John Alexander Birdwell

John Alexander Birdwell

Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, USA
Death 19 Dec 1871 (aged 58–59)
Linn Flat, Nacogdoches County, Texas, USA
Burial Mount Enterprise, Rusk County, Texas, USA
Plot Birdwell
Memorial ID 50518427 · View Source
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who gave his life in service in upholding the law of the United States.

Some family members give his full name as John Alexander Birdwell and his birth year as 1795 while others say 1812 (or 1814) and call him John Birdwell Jr. It is not believed his father had the middle name of Alexander, however.
Several authentic records show his name as John A. Birdwell.
Some Birdwell researchers have confused him with John Alexander Birdwell (1823-1870), a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and a son of Alexander Birdwell and Elizabeth Copas. That John Alexander Birdwell died in Tennessee and married Nancy Condra, but some researchers have circulated his photo as that of Constable John Birdwell. There are no known photos surviving of Constable John Birdwell.

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas, 1854-1857, by A.S. Ruthven, Grand Secretary and Past Grand Master, vol. II (1857), p.242:
Mount Enterprise Lodge, No. 60.
p.243: Past Masters.
Master Masons. …Allen Birdwell, John Birdwell

Killed in the Line of duty.

He was a constable who was murdered at Linn Flatt, Nacogdoches County. According to his niece Addie Birdwell's bible, Uncle John's body was brought 12 miles from Linn Flat to be interred in the family cemetery at Mt. Enterprise.

"The Mitchells of Linn Flat," by Gweneth A. Marshall Mitchell (1981), page 114, referenced John Birdwell, Jr., dying in the deplorable Linn Flat affair and stated that John Birdwell Sr., John Birdwell Jr., and John Calhoun Birdwell were buried in a row in the family graveyard near Mt. Enterprise, Tx. (the Allen Birdwell place). The burial site was pastureland in the 1960s-80s and no markers are there now to identify it, as written in Adeline Birdwell's Bible; also, that "Uncle John had married Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson--1859. He died 1871." The farmer who claimed ownership of the land piled all the grave markers in the ditch nearby and ploughed up the cemetery in the 1960s. Today the cemetery has reportedly been planted in pine trees to further obscure it.

John Birdwell Jr. was the father of James Andrew Birdwell (1835-1914), father of Henry W. Birdwell, father of Clara Emma Birdwell who married John Alfred Collier and was the mother of singer, dancer and actress Ann Miller (April 12, 1923 – January 22, 2004).

On December 14, 1871, two Texas state policemen, Columbus Hazlett and William Grayson, attended a justice of the peace court session in the Linn Flat community. When the two men were in disagreement with an action by the Court, they caused a disturbance and threatened to shoot one of the lawyers. Justice Dawson charged them with contempt. An arrest warrant was issued, and Dawson gave it to Constable John Birdwell to execute. Constable Birdwell summoned a deputized civilian named David W. Harvell to assist him in the arrest of the two state policemen. The constable then located Hazlett nearby and arrested him. Hazlett offered no resistance, and on Birdwell's command called to Grayson in a nearby store.

When Grayson drew near, Hazlett told him, "I am a prisoner." Grayson said, "Die before you surrender." Deputized Citizen Harvell then demanded Hazlett hand over his gun. Instead, Hazlett drew his weapon and shot Harvell in the chest. But Harvell did not go down. He staggered though a nearby store door, picked up a shotgun, and fired the first barrel into Hazlett's face. Hazlett was hit by only a few pellets, but the second barrel discharged in the direction of Grayson, wounding him. Hazlett and Grayson returned fire, twice hitting Harvell, who dropped dead on the store floor. Constable Birdwell never had a chance to draw his weapon, and was looking down the barrels of the state policemen's guns when they mounted their horses and rode off.

On December 19, 1871, Constable John Birdwell answered a knock on his door in Linn Flat and was shot dead. Arrest warrants were issued for Grayson and Hazlett.

About a week later Lt. Thomas Williams, a respected member of the state police, rode into Linn Flat with Grayson and Hazlett. Lt. Williams negotiated with Sheriff Orton for several days over the arrest and confinement of the two state policemen. No settlement was reached, and Williams rode away one night with his two prisoners. Soon after, the state police chief returned to surrender Hazlett and Grayson to the sheriff.

Grayson was convicted and sent to prison for life. Hazlett escaped from jail before his trial, fled to Arkansas, and was later killed by bounty hunters.

"Constable John Birdwell, 59, was survived by his wife and 10 children."

Family trees show John Birdwell Jr. and his first wife had three children, his second wife had seven children, and his third wife had three.

History of Fayette County, Alabama (Fayette, AL.: Newell Offset Printing Co., 1960) by Herbert M. Newell Jr., 2nd ed. 1976, pp. 211-212, says John Birdwell Jr. married Elizabeth ____.

1812: Madison Co, AL
1820: Fayette Co, AL
1830: Limestone Co?
1835: Limestone Co, AL
1840: Madison Co, AL?
1850 Fayette Co, AL
1851-55 moved to Texas per births of children
1860 -- not found in Texas
1870: Nacogdoches Co, Tx

Proceedings of The Grand Lodge of Texas (1857), vol. II, purports to cover the masonic lodge from 1854-47 and shows (p.243) Allen Birdwell and John Birdwell were members of Mt. Enterprise Lodge number 60. Undetermined whether this is a reference to John Birdwell Sr. who died Feb 16, 1854, still listed on the membership roll, or whether it is his son John Alexander Birdwell, but likely the latter, although he is not found on the 1860 Texas census.

Children by first wife, Eliza:
1 Martha Birdwell born c1830 married Riley J. Crittenden
2 John Alexander Birdwell (Jr.) (1833-1918)
3 James Andrew Birdwell (1835-1914)

Children by Winny Elisa Wright (married 18 Nov. 1835 Limestone Co., AL) (1850 census shows her name as Elisa)
4 Wm McElree Birdwell (1837- 1906)
5 Mary Elizabeth (1839/40- ) (d.1862?)
6 George H (1845- )
7 Elizabeth Jane (some say Eliza Eugenice (May 1846-1915), married 1st Drury Weatherby, 2nd Robert T. Gray
8 Thomas Benton Birdwell (1850 AL-1924 Tx)
9 Marsella or Marilla Jane (1855 Tx- ) (m Thos F. Shirley)
10 William J (1857/8 Tx- )

Children by Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson (formerly Mrs. Claiborn Johnson), married 20 May 1858 Nacogdoches Co., Tx.
11 Mary E (1862 Tx- )
Some also list:
12 Clara Emma
13 Henry W.

A farmer who acquired the Birdwell farm is said to have ploughed up the family cemetery in the 1960s and today the site is a pine thicket. It is undetermined whether the cemetery will be restored at this time.


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees


  • Created by: Ray Isbell
  • Added: 31 Mar 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 50518427
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Alexander Birdwell (1812–19 Dec 1871), Find a Grave Memorial no. 50518427, citing Birdwell Cemetery, Mount Enterprise, Rusk County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Ray Isbell (contributor 47188697) .