Ferdinand M. Trotman, A Vintage Vignette

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Ferdinand M. Trotman
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
September 14, 2008

The marriage records of Madison County show that Ferdinand M. Trotman had three wives during his lifetime. He is buried with the last one in the old section of the Madison City Cemetery on the south side of the eastern end of Mill Road. Another is in the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery south of the end of Miller Boulevard and between Horizon Elementary and Shelton Road. The other is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville. The 1850 Limestone County census shows Ferdinand under the name James F. at age six months, with a brother Robert (age 3), his mother Sarah C. at age 26, and his father Thomas B. Trotman, a carpenter, at age 29. Apparently, “James” preferred to be called Ferdinand (the name of kings of Spain), as all later records show that as his name, usually including an “M” as the middle initial.

Ferdinand’s first marriage was to Sarah Eliza McGaha in 1873. She was a daughter of James Madison and Caroline Rhoda Peevey McGaha. The McGaha family of Madison County was considered to be wealthy for the time. They can be linked to Wernher Von Braun, Eli Whitney, Daniel Wesson (partner in the Smith & Wesson gun company), William Randolph Hearst (newspaper magnate), Catherine the Great of Russia, U. S. Presidents Bill Clinton, Theodore Roosevelt, and Zachary Taylor, plus First Ladies Barbara Bush, Jacqueline Kennedy, Rosalynn Carter, and Frances Cleveland.

Sarah Eliza McGaha Trotman died in 1880 after producing one known child (Thomas) for Ferdinand. She is the wife that Ferdinand buried in the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery. At least two other McGaha girls married men buried in the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery. Eliza’s sister Sue married Pryor Bailey Farley, a son of James Wesley Farley. Their graves are in a separately walled family plot. Not far away are the graves of Dr. John Benton Farley and his wife Mattie Elizabeth McGaha, another sister of Eliza. John was likewise a son of James W. Farley, and he lived near Whitesburg, where the McGaha girls were born. However, in 1870 the McGaha’s lived in the Monrovia-Cluttsville area among the Hilliard, Fowlkes, and Vaughn families. John B. Farley was the namesake of the Farley Community south of Huntsville, where he practiced medicine.

James W. Farley was a son of pioneer Michael Farley, who was born around 1790. Michael married Sarah Trotman in 1826. She was born in 1797 in Virginia. James Farley married Frances Ann Crutcher in 1853, and the 1870 census showed his son Pryor Bailey Farley at age 14 and Ferdinand Trotman at age 20 in his household, along with his mother Sarah at age 73. James Farley was Ferdinand’s guardian, since Thomas B. Trotman died in 1859. There was an older Thomas B. Trotman in Madison County in the 1840 census, aged 40-50. An 1866 probate court record shows payment to Ferdinand as a share of the estate of his grandfather Thomas B. Trotman. Therefore, the census records and the probate records together indicate that Ferdinand was a son of Thomas B. Trotman (Jr.) and a grandson of another Thomas B. Trotman (Sr.).

The family interconnections are compounded by the fact that Thomas Trotman Sr. married Sarah C. Farley, a half sister of Michael Farley. Additionally, Ferdinand’s third wife, Sallie Kate McLane, had been married to William A. Farley. William died after 1900, but before Kate’s 1903 marriage to Ferdinand. Kate was born in Arkansas in 1870 and had no known children before her passing in 1909. Kate is buried in the Madison City Cemetery beside Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s second wife, Mary (“Mollie”) Ann Beadle, was born in 1853 in Madison County. Their marriage was in 1882, with John B. Farley posting bond for the rites. Mollie bore Ferdinand at least four children – Charley, Herbert, Maggie, and Sarah. Mollie is buried in Maple Hill, so it is evident that Ferdinand was a wise man. He kept his wives separated even in death.

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