Henry County Siftings
By: T. Larry Smith
Henry County’s Official Historian
Courtesy: Abbeville Herald, May 7, 2020
The attached image depicts Headland, Alabama’s first land owners to patent their land receiving the very ·first official land deed from the U.S. Government land patent office for south Alabama. These were the first people to receive the first official deeds to land located in Section 4, Township 4-N, Range 27-E totaling 640 acres. A section of land is one square mile consisting of 640 acres, or 4 square 160 acres, or 16 square forty acres.
However, some of these first patented owners were not the first to own some of these Headland lands. The first land owner of the 160 acres where downtown Headland was laid out by James Joshua Head in 1871, as shown by the dot ted lined square in the center of section 4 on the attached map, was William Whitehead. He claimed his 160 acres without going to the land patent office. He had no patented deed to the land. Claiming land was considered legal and accepted by early settlers until the first land offices opened and even afterwards. Several sold their claims to someone else and moved on to claim another parcel or would later travel to the nearest federal land office to purchase a deed.
This is how James Joshua Head became the owner of the 160 acres where he laid out Headland in 1871. The first to claim this property was William Whitehead and wife Mahala Whitehead in 1867.- They sold their claim to J.J. Head on Oct. 10, 1869 as recorded, minus one acre where the first old 1867 Baptist Church stood. J.J. Head later traveled to Montgomery to get a receipt hoping to legalize his purchased land claim from Mr. Whitehead.
J.J. Head next sold his Headland lands to Hosey C. Powell in 1879 apparently without obtaining an official land patent from the federal government until 1880. Hosey C. Powell next sold Headland to Dr. W.S. Oates that same year. Dr. Oates apparently wanted a clear title extending back to when J.J. Head purchased the claim from Mr. Whitehead, so Mr. Head then obtained the first patent on the 160 acres on Feb. 2, 1880 as shown on the attached map. Dr. Oates then became the official owner, promoter, developer, builder, and “Father of Headland” until his death in 1913. William Whitehead later obtained a land patent on 2/1/1876 for 40 acres joining the 160 acres he had sold to J.J. Head in 1869. One of William Whitehead’s descendants, Mr. Jeffery McCord, is presently· employed with Headland’s HNB First Bank.