Luke Landers, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
April 11, 2009
While looking into the Camper family history associated with the cemetery behind the Casa Blanca Restaurant on Brown’s Ferry Road near Hughes Road, I came into contact with a number of Camper descendants who graciously provided details about people buried in the cemetery. According to the tombstone of Betty Hester Camper Landers, she was born December 10, 1868, and she died August 22, 1955. Census records show that she was a daughter of Blooming Goodner Camper, who was known as “Dunc” (Duncan) to the family. Dunc’s wife Amanda Carns Camper was an attractive woman, from the photo that was supplied to me. From her appearance, it is reasonable to assume that she produced beautiful daughters, and her neighbor apparently thought so also.
Luke Landers at age 21 lived in a household headed by William Pinkney McCrary, listed as house number 104 in the Madison precinct census of 1880. The Campers lived in house number 105 in that census. The Camper household in 1880 included children Harlie (female, age 13), Bettie (10), William (7), and Edward (2). “Harlie” would actually have to be “Ollie” because family data shows that Luke M. Landers married Ollie Camper (recorded on the marriage license as “Allie”) in 1882. Madison County marriage records also show that in 1910 Luke L. Landers married Bessie H. Camper, 16 years after Ollie died in 1894. The public records often contain first name variations from family usage. Bessie was Betty Hester Camper Landers, and to the family “Allie” was “Ollie” (not the likely phonetic distortion “Harlie” in the census). The name Luke L. Landers was used on several property deeds and census records, but the name was also given frequently as Luke M. Landers. Luke was the Camper neighbor who twice married “the girl(s) next door”. In fact, it may be that Luke took the job working and living with the family of William McCrary in order to be next door to the girls that he found attractive.
Luke’s parents were John Matthew Landers (born 1820 Georgia, died 1888 Alabama) and his first wife Leurania Ayers (died 1866). The 1850 census shows John’s wife as Leurania from Tennessee, while the 1860 census has his wife as “Lurane” from Tennessee, and the 1870 census lists his wife as Martha from Alabama. He married Martha Jane Williams in Madison County in 1869, when she was 22 or 23, thus becoming the stepmother of children who were as much as 6 years older than herself. The 1880 census shows Martha as age 33, while John was listed as age 60 that year. Notes from Gladys True of Madison stated that John was also married for a short time to Elizabeth Grigsby, but she died in childbirth, leading to his marriage to Martha. Leurania and Martha bore many children to John, with at least 12 surviving to be listed in the census records.
Luke’s grandfather was Lewis Landers (1799 Georgia – 1891 Alabama), who married Sarah Bailey. Luke’s great-grandfather was James Landers, born 1775 in Virginia. Luke in 1909 purchased the land surrounding the cemetery where his wife Betty is buried. The parcel was part of the estate of John W. Farrald, which Farrald had obtained from John Bibb in 1866. In fact, the cemetery itself was excluded from the 1909 deed, written as the “Terrell” (Farrald) Cemetery. It likely contains the grave of John Farrald and others of that family, as there are many unmarked graves on the east side, away from the Camper graves. Bibb was single and buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, so he would not have created or used the cemetery.
Luke was mentioned in the December 13, 1913, issue of the Huntsville Weekly Mercury newspaper solely about Madison and its history. It claimed that Madison was located in the most fertile portion of the Tennessee Valley, giving as an example Luke Lander’s experience that year. It reported that Luke owned 20 acres and one mule, but he “made 14 bales of cotton and more than enough corn to carry him another year, aside from vegetables and forage.” Luke must have been an expert farmer in those days before common usage of chemical fertilizers.