208-210 Main Street

Frank G. Hertzler, son of Dr. John Hertzler, operated a hardware store at this 208 Main Street site in partnership with Matthew Harvey Anderson, the banker who lived at 17 Front Street.  Frank built and resided in the house at 25 Front Street.  The original store structure here was destroyed in the 1912 fire, and the tax office records of the county show that the current building was constructed in 1940.  

A couple of years after Robert Edgar (“Pud”) True and his wife Gladys McFarlen True moved to Madison, they bought the building and operated a grocery store in it for over 30 years, from 1944 to 1976.  In fact, during their first three months in Madison, the True's rented a room in the former residence of Frank Hertzler at 25 Front Street.  They built a house in 1941 that was then in the county, just outside the town limits, at 318 Church Street.  They moved into their new residence on January 1, 1942, and became leaders in the community and in the Methodist Church on Church Street for the rest of their lives.  After Pud died, Gladys donated funds for the electronic chimes in the church that still sound throughout the historical district of Madison.  For a time this building was also operated as an annex to the post office.when the post office was located next door in the 206 Main Street location. 

According to the 1890 Hartford Insurance Company map of Madison, an early structure at 210 Main was the office of Dr. Richard M. Fletcher.  A later use of the location according to the 1905 Alabama Mercantile Book was the drugstore of Pride & Bradford.  Thomas Logan Bradford was only 35 years old when he committed suicide by taking an overdose of morphine from this drugstore.  He had married Fannie Burton, a daughter of John Mullins Burton, who owned the competing drugstore at the 216 Main location.  The Bradfords had bought the house at 306 Church Street in 1906 and had a daughter born there.  Thomas had been employed by his father-in-law for a while, but resigned to go into partnership in the store at 210 Main by about 1904.  His suicide note mentioned failing health and business losses.  
There have been some indications that this drugstore was called the Phoenix Drugstore, possibly a name given it after Tom Bradford's passing when his partner re-opened the business.  That could also have been the name for the rebuilt store after the fire of 1912 heavily damaged the structure. Tom's wife Fannie moved into her father's house at 21 Front Street and wrote a weekly column about Madison for the Huntsville newspaper for the remainder of her life.

A vintage comic book business utilized the 208 building in the 1990s, but it was later renovated by Walt and Larry Anderson to become the Bandito Burrito restaurant.The restaurant occupied not only 208 Main, but it later included the location at 210 Main Street.  Both part of the Old Black Bear Brewery.

The Madison Drug Company was established at 210 Main by Dr. Luther Wikle and his partner Ben Porter in 1912.  It may then have been given the name of the Phoenix Drugstore.  Wikle later sold his interest to William Russell, a son of the constable of that name who also ran the gristmill for which Mill Road is named.  

206 Main Street

 Noteworthy in the time of an older generation of Madison residents was when this structure functioned as the store of Dea Theodore Thomas, who lived at 307 Church Street.  In much more recent years it has housed J's Salon.  The first known business to operate at this location was the store of George A. Fields, as shown on an 1890 Hartford Insurance Company map of Madison.  In 1912, this building along with 208 and 210 Main Street were damaged by fire.  The Thomas store had begun operations in 1904, and it was only slightly damaged by the fire, while the other two buildings were destroyed.  Dea continued operations in the store until his passing in 1917, when his brother-in-law, William Wann, took over the business and ran the store until 1940.  William Wann's sister Nora was Dea's widow.  When Dea died William was already was doing business as a retailer in the store on the other side the old bank building, at 202 Main Street where James H. Cain had his store.

There were a number of residents of old Madison who had come from Woodville in Jackson County, Alabama, probably due to ease of travel and moving household furnishings via rail between the two locations.  The Thomas and Wann families with children Dea Thomas and William Wann were enumerated in the 1880 Federal census as next-door neighbors in Woodville.  The father of William and Nora Wann was listed as Andrew, known to be a son of an older generation William Wann born in 1812 in Kentucky.  Andrew's occupations in various censuses of Woodville listed him as a schoolteacher, a merchant, and a Primitive Baptist preacher.  William Wann's wife was Vida Barclay.  Vida was a daughter of  James Barclay and Mary F. Woodall.  Vida's mother, Mary Woodall, also had roots in Woodville of Jackson County.  In 1900 the census of Woodville showed the family of James William Barclay with wife Mary and daughter Vida (at age 14, born Nov. 1886) living in dwelling 36, while Andrew J. Wann was in nearby dwelling 48.  Additionally, the Barclay family household included a nephew, Tabor J. Woodall at age 5.  The family of Emmett Woodall was living in 1900 in Woodville dwelling 50 per the census, while dwelling 49 was for a Gormley, another surname found in Madison.  Emmett Woodall soon afterward left Woodville and moved to Madison, where he was enumerated living next door to William Wann in the census of 1920.

From 1940 until 1962 the 206 Main structure housed the town's post office.  In the 1970s this was the location of J&B Electrical for a few years.

Affair At Madison Station

May 17, 1864

Both Civil War engagements fought in and around Madison occurred during unusual weather.  The one of December 23, 1864, at Indian Creek where Old Madison Pike crosses the water and along the campus of Madison Academy at Slaughter Road, was fought on one of the coldest days of a severely cold winter.  It was so cold that not only did the creek freeze over, but guns were of little use because no one could use their fingers adequately to reload after firing.  It was largely a saber fight.  However, artillery and guns were the weapons of the day when much warmer weather prevailed for the conflict that occurred on May 17, 1864.  

Both engagements began at dawn as surprise attacks on the entrenched forces.  The December Union attack started near the Indian Creek railroad bridge and continued west toward the town.  The May Confederate attack began in the town and continued east along the tracks to the Indian Creek railroad bridge.  May brought a Confederate rout of Federal forces, whereas the December struggle was a Union rout of rebel forces.  The December fight involved frozen water as a factor.  The May fight involved liquid water as a factor, because it was raining so hard that the combatants could barely see their opposition.  The Union accounts described the December event as a “grand victory”, reportedly involving far more rebels than could possibly have been present.  Some of the official reports claimed that 200 Union troops attacked a rebel force of 600, whereas more realistic descriptions show that a maximum of 150 rebels were surprised by over 300 Federals.  Yet, the official Union accounts of the May event term it as simply as an “affair” -- not even worthy of being called a battle.  However, the May attack by the rebel forces included four artillery pieces and over 1000 troops against a force of about 350 Federals who occupied the town of Madison.

Confederate reports are sparse from those last months of the war, but there are numerous documents of the engagement preserved in Union accounts.  The most descriptive Union reports were filed by Colonel Gorgas of the 13th Illinois Infantry.  He first told that a cavalry force of about 1,000 with four artillery pieces attacked on May 17 about 8 o'clock in the morning.  When General John Smith reported the engagement a day later, he stated that Madison Station had been attacked at 8 a.m. from all directions by a large force, numbering about 1,000 to 3,000 men with four pieces of artillery.  Gorgas recounted that “...we were obliged to fall back, after a severe fight, and, being completely surrounded, we cut our way through their lines, and fell back to the bridge and water tank, about three miles east.  We formed and returned to this place (Madison), and, after skirmishing, drove them from the town.  They captured several of our men, what number we are not able to say.  Our camp and garrison equipage, together with all the regimental and company papers, are either destroyed or carried off.  The depot buildings are burned, together with about 50 bales of cotton.  (He said 70 bales in a later report.)  The railroad is all right, telegraph lines cut.  We are left here without rations, and but little ammunition.”

A much more detailed account of the engagement was filed by Gorgas a day or so later.  In it, he specified that the artillery consisted of “four 12-pounder howitzers”.  He wrote that the attacking force was under the command of Colonel Josiah Patterson and included “two regiments of mounted infantry”.  He blamed the successful surprise upon local citizens guiding the rebels to the locations of his five pickets, who were then overwhelmed before they could sound the alarm.  In fact, subsequently the Union occupiers arrested Madison residents Dr. Richard Matthew Fletcher, Edward Betts, and James Harvey Pride.  They were taken into Huntsville to be tried and hanged as spies for complicity in the event.  After a gallows was constructed, a recently-transferred and remotely-located but friendly senior Union officer who knew that Dr. Fletcher had compassionately treated Federal soldiers during the occupation years came to Huntsville and had the men released.

(A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin, December 23, 2010) 

Veteran's Memorial Park - Madison AL

The Veterans Memorial Park is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Church and Front Streets. The park was designed and constructed by Madison American Legion Post 229 in the spring and summer of 2001.

The park is dedicated to Jesse Ollie Wikle, Jr., who was the first
Madison man to lose his life in World War II and to the members of the United States Military from the city of Madison who lost their lives during the wars of the 20th century. Captain Wikle was a "Flying Fortress" (Boeing B-1 7) pilot, who named his aircraft "The Flaming Maymie" in honor of his red-headed Madison girlfriend, Maymie Louise Dublin. He was shot down and killed over Tunisia.

The flag pole was refurbished and relocated from its former location next to the old city hall on Main Street. Likewise, the monument was moved from its location on Main Street to its present location in
the park.

Water and electrical services were installed underground and the park was delineated by planting a hedge around it. A flower bed was constructed of landscaping bricks and is formed in the shape of a heart. The heart shape is symbolic of the Purple Heart Award presented to service men and women wounded or killed in combat operations.

There is a small plaque for each of the fifteen service men from Madison who gave their lives in our 20th century wars. Both the flag pole and the Purple Heart flower bed are illuminated during the hours of darkness.

The Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated on the 21st of September 2001 , only days after the
United States found itself in a new kind of war it had never known - a war with terrorists.

316 Church Street - Tribble - Beech Home

Caudis H. Tribble and Ozelle Hereford were married in Madison County in 1924. Their house in Madison is recorded in the tax records as having been constructed in 1939. When Gladys McFarlen True and her husband "Pud" moved to Madison, the couples became close friends. After a year of renting rooms in a house on Front Street, Gladys wanted to live next door to Ozelle, and the feeling was mutual. The Tribbles gave the Trues a deed to the corner lot beside them without a penny being paid.

Still, Gladys and Pud paid their friends for the lot within a year.They built the house shown below within a year their house payment was $29.50 per month. The Trues owned and operated a grocery store at 208 Main (later Bandito Burrito and now part of Old Black Bear) for over 30 years, remaining lifelong friends with the Tribbles.

The Tribble Home is now owned by Geoffrey and Karen Beech.

314 Church Street - Balch - Wann - Marler Home

This house was constructed in 1910 according to the Madison County tax assessor's records.
In 1916 it was sold by Samuel W. Balch to Ora B. Wann. Her husband Fred was never mentioned on the deed, so he may have died by then. Ora was a long-time Madison postmaster; Samuel Balch was a long-time rural letter carrier of the Madison area. Samuel married Martha A. Parson in 1875, and they had at least 12 children, according to census records, but by 1910 only 8 were still living. Samuel's father was Hezekiah J. Balch, an area pioneer and charter member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church between Nance and Jeff Roads.                   

Hezekiah married Tabitha Vaughn, a sister of George Washington Vaughn, connected to the Hughes
and Spencer families of Madison. Tabitha's father was Micajah Vaughn, who was a signer of the first Alabama State Constitution in 1819. Hezekiah served as the first Sunday School Superintendent at the church. His land is today the location of Kelly Springs, along Jeff Road.  Ora B. Wann has already been mentioned in association with the house at 302 Church Street. (Just imagine, Madison had an "0. B. Wann" long before George Lucas introduced a character with that name in the Star Wars movies.) The view of the Balch-Wann house below shows how deceptive the front appearances may be of the home along Church Street. The lots were very deep, so the houses were expanded behind the front faces over the years. This house is recorded in tax records as having 2456 square feet of space, typical of such homes along the street. The tax records also show that the current owner is Linda L. Marler.

313 Church Street

(Originally published on the blog of the current owners, Billie and Susan Goodson)

My previous post dealt with the topic of how we came about being the proud owners of Ms. Hessie's House, located at 313 Church Street in Madison, AL.  Some may be wondering who/why Ms. Hessie while others may be asking the question of where is Madison, AL.  I have to admit, when we lived in Huntsville in 1987/8, we never really even knew that the sleepy little berg of Madison lay only a little piece to the west of the apartment we lived in for the year.  I wish we had driven through Madison then, although we probably wouldn't have remembered much about it.  When we returned to Madison county in 2007, we were shocked at how expansive Madison City had become, especially considering we missed it entirely 20 years before!  Madison is a growing, vibrant community that we have really grown to love in the several months now that we have lived there.  You can learn more about Madison by visiting their city website here.  

Being a huge fan of history, I embarked on learning who Ms. Hessie was to add to my knowledge of the home. To me, understanding the personal side of the history of the home just adds so much character to the features of the home.  That is what distinguishes in my mind between a house and home.  Knowing the previous generations that have called this house a home helps us preserve the unique legacy of this house as a home.

The house at 313 Church Street was originally constructed for Nancy Hesseltine (Hessie) Gillespie Farley in 1911.  Miss Hessie (as she would be known) was the daughter of Campbell Milton Gillespie and Narcissa Lorinda Clark.  She was born on July 22, 1866 in Maryville, Tennessee.  The family moved first to Morgan County, Alabama in 1870 then relocated to Madison, Alabama in 1879.  Miss Hessie would graduate from honors from the Huntsville Female Seminary on May 30 1888 and became a teacher.  

Miss Hessie married Joseph Bruce Farley in 1892.  The couple had one daughter, Frances Lorinda Farley who was born in 1893.  Mr Farley unfortunately passed away from malaria in 1894 at the age of 28 and Miss Hessie would never remarry.  For a few years she went into partnership with her brother, William Gillespie to run Farley and Gillespie Drug Store in Madison.  After the store was sold, Miss Hessie accepted a teaching position in Tuscumbia.  She would return to Madison after the passing of her father in 1910 (her mother passed in 1907). Her sister, Miss Nora (Narcissa Elizabeth or "Sister") could not live alone, so Miss Hessie had the home at 313 Church Street constructed. 

Miss Hessie started teaching first grade in Madison, and Lorinda studied music at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia until 1914. Lorinda would marry Herbert Lafayette Thorton on January 21, 1920, shortly after he returned home from serving in France during World War I.  Their first daughter, Frances Farley, was born February 12, 1921 at Miss Hessie's home in Madison.  Two other daughters were also born in Madison: Nancy Kate on March 16, 1923 and Lorinda Clark on October 24, 1924. In 1935 Herbert became a charter member of Alabama's new Highway Patrol.

Although a life-long Presbyterian, Miss Hessie taught Sunday School in the Baptist Church. She was active in school, church and many civic organizations.  She taught her forty-two consecutive years.   She had a deep love for teaching and dreaded the day she would have to retire. That would never happen as she would suffer a stroke during the Christmas holidays and died on January 1, 1939.  She is buried beside her husband Bruce in the Farley Family Cemetery.  As a side note, following Miss Hessie, Mrs. Howard Hughes was appointed to replace her as the first grade teacher.  She would hold that position for thirty-seven years.  Combined, Miss Hessie and Mrs. Hughes taught first grade at Madison Elementary for 65 years!

Nancy married J.B. Womack from Lynchburg, Tennessee.  Herbert died on August 7, 1961. He was buried in Madison the Madison Cemetery.  Nancy and J.B lived with Lorinda until she died on January 1, 1966. She is buried beside Herbert.  After J.B. passed, Nancy married Orval Cooper. Nancy would pass on December 13, 2004, and Orval would pass on July 31, 2016.  Nancy had two daughters, Pat Womack Edwards and Kathy Womack Williams Lee.  A rich heritage laid within the walls and boards of the home at 313 Church Street.  

It is our sincere hope that the home on Church Street will continue through the ages to be a home where family is loved and cherished.  May the walls of this home soak up more generations of love and may the feet that cross the threshold always find joy within the walls.  We so deeply appreciate the rich heritage of this home and strive to honor it.  May it always be Miss Hessie's, who laid a deep foundation in service and love to her family and community.