He was apparently the youngest of Benjamin Cheatham’s four children, only about five years old when his father died, leaving him without either parent. At least one guardian record (which I did not view) exists in Northampton County dated in 1790. In December 1794, when he was merely 12 years old, Littleberry Cheatham was apprenticed to Thomas Jordan in Northampton County to learn to be a bricklayer.
His daughter and perhaps his eldest child Nancy Cheatham was born in 1810. She gave her birthplace as Tennessee in the 1850 census, but as Kentucky in the 1860 and 1870 censuses. Littleberry Cheatham may have been in the vicinity of Robertson County, Tennessee or the adjacent Kentucky counties when his daughter was born, as he bought a plow and some leather from the estate of Simon Squire on 18 October 1808 in Robertson County. 1 His name also appears as a noteholder in an estate inventory taken in Robertson County, Tennessee in 1833. 2 He does not appear in any state’s 1810 or 1820 census.
He moved to northwestern Alabama sometime in the 1820s. As Littleberry Cheatham of Franklin County, Alabama he was issued a grant for 80 acres on 1 November 1830. 3 Another grant, for a nearby 40 acres, was issued to Littleberry Cheatham in 1834.4 He probably purchased by deed the land that connected the two plots, as he owned 286 acres in 1850, but deed records for Franklin County no longer exist.
The grants place his plantation on Bear Creek, perhaps including the mouth of Smith’s Creek, just south of Tuscumbia in what became Colbert County several years after his death. An 1896 map of Colbert County shows the Bear Creek Baptist Church on what may have been his land, as well as a location marked “Cheatham”. A third grant, for 162 acres several miles away, in what is now Franklin County, was issued posthumously in 1856.5
The Franklin County courthouse burned in 1890, destroying virtually all records and denying us additional insight into his life there. Littleberry Cheatham was enumerated in Franklin County in the federal censuses of 1830, 1840, and 1850. In 1830 he headed a household that included a second male aged 30-40 and a female aged 5-10 as well as 14 slaves. He was aged 50-60. 6 In 1840 his household included only the daughter (Martha) and his wife, and he was again aged 50-60.7
In 1850 his age was recorded as 69 and his birthplace as “N. Carolina”. The only other person in the household was Mary Cheatham, age 16 and born in Alabama. This may have been a clerical mistake in copying the census record, as his wife Mary would have been 65 in 1850. As “Polly Cheatham” she was enumerated as age 75 in the household of Joseph A. Guy in 1860.
The 1850 Alabama Agricultural Census listed him as Littleberry Cheatham, with 286 acres of land (of which 126 acres were unimproved) worth $2,500, with $75 in farm implements and $1,100 in livestock. The 1850 Slave Schedules list him as the owner of 18 slaves, nine male and nine female. The Alabama state census of 1850 contained similar information.
The family Bible of Joseph Albert Guy, husband of Martha F. Cheatham, mentions his father-in-law on two pages.8 Under “Deaths” was written:
L. B. Cheatham died 26 June 1855. Mary Cheatham wife of L. B. Cheatham died 22 of June 1879 at 20 minutes of nine A. M.
And on the following page was written:
L. B. Cheatham was borned Northampton County North Carolina in August 1782. Mary Battle was born Nash County North Carolina July 11th 1785 the wife of Littleberry Cheatham.
These two Bible pages may be viewed by clicking here.
A journal entry in 1945 repeats some of the same information and adds the statement that Joseph A. Guy’s wife was the only child of Mary Battle who was Littleberry Cheatham’s second wife:
Joseph Albert Guy married a daughter of Littleberry and Mary (Battle) Cheatham. Mr. Cheatham was a native of Northampton County, North Carolina. Miss Battle was his second wife and Mrs. Guy was the only child of that marriage. Littleberry Cheatham owned a plantation on Bear Creek southwest of Tuscumbia in the ante-bellum days. There were also other Cheathams in that section who were probably relatives of his. 9
- Nancy Cheatham (15 August 1810 – 8 April 1890) was thrice married with children from all three marriages. She is buried, as “Nancy Beaumont”, in the Oakwood Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama. See the separate page on Nancy Cheatham for much more detail.
- Martha Francis Cheatham (2 February 1825 – 13 February 1895) married Joseph A. Guy (1814-1898), probably in or near Tuscumbia on 6 February 1842 according to the Joseph A. Guy family Bible. Joseph Guy’s parents were another Northampton County family which had moved to Franklin County. Both Martha and Joseph are buried in the Guy Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
He may have had other children. The above-quoted article claims that he only had one child by Mary Battle. If we can believe the Guy Bible, Mary Battle must have been 40 years old when that child was born, which suggests the possibility that she married Littleberry Cheatham late in life. He may therefore have had another child or two who was already out of his household by the 1830 census. The male in the 1830 household may have been the Jesse Cheatham (aged 40-50) who appeared in the Franklin County 1840 census. I note that a Littleberry Cheatham “of Madison County, Mississippi” received seven land grants there in 1834 and 1835. Whether than was the same man or a second person with that name is not clear. James Cheatham of Madison County, a son of Thomas Cheatham of Robertson County, Tennessee, received at least ten land grants there in 1835 and 1840, though they were considerably south of Littleberry Cheatham’s grants.
There was also a John Cheatham (33, born Tennessee) and a John M. Cheatham (27, born Alabama) enumerated as heads of families in the 1850 Franklin County census located in the same general geography as Littleberry Cheatham. How they might have been related — if at all — I do not know.
- Robertson County Probate Records Book 1796-1825, pages 306, 307. [↩]
- Robertson County, TN, Inventories & Wills Book 8, page 258. The inventory of the estate of William Benson lists a “note on Joseph Stow payable to Littleberry Cheatham: $20.87.” I happened upon this by chance. [↩]
- Grant # 2901, in Township 5S and Range 11W, northeast side of Section 6. He was the assignee of Henry W. Rhodes, who was assignee of Isaiah McDill, who was assignee of Malcolm Gilchrist. [↩]
- Grant #5156, same Township-Range on the southwest side of Section 5. [↩]
- Issued 20 August 1856, fourteen months after his death, this grant was in Township 7S, Range 14W, in Franklin County some distance away from the earlier parcels. [↩]
- 1830 Franklin County census: L. B. Cheatham 00000101 – 0100001 +14 slaves. [↩]
- 1840 Franklin County census: Littleton (sic) B. Cheatham 00000001 – 0010001. [↩]
- Loose pages in a folder located in the North Carolina Archives stacks, filed under MARS ID 400.976. [↩]
- Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 7, No.4, page 525. [↩]