John D Terrell

The following article was taken from the Aberdeen Examiner July 2, 1936, written by Dr. W. A. Evans of Aberdeen, MS in a series of articles about Monroe County. 

“The boundaries of Marion County Alabama were defined on the North, East and South, but on the West, it was bounded by the line between Alabama and Mississippi, when it was run out.

The country east of the river was regarded in Alabama, and the old pioneers for several years voted with Marion County. The Alabama judges held courts, whose jurisdiction extended over Monroe to the river.

When delegates to frame the constitution of Alabama were elected, Monroe voted with Marion. John D. Terrell was one of the delegates elected from Marion and served in the convention with Dr. John L. Tindall, Sr., from Tuscaloosa.

Although it was found that Terrell lived in Marion County after the State line was run out, it seemed legitimate that he should be sketched in this series because he had been identified with Monroe. He settled in a very early day, on Buttahatchie, near the crossing of the military road between Toll Gate and Pikeville. He got his first year’s supply of corn from Levi Colbert, who lived on the bluff west of Cotton Gin Port, near the old cotton gin, erected during Gen. Washington’s administration and near the enormously large spreading oak known as the council tree.

Levi Colbert was the head chief of the Chickasaws, a half breed Indian of the highest order of intellect, and though he could neither read nor write, he was not surpassed by any in Indian in the South, not excepting Alexander McGillivary, the chief of the Cherokees, who had a splendid education.

John D. Terrell had a superior mind, and was educated thoroughly, being familiar with all the sciences. The acquaintance made between these two extraordinary men was cemented into a lasting friendship. John D. Terrell often visited the old chief, and they remained in close consultation for a week or more at a time; it never transpired on what subjects they conversed.

John D. Terrell was a practical surveyor. It was known his services, as surveyor, were devoted to making surveys in the Chickasaw Nation agreeably to the directions of the old chief. After the death of Levi Colbert, which took place soon after the treaty with the Chickasaws, there was found among the chief’s papers, a plat 10 miles square in the Tennessee Valley, below Tuscumbia. This plat was drawn and in the handwriting of John D. Terrell; for what purpose is not known as his family did not own these lands after the treaty.

In the former treaty there was a reservation made on the north of the Tennessee River. It is still called “Colbert’s Reserve.” Expecting a treaty would be made, the old chief may have prepared, in case there were reservations granted.

After the constitution of the State was made, John D. Terrell was elected a representative in the Legislature and served as Probate Judge of Marion County for many years. He often surveyed tracts of land for the accommodation of his neighbors. He was so thoroughly informed on all subjects that it was a pleasure to converse with him. He was hospitable; delighted to have company, and invited numbers to make his house their home while hunting or fishing. All kinds of game were abundant, but he never hunted. The Buttahatchie was noted for its trout fishing; he would have the bait procured for his friends, but he never fished, asked to be excused and turned to his books; he devoured every book to be procured, and that most thoroughly, and delighted in solving the most abtruse problems in all sciences; he was a perfect bookworm. With his extraordinary talents, he grasped the subject under discussion and as public speaker, his oratory was of the first order. He had no love of money beyond its use; was kind and charitable to the poor and those in distress. Should there be a difficulty between his neighbors, he devoted himself to heal the difference and with his great talents and popularity, he was regarded as a peace-maker among neighbors.

Men of towering intellects have solid convictions, think for themselves and are governed accordingly, and are more of less regarded as eccentric. He belonged to the hard shell Baptist Church. His grace was “Lord bless us and our supper,” or “Lord bless us and our breakfast, “ etc. Were I sufficiently acquainted with his character many eccentricities could be given. Let one suffice.

His lands on the river were very rich, and had a growth of timber only found on rich soil. He selected a walnut tree, had it cut down, and into stocks; these were hauled to a mill and sawed into lumber as he directed. Out of this lumber he made, with his own hands, his coffin, it was made somewhat like a chair, and when finished he got into it, to see if it would fit.

He valued very highly a panther skin vest, likely the gift of some chieftain or valued friend; of course its value was in the associations connected with it. He gave directions to his sons that after his death the panther-skin vest should be placed on him, he then should be placed in his chair coffin and with a blanket around his shoulders, should be buried in a grave dug on the top of a high mound in the river bottom. His wishes were carried out; a deep grave was dug on the top of the mound; he was placed in his chair coffin as directed, and a large box was let down over him, and so was buried John D. Terrell, a man of talents of the highest order.”

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