William Thomas Garner, A Vintage Vignette

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William Thomas Garner
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 4, 2009

In the Vintage Vignette about Joshua and Thomas Beadle, I wrote that Ada Beadle married William Garner. At the time, I assumed that the groom was the William Thomas Garner who operated a store in Madison’s historic district and for whom Garner Street is named. However, a number of sources encountered during further research show that Ada married William F. Garner (born 1862 in Alabama), son of an older William T. Garner, who was born in 1806 Virginia and married Susan B. Herriford in 1841. Both William T. Garners lived in Madison County in the mid-1800s. However, Madison merchant William T. Garner was born on Valentine’s Day of 1830 in Alabama. He was a son of John K. Garner and his wife Ruth, who lived in Jackson County, Alabama. In the 1870 census Ruth at age 72 lived in Madison with her son, along with William’s wife Laura (age 27) and Robert Wingo, also age 27. Robert Wingo at age 8 and his brother William (13) had also been enumerated in the 1850 household of John K. Garner in Jackson County. The 1850 household included Ruth at 60 and Garner children Mary (24), John W. (23), William T. (20), and Nancy E. (15). The presence of the Wingo children suggests that perhaps Ruth was a Wingo before her marriage to John Garner.

Robert Wingo’s name likewise appeared several times in the probate records of William T. Garner’s 1906 estate. He obviously had a close connection to Garner throughout his lifetime. William T. Garner’s Madison household in the 1880 census included children Kate (age 4) and William T. (“Junior”, age 8) as well as B. F. Harper, age 30. Harper was recorded as a “clerk in store”. Harper became Mayor of Madison in 1900, whereas Garner served as a councilman in 1882 and as “trustee” in 1867 when he, along with a few other prominent men of the village, was so-named on several deeds for lots in the village.

William T. Garner first married Adeline Flippen in Madison County in 1854. In 1870 he married Laura Douglass. Laura bore both of William’s children to him, but his son William T. Jr. died in 1902, four years before his father. Junior apparently had married before his passing, because the 1906 probate records of W. T. Garner Senior include a sheet that shows a daughter-in-law with the name Lucy M. Garner of Athens lined out in the list of heirs. Other Madison County Garner marriages into pioneer families of the 1800s included Mary Garner to Benjamin McCravey (McCrary?) in 1833, Catharine Garner to John French (1838), Rebecca Garner to Benjamin Sullivan (1865), Brancie Garner to Thomas B. Kelley (1866), Joseph H. Garner to Willie Nance (1866), Katie A. Garner to Walter Pride (1895), John Garner to Ada Lewis (1897), Lillie Garner to Walter Cartwright (1897), and Polly Garner to Hart Toney (1899). The 1900 census showed William T. Garner living in the second house from Walter Pride and his wife Katie, Garner’s daughter. By 1908, the Prides were living in New Decatur in Morgan County, according to probate records.

Upon his death on June 2, 1906, William T. Garner left his widow Laura with an estate that was determined to be insolvent after excluding her widow’s homestead exemption of about 80 acres of land. That land was the south half of the southeast quarter of Section 32, Township 3, Range 2W – today bounded on the south by Gillespie Road and lying west of Wall-Triana Highway. This land was valued at only $800 in 1906. The remainder of William’s estate consisted of merchandise in his general store, which was rented from Henry Bradford. The merchandise was valued at less than $700. Debts exceeded the valuation of the estate such that creditors were repaid only 9% of the amount owed to them. Even Robert Wingo was owed wages as a clerk in Garner’s store from January 1 of 1901 to June 2, 1906. The wage claim was stated as being $12.50 per month, amounting to $825 total. Wingo recovered $74.25 at the final settlement of the Garner estate in 1909. The apparent close family connection didn’t help.

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