Fannie East Burton Bradford, A Vintage Vignette

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Fannie East Burton Bradford
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
April 25, 2007 (Revised May 3, 2007)

Frances (“Fannie”) E. Burton was known in her later years as the Madison reporter / columnist for the Huntsville Times, but her family connections may link her to one of the most acclaimed psychics of American history. She married Thomas L. Bradford in July of 1906 and lived for a time at 306 Church Street. Tom Bradford committed suicide at home by swallowing morphine from his drugstore on Monday, January 7, 1918. He was 35 years old and left a note stating that “bad health and business troubles” led to his decision to end his life. Tom had initially worked with his father-in-law, John Burton, in the Burton pharmacy. However, Tom bought the other drugstore in town, which then operated under the name Pride & Bradford, according to the 1905 Alabama Mercantile Book. Tom also served on the Madison County Board of Education. His obituary said that he left Fannie with two children. Old photos and the census taken on April 16, 1910, showed their children as Juanita (born 1908) and Emma L. Bradford (December of 1909). Tom was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.

Fannie soon remarried, because the 1920 census showed her living in her father John Mullins Burton’s household (21 Front Street) at age 37, with daughters Juanita and Emma Bradford. However, she was listed under the name of Fannie Cambell, recorded as divorced. No record was filed in Madison County for such a marriage, so it must have occurred elsewhere. In any event, Fannie’s tombstone in the Madison City Cemetery’s new section (on the north side of Mill Road) shows that her birth year was 1889, while her death occurred in 1975. The tombstone shows her name as Fannie B. Bradford, so the Cambell marriage was obviously short and not cherished. Even the 1930 census shows her as a widow named Fannie Bradford – not Burton or Cambell.

It was Fannie’s marriage to Thomas Bradford that may connect her to famed psychic Edgar Cayce of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The Bradford family in Madison included Tom’s great uncle, Hamilton G. Bradford, who owned lots beside George Washington Martin, the first lot owner and storeowner of the town. David, Thomas, and Hamilton Bradford in 1845 joined with Nancy Martin to post a $3000 bond with the county court for David Bradford to serve as executor of the last will and testament of Andrew Martin. This older Thomas Bradford was a brother of Hamilton and the grandfather of Fannie’s husband Tom. Nancy was the widow of Andrew, who had a brother named John Martin, according to the probate papers. Nancy’s own probate packet, dated 1847, shows that she had a daughter named Jane, whose husband was David Bradford, the great grandfather of Fannie’s husband. The probate package further shows that Nancy Martin had grandsons named Hamilton G., Thomas, William C., and Logan S. Bradford.

Hamilton Bradford had a son named Henry, born in 1856 in the Madison area. Henry married Dora, a daughter of Dr. Hereford of Madison County. They lived in Huntsville, where Henry became a trustee of Huntsville Female Seminary. In 1855 Hamilton also had daughter Sallie J., who in September of 1879 married Dr. E. G. Cayce of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Edgar Cayce the most famous American psychic of all time was born near Hopkinsville in 1877. Sallie’s husband is of the age and place to have been Edgar’s uncle, but the precise connections of the Cayce family have not been found. Research has indicated that Sallie and her husband had a son named Eugene Gladstone (born 1885 in Kentucky), so he may have been “junior”. However, it is known that in 1880 Sallie and E. G. Cayce lived in Huntsville on “Bank Row”. Their daughters Mary and Dagmar were born in Alabama in 1880 and 1882, respectively. Another son, Frank, was born in 1889 in Kentucky.

The Cayce family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, during part of the 1880s, because in July of 1883 Sallie’s brother Henry Bradford traveled from Huntsville to Birmingham to file a Writ of Lunacy against his brother-in-law. There was a sensational lunacy trial, and the jury found Dr. E. G. Cayce to be sane. Many physicians testified that Cayce was either insane or “highly eccentric”, but his wife’s testimony kept him free. Yet, by the time of the 1900 census, Sallie was living with her children in Huntsville, while E. G. Cayce was a patient in the insane asylum near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He apparently died there, as he was never found again in the later census records, whereas Sallie lived in Citronelle, Alabama, in 1910 and in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1920.

Tom Bradford’s father (John L.) married Mollie Whitworth in Madison County in February of 1882. Accordingly, the Whitworths as well as Fannie Burton Bradford’s husband and his sister Mary (who married David Shelby Lanier) had connections to the Cayce family of Kentucky. Perhaps the negative aspects of the spirit world that must have controlled Edgar Cayce’s visions flowed over to affect his local relatives, when Thomas Bradford was driven to commit suicide in 1918 and John Ford Lanier was killed by a gunshot wound just before Christmas in 1900. Furthermore, there was apparently a fine line between psychic abilities and lunacy that served Edgar Cayce well, while leading to the death of Dr. E. G. Cayce.

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