Francis Earle, a retired agriculturist of Baldwin county, Ala., of which he is a native, was born in February, 1818, received a three years’ course of schooling in one of the best institutions of learning in the state, and then took charge of his father’s plantation and stock farm, spending much time in western Alabama, looking after the vast flocks of sheep and herds of cattle belonging to the estate. He lost his father in 1836, when the charge of the entire property, including the homestead, devolved upon his young shoulders. His parents were Jones and Elizabeth (Tarvin) Earle, the former of whom was born in South Carolina in 1766, and in 1792, came to Alabama, settled in Baldwin county, near Fort Mims, and at once engaged in stock raising. He built a dwelling near where his son Francis now lives, married Miss Elizabeth Tarvin, and led a life of quiet usefulness until February 12, 1813, when he was warned of a threatened outbreak among the Indians and advised to seek safety at the fort. He accordingly destroyed such of his household effects, that he knew would be either stolen or burned, and sought refuge in the fort seven miles away. That night his black herdman reported that he had seen numerous squads of Natives in the vicinity, but the report was discredited by the inmates of the fort, with the exception of Mr. Earle, who, with his wife and three children, stole away from the defenses and made his way to Blakely, sixty miles distant, and thence to Mottville. His caution and foresight proved of service, for the next day February 13, 1813, at 12 o’clock, noon, the fort was attacked by the Natives and one of the bloodiest massacres recorded in the annals of Alabama was perpetrated. In a few days Mr. Earle returned to his plantation and stock range, proceeded at once to rebuild his home; cleared up more land and began planting on a large scale. When Gen. Jackson arrived in the territory he went into camp near Mr. Earle’s plantation and received his needed supplies therefrom for a number of years. The death of Mr. Earle took place in 1836. He was a member of the Primitive Baptist church and a sincere Christian. The old house built after the fall of Fort Mims is still standing in good condition. Mrs. Elizabeth Earle was a native of Baldwin county and a daughter of one of its earliest pioneers, John Tarvin. She was married in her nineteenth year and was the mother of nine children – six boys and three girls – of whom Francis, whose name heads this sketch, was the seventh in the order of birth.
After his father’s death, Francis continued the live stock business, became a large owner and dealer in slaves, forced to set free over 100 slaves at the close of the Civil war. Before the war he had lived like a prince, had servants to respond to every call – operated extensive plantations, and was one of the wealthiest planters of Baldwin county, having the handsomest residence for miles around. It was erected by Col. Slaughter at a cost of $20,000. When the war came on in 1861, everything was changed. His beautiful mansion was burned, his slaves set free, and his herds scattered to the four winds of heaven; his fences were torn down and burned and his fields laid waste, and he was, in fact, absolutely impoverished. Notwithstanding his heavy losses, Mr. Earle, when matters had quieted down, re-engaged in stock raising, having sold a few bales of cotton he had managed to save at $200 per bale, the proceeds giving him a fair start, and once more began planting, the result being that he is once more a wealthy man. The marriage of Mr. Earle took place, in 1850, to Miss Mary McDonald, daughter of John McDonald, a lumber manufacturer on a large scale in Baldwin county. This lady was born in Baldwin county, was highly educated, was a society belle, and was married in her twenty-sixth year. She has two children, viz.: Frank, who is married to Mamie Daniels and has one child, also named Frank; and Mary, the wife of Thomas Bradley, a young planter of Baldwin county, and also the mother of one child – Ulmer. Mrs. Bradley is a member of the Methodist church. Francis Earle, the elder, has been lavish in his support of church and school, and is generous to a fault, as well as public spirited.