Wilzie Hilliard, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
February 25, 2009
When first I heard of Wilzie Hilliard, he resided in a mobile home along Capshaw Road. He often sat beside the roadway and watched the traffic go past. I intended to stop someday and ask Wilzie about his earlier years of living on Rainbow Mountain during its “wilderness days”. However, I waited too long, and he died a few years ago when his house burned with him inside.
The Hilliard family of the Monrovia area is connected to almost all other pioneer families of western Madison County. One of the earliest of the Hilliard pioneers here is mentioned in James Record’s book “A Dream Come True, Volume 1” on page 66. It states that in January of 1823 Judge Clement Comer Clay (who later became the eighth governor of the state) fined several men for failing to appear as jurors when summoned. Among the fined absentee jurors was Woodward Hilliard. Woodward was listed as age 30-40 in the 1830 census of Madison County, which included Zadok, Philemon, and John Hilliard – all enumerated in the western portion of the county, living nearby one another. Zadok was age 20-30. He lived by Moses McElhaney and Ransom Fowlkes. Fowlkes was the namesake of the Fowlkes Cemetery near the junction of Capshaw Road with Jeff Road. Many of the Hilliard family members are buried there. Philemon was age 40-50 in 1830, residing near pioneers David Pettus and Philip and John Deadman. John Hilliard was age 40-50, living by David McElhaney, who owned land where Lowes Home Improvement Center is located at Highway 72 and Wall-Triana Highway.
Woodward Hilliard married Susan Reedy in 1824. Madison County deed records show that they sold to Philemon Hilliard in 1830 their interest in land inherited from her father Nicholas Reedy. The Reedy land was located near the junction of Sparkman Drive with Jordan Lane, site of Oakwood College today. An acre of the Reedy land was sold to the 1817 trustees of the Canaan Presbyterian Church, as described in an earlier Vintage Vignette.
Research data implies that Philemon, John A., and James Hilliard may have been brothers. Indications suggest that they were in a group from South Carolina who came through Tennessee to Alabama in the early 1800s. They were apparently sons of a John W. Hilliard and his wife Elizabeth, who was born in 1787. This John W. was a son of another Philemon Hilliard, who married Martha Burford. Through Martha, that line of ancestry of local Hilliards has been traced into the 1400s as posted on Ancestry.com’s Public Member Stories by “njhilliard” and K. T. Searle. In the 1820 census there were several Hilliard families enumerated in Kershaw District, South Carolina, including a Philemon who was born between 1775 and 1795. Whether this Philemon was the father of John W. Hilliard, the father of the local Philemon is unknown, but it is an intriguing possibility. Madison County probate files have a John Whitfield Hilliard, who was a son of Philemon B. Hilliard born in 1811 in South Carolina. That probate packet contains a long list of heirs of John W. and his wife Eliza Jane Wall Hilliard through their brothers and sisters to at least three generations of grandnephews and grandnieces. John and Eliza themselves had no surviving children on whom to bestow their property, so they carefully delineated disposition among other family members, even though most of their own siblings had pre-deceased them.
Additional Hilliard research has been thoroughly documented by Louise Brockway Thedford, who has connections with the line in her own ancestry. It is in her records that Wilzie Hilliard was found to be a “junior”, the son of another Wilzie and Birdie Ransom. The senior Wilzie was a son of Thomas Lee Hilliard, who in turn was a son of John A. Hilliard and his wife Martha B. Sanderson. Martha (born about 1820 in Madison County) was a daughter of Lewis B. Sanderson and Mary Jaggers. Mary was reported on Ancestry.com by Keith Owens to be a daughter of American Revolutionary War soldier Jeremiah Jaggers, who passed away here in 1832. Therefore, the Hilliard descendants of that line are eligible for membership in the DAR.