James Wiggins, A Vintage Vignette

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James Wiggins
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 6, 2008

My Vintage Vignette of June 4 told of Sugars Turner and the fact that he was a great grandfather of Lutie Fletcher, wife of Robert Emmett Wiggins. Robert was a Justice of the Peace and early historian of Madison, providing inputs to Thomas McAdory Owens for the Madison section of his Official History of Alabama. Robert E. Wiggins was born in 1843 and raised on the plantation established by his grandfather James. He was age 14 when the town of Madison was founded by James Clemens and George Washington Martin, and he watched the town grow, remaining here except for the years when he served in the Confederate Army, with duty in most of the Southern states. According to some reports, he even served with Col. Josiah Patterson in the May 17, 1864 battle in the town.

As mentioned in the sesquicentennial book “Memories of Madison: A Connected Community, 1857-2007” the Wiggins plantation home was south of Martin Road and east of Wall-Triana Highway. James Wiggins came here from Martin County, North Carolina, before 1818. That was the year when he purchased most of his land, in February. However, he added smaller parcels as late as 1830, just one year before his death at age 58. Altogether he owned over 1200 acres when he died on August 24 of 1831. James’ southernmost holdings ran to the west of Wall-Triana Highway along both sides of Swancott Road, but most of his property lay along Barren Fork and Betts Creek, including the Ragland Cemetery as well as the Wiggins Cemetery. In fact, there is another cemetery on the west side of his holdings, located in the northeast corner of the intersection of Finney Drive with Electronics Boulevard. That cemetery has no tombstones, but many grave depressions are quite evident. It may well be a cemetery used for slave burials during the plantation days. It is likewise known that there was another cemetery, known as the Wiggins Slave Cemetery, just east of Wall-Triana Highway and immediately south of Pentastar Drive. There a Veterans Administration stone marks the grave of Corporal William Ward of the 15th U. S. Colored Troops.

The Wiggins family cemetery is on the east side of Electronics Boulevard and Pentastar Drive, about 200 yards south of Finney Drive. It is enclosed by a white picket fence, with a tall central obelisk. There are a few graves with separate tombstones for people of other surnames in the cemetery. The obelisk is inscribed with multiple names and dates on three sides. Individual graves for the names inscribed on the obelisk are marked with initials on footstones. One of those named on the obelisk, John Dunn (born 1787 in North Carolina), was the father of Jackey Dunn and Ann Eliza Dunn. Both were wives of Richard A. Wiggins, son of James and father of Robert. The Dunn sisters were also siblings of William B. Dunn and John H. Dunn. The Dunn brothers were enumerated in the household headed by Richard Wiggins in two censuses. William Dunn was a physician and became Madison’s first Railroad Depot Agent.

The known ancestry of James Wiggins, father of Richard, goes through his father Lemuel (born 1742 in North Carolina) back to a Thomas Wiggins born about 1615 in England. The line includes a Sarah Sparkman of England, born about 1640. She may possibly connect to the local Sparkman families. Neighbors of the Wiggins family included the surnames of Jamar, Toney, Miller, Collier, Blackwell, Ragland, Rowe, and Betts, among others in this area. The connections of the Wiggins family show that James was contemporary with and a 6th cousin (three times removed) of frontiersman Davey Crockett. He was also a contemporary of noted English author Jane Austen, who was a 7th cousin, one time removed. Data on Ancestry.com shows that even current Queen Elizabeth II of England is a 6th cousin (four times removed) of James Wiggins. The Wiggins name is definitely among those prominent in our area history.

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