A Jefferson County revolutionary
Not many Revolutionary War veterans made their way as deep into the frontier as Jefferson County, a hilly section of Indian territory opened to settlement only after the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.
Among the groups that were convinced of Jones Valley’s merits were a collection of families from the Pendleton District of western South Carolina who migrated in 1817. Many of the heads of those families had traversed the region chasing Creek Indians during the War of 1812 and had made plans to settle there on land granted by their government.
Trailing those families in 1820 was the 63-year-old William Pullen, a veteran not only of the 1812 war, but also of the American Revolution. Pullen was born in 1757 in central Virginia. Just before his 20th birthday he enlisted with Captain William Davies to serve in the Continental Army. His 14th Virginia Regiment fought under George Washington’s command at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. He was among those encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78, and later fought at Monmouth and Guilford Court House. He is said to have been personally acquainted with General Washington and to have visited him at Mount Vernon after the war.
Before 1786, Pullen had moved South to Wilkes County, Georgia, founded on land ceded by the Creeks in 1773. There he wed young Mary Haynes and participated in the 1803 Georgia land lottery. Apparently unsatisfied with his draw, he moved to South Carolina before the end of 1811 and it was from there that he was drawn into the War of 1812. He returned to the District after the war, but then followed his neighbors into Alabama in 1820, taking possession of an 80-acre grant in what is now Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood, which he farmed until his death in April 1845.
Pullen was the first man to be buried with full military honors in Jefferson County. An obituary in the August 1845 edition of the Alabama Baptist described him as “an honest upright man; esteemed and beloved by all who know him, and doubtless a good Christian.” His grave consisted of a mound of rocks at the base of an oak, surmounted by a carved tablet. His wife died in 1851 and was buried next to him.
By the 1920s this secluded family burial plot deep in the forest had been overtaken by the new city of Birmingham, founded in 1871 and rapidly spreading, as if by “magic”, along the southern part of Jones Valley in the shadow of Red Mountain. The now ancient oak with its mound of stones lay within sight of the Avondale Car Line, on 6th Avenue South between 34th and 35th Streets. In November 1925 the Daughters of the American Revolution organized the removal of the Pullens’ remains to Forest Hill Cemetery in Woodlawn. It was reported that more than 5,000 people attended the ceremonies.
The presence of Revolutionary War veterans in Alabama was of supreme interest to state historians of the early 20th century. Annie Mell and Thomas McAdory Owen compiled extensive biographical notes and burial records. Later genealogists and historians have helped to flesh out specifics.