117 Walker Avenue NE

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History of the John E. Glenn family—and 117 Walker Avenue by Mary Ann Bishop.

John English Glenn (1833-1898) was bom in Franklin County, Georgia on March 3, 1833. He was a locomotive engineer on the Memphis and Charleston, later the Southern Railroad, beginning his railroad work as a fireman in 1851 at the age of 18. His first run was between Atlanta and Chattanooga through Marietta. In 1853 he advanced to engineer and moved to Huntsville. His first engine was known as “Old Lookout”. As the first engineer on the road between Chattanooga and Memphis, it became his duty to “test” the various bridges and other hazards. One of these is reported to have been the bridge at Decatur, Alabama, over which the trains still roll. Prior to the occupation of North Alabama by Union forces during the Civil War, he kept his trains running, transporting machinery and supplies for the confederacy. On at least one occasion he is reported to have done this under enemy fire, when an attempt was made to stop the train by piling rubbish on the tracks, with cannon balls striking the ground near the tracks, and he and his fireman having to lie down in the cab to avoid being hit by rifle fire, as they sped through the blockade with full throttle.

John E. Glenn married Mary Susan Wooldridge of Decatur. They had ten children. One of these, the third child was bom during the Civil War. While her husband was away in civilian service of the Confederacy, Mary Susan sat on the bed with a child on each side of her as cannon balls whizzed over her house. Three of her children died in infancy, another died as a young adult. Two others died after they had married, leaving five grandchildren to her care and, to a great extent, to her support. John Glenn continued as a locomotive engineer until the time of his disability from a stroke which caused partial paralysis and kept him in bed for three years before his death. Mary Susan Glenn, capitalizing on the spacious home her husband built for her in 1891, kept boarders. This business was one of the few means of livelihood available to widows in her day. She made a recognized enterprise of it, employing a staff equal to the job.

There have been twenty-seven owners of the home at 117 Walker Avenue according to research done at the Madison County Courthouse by the present owners. The house is in a modified Italianate style, with a large central hall both up and downstairs, a library, living room, dining room, kitchen, sunroom, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and a walk-out basement.

For the last eighteen years Kaile and Mary Ann Bishop have been renovating the home which was in terrible disrepair when they purchased it. There were eleven major roof leaks, mold and mildew covering many of the interior walls, no heating or central air or insulation, no usable bathrooms or kitchen. The exterior has been reworked by Mr. Bishop who used a router to make modem siding match the original siding. Most of the work done to the home during the past 18 years has been done by the Bishops themselves after work and on the weekends. It is still a work in progress!!

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