Petty Pioneers, A Vintage Vignette

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Petty Pioneers
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
March 29, 2009

The Madison Spirit in the Huntsville Times of December 31, 2008, included my Vintage Vignette about sisters Mary and America Virginia Gooch marrying Petty men in 1838 and 1851, respectively, and leaving this area for the California gold rush. Mary never made it to California, dying at sea along the way. I stated in the story that the relationships of their husbands, Rufus and Isaac Newton Petty had been elusive. However, now that puzzle is solved, mostly because of data supplied by Dovie Reiff,, and the book “Lure and Lore of Limestone County (Alabama)” by Chris Edwards and Faye Axford.

The difficulty tracking the numerous Petty families in early Madison and Limestone County history was due to my own lack of prior focus upon this set of pioneers. The family of William Eli Petty, a Revolutionary War soldier, was extensively recorded in several publications, including the book “Heritage of Madison County, Alabama”. In fact, I had even attended the DAR marking of William Petty’s grave near New Market several years ago, but his family was not in the Madison area, so I had not researched his lineage. When Dovie sent a synopsis of her ancestral Petty research, I noticed that both Rufus and Isaac Newton Petty were shown as sons of Gayden Petty. Her notes revealed that Gayden was born in South Carolina in 1779 and died in 1833 Limestone County, Alabama. He was a son of an Abner Petty who died in South Carolina during the American Revolution per Dovie’s notes. This Abner was born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1751. Abner was a son of John Petty, 1702-1770, of Virginia. John was a son of Thomas Petty, 1680-1750, also of Virginia. Thomas was the common ancestor of many Petty families found in Madison and Limestone Counties. His father was another Thomas, 1664-1720, of Virginia. His grandfather, yet another Thomas, was born in 1618 (Norwich, England) and died 1663 in Virginia, the first of the line to settle in America. A posting on by Helen Jane Kopecky reports this line back to William Petty, born before 1598 in Norwich, England.

An Abner Petty patented government land in what is now the City of Madison. He was another grandson of Abner (born in 1751), the grandfather of Rufus and Isaac Newton Petty. The younger Abner married Elizabeth Bledsoe in 1825, Madison County. Benjamin Bledsoe was among the earliest landowners in the 1818 Madison area, and Abner’s land adjoined Benjamin’s. Abner’s father was George Petty (1777-1841), who died in Limestone County. He is likely the same George Petty who patented land in Madison in 1818 and 1830, adjacent to the parcel recorded to Abner in 1828. Abner’s parcel was located east of today’s Sullivan Street, north of Mill Road, west of Hughes Road, and south of Brown’s Ferry Road. This tract encompassed today’s Casa Blanca Restaurant, City Hall, Madison Memory Gardens, and Madison City Cemetery north of Mill Road. Abner signed a quitclaim in 1830, with John Walter Phillips as his assignee. By 1878 the land had transitioned from Phillips to include ownership by J. C. Finnie, Richard Jamar, William Farrald, James Humphrey, James Douthit, Alexander Wynn, and Joseph Williams (father of Jim E. Williams). George Petty owned parcels on both sides of Mill Road, reaching north to Brown’s Ferry Road, west to Mill Creek and Bibb Drive, east to Sullivan Street, and south to Palmer Road. His land transitioned through ownership of parts by Finnie, Chaney Crutcher, James H. Bibb, James E. H. Bailey, W. T. Garner, John Walter Phillips, and Joshua Dillard by 1866.

Some of the close cohesion of linked families from Virginia and the Carolinas as they came to dwell here is indicated in the book “John Daniel Sr., 1724-1819, of Essex County, Virginia, and Laurens County, South Carolina” by Christine South Gee (1938). It shows intermarriages back in Virginia between the family of Lucretia (“Lucy”) Susan Wright (wife of William Eli Petty) and the local pioneer family surnames of Pugh, Green, and Dillard, as well as more Wright-Petty connections. In those days, marriages were ties that bound the destinies of extended families.

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