I’m often asked why many of Madison County’s locations are named as they are. Books have even been written about why streets in Huntsville are named as they are, just to satisfy the curiosity seekers and give them the information they desire. When I wonder why we are so enamored with seeing old photos and reminiscing about times gone by, I think it is because we are so inundated every day with change that many of us crave the simpler times of yesteryear. Times before rush hour traffic, computers/smartphones, constant communication and drive-thru dining.
Now, the gentleman pictured above, Reverend John Henry Drake, might not have described his life as “simple” given that he was a circuit rider, farmer, land owner and educator in addition to head of a large family. In addition to preaching for the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination, he started the Drake School, educating the children of the Big Cove community near the Drake Cemetery on what is now called King Drake Road. Having been widowed when his first wife died, he remarried and added 9 more children to his previous 2. His love for the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination even led to him naming 3 of his sons with names of founders of that faith. One of those sons was James King Drake.
James King Drake’s parents raised him in a home located near today’s Sutton Road where Walgreen’s was recently built. The home was destroyed by a tornado in the 1920’s, wounding King’s mother so severely she never recovered. King and his wife built a home close to his parents on the eastern side of what is now King Drake Road. The home still stands there today.
James King Drake’s kids have permeated Madison County and married to become the Drake, Finley, Nunn and Brooks families. Many still live on family land throughout Brownsboro between Huntsville and Hampton Cove/Owens Cross Roads in Big Cove. There is even a Brooks Circle off of King Drake Road.
I love hearing stories from the Nunns, for whom I am listing 885 King Drake Road. If you want to see this gorgeous home listed with my company, VV&W, click here
The stories reflect on Mr. Drake’s peach orchard on the hill south of the family homeplace, where the big house built by his grandson now stands; how Mr. Drake would give peaches to his workers in turn for their labor of picking and canning them so that entire families could enjoy fruit throughout the winters; sheep raising in the old barn across the street and the horn that Mr. Drake would sound from the front yard that would echo against the opposite mountain (now where the Ledges is located). They proudly show family archives and share copies of William Sibley’s The History of Big Cove, which documents all of the main events of this special North Alabama community. I think of the sleepy pace at which people operated, eating dinner with one another and everyone having to pitch in to do chores to provide for one another.
These days, the mountainside behind these homes on King Drake Road is treed and plentiful. The family members still hike to the natural waterfalls, watch the birds and scout wildlife. During snowy days, a Gator pulls sledders to the top of the hill beside the house for a fantastic ride down on the powdery snow.. When power goes out, the generator at the big house provides power for heat, warm showers and movies in the theater: “simpler times” as defined by 2015…
But looking out the front door, James King Drake’s memory still unfolds before you. The old barn in the distance with farmland and the family cemetery is just around the bend. The old facing mountain is still there waiting for the horn to sound and for the twilight to come over Big Cove.