Union Colony, A Vintage Vignette

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Union Colony
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
October 22, 2007

After the Civil War many former Union soldiers came back to the areas that they had occupied in the South. Some of Madison’s pioneer families were brought here by returning Northern troops who liked the area’s climate and fertile soils. In the late 1800s there was a region northwest of Madison that was known as the “Union Colony”, located in the eastern edge of Limestone County near “Nubbin Ridge”. Today, that same area is being incorporated into Madison’s city limits, but several of the former Northern families lived in old Madison itself, becoming some of its staunchest citizens. Among them were the Palmer, Anderson, Hertzler, Grubb, and Rodman families.

The Palmer, Anderson, and Hertzler families from Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania have been presented in earlier Vintage Vignettes. The Grubb families of Madison first came to my attention by encountering pieces of a small, broken tombstone in the old section of the City Cemetery. When the pieces were assembled, the inscription read: “SIMON GRUBB, born March 4, 1814, died June 11, 1895”. For several years afterward, no research was done to learn of this man’s life. However, while investigating pioneers of Redstone Arsenal lands, the same name was encountered in some estate papers as a carpenter who needed to be paid for work on a house and barn. That stimulated an interest in learning about the person named on the tombstone in Madison.

It turned out that the Simon Grubbs were probably different men. However, associated studies of records of the Madison Simon led to the discovery that there was a large group of men from the 7th Indiana Union regiment that lived near him. Indications are that his eldest son may have served in that unit. They came back after the war and settled in eastern Limestone County near Madison in the Nubbin Ridge area. That’s where Simon bought his house, called “The Oaks” by Dr. Achilles Whitlock, who built it in the 1830s. The house was sold by Whitlock’s creditors to Dr. James Beasley in 1856. The creditors included known Madison-area residents Roland Gooch, Samuel Word, John Cartwright, Waddy Tate, and Nathaniel Terry. In 1870 Beasley sold the house to Simon Peter Grubb from Ohio, who apparently brought his wife and at least three of his seven known children with him. Simon had on the first of December 1869 also purchased a lot in Madison, beginning 50 feet south of the railroad tracks. The lot ran basically between Garner and Cain Streets, across Martin Street to Lanier Road. The on-line Grubb Family Association had lost track of Simon until contacted with local information. Now they plan to restore his tombstone in the future.

There were other Grubb families in Madison at the same time as farmer Simon Peter’s family. These families were headed by Lucius H. (an educator and merchant) and L. Hensley Grubb (a clergyman), but they were both from Tennessee, with Virginia roots, and not connected to the Union Colony. In fact, both of these families left Madison. The 1880 census shows Lucius in Huntsville, and Hensley was in Morgan County by 1874.

Similar to the Simon Grubb family, the Rodman families of early Madison came from Ohio and Indiana (with English and German roots), but they also were not associated with the Union Colony in Limestone County. James and Simon Rodman came here between 1870 and 1880 with their mother Rebecca Smart Rodman and stepfather James Best. James Rodman was born in Delaware in 1855, and Simon was born in Pennsylvania in 1857. James married Mary Jane Canterbury in Madison in 1882, after Simon married Nannie Nale of Madison in 1881. The Rodman assimilation into our Southern community continued with the 1905 marriage of Simon’s daughter Annie to Henry Martin of Madison’s premier historical family. Such has been the character of this town from its founding the 1800s. The population embraces diversity with respect to sympathies toward causes and politics. In the same manner, the town has always offered opportunities regardless of gender, religion, or race, and it welcomes all into close fellowship, sharing chances for mutual prosperity.

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