Joshua and Thomas Beadle, A Vintage Vignette

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Joshua and Thomas Beadle
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
May 22, 2009

I encountered a most remarkable man named Jack Bullard in 1997. Jack was born and initially raised here, but as a child during the Great Depression he lived a life of extreme poverty in Mississippi. By age 14 he was living on his own as a movie theater usher in Memphis. He rose from his subsequent riverboat deckhand career to become a Mississippi river pilot and then a vice president of the American Barge Line Company until his retirement in 1983. He was visiting Huntsville from his home in Louisville, Kentucky, to research his roots. Jack is a great grandson of Thomas Beadle, who was born about 1805, but he didn’t know that when I met him in the library in Huntsville. Soon we compiled a lengthy list of Jack’s ancestors in Madison County. In 1999 Jack compiled his family heritage into a book for his nieces and nephews, since he has no children of his own. He also donated a copy to the library. His book is entitled “Bullard Family and Related Families: Beadle, Jordan, Stover, Thornton, and Nelson.”

My interest in learning of Jack’s Beadle ancestry was based upon Madison connections to Joshua H. Beadle. Joshua married Paulina Landman, a daughter of William Landman who settled in the northeastern portion of the arsenal lands. His land was adjoined that of Thomas Beadle, who owned land along what today is Gray Road and Aerobee Road, plus the southern end of Ajax Road on the arsenal. The precise relationship between Thomas and Joshua is unknown to me, but I believe that they were cousins. They may possibly have been brothers. Thomas was reportedly born in Alabama in 1805 (per consistent census records) and Joshua was born in 1813 in Wilson County, Tennessee. Research indicates that Thomas was perhaps a son of William Beadle from Virginia, who lived in Wilson County and apparently came for a time to Madison County before returning to Tennessee. William’s wife was Sara Owens. The 1850 census of Madison County shows another Thomas Beadle, born in 1818 Tennessee, living on southwestern arsenal lands beside Thomas Jamar and Thomas Owens, suggesting a link to the Owens family. This Thomas Beadle was not found in later censuses of Madison County. He could possibly have been the father of mulatto Daniel W. Beadle, subject of a previous Vintage Vignette.

Joshua Beadle had extensive connections to pioneers of the Madison area. In the 1850 census, he and Paulina had a household of five Beadle girls and 14 young men. Joshua was listed as a merchant, and all but one of the men were listed as either merchants or clerks. The other man was a music teacher. These men in the Beadle household included pioneer names such as James Wiggins, Henry Landman, John Howell, and W. Lawler. Joshua in 1872 won a circuit court judgment against Thomas and Elizabeth Bibb. This Thomas Bibb was not the one who served as Alabama’s second governor, but he was an uncle of Madison’s first councilman, James Bibb. Thomas and Elizabeth had purchased 140 acres where Oakwood College is now located. They lost it in a sheriff’s sale to Joshua for $350 to settle the court action. Thomas Bibb was a prominent veteran of the War of 1812, but in 1850 Joshua was living in Huntsville just two houses away from Isaiah Dill. Dill was an attorney and court official who likely had an influence in the 1872 case.

The family of Thomas Beadle likewise had extensive connections with Madison area pioneers. Thomas had five daughters and a son. His daughter Mary Alice married Ferdinand Trotman. Ada married William Garner. Sarah Emily Beadle in 1880 married John Jordan after his second wife, Nancy Graham Beadle, died in 1879. (In 1849 when she was 17 and he was 72, Nancy had first married Abraham Beadle, an uncle of Sarah’s father Thomas Beadle.) Hester Proctor Beadle married Napoleon Powell, and William Robertson Beadle married Lizzie Latham Timmons. Most of these couples and their descendants lived in Madison and the surrounding areas, so the Beadle lineage is indelibly stamped on the western part of Madison County.

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