History buried in Harpersville

Published 10:30 pm Sunday, January 17, 2010

The headstones and grave markers at the Garden of Memories Cemetery on Alabama 25 in Harpersville, tells of the town’s rich history.

Among them is the grave of William Jennings, one of three Revolutionary War veterans known to be buried in present day Shelby County.

William Jennings, called “Billy,” was born Feb. 23, 1761, in Prince Edward County, Va. to Robert and Rachel Patterson Jennings.

He enlisted in the Virginia Militia in April 1777, serving five months guarding the boundary of North Carolina.

Typically, most able-bodied men of Virginia served in the Virginia Militia, working their farms and going about the rituals of everyday life at home until they were needed for military service.

They served varying lengths of time, then returned to civilian life until needed again.

During Jennings’ second enlistment, he drove a team of horses in the 1st Brigade of the Virginia Militia Division under the command of Brigadier General Robert Lawson.

It was this three-month period of service that would link him to one of the most notable historical accounts of the war.

Jennings and Gen. Lawson’s Brigade were present at Yorktown, Va. for British Gen.Lord Cornwallis’ surrender to Gen. George Washington on Oct. 19, 1781.

Jennings married Polly Kidd on Jan. 18, 1787 in Wilkes County, Ga. In September of the same year, Jennings received a headright land grant of 200 acres in Wilkes County. After the Revolutionary War, headright grants were given by the state of Georgia, formerly under British control, for the purpose of opening up the state for settlement.

A settler had to live on the land for one year and cultivate at least three percent of the acreage in order to obtain the grant. William and Polly Kidd Jennings had 12 children. The Kidd family is among Harpersville’s early settlers.

Jennings applied for a pension on June 7, 1832 for his service in the Revolutionary War. In 1832, he submitted a request to have his pension moved to Shelby County, where he lived until his death on Aug. 17, 1840.

Catherine Cousins writes a weekly column about the history of our county. Have an interesting historic topic? You can reach Cousins by e–mail at info@catherinecousins.com.