Waddy Tate, A Vintage Vignette

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Waddy Tate
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 23, 2008

The first recorded duel in Madison County, according to James Record in “A Dream Come True, Volume 1” (1970) was fought in 1811. It involved a dispute between Madison County’s future Governor and State Supreme Court Justice Clement Comer Clay with his adversary, future Limestone County State Representative Dr. Waddy Tate. Among the many references to the duel, the dates were additionally given as 1813, 1823, and 1826. One even gave the date as 1833, but none stated the basis for their data. A diligent search of the 1823 weekly newspaper issues (on microfilm at the Huntsville library’s Heritage Room) found no mention of the duel at all, even though that was the most commonly reported year of the event. Unfortunately, no newspaper records are available for 1811, the second most common date given in the accounts today. Since Clement Comer Clay was born in 1789 and Waddy Tate was born in 1786, the date of 1811 is perhaps more likely for such impetuosity of the men then.

Some of the historical accounts further state that Clay shot Tate in the leg. One account says that both men were wounded in the leg. It is known that both men survived and went on to political prominence, even entering into business involvements together. In fact, both men were trustees for the founding of the town of Triana in 1818, and in 1827 both were among the men who incorporated the Muscle Shoals Canal Company. That latter list included notables such as John Coffee, Benjamin Sherrod, Nicholas Davis, John Boardman, Thomas Fearn, John Lindsay, and William I. Adair, as well as Clay and Tate. In fact, Lindsay and Adair were also trustees of Triana in 1818. Waddy Tate was involved in a number of ventures in Florence, but he was reportedly wiped out by a severe economic depression in 1839. The problem now is that there were several men with the unlikely name Waddy Tate (Tait) in this area during the 1800s. Many of the records obviously must refer to someone other than the physician who dueled with Clement Clay.

Dr. Waddy Tate came to Madison County in 1809, as did Clement Clay. His direct ancestry is documented back to James Tate of Virginia in 1662 and William Tate of Northumberland, England, in 1585. Dr. Tate’s line of ancestry intermarried in several generations with descendants from the line of Anthony Waddy and Sarah Parke. The Waddy heritage goes back to Clougheast Castle, built about 1400 in Ireland. Anthony came to Jamestown from England in 1633. His daughter Anne Elizabeth Waddy married Tate’s great grandfather Robert Tate, whose brother John married Anne’s sister Mary Waddy. John and Mary had a son named Waddy Tate, who was a captain in the Revolutionary War. This Waddy Tate became the progenitor of Zedekiah and other Tates who resided in Florence at the time when Madison County’s Dr. Waddy Tate lived there with his daughter Margaret, who had married Robert Tinnin, at one time the principal of Athens Male Academy.

Dr. Waddy Tate had three wives. First was Eliza Thompson. They married in 1808 in Elbert County, Georgia. In 1818 in Nashville, Tennessee, Tate married Julia Matilda Coleman, who died in 1820 in Limestone County. In 1823, he married Mary Scruggs, who was born in 1803 and died in 1836. She was a daughter of Gross Scruggs and Nancy Logwood, about whom more will be written in a future article. Tate had three children by Eliza, none by Julia, and four by Mary. One of the children by Eliza was another Waddy Tate, born 1816 and died in 1865 after producing eight children, one of whom was also named Waddy Tate, born in 1861. Eliza’s line moreover produced five known great-grandchildren for Dr. Waddy Tate, with one of them named Waddy, born in 1873. The four children by Mary included another Waddy Tate, born in 1827 and died in 1847. Accordingly, for a twenty-year period Dr. Tate had two living sons named Waddy, born to different wives, seventeen years apart. Because of the often-repeated use of the given name “Waddy”, it can be deduced that the Tate family was quite proud of its Waddy heritage.

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