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Jubal B. Hancock

 

An Early Lauderdale County Family

A Lauderdale County Web Exclusive
by Bill White

 

Jubal B. Hancock

One of Lauderdale County's First Citizens

"Old Uncle Jubal," as he was affectionately called by Frank Durr, a former slave who wrote about the early days of Lauderdale County, was among Lauderdale's first settlers. Hancock puts himself in the county as early as 1840 in an unsigned letter to the Jackson Mississippian newspaper. The letter, printed 25 August 1848, was in reference to Lauderdale County's political leanings in the upcoming Presidential election. It indicated that the author had been in the county for eight years and had never seen Lauderdale "more firm and united" politically for a presidential campaign. The letter, having no formal signature, was signed with the initials J. B. H. Given Hancock's political activities and position, it seems likely that it was written by Jubal Hancock according to Lauderdale County historian, Fred W. Edmiston, writing in his book on Lauderdale history, "Lauderdale, Mississippi's Empire County."

Durr puts the Hancock family in the county as early as 1839. He writes that one of Jubal Hancock's sons, Buck Hancock (possibly W. M. Hancock), worked for James Dement in his "printing establishment." The Dement family would soon be a prominent and well-known family in the printing and journalism business in Lauderdale County.

A well-known business man and public servant, Jubal Hancock was much respected by the citizens of the county. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, had in the early days held the offices of Mayor and Town Marshall, had managed the Marion Drug Store in the 1850s, and was postmaster at Marion from January 1854 to December 1860.

But Jubal Hancock's first notoriety came much earlier; it began shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit creek in 1830.

Hancock was born in Virginia in 1791 and, very early on in his life, moved to Tennessee. There he met and married a Native American woman of the Choctaws. He moved with her to the tribal lands of north and eastern Mississippi and lived with her people becoming an accepted member of the Choctaw tribe. Together they had three children, before her death, possibly sometime around 1850. William M. Hancock, Mary M. Hancock and Caroline D. Hancock were all born before the ratification of the treaty in 1830. At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, William and Mary were over ten years of age while Caroline was under 10. Jubal was the head of household for his family including, of course, his full Choctaw wife.

Article 14 of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek explains, in part, America's promise to the Native Americans:

"Each Choctaw head of a family, being desirous to remain, and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the agent within six months from the ratification of this treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner, shall be entitled to one half that quantity, for each unmarried child which is living with him, over ten years of age, and a quarter section to such child as may be under ten years of age to adjoin the location of the parent."

Jubal found himself in a difficult legal position. He, being white and, unlike the Native American heads of household, already a citizen of the United States, was not by treaty entitled to receive any of the lands being made available.

The Choctaw heads of household, who would (in theory) live on the lands awarded, remain in Mississippi, and become new citizens of the United States, were so entitled. His wife, being a full Choctaw was eligible to receive land but she was not the head of household. Jubal, no doubt realizing the legal tangle he faced, but not wanting his wife and children to lose their legitimate claims to the land, began a long legal battle that would last 12 years and take an act of the Congress of the United States to resolve.

Those members of the Choctaw who chose not to accept the land offered under the treaty had already begun the long "trail of tears" that would lead to the new Choctaw Nation lands set aside in what would soon become the State of Oklahoma.

Hancock submitted his claim for 640 acres of land on behalf of his wife, 320 acres each for William and Mary and 160 acres for young Caroline. The claim immediately encountered problems from Indian Agent William Ward who rejected it without consideration as being invalid but later, having received guidance from the federal government, reconsidered, sending Hancock's claim and the claims of fourteen other white heads of Choctaw households forward to the War Department.

Finally, on 11 August 1842, the Congress of the United States settled the issue when it ratified and published a resolution entitled "An Act for the Relief of Jubal B. Hancock:"

"Be it enacted &c. [sic], That Jubal B. Hancock be, and he is hereby, authorized, on or before [1 January 1844], to enter at the proper land office, in legal sub-divisions, fourteen hundred and forty acres of any of the public lands of the United States, within the state of Mississippi, in lieu of a like quantity of land to which he and his three children... became entitled under the fourteenth article of the treaty of Dancing-rabbit creek..."

Resolutions were enacted to resolve many of the other land disputed revolving around the articles of the treaty but, although Hancock was now out of the fray, the controversy would continue for more than a hundred years.

Later, in 1846 when the Mexican War loomed dark on the horizon, even Jubal by now nearly fifty-five years old, perhaps remembering his service in the War of 1812 along side another county resident, Peter Urlick, was ready to take up arms against the new foe. In a letter to Governor Albert Brown he writes "The old Man, your humble servant, [referring to himself] has seen some service in 1812, and would like to accompany his two sons [William and Richard(?)] and teach them how to fight while in the service, but is unable, from lameness, to walk. Is there no chance for a place in the staff so as to get on horseback & go?... Please let me hear from you." Fortunately for "The old Man," Lauderdale's two militia companies were not required for service.

Earlier this same year (1846), Frank Durr tells us that Hancock, while serving as Mayor and Town Marshall of Marion, attempted to thwart a gunfight at the Marion Brickyard.  Although he arrested and fined the intended participants, the parties later returned to the brickyard and engaged in a fight.  To learn more about the gunfight at the Marion Brickyard, review the Lauderdale County web site article "The Marion Brickyard Gunfight."

Hancock owned a large vineyard in the general area of Marion and apparently made a large amount of wine from the grapes. His neighbors, especially the younger ones, according to Frank Durr were "delighted [that Hancock] allowed everyone to help himself [sic] free of charge." Whether Hancock had simply "mellowed out" in his later years or if his uninhibited distribution of wine was somehow related to his political aspirations in local politics is unknown.

After becoming an attorney, Jubal served as a probate judge for the county. In 1860 he was elected vice president of the Southern Democrats in Lauderdale County. The Southern Democrats that year ratified the nomination of John C. Breckinridge for President in the upcoming election. Breckinridge had been vice president under James Buchanan from 1856 to 1860. In the 1860 Presidential election of 1860, the democratic vote was split between Breckinridge and the Constitutional Union Party candidate, Stephen A. Douglas, allowing the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln to win the office.

In 1850 Jubal Hancock was living in Marion near C. E. Rushing, owner of Rushing's Store. Living with him were Delia Ann Hancock (14), born in Alabama; Fidelia Hancock (12), born in Mississippi; Caroline D. Carter (26), Jubal's daughter, having married Sam Carter in 1842, born in Mississippi before the signing of the treaty; and her son Branton J. Carter (4); and John Hancock (14), born in Mississippi. It isn't clear exactly what the relationship was between Delia, Fidelia and John. Delia having been born in Alabama and John in Mississippi in the same year would seem to preclude them from being siblings and certainly only one could have been a child of Jubal but they are more likely extended family members. Further, there is no indication that Jubal may have remarried. By 1860, Hancock now 70 years old was living in the home of Walter Welch, a mechanic, who lived in Marion, not too far from that well-known Lauderdale Republican Newspaper editor and Lauderdale County Confederate hero, Con Rea.

Frank Durr also speaks of another county resident: "Mr. Dave Smith was quite a young man when he married in[to] the Hancock family. They made up the largest family circle of the county." This was most likely David C. Smith who, born in Alabama in 1832, lived in the home of William Cheary, a Marion merchant. Smith was a clerk in Cheary's store and, no doubt, well acquainted with Jubal's son William M. Hancock who also boarded with Cheary. On 5 January 1853, Smith married Delia Ann Hancock, certainly a close relative, perhaps daughter (or grandaughter) to Jubal or child of an unknown sibling of Jubal. In 1870 they lived at Marion with daughters Frances, Cordelia, Jane, and Lula. Also living with them was Delia's cousin (or sister) Fidelia A. Hancock.  Fidelia Hancock married John McRea in Lauderdale on 1 August 1863.  Further, living nearby were the one-time owners of former slave Frank Durr, E. A. Durr.

Jubal's children apparently faired well in the county. His son, William M. Hancock, born about 1820 in Mississippi, was an attorney and Circuit Judge of the 8th Judicial District of Mississippi, which includes both Clark and Lauderdale counties. He held this post many years, later moving to Quitman in Clarke County, where he resided in 1870 with his wife Mary Jane, daughter Josaphine and son William M. Hancock, Jr. At this time they had two servants, John Blaking and Mary Ward, living with them.

Of Mary M. Hancock little is known. It may be that she passed away early in her life. Perhaps shortly after the issues with the treaty were resolved in 1842 as did her mother who was believed to have died around 1850.

Jubal's youngest daughter Caroline D. Hancock, born about 1824 in Mississippi, married Samuel M. Carter on 25 July 1842 before Judge Benjamin Harry, a local Justice of the Peace.

Whether Richard was actually Jubal's child or not remains a mystery. Only one reference to him has been found and that was in the informal writings of Frank Durr. He does not appear in the census material for any of the relative years. Further, that the nickname "Buck" was, in fact, used by Jubal's son William, is a conclusion based on it's usage in the writings of the time and not a certainty.

Jubal last appears in the U. S. Census in 1850 but it's clear that he continued to be an active resident of the county well into the 1860's. He and Sylvanus Evans opened a law office in Marion in 1864 but after this the trail goes cold.

Although much is unknown, it is clear that Jubal B. Hancock was a moving force in the organization and early politics of Lauderdale County. He was well-known in the Marion area and clearly an important early citizen of Lauderdale county.

Works Cited

This article is based on the writing of former slave Frank Durr as published in "Bits and Pieces Volume 1" and the masterful work of Fred W. Edmiston on the first 35 years of Lauderdale County, Lauderdale, Mississippi's Empire County: Volume 1: The Early Years, 1830-1865." both works referenced below and both are available from the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History's web site. Click below to visit the web site and read the list of documents available.

Visit Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History

Dawson, Jim, "Bits and Pieces Volume 1" Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 1995.

Edmiston, Fred W., "Lauderdale, Mississippi's Empire County: Volume 1: The Early Years, 1830-1865." Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 2005.

United States Census Bureau: 1850, 1860, 1870 U.S. Federal Census.

 

Page Last Updated:   Thursday, 30 October 2014

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