Mar 24 2008
Son of Reuben and Sarah (Bird) Saffold; nephew of William Saffold and Elizabeth Saffold. Lawyer and Chief Justice Alabama Supreme Court, was born September 4, 1788, in Wilkes County, Georgia and died in Dallas County, Alabama.
In June, 1813, he removed to Jackson, Clarke County, conducted thence by General Samuel Dale, the picturesque frontier guide and Indian fighter. Soon after the Creek Indian wars of 1813-14 broke out, Reuben at once became actively engaged in the protection of the frontier. Holding at that time the rank of colonel in the militia, he nevertheless raised a company of sixty volunteers, and, as their captain, scoured the thickets from the mouth to the head of the Perdido River, upon which occasion several Indians were killed, while others were driven to more remote parts of Florida. But before he made his tour he had been a participant, as a private, in the battle of Burnt Corn, and was one of those who fought bravely and retreated among the last.
After the establishment of peace, he resumed the practice of law in Jackson. In 1818 he was a member, from Clarke County, of the legislature of Mississippi Territory and of the convention in Huntsville, July 5, 1819, which framed the first constitution for the State of Alabama. He was elected as judge of a second circuit court, thereby being ex-officio a member of the state Supreme Court.
In 1832, when a separate court of last resort was organized, he was chosen as one of the three members of the Supreme Court, and in 1835 he was appointed to the role of Chief Justice upon the resignation of his predecessor, Abner Lipscomb. Chief Justice Saffold resigned his position in 1836 and resumed the practice of law, first in Mobile and later in Dallas County. Preferring to remain in private practice, he declined a position as associate justice on the Supreme Court offered to him in 1843 by Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick.
Reuben would have worked with the federal courts as well, and this map shows how the Federal Courts were structured in his day.
In the culture and economy of that day, owning slaves was common. Census records show that Reuben’s household included 17 slaves in 1820. His descendants today could wish this were not the case, but we cannot choose the history we would prefer. We must accept the history that is. Pickett’s History of Alabama records that “as a master, he was kind, merciful, and just.” One can hope this was so, but it was regardless of any measure of mercy an evil institution.
In 1819 Reuben had moved to Dallas County, Cahawba being the state capital at the time, but after resigning as Chief Justice in 1836, he moved Mobile. A few years after he returned to “Belvoir” his former home, a few miles northward from, and there resumed the proactive of law, having an office on his own grounds. In 1843, Governor Fitzpatrick tendered him the position as Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but he declined the honor.
Colonel Albert James Pickett, author of the state’s early history, said of Judge Saffold, “The reports of the Supreme Court of Alabama are enduring memorials of his strength of mind, patient investigation, deep research, and profound learning.” He is remembered for being firm and dignified but not austere. Whenever he presided entire order and decorum prevailed, and he was admired and respected by both clients and attorneys. Such, indeed, was his reputation throughout the state that his retirement from the bench was a source of public regret.
On April 1, 1811, Reuben married, in Morgan County, Georgia, Mary Phillips, daughter of Colonel Joseph and Jane (Walker) Phillips, who lived in Morgan County, Georgia. Mary was the granddaughter of Joseph Phillips, a minute man in the Revolutionary command of Colonel Elijah Clarke, in Georgia, and who received in 1785, from the State of Georgia, a grant of 550 acres of land in Washington County for his services.
Judge Saffold’s political opinions, although he never sought political office and engaged but little in the contests of the time, were well known. He was a Democrat. He was warmly devoted to the interest of the South. The firm friend of Texan independence, he rejoiced in her annexation to the United States.
Reuben’s children were: (1) Joseph Phillips, (2) William Bird, lawyer and unmarried, (3) Addison Jackson, (4) Jane Elizabeth m. Dr. James Berney, (5) Mary Anne m. Colonel J. M. Bolling, (6) Reuben Washington, physician in the battle of Selma, April, 1865, died July, 1892 at Summerfield, Dallas County, m. Mary Pouncey, (7) Zeno Ray, (8) Sarah Caroline (or Caroline Sarah ?) (9) Benjamin Franklin m. Mary Ellen Brown, (10) Milton Jefferson , (11) Caroline Sarah, m. Dr. P. N. Cilley, and (2) Elizabeth Evelyn.
Judge Saffold died of a stroke on the 15th of February 1847. He is believed to be buried at Belvoir, which survives to this day. Mrs. Saffold is buried at Belvoir, a few miles Northward of Pleasant Hill, Alabama.
The following death notice came from THE WATCHMAN, a newspaper in Lowndes County, AL during the 1800’s.
(July 13, 1860): Died on the evening of the 25th ult., at her residence in Dallas County, MRS. MARY SAFFOLD, widow of the late HON. REUBEN SAFFOLD, in the 67th year of her age.