Dr. John Henderson Hundley
The name, John Henderson Hundley, was unknown to me until about four years ago. At that time, I began a study of restoration history of churches of Christ. Through Wayne Kilpatrick’s excellent article on the Church of Christ at Mooresville, Alabama, I became aware of the name of J. H. Hundley.
John Henderson Hundley was born in Halifax County, Virginia. He and Melinda Robinson were married in Greensville County, Virginia in September 1824. The Hundley’s came to North Alabama from Virginia and settled in Madison County. Daniel Robinson, Melinda’s father, was a merchant and a planter in Limestone County, Alabama. The Hundley’s later moved to Limestone County and settled a short distance west of the little village of Mooresville, Alabama, on what would become known as Hundley Hill.
The Hundley’s had nine children. They were William, John H., Daniel, Orville, Sarah, Clifton, Frances, Hattie, and Mary. Hundley was a physician, preacher, farmer, and at one time, a school teacher. Well educated, and spiritually minded, Hundley studied his Bible with an open mind to the teachings of the scriptures.
J. H. Hundley was a member of the “Old Brick” Presbyterian Church at Mooresville. However, he came to know of the work of Walter Scott of Kentucky and his journal, The Evangelist. Perhaps, as a result of the truths taught in this journal, Hundley came to the conclusion that he had to be baptized for the remission of sins. He wrote to Scott the following letter in 1840:
In 1854, the church building at Mooresville was completed and the group that met formally in the home of Dr. Hundley, moved to the new building. Hundley preached for the church at Mooresville for many years. Hundley was there during the Civil War when General James A. Garfield preached there. The invitation for Garfield to preach probably came through Hundley, who had three sons fighting for the Confederacy. They were William, Daniel and Orville. William and Daniel were both in the Johnson Island prison camp in Ohio, and were there at the same time. William would later die before the war ended.
But this article is not about J. H. Hundley, per say, but about searching for information about Hundley. Having read articles about the Mooresville Church and Hundley, and developing an interest in the man, the initial pursuit of Hundley was somewhat accidental. In October 2006, I went to the little village of Mooresville, Alabama, with a group that was interested in the Mooresville Church. Restoration historian, Earl Kimbrough, had come to North Alabama to speak at the dedication of the Berry College Historical Marker at Berry, Alabama. His two daughters, Katrina and LeaLane, came with him. So Earl, Katrina and LeaLane, along with Hilda and Lavaga Logan and I, traveled to Mooresville and met Larry Whitehead at the building of the Mooresville Church of Christ. After spending some time around the quaint little village that is so beautiful and preserved, and really takes you back in time, we went to the Mooresville Restaurant for lunch. There we met Dee Green, the owner of the restaurant. In a casual conversation, I asked her if she knew anyone that could give us information about the Hundley family. She told me that she knew someone and that she would make arrangements for us to talk over the phone. Dee also produced a photograph of the Hundley home, which once stood across the street from her home and was just north of the Mooresville Church building. Just the picture was a great find, but what was to follow was even greater. That night I received a phone call from Hilda Logan. Dee had called Hilda with a phone number for me. The number belonged to Jacque Gray.
Just meeting Jacque over the phone was a delightful experience. Her interest in and knowledge of Madison County history and her family—the Hundley family, was to open new doors for me. Jacque is a descendant of Dr. J. H. and Melinda Robinson Hundley, descending through their son, William. Jacque’s willingness to share information with me was a joy. Not only did she have a picture of the Hundley’s (which was one of the points of my search), she had something else. Wayne Kilpatrick had told me years ago that Hundley had written a book called the Plan of Salvation, published in 1858. As Jacque and I were talking, she said, “I also have a book that J. H. Hundley wrote.” Excitedly, I asked, “Is it a small book with about eighty pages about the gospel plan of salvation?” “Yes,” she replied. “Is there any way I can get a copy of it?” “Sure,” said Jacque, “I’ll make you a copy and send it to you.” We continued our conversation until it was necessary to conclude it, and I made arrangements to meet Jacque the first week in November, when I was scheduled to preach in a gospel meeting at the Jordan Park Church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama. During that time, we emailed each other a number of times, me asking for information, and Jacque willingly supplying the information.
When I received the copy of J. H. Hundley’s, Plan of Salvation, immediately I made a copy and took it to Heritage Christian University to give it to Wayne Kilpatrick. Wayne, who seldom gets excited, gleamed when I gave him his copy of Hundley’s work. Wayne returned to his classroom, and as I was leaving, I heard him tell his class, “I have just been given a book for which I have searched thirty years.” I smiled as I walked away with the feeling of “mission accomplished.” I finally was able to do something for the man that had introduced me, not only to J. H. Hundley, but also to the study of restoration history. It was Wayne who set me on my journey that led back to him with this document.
It was the first week in November when I met Jacque Gray. It was an unusually warm fall day and the colorful leaves were still on the trees at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, where Jacque showed me around. There we saw the Hundley plot and the graves of Dr. J. H. Hundley, his wife, Melinda, several children, and other family members. It was great to meet Jacque after talking to her on the phone and corresponding by email. She has been a great help in the search for J. H. Hundley.
Another thing that Wayne Kilpatrick had mentioned to me about Hundley was that he had been told that there was a portrait of Hundley with his book, The Plan of Salvation, in the portrait. Again, I emailed Jacque Gray and asked her if she knew of such a portrait. She wrote back telling me that a grandson of J. H. Hundley was still alive, that he lived in New Market, Madison County, Alabama, and that he might be in possession of the elusive portrait. Jacque gave me his address. From the address, I looked up his phone number on WhitePages.com, found it, and made a call to Thomas McCrary, grandson of J. H. Hundley. I talked with McCrary’s daughter, Rosemary. She was very cordial and willing to help in any possible way. She told me that her father did have the portrait I asked about and that it had hung in the hallway of their home for many years. Arrangements were made to travel to New Market to meet Thomas McCrary, son of Mary Hundley, the daughter of J. H. and Melinda Hundley of Mooresville, Alabama.
On December 4, 2006, Larry Whitehead, Wayne Kilpatrick and I traveled to New Market to meet Thomas McCrary. Thomas is ninety-five years old and a picture of health. He has no wrinkles in his face and goes to his farm everyday to work. He and his wife, and their daughter, Rosemary were so sweet to help us in any possible way. We were allowed to take the portrait of Dr. Hundley outside in the natural light and make photographs. Thomas showed us his grandfather’s Bible that was published in 1858—the same year Hundley wrote The Plan of Salvation. We scanned several documents into the computer for later reference and talked with the McCrary’s. One of the stories Thomas told was about attending the Mooresville church of Christ as a boy and being in his Aunt Hattie Hundley’s Bible class. As Miss Hattie was teaching, the boys in the class noticed a calf had wandered into the churchyard and toward the outhouse. The calf pushed open the door of the outhouse and went inside and turned around as though it was going to use the outhouse. The boys found this to be quite hilarious and broke out in laughter. After the class, Miss Hattie went to one of the men, a brother Peoples, and told him that she didn’t think she could teach class anymore.
During this search for J. H. Hundley, Bobby Graham from Athens, Alabama, mentioned to Larry Whitehead that Quentin McCay, an elderly North Alabama preacher, had preached at the Mooresville church of Christ in the 1940’s, and perhaps could give us some information about the church and the Hundley family. We met with brother McCay and he shared his story about Mooresville. I taped the interview and transcribed it. Brother McCay told of being a college student at Freed-Hardeman College in the early 1940’s and coming home on the weekends and preaching for the Mooresville church. He remembered some of the old members of the church and provided us with a picture of Hattie Hundley, daughter of J. H. and Melinda Hundley, who on many occasions provided Sunday dinner for him after worship services. Brother McCay’s story appears elsewhere in this bulletin.
At this point in the search for J. H. Hundley, many questions have been asked and answered. However, with each bit of information, new questions arise which require more research for answers. It is a never ending process. It is like finding the “missing pieces of the puzzle” and then learning that the puzzle is bigger than originally thought.
Another piece of this puzzle was the discovery of a journal written by Colonel Daniel Hundley, CSA, son of J. H. and Melinda Hundley. Several weeks of research on the computer put me in touch with Dr. Rex Miller, who edited the journal and published it. I was able to secure three copies of Daniel Hundley’s journal from Dr. Miller. Daniel kept the journal of his capture and of his time served in the Johnson Island, Ohio, prison camp. The journal is a most insightful look into the life of a civil war prison camp. It tells of near starvation treatment as well as near freezing conditions for the soldiers.
Daniel Hundley graduated from the Harvard School of Law and soon after married the daughter of a Virginia gentleman largely interested in real estate in the suburbs of Chicago. Hundley moved to Chicago in 1856 and owned a large amount of property on the lake shore, just north of the (then) city limits of Chicago. Daniel enjoyed Chicago and planned to make it his permanent home. However, the war broke out and he said, “I unhesitating cast in my lot with the people of my native State” (Alabama).
Hundley escaped Johnson Island on January 2, 1865, and “attempted to reach Canada afoot, walking at night and sleeping in the hay-lofts during the day.” He was recaptured and taken back to Johnson Island and stripped to the skin. It was then that his journal was found and confiscated. Nine years were to go by before he heard of what happened to the journal. In 1874, he received a notice from the Postmaster in Huntsville, Alabama that a certain Alexander R. Jones, of New York, desired his address. Hundley gave his address and soon received a letter from Mr. Jones telling him that he was acquainted with a man that had in his possession the journal that Hundley had written while in prison and that he thought he could purchase it for a reasonable sum and sell it to Hundley.
Daniel Hundley immediately wrote back telling Mr. Jones that he was too poor to purchase the journal and that the honorable thing to do was for the journal to be returned to him without payment, since it belonged to him anyway. The journal was shortly thereafter received by Daniel Hundley.
One of the interesting things mentioned in the journal was that Daniel Hundley’s brother, William, was captured and sent to the same prison. It was when William arrived that Daniel received news about his family back in Mooresville, Alabama. William reported the following account of atrocities to the Hundley family at Mooresville and Daniel recorded them account as follows:
“The blue-coated villains went to my father’s house, one night last winter, entered my father’s sleeping apartment, and ordered him, an old man of seventy years, to get up and leave, as they desired to search the house for gold; and upon his refusing to comply with their orders, ruffians drew a pistol and threatened to shoot him on the spot, which threat he doubtless would have carried into execution had not my mother that instant stepped between the would-be murderer and his helpless victim, and exclaimed, with a courage and nobility of soul which would have done honor to the matrons of old Rome in her best days: ‘Then kill me, too, for the ball that kills my husband must first pass through my body!’ The heroic defender of the old flag had no respect for the gray hairs of a feeble old man, but the dauntless courage of a resolute woman unnerved his coward’s heart, and after robbing them of all he could put his hands on, he and his brother cut-throats left.”
Also, research yields information that Daniel Hundley was a resident of Mountain Home in the 1870’s and was engaged in the practice of law. He would have, no doubt, been acquainted with J. M. Pickens who preached for the church at Mountain Home at that time, and the Barclay brothers, Robert G. and John Judson, who were closely associated with Pickens and lived nearby. The Barclay boys were the sons of James Turner Barclay, the first missionary of the American Christian Missionary Society, and they married Alexander Campbell’s daughters. Judson married Decima Campbell, and Robert married Emma Campbell, adopted daughter of Alexander and Selina Campbell.
Another connection would be T. B. Larimore’s connection to the Hundley’s. T. B. Larimore performed the wedding ceremony for Daniel’s daughter, Maude, in 1877. Records also show Larimore preaching at Mooresville. These families must have been close.
Sometimes information comes by pure luck. My contact with Jacque Gray resulted in photographs of John Henderson and Melinda Robinson Hundley, and a copy of J. H. Henderson’s book, The Plan of Salvation (printed in 1858). Later, I had the opportunity to meet Jacque at the Maple Hill Cemetery, where she showed me the Hundley graves. Additional correspondence with Jacque led to meeting Thomas McCrary, a grandson of J. H. and Melinda Hundley, and seeing the Hundley family Bible and portrait of Dr. J. H. Hundley.
People find interest in many things. Some look for bargains at yard sales or flee markets; some search for bargains on the internet. Others pan for gold or buy a metal detector to search for buried items. Still others search for ancestors. All of these pastimes are enjoyable and a diversion from the hectic schedules we all seem to have. I, along with several others, have been described as members of the “Dead Preachers Society.” We have an interest in restoration history and in particular, the men and women of that movement. We enjoy finding and/or visiting the graves of people that were influential in the restoration movement. I think that standing at the grave of an individual is as close as you can get to them. And so often, the tombstone will have information that will lead to additional information. For example, the date of death on a tombstone will give a starting point for research of newspapers or journals that may have obituaries. The obituary in turn, may have important information that will lead to additional research. This proved true when I recently found the grave of Dr. L. C. Chisholm. The date of death on the tombstone led to finding obituaries and much information about the life of Dr. Chisholm.
The passing of each year provides additional challenges. We are a year further away from the history that we are exploring and every year, massive amounts of information is thrown away because it is considered useless by someone who has no interest in the past. We hope through the Alabama Restoration Journal, to preserve information about those who have come before us. We solicit information from our readers that might be of interest as related to the restoration movement. We urge church members to write the histories of the churches they attend. Please help us preserve the past for those in the future!
(Note from Editor of The Alabama Restoration Journal, Larry Whitehead: “Over the past year, several have inquired, “How do you fellows come up with all this information?” Well, much of it is a result of years of study. Still, other information is being searched for and found on a regular basis. In this article by Frank Richey, we see how his search for information on J. H. Hundley was recently found— including photographs of Dr. Hundley and his wife; a portrait of Dr. Hundley; a copy of the book, The Plan of Salvation, written by J. H. Hundley, the Hundley family Bible, and three descendants of J. H. and Melinda Hundley.”)
Frank Richey, The Alabama Restoration Journal, Volume 2, No. 2, June 1, 2007, pages 8-11
Directions To Grave Of J.H. Hundley
In Huntsville, Alabama take I-575 to the Pratt Avenue Exit and turn right (N.E.) and go to Andrew Jackson Way and turn right. Follow Andrew Jackson and it will become California St. S.E. Turn left on Left On Wells Then Right on Maple Hill Rd. The cemetery is on the left. Enter the cemetery and go to the office on the right. From the office head east (away from the office) to the first road to the right and look to the left. The Hundley plot is enclosed on three sides by iron fencing. Dr. Hundley's grave is just to the right (south) of the tall center marker. These graves originally were located on the Hundley Plantation just southeast of Mooresville, but when the land was purchased and housing was built, the graves were moved to Maple Hill.
Dr. John H. Hundley
*Special Thanks To Frank Richey for providing the volume written by J.H. Hundley, "The Plan Of Salvation."