Name: James Hogan Basham
Birth: 1815 in Tennessee 1
Death: 20 MAR 1865 in Morgan Co., Alabama
1840 Census Morgan County Alabama Page 24 10001 1001
1850 Census Morgan County Alabama Page 204 Family 125
1860 Census Morgan County Alabama Page 398 Family 196
Death Valley Leaves Sept 77 Page 121
Postmaster Basham Gap Alabama 1847 To 1866
Land Records In Delores King Correspondence
Hanged As Conspirator With Horse Stealers
From "Outlaws In North Alabama" By Lizzie Reed Penn
Above Article In Alabama Files
James H. Basham homesteaded in the same vicinity (Winston) County Alabama) at the same time, and the locality was known as Basham's Gap. There was later a post office established in the general vicinity, with James H. Basham as the postmaster. There was also a Methodist Church, known as Bashams Chapel, which met in the settlement. The two were later in the boundary of Morgan County. BASHAM'S GAP A Brief Episode in Morgan County History In the early days of American history, when the white settlers began pushing the Indians further and further west, many schemes were developed to encourage colonization of the vast new territory opening up through western migration. The so-called "Bit-Law" of Thomas Jefferson's administration was one of these methods of bringing settlers down through the fertile Tennessee Valley region. A quarter, often referred to as "two bits", was supposedly cut in half pieces equal to twelve and one-half cents; and land was offered for sale in the valley at "one bit" per acre. Among the many names connected with these easy land sales were those of Jessee Garth, Daniel Gilchrist, and William E. Baker. These men bought land from the Bond Brothers Lumber Company, bought their stock with them, and began settlements along the Tennessee River, not far from the present site of Decatur. A horde of men, both good and bad, flooded the region. Down in the extreme southwestern corner of Morgan County, in northern Alabama, was begun a small settlement which had much colorful tradition of the early days of the Civil War period centered around its activities. About thirty miles southwest of Decatur, a little gap in the mountains led on down to Jasper, Alabama, some forty miles further southwest.
To this mountain gap come many early settlers, who built homes and began farming, hunting and "settling up" the region. The settlement took its name from a family by the name of Basham, who built the last home in the edge of the mountain gap leading into the wilderness between the gap and Jasper. Jim Basham and his family were connected with a story of early pioneer lawlessness, and tragedy that is still told with vivid remembrance by some of the present inhabitants as an account handed down from father to son in the Gap.
A notorious outlaw, by the name of John A Murrell, is reported to have organized an extensive network of horse and slave thieves from Kentucky, through Tennessee and on down through the North Alabama territory, finally ending in operations around Vicksburg, Mississippi, and even on to New Orleans. Murrell posed as a traveling preacher, holding revival camp meetings up and down the Valley. When the settlers flocked in to camp meetings to hear Murrell preach, he secretly looked over the crowds, spotted the finest horses and slaves, and instructed his men to steal and sell them. Gullible Negro slaves were often offered bribes of a part of their sale price if they would assist in the theft by running away to join the gang. A trade often offered to them was that they would be sold, stolen again, and resold until their bribes would amount to sufficient sum to enable them to buy their own freedom. Usually three auction sales were promised them with a third of the sale price as a bride to run away from each new master. Murrell's henchmen were settled about thirty miles apart and were supposed to operate a sort of loosely connected relay system of passing stolen Negroes, horses, and other property on down to certain auction centers, where a sale was at last considered safe from the law.
Jim Basham was suspected by his neighbors to be a member of the John A Murrell gang and a last important outpost in its operations between Decatur and Jasper. Several stories were circulate around the Gap about him before he at last met his tragic fate. One story concerned a young man who late one afternoon came riding up to Mr. Basham's place on a fine blaze-faced horse. He and his helper had with them twelve good horses. The two spent the night and next morning went on their way into Mississippi. In a few weeks the young man returned alone riding the blaze-faced horse and again was seen by two neighbors, Mr. Alex Dutton and Mr. John Hunter, to stop over for another night with Basham. Later, neighbors, who watched anxiously, saw the fine horse but never the young man again.
Another story, which ended with the tragic death of Basham, concerns an old negro slave. A white farmer, old Mr. Blevins, who lived two miles east of Basham, owned three big negroes; Harry, Dick, and Zion. Harry was Mr. Blevins' foreman, and as such was allowed many privileges. He was allowed to make foot mats, shuck collars, and cotton baskets in his spare time; these he sold, often for fifty cents apiece. All the money old "Uncle Harry" made he carefully saved; for he held a life-long desire to buy his wife, "Old Aunt Ann", who belonged to Mr. George Simpson, who lived about a mile from the Basham's place west of the Gap. At last Harry's savings grew to eighteen hundred dollars in gold. Mr. Simpson refused to sell Aunt Ann, who was a valued servant and laundress. Harry concealed his money in the deep woods back of the Gap in a hollow stump until a forest fire frightened him into getting it out. He carried his money to Mr. Will Penn, a very near neighbor to the north of Mr. Simpson, and requested Mr. Penn and his wife, Ariminta, to count his money and keep it for him until the following Sunday night. Mrs. Penn carefully counted the money, finding Harry accurate in his report of it. On the following Sunday night Old Harry again took his money deep into the woods to bury it somewhere in the mountain back of Basham's Gap. Finally Mr. Blevins died and Harry realized he would be sold at the next public auction; he went back to Mr. Will Penn, whom he trusted, and besought him to take the hidden gold and buy him for his servant. Mr. Penn did not believe in owning slaves and refused to buy Harry. The old negro asked several other men to buy him to prevent Basham from doing so. No one dared to do so; although Harry told them he feared Basham would buy him, find his gold, and kill him just for the money. The day of the sale arrived, Basham bought Harry for fifty dollars, and suspicious neighbors took up their watch for the old negro; but he was no longer seen in the Gap.
One day, John Hunter, a close neighbor of the Simpsons, decided to hunt wild turkeys in the mountains and also to look for Harry. As he went through the mountain back of Bashams, he found Harry, dead. His body was mutilated - fingers gone, ears cut off, and tongue out. Neighbors always believed Basham had tortured Harry to learn where his money was hidden. John Hunter returned from his hunting trip to report his horrible discovery to his neighbor in the community. Since the community felt sure Basham was a member of the John A Murrell gang and a desperate criminal, it was decided to execute him on the night of the discovery of Harry's body.
Five men -- "Bill Penn of the Mountains", Bill Looney, Perry Cummings, Sam Blackburn, and Sam Swann -- went that very night to the Basham home. They called old Jim out, warning his wife on fear of death, not to follow him from the house. These five men took Jim Basham and hanged him to a log projecting from the corner of his own corn crib. Feeling that his son was also connected with the crime, they returned for him, carried him into the woods to the spot where Harry's body lay and made him confess to the crime. This was during the latter days of the Civil War, and one of the five avengers wore a battered uniform and a hat with a hole in it, while Jack Basham wore a new hat. In his anger the soldier swapped hats with Basham saying "That hat is good enough for you to go to Hell in!" Each of the five men carried a gun. The soldier unloaded two of the guns. Young Basham was placed at a distance, and at a given signal all men pulled the trigger, and no one knew which of the five men killed the criminal.
Later history of the Basham family tells of how Jack Basham's wife and son lived on with Mrs. Jim Basham, until Mrs. Jim Basham's death two years later, at which time Mr. B. G. Hardwick went and got the young widow and the little boy and carried them to his home. The mother lived only a short time; Mr. Hardwick reared the boy, who made a fine young man. In his later years he married and moved to Texas. At the present time (1949) he lives an old man about eighty-five years of age in Roswell, New Mexico, on a stock farm.
Such was the history of the family for whom the little community of Basham's Gap was named. The settlement grew and prospered as years went by. At one time it boasted of a general merchandise store, a post office, and a cotton gin which was operated by four mules, with a negro to tramp cotton into the crude hand press, with a ginning capacity of three bales per day. Also there was located at the large spring nearby a saw mill and a grist mill. Mail was carried through from Decatur to Jasper by relays across the Sipsey River. At one time a railroad from Decatur to Jasper through Basham's Gap was well under way as a convenient route for a part of a projected Middle Tennessee and Alabama Railroad. The road was actually running as far as Jeff, Alabama, near Huntsville.
It was a proud day for the community of Basham's Gap, when a large crowd gathered there to hear Mr. Sam Blackwell, a silver-tongued orator of the old South, describe the great days ahead for the Gap, when the railroad could be completed through the valley and up the Gap. The panic of 1893 ended the plans for the projected railroad. Rural mail routes were set up through Morgan County and ended the necessity for the government post office at the center. Gradually the older residents moved away to neighboring communities, and today Basham's Gap remains a small North Alabama farming settlement which nestles peacefully between Bugaboo Mountain and the Black Warrior National Forest. "
Historical and Biographical Sketch of the Penn Family" US Bureau of Research Provided by Anne Miller correspondence
Father: Jonathan Basham b: ABT 1791 in Tennessee
Mother: Elizabeth Hogan b: ABT 1791 in Tennessee
Lucillian 'Lucsey' Webb b: ABT 1817 in Alabama
in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Jonathan J. (Jack) Basham b: ABT 1837 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Beulah Elizabeth Basham b: 26 JUN 1838 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Jacob W. Basham b: ABT 1841 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Mary J. Basham b: 1844 in Alabama
- Francis Emily Basham b: 26 JUN 1846 in Alabama
- George Jasper Basham b: 14 SEP 1850 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Martha A. Basham b: OCT 1851 in Alabama
- Claborn C. J. Basham b: ABT 1852 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Lucy Palistine Basham b: ABT 1854 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- Aron King Basham b: ABT 1856 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- David M. Basham b: 1858 in Morgan Co., Alabama
- James William Ellen Basham b: 14 OCT 1858 in Hartselle, Morgan Co., Alabama
Emaline Rhodes b: 01 NOV 1847 in Burke Co., North Carolina
18 DEC 1864
in Lawrence Co., Alabama
- James Alexander Basham b: OCT 1865 in Basham Gap, Morgan Co., Alabama
- Title: Janet Baker Burks Family Group Sheet from Janet Baker Burks 2/16/1999