Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leighton, Bethel Colbert, Shaw Plantation

Sadie Long Cobb

Huston Cobb, Jr. and his wife, Sadie Long, were married for 50 years prior to her death on January 18, 1998.  Sadie’s mother was Mary Long; her father was Harry Long.  Sadie’s siblings were Mable, Mildred, Pearl, Dorothy, Bobbie Jean, Harry Jr., and John Lewis (Buddy) Long.

Sadie Long initially went to Ricks School at The Oaks which was held in the Mother Church; the black school finally closed in 1937.  After her school was closed, Sadie started to Leighton Training School.  Today, the picture below is all that is left of the black school in Leighton, Alabama.  Huston Cobb said that after desegregation, the Leighton Training School was abandoned because it was in a predominately black neighborhood in the Town of Leighton, Alabama.

Leighton or Jeffrey’s Cross Roads

The Town of Jeffrey’s Cross Roads was one of the early mixed settlements of Celtic Indian people established prior to 1808; this mixed Cherokee and Scots Irish settler town is one of many that were in North Alabama prior to the Indian removal from the area.  Many of the Jeffreys were mixed blood Celtic Indians of Scots Irish and Cherokee ancestry; today, many of the Jeffreys still reside in the area and are state recognized Indians; most Jeffreys that are tribal members belong to the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama.

The area of Jeffreys Crossroads was claimed by Doublehead’s Chickamauga faction of the Lower Cherokees by 1770; however, the area was actually recognized by the United States government as Chickasaw land by the Chickasaw Boundary Treaty of January 10, 1786.  The territory around Leighton remained Indian land until the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816; the treaty was ratified by congress in July 1817.  Shortly after the treaty, white settlers began buying up the land during the 1818 federal lands sales and the town became Leighton, Alabama. 

One early white settler that moved to Jeffreys Cross Roads was the family of William Leigh; therefore, the town became known as Leighton.  William Leigh came to Alabama from Amelia County, Virginia, about 1823 and purchased large tracts of land around the town.  Hershel Leigh from the Town of Leighton married Annie Frances Alexander a descendent of the Alexander Plantation just southeast of Moulton.

The first railroad west of the Appalachians came through the Town of Leighton; the rail line was known as the Decatur to Tuscumbia Railroad.  During the 1830’s, many Indian people that were being removed west rode the railroad from Decatur through Leighton to Tuscumbia Landing on the Tennessee River; the rail line was a route around the Elk River Shoals, Big Muscle Shoals, and Little Muscle Shoals which were barriers to navigation along the Tennessee River from Decatur to Tuscumbia.  The navigational water barriers along the Tennessee River at the shoals were created by vast layers of resistant chert (flint) rock; therefore the railroad was used to circumvent these natural obstacles to water travel through the Muscle Shoals.

On our tour through Leighton, Hutson Cobb pointed out the Westside Church of Christ he now attends; he pointed out houses that were owned by the Claude King.  The King Family came to the area with Abraham Ricks of The Oaks and some 30 other families.  Originally, the east half of Leighton was in Lawrence County and the west half was in Franklin County from 1816 until February 6, 1867; in 1867, the west half became Colbert County and in 1895 the east half was annexed from Lawrence County into Colbert County.

Bethel Colbert Baptist Church

When he was young, Huston Cobb, Jr. was a member of Bethel Colbert Baptist Church for 22 years; however, his family moved their membership to the Westside Church of Christ in Leighton, Alabama.  Huston has been a member of the Westside Church of Christ some 56 years, but he still has a copy of the deed for the Bethel Colbert Baptist Church where he attended church in his youth. 

The Bethel Colbert Church property was bought on May 2, 1911, for the black folks in the area and originally belonged to the slave owning white Shaw Family; Baldy Shaw, who was born about 1820, owned land from Sixth Street to Second Street in Colbert County.  The road that runs past the Shaw Farm and also Huston Cobb’s old home place is called Shaw Road.  J. C. Shaw deeded one and three quarter acres his property on Second Street to Huston Cobb, Jr.’s folks for the black church. 

The deed is as follows: “act of said corporation. Given under my hand this 2 day of May 1911. John E. Delony, Jr., Notary Public. State of Alabama)  I, Oscar G. Simpson, Judge of Probate in and for said State and County, Colbert County) Know all men by these presents, That I, J. C. Shaw, an unmarried man, for and in consideration of One Dollar to me in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby grant, bargain, sell, release, quit claim and convey unto Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, Ed Hill, Alex Stanley and Tom Carter as Trustees and Deacons of the Bethel Colbert Baptist Church (Colored) of Colbert County, Alabama, and their successors in office, the following described real estate lying and being in Colbert County, Alabama, and more particularly described as follows: Commencing at the N. W. corner of Section 35, thence running South 472-1/2 feet to a stake, thence East 139-1/2 feet; thence North 472-1/2 feet to a stake, thence West 139-1/2 to a stake in Section 35, Township 3, Range 9, in said Colbert County, Alabama containing 1.3/4 acres.  To have and hold unto the said Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, Ed Hill, Alex Stanley and Tom Carter as Trustees and Deacons of the said Bethel Church (Colored) and their successors in office forever.  Witness my hand and seal on this the 4th day of May, 1911.  J. C. Shaw (Seal)

State of Alabama) Colbert County) I, John R. Ayers, a Notary Public in and for said County in said state hereby certify that J. C. Shaw whose name is signed to the foregoing conveyance, who is known to me, acknowledged before me on this day that being informed of the contents of the conveyance, he executed the same voluntarily on the day the same bears name.  Given under my hand this the 4th day of May, 1911.  John R. Ayers, Notary Public.

State of Alabama) Colbert County) I, Oscar G. Simpson, Judge of Probate in and for said State and County, hereby certify that the foregoing conveyance was filed in this office for record on the 4th day of May, 1911, and recorded in Deed Record Vol. 15, page this 4th Day of May, 1911.  Oscar R. Simpson, Judge of Probate.

Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, and Tom Carter were great uncles of Huston Cobb, Jr.  They helped build and organize the black church in the early 1900’s for the descendants of former slaves that remained in the area after the Civil War.  Across the road and just west of Bethel Colbert Baptist Church was a one room school that Huston Cobb, Jr. attended; the school was also on the south side of Second Street only a quarter mile east of where Huston lives today.  In 1938 at the age of 12, Huston Cobb, Jr. transferred from the one room school near Bethel Colbert Baptist Church and started to the all black Leighton Training School at Leighton, Alabama.     

Huston and Sadie

At Leighton Training School, Huston’s first teacher Carrie Pierce told the students to write Ms. Sadie Long a letter telling her they missed her at school.  Shortly after receiving the letters, Sadie started back to Leighton School.  At the time Huston wrote his letter to Sadie, she was living with her family in Wooten Field which was located approximately one and one half miles south of Second Street and about three miles southeast of present-day Wise Metal Company (Reynolds).  Sadie’s mother was Mary Mars Long and her father was Harry Long; they were buried in the black Pearsall Cemetery on Ford Road which connects Second Street and the River Road.  Ford Road is just southeast of Stinson Hollow on Wilson Lake in Colbert County, Alabama. 

When Huston wrote his letter, he did not know Sadie Long and had never met her.  When Sadie started coming to Leighton in the sixth grade, Huston Cobb claimed Sadie as his girlfriend after a class picnic in the spring of the year.  Finally, Huston Cobb, Jr. married his long time sweetheart Sadie on October 2, 1947.

Shaw Plantation

During his school days, Huston Cobb had to help on the family farm; as a young man, Huston could pick 300 pounds of cotton per day.  He plowed mules with a turning plow, scratcher, and Georgia stock.  His family planted cotton as the main cash crop and would make 12 to 15 bales of cotton per year which sold for twenty five to thirty cents per pound.  Houston, Sr. and his boys farmed the land where Huston, Jr. lives today near the corner of Second Street and Shaw Road; Shaw Road was named after the white Shaw Family.  After the Cobb Family gathered their cotton crops, Huston and his family would hire out to pick cotton on the old Baldy Shaw Farm; at the time, the Tidwell Family was renting and planting cotton on the former Shaw slave owner’s property.  Huston and his family picked cotton on the Shaw Plantation and would be paid fifty to seventy five cents per one hundred pounds of cotton they picked.

According to the 1850 Census of Lawrence County, Alabama, Bauldy Shaw is listed as being 30 years old from North Carolina, but according to his tombstone, he would have been 56 years old in 1850.  His tombstone record indicates he was born in 1794 and was 59 years old at his death.  In the 1830 Census, Baldy is listed as being between 30 to 40 years old and in 1840 census, Baldey Shaw is listed as being between 40 to 50 years old which is in line with his tombstone record.

According to the 1850 slave census, Baldy Shaw owned 15 black slaves; by 1860, he owned 24 black slaves that would be divided among two heirs.  In the 1850 census, his family is listed as Lemenda, age 43, from Kentucky; William H., age 19, Alabama; Martha F., age 17; Lemenda, age 15; Jessee C., age five; and Henry, age 48, from North Carolina.

Many of the Shaw Family are buried in the Shaw Cemetery which is on Sixth Street about one half mile west of where the Shaw Road dead ends on Sixth Street.  The Shaw Plantation home is between Second Street and Sixth Street and some two miles south from Second Street.  The north end of Shaw Road is Second Street and the south end is Sixth Street.
This story will also be CONTINUED; stay in touch with my blog on the black, Indian, and plantation history in our area as it unfolds in my new book and on my blogs.  Mr. Houston Cobb, Jr.’s story will be included in my new book which will be called “Black Folk Tales of Appalachia: Slavery to Survival.”


  1. Hello Mr. Butch, I am currently researching my own family history and the Ed Hill that's mentioned in the church deed is my great-great-grandfather. If you find any more information about him please send me an email Keep up the great work!

  2. Butch
    I'm very interested in your book my mother was a Tidwell her father was James Bentley Tidwell his farm was on what is now Shaw road my Aunt lives in the old home its been remodled the original home was a log home .I would be very interested in buying your book as a young boy I spent many summers on the farm.
    Thank you very Much.
    Michael Bond
    e-mail is

  3. Butch
    I'm very interested in your book my mother was a Tidwell her father was James Bentley Tidwell his farm was on what is now Shaw road my Aunt lives in the old home its been remodled the original home was a log home .I would be very interested in buying your book as a young boy I spent many summers on the farm.
    Thank you very Much.
    Michael Bond
    e-mail is

  4. Butch,
    I'm interested in your book. I worked for the Stutts family that bought the Shaw Plantation. They moved there from Ford Road in Muscle Shoals. I spoke with an older black man that helped them drive their cattle from Ford Road down Second Street to Shaw Road.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Wonderful writeup. I'm personal friends with Sadie Cobb's last remaining sister and will print this out and mail to her. God bless.