Index Gurley Community & Town History
Gurley Lions Club serving the Gurley community since 1948

From Our Past XXVIII

Joseph Criner Family Treasures Found

In 1804, a 35 year old explorer named Joseph C. Criner (1769-1843) and his younger brother Issac, accompanied by Stephen McBroom, came down from Tennessee to explore what is now called Madison County, Alabama. Aided by friendly Indians, the men were led to a clear fresh water spring, called Big Spring, now occupying the center of Huntsville.

A rare find was recently made of two lost Criner Family treasures. Included in some of the articles removed from trunks stored in the old Capt. Elijah F. Walker house on Gate Street in Gurley, was an old family bible bound in leather and printed in 1824. As of 2010, this bible is 186 years old. It was discovered that this was the Joseph Criner family bible owned by Joseph and his wife Eleanor Ingram Criner. The Criner Bible measures 9” x 11” x 3”

Joseph Criner Family Bible It is quite interesting to trace how the bible was handed down six generations to this writer. From Joseph and Eleanor Criner, the bible passed down to their daughter Sara Ann Criner (b:1825) who married William Rutledge Gurley in 1844. William Gurley was son of John Gurley, the first settler to the town of Gurley, and brother of Capt. Frank B. Gurley, famed Confederate Calvary officer.
Sara and William Gurley passed the bible on to their daughter Matilda Ellen Gurley (b: 1857) who married Capt. Elijah Froman Walker (CSA), great grandparents of this writer. The bible became the Elijah and Matilda Walker family bible for many years, but upon Matilda’s death, the bible passed on to their oldest daughter Ruby Walker who married J. D. Lawler of Gurley, AL in 1910. Joseph Criner Family Bible

Upon the passing of Ruby Lawler in 1972, the bible passed down to her only daughter Bernice Lawler who never married. She lived in the old Elijah Walker house until her death in 2000. The house and possessions passed back to this writer and his brother and the bible was found in an old trunk stored in the attic. It was only recently I found the bible in a storage box in my basement and a careful examination revealed it’s succession of ownership. The most interesting thing to me was to learn that Joseph Criner was a great, great, great-grandfather. How amazing are the things you discover about your ancestors in old family bibles. Old bibles are a valuable wealth of information of a family’s history.

Joseph Criner Family Bible Joseph Criner Family Bible

Joseph Criner Family Bible

Joseph Criner Records Joseph Criner Records

Another rare artifact was sealed in an old envelope and hidden in a box found in one of the Walker’s attic trunks. Records show Joseph Criner served as a soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In a Criner family history documentary published in 1931, by Pauline Gandrud and Kathleen Jones, a narrative indicated Joseph Criner’s uniform knee buckles were still in the possession of the family…and amazingly this is what I found in the envelope. But instead of a matched pair, I found two different buckles, indicating the other matching two buckles probably disappeared with another branch of the family.

As a part of eighteenth century colonial period uniforms, knee straps were worn to keep the breeches snug and hold the stockings up. Knee buckles or buttons were used to bind the straps. Many soldiers preferred knee buckles because they allowed the soldier to tighten the straps easier and faster. The British soldier’s uniform used buckles as a standard issue but buttons became more prominent later in the war, probably because buckles were more expensive and seemed to wear the straps out quicker. Most of the buckles were made in England from either brass, pewter or in some cases silver for officers and enlisted men with better family financial positions. George Washington, for example, had a pair of silver buckles with mother of pearl inserts circling the frame. However, Joseph Criner’s buckles shown below are a relatively simple design. These buckles appear to be made of pewter and in remarkable good shape.

Joseph Criner Knee Buckles

Joseph Criner’s Knee Buckles

Thank you William for sharing this information left in your care by your ancestors.