John H. Clift, A Vintage Vignette

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John H. Clift
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 26, 2007

One of the most prestigious housing developments in Madison is Clift’s Cove. When I first visited that area in 1986, horses and cattle were kept on the land, owned by Jim and Ann Clift Powers. Ann is a daughter of Jack and Lillian Clift, who live on Mill Road on the north side of its junction with Church Street. Jack was a Madison Town Commissioner from 1965 to 1969. The history of the Clift family in Madison goes pre-dates 1850, when pioneer John H. Clift first appears in censuses in the area. Prior to 1850 the census records show no Clift families in the area, but Jessee Clift was licensed to marry Nancy Wilson in Madison County in 1818. A Joseph Clift patented land in 1818 in Morgan County, and in the 1830 census there was a William Clift in Morgan County. The 1840 census listed no Clift families in the state.

Maps and books published before the 1970s show a Clift family cemetery on the south side of Highway 72 between Balch Road and Wall-Triana Highway. That cemetery is not there now. The graves were moved to the new section of the Madison City Cemetery on the north side of Mill Road, gathering the family members into the one cemetery. Tombstones show that John H. Clift was born September 5, 1821 and died March 25, 1893. Census records consistently showed that he was born in Alabama. His wife Mary Carothers Clift was born in Tennessee in 1820, and she died in 1897. Their children were all born in Alabama and included Francis M. (born 1844), Nancy E. (1846), Martha J. (1847), Mary L. (1850), John T. (1853), Sarah A. E. (1854), and Josephine (1856). Martha married William McCrary in 1872 with Benjamin F. Camper helping with the bond and L. Hensley Grubb performing the rites. Sarah married Thomas Wall in 1873, with bonds by Wall and J. M. Hilliard, while J. J. Powers performed the rites. John T. Clift married Sallie (Sarah) Carter in 1878. She was a daughter of Rolla and Mary Carter, who lived south of Madison toward Triana. The rites were performed by J. W. Hilliard, and bonds were given by Clift and John J. Bailey.

The next generation of Clift marriages in Madison County include Thomas W. Clift marrying Lessie Balch in 1918. William Edgar Clift married Leola Fariss Nance in 1925. James Earl Clift married Velma Rose Haner in 1927, and C. Frank Clift married Nola Ruth Drake in 1937. The Clift land holdings include several parcels along Knox and Bradford Creeks and in the Monrovia area. Frank and Maud Clift, both children of John T. and Sallie Clift, lived with their mother in the Dea Thomas house at 307 Church Street, where Gerald and Peggy Wheeler later came to live. The Clift family has contributed significantly to the heritage of Madison throughout its generations in the area. Their influence has been felt in many ways as the town has matured in concert with the Clift family presence. Today, Jack and Lillian and their children continue to provide civic leadership with roots that go back to times before Madison was founded.

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