Toneys of Triana, A Vintage Vignette

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Toneys of Triana
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
May 11, 2008

Recently initiated development of a property along Beadle Lane at Wall-Triana Highway removed some of the trees and underbrush that hid the old Barclay-Toney Cemetery. It carries that name on old maps, but it is properly the Toney Cemetery, containing graves of the family of Harris Toney. Harris Toney was a pioneer landowner of the area, possessing almost 2400 acres located from the airport to the Tennessee River, from both sides of the Barren Fork of Indian Creek and east of Blackwell Swamp past the west side of the old Triana town boundaries. He obtained most of his lands through government patents from 1818, but he also purchased the land patented in that year by General William Adair, consisting of about 750 acres west and south of Triana.

Data posted on shows that Harris Toney was a son of Charles Toney and a grandson of another Harris Toney, whose mother was Elizabeth Harris. His ancestry has been researched back to England and the early Colonial days of Virginia. Siblings of Harris Toney of Triana included Charles, William, Caleb, and Edmond Toney. All except Edmond were born in the 1790s, while Edmond was born in 1807. Caleb, Edmond, and Harris Toney all figure prominently in the early land history of the Triana and Madison areas. Harris was born in 1795 and died in 1843. He married Clarissa Noble of Madison County in 1821. Caleb married Margaret Miller, believed to have been a daughter of Henry and Mary Miller, who lived near the Toneys and for whom Miller Branch off Barren Fork is named. There is still a tombstone for Margaret Miller (1777-1854) in the Watkins-Rowe Cemetery along Barren Fork near the airport, on the north shoulder of Wall-Triana Highway and near the Toney family cemetery. The Watkins-Rowe Cemetery today has numerous toppled large trees, but somehow they missed an intact table tomb, one of the very few that still stands in this county.

The Harris Toney family cemetery contains 10 marked graves, but there are undoubtedly more unmarked. The tombstones there are for Harris Toney, Charles A. Toney (a son of Harris), Martha E. Coons (a daughter of Harris Toney), her husband Dr. Samuel W. Coons, Everett Coons (child), Milly S. Aikin (nee Noble, married Cyrus Aikin in 1833, probably a sister of Harris Toney’s wife Clarissa Noble,), Dr. Anderson M. Barclay (husband of Matilda N. Toney and later Millie A. Toney, both were daughters of Harris Toney), Harris Barclay (son of A. M. and M. N.), Kate Barclay (daughter of A. M. and M. N.), and an unnamed infant of A. M. and M. N. Barclay. The Toney wives of Dr. Barclay are very likely buried in the cemetery, but no tombstones for them were found in a recent visit.

Caleb Toney and his family members are buried in the old Triana City Cemetery, some with tombstones in a separately walled family plot. Caleb was a cabinetmaker and became Administrator for his brother Harris’ estate. In 1844 he purchased from the estate the land and house that had been owned by William Adair in Triana. His son Caleb Jr. inherited the property, which in turn passed to grandson John B. Toney. John Toney married Leara Trotman of Madison in 1913, and they were living in the Adair-Toney plantation house at the time of a 1932 newspaper story about the history of the property and the family. The article includes a detailed description of the old house, now gone. The Toney family history is linked by marriages in this area with surnames of Fletcher, Rowe, Wiggins, Ragland, Hundley, Lanier, Garner, and Wynn, among others. In the same manner as the pioneer Wall family along the river, the Toney family apparently also had descendants who moved away from the river and mosquitoes carrying yellow fever to the northwestern part of the county and left their name on communities and roads.

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