John W. Farrald, A Vintage Vignette

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John W. Farrald
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
February 19, 2010

In the northeastern corner of the oldest section of the Madison City Cemetery along Mill Road there is a family plot bordered by concrete. It has two “notches” where the borders were replaced with stepping stones. One entrance has the name “Bowers”. The other has the name “Farrald” inscribed. There are seven uninscribed fieldstones but no tombstones in the plot – only a very large tree growing within the borders. When I first explored the cemetery, I had no prior knowledge of the Bowers or the Farrald families in Madison. It puzzled me that they purchased the burial plot and then perhaps left nobody buried there. Later, I learned that the Farrald family owned land around what today is known as the Camper Cemetery on the south side of Brown's Ferry Road, behind the Casa Blanca Restaurant. In fact, later research showed that the cemetery there was actually the Farrald family cemetery according to land records. That knowledge added to the puzzle. It is a bit mysterious as to why the Farrald family shared the Bowers family plot in the city cemetery while they also had their own family cemetery.

According to the 1850 census of the Madison area, John W. Farrald (then listed as “Ferrell”) was born here around 1833. His father was given as John Ferrell, a farmer, age 51, born in Virginia. His mother was Martha, born in 1801, also in Virginia. John W. had siblings William J. (age 22), Martha Ann (21), Margaret S. (19), and Louisa C. (15), all born in Alabama, living in the home with him. Considering the parents’ ages, it is likely that there were more siblings that had left to form households of their own before 1850.

In the 1860 census, the senior John Farrald was listed as age 55, with wife Sophia, age 53, both born in Virginia. Their household then included only Margaret (30), John (24), and Louisa (20). The censuses of 1850 and 1860 showed the Farrald household as very near those of Daniel, Samuel, and William J. Whitworth; Richard Jamar; Francis Dedman; and Samuel Ward – all known to have lived south of historic Madison, toward Triana. By 1870 John “Ferrel” was shown as a farmer with his own household at age 26. His wife was given as Sarah, age 24. Their children were listed as Beatrice (4), Emma (3), and Ida (1). Their household was enumerated beside that of Richard Jamar (84). Madison County records show that in 1864 John W. Farrald married Sarah J. “Powers”. Her maiden surname was actually “Bowers”, thus explaining the cemetery plot sharing. The 1880 census recorded John (47) and Sarah (40) as having children Beatrice (14), Emma N. (13), Ida L. (11), William (9), John R. (7), James H. (5), Ora Jane (3), and an unnamed son (6 months of age). In 1900 John W. Farrald was listed as a widower, born January 1834. Ida (30) and a son named Bowers (17) were still in his household, along with John’s sister Catherine Farrald, born July 1839. They were living beside Mildred Whitworth, who was a Bowers before marriage.

In 1853 Richard Jamar sold to Sophie “Ferrel” (mother or stepmother of John W.) 80 acres west of today's Hughes Road and south of Brown's Ferry Road. John added more than 200 additional acres of land to the parcel in 1866 by purchasing part of the estate of John Bibb. Portions of the Farrald family holdings in that area were sold later to James Spragins, James Douthitt, Joseph D. Williams (father of James E. Williams), and the Camper family. The last of the Farrald holdings were sold in 1909 to Luke Landers by the descendants of John Farrald. Some of his heirs had already moved to Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas, but John's son Camron Bowers Farrald remained here and handled disposition of the estate. Camron is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, not in the family cemetery and not in the Bowers-Farrald family plot of the Madison City Cemetery. Just as names and ages were inconsistent in their records here, apparently so was the choice of burial places for the family.

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