Thomas Jefferson Cain, A Vintage Vignette

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Thomas Jefferson Cain
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
April 15, 2009

One of the great joys of writing about the pioneers of the Madison area is that sometimes descendants of the subjects contact me and share information, so I’m always learning more. A recent call from Birmingham relative to my Vintage Vignette about the Madison Burton families led to a more in-depth look at the Cain pioneers of the town. Thomas Cain was a central figure in early Madison. He was born in 1829 in the Cambridge Methodist Church area of Limestone County, just south of French Creek on Cambridge Lane. His father was Allison Chappell Cain (born 1800 in Virginia, died 1862), and his mother was Mary Green Malone, daughter of George Malone and Martha Chambliss of Limestone County, who came from Sussex County, Virginia around 1824.

Thomas’ Cain ancestry has been connected back to James Cain (1695-1770) in Virginia, according to several postings on Thomas married twice, the first time in 1851 to Cornelia Wynn, daughter of 1835-1842 Limestone County State Representative John H. J. Wynn. John was born in Virginia in 1797 and died in 1845. John’s wife Martha was from Petersburg, Virginia, which was named after Peter Wynn of my own ancestral lines. They came to the French Mill and Cambridge area of Limestone County by 1835. Cornelia died in 1854 after bearing children Theophilus, Mary, and Ida to Thomas Cain. Thomas in 1857 married Mary Ann Parham, a daughter of William Parham (born 1792 Virginia) by Elizabeth Bibb, the third of his four wives and widow of Stephen Hussey, who was a son of Madison pioneer Elijah Hussey. William Parham’s first wife was Ann Malone, and they lived in Limestone County near George Malone at Cambridge in 1830.

Mary Ann bore at least 11 children to Thomas Cain, according to a compilation of census records, postings, and the book “Lure and Lore of Limestone County” by Chris Edwards and Faye Axford. In each census, Thomas was listed as a farmer, even when he was living in Madison in 1870 and 1880 after leaving Limestone County, where he was enumerated in 1850 and 1860. Thomas’ son James Henry Cain became a Madison merchant and married Charlotte (“Lottie”) Slaughter, daughter of Dr. John Slaughter. They lived at the east side of the north end of Buttermilk Alley in Madison, at 18 Arnett Street. The James H. Cain store was at 202 Main Street, and the name is still embedded in the brick across the front. A year before his passing in 1938, James married Woodie Latham Collier. His brother Robert Parham Cain also had a store in Madison, at 110 Main Street, the first store in Madison, initially owned by George Washington Martin. In fact, Robert P. Cain married Lena Martin, a daughter of Elijah Thomas Martin, who was a brother of George Washington Martin. It was Robert’s son, Robert Earl Cain, who lost his wife Annie Elizabeth Nance to a train accident in Madison about 9 months before his firstborn child (Robert Earl Jr.) drowned at age 5 in a cistern behind the store.

Other notable marriages of the family included Lavinia Malone Cain (daughter of Thomas J. and Mary Ann Parham Cain) to John Winston Burton in 1881. Lavinia was the second of Burton’s four wives, but the marriage license lists her as “Mollie L.” The Madison County marriage records show other Cain connections of significance to Madison’s historical families. Jane P. Cain married Isaac Rainbolt in 1824. Isaac was a son of pioneer Elisha Rainbolt, often spelled as Rainboll, who lived on top of the northern end of Rainbow Mountain and was its namesake. Also in 1824 Susan Cain (born in 1793, Virginia) married David Knox, a silversmith and eyeglass maker from Delaware who lived in Huntsville and is thought to be connected to the Knox families who settled along Knox Creek north of Highway 72 in the Madison area, some later living in the town of Madison. In 1840 a Martha Ann M. W. Cain married William J. Halsey, a name associated with the grocery business here. Obviously, there have been a number of pioneers “raising Cain” in the history of Madison.

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