Cartwright Connections, A Vintage Vignette

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Cartwright Connections
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 25, 2008

The sesquicentennial book Memories of Madison: A Connected Community, 1857-2007 relates that John Cartwright was in the past erroneously attributed as being the first settler of the town of Madison. Cartwright in 1818 purchased land northeast of Triana and another parcel two miles west of where Madison would be founded in 1857. In the 1830s he also obtained several other parcels of land in the area, including some in Limestone County in 1832 and 1833. However, he died in 1839, so he could not have been a settler of the town of Madison, which did not exist then. It is more reasonable to claim that he was an early settler of Triana, even though his land was also a couple of miles from that town when it was founded in 1818. While Cartwright may have initially lived on his land near Triana, that land was located between the Barren Fork of Indian Creek and the Swan Pond area of southwest Redstone Arsenal. Therefore, it was probably heavily infested with mosquitoes, and it would have been prudent for him to relocate to the area along County Line Road nearer to Madison’s subsequent site. It is known that in the last years of his life he resided on his land near where Madison was later founded, and where his family cemetery is located on the south side of Palmer Road close to County line Road.

John Cartwright in 1811 married Mary Dillard in Wilson County, Tennessee, where their son Hezekiah was born a year later. In addition to the Dillard connection (Dillard-Bibb Cemetery on Mill Road), Cartwright became a patriarch of several families of this area through his children Hezekiah Bradley, Rebecca (wife of Alexander Russell), Martha Lavender (wife of James McCutchen), Sarah (wife of Levin T. Gray), and Evelina Jane (wife of E. C. Crutcher). Hezekiah married twice, first to Martha Holden Gray, a sister of Levin T. Gray. These Grays were grandchildren of Levin Peter Gray, who married Sarah Wade Slaughter, widow of James Slaughter, a signer of the 1810 Sims Settlers’ petition from this area.

Hezekiah and Martha Gray Cartwright had seven children before Martha died of typhoid fever in 1850. Their firstborn daughter, Cleopatra Indiana (called “Clippie” and “Annie”) married Jessie Frank Abernathy, a son of Jesse Abernathy and Sarah Bailey, descendant of James F. Bailey, connected by marriage to the Bibb family. Clippie had a daughter Ora who married William Henry Looney, ancestor of Frank Looney who was Chief of the Test Stand Design Section, working at Redstone Arsenal with Bernard Tessman of the Peenemunde team.

Another daughter of Hezekiah and Martha, Nancy Cartwright, in 1866 married Robert W. Parham, a son of Nicholas Parham. Their son Hezekiah N. Parham never married, but he was well known in old Madison, leaving his estate to nephews and nieces in the Humphrey and Drake families of the town. Hezekiah’s daughter Musie Ophelia married Dr. Joseph A. Pettus, and one of their sons married Ellelee Chapman, granddaughter of Governor Reuben Chapman and his wife Felicia Pickett of Madison.

After Martha’s passing, Hezekiah married Martha Vaughan Bailey, widow of Elijah Bailey. By her Hezekiah had five more children. Their daughter Oregon (“Orrie”) married Madison’s first public school educator, John T. Lipscomb. One of Orrie’s daughters married Sam Parham. One of Orrie’s sons married Catherine Hughes. Hezekiah’s daughter Mattie married Arthur H. Lewis, and one of the Lewis daughters married Levi Garrett, while another married Herman Humphrey. Additionally, Hezekiah’s daughter Josephine married Robert W. Parham as his second wife.

More Cartwright family intermarriages are documented in various publications, such as The Lure and Lore of Limestone County (1978) by Axford and Edwards and The Heritage of Madison County, Alabama (by committee, 1998). Previous Vintage Vignettes have also mentioned some of the interconnections of pioneer families. This article provides at least a glimpse into the numerous marriage relationships of the Cartwright family with the other pioneers of the area. James Bailey and Cheaney Crutcher even were witnesses of the Last Will and Testament of John Cartwright, so the connections extended beyond marriages. It was a really small world in the 1800s of North Alabama.

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