John R. Stapler was one of four men who in 1860 signed the documents necessary to incorporate the town of Valdosta. Some say it was him who drew the original town boundaries and plat. Alcyone*, the home he built in 1850 in the southern section of what was at the time Lowndes County, still stands near the lake he gave the same name.
John was born September 8, 1819 in Georgia. He is believed to be the son of John Stapler and Polly Woolfolk. His parents were married December 2, 1810 in Columbia County, Georgia. John R. Stapler married Caroline Emma Postell January 17, 1844 in Houston County, Georgia.
John and Caroline were residents of Lowndes County, Georgia at the time the 1850 Federal census was taken. Their family consisted of themselves and two children, Emma 6 and Richard 3. The 1850 Federal Slave schedule for Lowndes County, Georgia showed John R. Stapler owned 20 male Slaves between 33 and 7 years of age and 20 female Slaves between the ages 40 and 1.
Children of John R. Stapler and Caroline Emma Postell
Emma Louise Stapler was born 1845 Georgia and died April 1, 1869 in Pulaski County, Georgia. She married Jonathan Joseph Jelks in Lowndes County, Georgia during the year 1868. Emma died in Hawkinsville, Georgia and was buried at Orange Hill Cemetery. Emma and J.J. Jelks had only one child, Emma Ailene Jelks. She born February 1, 1869 in Hawkinsville Pulaski County, Georgia. J.J. Jelks remarried in 1871. He and his second wife are also buried at Orange Hill Cemetery. Under the care of her guardian and uncle, F.J. Spain, Emma Ailene Jelks received he mother’s share of the estate of John R. Stapler. She married Dr. Alonzo L. Blalock in 1887. Except for a short period spent in Macon, Georgia, they lived the remainder of their lives in Madison County, Florida.
Richard L. Stapler was born January 23, 1847 in Lowndes County, Georgia and died July 11, 1901 in that same place. He married Mary Frances “Fannie” Rawls October 26, 1869 in Pulaski County, Georgia. During War Between the States Richard served in Company A 20th Georgia Cavalry Battalion. Many members of Company A were from Lowndes and the nearby counties of Berrien, Brooks and Echols. Richard was buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta. Fanny remarried in 1910. On March 19, 1926 she was living as a widow under the name Mrs. Mary Frances Gray in Waycross, Georgia. On that date she filed for a Confederate Widow’s Pension. Her application was submitted based on the service of “Richard Stapler, Captain Smith’s Company, 20th Georgia Cavalry Battalion.” Two supporting testimonials to her applications were submitted by Rev. W.M. Hayes of Hot Springs, Arkansas (formerly of Hawkinsville, Georgia) and J.O. Varnedoe of Valdosta. Both had served in the 20th Georgia Cavalry Battalion with Richard L. Stapler.
James F. Stapler was born October 1849 Lowndes County, Georgia and died 1916 in that same place. He married Susan M. Ashley during the year 1876 in Lowndes County, Georgia. She was the daughter of Dr. William Ashley (1832-1867) and his wife Juliet Maxcy (1830-1900). James and Susan lived a large part of their lives in Hamilton County, Florida near the community of Octahatchee. By 1910 however, they were living on Patterson Street in the town of Valdosta. James’ occupation on the 1910 Federal Census of Lowndes County Valdosta, Georgia was shown as “Real Estate Agent.” James and Susan are buried in Sunset Hill Cemetery.
Samuel Stapler was born about 1851 in Lowndes County, Georgia. He does not appear on Federal Census reports as a member of his parent’s household after 1860.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Stapler was born October 21, 1852 in Lowndes County, Georgia and died February 28, 1904 in Brooks County, Georgia. She married Francis Jones Spain (1846-1906) in Brooks County, Georgia during the year 1874.Francis Jones Spain was the son John William Spain (1818-1870) and Elizabeth Young (1822-1885). He was one of the executors of the estate of John R. Stapler and guardian to his wife’s nephew Maury M. Stapler. Lizzie and F.J. lived most of their lives on or near the Spain property in southern Brooks County, Georgia. Lizzie and F.J. are buried at West End Cemetery in Quitman, Georgia.
William Woolfolk Stapler was born May 10, 1855 Lowndes County, Georgia, died December 19, 1923 Hillsborough County, Florida. He married Alice C. Rossetter March 7, 1883 in Volusia County, Florida. William and Alice lived most of their lives in Hamilton County, Florida or the Lake Park community of Lowndes County. They are buried in the Stapler Plot at Sunset Hill cemetery Valdosta, Georgia.
Maury Munnerlyn Stapler was born 1859 Lowndes County, Georgia and died December 19, 1930 in Bibb County, Georgia. He married Irene Stevens November 8, 1893 in Bibb County, Georgia. Maury became a physician and was well known in Macon, Georgia as an Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. He and Irene are buried in the Stevens Family Plot at Riverside cemetery Macon, Georgia.
In 1854 the controversy regarding the boundary between the states of Georgia and Florida was presented for the first time before the United States Supreme Court. Final agreement on the boundary was not officially settled in law until after the War Between the States. The lands and plantation of John R. Stapler originally sat completely within Lowndes County, Georgia. After the new boundary was established, Alcyone Plantation became part of Hamilton County, Florida.
The 1860 Federal Census of Hamilton County, Florida shows those living at the residence of John R. Stapler as follows: John R. Stapler 40, Caroline Stapler 37, Emma L. Stapler 15, Richard Stapler 13, Samuel Stapler 9, Eliza Stapler 7, William Stapler 4, Maury Stapler 1, William McGuire 40, William Buck 40 and Fannie Buck 40. The Federal Slave schedule for 1860 shows John R. Stapler owned 37 male Slaves between the ages of 50 and 3 as well as 32 female Slaves between the ages of 50 and 3. *
As evidenced by the following estate record, John R. Stapler, as early as January 1862, was a partner with a member of the Bevill family in what appears to be a lumber and building products firm.
Voucher No. 12 1862 the estate of John S.U. Wilson to Bevill & Stapler
From Bevill & Stapler between January 24 and October 4 1862. Items purchased building material including Plank, Ceiling, “Refuse” and “Scaritting.” Items purchased ranged in value from $0.28 to $10.30 each for a total $79.23
Georgia Lowndes County before me D.B. McDonald Clk of said Court personally appeared John R. Stapler who swore the above account is just and true. November 18th 1862 D.B. McDonald Clk SC, J.R. Stapler
Recd payment in full this 11th November 1862. D.B. McDonald for J.R. Stapler
Probate records found in Annual Returns 1861-1871 show many instances where the administrators of various estates in Lowndes County, Georgia were paying John R. Stapler for shoes, brogans and boots. The author does not know who was making these shoes. It likely was not John R. Stapler himself. There is however sufficient evidence to state that between 1860 and 1865 John R. Stapler, in one way or another, was selling shoes of various qualities as well as cured leather to households in Lowndes County, Georgia.
Annual Return estate Benjamin Lane minor
Voucher No. 11 A. Averett Guardian B.F. Lane in acct with J.R. Stapler December 19, 1862 3 Pr Brogans $4 each $12.00; December 19, 1862 2 Sides Leather Cured $2.00; total $14.00
Recd payment in full of A. Averett Guardian 1863 March 20th J.R. Stapler
Voucher 15 S.B. Smith Guard H.C. Lane to J.R. Stapler
July 12th 1862 for 1 Pr Shoes $3.00, February 17th 1863 2 Pr Brogans $12.00, total $15.00. Recd payment in full March 27th 1863 J.R. Stapler
Voucher 8 1864 Dr. John Rambo to J.R. Stapler
May 10 for 1 Pr Shoes $30.00, One Pr Shoes for Capt. Conway $25.00; total $55.00
Personally, before me appeared John R. Stapler who swore the above a/c is just and true Feb 2nd 1865 Jos. J. Goldwire JP
Recd payment of Col. Manning Adm Feb 3rd 1865 J.R. Stapler
The Will of John R. Stapler was written on June 17, 1876. His wife Caroline, sons Richard, James, William and Maury as well as daughter Lizzie Spain and granddaughter Emma Ailene Jelks were all named and received specific money and property. The executors named were his son James F. Stapler and his son-in-law Francis Jones Spain. The Will is quite detailed. Very specific instruction insuring the financial security of Caroline Emma Stapler was included. The Will also prevented the sale of the “Alcyone property” until after 1886. Insurance policies with Piedmont & Arlington of Richmond, Virginia and Equitable Life of New York equaling an aggregate total of $10,000 were also mentioned in his estate. The money from the two policies was divided among the heirs as follows: Richard L. Stapler $450, James F. Stapler $450, Emma Aline Jelks $450, William W. Stapler $1450, Maury M. Stapler $1,450. The balance was directed to be invested in “State of Georgia interest bearing bonds” with the proceeds from same for the benefit of Caroline Emma Stapler.
John R. Stapler died December 25, 1876. His Will was admitted to probate in Hamilton County, Florida on January 15, 1877. A $10,000 probate bond was posted by F.J. Spain, J.F. Stapler, George S. Jennings and W.A. Rowland. The estate papers of John R. Stapler confirm Alcyone Plantation consisted of about 980 acres and was situated in Lots 202 and 203 in the 11th Land District of Hamilton County, Florida.
Caroline Postell Stapler survived her husband and lived until September 26, 1900. She was buried beside him at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta, Georgia. Other members of their family buried in the Stapler Sunset Hill plot are son James F. Stapler (1851-1916) and his wife Susan Ashley Stapler (1853-1921), son Richard L. Stapler (1847-1901), and grandson Robert Corley Stapler (1874-1931) and his wife Nell Hightower Stapler (1879-1943).
*Note: It is quite easy to verify that in 1860 there were approximately 21 heads of household in Lowndes County, Georgia and 14 in Hamilton County, Florida who owned more than twenty Slaves. The average in both places for all heads of household owning Slaves was about 9. The vast majority of residents owned none at all. For John R. Stapler to have owned 69 Slaves in 1860 is of historical note, both locally and generally. Vast stretches of open land “under the plow” in southwest Georgia were rare in 1860. It is likely large Slave owners in the Lowndes County area may have been utilizing their people for land clearing, timber cutting and sawing or perhaps leasing out to others? The question is worthy of additional research.
*Note: The Alcyone Plantation house and grounds continue to exist in beautiful condition. The site is now used as an events venue which is quite popular for weddings and other gatherings. The current owners are to be commended for maintaining this fine example of southwest Georgia and north Florida history.
The photo attached to this article was taken by Gandy Photographers in Valdosta.
Please note: These articles are based on research conducted by the writer/author utilizing a variety of reliable source material. Those wishing to learn more regarding source material utilized or those who may have any other questions, should contact the writer/author via South Georgia Today. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author.