Bermuda Hill

By Frances Doolittle Norman

Newton County has very few hills of any note. One is in the southern section known as Bermuda Hill. It is eight miles southwest of Newton and four miles due south of Lawrence near Quarterliah Creek in Section 24 Township 5 Range 10E and is 600 feet above sea level.1

The history of Bermuda Hill is as interesting as it is picturesque today. One rides up the hill into a grove of huge oaks, pines and hickory trees which are draped from the top to the bottom in Spanish moss. This grove of trees covers about one acre. A short distance below the trees, nearer the foot of the hill, is a large spring which gushes from the foot of a towering sweet gum tree. The spring, which is visited by many people for its pure water, has never gone dry and when all the streams in this section are dry in the summer, the steady flow of water from the spring furnishes the nearby residents. From the spring, one must go to the top of the hill and view the countryside below. To the east Newton can been seen, and to the northwest, Lake, and as far as the eye can see familiar objects can be located. From there the rest fades into the blue haze.

Bermuda Hill Cottage

The cottage shown is one of two dwellings at Bermuda Hill constructed from the original timber used for the plantation house of Bird Saffold. The ecology of this site, including Spanish moss, is unique for this area. The Spanish moss and Bermuda grass (for which the site is named) are believed to have been brought here by Bird Saffold on one of his trips to Mobile, Alabama.

On top of the hill is the family graveyard with its marble tombstones marking the resting places of the first white settlers.

Bird Saffold, a wealthy landowner in this section, bought 795 acres of land on January 30, 1835. The land on which his elaborate two story, colonial home was built and where the graveyard is located now was bought on May 16, 1835. No one knows the exact date that the house was built, but no doubt it was erected between 1835 and 1838 for it often took several years to build houses when lumber had to be hauled from Mobile or some other distant point. The house was less than a mile north of the old Winchester-Jackson road which ran from Wayne County to Jackson through this section when it still belonged to the Indians. The eight room, two story house which had a very large attic and observation tower was torn down by its present owner 38 years ago, and part of the lumber was used to erect two one-story houses down the hill near the spring. The doors and windows of the first floor were used in the present John C. Nance home, and the doors and windows of the second floor were used in the present Lewis Nance home.

Bermuda Hill Western View from Saffold-Nance Cemetery

Westward view from Saffold-Nance Cemetery

Bird Saffold continued to buy government lands until his lands totaled 2, 564.38 acres of rich prairie land, and it cost him only $1.25 per acre. The exact number of slaves he owned is not known, but no doubt he had many, for it was said that the two richest men in the county before the Civil War were Saffold and Millington Blalack2 who owned 2,703.03 acres in the central part of the county. Both of these men died before the war started.

The family burying plot was started in 1848 with the death of his wife, Matilda Saffold. A hickory log with her initials and date of her death carved into it was used for a temporary headstone. The log, which petrified later, is lying just outside the fence today. The next one to be carried to the burying ground south of the house was the housekeeper, Lucinda Parnell in 1858. Bird Saffold died in 1860 and was buried next to his wife. His sons and heirs, John and William, sold the house and plantation shortly thereafter and moved away. At their deaths (one committed suicide) their bodies were interred beside their parents.

The estate was even then designated as Bermuda Hill, or the Saffold Place. In 1861 Wm. W. Moore, the new owner, died, but his daughter, Lida Moore, who was his sole heir, continued to live in the old house. No doubt Joseph G. Moore, the Administrator of the estate, fraudulently disposed of the property, for in 1876 Miss Moore sued the Administrator and the purchaser of the property. The suit was settled by J. G. Moore and Edwin T. Moore paying the complainant $3,000 cash and giving her a quit claim deed to the 500 acre homestead and all buildings on Bermuda Hill.

Lida Moore continued to live in the old home until her marriage. In 1888 while a resident of Lauderdale Co., she sold Bermuda Hill to James Nance for $3,000. Two months later James Nance sold the property to his son, J. C. Nance, who today owns and lives on Bermuda Hill. James Nance is buried just across from the Saffold graveyard.

Many legends have been told about the hill. It is said that during the War that the Confederate scouts used this point to watch for Yankees and deserters from the southern army. No one knows definitely whether or not the Spanish moss is a natural development or was started by Saffold. The Bermuda grass was brought by the Saffolds from Alabama.

Notes

1. Since this writing, the height has been officially measured at 613 feet.

2. Name given in most records as Blalock

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