Finally…Chambers County

Yesterday my Dad and I finally made our way down to Lafayette in Chambers County on our continuing search for more information regarding the John Bean family. We pulled up in front of the Chambers County Courthouse a little after nine in the morning.

As we walked up the sidewalk toward the entrance, it was a little eerie to think that around 170 or so years ago, my fourth great-grandfather John Bean gave a man 39 lashes a few feet from the modern strip of pavement I now walked on.

Revisiting Jesse...
An early photo of the Chambers County Courthouse.

We entered the courthouse through the new addition and asked the security guy on duty where we’d go to find the oldest records on file. He pointed us into the older part of the building, what used to be the main courthouse, built in 1899. As we approached, I noticed a large picture of the original courthouse, the one that would have been built in the mid 1830’s and thought how very little the town square had changed in over one hundred years. In fact the buildings behind the courthouse were exactly the same, even if a little more ragged.

As we stepped through the large doors into the old courthouse, you could immediately smell the age of the place. It was like the smell that comes out of a very old library book that has sat, unopened on some dusty shelf for too long. We approached a young girl who was working at the probate window and asked where to find records from the 1830’s. She waved us through a nearby door and said her mom could help us. Only in a town the size of Lafayette would this happen. Apparently the normal lady who runs the probate records room was out of the office and the girl’s mother, an accountant for the court, was filling in.

Original record books.

She led us through a door that looked like the entrance to a bank vault and inside was a small room with very high ceilings, chalk full of ledgers – all very large, very heavy, and very old. She showed us how to use the index books to find what we needed and before long I was thumbing very carefully through ledgers that were originally written in almost 200 years ago. These old books made you really appreciate the time it took to write them and the artistry of the penmanship which is lost in modern-day computer records.

 On page three of the very first book I looked in, we found the original marriage entry for Charles Crew and Hicksey Bean, a daughter of Walter Bean and granddaughter of John Bean. They were the third marriage performed in Chambers County – the date was 1833. A bit further back was the marriage record for Prudence Bean, a daughter of John and sister to Walter and beyond that, on page 165 was what I had been looking for – the marriage record for one Nancy Bean, the woman I suspect of being Jesse J. Bean’s mother (the actual record is in the photo above).

Apparently Thomas W. Gibbs, the groom, had applied for the marriage license on April 13, 1838. On the same date, John Bean signed for his granddaughter to marry, which was also on the same page. The actual marriage ceremony wasn’t performed until Sunday evening, the 15th of April 1838 – again, the same day as Jesse’s birth. It was performed by a William Carlisle who later certified the marriage on the same ledger page.

This information answered one question for me – if Nancy was Jesse’s mother, how was she able to marry the same day as giving birth? If she married at home, and not in Lafayette at the probate office, as evidenced by the Sunday evening timing and the two day delay in certifying the marriage, she could have married while still recovering in bed. Is it possible the marriage was only waiting on the birth to happen? I’ll probably never know for sure, but all kinds of stories are bouncing around in my head.

3 thoughts on “Finally…Chambers County

  1. Whoa….how sure are you of Jesse’s birth year?

    And if it wasn’t her, then who else might have been his mother? (I know you’ve discussed this before, I’m too tired to read back and simply talking out loud.)

    I love old records like that. The sheer number of years and generations is fascinating.


  2. I’m pretty sure she is Jesse’s mother. Family oral history says his mother’s name was Nancy and he was illegitimate. This was the only Bean family in eastern Alabama at the time. The more interesting question is – who was his father???

    And yes…it was bloody good fun!!


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