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Early Settlers

Gravlee Family of Walker County

Researched, written  and submitted by Gene Gravlee-2004

The Gravlee family first came into Walker County in 1820 and settled on the banks of the Mulberry River in what is called today Rice’s bottoms.  This area is just up the Mulberry River toward Cullman County from where the Mulberry and the Sipsey fork to form the Warrior River.  Some of the information contained is taken from a letter written by William Gravlee and information, which was written in his family Bible which, is in my possession.

The ancestors of William Gravlee were John Gravely and his wife Margaret “Peggy” Ballinger of Pickens District, South Carolina.  John and Peggy were the parents of Labum Gravely.  Labum married Mary Blythe, the daughter of William and Sarah Murphy Blythe.  Labum and Mary married about the year 1804 and about 1808 they moved to Rhea County, Tennessee having two daughters, Sarah and Margaret.  William was born February 9, 1810 and John was born May 31, 1812.  In April 1814 Labum Gravely died leaving Mary alone with four children to raise and care for.  Mary married once more in 1817 to Thomas Drennen and they had two children, Walter Blythe Drennen and Mary Drennen who died as an infant.  The Drennen families of Cullman County are the descendants of Walter Blythe Drennen.  This includes the Don Drennen family in the Birmingham area today.

 In 1819, Mary sold out her possessions and started the move to Alabama and stopped in the Wills Valley in the Cherokee Nation to make a crop.  April 18, 1820 is the date that Mary and her children landed on the Mulberry River, about a mile from Hambys old mill.  Thomas Drennen had stayed behind in Tennessee to collect some old debts and never arrived in Alabama.  There was a letter received from Thomas, but he was never heard from again.  Once more Mary was alone to raise children by herself and she never remarried.  Mary Drennen died on June 28, 1841 after losing a bout with typhoid fever.  Mary had been a member of the Primitive Baptist Church for about eighteen years.  Sarah, her oldest married Manley Stewart by whom she had two sons, John and William.  William Stewart fell in the Battle of Murphresboro and I do not know what happened to John.  Sarah died May 31, 1841.  Mary’s other daughter married William Butt, the son of William Butt Sr. who was one of the first settlers on the Mulberry River.  William and Mary Butt had several children, Marley A. Butt who was killed during the War Between the States, William who resided in Walker County and some daughters.  Mary Butt died June 21, 1841.

 John Gravlee married Rebecca Cromwell the daughter of a well known and well to do and respectable farmer.  She lived only a few years and John was married a second time to Lizzie Calvert.  They raised a large family and moved to Texas after the War Between the States.

 William Gravlee married the daughter of John Fowler of Blount County near the town of Blountsville.  John Fowler’s wife was Lucy Whitaker and there were several children of this marriage including Williams’ wife, Martha Cara Fowler.  John Fowler’s father was Godfrey Fowler who fought in the American Revolution with the North Carolina Militia.  William and Martha Cara Gravlee were married February 17, 1831 and of this union there were seven sons and four daughters.  The children were John David, William Hardy, Walter Godfrey, Mary Lucintha, Jesse Lafayette, Martha America, Harvey Jackson, George Washington, Elizabeth Caroline, Daniel Houston and Nancy Matilda.  William Gravlee was a farmer in the Cordova area, operated several boats which hauled goods down the Warrior River, was involved in the first coal mining operations on the Warrior River and was elected to represent Walker County in the Alabama State Legislature in 1861.  William Gravlee is also the person who changed the spelling of the surname, as we know it today from GRAVELY TO GRAVLEE.  William Gravlee was illiterate and attended school with his children so that he might be better educated.

 John David Gravlee married Irville Whorton and they had four sons and one daughter.  John David joined Major Hewlett’s calvary in 1862and was discharged in 1863 because of poor health.  John and Irville Gravlee’s children were, Dr. William Isaac “Willie” Gravlee who married Sarah Dorendia Sally Parchman in 1877, John Winston “Wint” Gravlee who married Susan Savannah Vanna Grimes, Hubbard Barker Gravlee who married Mary Etta Linda Phillips, George Gravlee who married Emma Stephens and Alta Gravlee who married Jack Cates.

 Mary Lucintha Gravlee married D. E. “Buddy” Mullins and had at least one child, William W. Mullins.   I have found that “Buddy” Mullins is listed as both B. E. and D. E. Mullins.  They moved to Tennessee after the War Between the States and in 1881 Mary died and was buried near Franklin, Tennessee.  Her husband Buddy went to Texas and I lost track of him.

  William Hardy Gravlee died in 1855 from congestion of the brain at only 20 years of age and he never married.

 Walter Godfrey Gravlee married Sarah Anne Elizabeth Roberts, the daughter of Abraham M. Roberts.  They lived in Jasper and had four sons and three daughters.  The children of this marriage were Dr. William L. (Bill) Gravlee, Martha A. Gravlee who married Dr. J. A. Goodwin, John A. Gravlee who married Lettitia E. (unknown last name), Walter Forest Gravlee, Joseph Mortimer Gravlee, Lillian Gravlee who married a Davidson and Jessie Gravlee who married a Burt.  During the War Between the States, he was an owner of a gristmill and he was required to stay home and operate the mill while four of his brothers went to fight. 

 Martha America Gravlee married E. J. Rice who was a Captain in the Confederate Calvary during the War Between the States.  E. J. Rice was the son of James Rice and Mahulda Cannon Rice from Cullman County.  Their children were Effie Eugenia Rice who married Thomas Gaulding on December 26, 1880, Florence O. Rice who married A. W. Kerr, Sale Rice, Will Rice, Ralph Rice, Meta Rice and Emma Rice.  Sometime around 1880, this family moved to Texas and some of their descendants live in the Dallas and Fort Worth area at this writing.

 George Washington “Wash” Gravlee married Czarina Nalls.  During the War Between the States he joined Major Hewlett’s Calvary and was a Lieutenant in Captain E. J. Rice’s company.   “Wash” was in the surrender and left Walker County to make his home in Fayette County and raised their children, Wiley Walter Gravlee who married Mamie Bell Bridges, William Nathan Gravlee who married Mattie Lou Hodge, Ila Gravlee who married Hugh Oscar White, Cara Czarina Gravlee who married John O. Walker, Mary Gravlee, George Jeter Gravlee who married Pearl Barnette, Macon Washington Gravlee who married Jimmie Nell Branyon, Bradley Gravlee, Leland Clark Gravlee Sr. who married Mary Annie Wright, James Bailey Gravlee who married Mamie Louise Vassar and Mimmie Metta Gravlee.

 Jesse Lafayette Gravlee joined the Confederate Army just as his other brothers had done.  Jesse was a Lieutenant in Captain F. A. Gamble’s company in the 28th Regiment and was wounded in Wild Cat Gap in Bragg’s retreat from the north.  Jesse was taken to the hospital in Montgomery where doctors amputated his leg above the knee.  He suffered the most excruciating pain until his death on November 30, 1862.  William Gravlee went to Montgomery to escort his body back home for burial but upon arriving in the Democrat (Sumiton) area, found that heavy rains had caused the rivers to be flooded and had to make a raft in order to take the body across the Mulberry River.  Jesse was buried at Rice’s Chapel Church Cemetery in the family plot.

 Harvey Jackson Gravlee also joined F. M. Musgrove’s Company and fought the entire war in the calvary.  He married Nancy Narcissus Gaines the daughter of George Shipp Gaines and Francis Ann Elizabeth Jones Gaines on December 20, 1872.  The Gaines family was from Corona.  George Shipp Gaines parents were Henry Pendleton Gaines and Nancy Shipp Gaines.  The Gaines family was from Virginia, North Carolina and Greene County Alabama before coming to Walker County Alabama.  “Jack” and “Nan” raised a very large family to adulthood.  Their children were Clyde who married Minnie Forrester, Walter Sylvester Gravlee who married Pearl Mamie Tanner, Jessie Gravlee who married James Garfield Barton, Grady Gaines Gravlee who married Olathe Parsley, George Strother Gravlee who married (1) Lillian F. York, (2) Ada Elizabeth Sellers, Lula Gravlee who married Alexander Hasslevander Roberson, Robert Earl Gravlee who married Madge McNeil, and Cara Ruth Gravlee who married John Vance Ward.  Jack Gravlee spent most of his life in Walker County where he was in the mercantile business.  He was also postmaster at the Gravleeton post office as William Gravlee had been before him.  The Gravleeton Post Office was located near Rice’s Chapel on the Old Baltimore Road.

Elizabeth Caroline Gravlee first married Martin Roberts, the son of Marcus Roberts.  They had one child Laura who lived to be 21 years of age.  When Martin Roberts died, Caroline married William H. Duffee.  Their children were Ella Duffee, Cecil Gravlee Duffee who married Nell Devine, Daniel Jackson Duffee and Walter George Duffee who married a Bessie W. (last name unknown to).  Even though Caroline and William lived and died in the Walker County area, some of their children moved away to other parts of Alabama.  Some of their descendants are in the Birmingham area today.

 Daniel Houston Gravlee lived at the old homeplace with his brother Jack Gravlee and was in the mercantile business with him.

Nancy Matilda Gravlee married Thomas Peter Lamkin a son of Griffin and Sarah (Thacker) Lamkin.  Thomas Peter Lamkin was a Confederate soldier in Company F. Sixteenth Alabama Infantry and served until the close of the war.  Griffin Lamkin was a soldier in the war of 1812, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  After the War Between the States, Thomas Lamkin was a successful businessman and farmer.  He was active in the United Confederate Veterans and he commanded the Alabama Division of Veterans. Their children were Griffin Lamkin who married Bessie McCarty, Kenneth Lamkin and Alma Lamkin.  I understand that there were four children, but I only have three in my records.

 Most of Jack Gravlee’s children moved from Walker County, but one who lived most of his life in Walker County was my grandfather, George Strother Gravlee.  Strother Gravlee was born in Gravleeton but lived in Sumiton for very long time.  He was an ordained Baptist Minister, a Justice of the Peace who signed many documents for people in the area, a schoolteacher and the operator of a small country store.  Strother married Lillian F. York the daughter of J. Barney York and Octavia Gresham on June 5, 1902 and they had three children: Clyde Lester Gravlee who married Palestine Key, Myrtle Josephine Gravlee who married Paul Francis Corbett and Nancy Ava Gravlee who married William Homer Sides.  After Lillian’s death, Strother married Ada Elizabeth Sellers on September 26, 1909.  “Lizzie” was the daughter of John Walton Sellers and Missiniah Ellen Wilson Sellers.  From this union were born the following children: George Clarence Gravlee, who married Julia Peyton Rudisill, Walton Jackson Gravlee who married Willie Mae Roberts, Mabel Ellen Gravlee who married Francis Bernard Miller, Grey Strother Gravlee who married (1) Amy Dewise Black (2) Thelma Spears, Gaines Pendleton Gravlee who married Elizabeth Ann Hornsby, Elizabeth Gravlee who married Otis Edward Moss, Myra Opal Gravlee who married Odell Felton Grady, Carie Marquerite Gravlee who married Thomas Eugene Tidwell and Leila Carolyn Gravlee who married Vernon Allen Gaines.

 Research and sources:  Gene Gravlee