Henry Ellen Crutcher, A Vintage Vignette

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Henry Ellen Crutcher
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 28, 2007

When I first explored the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery more than 10 years ago, it was heavily overgrown with large trees, briars, poison ivy, and other vegetation. After several visits to the cemetery, located about a quarter mile south of the southern end of Miller Boulevard, I began to inventory the tombstones against Dot Johnson’s listings in her 1971 book “CEMETERIES OF MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA, VOL. 1”. Several of the tombstones were broken, with pieces underneath leaves and dirt. Some were missing. One of the more puzzling broken stones had the name “HENRY E.” on the top portion. It precisely fit onto a larger portion that continued the inscription as “WIFE OF A. B. Crutcher; DIED APRIL 17, 1886; AGE 36 YRS, 3 MS, & 18 DS”. If the name had been spelled as “Henri” I would not have been intrigued, but a “Henry” as a wife was different. Of course, later I would learn that such names as “Alfred” and other normally masculine names were sometimes used for females, and vice-versa. Still, Henry’s tombstone caught my attention for further research.

Henry Ellen Gay was married to Andrew Benton Crutcher (a CSA veteran) in 1866 in Madison County. Henry was born in South Carolina but was noted in family records as being from Mississippi. She died of “apoplexy”. Beside her grave I noticed two unmarked grave depressions. Later exploration and probing produced another buried tombstone. It was for Mattie F. Crutcher, 9/15/1867 – 1/26/1884, a daughter of A. B. and H. E. Crutcher. There was still no stone discovered for the other grave, but it is almost certainly the grave of Andrew Benton Crutcher, as family records state that he was buried beside his first wife, Henry.

Follow-up research into Henry Ellen Crutcher’s family revealed that A. B. Crutcher’s second wife was Nannie Johnson, who moved with her children to Shreveport, Louisiana after his death. A. B. died in 1915 of blood poisoning. He was born in 1838, a son of Reuben William Crutcher and Mary Bailey. The research at this point was complicated by the fact that there was another A. B. Crutcher who lived in the area at the same time and was about the same age. The other A. B. was Adolphus Baker Crutcher, a son of William Radford Crutcher, who was a son of another Reuben Crutcher, brother of the William who was the father of the Reuben who married Mary Bailey. The great-grandfather of Adolphus was the Reuben Crutcher who married Elizabeth Cheaney in Virginia. This man was also the great-grandfather of the Reuben who married Mary Bailey. Therefore, the A. B. Crutchers of this area in the 1800s were 2nd cousins. One lived in Limestone County and the other in Madison County, within a few miles of one another.

Henry Ellen and her A. B. Crutcher had 8 children: Mattie (died in 1884), Walter (married Nannie McCrary), Reuben Henry (married Lizzie Pike), Mary, Joe, Lennie, Kitt, and Jessie. It was noted that several generations of the family were Baptist preachers before the Civil War, and yet they accounted for more than 60 slaves in Madison and Limestone Counties in the census records. One of the Reubens even sued the Memphis & Charleston Railroad for accidental death of one of the slaves. The family history is quite interesting, as learned from beginning with a broken, buried tombstone in Madison.

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