|Birth: ||Nov. 12, 1808|
South Carolina, USA
|Death: ||Jun. 7, 1894|
May 31, 1995
Baylis Earle Grace
One hundred and one years ago, a remarkable ancestor to all who are addressed, died on June 7, 1894. He was buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.
Baylis Earle Grace was born November 12, 1808 in the Abbeville district of South Carolina, the only child of James and Mary Acker Grace. They moved west as pioneers first to Tennessee and finally to Jones Valley which in time became Birmingham, Alabama. A few years earlier, James had traveled through this beautiful wilderness in the army of Andrew Jackson. Soon after settling in Jones Valley, the young soldier died, leaving the widow, Mary Grace, and Baylis, age eleven. There were only a few hundred families in the valley at that time, but none were related to the Graces. The fact that two of them survived is a tribute to their tenacity and endurance. Baylis had one year of school, and that was in a one-room, dirt-floored cabin. Watever he learned as a child must have been taught to him by his mother, Mary. His oldest son, Dr. Francis Mitchell Grace, a Methodist minister, wrote, "My father's people were Baptist but he was more a man of the world, moralist or rationalist, than a sectarian of any kind. Hunting, politics and music were his diversions. He was fond of poetry and read Burns, Scott, Campbell, Thompson's "Seasons," Young's "Night Thoughts," and Shakespeare. Walter Scott's novels were a treasure in the household. Henry Clay was my father's political idol in early life, but he drifted into the Democratic and Secession party before the War. My mother read the Bible a great deal, but my father never formed the habit of reading the Bible and was an irregular attendant at church, going more for the sake of oratory than the doctrine."
Baylis served a number of years in elected county office - clerk, sheriff and assessor. His inquiring mind and acute sense of observation led him to perceive the mineral wealth of the area. The resistant rock layers of hematite at the crest of Red Mountain that marked the rim of Jones Valley on the south were rich in iron. The streams in the valley exposed numerous coal seams. His curiosity led him to have two wagon-loads of the red rock turned into wrought iron of fine quality. Acting on his conviction that the ore would someday be of value, he bought a large tract of land where the hematite seam was well developed and accessible. His farm was located astride a notch in the mountain ridge where many years later the railroad exited the valley at "Grace's Gap."
In order to illustrate the high esteem in which he was held, excerpts from his obituary in the Birmingham New Age-Herald follow: "Upon word of the death of Baylis Grace, a number of representative citizens of Birmingham met in the circuit courtroom and Capt. W. P. Barker called the meeting to order and Dr. Joseph R. Smith was made chairman. Capt. Barker stated that the object of the meeting was to pay suitable tribute to the memory of B. E. Grace, Sr. A secretary was elected and a committee of five -- was appointed to draft suitable resolutions."
The lengthy statements that followed included "one of the most esteemed and venerated of our fellow citizens -- whose life has been one of uprightness and integrity -- the passing of one of the most ancient landmarks of our county, one who cam to her borders in early life, and who served her people in many positions of public office and trust; that in death this county has lost one of her oldest, best beloved, truest and most honored citizens. That his ong and useful public and private life commend him to the youth -- as a worthy and honorable example of high character, love of truth and patriotism."
"Judge Porter spoke of the virtues of the deceased. Speeches were also made by Judge Fulton, Col. John Martin, Capt. W. P. Barker and Capt. T. M. Owens. All the remarks bore tribute to the high worth of the deceased, to his business integrity, his official honesty, his incorruptible character and blameless private life."
The grave of our patriarch, Baylis Earle Grace has been unmarked for a century! However, a suitable granite monument has been commissioned by his granddaughter, Janie Grace Robinson, and by the writer. The monument will be approximately 3 1/2 by 4 feet and will be accompanied by a granite foot marker, 1 x 2 feet. The monument will be incesed with "Baylis Earle Grace - Pioneer Settler, Public Servant, Iron Ore Visionary." It should be in-place b July or early August, 1995.
Arrangement have been made by Cdr. Richard A. Wier, USN (ret.) for a military marker for the grave of Baylis, Jr., a Confederate veteran, who was buried next to his father.
A number of descendants who were aware of this project have sent encouragement and financial help. It would be presumptuous not to allow all descendents to participate in this memorial, and of course any contributions would be welcomed.
Robert M. Grace
P.O. Box 54
Midland, Texas 79702-0054
From "History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 3" By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen:
GRACE, BAYLIS EARLE, circuit clerk and sheriff, was born November 12, 1808, in Greenville District, S. C., and became an orphan at an early age; grandson of Joseph and Catherine Elizabeth Grace, the former a Revolutionary soldier who was killed in the battle of Eutaw Springs and his wife set fire to her own house rather than allow it to shelter the enemy. In 1827 Mr. Grace was taken into the office of Harrison W. Goyne, circuit clerk at Elyton, as his assistant and at the end of the term he was elected to the office defeating Hugh M. Caruthers. In 1835 and 1839 he was re-elected but resigned before the expiration of his term. He removed to the country at Grace's Gap, the point in Red Mountain where the Louisville and Nashville railroad cuts through. In 1844 he was elected sheriff of Jefferson County after the law required that division. In 1859 he was appointed general administrator and guardian for that county and held that office until 1863. He was among the first to realize the value of the mineral deposits of Red Mountain, and had the first iron ever made from the local ore smeltered and hammered into iron ore, the work being done in New Smith's puddling furnace in Bibb County. After this test he made the first sale of Birmingham district iron ore for manufacturing purposes. He was an expert rifleman, a poet and flutist. He was one of the first newspaper men of Jefferson County, editor of "Central Alabamian," successor to the "Jones Valley times," the first paper published in the county, a copy of which is to be found in the archives of the Tennessee historical society. Married: (1) to Jane Mitchell; (2) to Ann Eliza, daughter of John Cantley, a member of the legislature from Jefferson County. Children: by the first wife, 1. Francis Mitchell (q. v.); 2. a son accidentally killed while at college in Athens, Ga.; 3. Baylis Earle, jr., lawyer, Birmingham. Last residence: Jefferson County.
James Grace (____ - 1820)
Mary Acker Grace (1781 - 1855)
Francis Mitchell Grace (1832 - 1904)*
Baylis Earle Grace (1848 - 1894)*
Forest Hill Cemetery
Created by: Liz Wier Jernigan
Record added: Nov 14, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61608845