The Wanns of Madison, A Vintage Vignette

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The Wanns of Madison
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 28, 2007

There are two houses along Church Street in Madison that are associated with Wann families on their Historic Home plaques. Since first names are not included on the plaques, there is some confusion about which family lived at 302 versus 112 Church Street. However, a bit of research and checking of previously published documents clarifies the names. The surname is unusual in Madison, as well as in all of America. Origins of the name go back to Germany, Sweden, Scotland, and other countries in the 1300s, with some links to Oklahoma and Indian names in more recent times. Some, including myself, have even thought that the name implies Chinese ancestry, until the history of the family is checked.

Gladys True’s book “My Life from Wagons to Rockets” relates that Fred Wann was a clerk in the post office for many years, while noting that his wife Ora was postmistress in Madison for at least 25 years. Fred and Ora lived at 302 Church Street. The Wann–Curry House at 112 Church Street was occupied by William J. Wann (1885-1922) and his wife Vida Barclay (born 1886). Gladys’ book describes his store as being at 202 Main Street, next to the old bank location, with the store of Dea Theodore Thomas at 206 Main, on the other side of the bank. Census records show the merchant’s name as John William Wann, and family records show that Vida was a daughter of William James Barclay and Mary F. Woodall.

The Woodall connection has its roots in Woodville of Jackson County, where in 1910 the Emmett Woodall family (and three other Woodall households) lived beside Andrew J. Wann and the family of his son Richard Wann. Andrew was also the father of Madison merchant William Wann. Andrew’s daughter Nora married Woodville merchant Dea Theodore Thomas (1876-1917), who likewise was living near Andrew in 1900, before moving his business to Madison. The two families were adjacent in the 1880 Woodville census, when both Dea and Nora were age 3. Even Emmett Woodall left Woodville and moved to Madison, where he was enumerated living next door to William Wann in the census of 1920. Additionally, there was a Thomas Gormley living beside Andrew Wann in Woodville in the 1900 census, and the family of James Gormley (father of Alda F. “Tiny” Gormley Sturdivant) was living in Madison beside Fred J. Wann in 1930. The 1930 census also shows that Fred Wann’s widower father-in-law, Franklin Barnard, was living with him and Ora in Madison that year.

Fred Wann was a brother of William, both being sons of Andrew and his wife. Andrew’s wife was reported in the census records as Susan M. Wann, but in family records she is recorded as Inda P. Bowers, which is another surname found in the old Madison city cemetery south of Mill Road. Andrew is known to be a son of William M. Wann, who was born in Wayne County, Kentucky, in 1812. The occupations of Andrew (1845-1915) were given as farmer, schoolteacher, merchant, and Primitive Baptist preacher in Woodville. Andrew’s son William had children Vivian and William Barclay Wann. Vivian married J. C. Vaughn in 1938, while William B. Wann (1911-2003) married Sarah C. Farley (1916-2003) in that same year. Sarah Farley Wann’s daughter Gayle Wann Guy (wife of Dr. Ron Guy of Huntsville) is the current owner of the land around the Farley – Crutcher Cemetery south of Old Madison Pike and east of Shelton Road, where so many of her ancestors are buried.

The earliest Wann marriage record in Madison County dates back to 1821, when Nicholas Wann took out a license to wed Sarah Thompson. The Wann interconnections with the core surnames of Madison included the 1937 marriage of Charles William Wann to Ada Shelton. From what seemed a “foreign” name when first encountered in the area, the Wann surname is now understood to have been central to Madison’s growth in the 1900s, with strong multiple connections to Woodville of Jackson County. Besides, in the “old days” everyone in town knew the postmaster, and vice-versa, so the Wanns were among the best known citizens of the town.

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