John Fulbright Jr. - Pioneer and Landowner
by Bill Eddleman
Presented at the 2002 FFA Banquet by David L. Fulbright)
Two of the sons of John Fulbright and Elizabeth (Coulter) Fulbright, John and Daniel, lived the latter part of their lives and died in Laclede Co., Missouri. Of these two, I became interested in John Fulbright Jr. for several reasons. Primarily, he was the first male Fulbright to come west to Missouri (although his aunt Catherine (Fulbright) Bollinger preceded him by over 10 years). I presume that John blazed the way for the rest of his family, or let them know that they should “come west” to capitalize on a good thing in terms of land and opportunities. John was also a pioneer in settling the Springfield area with his brother William, or Uncle Billy. Secondly, I was impressed by the huge amount of land that John Fulbright Jr. was able to accumulate. The size of his land holdings, the stately appearance of the house he built on the Auglaize, and the number of slaves he held before the Civil War all speak to his prosperity in later life. John, as with all his brothers, also left a notable legacy in the descendants he left behind, some of whom are at this reunion today.
John Fulbright Jr. is Born in Lincoln (now Catawba) County, North Carolina
According to his tombstone in the Hooper Cemetery, John Fulbright was born on October 10, 1795.i John was obviously named for his father, although there is disagreement about what his name actually was. Traditionally, both John and his father were “John William.” This name was used by John William Fulbright in his 1920s summary of the family, and was used by one of Ed Stout’s early informants.ii,iii However, I have yet to find either father or son called anything but “John Fulbright” in primary source documents. In fact, Johann Wilhelm had at least one son William that died in 1784, and whose estate settlement file has (at least partially) recently come to light in Lincoln Co., NC records.iv My supposition is that both John Sr. and John Jr. were likely christened “Johannes,” as were many other Germans who later went by the given name John. Typically (but not always) Germans with the given name Johann _____ were called by their second given name in records.
John was most probably born in Lincoln (now Catawba) County, North Carolina. John Jr. was one of three males aged to 10 on the 1800 Lincoln County, North Carolina federal census in the household of John Sr.v All of his other known siblings except the two youngest sisters were in the household in 1800, as well as an older couple (probably his grandparents Johann Wilhelm and Christina Fulbright).
John Fulbright Sr. and Family Move to the North Carolina Mountains
The young family of John Fulbright Sr. made their first move west to Buncombe Co., North Carolina, in the area now in Haywood Co. There has been much speculation, most without any foundation, about the time of John Fulbright’s move to western North Carolina, with dates ranging between 1794 and 1800. John did buy land in the area in the 1790s, but apparently did not move to the area until later. The census, a petition, and Buncombe Co. deeds narrow the time of the move to the time between about September 1800 and February 1801. The census had to have been taken in mid-1800, when John and family were still in Lincoln Co.vi John also signed a petition on September 25, 1800 in Lincoln Co.vii Finally, John Sr. purchased 250 acres on Hominy Creek in Buncombe Co. from John Strother on February 4, 1799, and was listed as being “of Lincoln County, N. Car.”viii John Sr. purchased 150 acres on Pigeon River from Strother on February 10, 1801, and was listed as “late of Lincoln County, N. Car.”ix Thus, the family moved in mid to late 1800 or early 1801, when John Jr. was 5 years old.
The John Fulbright family settled on Hominy Creek in Fulbright Cove, so-named because the Fulbrights were early settlers, and owned many hundreds of acres in the cove. (The name was later changed to Dutch Cove.) While the Fulbrights were large land owners in Haywood Co., it is not clear whether the family was well-to-do or not. The local topography probably prevented them from farming on a large scale. (Indeed, when I saw part of this land several years ago, I wondered how they could find enough flat land to farm at all!). One land entry made by John Fulbright Sr. in 1810 indicated the land included “said Fulbright’s mill,”x so they did have at least one source of business income. I suspect the family also farmed, speculated in land, hunted, and trapped to make a living.
The Fulbrights of the John line began a family tradition continued by all the sons while living in Haywood Co. All the male Fulbrights got land grants or purchased land as they grew older. John was probably no exception, although it’s difficult to say because of his being named after his father. Sorting out the land grants of the two “Johns” is tough!. However, Daniel Fulbright, John “Fulliner” and David Fulbright entered 640 acres of land jointly on April 4, 1810.xi I suspect this Haywood Co. land was entered by the three younger brothers in the family--when John Jr. was 15 years of age. Researchers on this family may want to get all the paperwork on this grant to learn more.
The Pioneer Moves to Missouri
At some time between 1810 and 1815, John Jr. decided to leave the family and head west to Missouri. What prompted him? Did he have a sense of adventure or “loose feet?” I’ve seen others in the families I research who had a similar pattern of activity, and delayed marriage and starting a family while they went to the frontier and made their fortune--or at least got the adventure out of their systems! I’d like to work through Washington or Franklin County, Missouri court records to see if he is mentioned prior to 1815, but I haven’t done this yet.
What we do know is that he volunteered for War of 1812 service in the Missouri militia on September 1, 1815, at Old Mines in Washington Co.xii He was discharged in St. Louis, Missouri on November 3, 1815, serving under Capt. John Davies in his company of Mounted Men.
The John Fulbright Sr. family began to sell their land in Haywood Co. in September 1816.xiii Old John sold 6 different tracts at this time. More checking is needed to see how John Jr. disposed of his land in Haywood Co., but his brothers Daniel and David sold their shares in September 1817.xiv (All of these deeds need to be examined for clues to the history of the family.) Did John Jr. provided a glowing report of the land and opportunities in Missouri? Did this prompt the entire family to move west? Hard to say, but it is likely, since they all came right to the area where John lived.
The next evidence of John Fulbright is in 1818, when either John Jr. or John Sr. witnessed a marriage in Washington County, Mo.xv At about the same time, John’s brother William purchased the preemption right to 2 parcels of land in present-day Crawford Co., Missouri, on Huzzah Creek.xvi Brother David is known to have settled on nearby Courtois Creek, and all the brothers are at least mentioned in local records in Washington and Crawford counties.xvii In last year’s talk on Judge David Fulbright, I speculated that the Fulbrights may have been traders, hunters, and small-scale farmers at this time.xviii The land is certainly rocky and not well-suited for large-scale farming in this area. More research is needed in court records to puzzle out all we can on the Fulbrights in this time and place.
John Sr. died in 1820, but the only records of his death are an estate settlement filed in Haywood Co., North Carolina, for money owed him for land he had sold in 1816.xix I’ve looked hard for any clear mention of him in Missouri, but it’s hard to say whether John Sr. or John Jr. are mentioned in records. The family legend states that John Sr. died on Courtois or Huzzah Creek, and is buried in a bluff in a “casket of his own making”. We DO know that David’s brothers William, Martin, and probably John were in the area, since all appear in Washington Co. records between 1818 and 1824.xx At least some of David’s sisters (Christina Goodwin, Elizabeth Williams Cooper, Sarah Smathers, and possibly Susan Daniels) were also in the area.
The Fulbrights Move to Madison County, Tennessee
John and all of his brothers but David must have thought life would be better in Tennessee. They may have possibly gotten reports from their first cousin John, son of my ancestor Jacob Sr. The Fulbrights and some of their kin left Missouri in 1824 to move to Madison Co., Tennessee. We know little of their life in Tennessee, other than what can be found on tax lists.xxi William, or Uncle Billy, was apparently the only brother who owned land or slaves, and was taxed for the same. I’ve searched deed records, and apparently none of them had title to land.
John did reach a milestone in his life in Madison Co. While there, he met and married Jane Kyrkendall in 1826.xxii She was born in Kentucky to parents born in Virginia. Her father was, according to Ed Stout, and well-to-do miller in Madison Co. Jane’s sister Mary married John’s nephew Levi C. Fulbright. According to traditions in his family, Jane was well-educated and taught her husband John to read and write. One tradition that could be checked in Madison Co. estate records is that, according to information received by Ed Stout, John and Jane returned to Tennessee on horseback when her parents died, and returned to Missouri with gold in their saddlebags.xxiii
John Fulbright Jr. Co-founds Springfield
Either things were not too prosperous for the Fulbrights in Tennessee, or things looked better in Missouri, because the entire group of John Sr.’s children and families headed back to Missouri about 1829. They were “on the move” at this time, because I have found none of them on the 1830 census (except for David, who stayed in Missouri).xxiv Family tradition would suggest that Martin may have come back first, and settled in present-day Laclede (then part of Crawford) County, Missouri. John is said by tradition to have visited his brother Martin, then headed farther southwest to the site of present-day Springfield, Missouri in winter 1829-1830. John took up 160 acres of land near Jones Springs in 1830, a location later used by the Springfield Wagon Company, northeast of Booneville and Water streets in Springfield.xxv His brother William arrived with or about the same time. This was the frontier at that time, shortly after the Kickapoo Indians vacated the area. One account sometimes attributed to Jane Kyrkendall Fulbright is that the area was, “Heaven for men and hound dogs and hell for women and oxen.”xxvi
While John Fulbright lived in the Springfield area, he was a dealer in horses, mules, and slaves, and was the Treasurer of Greene County at one time.xxvii One oft-quoted anecdote about the John Fulbright family is that his son James Harvey, born in 1832, was the first white child born in Springfield.xxviii There is doubt about this in that it’s hard to believe that no children were born in a rapidly growing settlement for two years! In fact, I’ve also seen it claimed that Uncle Billy Fulbright’s son Daniel N. (born in 1830) was the first white child born in the settlement.xxix Considering the date, I’d buy the latter claim. In any event, Jane Fulbright died in 1833, likely of complications relating to the birth of their son Robert C.xxx These were the only two sons of John and Jane Fulbright who survived to adulthood, both born in Springfield. I’ve seen claims they had up to seven children (in a biography of James Harvey Fulbright in a Goodspeed’s history of Laclede County), which is unlikely since they were married less than seven years, if the 1826 date is correct!xxxi There is no evidence I’ve seen to document any other children of John Fulbright by his first wife.
Jane’s remains were removed from their original resting place on October 20, 1891 to Laclede County for re-burial, probably in Hooper Cemetery but possibly in the Fulbright Cemetery near the house John built on the Auglaize.xxxii
A Brief Sojourn in Henry County, Tennessee
After Jane’s death, John Fulbright left his two children and his slaves in the care of his nephew John Lawson Fulbright, and returned to Tennessee to remarry.xxxiii It is not known why he sought a wife back in Tennessee, but one story is that his second wife was a bridesmaid at his first wedding.
A newspaper account from the “National Banner and Nashville Whig,” dated Friday, February 13, 1835, reported “Mr. John Fulbright married in Henry Co., Tennessee since the first of January to Miss Mary Atkins.”xxxiv The Goodspeed’s history account states Mary Jane Atkins was the widow of Dr. H. Atkins, but the newspaper account clearly says “Miss” Mary Atkins.xxxv More research is needed to document Mary Jane Fulbright’s life before her marriage to John Fulbright. Her age (34) at the time of marriage might suggest she was a widow, but proof is needed. She was born in Kentucky, of parents born in Virginia, according to the 1880 census.xxxvi
John Fulbright Moves to the Dry Glaize
In 1834, John entered a tract of land on the Dry Glaize Creek or Auglaize in Laclede County.xxxvii The reason for the move is not clear: perhaps grief over the death of his wife, or perhaps the chance of better economic return in a “new” area. According to his great-granddaughter Mrs. Marvin Goss, his first memory of the land was the sight of buffalo grazing in the tall grass.xxxviii Part of the land he acquired was purportedly for War of 1812 service, but I have been unable to document this in Laclede Co. records. It might be worth a try to send for his War of 1812 records for more information. The land at that time was prairie with scattered oak trees--what we biologists call an “oak savanna.” One story from Mrs. Goss stated that within a few years the area had grown up to brush (a story from her grandfather James Harvey).xxxix
John Fulbright brought his new bride and two sons to the area, and built a grand home above the Auglaize. Ed Stout has summarized the history of this house, where five generations of Fulbrights lived.xl The last of his line to live in the house was Mrs. Marvin Goss, a great-granddaughter, until about 1970. It stood vacant for a time before being purchased and renovated by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Hoffman, the current owners.
John Fulbright largely stayed out of public affairs once he moved to Laclede County. His last two children were born to him and his second wife during this time: Susan on September 8, 1837 and John Hampton on May 19, 1839.xli Neither of these younger children survived to adulthood, Susan dying on April 12, 1845 and John H. on April 19, 1852, and both are buried in the Hooper Cemetery.xlii John’s son Robert Columbus married Margaret Hooker on November 22, 1851.xliii Within a year, he had died also, on March 29, 1852.xliv His wife gave birth to a son, also Robert C., in 1852. John appears on the 1840 Laclede County census with his wife and children--all four of whom were alive at the time.xlv John Fulbright is on the 1850 census in Laclede County, and his mother Elizabeth is in the household at that time--at age 87.xlvi
John Fulbright’s Land Holdings in Laclede County
John continued to accumulate a vast amount of land, truly impressive for the area! I have not thoroughly worked out his land transactions, and some of them may have been lost in the burning of the Pulaski and Camden County Courthouses. Many of the later land purchases he made were made in partnership with his son James Harvey. John didn’t miss many opportunities to buy land. He bought it from the U. S. Land Office, from other individuals, and from the county in the form of “Swamp Land.”xlvii The latter is what we would call a wet meadow or marsh today--or even just bottom land. He and James Harvey also bought up at lest two land warrants from individuals who were made in land for military service.xlviii John also owned a title bond to a tract of over 1000 acres in Red River County, Texas, where his brother David had moved.xlix It is not clear whether John ever traveled to Texas, but it is possible.
John was an active Democrat politically, and continued to trade in horses, mules and slaves.l He owned a store and allowed a school and the Liberty Christian Church to be built on his land. The latter was eventually deeded to the congregation by James Harvey Fulbright, and is called the Friendship Church today.li John was a member of the Christian Church (as were some of his brothers) for over 40 years. He and Mary Jane spent a good deal of time in Springfield, even while living in Laclede Co.
John began to turn some of his affairs over to his son James Harvey, or at least began to share them. He and James Harvey negotiated a co-partnership agreement for management of their land and slaves in 1852.lii It sets out what each of them own in terms of property, and the conditions for management of the property. At that time, John owned 14 slaves at that time, all named in the agreement and 3 of whom were exempted, and James Harvey owned 4 slaves. John owned over 500 acres in Laclede Co. and another 1040 acres in Red River County, Texas at that time.
The Civil War had a profound effect on John Fulbright’s family. The family was Confederate sympathizers, and suffered greatly as a result during and after the war. James Harvey enlisted, and left us with some wonderful letters to his wife and family that provide insight to the events of his life.liii A number of the slaves were moved to Red River County, Texas, under the safekeeping of John’s brother David. According to tradition, some (if not most) of them stayed in the area of Fulbright, Texas after the War. The slaves who remained in Laclede County were very helpful to Mary Jane and her daughter-in-law during the war.liv At the height of the Civil War, John Fulbright passed away, on March 16, 1862.lv He had made his will years before, on March 17, 1855.lvi Mentioned in it are his wife, son James Harvey, and grandson Robert (son of Robert C.).
John Fulbright Jr.’s Legacy
John Fulbright Jr. was the pioneer of the family, since he preceded all of them to Missouri and co-founded the city of Springfield. He was an astute businessman and farmer, and dabbled in local politics and land speculation. He shared many of these traits with some of his brothers, who were consummate judges of a good commercial possibility. I’d love to have found more on John Fulbright before this reunion, but this would necessitate travel to Tennessee and North Carolina. I’ll try and learn more next year! If any of the rest of you has more, I’d love to see it! I’d especially be curious to see if any pictures of him survive, and would appreciate the owner of the same to share with us. It’s been fun finding what I have, and I hope I’ve helped some descendants to learn more about their Fulbright ancestors.
Many people helped me assemble this talk. First of all, I would like to thank David Fulbright for presenting this talk to the reunion in my absence. I also thank Vera Harrill for asking that I give the talk and gave me a tour of many of the sites where John Fulbright lived. Special thanks to Ed Stout, who provided me with his summary of John Fulbright’s life, and who is the most knowledgeable of Fulbright genealogists. The staff of the county courthouses in Haywood Co., NC; Crawford Co., MO; Washington Co., MO; and Laclede Co., MO allowed me access to records in their care. The staff at the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City was very helpful. Finally, I thank all those who have contributed their stories and research to allow me to summarize the life of John Fulbright Jr.
i Tombstone, Hooper Cemetery, Laclede Co., MO
ii Fulbright, John William. 1930. The Fulbrights. Privately printed. (Reprinted 1985 by Ed Stout, Fallbrook, CA.)
iii Ed Stout, Fallbrook, CA, personal communication
iv Sullivan, Kathy G. 2000. The Estate Papers of William Fulbright, Jr. Fulbright Family News 10(1):8-9.
v 1800 Lincoln Co., NC federal census, page 875.
vi ibid. page 1
vii Philbeck, Miles. 1994. Petition from Lincoln County, North Carolina General Assembly Records, 1800. Bulletin of the Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County 22(3):138-140.
viii Buncombe Co., NC deeds, Book 5, page 137-138.
ix ibid. pages 233-234.
x Haywood Co., NC Land Entries, No. 148.
xi Ibid., No. 146.
xii Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xiii Index to real estate conveyances, Haywood Co. (grantors), 1808-1930 (A-O), Microfilm roll 4B, reel 1.
xv Washington Co., MO marriage book A, page “b”.
xvi Madison Co., MO deeds, Book A, page 66-67; 67-68
xvii Bill Eddleman. 2000. More Research on the John Fulbright Line. FFA News 9(2):14.
xviii Bill Eddleman. 2001. Judge David Fulbright: From North Carolina to Missouri to Texas. FFA News 10(3):5-9.
xix Haywood Co., NC wills and inventories, Book A, page 4.
xx Bill Eddleman. 2000. More Research on the John Fulbright Line. FFA News 9(2):14.
xxi Madison Co., TN tax lists, 1825-1828.
xxii Goodspeed Publishing Co. 1889. Biography of Capt. James H. Fulbright. Pages 711-713 in History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, and Dent Counties, Missouri. Boston, Mass.
xxiii Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xxiv 1830 Crawford Co., MO federal census
xxv Goodspeed Publishing Co. 1893. Pictorial and Genealogical record of Greene County Missouri. Goodspeed Bros. Publishers, Chicago, Ill. (page 253).
xxvi Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xxvii Goodspeed Publishing Co. 1889. Biography of Capt. James H. Fulbright. Pages 711-713 in History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, and Dent Counties, Missouri. Boston, Mass.
xxix Obituary, Daniel N. Fulbright, newspaper clipping.
xxx Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xxxi Goodspeed Publishing Co. 1889. Biography of Capt. James H. Fulbright. Pages 711-713 in History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, and Dent Counties, Missouri. Boston, Mass.
xxxii Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xxxiv Silas Emmett Lucas Jr. 1978. Marriages from early Tennessee newspapers, 1794-1851. Southern Historical Press, Easley, S. Car.
xxxvi 1880 Laclede Co., MO Census, cited in Ed Stout. Undated. William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xxxvii U. S. Government Land Office records, http://www.blm.glorecords.gov
xxxviii Billie Lee Walstrom. 1961. Pre-Civil War Homestead is link in Laclede County’s past. Lebanon Rustic-Republican. March 2, 1916 issue, page 1.
xl Ed Stout. Undated. John William Fulbright. Summary prepared for the author.
xli Tombstone, Hooper Cemetery, Laclede Co., MO
xliii Laclede Co., MO Marriage Book A, page 274.
xliv Tombston, Hooper Cemetery, Laclede Co., MO
xlv 1840 Pulaski Co., MO federal census, page 224.
xlvi 1850 Laclede Co., MO federal census, page
xlvii Laclede Co., MO Patent Record Books A-D, various.
xlviii Laclede Co., MO Patent Record Book A:, B:554
xlix Red River Co., TX Deed Book E, page 415.
l Goodspeed Publishing Co. 1889. Biography of Capt. James H. Fulbright. Pages 711-713 in History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, and Dent Counties, Missouri. Boston, Mass.
li Laclede County Deed Book S, page 209.
lii Laclede Co. Deed Book A, page 244.
Burgess, Jean. 1994. Letters of Capt. James Harvey Fulbright Written to his
wife, Mary Wilks Fulbright and Three of his Children During the Civil War. Fulbright Family
liv Billie Lee Walstrom. 1961. Pre-Civil War Homestead is link in Laclede County’s past. Lebanon Rustic-Republican. March 2, 1916 issue, page 1.
lv Tombstone, Hooper Cemetery, Laclede Co., MO
lvi Will of John Fulbright, Laclede County Will Book A, page 276.
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