Captain Jacob Pruitt, Tavern Of Old Byler Road Recalled
Written by: Robert L. Shirley
March 14, 1965
Submitted by Joyce Farris
Also see New Prospect Baptist Church Historical Sketch
Today many beautiful homes face highway 195 two miles east of Haleyville. But 141 years ago it was the Byler Road, and the area contained a two-story poplar log dwelling where the Herbert Wilson home is now, and a two-story tavern where Mrs. J. S. Snoddy's home is. These buildings were owned by Famed Capt. Jacob Pruitt, truly one of the more colorful pioneer citizens of Winston County. A private in the American Revolutionary War at an early age, he was a captain of the Mounted Volunteers of Tennessee during the War of 1812.
In the old section of New Prospect Cemetery, only a short distance from the old tavern site, lie the remains of this illustrious old soldier and his wife Nancy. Their graves, side by side, are housed with quarried stone taken from nearby Pebbly Branch, so named in the early 1800s and described as "a bold spring that runs over a bed of round water-worn pebbles, very beautiful and variegated in color." Capt. Pruitt died May 14, 1845 and Mrs. Pruitt a short time later.
Sanders, in "Early Settlers of Alabama" wrote of Capt. Pruitt's death. "The old gentleman, hale and hearty, still active and past 80,when chasing a bear, his horse fell in a pine hole and threw him on the pornel of his saddle which caused his death three days later."
Capt. Pruitt's tavern was a gala, restful spot for travelers of the Byler Road which was a route connecting the Tennessee River by land with the Warrior River at Tuscaloosa. The tavern was torn down in 1932 by Hershel Williams.
Incidentally the road's builder, John Byler, is buried at Rock Springs Cemetery in the New Hope Community between Moulton and Russellville.
There are many undocumented tales of highway robbery and murder on the Byler Road, and it is said some of those early Alabama travelers slain were tossed into "the big hole" which still exists today near Mrs. Snoddy's home.
When he died Capt. Pruitt owned ten slaves, with many preceding him in death. These slaves, with unmarked stones at their graves, are buried in the same area of the old New Prospect Cemetery where the Pruitts lie buried. [In 1946 Charlie Wilson wrote: "although widely reported and believed by almost everyone connected with New Prospect church, the adjoinging cemetery, does not contain the graves of former slaves. The first people buried in the cemetery was the McClain family, John W. Allen, his 1st and 2nd wives and 5 children of W. M. Brooks. These are the people buried in the forgotten section where slaves were thought to be buried."]
Since this was an era of slave ownership. It is believed the Negro people attended worship service with their owners in New Prospect Church, which was organized in 1824.
In spite of an absence of records, Capt. Pruitt is believed to have given land on which the church was built, and he and Mrs. Pruitt were charter members. A road led from in front of their home to the church. New Prospect is the third oldest organized Baptist church in Alabama.
Jacob Pruitt, born in Rowan County, N. C. in 1761, married Nancy Agnes Rickey in Green County, Tenn. On March 12, 1786.
About 1807 he moved with his family to Madison County, Mississippi Territory, which is now Alabama. He lived there before the land sales of 1809. In 1818 he moved to Lawrence County where he became quite prosperous.
In 1824 Capt. Pruitt bought from John McKinney a tract of land now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Talmadge West, in what was then Walker County but became Winston County in 1858.
Sanders recorded in his "Early Settlers" book: Jacob purchased land from Mr. McKinney and having some 25 hands (slaves) and the soil being fresh and productive, was quite prosperous. Here he also kept a noted stand (tavern) where there was an abundant supply of provender for man and heart.
Rev. Jerry Burns, in his "History of the Clear Creek Baptist Association" states Section 31 in which Haleyville is now located was entered by Jacob Pruitt in 1825. Also he owned land in Forkville, Glen Mary and Brushy Lake areas.
In Carl Elliott's "Annals of Northwest Alabama" it was recorded An election precinct was established at the home of Pruitt near Haleyville in 1827.
Concerning his death. The Huntsville Democrat in its May 21, 1945 issue described Capt. Pruitt as "AN OUT-STANDING American soldier and citizen."
Thus it was while chasing a bear on horseback, in his advanced years, that the colorful career of Capt. Jacob Pruitt came to a close. That day in May, 120 years ago, he was buried near his beloved "Pebbly Branch" which still has clear water flowing over water worn stones..
He was here when Alabama was carved out of Mississippi territory in 1819.
Capt. Pruitt had owned land in at least two states and three north Alabama counties.
Since his death this area where he was buried was changed from Walker to Hancock County in 1858.
For this interesting history of an outstanding pioneer American we thank Nathan Pearson of Nauvoo, Frank Walker of Double Springs and Mrs. Wynelle Dodd of Montgomery.
These people, historians spent months in research for facts on Capt. Pruitt, drove hundreds of miles, and devoted many many hours of work to let the present generation know about him.
Next step says Mr. Pearson and Mr. Walker is to obtain and erect a suitable military marker at the gravesite of this Revolutionary War soldier. The Federal government will furnish one free.