Dr. James A. Flanagan, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. James A. Flanagan
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
August 16, 2010

One of the mysteries of Madison has to do with a tombstone kept for a time underneath the front porch of the old Jim Williams house at 19 Front Street. The house does not sit on the location of any known cemetery or individual burial place. The tombstone has been moved around a few times in recent years, sometimes stored in the detached garage that used to be the old carriage house and livery stable. Several people asked me over the years whether I knew anything of the person named on the tombstone, but I had not personally seen it, and nobody that I asked could recall the full name and dates that were inscribed until recently. Now I know that the name is Dr. James A. Flanagan. The dates are 1853-1906.

The question is who was Dr. James Flanagan? Why was his tombstone at the house on Front Street? Several years ago I was shown a different tombstone at another house in Madison. That tombstone was for James Harvey Pride (1816-1874). It was put over a cistern on Martin Street as a cover to prevent accidents. However, in that case I already knew about James Pride, and I was aware that he had a larger stone, an obelisk, on his grave in the old section of the Madison City Cemetery, south of Mill Road between Hughes Road and the eastern part of Maple Street. The cistern cover had been his original tombstone, but the larger obelisk replaced it in years past. Rather than destroy the old stone, it was saved and put to good use elsewhere. Whether or not such was the case with Dr. Flanagan's stone is unknown.

Dr. Flanagan was apparently never a resident of the Madison area. Records indicate that he lived in the Trenton, Scottsboro, and Paint Rock area of Jackson County. The census of 1900 showed him as a physician with his wife Margaret (nee Archey) and no children, living in Paint Rock Enumeration District 41. In 1880 the census listed him as a farmer at age 26 in Enumeration District 108 (Township 3, Range 3E) of Jackson County. Margaret was also listed in the household, since they were married in 1876. A young cousin, A. J. Bingham, age 13, was listed as living in the Flanagan household. They were living beside widow and head of household Nancy E. Flanagan, age 45, who likewise had a nephew W. Bingham at age 18 living with her, along with two of her daughters (Cary and Lizzie) and two farm laborers. The 1870 census showed Nancy as the wife of farmer Armbris Flanagan (age 44, born in Alabama), eight years older than Nancy. They had children James (age 17), Mary J. (15), William (13), Beattres (9), Cary (7), and Elizabeth (4) in their household, located in the Scottsboro post office area, Township 4, Range 3E. The 1860 census listed the family in Paint Rock, headed by A. D. Flanagan (age 33), with wife Emely (26). Their children were James (7), Mary (6), and William (3). A Caroline Latham, age 28, born in Alabama, was also in the household, as was a male E. A. Flanagan, age 50, born in Virginia. Living next door was Armbrose Flanagan, age 80, born in Virginia. His wife was Dianah, age 74 from Virginia. Included in their household were Flanagan females Dianah (age 36, born in Virginia) and D. C. (16, born in Alabama). The 1850 census shows A. D. Flanagan at age 22 in the household of Ambrose (68) and Dianah (64), living beside the household of E. and Margret Bingham (30) in Jackson County. A. D. Flanagan's siblings in Ambrose's household were A. C. (32), A. J. (17), and Dianah (26).

The records show that James was a son of A. D. (born about 1828) and N. E. Flanagan. E. A. Flanagan (born about 1810) could have been the father, uncle, or cousin of A. D. If E. A. was the father of A. D., then James' great-grandfather would have been Ambrose Flanagan born about 1780-2. The connection to Madison for the tombstone to end up at 19 Front Street is still unknown.

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