Thomas W. Carter, A Vintage Vignette

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Thomas W. Carter
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
July 29, 2010

When I was actively searching for family cemeteries around Madison, I heard of Milton Carter. I never met him, but people relating the location they recalled for the East–Martin family cemetery told me stories about him. They mentioned mostly unkind things about his personality, claiming that his zeal to convert the northeastern slope of Rainbow Mountain into a housing development led to removal of tombstones from the cemetery. They said that pavement was put over the graves at the southern end of Rainbow Drive. I have no way of either validating or disproving those stories. However, Percy Keel, my mentor of Madison's history, was a classmate and good friend of Milton Carter. Percy was not the kind of man who would associate with the personality described for Milton, so I wondered. That wonderment deepened when I read of Milton's civic accomplishments upon his passing a few years back. He had a lifetime of great accomplishments and served on the board that established the international airport in the Madison area. Still, sometimes the methods of people who overcome great obstacles to accomplish monumental things do upset others, so I may never know the whole story.

Nonetheless, I have been intrigued with learning the heritage of the Carter family in Madison, particularly when I noticed Thomas W. Carter mentioned in several old census records of the town. Eventually, I discovered that the history of the Carters in Madison was already documented in the 1969 publication prepared by the Madison Station Historical Society for the town's 100-year anniversary of incorporation of the town under the name “Madison” rather than its original name, which was “Madison Station”. That information is given herewith:

“Another early family were the Carters. Their history goes back to Rollo, the Duke of Normandy, A.D. 912. Ellias Carter came from England to Virginia. He had a son Thomas born in Virginia in 1795. There was a daughter, Ann Betts. Thomas and Ann were orphaned at an early age and were raised by two unmarried aunts, Elizabeth and Virginia Oliver. Thomas married a Virginia girl, Judah (last name unknown). They came to Madison (County) in 1825. Their children were: (1) Rollo Raleigh Carter, born 1828 --this was Mrs. Pryor Farley's grandfather. Mrs. Farley resides in Madison today (1969). Milton Carter is a direct descendant of Rollo Raleigh Carter. (2) Charles Carter, 1832 (married Martha A. Whitworth in 1866); (3) Melchejah Carter, 1834; (4) Ann Betts Carter, 1837 (married Samuel T. Whitworth in 1855); (5) Mary Carter, 1838 (married Willliam R. Crutcher in 1858); (6) Martha Chambers Carter, 1839 (married Elkhanah J. Trotman in 1861); (7) Lucy Elizabeth Carter, 1842; and (8) Yelverton Carter, 1849.”

Several of these family members are in census records of the area in the 1800s. Charles and Raleigh lived beside one another per some of the records, In 1880 Thomas W. Carter was living in his father Raleigh's household. They were enumerated in the “Madison Town, Beat 8” district. In the 1900 census, when Thomas was listed as born in August of 1872, they were in the Monrovia district, living between Charles Carter and John and Jennette Knox. The censuses of 1910, 1920, and 1930 showed Thomas W. Carter living in Madison Town Beat 8, at the junction of Deloney (now Arnett) Street and Church Street. Thomas' house was actually at the junction with Maple Street, across Church Street from the Methodist Church. I have a photo of the house, made before it was removed to create a parking lot for the church. Today even the Pruitt-Dublin house immediately to its north at 204 Church Street has burned, so there is a green space beside the parking lot where the Carter house stood.

Carter was a salesman of dry goods in a Madison general merchandise store. Thomas Wesley Carter died in 1945. His wife, Anna Spragins Farley, was born in 1880 and died in 1946. National Weather Service history relates that Thomas Carter operated the official weather observation site for the Huntsville area in Madison on Church Street from 1917 to 1937, and that the Carter family continued to record observations in the area until 1950.

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