Lucy Lanier Ives Clark, A Vintage Vignette

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Lucy Lanier Ives Clark
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin


In the center of Test Area 1, southern portion of Redstone Arsenal, there is a small family cemetery with a single obelisk, about 15 feet tall. The only inscription reads “TO THE MEMORY OF LUCY CLARK; BORN NOV. 29, 1790; DIED DEC. 25, 1844”. Because married women were not named in the census records before 1850, other avenues of research were needed to learn of this woman’s life. Lucy didn’t live long enough to see Madison founded nearby, but her heirs and relatives were involved in the history of the town. She was born as a Lanier, daughter of William Lanier of Greensville County, Virginia. Her mother was Rebecca Robinson. Lucy lived most of her adult life in Madison County, marrying John Ives on December 25, 1823. After his death, she married James E. Clark on December 29, 1837. Apparently, the Christmas season was significant for Lucy in every respect, even her passing.

Lucy and John Ives patented the land around the cemetery in 1825. John is buried there, along with their only child, a daughter who predeceased them. However, only Lucy has a marker today. James Clark is not known to be buried in the cemetery, and his marriage to Lucy was a bit unusual. While John was about 10 years older than Lucy, and James was about 10 years younger (according to census record age brackets). James also entered the marriage under constraints of a pre-nuptial agreement that barred him from inheriting the 400 acres of Lucy’s land or her 6 slaves, 4 horses, 16 cows, 30 hogs, 14 sheep, and 3 beds. He was allowed to remain on the farm so long as he stayed single and cultivated the land, but at his death Lucy’s estate was to pass to the children of her executor, John Henderson Hundley. Even there, Lucy stipulated that only the children by Hundley’s second wife, Melinda Robinson (a cousin), would share in the inheritance.

John Henderson Hundley was a farmer, postmaster, preacher, and physician in Mooresville after moving from the arsenal area in 1834. He may have been related to Horace Lawson Hunley (variant spelling of the same name), as both originated in Greensville County, Virginia. Horace was the designer and builder of the Confederate submarine that sunk the Union ship in Charleston Harbor in 1864, first of that method of warfare. One of John Hundley’s grandsons married Nannie Donnell, a granddaughter of famed Presbyterian minister Robert Donnell of this area.

Lucy lived adjacent to some of her relatives on the arsenal lands. She and John Ives had as neighbors brothers Burwell Clinton Lanier, William H. Lanier, and Isaac Alexander Lanier. Burwell and Isaac lived and died in Madison later. Burwell married Laura Prudence America Ford in 1853. One of their sons, John Ford Lanier, lived at 154 Maple Street in Madison. He became a tax collector (revenue officer) and on December 12, 1900, he was fatally shot at 2:30 in the morning near Meridianville. He had heard that a shipment of illegal whiskey was being brought into the county from Tennessee, so he stopped a loaded wagon with two men in it. In the ensuing gunfight, he was hit in the right lung and died 11 days later. It turned out that the wagon he stopped was loaded only with slaughtered hogs. He left a wife and 6 children. One of those children was David Shelby Lanier, who became a mayor of Madison, serving in 1919 and 1940-44. He also lived in his father’s house, as does descendant David Shelby Lanier III today, along with his wife Lou Ann Beard, daughter Kathryn Alexis, and son David Shelby Lanier IV. The Madison Laniers include Mary Margaret Lanier, living along Maple Street. Milton H. (“Pete”) Lanier served as Madison City Attorney in the 1950s, one of multiple generations of attorneys by that name in the family business that became the firm of Lanier, Ford, Shaver, & Payne in Huntsville, where Milton also served as Mayor. The local Laniers have carried on the long-standing family tradition of being prominent professionals, leaders, and artists within their communities.

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