col Richard McAlister, at his home at Fort Hunter, Pennsylvania, from McAlister’s Cross Roads, Montgomery County, Tennessee. (Archibald had lost his wife Margaret (Hayes) McAlister in death and had sold his plantation in Derry, Pennsylvania to Martin L. Hershey. Today we know this land as Hershey, Pennsylvania). Archibald’s son, George Washington McAlister moved to Savannah, Georgia and raised his family. He and his descendants entered the political field, both in Georgia and Washington DC. Fort McAlister, which played a major roll in the Civil War, still stands on their land. Their plantation house, Strathy Hall, housed a large library. This library contained the Bible with all the McAlister genealogy from Scotland to the then present day, a vast collection of letters and other papers from General George Washington to Archibald, and “one of the few copies of the Bible printed in the reign of King Henry VIII that escaped the burning of all those Bibles. ‘This testament was translated by Wm Tyndall, who suffered martyrdom in Brabrant in 1535 and this testament was burned in 1539 by Cuthbert Tonstall, Bishop of London. Printed MDXXXV ye 8th year of Henry ye 8th and finished ye fourth day of October’.” This entire library was destroyed in Gen. Sherman’s march to the sea. In the letter John is describing the iron ore on the land, a 20 foot drop in the creek for a grist Mill which will answer for a overshot Mill, and the fact that he rented the Greenwood Plantation out for two years while he and his wife, Elizabeth, were in Tennessee exploring and making plans for the use of the Tennessee land. He asked about Joshua Elder. Joshua was a brother to James Elder who was here in Clarksville along with James McClure. They were both prominent persons in Clarksville’s early history. These were long time family friends with the McAlister family. John and Elizabeth had arrived in Tennessee in the fall of 1814 to stay two years. Elizabeth was going back to Virginia in September 1816 before the weather got too bad in the fall.

Elizabeth got sick in August 1816 and died. She was the first person buried in McAlister Cemetery. Engraved on the flat marker that covers her grave still today is “In memory of one of the best of women. Come from Virginia on a visit. Expected to return home in September. But Alass, Took sick in August and died in September 1816 - aged 49 years.—Those that know her best valued her most”. This cemetery is located today on privately owned land and is on top of a very high solid rock bluff overlooking a creek we know today as Louise Creek west of and slightly north of where Devers Road conjuncts with Thompson Road. The Creek in 1877 is listed on the map as Barren Fork Creek of Barton’s Creek, and what we call Little Barton’s Creek was listed on that same map as Middle Barton’s Creek. Barren Fork empties into Middle Bartons and then Middle Bartons empties into Big Bartons Creek before it empties into the Cumberland River. This may seem unimportant to some people today, but when you are reading land deeds, Wills and other papers of years past, this is important information to know, just how place names change through the years. We are now 177 years later and trying to piece together the past.

In time, John goes back to Greenwood Mills as it had only been leased for two years and that time had passed. His son, John, Jr. was now left in Tennessee to see after the plantation his father had named “Cabin Row Plantation”. During the time it took to get their house built and land cleared to farm, the McAlisters had stayed in and around Nashville, Tennessee. John Jr. had met his future wife. Even though his step-mother had died in August and his father was back in Virginia now, John McAlister, Jr. married on December 12, 1816, Elizabeth H. Bosley, in Nashville, Tennessee. Elizabeth was the daughter of John and Delila Robertson Bosley and the grand daughter of General James G. and Charlotte Reeves Robertson. Now John Jr. and his bride Elizabeth will be residing at the “Cabin Row Plantation” along with the Batson family. On September 24, 1817, John Jr. and Elizabeth's daughter, Eliza Ann, was bom on the Cabin Row Plantation in the area we know today as near the Lafayette Furnace. Exactly where the house stood would be most difficult to prove. Furthermore, we do not know if there were two houses or if John Jr. and John Sr. used the same house as they did not both live full time here. We do know the house stood on the north side of Barren Fork Creek which is the same side of the Creek the Batson’s home was on and that McAlister’s house was below the Batson’s. The Creek runs east towards the Cumberland River so we can figure out direction, we just can’t find any foundations to figure out where either of the log houses stood. We do know that the house that burned June 3, 1984, known as “The Batson House” was not the original Batson family house because, it was built by Samuel Smith from North Carolina who married William Sullivant’s widowed daughter Nancy Sullivant Harvey with seven small Harvey children. Nancy’s father gave her 160 acres of his land holdings in Montgomery County, Tennessee. Her daughter, Nancy Smith, by her second husband Samuel Smith, married Thomas Hatton Batson. This was the house the McAlister’s Post Office was in for a number of years, and after several generations of Batsons, it became known as “The Batson House”. May 1, 1817 McAlister’s Cross Roads Post Office was established and on November 30, 1819, Thomas H. Batson became the postmaster. The Post Office was discontinued in the early 1900’s when rural routes were established.

John Jr. and Elizabeth lived on the land and the only thing known about John Jr. is his signature on official papers recorded here in Montgomery County, Tennessee. Suddenly, and without known cause, John Jr. died by January 1820, he was the second person buried in McAlister Cemetery. His grave was covered with a metal covering. As this covering is gone now, I do not know if anything was written on it. He was young and had no Will which at his young age would not be necessary yet. John Sr. appointed Thomas Batson Sr. Administrator along with William Corlew, John L. Mosley and Simon Holmes. This is recorded in Montgomery County Record Book C, page 293. The sale of John Jr’s inventory took place in 1820 and Elizabeth had to buy back what she needed and wanted of her own things but that was how the law was in those days. John Sr. had remarried while in Virginia, this time to Alice Wilson. John and Alice had no children. Alice stayed at Greenwood Mills in Virginia and John Sr. spent most of his remaining years at Cabin Row Plantation in Tennessee. John Sr.’s only surviving bloodline family member was his granddaughter, Eliza Ann McAlister who was 2 years and 4 months of age. On May 25, 1824, Elizabeth H.(Bosley) McAlister married Benjamin S. Neblett.

John’s farming operation was very diversified and yet for that time period that was necessary. As farming today is more a specialized operation, it is interesting to discover as you read through inventory sales records, just how much knowledge this older generation of people had to have, how many different things they had to know how to do for they had to make, build and/or furnish for themselves everything and anything. It is recorded in the 1811 Montgomery County Court Minutes that John claimed the stock mark of a Swallow fork in each ear of each of his stock, plus a hole in the right ear of each stock. It was in 1813 that several jurors were appointed to mark a road from John’s Cabin Row Plantation on the Barren Fork of Bartons Creek to Palmyra, Montgomery County, Tennessee. Just when John started bringing slaves from Frederick County, Virginia to Tennessee is not known, but we do know that he did have them to be able to operate the farming of such a vast acreage. John was also pursuing a iron furnace for he had made arrangements for 515 acres of land to be used for this purpose and the coaling fields needed to supply the iron ore for the furnace. His land was rich in iron ore. He had hired a Iron Master by the name of Thomas Yeatman of Nashville, Tennessee, to build and operate said furnace. After his death this furnace did materialize and was known as Lafayette Furnace, situated on the eastern side of the land close to where his house was located and the Cemetery, and east of modem day Devers Road before it conjuncts with Thompson Road.

On January 2, 1826, John Sr. wrote his Will on a single piece of paper (both sides) at his Cabin Row Plantation in Montgomery County, Tennessee. The first Item of his Will was to cover any just debts he might have. The second Item was to cover the freedom of his slaves” that I do now freely Will and devise, emancipate, and set free, all my slaves except Dick who ran away, to be free forever for their faithful servitude and fidelity to me and my family, Slavery being a bitter cup, let who will taste it.” This is only a small portion of the provisions he made for his slaves not only in Montgomery County but also those in Virginia. He sent $100 dollars in cash to Negro Robert and $100 dollars in cash to Negro John in Virginia for them to buy what supplies the Virginia slaves would need to bring with them on their horses to get to Tennessee and live with the Tennessee slaves on the 1,000 acres of land he Willed set aside for them to live on with total provisions including housing, farming implements, household provisions, warm blankets, food, and permanent provisions for those too old and/or sick, as long as they were under such inability, to make subsistence for themselves. His provisions for said slaves covered in detail such explicit provisions that they covered more than one third of his entire Will. For those who are not aware of the laws in those days, it was against the law for the slaves to be given money or to educate your slaves, not being able to know how to read or write or have money was supposed to keep them totally dependant on their owners which was also to act as a preventative means to keep them from running away. Obviously John had respect for his slaves and they for him for he provided them with copies of that portion of his Will so they could see for themselves what he had done for them. How did he know they could read this portion of his Will? The same could be asked as to how did he know Negroes John and Robert in Virginia knew how to spend the money to buy the supplies needed to get to Tennessee? Could this be TRUST? John’s Will is recorded in Book E, page 33 of the Montgomery County Record Books in the Registra’s Office. These records are now in the Montgomery County Archives office.

John McAlister Sr. died on January 23, 1826, he was the third person to be buried in McAlister Cemetery. He too had a metal covering placed over his grave and it too is gone now so I do not know if any thing was written on this marker. Thomas Batson Sr. was Executor of his Will along with James Elder and James McClure and his Jurant’s were John W. Ussery, James B. Reynolds and Benjamin Neblett. His Will was rendered October Term 1826. The date of his death was really unknown as it is not recorded here, but, “The Nashville Whig” newspaper carried a death notice on January 28, 1826 which stated he died on the 23rd instant, and that he had served in the Baltimore Troops of Cavalry during the Revolutionary War at the battle of York. John McAlister had many other connections in Nashville other than the James G. Robertson and John Bosley families and I am sure some of these persons were responsible for this notice in the various Nashville papers. The “Nashville Whig” newspaper carried a longer and more thorough death notice than the others, including the “Tuscumbian” newspaper of Alabama. John’s sister Elizabeth Bush lived in this area of Alabama.

John trusted his Executors in Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland so much that he stated there would be no security required of either my Executors by any Court when they grant them Letters of Administration, as I have full confidence in their honesty and integrity. Such trust would be a great honor. The security at that time was like $10,000 dollars. Thomas Batson had the hard job. He had to divide the 12,507 acres between John’s two sisters, the grand daughter, the Furnace, and the slave land holdings. The map he drew in detail of each of the divisions and the boundary lines of the 12,507 acres is really a good one, you can see this in Book E, pages 195-197, Montgomery County Record Book. After the Court Clerk drew the map of the land, for some reason he turned the book around as the writing on the map is upside down. Then came the sale of all properties. I have 12 pages of single line buyers, what they bought and how much they paid for it. The names of the buyers of each item are really interesting to read. There are a lot of those family names still around the area today. It was in this inventory that I found John, at age 74, had seven Primers listed in the books sold. What was the need for these beginner school books as there was no one there but him and his slaves? Why did he need 7 Primers?

While John was in North Carolina and effective the 19th day of October 1807, John purchased from Thomas Brown, Esq, of Bladen County, North Carolina, One Thousand Three Hundred acres of land in Montgomery County, heretofore Davidson County, Tennessee. This acreage was part of a purchase by Thomas Brown of Two Thousand Five Hundred and Sixty acres from Jacob Messeck and Ann Messeck, Granted by Patent to Jacob Messeck, Grant NO. 515, and dated the 15th day of September 1787 and Registered in Davidson County, Book A folio (page) 223, July 21st 1788. Messick conveyed this to Thomas Brown as by their deed dated the 15th day of June 1784 and Registered in Bladen County, North Carolina in Book F page 312 the 14th of May 1796. This deed was registered in Montgomery County, Tennessee Book I, pages 767 and 768 in 1807. This 1,300 acre tract of land supposedly adjoined the western side of the 12,000 acre tract of land John purchased from Sarah (Nash) Waddell. This deed was brought to Montgomery County, Tennessee and registered before the deed for the 12,000 acre tract of land. John McAlister, Jr. witnessed both transactions in the North Carolina Courts. John McAlister, Sr, sold to Repps Barnes on August 24, 1820, Recorded in Book L, Page 290, Montgomery County Records, a portion of this land. The above paragraph is offered as an explanation as to how John’s 12,000 acres was increased to 12,507 acres.

Now for the boundary lines of the 12,507 acres: starting at the proximity of the spring waters slightly north of the Chapel Hill United Methodist church area and going 1.465 poles south to the north bank of Middle Barton’s Creek, going 1,366 poles west to past the current Louise Community, go north to the proximity of Vernon Furnace area for 1.465 poles, then east 1,366 poles to the starting point. These were the figures used by Thomas Batson when he had to divide the land at John, Sr.’s death and recorded in Montgomery County records. It was within these boundary lines he divided the acreages for the persons who were to inherit the land. There are a number of other records supplying many other definitions and proof of boundary lines. I have not been able to find the documents where Sarah Nash had the land surveyed at the time she inherited it from Francis Nash, but she did have it surveyed. There were also concrete markers planted in the ground marking the McAlister survey such as MA #1, MA #2 and etc. for there is a Court record of this in Montgomery County. Thomas Batson Sr. divided the land in accordance to John’s Will. Eliza Ann the eight year and 4 month old granddaughter was granted 5,114 acres of land on the west side of the land, which includes what we know now as Louise Community. She married Solomon Davis Raimey, and raised her family in the area of present day Louise Community. The log house Solomon D. built for Eliza Ann (on her land) in the year 1834 before their marriage, still stands today. Montgomery County has numerous descendants of hers as well as those living in other areas of the State and country. Louise got its name from the Louisa Furnace in that area and eventually the name got to be Louise. One of John’s sisters sold her land that she inherited to the Batson family thus allowing the descendants of Thomas Batson Sr. to own the land they had worked on for a number of years.

The Iron Furnace, from the 515 acres John had set aside before 1826, finally came into being after several years had passed and the rights had been sold to someone else, and it was named Lafayette Furnace, which was the most profitable furnace in Montgomery County and in the general area. From this Furnace came sugar kettles shipped to New Orleans, Louisiana and they were considered the best of sugar kettles by the sugar plantations there. John’s dream had come true even though he had been dead several years. Now, what had really happened to John’s slaves? This had been a big question for me for a number of years. One day I made contact with a Mr. Robert McAlister in Arlington, Virginia and he sent me a letter filled with the very information I had feared would not be the way it was intended to be. My fears were laid to rest! John’s slaves were cared for as he had Willed, if they could not be permanently set free in Tennessee and Virginia, they were to be taken north of the Ohio River to a state where they could be free forever. Gallatin County, Illinois received legal papers signed on May 25, 1828 A.D. from the State of Tennessee, brought there by persons with a copy of the John McAlister Will, and 62 of his slaves. There were others who could not be accounted for or who did not show up to be registered, probably out of fear that they may not be actually freed , so we know 62 were registered and given the last name of McAlister. Ponso the carpenter from Tennessee and two others hired an attorney to make sure they were treated as John had wanted them to be. The legal papers in Illinois are dated July 21, 1828 A.D. in the Court of Equality. Their given names are each listed and a brief description of each person. Families were all kept together in registration. In the 1830 Census, most of them were still in Illinois with only a few not accounted for - possibly gone to another state. In 1999 a female descendant of Ponso McAlister (the carpenter from Tennessee who hired the attorney in Illinois) sent a letter and information she had gathered about John McAlister to Mr. Robert McAlister in Arlington, Virginia. She was the supplier of the information of the hiring the attorney and the missing slaves and the unaccounted for freed slaves in the 1830 Census. ( Mr. Robert McAlister from Arlington, Virginia is associated with the organization of the” McAlisters of America” who are responsible for gathering together the families and genealogy of McAlisters of America. They started out in 1991 with 4,000 records and today have better than 70,000 records. There are some 272 different Families and some day many may be tied together from the same progenitor. It is a fine organization.) Ms Brown, the descendant of Ponso, did answer some questions didn’t she? Obviously John trusted his slaves with money because he knew they knew how to use it and probably because he had allowed them to grow and sell things for their own money. Where else would they have obtained money to hire an attorney in a strange town and State. The other question answered was we now know why John’s inventory contained 7 Primers, he had been teaching his slaves to read and write, add and subtract, which was basically the average education for the average person and that he had been doing these things in preparation for their freedom. Apparently he had been planning for this for some time, and knew what he wanted for them and he was aware of his own age. It is said that he was eccentric because he kept a coffin ready for himself at all times in case of his death. At least he chose what wood he wanted and how it was to be made. He was living alone at the time of his death, and I feel he was not eccentric at all but “prepared”. It seemed obvious that he did not want anyone else to own or have his slaves after he died and he had planned well in advance in getting them prepared for how to survive on their own. This would not be easy for them as they had never before known what this would entail.

The State of Tennessee and the Montgomery County Historical Society erected a Tennessee Historical Marker in the county marking the area of McAlister’s Cross Roads on January 18, 2002. This is an honor in his memory and as a descendant, I am very grateful for this honor. There are so many other facets of his life that would bring honor to anyone. The family he descended from was filled with people who stood up for and defended the very principals we cherish the most. Not only did he and his two brothers fight for America’s freedom but so did his father and five of his uncles. Most of these persons are listed in the various military records of several states and most of them are recorded in the DAR Patriot records of long ago. This McAlister family believed in standing up and fighting for what you believe in and I believe that is what John McAlister was doing in 1826 when he Willed his beloved slaves to be set free at whatever expense it took, all to be taken out of his Estate. They too were to be given their wonderful gift of Freedom some years after the Revolutionary War when America fought for their Freedom.

His Estate in Virginia was to be left to the same three family members, sister Elizabeth Bush, sister Mary Chambers and granddaughter Eliza Ann McAlister and their heirs forever. In 1898 when Mary Catherine McAlister published her genealogy book , “Descendants of Archibald McAlister of West Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania 1730-1898”, (all hand gathered and as she knew nothing of the Tennessee group, these were left out of the book) the McAlister land in Frederick County, Virginia was vacant and in shambles. (I have not taken the opportunity to investigate this land as it stands at the current time. But some day I plan to do just that.) Forever is not as far off as it was in 1826 is it? His land in Maryland was willed to Louisa (McAlister) Ward the daughter and only child of his late brother, James McAlister, Jr. This land could have been John and James McAlister Jr’s together. I feel sure the lots in the town of Winchester, Virginia were sold through the years, but I have not investigated that either.

We do know about the Estate in Montgomery County, Tennessee. After the slaves were freed in Illinois, the 1,000 acres set aside for them was divided between the sister Elizabeth Bush, sister Mary Chambers and granddaughter Eliza Ann McAlister. These lands have been bought and sold many times since 1826. The McAlister Cemetery is now in the midst of privately owned land and is absolutely in shambles. There are eight known persons buried in that Cemetery; Elizabeth McAlister, John McAlister Jr, John McAlister Sr, Martha Eleanora Raimey, (John Sr's great-granddaughter), Louella Hunter Raimey, (John Sr's great-granddaughter), both of these were daughters of Eliza Ann McAlister Raimey, Dick Dixon, (John Sr's great-great-grandson), Eliza Ann McAlister Raimey (the granddaughter) and her husband Solomon Davis Raimey. This Cemetery is located in the Community known today as Cabin Row. How fitting a place for it as this was the name John named his 12,507 acre Plantation so many years ago and the present day Cabin Row Community is on that land and so close to where John lived and is buried. There is another Cemetery between McAlisters and the actual Cabin Row Community. It is called The Cabin Row Cemetery. The old graves there are all marked with large rocks, some of the newer graves have headstones and this Cemetery is also in shambles. I am led to believe there is a newer Cabin Row Cemetery than this one. This older Cabin Row Cemetery has been there for a long, long time and could possibly have been started as the Cemetery for the slaves.

The name for the Community of Cabin Row goes back to about 1807, the land on which it stands is historic land having been a Revolutionary War land grant to a very Historic Revolutionary War General, Francis Nash, sold to another Revolutionary Soldier, John McAlister, Sr. John McAlister, Sr left one female, direct line, descendant to carry the bloodline through numerous descendants with beginnings here in Montgomery County, Tennessee and he left 62 Registered freed slaves in Illinois (and their families). This came about in the years of 1826-1828, a long time before 1861- 1865, and this was an act from the heart of a man who loved and respected all mankind.

Yes, John McAlister left a large mark in the history of Montgomery County, Tennessee and even larger shoes to be filled by us who follow.

I have tried to go through records of at least 177 years of age and construct some information about John McAlister’s family before him, during his time and years following his lifetime. This is to give some insight as to the family he came from, their values as humans, their accomplishments that help reflect character, how circumstances through his family fit into how he got to Montgomery County, Tennessee, and what he did with his life after he got here. His character and his humanities speak for themselves. We now know how the present day community of Cabin Row got it’s name and how long it has been around and what a part it plays in Montgomery County history. I do not feel I can do justice to those big shoes.

By Dorothy E. Hodges, a g-g-g-g-granddaughter, March 2003

Bill and Dorothy Hodges

Corrected and amended 2005.