Sturdivants of Madison, A Vintage Vignette

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Sturdivants of Madison
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 30, 2011

Sturdivant Street is fairly new in Madison, but it commemorates one of the pioneer families of the area. Today Charles and Kim Sturdivant live at 205 Church Street with their daughters Kendall and Cameron. Charles is a grandson of “Tiny” and Claude Lester Sturdivant, whose home was 308 Church Street. Claude died in 1964, but he and Tiny had two sons, Claude L. Jr. and James G. Studivant. Madison resident Jim Sturdivant, father of Jimmy Jr. and Charles, is a former Madison city councilman and school board member. Jim's mother,Tiny, was born Alda Florence Gormley. She now lives in Madison Manor Nursing Home, but her former Church Street residence is one of two Sears-Roebuck “kit” houses in Madison. Tiny's father was James C. Gormley, a city clerk and railroad depot agent who built the concrete structure beside the Roundhouse on Front Street. Tiny's grandmother Mary Sullivan was the wife of William Gormley and a sister of Dr. George Sullivan, a Civil War physician of Madison and namesake of Sullivan Street. It was my privilege in 2006 to digitally record Tiny's memories and to copy her old Madison and family photos.

In December 1913 Madison's history and prosperity were described in a special issue of the Weekly Mercury, a newspaper published in Huntsville. In an article extolling the accomplishments of farmers in the Madison area, it was stated that Henry Sturdivant had a farm with three tenants, who averaged making seven bales of cotton during that year on 23 acres each. They were also reported as producing all of the corn that they could use, with some left over to sell. Research showed that Henry was a son of William Cullen Sturdivant and Mahala Bryant. In the 1910 census Henry with his siblings and his mother were enumerated in the Triana district, which then extended northward almost to today's Interstate 565 in Madison. Henry's father and his uncle John J. Sturdivant both served in the Confederate forces during the Civil War. They were sons of a William Sturdivant born 1801 in Pennsylvania, a shoemaker in the 1850 census of Limestone County, living near the line with Madison County. The elder William also appeared in the 1840 census of Limestone County, so he was here before that time. William's wife, Mary, was born in Virginia in 1811 according to the 1850 record.

Madison County marriage records show that John J. Sturdivant married Virginia C. Curtis per a license issued on February 13, 1860. Her tombstone simply lists her name as “Mrs. C. V. Sturdivant”, but property deeds record her name as Catherine V. Sturdivant. The first parcel of land purchased by John J. Sturdivant in Madison County contained 54 acres in the southeastern part of the southeast quarter of Section 7, Township 4, Range 2 West. Today that site includes the Mill Creek Elementary School and the junction of Mose Chapel Road with Mill Road. John and Catherine had seven children listed with them in the 1880 census. Among these was Robert Lee Sturdivant (1875-1954), who served as Mayor of Madison, 1929-1931 and 1934-1940.

Robert's occupation was given in the 1900 census as working in “general merchandise” in Mooresville, where his brother Walter was living in Robert's household and working as a “cotton dealer”. Thomas Sturdivant, age 34, lived next door. In the 1910 census Robert's occupation was given as “blacksmith” in an “iron shop”, still in Mooresville, but his 1918 World War I draft registration card stated his address as being Belle Mina. He was still listed in Mooresville in the 1920 census, with occupation of “blacksmith”, doing “horse shoeing”. Of those currently available, only the 1930 census lists Robert in Madison. The censuses show that Robert and his wife Elizabeth Ernie Houk (both born in 1875) had a total of five children, but one died between 1900 and 1910. Robert's last child was Claude Lester Sturdivant, husband of Tiny, father of James G. and Claude L. Jr. Many of the family members are buried in the Sturdivant section of the Madison City Cemetery on the south side of Mill Road between Hughes Road and Maple Street.

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