The Capell Family
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Descendants of Thomas Eslava
Malvenia Eslava Capell
by Billie Capell
|Contact: Billie Capell|
Charles Capell was born in Northampton County, North Carolina, sometime before 1781, the son of Edward and Judith Pritchard Capell. His birthdate is indicated by the probate of the will of his father, Edward, at the December Court 1795. At that time Charles and his brother, Sterling, chose their elder brother, Thomas Capell, as their guardian. For a child to be able to choose his own guardian, he had to be at least 14 years old but under 21.
Little else is known of Charles’ life until he married Rebecca Moore in Northampton County, North Carolina. They had four children who were listed in the will of Rebecca’s mother, Sarah Moore. However, only two children, Emeline and William Moore Capell, accompanied Charles to Alabama. The 1860 Clarke County, Alabama, census stated that Emeline was born about 1808 in North Carolina. William was born about 1810, probably also in North Carolina. Emeline married Young W. Grayson in Wilcox County, Alabama, on June 3, 1828. William died before he could marry. Young Grayson died in Marengo County in 1846, leaving Emeline and their children, James, Horatio, Rebecca, Charles, Elizabeth, Sarah, Martha, and Alexander, all under 21 years of age..
Rebecca evidently died sometime around 1815, before the death of her mother, Sarah Moore, in November 1816, but the location of her death or burial has not been found. Charles married a second time, to Sally or Sarah Cook Richards on January 28, 1817, in Northampton County.
There is a passport issued by the Governor of Georgia in 1811 for a Mr. and Mrs. Capell and their two children and slaves of Northampton County, North Carolina, to travel through Creek Indian territory into Alabama. An examination of the microfilm of this passport yielded no record of a given name for Mr. Capell. There was at least one Capell in south Alabama at that time, a Henry Capell who ran a merchandise business in Clarke County.
Whether or not Charles and Rebecca were the couple who came to Alabama in 1811, we will never know. We do know, however, that Charles and Sally came to Alabama soon after their marriage, bringing with them a number of slaves, three of whom came to Sally from her father’s estate in North Carolina.
Charles received a patent for 160 acres of land in Wilcox County from the Government in August 1819, located in the Southeast Quarter of Section 15, Township 11, Range 7. Charles also bought 320 additional acres of land in Section 15 from someone else and a patent was issued in October 1819.
The obituary of Harvey Simpson Capell in 1909 stated that he was born on January 12, 1827, in Canton Bend, then the county seat of Wilcox County. His father, Charles, died in July 1830 when Simpson was 2 years old. Charles’ will named Sally, Young W. Grayson (husband of Emeline), William M. Capell, his younger four boys and his nephew Irwin Capell. The family tradition is that Charles was buried at night in an unmarked grave to prevent the Indians from knowing he had died. Sally and Irwin were named executors of the will, but Irwin died shortly afterward, leaving only Sally to function as guardian.
On May 20, 1831, Sally received a preemption grant for the East Half of the Northwest Quarter, Section 2, Township 12, Range 7, containing 79.56 acres, for which she paid $1.25 per acre. A preemption grant indicates that she was already living on the land when she applied for the grant. The land covered by this patent is located 1 mile or less southeast of Canton Bend, the county seat of Wilcox County at that time. The large number of notes held by Charles Capell at his death indicates that while living at the county seat, he acted as a merchant, banker or money lender. His land covered by the 1819 grant was located 8 miles south of Canton Bend at the location traditionally associated with the Capell plantation..
Sometime after Charles’ death, while living in Canton Bend, Sally apparently met a handsome Irish rogue named John Nugent. Information in a court case much later stated that John Nugent came to Mobile in 1826 and married a “Scotchwoman,” who later died in New Orleans. When he went to Wilcox County, he was a peddler who had about $100.00 and a horse and small pack of wares to sell. He must have been very charming indeed, for Sally married him later that year.
When Sally remarried in 1831, she lost control of the property left to her and the children by Charles Capell. According to Alabama law of that time, a married woman could not own or control any property in her own name unless there was a prenuptial agreement or unless her husband gave his consent. The husband became the owner of everything she brought to the marriage or acquired later through purchase or inheritance.
Sally was removed by the Wilcox County Orphans Court as guardian of her children and replaced by a succession of guardians, the last Wilcox County guardian being Duncan C. Smith, the coroner of the county. From the very first, John Nugent wanted control of the children’s property. He was continually in court on one charge or another, the lawyers always being paid from guardianship funds. He was usually petitioning for more money or asking to be named guardian. He appealed cases to the Alabama Supreme Court on at least two occasions. A listing of these court cases provided the key that unlocked all of the history recounted here.
Affairs really heated up in February 1832. There was some sort of fracus in which John Nugent killed William Moore Capell, Sally’s stepson. John was indicted for murder and the trial was scheduled for May 1832. He was to be kept in the Monroe County jail for his own protection. At the scheduled time, John requested a change of venue, which was granted. The trial was moved to Dallas County. Henry Richards, a brother of Sally Richards Capell, must have been a witness to the affair, because he had to give a bond of $1,000.00 to the Wilcox County Circuit Court that he would testify at the trial when it was held in Dallas County.
The trial was scheduled for the September term of the court in Cahaba. A jury had been selected and empaneled. On the morning the trial was to take place, the judge was taken ill and was unable to preside. The trial was postponed for a week and John was then convicted of manslaughter. He must have received a sentence of at least a year for the conviction. However, he appealed to the Supreme Court on the charge that it was double jeopardy to make him stand trial twice. The Supreme Court ruled that it was not double jeopardy, since he was actually tried only once. The verdict was upheld and apparently John did serve some prison time, but the location of the imprisonment is not known. It is possible that John served his sentence in the Perry County jail because Harvey Simpson Capell’s obituary stated that after his father’s death when he was 2 years old, his mother took them all to Marion where they resided until Simpson was about 8 years old, when they moved to Mobile.
While living in Perry County, John Nugent received a land grant for 80 acres of land northwest of Marion, Alabama. I have not researched the deed records to see when he sold the property.
After his release from prison, the family apparently returned to Wilcox County. Finding the climate too hot for him, Nugent moved Sallie and her children to Mobile, where they lived until Nugent left Mobile by steamship about 1849. Nugent became an American citizen in 1840. After Nugent’s departure they moved back to the family plantation in Wilcox County.
From the beginning of their marriage, Nugent tried to gain control of the children’s money. When he finally was named guardian in Mobile, two friends signed as his bondsmen. Nugent treated the guardianship money as his own, spending freely on whatever he wanted, always purchasing the property in his own name. He bought a lot in Mobile and built several houses on the lot. The property in Perry County was in his name, though probably bought with guardianship funds. Nugent could neither read nor write and he never made any annual reports to the Orphans Court of his conduct of the guardianship’s business as is required by law.
When Alexander, the oldest of Charles Capell's children by his second wife, became 21 years of age, he demanded an accounting of Nugent’s guardianship. Nugent fled Mobile and took ship for New York, possibly intending to return to Ireland. Alexander then became guardian of Simpson and Newton, the other brother having died in 1840. He filed a suit against Nugent and attempted to collect from the bondsmen for Nugent’s delinquencies. He soon found that one of the bondsmen had died and the other had declared bankruptcy. A friend of John Nugent’s gave an interesting deposition in the case. The charming Irish scoundrel had achieved a sad ending to Charles’ adventurous spirit and hard work in Wilcox County.
For reasons we shall never know, Alexander decided to seek gold in the California gold rush. He is listed in the 1850 census as a merchant, residing in a community known as Rough and Ready. Perhaps he wanted to recoup the family’s fortune. At any rate, he was unsuccessful in the endeavor and he died in California in the fall of 1851. His estate was administered upon in Wilcox County.
Harvey Simpson married Malvenia Eslava in Mobile in 1849. Their union produced twelve children. Sometime after the 1850 census, Simpson, Malvenia, his children, his mother Sallie, and brother Newton returned to Wilcox County where they lived the remainder of their lives. Newton never married. He is said to have played the violin and been one of the best informed citizens in Wilcox County. He went to England several times and acted as a cotton broker.
Apparently, Simpson managed the plantation to good effect, because he was in the act of building the old Capell home south of Camden when the War between the States began in 1861. He changed the house’s plans and installed an oddly shaped roof instead of the one he had planned, just to provide a home into which to move the family.
Simpson and Newton enlisted and fought through the war, Simpson in the 3rd Alabama Cavalry and Newton in the 4th Alabama Infantry. At the conclusion of the war, they returned to Wilcox County and resumed their farming operation, but without the labor of the slaves they previously owned. Newton never married. In 1873 Sallie died, leaving a will in which she named both sons as executors. She was buried in the family cemetery. The burial places of Charles, William Moore, and Irwin are unknown, but are supposed to be in a field across the road from Ashby and Cammie Capell. Mary Capell said that her daddy knew where the graves were, but the information has been lost.
In 1904 Newton died, leaving Simpson as the only heir to his mother. In 1906 he had a deed prepared in which he divided the 1175 acres of land into shares for each of his children. His death occurred in 1909. His obituary stated he was the oldest native-born citizen of Wilcox County at the time of his death, having been born in 1827.
This material copyrighted by Billie Capell.