Bayless Family History and Genealogy

Our Bayless Family

By Virginia Bayless O'Connell

Virginia O'Connell Died June 17, 2006 - Mrs. Virginia Bayless O'Connell, 98 died Saturday. She was a native of Madison County but spent most of her adult life in Phoenix, Ariz., and Winston-Salem, N.C. She was a graduate of UNA at Florence and the School of Social Work at the University of Chicago and practiced her profession for some 40 years. Her husband, Dr. Sargent O'Connell, died in 1973. - Published in The Huntsville Times on 6/19/2006.

This research was done as a labor of love by Cousin Virginia for her family. We thank her for her work in documenting this Bayless Line. She credits the research on the early line to Howard Green Bayless. No attempt has been made to confirm or dispute this early research.

Our Bayless Family in MS Word format

History of the Cherokee Baptist Church


This is an attempt to document one line of the Bayless family of Alabama. Our first ancestor, John Bayless, came from England and settled in Long Island, New York. Some of his descendants, who ultimately came to the southern part of the United States, "passed through" New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia before establishing themselves in Washington County, Tennessee (then North Carolina).(1) A few years later some of this group moved further south to Madison County, Alabama. The record of our earlier ancestors is much better documented than is that of the later ones as the records in Washington County, Tennessee are sparse and the Federal Census Records of Alabama for 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 have disappeared. Only a summary of the early history will be given here as it is well documented in "The Early History of the Bayless Families of Long Island and New Jersey" by Howard Green Bayless -- available in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.


The weight of evidence indicates that John Bayless came from the Parish of St. Peters of Mancroft in Norwich, England. His birth date is given as 1617 and supposedly he was of humble yeoman stock. He sailed from England on the Truelove on June 10, 1635 as an indentured servant of William Wells of Norwich.(2) Well's age is given as 17, one year younger than John, but this is not uncommon. It was usual for young men without funds to work their passage as indentured servants. The Truelove reached Boston in 1635 and William Wells can be traced from Boston (1635) to Lynn (1638) to New Haven (1639) and to Southold, Long Island in 1640 (3) . The fact that there are no records of John Bayless during this period is not strange as only masters and heads of households were recorded.

The first records of John Bayless in this country are from the First Church of Southold, Long Island, which shows that he lived there prior to 1654. It may be assumed that he had worked out his passage by now and was free to do as he pleased. There is no record of his marriage date but along about this time he was married to Rebecca Stillwell. [NOTE: Check the above-mentioned FAQ for additional information on the Stillwell surname.] He bought a lot on Town Street in 1656 upon which he built a house. He sold this house in 1661 and moved to Jamaica. From then until his death in 1682 there are numerous references to him -- land transactions, surveyor, constable, tax payer, etc. (4)

In 1664 John Bayless was involved in a land deal which is sufficiently interesting to relate in some detail. On September 26, 1664, a group of Long Islanders consisting of John Bayless, Daniel Denton, John Foster, Luke Watson and Associates petitioned the Governor of the Colony of New Jersey to buy land in New Jersey from the Staten Island Indians. The petition was granted and the group bought about 200,000 acres of land from the said Indians for which they paid "Twenty fathoms of Trayden Cloth (trading cloth?), two made coats, two gunnes, two kettles, ten bars of lead, twenty handfuls of powder, and 400 fathoms of white wampum." The deed was dated October 28, 1664 and ratified on December 1st by Governor Nichols of New Jersey. The record states that "immediately thereafter the buyers entered upon, planted and improved said property." In August, 1665, a new Governor was appointed for the Colony of New Jersey and he repudiated the transaction on the grounds that title for siad land had been granted another before permission was given to John Bayless and Associates to purchase. He offered to reimburse the Long Islanders for their outlay, which they placed at 154 pounds, and to allow the ousted settlers to re-establish themselves on reasonable tracts of land near Elizabethtown. John Bayless accepted the grant of land offered, sold it and returned to Long Island where he promptly reappeared in the records of Jamaica. There is no reason to suppose that he ever moved his family to New Jersey.(5)

Howard Green Bayless comments upon this event as follows: "Everything indicates that the John Bayless who took part in this venture was the founder of our line. He was 47 years old at the time -- a wanderer, an inveterate land trader and always active in community affairs. It is interesting to speculate how different the history of our family would have been if the New Jersey purchase had remained in the hands of the original owners and their descendants. This is the only time that great wealth ever came close to any member of the Bayless family. On the whole, they have been respectable citizens and land owners with a liberal sprinkling in the later generations of professional people."(6)

The will of John Bayless is dated October 18, 1682(7) and was proven January 15, 1683. A copy is included. According to the will there were ten living children at the time of John Bayless' death and one daughter, Rebecca, who died in early adulthood. She married Nicholas Stillwell and Mrs. Rose Clarke, Detroit, says that Lt. General Joseph Stillwell is a descendant of this union. Our direct ancestor is the eldest son, John, Jr.


Born: About 1642 Died: About 1696
Married: Ruth Rusco, 12 March 1655.

It appears that John Bayless, son of John and Rebecca Bayless, was less adventurous than his father. He remained in Southold when the family moved to Jamaica but joined them a year later and married there in 1655. His name appears often in Jamaica records as fence inspector, tax payer, recipient of land and in purchases and sales of property. He was a delegate to the Governor, Tax Assessor and Contributor to the Minister's salary. There is a record of five children - Samuel, John, Elias, Daniel, and Sarah. Daniel is our direct ancestor.(8)


Born: 1683, Jamaica, Long Island.
Died: About 1752, Kingston, New Jersey
Married: 1 Sarah Ludlum 2 Elizabeth Waters--1751

Daniel Bayless appears in the records of Jamaica several times between 1706 and 1727. He moved to what is now Hunterton County, New Jersey prior to 1712 as he served on a jury in that year. He was evidently a prolific land owner (100 acres, 300 acres, etc.) and was most active in community affairs. In one instance it was stated that the Court of Quarter Sessions would meet at his home which indicates that he had a house of considerable size. In 1727 he moved to Middlesex County where he established a home that remained in the family for two more generations. When he bought it, the tract was 300 acres midway between Kingston and Monmouth Junction. Years later it was advertised for sale as being "420 acres, 250 cleared, 20 in meadow with two houses, two barns, etc."(9)

Apparently Sarah Bayless died in 1751 -- the following is quoted directly from the files of the New York Gazette, November 25, 1751, as reprinted in the New Jersey Archives:

We hear from Kingston, in east New Jersey, that on Sunday the 10th of this Instant, in the evening, after having been twice published the same day, Daniel Baley, aged 68 years, was married to Elizabeth Waters, aged 78 years -- the first had been a widower 8 months, and the other a widow 15 years. The Ceremony was performed with the utmost Solemnity before a very Crowded Audience.

From the same paper, issue of March 16, 1752, reprinted in the records of the New Jersey Archives we find:

Extract of a letter from Kingston, New Jersey, March 10, 1752: Mr. Parker, in your paper Number 462, we had an account of the marriage of Daniel Baley and Elizabeth Waters, solemnized on the 10th of November last; which couple have since lived in the happy enjoyment of each other, for the most Part, until the 9th of this month; when by common consent of both parties, in the Presence of a Number of Spectors, after having given Security never to be burthenson to each other, as likewise for their Loyalty while absent, parted, never to meet again in the State of Matrimony -- What the cause was we know not; but some who pretend to know, say they have not courted long enough before Marriage.

It is not surprising that Daniel married so soon after his wife's death as the Church did not permit an unmarried man to employ a female servant. Doubtless he was unable to cope with housekeeping and sought the only solution available to him. Evidently he died soon after the loss of his bride as he does not appear on the local tax rolls for December, 1752.

Three sons from the first marriage lived to adulthood - Daniel, Samuel and John. Daniel, Junior is our direct ancestor.


Born: 15 December, 1716 -- Hunterton County, New Jersey
Died: 1800, Washington County, Tennessee
Married: 13 January, 1736 to Joanna Lake, daughter of John and Martina Lake

Daniel Bayless was about 42 years of age when he decided to move from New Jersey to some place in the South. The writer is eternally grateful to him and Joanna Lake Bayless for making this decision. There were nine children,(10) all of whom were evidently born in New Jersey with the possible exception of Hezekiah. We are not sure whether all of the children left New Jersey but there are records of each of the sons in Tennessee some years later. We are not sure about the three daughters.(11)

The youngest son, Hezekiah, was the first Bayless "settler" from this line in Alabama.(12)

Daniel Bayless moved from New Jersey to Cecil County, Maryland sometime between 1757-62. By 1771 he had moved to Loudon County, Virginia. It is said that each time he moved he would leave power-of-attorney with a friend until he could establish another residence. His occupation is given as surveyor but, like most people of that era, he probably was proficient in many trades.(13) (14)

In 1780-81 he, along with other settlers, started the long trek to Washington County, Tennessee, then North Carolina. This territory became part of Tennessee in 1796. Deed records at Jonesboro, Tennessee reveal that Daniel and three of his sons, Samuel, Reuban, and Hezekiah, were granted lands in Washington County as early as 1784.(15)

Daniel Bayless was pastor of the Cherokee Baptist Church which was organized in 1783 (16) and was the first Baptist Church in the Tennessee Territory. We are not sure when his pastorate began but he served until his death in 1800. His son, John, succeeded him as pastor and served until his death in 1823. (17) It is assumed that all of these earlier members of the Bayless family are buried in the Cemetery of the Cherokee Baptist Church (five miles south of Jonesboro), although the inscriptions on the earlier markers are illegible and no census is available. There are dozens of Bayless markers that can be read and this cemetery is an interesting place to visit.

Reuban, the fifth son of Daniel and Joanna Lake, is our direct ancestor.


Born: 17 June 1754, Kingston, New Jersey
Died: 7 November, 1826, Washington County, Tennessee
Married: Margaret Lucas

Getting Reuben "right" has posed a problem, primarily because there were a number of people who had the name Reuben, Samuel, and John and many of the public records do not give adequate identifying information. It was difficult to ascertain who descended from whom. An advertisement in The Genealogical Helper brought several replies but they were all different. From various public records, a list of the children has been compiled. It may not be entirely accurate but the first three are named in land records, the next six in Reuben Bayless' will and the last, Mary, from a less reliable source. They are:

- Daniel L married Mary Ireland
- John married Elizabeth Hunt
- George L. married Hannah Goulder
- Margaret married James White
- Elizabeth married Isaac Hendley (Henley)
- Reuben, Jr. married Sarah Young
- Rebecca
- Leathy (Southy)
- Samuel
- Mary married Thomas Wood

(Sherry Bayless of Florence Alabama contacted me in March 2007 with photographs of what was thought to be the Daniel Bayless Family Bible. From Sherry: All the experts that have seen all the photos together agree that it is probably Byrd Deadrick Bayless and Eliza May Bayless' Bible, purchased to give to Alexander Harrison Bayless and Carrie Hink upon their marriage.  BUT the oldest information in it looks to be copied word-for-word from an older Bible by Eliza, so its accuracy should be good. Byrd Deadrick Bayless was the son of Daniel L. Bayless) All images are in jpg format 576x768. While the original images I received were in color, I have converted them to grayscale in an effort to make them a reasonable file size.

Byrd Bayless Family Bible


(It would appear from the Will of Reuben Bayless, that Rebecca Bayless was handicapped in some way as her father left specific instructions for her care.)

Even though information regarding the family of Reuban Bayless is scarce, his land holdings are well documented. He entered Land Grant #542 in 1793 for 200 acres(18) of land located on the drain of Brown's branch of the Nolichuky River. This land was sold to the settlers by the State of North Carolina at the rate of 50 shillings for every hundred acres. He added to the original purchase through the years and eventually owned considerable acreage. He either built or operated a ferry near his home as in 1795, George North was appointed "overseer of the road from Jonesboro to the Reuban Bayless ferry on the Nolichucky River."(19) Apparently he built a comfortable home in which he, his wife and two daughters were living at the time of his death. Reuben and Margaret Bayless are buried in the cemetery of the Cherokee Baptist Church. The inscriptions are not now legible but, with the help of a census in the Jonesboro Library, they are easily located.

The second son, John, is our direct ancestor.


Born: 23 December 1780, Louden County, Virginia
Died: 8 March 1860, Madison County, Alabama
Married: 23 August 1803, Elizabeth Hunt

John Bayless came from Tennessee to Madison County, Alabama in 1809 and settled in the present Locust Grove area, Winchester Pike. Just across the branch from what is now the James Lawler place. In 1810 he "entered" the Sanford place, Winchester Pike and across the lane from the present Leo Lawler place. Presumably he lived there until he returned to approximately his original site in 1834.(20) Time has passed without documentation of this particular house but it is presumed to be the one of which Lucy Lawler Blackburn has a picture. According to family tradition, it was originally a two story, four room log house and at least three additions were made to it during the time John Bayless and his son, Thomas Hunt, lived on it.

John Bayless moved to Madison Cross Roads in 1858 when he was 78 years of age. According to Madison County Deed Book BB, p 332, he deeded land (amount not determined) to his son, John L. Bayless and to his granddaughter, Elizabeth Ann Snider, age 12, reserving for himself and his wife, Betsy, a life estate. One wonders why he moved at such an advanced age unless it was to provide care for the old age of himself and his wife.

John Bayless died March 8, 1860 and a portion of his obituary reads as follows: Died, suddenly of disease of the heart on the 8th ult. at his home near Madison Cross Roads, Mr. John Bayless in the 80th year of his age. Mr. Bayless came from Washington County, Tennessee to this county about the year 1810, where he has resided ever since - a consistent member of the Baptist Church - left a widow and a large family of children...(21) Unfortunately, the remainder of the obituary was not copied. John and Elizabeth Bayless are buried one mile north of Toney just off the highway built on the old railroad bed......

John Bayless was 29 years of age and Elizabeth Hunt Bayless was 23 when they made what must have been a long journey from Washington County, Tennessee to Madison County, Alabama. They had been married six years and their two eldest children, Sally and Sanford, were born in Tennessee. The third, Lethal, born 10 June 1809, was either a small baby or was born in Alabama depending upon the exact date of arrival. Eleven children lived to adulthood including twins born in 1824....

Prior to 1806, John, Daniel and George Bayless were given an undivided interest in a 120 acre tract of land in Tennessee by their father, Reuben Bayless, Sr.(22) A deed of 1806 indicates its division and states that john had previously sold his interest to his brothers, Daniel and George. This probably was his "capital" to finance the move to Alabama. Apparently he was already into land acquisition as was the first John Bayless. At the death of his father some twenty years later, a deed reveals that he sold "my undivided share of that tract of land whereon Reuben Bayless, Sr. lately lived" (some 278 acres) to Daniel Bayless, his brother.(23)

There are numerous records of land transactions by John Bayless in the Public Record of Madison County. Some of this was Bounty Land made possible by an Act granting land to certain soldiers who engaged in the military service of the United States. According to the declaration of John Bayless, he was a Private in the Company of Volunteer Rangers raised for the protection against Creek Indians. He served a little over thirty days being discharged in December 1813. He was 33 years of age.

Presumably, the major occupation of John Bayless was farming although he engaged in other activities as most farmers did in those days. At this point in time land had to be cleared and services incidental to agriculture had to be established. In 1848 he, with sons Reuben and Bartly, sons-in-law, George Dalton and Edmund Blakenship, united in the erection of a saw and grist mill. John Bayless contracted with Joseph Rice for the land (about a hundred acres in the center of Section 12, T2RI E). By 1855 Reuben Bayless had bought the interest of Bartley Bayless for Edmund Blankenship.

Almost all existing census records indicate "extra" persons living in the home of John Bayless. This would indicate that the Bayless home was of a fair size and those in need were welcome. The 1850 census reveals that john and Elizabeth Bayless, ages 70 and 65, were caring for their grandchildren, John T. and Elizabeth Snider, ages 6 and 4, the children of Elizabeth Bayless Snider, deceased. John Bayless either gave or sold tracts of land to each of his sons.(24) Apparently land was not given to his daughters but a slave was deeded to Zilpha Dalton in 1852.


The purpose of this document is to record the line from the original John Bayless (1617-1682) through two of the sons of John Bayless (1780-1860) of Alabama. This John Bayless had twelve adult children and no effort has been made to research the history of any of them except for his eldest and youngest sons, Sanford and Thomas Hunt. Unfortunately, those of us who are living know very little of a personal nature about these men, so little narrative will be given....


Born: 21 December 1826, Deposit, Madison County, Alabama
Died: 9 July 1900, Deposit, Madison County, Alabama
Married: 19 September 1850, Martha Smith

Thomas H. Bayless was a farmer and spent his entire life in the same neighborhood. In 1853 his father deeded 90 acres of land to him -- he had been married two years at the time. it is presumed that he lived in the house originally owned by his father but just when he took possession of it has not been verified....

This place was used as a stage coach stop (Winchester to Huntsville) for the changing of horses. On one occasion, during the Civil War, a woman became ill on the coach, was taken into the Bayless home and died there. She is buried in the Bayless Cemetery but her identity has been forgotten.(25)

Although the Bayless family was traditionally of the Baptist faith, we have discovered no information about church until the Locust Grove Church was organized May 25, 1867. Twenty four people were present and Thomas H. Bayless was a charter member. He sold an acre of land upon which the church was built for $15.00 and later sold the site of the original cemetery for $3.00.(26)

Five children lived to adulthood -- the eldest son, Bruce, moved to Texas while still a young man and never returned to Alabama. Martha Bayless died 18 years prior to the death of her husband and left an 18 year old daughter and 12 year old son at home. Apparently this daughter, Bettie Walker Bayless, assumed responsibility for running the house. This continued even after her marriage to James Lawler and, in time, the place became theirs with Thomas Bayless living there until his death.


Born: 8 December 1807, Louden County, Virginia.
Died: 31 October 1873
Married: 4 May 1836, Frances Ford

We know very little about Sanford Bayless. He moved to Alabama with his parents when he was about three; he married at age 29 and was deeded a hundred acres of land(27) by his father when he was forty years of age. it is presumed that this was the "Sanford Place" where his father had lived for some years and where his own son, John Arthur, lived until the early 1920s.. There are four children listed but the youngest, John, is the only one for whom we have information.


Born: 23 June 1849, Deposit, Madison County, Alabama
Died: 13 January 1929, Vanderbilt Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee
Married: 8 January 1782, Susan McCaleb
18 November 1888, Mary Sammie Winston


John Arthur Bayless was a farmer all his life and lived at the Sanford place until he was in his late sixties at which time he bought a farm near Elora, Tennessee. After a few years he sold this farm and then lived in retirement in New Market until ill health forced him and his wife to live with the children.

Susan McCaleb Bayless died at the age of 35 of pneumonia, leaving small children. It was a difficult time and made even more so by the harshness of John Bayless -- meanness, one granddaughter called it. He married again three years later.

John Bayless was of the Primitive Baptist faith and did not participate in the Locust Grove Baptist Church although the children were permitted to do so.

1. "THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE BAYLESS FAMILIES OF LONG ISLAND AND NEW JERSEY", Howard Green Bayless. Available in DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

2. "PERSONS OF QUALITY." 1600-1700, page 85, Hotten.

3. "The Early History of the Bayless Family of Long Island and New Jersey"

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid. 

7. New York County Wills -- Liber 1-2, Page 451-452.

8. "The Early History of the Bayless Families of Long Island and New Jersey" . By Howard Green Bayless.

9. Ibid.

10. Family Bible, C. H. Davis, Pasadena, California.

11. "The Early History of the Bayless Family of Long Island and New Jersey"

12. Census of Madison County, Enumerated January, 1809. Public Library, Huntsville, Alabama.

13. "Tennessee Cousins", By Ray Worth.

14. Supplement to the Howard Green Bayless History.

15. Record of Deeds, Washington County, Jonesboro, Tennessee.

16. "Early Tennessee Baptists" (1769-1852), O. W. Taylor.

17. Ibid.

18. Washington County Deed Books, Vol. I, pg 550.

19. Washington County Court Minutes, Vol I, pg 557.

20. Letter from Bettie Walker Lawler.

21. Huntsville "Democrat", May 2, 1850. Alabama Records, Vol 54, pg 2.

22. Washington County Deeds, Book 8, pg 225.

23. Madison County Deeds, Book 18, pg 504.

24. Madison County Deed Books W, Y, Z, AA and BB.

25. Cemeteries of Madison County, Vol. II, pg 228. Information given by Harry Lawler.

26. History of Locust Grove Church.

27. Madison County Deed Books W, Y, Z, AA and BB.