From The Blog

The Herd Brothers

Presented by Bettye Lessley:

Five Herd brothers came to America from Scotland. Their names were: George, the oldest; David, Alexander, John and Thomas, who said that they were “Lowlanders.” All of the Herds had served their apprenticeships in the marble business in Scotland. Thomas Herd returned to Scotland. Alexander, called “Sandy,” married and lived in Eutaw, Alabama, where he was a marble worker, and he is buried there. Two Herd sisters remained in Scotland. One of them married a Monroe, and one married a Clemmons.

Shown is David Herd with tombstone he carved entitled "Little Samuel." The tombstone is located in the Marble City Cemetery in Sylacauga.

The Herd Brothers acquired land early in the Marble Valley Area in Coosa County, Alabama, just south of the Talladega County line. The marble land which Doctor Edward Gantt acquired in Talladega County, Alabama by a deed in 1834 was directly north of the Herd property in Coosa County. The Herds appear in the 1840 Federal Census of Coosa and Talladega Counties.

George Herd came to America first. Records reveal that he was here before 1838. He was born April 12, 1809 in Perthshire, Scotland. He is said to have weighed 300 pounds, and a picture of him indicates that he was a very large man. He never married. He was a promoter in the marble business and a builder. He owned blacksmith tools, and was a wagon maker. He owned a steam mill and had quarry agents. He died February 24, 1855 in Sylacauga, Alabama, and is buried in Sylacauga’s oldest cemetery, which is located on east Fort Williams Street.

George Herd and a man by the name of Richard Miller went into the marble business together at a very early date. On May 10, 1838, the following ad appeared in the Jacksonville Republican newspaper. “Miller & Herd, Proprietors of the Talladega Marble Quarries, Respectfully announce to the public, that they now have their saws in operation and are prepared to receive and execute any orders for TOMBSTONES, DOORS & WINDOW SILLS. ETC. Their charges will be moderate & their terms cash only. M. D. Simpson is our authorized Agent in East Wetumpka, who can give any information required and receive orders. Specimens of the marble may be seen in the graveyard at West Wetumpka & in Messers Duncan & Northrup’s new buildings.”

In 1839, with Judge Ebezener Pond presiding, The Commissioners Court in Coosa County, Alabama authorized the building of a stone jail to replace a heavy log jail. The man who was to build the jail forfeited his contract and on March 22, 1841, a contract was made with Miller and Heard (sic) to build the jail for $2,745.00. It was built of large blocks of the native granite, which was so abundant in the Rockford area. It was “received” in August, 1842. The jail is still there.

The Herds said that they “opened” Gantts’ Quarry. This is probably true, since Dr. Gantt did not live here until much later. The Herds also said that they opened Hickman’s Quarry in Talladega County, Alabama, where they once owned ten acres of land which they later sold. The Herds said that the stone from the Marble Valley Quarry and the Hickman Quarry was too soft, and they made many beautiful tombstones from marble which was found in south Talladega County.

In December of 1855, A. Herd and Brothers sent the following bill for making a tombstone, which was copied verbatim from the bill and the receipt. “Gideon Christian , Esqr.” Sir, we send you by Mr. Gentry the amt. of your work and hope it will please you – if there is others who want work we hope you can Refer them to us. It you have the money and want to pay Mr. Gentry will give you a Receipt if not any time will Suit us in Twelve mos. Yours Respectfully A. Herd & Bros.

Syllacogga Talladega co. Ala.
Dec 27th 1855.
Gideon Christian
Fr. A. Heard & Bros. .

Fr l Slab 6 1/2 feet by 3 feet $35.00

” 314 letters 5c & 2 dashes 20c 16.10

” Clasped Hands 5.00

Total Bill $56.10

Received of Gideon Christian & Stephen Chaffin, admr. on the Estate of Thomas Christian, Deceased, Fifty Six Dollars &Ten Cents in full of the above account March 27, 1856.”

The Herds carved various designs on their tombstones, but they were not usually ornate. They carved clasped hands, medallion insets of roses or doves, a broken chain, weeping willows, a tree or two, a tree and a coffin, a tree or a bird and a coffin and lambs. They often carved lambs on footstones. The Herds carved their name slightly below the inscription and below their trademark, which was a special design used on their tombstones, which historian, Carolyn Lane Luttrell, called a “Glorified H.”

Tombstones made by the Herds can be found not only in Talladega County, but in many other locations in the state.

David and John Herd and John P. Stapp, a brother-in-law of John Herd, enlisted in the Confederate Service on August third, 1861, at Alpine, Alabama. They served in Companies K& E of the 18th Regiment, Alabama Infantry. David and John Herd were said by the family to have served all through the war without a scratch, but records indicate that David was wounded in the battle of Shiloh on the 6th of April, 1862. The wound was said to have been a slight wound on his head.

The Herds are said to have been at the Battle of Chickamauga, because “Ma” received a letter from them written after the Battle, telling them about it. The family later said that David and John came home from the war one morning while “Ma” was cooking breakfast.

When they got home, she told them that the children were so impressed with the word, “Chickamauga,” that they ran about the yard calling it out to one another.

John P. Stapp died March 18, 1862, leaving his widow, Louisa Stapp. According to the family, David Herd wrapped John Stapp in one of his own shirts and buried him.

John John Herd could cut more letters in a day, but David was the most talented sculptor. Many years before he died, David Herd, who was born in 1819, carved a small statue out of Sylacauga marble, which was called “Little Samuel,” or “Praying Samuel.” The figure of Little Samuel is that of a little boy in a kneeling position, wearing only a loincloth. The statue is about three feet tall. The Herds said that none of them could carve hair and that they paid some other person $100.00 to do the hair on the “Little Samuel” statue. Although the whole sculpture is magnificent, the hair is a perfect example of what one might see today on a little girl with long, curly hair. A lamb which was carved by David Herd was said to be still in the possession of the Herd family.

David Herd also made George Herd’s monument when he died in 1855, and when David Herd died in 1887, “Uncle Sandy” Herd and John Herd, who died in 1891, carved David Herd’s tombstone. All three of these Herds, David, George and John, were buried in The Old Sylacauga Cemetery on East Fort Williams Street. All of their tombstones are tall, and beautifully carved. However, the Herd family kept the little Samuel statue until the death of John Herd’s wife, Mary E. Herd, in 1924, when it was placed on her grave in The Marble City Cemetery in Sylacauga. Since David Herd died in 1887, this sculpture would be the first marble in the Sylacauga area to be used for statuary purposes.

About the time of the war between the states, “Uncle Davie,” as he was called, came into quite a lot of ready cash from the sale of cotton at New Orleans and the legacy from his mother’s estate in Scotland. The amount was between $12,000.00 and $14,000.00, all in $20.00 gold pieces. Mr. George Herd recalled that once when he was very small, they dug up the gold and poured some of it in his little dress as he sat watching. The gold was so heavy that it pinned him to the ground, and he could not get up.

Some time after this, “Uncle Davie” gathered all the gold in two glass pickle jars and buried them somewhere out in the yard. Not long after the treasure was buried, “Uncle Davie” sent word to his brother, to whom some of the gold belonged, in order to show him where he had buried it. Before his brother could come to see him, “Uncle Davie” suffered a stroke and never regained consciousness. David Herd died on October 22, 1887, carrying his secret to the grave. News-paper articles have been written about the lost gold, but as far as anyone knows, the location of that gold is still unknown.

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