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Fayette County, Alabama
~ The Treadaways of Fayette County ~

Article and photographs generously contributed by
John N. Hudson

According to the Treadaway website, there are four main lines of Treadaways in America.  My line, and all the Treadaways mentioned below in Fayette County, are descendents of the Richard Treadaway branch.

The first Richard hailed from Chalfont, St. Peter, Buckinghamshire, England, was born in 1677, and settled in what is now Baltimore, MD, around 1701.  He married Jane Isabella Parker (her third marriage) shortly thereafter and their first child was a son, Richard, born in 1706.  He is the second Richard in the chain.

The second Richard was married twice, first to Martha Fountaine, the daughter of Rev. Peter Fountaine, and then to Elizabeth Cole.  He migrated eventually to Cumberland Co., NC, around 1756.  His youngest child, Daniel, lived in Anson Co., NC, and is our link to the other two Richards.

Daniel was born around 1758 in Baltimore and married Mary Jones in 1776 in Cumberland Co., NC.  He was a soldier during the Revolutionary War, serving in the Militia Horse Company, and was stationed in Fayetteville.  A note in Randy's website says that "many believe that Daniel was the son of William, while others believe he is the son of Richard."  The genealogy vision from this point forward becomes much less foggy.

The second Daniel was born in Anson Co., NC, in 1786, and married Elizabeth Stegall in 1810.  Elizabeth was born in the same area of North Carolina, the daughter of Moses Stegall.  Daniel died in 1859, and Elizabeth died in 1872.  Both are buried in North Carolina.

Here is where the plot thickens, and the modern saga of the Treadaways begins!

Daniel and Elizabeth were parents to thirteen children.  Their firstborn and oldest was Moses Treadaway, born March 12, 1812, in Anson Co., NC.  Moses was what many folks refer to as "the black sheep" of the family, and even today in North Carolina he is an enigma and an embarrasment.  I view him as a "loose cannon" of questionable character, morals and courage.  I'll begin with him, since the story gets jumbled without his historical input.

Moses was married to, or partners with, three different women, two with whom he fathered children.  He married (no record found) Mary Ragsdale on Jan. 1, 1829.  Mary was born circa 1810 in North Carolina.  Their first two children died in infancy in 1830 and 1832.  Their third child, Francis Marion Treadaway (see photo below), born in 1833, survived infancy and then went on to survive almost incredible odds against him for the rest of his life.  He was my great-great-grandfather and is one of the first Treadaways in Fayette County.

Francis Marion and the rest of Old Moses' (as I like to refer to him) family were listed in the 1850 Union (previously Anson) Co., NC, census (Moses, 38; Mary, 40; Francis M., 16; Henry, 14; Steven, 10; Eli, 9; and Evalina, 3 mos.).  This is important, because it shows that this particular family was intact in North Carolina at least until 1850.

Randy's website above lists only four children of Old Moses and Mary Ragsdale who made it to adulthood: Francis Marion, Henry G., Steven, and Evalina.  However, I am almost certain from family anecdotal evidence that Eli Asco, another child of Moses, was born to Mary Ragsdale, and not to Moses' second wife/partner, Mary Polly Stegall.
It is doubtful that there was a marriage between Polly Stegall and Moses other than common law.  The reason for this is that Polly was Moses' first cousin.  Polly was born in 1820 in Anson Co., NC, the daughter of John and Thesa Stegall.  John Stegall was the brother of Elizabeth Stegall, Moses' mother.  Strike 1 against Old Moses.

Mary Polly was listed in the 1850 North Carolina census living two doors down from Old Moses' family (Mary, 30; Margaret, 8; Miniza, 7; Nicholas, 5; and Louisa, 2).  Then in the 1860 Union Co., NC, census she was listed as living with her stepson Eli Asco, all using the Treadaway name.  Then again in the 1870 North Carolina census, Mary Polly and Moses and their children were listed together.  The War Between the States got in the way between the last two censuses, as will be recounted below.

The obvious and painful answer one is forced to conclude when faced with the question, "What's wrong with this picture?," is that Moses was fathering children by both women at the same time, and the question of whether he married either is uncertain.  Incest first and now bigamy.  Strike 2 against Old Moses.

Move to Alabama

This situation had to change!  No one knows for certain what happened to split up the Moses Treadaway-Mary Ragsdale relationship, but sometime after 1850 Mary loaded up her belongings, four kids, a rooster, and a dog in Mapan oxcart and left North Carolina headed for Fayette Co., AL.  My uncle John Lazenby, Jr., related this story to me of Mary's trek, and told me that somewhere along the way the dog got lost.  Three months later the dog showed up in Fayette County.  Now that's a dog with an exceptional nose!  It is possible and probable that their uncle, Wade Hampton Treadaway, traveled with them on this trip, since he homesteaded land in Fayette County about the same time in the late 1850's as did Francis Marion, Henry G. and Steven C., Mary Ragsdale's children.  Wade Hampton was Old Moses' brother, but was 21 years younger, born in 1833.  He and Francis Marion were born in the same year and grew up together and, along with F.M.'s other siblings, shared their lives together.  The four Treadaway men who came to Alabama at this time filed for land patents in Fayette County about the same time, from 1857 to 1860 (click on map at left to enlarge).

I often like to speculate about what motivated Mary Ragsdale to finally leave North Carolina.  She would have been over 40 in 1850, and Moses was probably spending more time with the younger woman, Mary Polly.  Francis Marion was rapidly approaching his 20th year and assuming head-of-household duties and becoming more protective of his mother.  Did he and Moses have a falling out?  That's a given.  I know for a fact there was bad blood between Francis Marion and Old Moses, because F.M.'s daughter Bessie Treadaway Johnson, told our family that during the early part of the Civil War, when F.M.'s and Old Moses' units were near each other (possibly in Virginia or Maryland) that F.M. went over to see his father and Old Moses refused to speak with him.  Now that is cold!  F.M. was with the Alabama 26th Inf. and Old Moses was with the North Carolina 37th Inf. regiment.  Their units were near each other several times during the war, including Chancellorsville, but their rendezvous would not have been at Chancellorsville for several reasons, the most glaring of which is because Old Moses deserted his unit a month before Chancellorsville and never returned.  Dishonoring his oldest son and his regiment, too!  Strike 3 against Old Moses.  But enough about him; his Alabama sons from Fayette County more than made up for his lack of valor and discretion.

The Civil War years

When the Civil War started Francis Marion and younger brother Steven (Stephen C.) enlisted in Company C of the 26th Alabama Inf. together in 1861 — F.M. as a 3rd Sgt and Stephen as a private.  The author of the internet website dedicated to the 26th Alabama, Tod Molesworth (a Yankee by birth but self-proclaimed Southerner by heart), became fascinated with the history of the 26th when he started looking at various regiments to research because it was engaged in all the big battles in the east.  Indeed it was.  Here is a brief history of this regiment as provided by Molesworth:
"This Regiment fought throughout the War for Southern Independence.  Formally accepted into the Confederate Army in Tuscumbia, Alabama in December of 1861, it used the 10 Company 3rd Alabama Battalion as a nucleus.  Men were recruited mainly from Marion and Fayette Counties with a few from Walker, Winston, Tuscaloosa (Co. G) and Jefferson Counties.  The names of the towns in Northwest Alabama bear witness to the roots of the Regiment as they bear the names of troops who served, and died, in the War for Southern Independence.  Names like Glasgow Corner, Wigington, Guin, Bankston, Belk, Hamilton, Goddard, Barnesville, Stewart and Berry.  While I've always heard of how much shorter men were during these times, I was quite shocked to see many instances of these farm boys approaching and surpassing 6 feet in height!  So they weren't only giants in courage but giants in stature as well.

"This proud regiment was in the brigade (1200 men) that held up Meade's Division in rearguard action at Frosttown Road Gorge in the Battle of Boonesboro (South Mountain) as well as held "Bloody Lane" while vastly outnumbered three days later at Sharpsburg.  It was also one of the first regiments to breech the works at Chancellorsville on Stonewall Jackson's brilliant flank attack on May 2, 1863 and obtained further glory the next day by charging and taking the breastworks twice only in conjunction with the 5th Alabama and having to fall back due to lack of support.  When they were finally re-enforced they again charged and took the breastworks for the final time.  By the end of that battle the Regiment was under command of a 1st Lt. Miles Izates Taylor, Company H.

"After the officer corps was decimated at Chancellorsville, the regiment again suffered at Gettysburg and were very small in number when detailed to transport one of the first group of prisoners to the new Prison Camp near Sumter, Georgia on February 15, 1864.  While the camp was called Andersonville and will forever live unjustly in infamy in Northern eyes, I've found and am tracking down references from survivors stating the integrity of men of the 26th Alabama (four so far including the Powell letter).  They were temporarily assigned there for three months to build up their strength and rest and the Federal men were actually sad to see them go!  They were then assigned to the Army of Tennessee for the rest of the war and were again badly hurt at Peachtree Creek, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.  The 26th Alabama finished the war with very few members left in the ranks (31 with 16 original (1861/2) members), but luckily quite a few lived through the experience of being a prisoner of war or the horror of the hospitals of the time to give us some historical references through the Alabama Department of History."
... and here is Francis Marion's part in the fray:
"Francis Marion 'Fill' Treadaway - Captain - Born September 16, 1833 in Union District, North Carolina and enlisted as 3rd Sgt. December 7, 1861.  Promoted to 2nd Lt. August 25, 1862, 1st Lt. on July 3, 1862 and commanded Company at South Mountain, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  Wounded at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863 and admitted to #11 Hospital.  Present at Andersonville as 1st Lt. April, 1864.  Wounded at Battle of Ezra Church, Georgia on July 28, 1864 and furloughed home on August 18, 1864.  Took oath in New Madrid, Missouri on May 14, 1865 and listed residence as Obion, Tennessee.  Lived in Carbon Hill, Alabama by 1911."
... and younger brother Steven's experience:
"Stephen Treadaway - Pvt. - Captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 and joined Captain Ahle's Battery on August 1, 1863."
The reference to Captain Ahle's Battery mystified me, since I could not find any Ahle's Battery in any Confederate references.  Then, after corresponding with Molesworth, I learned that Ahle's Battery was a detachment associated with a Union prison, and that Stephen, after being captured at Gettysburg, was forced to either rot in a Yankee prison or sign on with one of their units.  Apparently he chose the latter, since he survived the war and was living with his brother Francis Marion in the 1870 census in Fayette County.  He later married Nancy Picron and moved to Arkansas.  They had eight children.
The middle Treadaway brother, Henry G., ended up on the other side of the fence, so to speak.  When the Treadaway clan arrived in Alabama from North Carolina, both Henry and his uncle Wade married into the Lawrence family of Fayette County.  Henry married Susannah (Susan) Lawrence, and Wade married Martha Ann Lawrence, both daughters of Alexander and Nancy Lawrence.  Old man Alexander Lawrence was very much against secession from the Union, and persuaded his sons Alexander Jr.,William and Jesse as well as his sons-in-law Henry and Wade to sign up with the 1st Alabama Cavalry, U.S., a Yankee outfit composed of men from the counties of northwest Alabama who sympathized with the Union.  Winston County never did secede and had many soldiers in this regiment.  Fayette County was pretty much evenly split in its affiliations and loyalties, so not only was the county split politically over the war but also the Treadaways were equally divided. 

As a side note, Old Moses back in North Carolina, at the age of 50 decided to enlist in the 37th NC Inf. and his son Eli Asco, who had remained in North Carolina with his stepmother Polly and kids, enlisted in the 26th NC Inf.  Eli served honorably and was wounded in battle.  Moses got into the fray early in the Battle of Hanover Courthouse in Virginia, was captured by the enemy and served a month in a Yankee prison.  After a month the Yankees couldn't stand him any longer and exchanged him and others for some of their own held by the Rebels.  This occurred in 1862, and by the spring of 1863 Old Moses had lost his verve for war and left for home, hiding out at his sister's house and possibly even wandering into Georgia and Alabama during this time.  Family tradition says that Moses and Polly lived in Alabama for about three years and then moved back to North Carolina (maybe after the war when the heat died down).  He ended up in Swain County in what is now the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and was an early county commissioner.  Moses died in 1890 and was the first white man to be buried in the Towstring cemetery in Swain Co., NC.  After his death Polly moved to Wilkes Co., NC, to be with her children and died there in 1896.
It is interesting to ponder the notion whether, since F.M. Treadaway was wounded in the battle of Ezra Church in the defense of Atlanta, and since Henry (his brother) and Wade (his uncle) were engaged in the 1st AL Cav, U.S., as escorts for Sherman's Union army in their march to the sea through Atlanta, maybe these two sets of Treadaways could have been firing at each other across the same field.  I have not researched Henry's and Wade's service records, but I keep wondering how close the warring Treadaways came to each other in battle.  Not a comforting thought to think you may be shooting at your own brother.
F.M. Treadaway, and Steven, are the shining stars on the Confederate Battle Flag.  The 26th Alabama and the 5th Alabama were the elite Confederate troops.  Here are the battles they were involved in: Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg (Antietam's Bloody Lane), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville (26th AL was the spear in Jackson's all-night march and attack on Hooker's flank), Gettysburg, Atlanta, Franklin (this was the most horrible fighting of the war) and Nashville.  What are the chances of surviving four years in that devils cauldron?  Maybe being wounded was what saved F.M.  He had the rank of captain by war's end, and in his later life everyone referred to him as Capt'n Dick, since he preferred to be called Richard rather than Francis.  I don't blame him. 
And the incredible news is: THEY ALL SURVIVED THE CIVIL WAR!  F.M., Henry, Steven, Wade, Moses and Eli.  But the story is not over for F.M. Treadaway.

Reconstruction in Fayette County
He became sheriff of Fayette County sometime after 1865 and before 1870.  Reconstruction in Alabama was a very turbulent time, and political sentiments ran just as hot as in pre-war days.  During the late 1860's in Fayette and Tuscaloosa counties, the KKK was a dominant force that overwhelmed law enforcement.  The lawlessness became a crisis around 1870, and F.M. Treadaway and his men could not contain the Klan nor bring any of them to justice.  Treadaway pleaded to the Governor for assistance.  John Minnis, the Governor's agent, went to Fayette in 1871 and asked, "With so many men, so well organized, with the power of law on your side, why can't you put down this terrorism?"  The Union men replied, "To do that we must do as they do — disguise and kill." Sheriff Treadaway explained, "When I gather my posse, I could command the posse, and I could depend upon them, but as soon as I get home, I meet my wife crying, saying that they have been there shooting into the house. When we scatter to our houses, we do not know at what time we are to be shot down; and living with our lives in our hands this way, we have become disheartened, and do not know what to do."  Such was life in Fayette Co., AL, in 1871.
Here is an excerpt from Alan Trelease's book, White Terror, the Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction:
"In Fayette County, where Unionist Mossy-backs had engaged the Klan in guerrilla warfare and the sheriff had arrested Ku Klux terrorists in 1870, the terrorists swept aside all resistance and virtually took over in 1871.  Klansmen continued to whip Republicans of both races; they paraded through the countryside in broad daylight, defying the sheriff, the Mossy-backs, and the newly organized local militia, which seems never to have been used.  They attained this power because the forces of law and order, who far outnumbered them, were unwilling or unable to match them in acts of terrorism.  In February, hooded Klansmen rode into Fayetteville, entered the courthouse, removed their disguises, and, with others who joined them, held a convention to nominate candidates for county offices.  The depredations continued through most of the year.  In one case a band of thirty men visited a plantation, drove off the Negro men, and raped the women, including one nearly seventy years old.  Two Klansmen in full disguise rode through Fayetteville during the spring court term, to the cheers of many onlookers; at the fall term both the judge and the grand jury received Ku Klux warning notices.  Crowds of disguised men constantly rode past Sheriff Treadaway's house two miles out of town, cursing, shooting, and threatening his life.  He moved to a remote part of the county and turned over his official business to a deputy.  Less than a month later the deputy was forced to quit.  The grand jury, instead of prosecuting the terrorists, indicted Treadaway and members of his former posse on a variety of nuisance charges brought by Klansmen to make him resign.  One indictment, for petty larceny, arose from the confiscation of two Ku Klux disguises.  Instead of resigning, Treadaway appealed to John A. Minnis, now the United States attorney for this district, who came with a squad of soldiers and prevented his probable conviction.  Minnis himself got warrants for a number of the terrorists; most of them fled, but two were arrested and taken to Huntsville for trial in federal court."
What was happening to the other Treadaways after the war?  Henry served as a justice of the peace during the 1867-1869 period, marrying quite a few couples.  He also was the administrator of the estate of his father-in-law Alexander Lawrence in 1866.  This probate document contains a wealth of information on the Treadaways as well as the Lawrences who lived close by on Pea Ridge.  It tells us that Henry's wife Susannah (Susan) is deceased.  It tells us that their daughter Caroline resides with Henry in 1866, but on the 1870 census Henry was an invalid in F.M.'s home, and Caroline in 1870 was residing in uncle Wade's household.  Something happened to Henry shortly before 1870 that caused him to be an invalid.  Did he contract a disease?  Was he shot in the violence surrounding his brother F.M.?  Did he have an accident?  In any case, he died in 1877.  This document also tells us that Wade and wife Martha were living in Tennessee at the time, but then in the 1870 census show up again in Fayette County.  The document also states that Henry had filed a bond of $1800 to serve as administrator and that F.M. Treadaway and Noah Paris were his securities.
And what about Evalina, the only daughter of Moses and Mary Ragsdale?  She was married in 1867 to Andrew Baker at her brother F.M.'s house.  They had a son in 1869 named after his father.  The were living next door to Steven in the 1870 census, then disappeared ... possibly moving to Arkansas.
And what about their mother, Mary Ragsdale Treadaway?  She shows up in the Fayette County census of 1860, living with her children Henry, Steven and Evalina, although F.M. had moved out or is of unknown whereabouts inTurkey Nest Hill 1860.  Mary is listed in the 1870 Fayette County census and also the 1880 census, living with Mary Berreyhill and next door to her son F.M.  She died in 1885 and is buried in a little hilltop cemetery two miles east of Eldridge, AL, that we call Turkey Nest Hill (photo at right).  The entire area has been stripped of foliage by coal mining, with just a tuft of trees and graves left unscathed so she can rest in peace.  (I have a bad photo of her grave marker taken many years ago.  We have not been able to find that marker again but will continue looking.)

Francis Marion was married on the Fourth of July, 1869, at his father-in-law George Neal's house.  He and his wife Sarah had 13 children (that seems to be the lucky number for kids in our family ... it occurs over and over).  Many of them grew up and spent their lives in and around Fayette and Walker counties.  Some of them were just as colorful as F.M. and his family. 

On down the line

Uncle George (see photo below) was a fiery preacher who shot and killed a man in front of the saloon in Carbon Hill, Walker Co., AL.  He also was remembered for the day he was presiding over a man's funeral, but the congregation weren't shedding any tears, or at least not enough to satisfy uncle George.  So he pulls out his pistol and lays it carefully on the pulpit and tells everyone that he is suspending the funeral for the day, and that they can go home and think about so-and-so and when they come back the next day he wants to see the proper emotions, and when they re-started the funeral on the second day there was just a flood of tears and moaning for the man, and that satisfied uncle George.  And his daughter Bessie taught me at age 5 how to dip snuff and tie my shoelaces and how to spit so you can hit the spittoon with a perfect shot.  And his son Shelton complained about his wife's cooking so much she dumped a pot of dumplings over his head ... on and on.
And Francis Marion Treadaway, the first man to be embalmed in Carbon Hill, AL, when he died in 1913, gave us a legacy that he couldn't possibly have foreseen.  He stood strong for what he thought was right, from the days he and his mom left Old Moses in North Carolina, from his heroic service and valor during the Civil War, from his days as sheriff in the most lawless of times and from his marriage and bringing new life into the world after observing so much death previously.  In 1877 he and Sarah named a son after the man who had saved them from the Klan a few years earlier, John Minnis.  His son was named Frank Minnis Treadaway.  He lived only 20 years and is buried next to his mother Sarah in the Rutledge Family cemetery in Kansas, AL.  And his daughter Bessie Blanche Treadaway, continued the tradition by naming her son Frank Minnis, too: Frank Minnis Johnson, Sr.  He was a circuit judge in north Alabama.  And when he had a son, he too named him Frank Minnis.

Judge Frank Minnis Johnson, Jr., who revered his great-grandfather F.M. Treadaway and walked in his footsteps, became one of the icons of our time (see photo below).  In a three-judge panel in 1956, he reversed a Supreme Court ruling that had stood for 60 years and ruled that Rosa Parks no longer had to ride in the back of the bus.  In effect, this was the echo from the Judicial branch of government of the call that went out from the Executive branch in the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years earlier.  It was the opening volley in the Civil Rights Movement.  And F.M. Treadaway's great-grandson, even though he saw the case as a simple legal and Constitutional matter and not one based on "any personal feeling that segregation was wrong," took a stand like his great-grandpa and buddies did at Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Mechanicsville, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Antietam (Sharpsburg), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Peachtree Creek, Franklin and Nashville.  He did the right thing, based on the Constitution we try to live by.  And the rest is history.
Well, not quite.  We're not finished with F.M. Treadaway just yet.  He is buried in the Pisgah Cemetery in Carbon Hill, and the family and some of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) folks are planning to install a Confederate footstone at his gravesite in the near future, and cousin Jeannette Taylor's group will conduct a service for him then that he would be impressed with.  We are having a replica of the 26th Alabama Infantry battle flag made with all the honors painted on it ... the ones that never did get painted earlier when the war was being lost, like Peachtree Creek and Franklin and Nashville.  And we are having a reunion in June 2006 for the Treadaways in Birmingham.  Why?  Because they are one heck of a family, and Fayette County is a better place for having had them around.
If anyone reading this has any more information on my Treadaway family, cousin Jeannette and I would love to have it.  Old letters, old court records, old photos, anything at all.
Please send additions/corrections to
John N. Hudson
Jeannette Taylor

F.M. Treadaway
Francis Marion TREADAWAY
(circa 1895)

George S. Treadaway
Rev. George S. TREADAWAY

F.M. Johnson Jr.
Judge Frank Minnis JOHNSON Jr.
at grave of F.M. Treadaway
(circa 1997)

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This page last updated 26 May 2006.