Dr. John Robert Slaughter, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. John Robert Slaughter
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 15, 2010

The article this week was intended to be my last, as I planned to focus my volunteer activity and study time into teaching an in-depth Bible class at the church I attend. However, the activity focus has changed due to circumstances beyond my control, and many readers have indicated regret when hearing of my intent to cease the Vintage Vignette series. Realizing that there are stories yet to be told and that I have already completed sufficient research to prepare many associated Vintage Vignettes, I now intend to continue the series. However, after this article, my emphasis will begin to shift from Madison and more toward the pioneer families that settled the land now known as Redstone Arsenal. Still, it should be realized that the pioneers of arsenal lands generally had ties or direct connections into early history of the town of Madison and its surrounding area.

Dr. John Robert Slaughter is the namesake of Slaughter Road. He was the subject of a Vintage Vignette printed in the March 14, 2007 issue of the Huntsville Times' Madison Spirit section. That Vignette focused upon Slaughter's ties to the Cain, Lanford, Fennell, and Jordan families of the Madison area. However, Dr. Slaughter was equally connected to the famous families of Collier, Blackwell, Pickett, Bouldin, and others of the Myrtle Grove Plantation area along the Tennessee River between Triana and Mooresville. His own genealogy was not covered in the previous Vintage Vignette, but it connects to many of Virginia's most influential and prominent families. Here Dr. Slaughter lived and pursued his medical practice in the Lanford-Slaughter mansion at 7400 Old Madison Pike after his marriage to one of William Lanford's daughters. He died on March 17, 1894, and is believed to be buried in Section 9 of Maple Hill Cemetery, where related Lanford and Slaton family members are interred.

Slaughter's ancestry includes connection to owners of Paradise Plantation in Virginia, but his name on the road is thought by some to signify that a slaughterhouse for cattle must have been on the route long ago. That was not the case, just as my own early interest was to see if he was possibly connected to the actual historical Texas Ranger, John Horton Slaughter. For those too young to know, there was a very popular weekly Walt Disney program on TV in 1958-1961 about “Texas John Slaughter”. The theme song for the series included the line: "Texas John Slaughter made 'em do what they orter, 'cause if they didn't, they died.” However, there is no known connection of the Texas Ranger to our Dr. John Robert Slaughter of Madison.

Madison's Slaughter was a child of Lawrence Smith Slaughter (1798-1826). John's grandfather was Colonel John Field Slaughter (1759-1825), and his great grandfather was Colonel Lawrence Slaughter (1736-1779), who fought in the American Revolutionary War, as did many of the related Slaughters of Virginia. The next two generations of Slaughter's ancestors were both named Robert. Then there were two more generations named Francis Slaughter, going back to birth in 1630 for one who came to Virginia from England. The first Slaughter land in Virginia was documented in 1635. The family can be traced back to 1485 in England, where the surname was initially spelled as “Schlostre” according to Stella Pickett Hardy's 1911 genealogical book about the family.

Dr. John R. Slaughter was born in 1825, and in 1854 he married Mary Elizabeth Lanford. They had at least six children. The known children were 1- Ophelia Jane (1855-1919, married John Taylor Slaton; she was named after Dr. Slaughter's widowed mother, who in 1829 married William Edward Collier as her second husband), 2- Martha (born 1857, died unmarried before 1958), 3- Mary E. (1859-1932), 4- John R. Jr. (1864-1884, unmarried), 5- Charlotte (“Lottie”) Fennell (1869-1941, married James Henry Cain), and 6- William Collier (1872-1918, lived in Birmingham). Dr. Slaughter served with the military during the Mexican War (1846-1848) and the Civil War (1861-1865). He was a surgeon of General Lee's brigade at the First Battle of Manassas according to Hardy's book. Dr. Slaughter spent over fifty years of his life serving the Madison area as one of its most beloved physicians.

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