John David Whitworth, A Vintage Vignette

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John David Whitworth
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
September 15, 2007

An early 1900s farmhouse still stands on the north side of Mill Road, just west of the Dillard-Bibb Cemetery in the heart of Madison. The home was built by John David Whitworth. His parents were William Jefferson and Mildred Bowers Whitworth. John’s paternal grandparents were Daniel and Elizabeth Dedman Whitworth. His great-grandparents were Rowland and Martha Walthall Whitworth of Virginia’s colonial days. Rowland appears in the Madison County census records of 1830 in the area near Triana. Daniel lived in the immediate Madison area and had 8 children. Daniel’s son William Jefferson Whitworth had 6 children, the oldest of whom was John David, who married Emma Virginia Tribble. John’s sister Mattie Susan married Madison entrepreneur Jim Williams, his sister Ada married William Gooch, and his sister Laura married William Dublin. John’s brother Archie married Mattie Trotman, continuing the intermarriages of the Whitworths with Madison’s pioneer families. Other Whitworth marriages connected with the Madison families of Aday, Carter, Crutcher, Winn, and Tuck.

J. D.’s wife Emma was a daughter of Robert Donnell Tribble and Mattie Gooch. Emma bore John 11 children. The last 5 of these children were born in the house at 549 Mill Road. John and his oldest child, Arthur David Whitworth, were partners in the Whitworth Cotton Gin, which was located on the south side of the railroad tracks in Madison. John’s youngest child, Helen Virginia Whitworth (born in 1920), married Marvin Forrest Stewart. Helen was interviewed for the Historical Society’s Oral History Series CD-ROM in the Mill Road house where she still lived in December of 2004. She told of the mule-driven sawmill that her father operated in the pasture behind the house, and it was this mill that cut the lumber for the house from trees grown on the land. She also related that the old Whitworth cotton gin was bought and moved to North Carolina, where it may still be in operation. She said that before his death in 1955 her dad operated it from 1910. During the interview, Helen mentioned that the Russells had a blacksmith shop nearby, and that Pryor Farley had a water-powered gristmill on the creek adjoining the Whitworth property. It was likely this mill along Mill Creek that gave the road its name.

The public visibility of the Whitworth family in Madison today is focused primarily upon descendants of John’s son Arthur David Whitworth (Senior). Madison Elementary School library aide Sandra Diane Whitworth is the daughter of Arthur Junior. Local dentist David Strong Whitworth, whose clinic is on Hughes Road, is a son of Arthur’s son Marlon Whitworth and his wife Willie Metta Strong. The Metta Lands housing development along Hughes Road is named for Willie Metta. Arthur David’s son Thomas married Sara Landman, who runs the Whitworth Realty and Art Gallery at 110 Main Street. This shop was originally the store of George Washington Martin, first Madison lot and shop owner, established in 1857. Sara’s son, local veterinarian Charles Whitworth, operates Whitworth Animal Clinic on Rainbow Drive. He lives near County Line Road on the south side of Mill Road. His house totally encompasses the James Bailey log cabin, which served as stage stop and inn on the Huntsville-to-Mooresville Road in the early 1800s.

In addition to preserving history of the area, the Whitworth family of Madison is connected (per’s OneWorld Tree) via patriarchs Rowland and Daniel and their wives to notables and notorious of the world. These include Zachary Taylor (12th President of the United States), along with outlaws Frank James, Sam Bass, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Butch Cassidy. Whitworths are connected to gunmakers John Browning and Oliver Winchester, plus Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Elizabeth Browning, Alfred Tennyson, D. H. Lawrence, Jane Austen, Gary Grant, and Truman Capote. Even Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart was related. It is obvious that the Whitworth family provided central threads to the fabric of Madison by linking to so many of the area’s pioneer families and to folks who shaped our world.

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