Benjamin Neighbors Word, A Vintage Vignette

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Benjamin Neighbors Word
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 26, 2009

The Crutcher, Bailey, Pickett, Sanderson, and other Madison County pioneer families had a way with words, so to speak. In fact, some of them married Words. Edward Word, buried in the Peete Cemetery at age 50 in 1906, was the subject of a Vintage Vignette that was printed in the January 2, 2008 issue of the Huntsville Times. Recently, Susan Morland Word of San Francisco sent an e-mail to ask if I could help her with understanding her family heritage. I immediately thought of Edward, but it turned out that Susan is descended from Edward’s brother Charles (born in 1851). Their father was Benjamin Neighbors Word. Benjamin and his father William are buried in the Peete Cemetery also, along with their wives. Other members of this family who came here from South Carolina in the early 1800s are buried in the Pettus-Douglass Cemetery, located on the north side of Douglass Road just a bit less than a mile west of Jeff Road. Benjamin’s brother, Charles (born in 1801), who married Jane Bailey, is buried in the Mt. Paron Cemetery (Graveyard Hill) near New Market.

Benjamin’s father William Word (1771-1851) married Janette Fairbairn (died 1848) where they lived in Laurens County, South Carolina. They are likewise buried in the Peete Cemetery, which is north of old Highway 20 and just east of Segars Road in Limestone County. William’s father was Thomas Word, who moved from Virginia to South Carolina (1756-1840). He had a sister Ann who married Benjamin Nabers, who was probably the namesake of Benjamin Neighbors Word. The father of Thomas was another Charles (1710-1792), whose father was John Word, Jr. (born 1680 in Virginia). John Word Sr. was born in the mid-1600s in Glamorganshire, Wales and died about 1710 in Virginia.

Benjamin Neighbors Word married Eliza Jane Crutcher in Madison County in 1842. Their son Charles married Elizabeth Estelle Rubicam in 1882. They had children Robert Fisher, Hugh R., Ellie John, and Nina L. Word. These children were orphaned as minors in 1896 when both parents died. An uncle by marriage, John F. Smith, became their guardian and administrator for their inheritance. The 1910 census shows John’s household to include Hugh Word and the orphans’ grandmother, Mary S. Rubicam (1836-1911). She is also buried in the Pettus-Douglass Cemetery. John Smith was likewise the father of Orvil Smith, assumed namesake of the road by that name where the family lived in the Cluttsville area.

Robert F. Word was enumerated just a few houses away, along the road to the Clarksdale School in 1910. Around 1905 he married Annie Susie Simpson (1886-1916). She was a daughter of Samuel Lafayette and Flora Early Simpson. They had children Edwin Simpson, Estelle (married John Clinton Sanderson in 1929), Wilburn, and Eunice. Edwin, born in 1907, was the father of Susan, who contacted me from San Francisco. When Robert died in 1959, Edwin was living in Falls Church, Virginia, but he became Executor of his father’s estate, as stipulated in Robert’s last will and testament. Wilburn resided at the time in Greenville, Mississippi. Estelle was living in Albertville, Alabama, and Eunice Word Fenichel lived in New Rochelle, New York. Robert left his heirs several tracts of land (totaling over 200 acres) and significant personal property. Part of the land was located along Clutts Road and Pine Lake Drive, north of Capshaw Road and west of Northwood Drive. Another portion was located south of Nick Davis Road and west of Wall-Triana Highway, including a small tract north of Dexter Circle.

Family information adds that John Smith and a grandson Don Smith were renowned “math whizzes”. However, the Word family has other even more famous connections. Some of the relatives of Benjamin Word include Elvis Presley (8th cousin 3 times removed), Sir Isaac Newton (8th cousin 1 time removed), U. S. President John F. Kennedy (9th cousin, 3 times removed), and Laura Bush (9th cousin 1 time removed). Any linkage to Brigadier General Charles E. Word from Mobile, who served in the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization in 1974 is not yet known to me, but it would not be surprising if he shared ancestry with our local “good Words”.

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