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John Gwin was born in 1792 in what was then western North Carolina and would soon (1796) became east Tennessee, but he and his bride, Jane Walker Gwin, moved to Cahaba, Alabama, where they lived most of their lives--from about 1815 until she died there sometime between 1864 and 1870.

He buried her in the New Cemetery at Cahaba beside their daughter, Louisa Gwin McKnight (and perhaps her husband, William McKnight), then moved to Wilsonville, Shelby Co., AL, to live his remaining years with son William Gwin and William's wife, RoseAnn Carlisle Jones Wilson Gwin.

Louisa's and Jane's markers are side by side, but a broken portion of William McKnight's stone was lying in another section of the cemetery when I visited there in January 2002 and again in July 2003 and July 2004.

All three of these Cahaba markers appear to me to have been placed at the graves some time after the burials but at the same time, as they all appear to be of the same size, shape, color, and choice and shape of text: "IN MEMORY" in an arch at the top, with "OF" centered beneath that, followed by the person's name in a smile shape at the bottom of the inscription.  No dates or other symbols or inscriptions appear on any of the stones.

John, Hi, this is Linda at Cahawba. Wanted to let you know that we finally used that donation that you gave us years ago to restore the Gwin tombstones at Cahawba. We found a restoration specialist, and now the two Gwin stones have been restored to their upright condition and the concrete mess that was applied sometime after the initial vandalism has been removed. I'm including two pictures of the work in progress (one per stone). We partnered with a cemetery preservation group and did this as part of a workshop so they could help pay the cost of the specialist.

I hope you are as pleased about this as I am. When I get a chance, I will take some better pictures of the stones themselves now in their upright position and email them to you also.

Also, did you hear that lightning struck our Welcome Center and burned it to the ground?  Yep.  So we are struggling to get another one built.  Actually, a nearby farmer is donating a house that once stood at Cahawba to us, and I hope that we can have it moved and restored as our replacement visitor center.  That way we could save another piece of Old Cahawba and have a bigger center than before, too.

Hi, Linda! How good to hear from you! Thanks very much for the pictures of ggg-Grandma Jane's and gg-Grandaunt Louisa's tombstones. I'm tickled that you were able to "raise them from the dead"...  Did I tell you that Louisa's husband is buried there, too? I found part of his broken stone across the yard in the fenced area of another family's plot. His name is William McKnight, and a photograph of the broken piece can be seen in the second set of photos from the top [of this page].

I'm so sorry to learn of the lightning strike. All those materials you had for sale! Sounds like it may have been a blessing in disguise, though--will insurance help on the cost of moving the old house? On a similar note, how are we coming on the moving of St. Luke's back to the town site?

I'm delighted to visit with you. I have some interesting finds regarding John and Jane Walker Gwin's ancestry and why they ended up in Alabama instead of Indiana if you're interested.

Best to you, John

When you get to Wilsonville, drive around the fairly square City Cemetery (near downtown) until you find this entrance.    The Gwin family plots are all the way to the right side of the cemetery and about two-thirds of the way back.

Prominent in that GWIN family section are the twin spires, marked MOTHER and FATHER, of the graves of John's and Jane's son and daughter-in-law William Gwin and Rosanne Carlisle Jones Wilson GwinHer dates read Aug. 22, 1822 - Mar. 28, 1907; his read Dec. 18, 1820 - Apr. 29, 1889.

5.1--William and Roe's first child, Mary Ann Elizabeth Gwin, was born on 23 April 1843 and died 23 Jan 1882, but we've not yet found her grave.   Her widower,  however, Robert Guy Lochridge, is buried here with his second wife and several children at the Hill Family Cemetery in Talladega Co., AL (from Sylacauga, take Co. Rd. 8 toward Fayetteville, turning right onto Co. Rd. 34 about three miles after crossing US 231 in Sylacauga--the cemetery is atop the first hill a few hundred feet up Rt. 34 on the right, and their graves are at the south end).

His stone reads: ROBERT G. LOCHRIDGE, FEB 2, 1838, JUN 15, 1926; her stone reads: AMANDA, WIFE OF R. G. LOCHRIDGE, MAY 16 1848, JUL 1, 1916; buried next to them are two children, the first of whose stones reads, JAMES I. LOCHRIDGE, b. 27 Apr 1874, d. 2 Oct 1957; the second reads, MAY LOCHRIDGE -  MAY 12, 1887 - JUNE 5, 1976. James I. Lochridge is the third child of Mary Ann Elizabeth Gwin, while May Lochridge is the daughter of Robert and Amanda and not related to me.   Mary Ann Elizabeth and Robert were married from 25 Jan 1866 until her death parted them when she was only 39, just two days short of their sixteenth anniversary.

5.2--Martha Jane Gwin (1845-1847), William and Roe's second, died in infancy and must be buried in Cahaba, but whatever stone there was has evidently long-since been lost or destroyed.

5.3--William Sutton Gwin, my great-grandfather, was born 5 Jun 1848 at Cahaba, AL, and he died 11 Sep 1916 at Wilsonville.  My late father, Adrian Sutton Gwin, was born the next day, and thus received his grandfather's middle name as his own. William Sutton's son and Adrian Sutton's father, James Bassett Gwin, Sr., a railroad conductor for the Southern Railway, is said by his widow, Adrian Belle Vardaman, to have asked her on September 11, "Mrs. Gwin, do you think you can have this baby alone?", to which she recalled answering, "Mr. Gwin, I had the other three alone and can do quite nicely with this one as well--go bury your father."   William Sutton was married 2 Dec 1868 to Ida Eliza Basset.  Ida was born 5 May 1845 in Worthing Sussex, England; she died 8 Dec 1907 and is buried in Wilsonville beside her husband.  Each of their graves is a coffin-sized concrete vault, the top slab of his having been broken, evidently by vandals, into several large pieces. The dirt on the inside is several inches lower than the ground outside. Visible portion of slab reads: W. S. GWIN, JUNE 5, 1..., SEPT...   Ida's tomb is similar, but the top slab is intact, which reads:  IDA E. BASSET WIFE OF W. S. GWIN, MAY 5, 1845  DEC. 8, 1907.

5.4--John Wesley Gwin, M. D., was born 15 Mar 1851 to Will and Roe.  He never married, having died in Anniston, AL, 29 Aug 1877 at age 26--only five months after his grandfather John--of typhoid fever.  Perhaps Grandpa John also died of typhoid, as epidemics of many such exotic diseases spread like the plague through Cahaba and other riverport cities in 19th century Alabama.   Dr. John died in Anniston, likely caring for other typhoid victims.  According to p. 251 of the burial records at Wilsonville Cemetery, Thomas W. Gwin, Will and Roe's youngest child, also died in 1877.

5.5--Rufus King Gwin, born 16 May 1853, married his first cousin, Annie Turner, with whom he had three daughters.   He died 20 Aug 1927 in Florida, and most of the rest of his family is buried there, too.

5.6--Lucy Marcella Gwin, born 1 Dec 1855, died just after her fifteenth birthday on 22 Feb 1871.  She is also buried in the Wilsonville Cemetery, at the feet of her brother, William S. Gwin, and his wife, Ida E. Basset Gwin.  Her tombstone reads: LUCY M. GWIN BORN DEC. 1, 1855 DIED FEB. 22, 1871.

No records have been found as to her cause of death at such a young age, but speculation in this camp leans toward the aforementioned myriad diseases of the day.

5.7--Isham Griffin Gwin, Sr., born 25 Sep 1858, was married in 1881 to Mary Etta "Molly" Self, who was also born in 1858. They are buried together in Wilsonville Cemetery, he having died first on 21 Dec 1919 at age 61.  This much newer stone was placed there after her death in 1940.  The center top bears the large name GWIN, then below that, the left side reads: ISHAM G. 1858 - 1919; and the right side: MARY S. 1858 - 1940.

5.8--Thomas Wilson Gwin, born to Will and Roe on 10 Feb 1863, died as mentioned above in 1877 according to the cemetery records at Wilsonville.  I earlier assumed that because his date of death is not posted on his stone, he is not buried there.  I've changed my mind, however, since it makes more sense that his stone, much shorter than the others here, must have been broken in two, likely due to vandalization, the top portion then having been reset into the a new concrete base and the date of death covered thereby.  Indeed, the following e.mail from Cousin Jack Vardaman confirms this:

Date: Thu., 6 Mar 2003
Subject:  Thomas Wilson Gwin


In the most recent issue of the Shelby County Historical Society Quarterly there is a short obituary for Wilson Gwin from The Shelby Sentinel of Columbiana, AL, dated October 11, 1877.

This is Thomas Wilson Gwin, one of your great-grandfather's brothers -- a son of William and Roseann (Wilson) Gwin and your great-great uncle.  I went to your web site and saw that you apparently did not have a complete death date for Wilson, only the year, 1877.  The obit stated that he had died the previous Sunday which would have been October 7, 1877.  So, now you have his complete death date.

The obit also referred to the fact that this was the second son that the family had lost in two months.  Again, your website furnished me the information that another son, John Wesley Gwin, had died on the 29th August 1877.  Another interesting piece of information is that the obit refers to Wilson as the son of Colonel William Gwin.  Where did he come by this rank?  Civil War or Militia?

I am sending you a copy of the article by regular mail which you should receive early next week (received--see below).


Died, at Wilsonville, in this county, on Sunday night last, Wilson Gwin aged about 18 years.  He was the youngest son of our esteemed county-man, Col. Wm. Gwin, and was a young man of much promise.  He had been out with a sorghum mill and evaporator, making syrup for the public for the past two weeks, and probably had been subjected to some exposure.  He was taken sick with pneumonia on Friday morning last and continued to grow worse until Sunday night, when he died.  He is the second son that his grief stricken parents have buried in the last two months, both young men in the morning of life with bright prospects before them.  We extend our sympathies to the bereaved family and friends in the great affliction.
from The Shelby Sentinel, Columbiana, Alabama, October 11, 1877

In July 2003, I revisited these two cemeteries--Wilsonville City and Cahaba New.  While there, I got to meet and visit with Ms. Linda Derry, archaeologist and director of the project to restore Old Cahawba.  She showed me many documents related to my family, and when I was leaving, she told me to be sure to stop and see the old wooden Episcopal church that had once stood in Cahaba (pictured here on p. 36 of Anna Gayle Fry's book, Memories of Old Cahaba) but had been moved over a century ago to its present site near Martin's Station and next door to a 1960's vintage Baptist church.

[By the way, here is an interesting tidbit on the church from May 22, 2004:

SATURDAY, MAY 22, 2004
Historic church near Selma moving to Cahawba site
OLD CAHAWBA (AP) — Church and historical commission officials have kicked off a drive to move a historic 150-year-old Episcopal church near Selma to its original location at Old Cahawba in hopes of restoring it as a museum.
About 60 members of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Monday attended a re-enactment of St. Luke's Episcopal Church's 1854 consecration, which included a sermon and communion ceremony.
The church is nationally recognized as one of the nation's finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture.
"It's a wonderful survivor," said Lee Warner, director of the Alabama Historical Commission.
"It's a nice meld of New York sophisticated architecture with the Alabama frontier in a way that's very meaningful because it speaks about the American character and who we are."
The building was moved from Old Cahawba, the site of Alabama's first permanent capital, in 1876 to protect it from floodwaters.
The church was home to a black Baptist congregation for about 60 years until it vacated the structure several years ago.
Plans are to move the church and restore it as a museum in the park run by the Alabama Historical Commission.
Officials also participated in a groundbreaking at the Old Cahawba site where the church will be relocated.
Ed Givhan of Montgomery, who participated in the groundbreaking, said he discovered the church about 20 years ago and recognized it as historic and "the last remaining building in Old Cahawba."
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

201 1st Ave. SE
P.O. Box 2213
Decatur, Ala. 35609
(256) 353-4612]

December 7, 2006 Historic church coming home By Alvin Benn of the Montgomery Advertiser

MARTIN'S STATION -- An Episcopal church moved from the site of Alabama's first capital 130 years ago is headed back home thanks to a group of Auburn University architectural students. It's a painstaking project, but the students haven't let the summer heat or autumn chill deter them from dismantling St. Luke's Episcopal Church and preparing to move it back to Cahawba about 12 miles away. The church has been vacant for several years and the elements have taken their toll. The Auburn students are taking special care to protect as much as they can. "They're our white knights and they've come to our rescue," James Hammonds, chairman of the Cahawba Advisory Committee, said Tuesday. "Without them, I don't see how we could have done this. It could have cost up to $500,000 or more." In addition to Hammonds' group, the church also is under the control of the Alabama Historical Commission and the Auburn University Rural Studio, which has built and protected structures in the Black Belt for years. Originally constructed in 1854 at what had been the state's first capital at Cahawba, St. Luke's was moved in 1876 to the Dallas County community of Martin's Station, about 20 miles southwest of Selma. By that time, the capital had been moved to Tuscaloosa and then on to Montgomery while Cahawba slowly died as a result of flooding, the Civil War and the emergence of Selma as Dallas County's top town. Hammonds, joined by the Rev. Polk Van Zandt of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma, inspected the project Tuesday morning and was delighted by the students' progress. The church's dismantling began in August and the removal is expected to begin in a few months once each piece of wood is marked and placed into a moving van for the trip back to Cahawba.  Unlike the first removal 130 years ago when 19th-century parishioners labored to take the church apart virtually by hand, the current project is going much quicker. "We have so much more than they did back then," said Jason Coomes, an Auburn professor directing the project. "I imagine it took three or four years to move it here." Coomes called the first relocation a "significant feat," and pointed to his group's use of "cranes, cherry-pickers, power tools" and other labor-saving devices as reasons why it's going much faster this time. As the students began to take the vacant church apart, they discovered items dating back to the time when the first relocation had been completed. Included were marbles apparently used by children who played inside. Van Zandt said the original church had a 90-foot-tall bell tower "and no one knows what happened to it." That left the students to deal with a 38-foot-tall wood church that has suffered through more than a century of wear, tear and neglect. When the church is taken back to Cahawba it will not be placed at its original site, but will be close enough to serve as a reminder of life at Cahawba a few years before the start of the Civil War. Hammonds said those interested in contributing support for the removal project can contact him at 334-412-3131.

Here is the address of the page for the moving of the
church back to Cahawba--please click here to visit it!

I drove down Highway 22 to where it intersects County Road 21 about three miles west of Orrville, then took 21 north less than a mile to the tall, stately (though quite weatherbeaten) old church, which was constructed with its floorplan in the shape of a cross.  After taking these pictures of it, I walked around a bit and discovered the church's old abandoned, overgrown graveyard in the woods across the road!  I quickly checked my handy copy of the Central Alabama Genealogical Society's Vital Data from Cemeteries in Dallas County, Alabama, but this particular cemetery had been omitted.

Home to many dozens of graves, it was a veritable brier patch of thorny vines and weeds.  It was late in the day and I had a schedule to keep, but I couldn't pass this up.  I much-too-hastily picked my way through the stones, stepping down a thorn vine here, chalking a name there, looking for names I recognized.  I found only one, that of 5.1--Mary Jane Gwin Smith, elder daughter of John and Jane Gwin's firstborn, 4.1--Isom Gwin and his wife, Mary Burdine Wilson Gwin, 31 Oct1838; wife of William J. Smith, mother of Robert Isom Smith, and my own double-first cousin thrice removed!

Her stone reads:  "SACRED to the memory of MRS. M. J. SMITH, daughter of Isom & Mary B. Gwin, who was born Oct. 31, 1838, married to W. J. Smith Dec. 22, 1853, and died July 17, 1871, in hopes of a glorious immortality.  In her death her bereaved husband and son mourn the loss of a kind and  affectionate wife and mother.   Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."  Visible in the background in the last picture are the two horizontal rails of the rusty steel fence enclosing many of the camouflaged graves.

Scratched and bleeding but exhilarated from the discovery, I continued northwest on County Road 21 and came shortly to Alabama Highway 5. Taking a right, I drove north on it about a mile to the next right, County Road 182. Crossing a small creek about half a mile later, I found a one-lane dirt road gently rising across the pasture to the right that took me a hundred yards south to the two Bell Family cemeteries sitting atop the crest.  Very well kept by a helpful local resident, Mr. William "Billy" Harris, the cemeteries' graves are enclosed by new chainlink fence.

One of the dozens of graves there is that of Mary Bell Gwin, fifteen-month-old daughter of John and Jane Gwin's eighthborn, 4.8--Chesley R. Gwin and Mary Frances "Fannie" Bell, making Mary also my first cousin thrice removed.  Her stone's inscription reads:  "In memory of Mary Bell, daughter of C. R. and M. F. Gwin.  Born March 1st 1856, died June 22nd 1857.  Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingom of Heaven."

I also looked there for (but did not find until the next summer, July 2004) the grave of John I. Gwin, her brother, b. 24 Dec 1853 (age 6 in the 1860 census); d. 4 Oct 1907; m. unk; unk children; his stone reads: "John I. Gwin, born Dec. 24, 1853, died Oct. 4, 1907 -- Gone but not forgotten";  I believe his middle initial stands for Isom, and that he was named for his uncle, Isom, who had just died days before John I. was born. [After I got home from this trip, I was scrutinizing some Gwin deeds I had copied in the courthouse at Selma and came across one dated 24 May 1905 from a John I. Gwin of Safford, Dallas Co., AL. I am now all but certain this is the same person.]

Also in 2004 I took this picture of another grave at this cemetery; it may help explain why John and Jane Gwin were living in a Grice home in the 1860 U.S. Census. Since the Grices and Gwins (specifically, this Susan P. Grice and John's son Chesley) had married into the Bell family, it is likely that John and Jane were related somehow to the Grices who took them in. Her stone says, "Our mother, Susan P. Grice, wife of William Bell, born July 21, 1837, died Oct. 6, 1917 -- Her children arise up and call her blessed."

But also in July 2004, I made a discovery of a grave I never hoped to find. According to the 1870 census, William J. Smith and his wife, Mary Jane Gwin Smith (whose grave I'd discovered in July 2003), had two young girls living in their home, both with the last name of Smith, ages 10 and 6. But the elder was named "M.J. Jr.", leading one to believe that this was indeed a daughter, and the younger "Ida" (whose name and picture appear in Barbara Ward's photo album, owned originally by Mary Jane's sister Martha. I quote from my comments on the 1870 census chart on Isom and Mary B. Wilson Gwin's page:

Roy had no idea who this was. But if she is the daughter of Mary Jane and William, then Mary Jane would've likely been pregnant with her in the 1860 census. The "Jr." after her name leads us to believe that she is indeed the daughter, named for her mother.

Mary Jane "Sr." would die a year later, the following July, and her gravestone clearly states that "In her death her bereaved husband and son mourn the loss of a kind and affectionate wife and mother."

No mention is made of the two daughters, so if these two are indeed their children, and we have no reason to believe they are not, then I must assume that the girls died during this same year. We do know that Cahaba, yes, and all of middle Alabama, suffered recurring epidemics of various deadly diseases. It could easily be that the girls died first of the same disease that killed their mother.

And so I returned in July 2004 to find these daughters' graves, assuming them to be very near that of their mother. Right away I was delighted to discover a small stone of a relative we'd not known existed--the infant, second-born daughter, Elizabeth Ann, of Mary B. Wilson Gwin's younger brother, Ezekiel Monroe Wilson and his wife, Sarah Jane Cole Wilson.
But even more exciting was an unmarked grave right beside and in line with Mary Jane's. A stub of a stone was at its head, with its footstone showing only "I. C.". I knew that one of the daughters was Ida, but why the cee? The sunken grave gave me a sudden thought--what if the stone had fallen onto the grave, which had later collapsed. Would not the dirt and leaves of forest floor soon cover it? So, using a metal probe, I began to try my theory. Voila! Something hard, flat, and about two feet by four feet lay several inches below the surface! I dug at the end closest to the head and uncovered the end of it. It was the rest of the stone all right. Tree roots growing over its top had it pinned down, however, and it took quite a bit more digging and chopping in this tick-infested woods (use your Deep Woods repellent! *) before the stone was free to be raised. Propping up one end of it, I brushed as much dirt off as I could, then washed it with a gallon of water. I could not believe my eyes! Here was the long-sought-after grave of Mary Jane's father, Isom Gwin! Looking at the footstone more closely revealed that what I had thought to be a cee was indeed a gee.
*Seriously, folks, douse yourselves well in this stuff-- hair, face, neck, limbs, torso--before you cover up completely (long-sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, pants legs tucked into boots, etc.  I contracted Lyme Disease from the tick bites I received that summer, and that's not fun.

Left: The partially uncovered stone just before I washed it; top right: the half washed stone after I uncovered it and leaned it against a tree; bottom right: the way I felt I had to leave it. I'd tried to fill in the sunken grave to provide a place to lay the stone flat, but the root-plagued earth was all but impossible to dig. What little I'd filled in was not smoothing out well, and, fearful that laying the stone on its back on uneven ground would cause one or more stress fractures, I decided to leave it standing, due to a schedule I had to keep. 

[I went back again after Hurricane Katrina. I was glad to see that someone had carefully prepared a bed for the stone next to Isom's grave and had laid the stone safely in this dirt, again face down, sometime before the storm had hit. But Katrina had wreaked havoc on some of the taller, more majestic markers, blowing trees down onto them and breaking some of them, dismantling others, missing a few. It was a mess, and I hope and trust that some or all of this has been cleaned up now by the good people--perhaps from the Mt. Zion Baptist Church across the road--who care for this cemetery.  My gratitude to you, whoever you are, for the wonderful work you do!]
Isom's stone reads (above center): "Sacred to the memory of ISOM GWIN, born March 17th 1817, and died December 17th 1853, in hopes of a glorious immortality. The deceased was a native of this state and was raised from an infant in this county. In 1837 he married Miss Mary B. Wilson; he became religious in 1840, and united with the Protestant Methodist Church of which he lived a member till his death. In his death his bereaved wife mourns the death of a kind and affectionate husband, his two children the loss of a tender and loving father, his parents a dutiful and beloved son, his brothers and sisters a loving and beloved brother.
"Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord: Rev."