Christmas Card Lane Information

Christmas Card Lane

Christmas Card Lane is an annual showcase presented by the Madison Arts Council. Homes along Church and Front Street in the Historical section of Downtown Madison will have custom painted Christmas cards on display for the holiday season. It is a great way to showcase the downtown area.

How are the Christmas Cards constructed?
The cards are 4x6 sheets of plywood that have been painted by either a professional artist or an art student in the local school system.

How will the cards be displayed and erected?
MAC will place the cards uniformly along the road at a point that is roughly six feet from the curb/sidewalk. MAC will deliver and setup each card, place a front facing spot light to illuminate the card at night, run an extension cord to an outside power outlet on the property, and include a timer that automatically turns the spot light on at dusk and off four hours later. (Roughly 5pm to 9pm) Since some homeowners incorporate other outdoor holiday elements to their yard, they may wish to use their own timer (to encompass all lights/automated features) and/or extension cords. If you do not need MAC to supply extension cords or a timer, please mark it on the consent form.

As a homeowner, what are my responsibilities?
We kindly ask that you serve as a guardian over the card. If wind blows it over, place it upright. If something on the card is damaged or if the lighting stops working, we ask that you let MAC know (256) 682-7686 Tina Clark) so we can correct it quickly. Since the spot lights are electrical, we kindly ask that you allow us to use a power outlet on the outside of your house/building. (MAC does not cover any additional electrical fees, which should be minimal < $5)

Can I select the card that will be placed on my property?
We ask participating artists to create Christmas cards in one of three categories: whimsical, religious, or traditional. On the Host Consent Form, you can mark which card theme you prefer. If you plan to include additional outdoor holiday decorations, please et us know that information too. We will try to allocate a card that will complement your personal outdoor decorations. (Example: I will be using bright reds and greens. Or, I will be using Victorian style elements in my outdoor Christmas decorations.)

Will cards from the previous year be used again this year? Several cards from previous years will be used again. However, we will be introducing new cards too.

For questions:  Contact Tina Clark with the Madison Arts Council at (256) 682-7686 or email 

Vintage Vignette: Annie Hertzler Anderson


(A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin, September 18, 2011)

Annie Rachael Hertzler was born on August 2, 1860, in the Springfield Township of Clark County, Ohio.  Her father was Dr. John Huber Hertzler, a son of Jacob Hertzler of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.   At about the age of nine she came to Madison, Alabama, with her family around 1869.  At the age of 27 on January 17, 1888, in Mount Joy, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, she married Matthew Harvey Anderson.  In 1858 Harvey was likewise born in Springfield Township, Clark County, Ohio.  Harvey's father was John Brown Anderson.  He was born in Pennsylvania but lived in Ohio before coming to Alabama in late 1867 or early 1868.  It is likely that the two families knew each other in Ohio before their respective moves to Alabama.  The marriage of Annie to Harvey linked two of the most prominent families of Madison at the time.  A detailed description of their out-of-state wedding was found in Pennsylvania newspapers of the day and in the book “Jacob Hertzler and His Descendants” by Katharine D. Anderson (1975).  The following account was summarized from those sources.

A January 1888 Lancaster newspaper reported that, “The bride was beautifully attired in an elegant costume of white cassimere with white point lace bodice over dress, with sparkling diamond pin and ear-bobs, while the groom was donned in conventional black with white kids and tie.”  Only a few immediate relatives and friends of the bride were invited.  Among them were “...Miss Mollie and Mr. John Hertzler Jr., sister and brother of the bride; Grandfather John (Jacob?) Hertzler of near Maytown; Mr. and Mrs. John S. Nissley; Mrs. Snyder and Mrs. Eli Nissley, of near Mt. Joy; Mr. and Mrs. Amos Zeigler of Stackstown; Major J. C. Redsecker and son; (and) Dr. and Mrs. S. R. Nissley of Elizabethtown.  Upon the approach of the bridal party the guests rose and formed a semicircle.  The Reverend Mr. Roeder performed the ceremony.  Miss Lizzie E. Hertzler rendered the music of an elegant wedding march for the occasion.  After the ceremony, the guests were invited into the dining room where a sumptuous collation was spread and awaited them.”

“The bridal party left on Wednesday morning for Philadelphia, where they intend to remain a short time and upon their return they expect to spend several weeks, visiting the extensive relationship of the bride in Lancaster County.  After which they will visit some of the relatives of the groom in Ohio, and on their homeward trip will spend several days at Washington, D. C. before going to Madison, Alabama, where they will reside in the near future.”

It is interesting to note that the newspaper article identified Miss Annie Hertzler as “one of Huntsville, Alabama's fairest young ladies”, while Matthew H. Anderson was listed as “ a young and prosperous merchant of Madison, of the same state”.  It is highly improbable that the Pennsylvania writer had surveyed the town of Huntsville to determine which were the “fairest” of the young ladies of the town.  Furthermore, Annie lived in her father's “town” house at the intersection of College and Church Streets in Madison.  She also resided in his “farm” house on land that is now Redstone Arsenal's northwestern corner, much nearer Madison than Huntsville of those days.  Of course, the Pennsylvania writer could know nothing of such things other than what the bride and groom or the family members may have related.

After their return to Madison, Harvey remained a prosperous merchant, became President of the Bank of Madison, and owned extensive acreage.  Around 1897 Harvey constructed the large house at 17 Front Street.  The house was recently renovated by Tony and Cindy Sensenberger, at today's intersection with Sullivan Street.  The Andersons lived there until 1926.  Harvey “retired”, and they moved to Locust Street in Huntsville.  Harvey died in Huntsville in 1934 and was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery.  Annie lived in their house on Locust Street until she broke her hip in 1953, at which time she left to live with her daughter Annie Anderson McKinney in Nashville, Tennessee.  She died in 1958 and is also buried in Huntsville's Maple Hill Cemetery.

History of Madison School -- 1936

Scanned from a photo originally preserved by John Rankin on the CD-Collection for Madison's History

1936 - 1996
The History of Madison School

The community of Madison has always been concerned and actively supportive of their
school system. We are here today to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of this particular
Madison School. which it located in the Madison Historical District. Without the past
and present, we would have no future for the education of the children of our Madison
community. The heritage granted us as attendees of this school continues today, as
evidenced by the many improvements and excellent upkeep of the original structure, 60
years old this year.

The original brick structure was built during the depression years under a grant totaling
$27,000.00. The W.P.A constructed many public facilities and parks under the "New
Deal," and then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The total construction cost was
$60,000.00, and the remainder required ($33,000.00) was provided by the County Board
of Education System, with funds currently supplemented by the town of Madison under a
Special Education Tax voted to support the school system. The minutes of town meetings
and election records document that during the period between 1921 and 1924, a three-mil
school tax was voted in to aid the school system; hence, the Madison community has, and
still does support the education of their children.

The brick structure and entrances remain the same as they were in 1936. There were
originally eleven (11) classrooms, including a domestic science and reception or banquet
room laid off in the "new" structure. The Huntsville Times devoted a large section in their
Sunday Times describing a new school with "every feature to the smallest item of
equipment is modem. The auditorium is well planned.  Designed for a gymnasium as well
as an assembly room, this part of the building is 170 by 160 feet in dimensions. At one
end is a large stage equipped with new drapery and furniture." The Huntsville Times
reported three hundred and one pupils as a slight increase over the previous year's

Vintage Vignett: Annie Viola Styles Keel

(A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin, January 5, 2010)

The 1969 Madison telephone directory had four pages of subscriber listings, about ten in the 741 exchange.  The rest were still in the 772 exchange created for the town in 1960 when Southern Bell bought the company and set up automatic dialing.  This allowed toll-free calls from Madison to Huntsville for the 353 telephones that were in service at the time of Southern Bell's purchase on July 10.  By the end of 1960 the number of phones in Madison had increased to 429.  It reached over 1500 by 1970.  However, party lines were still in use until the 1980s in some areas.

The 1960 system spelled the end of the need for switchboard operators in Madison.  Pud True sold the Madison Telephone Company (with 79 customers) to J. P. Martin in 1950.   It was too dangerous for Pud to keep climbing the poles for company operations and repairs.  His aunt, Viola (“Vidy”) Keel, had been switchboard operator from 1938 on the second floor of the Humphrey-Hughes Drugstore at 200 Main Street.  Martin moved the switchboard to the old post office building on Garner Street.  He was one of only two people in Alabama who owned a telephone company while working as an employee of Southern Bell.  He employed Carl James as an installer and repairman.  Carl sometimes was also nightime operator, while his wife was the day operator for the system in the 1950s.

As another mark of the end of the operator era, Vidy Keel passed away in 1968 and is buried in the Gurley Cemetery.  She was born in 1892 in Gurley.  In 1912 she was married to Percy Brooks Keel, Sr.  According to postings, she gave birth to Leo Louis Keel, Cecil Glen Keel, Ralph Hardy (“Buddy”) Keel, and Percy Brooks (“Tootsie” or “Toots”) Keel Jr.  Vidy's famous relatives per include an impressive array of U. S. Presidents plus Elvis Presley and many well-known authors and actors.

When Vidy moved to Madison in 1938 as Madison's switchboard operator, she was divorced and brought with her only Buddy and Toots.  Louis had passed away in his fourth year of life.  Cecil got  married in 1937 in Louisiana, leaving Vidy with two sons still at home.  Buddy played on Madison's first football team in 1938.  They had four games and scored a total of 50 points versus their opponents' total of 44 points.  The games were against Hazel Green (twice), Tanner, and Riverton.

Toots had a leading role in the 1941 eleventh grade class play, “Always in Trouble”.  Other characters in the play were portrayed by such Madison notables as Harvey Hardiman, Milton Carter, Edward Cobb, Tillman Williams Jr., Lorinda Thornton, Dora Cain Apperson, Katie Mae Stewart, Lillian Yarborough, and Gertrude Hovis.  Gertrude married John Calvin Smith in 1942, and Dora married Marcus Tuck (a classmate) in that same year.  Toots married Helen Frances Finley in 1947.  They had two sons and a daughter, but one son was born and died on July 13, 1957.  Kathy and John still live and have their own families.  Toots and Helen lived at 209 Mill Road, in the house immediately west of the Madison City Cemetery, where Toots resided until his passing on January 2 of this year(2010).  Helen passed away in 1997 and they are buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, even though Toots spent many years watching over Madison-area cemeteries.

Toots graduated from Madison High School in May of 1942 and enlisted in the Navy in July of that year.  He was stationed at San Diego, Seattle, Astoria, Pearl Harbor, and the Marshall Islands.  His duty involved scouting for enemy submarines until his discharge in 1945 at the Memphis Naval Air Station.  He worked a variety of jobs after discharge until he became an employee of the Madison Post Office in 1948.  He served there until 1982 when he retired.  His routes as a mail carrier included Triana and points south of Madison along the river.  Helen had jobs with the telephone company in Huntsville (they “met” over the switchboard) and later with Thiokol, McDonnell-Douglas, and others.  She retired in 1983.  They are missed in Madison today.

History of Madison: The Early Days -- By John P. Rankin

The Madison Station Historical Preservation Society owes a significant debt of gratitude to Mr. John Rankin.  John has served this community well over the years in researching and making available the history of the Madison area.  It is through his efforts that we now have much of the history available at our fingertips.  Mr. Rankin can often be found at events that celebrate the city and our history.  If you encounter John, please share your thanks for his efforts.



By John P. Rankin

According to the account given in a book about the “Sims Settlement,” the Cherokee had surrendered their claims to the land in the “Great Bend of the Tennessee River” in 1806. The Cherokee had realized that the large influx of squatters onto their land had rendered it untenable for them to occupy exclusively. In fact, the Cherokee people often remained on the land after its cessation and adopted the ways of the white settlers to an extent, including extensive intermarriage with the white pioneers. White people had been coming into the area of the Great Bend from Europe in the earliest explorer days. The first land grants given for North Carolina included “…land westward to the Mississippi River”. Lewis and Clark had reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805, so much was known of the continent, including what is now the southeastern United States.

The state of Georgia also laid claim to the region that is now north Alabama and north Mississippi. By 1784 Georgia had chartered a speculative land company that began selling acreage in the Great Bend by 1785. It referred to the land that is now north Alabama as “Houstoun”. Apparently, there was no lack of buyers, as several land companies began selling the same parcels, and sometimes even a single land company would sell the same acreage to more than one buyer. The Tennessee Land Company had purchased the Great Bend area of Madison County from Georgia for pennies an acre, and they sold large sections of it at huge profits. The Yazoo Land Company and others entered the picture, and the situation became so corrupt that the multitude of land fraud lawsuits and counterclaims got the attention of Washington DC.

Even George Washington was involved in addressing the conflict. During his last year as President (1796), George Washington appointed Benjamin Hawkins as Indian Agent for the area. Benjamin Hawkins was chartered to secure the Great Bend from further encroachment of settlers (an impossible task), indicating that there were already a sufficient number in the area to warrant federal action. Protection was also denied any white man squatting on the Indian lands of the Great Bend. Swamped with legal actions regarding the lands, Georgia in 1802 sold all of their “rights” to the western lands (the Mississippi Territory, northern Alabama) to the federal government for $1.25 million. The federal government then declared all previous land sales in the area to be null and void.

According to the account in the FOREWORD of Margaret Matthews Cowart’s book OLD LAND RECORDS OF MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA (available in the Heritage Room of the Huntsville main library), surveyor Thomas Freeman took a census of the inhabitants of the land in January 1809. Upon completion of a survey of the area, he acted as Registrar and took squatters’ applications for their land. After paying the associated fees, the squatters were allowed to remain as “tenants at will” on the land, with the right to purchase the land at auction during a subsequent public land sale. Of course, due to being outbid (as was John Hunt at the big spring in what is now Huntsville) and due to overlapping claims resulting from the land company frauds, some of the very earliest settlers lost their lands during this time of recording titles to surveyed boundaries. These actions made Madison County the first in the nation to be systematically surveyed, with legitimate titles recorded by the federal government.

Some of the early settlers on land in the Madison area were legally on acreage that was within the 1805 Cherokee cessation and east of the Chickasaw Indian Boundary Line. Others squatted on Chickasaw lands west of the Boundary Line. Those who legally were living east of the line (but near Indian Creek) would have associated themselves with the town of Madison (if it had been established in the early 1800s), as their descendants did in later years. [For example, in 1860 the census records show that those who lived on most of what is now Redstone Arsenal were enumerated in the “Madison Station Post Office” district.] Several of the families that later appear in the Madison-area land records (on and after February 2, 1818, when it was legal to purchase the land near where the town was later established) first took land east of the Chickasaw Indian Boundary Line. They moved slightly west (or simply recorded the land where they may have already been living or farming) in 1818 and thereafter, when the government officially allowed the purchases.

Unfortunately for the earliest squatters, due to politics mostly associated with concern for Indian relations in view of the impending War of 1812 against Great Britain, the federal government was not always agreeable to their presence on Indian lands. There were several military actions by the government against the settlers west of the Indian Boundary Line – burning their crops and cabins in attempts to force them off the Indian lands – beginning in 1809 and continuing until the declaration of war against Great Britain in June of 1812. After war was declared, the soldiers received assignments to other regions, so the pressure was off the squatters. In fact, some of the squatters became part of the “Madison Militia”, formed in the latter part of 1813 under Lt. Col. Peter Perkins in the 7th Regiment. They were called upon to defend western Madison County against a perceived threat of possible Indian attack from the west and south. Peter Perkins owned land in western Madison County, and his unit included some men known to be among the earliest of the area settlers. These included Elisha Rainbolt (sometimes spelled as Rainboll or Rainbatt), who settled the flat land immediately to the north of Rainbow Mountain. It is surmised that his name was somewhat distorted as people moving along the old Athens Pike (now Highway 72) may have asked about who lived by the mountain. Perhaps the mountain more properly should be known as Rainbolt Mountain.

Names of other “Sims Settlement” pioneers who can be associated with early Madison-area lands include William Slaughter and the Priest family, consisting of Samuel (Senior), and sons James, Menan, and John. (Some of the younger Priests settled west of Triana). Other Sims Settlement names that appear to be area-related are: James Garner; Archibald, Walter, John, and Michal Trimble; William, James, and John Smith; Thomas Dodd; John Humphreys; David and William W. Capshaw; William Martin; and James Slawter (Slaughter).

By the conclusion of the War of 1812 and the associated war with the Creeks, the Chickasaw knew that they had lost their leverage with the U. S. Government for removal of squatters by guaranteeing peace in the area. Andrew Jackson, with his victory over the Creek Nation, was able to negotiate a treaty regarding the land with the Chickasaws in 1816. After all, the already-present large number of white squatters had ruined the land for hunting and for other aspects of the Indians’ way of life in the region. In this treaty, the Chickasaw surrendered claims to the land that now comprises parts or all of Lawrence, Limestone, Lauderdale, and Madison Counties.

Nobody knows the whole truth of who, how, where, and when the first individuals came to any area. However, this perspective is written to provide the account that can be ascertained from the records left by the earliest settlers of the area around what is now the City of Madison, in Madison County, Alabama. It is fully recognized that many significant events were of course unrecorded, so they have been lost in antiquity. However, some of the accounts published in the latter half of 1900s dealing with the history of Madison credit John Cartwright as being the first settler in the area that became the town. There has been no record found to substantiate that claim, and the source of the story is unknown. The fact is that John Cartwright was simply one of at least 19 men who on February 2, 1818 recorded lands adjoining or near (but not “in”) Section 16 of Township 4 South and Range 2 West. [This is the legal land location designation for the original town of Madison. The date in 1818 is the first time of legal sale of surrounding area lands by the federal government to private individuals. The land of the town itself was allocated to the State of Alabama by the federal government, to be used to support public education. Such lands (the 16th sections) were known as “school lands”, and the Madison town land was not sold by Alabama to private individuals until the 1850s.] The exact time of day each man purchased his land in 1818 is not known, but it is almost certain that the initial 19 men already lived and farmed on the lands they acquired. It is furthermore likely that they had done so for several years prior to 1818. However, it is unknown as to which of the 19 men may have moved into the area first, before 1818.

The 19 men who recorded land in the Madison area on the first day of sale by the government for the area west of the old Chickasaw Indian Boundary Line were:

Charles Betts                   Roland Gooch
Thomas Matthews           John N. S. Jones
Benjamin Bledsoe           Michael Farley
Thomas T. Mosely          William S. Mosely
Elijah Hussey                  John Withers
James Manning               William Thompson
William T. Crenshaw      Daniel Mitchell
Gross Scruggs                 Stith B. Spragins
Reuben Crutcher             David Monroe
John Cartwright

Of these 19 men, Benjamin Bledsoe, Charles Betts, and David Monroe lived closest to the land that later was divided into lots for Madison Station in the 1850s. (Roland Gooch lived in what is now the geographic center of Madison.) Their holdings were adjacent to the west half of the Alabama state school land reservation of Section 16, T4S-R2W, that was later laid out in lots by James Clemens to establish the town of Madison Station. Of course, these men would not have known anything about a place called Madison or Madison Station. Before the town acquired those names, the area was first known as part of the “Sims Settlement” (referring to the region), later as “McElhaney’s” (referring to the immediate area), and then for a short time as “Clemens Depot” (referring to the actual earliest town development).

While John Cartwright was among the early settlers in the immediate area, he was unlikely to have been the first, and he was definitely not the closest to where the town would later grow. This is true especially with respect to where the original town of Madison was centered. The original boundaries of the town of Madison excluded the land of John Cartwright and the other 18 purchasers in the immediate area. The first sales of the land that became the original town occurred in January and March of 1854, going to James Clemens and William M. Gooch, with another portion sold to R. L. Irwin and James H. Pride in June of 1859. The land of John Cartwright was located two miles west of the School Lands that became the original town of Madison.

Studies of the early records strongly indicate that the population center of the current City of Madison area has shifted from north to south and back to north during its history of settlement. Initially, settlers entering the area mostly traveled along the old Huntsville-Athens Pike, now known as U.S. Highway 72. They tended to settle along that route, close to the wagon trails in order to “stay in touch” and have access to markets. Thus, we find that the early tax lists in the mid-1800s referred to the area as “McElhaney’s” (community). This reference was adopted from the family of David M. & wife Nancy McElhaney, who owned property on the north side of present-day U.S. 72 and bounded on the west by the current Wall-Triana Highway. The land is now occupied by Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse Store and other businesses on the north borders of Madison.

There is also some evidence in a number of old accounts of churches that were built in what is now the geographic center of the Madison area, before the town was founded. For example, the long-gone Providence Presbyterian Church was located in Section 5 of Township 4 South, Range 2 West. It was on a hilltop east of Balch Road by about 250 yards and about an equal distance south of Gillespie Road. There is no trace of the church today, but the cemetery on church property of the time remains. Correspondingly, there are accounts of an old “Shiloh Baptist Church” that was located immediately beyond the east side of the Madison city limits. It was west of Indian Creek, in what is now the Creekwood housing development. The legal land description of the location is W/2, SE/4, S35-T3S-R2W. Nothing remains of the church, but the associated cemetery is found on the south side of Vistawood Court off Rebecca Pines Drive. These two churches roughly set the east and west “markers” for the early community population center.

An early Baptist church was located not far north of today’s Madison city limits, at the junction of Wall-Triana Highway and Capshaw Road (“Nebo” area). There was likewise a Methodist church on land donated by early settler Roland Gooch, at today’s intersection of Old Madison Pike / Browns Ferry Road and Hughes Road. These two churches roughly set the north and the south bounds of the early population area.

Churches were generally built in an area where they would be accessible to a maximum population density, so these churches in aggregate define a population center that was a bit north of the railroad route that came later. In fact, after the railroad drew the population to cluster around its tracks, the Methodist church was moved to its present location on Church Street in the downtown historic district of Madison. This move was accomplished by rolling the church on logs as it was pulled by mules about 1873, when the property at the present location was purchased. The move of this church, and the demise of the other churches before the dawn of the 20th century, reflect the shift of the population toward the south within the area as homes were built in the town near the railroad tracks. Only in the last decade has the population again shifted significantly to the north, back into the originally settled areas and away from the historic district beside the tracks. The coming of the railroad not only caused some churches of the area to die out, but it also caused the nearby prosperous river port town of Triana to become a ghost town. Until the railroad took over the cotton shipping business, Triana had been a very prestigious place to live, and many of the most prominent north Alabama citizens had either primary or secondary residences there. The town of Madison became the destination of many of the Triana emigrants.

Rainbow Mountain was likewise a prime settlement spot for early settlers due to its numerous springs. Now it is a prime housing area due to its scenic vistas. And, once again, the old travel corridor of U.S. Highway 72 is a drawing card for easy access to major shopping areas. However, the seeds of change have been planted for another southerly population shift that is in its infancy now, as Interstate Highway 565 is providing equally attractive access to jobs and shopping areas, while the Tennessee River offers recreation appeal. Of course, with the ease of travel by automobile, population will no longer shrink simply due to remoteness from shopping and churches and jobs. In fact, there is a growing tendency to shun high density population centers and to seek the solitude of country settings. In the “old days” this was not the case for the majority of people, as access to markets was essential except for the most independent of the pioneers.

This understanding of the significance and basis of population shifts was what James Clemens exhibited in the 1850s. Mr. Clemens postured himself to purchase from the State major portions of the “school lands” of Section 16 in Township 4S, Range 2W. His son Jeremiah was a U.S. Senator, with widespread connections. In fact, the great grandfather of James Clemens was also the great, great grandfather of Samuel Langhorn Clemens, who is better known as the great American humorist and author “Mark Twain”.

James Clemens, from his son the Senator, no doubt knew early that the railroad would pass through this property in Madison County, and he coordinated the location of a water and fuel stop for the locomotives, roughly ten miles west of Huntsville and ten miles east of Decatur. Accordingly, he bought the land along the tracks in 1854 and developed plans for a depot and town lots, thereby becoming the Founder of Madison – originally called “Clemens Depot” by Mr. Clemens, but later designated “Madison Station” by the railroad.

James Clemens came to Huntsville from Kentucky in 1812. According to the 1850 census record for Madison County, James was born in Pennsylvania in 1778. His lineage is documented back to the 1500s on internet web sites and by materials in the Clemens family folder at the Heritage Room of the Huntsville – Madison County Public Library. James Clemens’ ancestry included Gregory Clemens (or Clements), who was a member of the English Parliament at the time of Oliver Cromwell. According to a master’s thesis entitled “THE LIFE OF JEREMIAH CLEMENS” by Vergil Lee Bedsole (1934, University of Alabama), Gregory signed the death warrant for King Charles I of England. Gregory was later beheaded and his estates confiscated, but his widow Frances moved with two children to Virginia in 1664, according to tradition. Thus descended the line of the Virginia Clemenses, some of whom moved into Pennsylvania and later into Kentucky.

When James Clemens moved to Huntsville, he entered into partnership with a Mr. John D. Clifford, who moved back to Lexington, KY by 1818. While in partnership, they did business under the name of James Clements & Co., according to some old records. Other records show the name as James Clement & Co., while yet others have it as James Clemens & Company. Mr. Clemens bought many parcels of land in Madison and Limestone Counties in his early years in Huntsville. Among his Huntsville holdings were Lots 43 and 44 near the public square, located on the south side of Clinton Street and bounded on the west by Gallatin Street (now Church Street) and running south to Spring Creek, which flowed from the Big Spring. This is where James Clemens built his house in the early 1820s. The house stood on this site until recently, but it was moved by Huntsville Utilities to the junction of Pratt Avenue and Meridian Street in 2004-5. By the time of his death in 1860, James Clemens had bought and sold two lots in Mooresville (Limestone County), he held many parcels in Madison County, and he owned three “plantations” in Madison County with residences on them.

By the 1850s when James Clemens began to plan the town that became Madison Station, his wife had died (she died back in the 1830s, and he never remarried), and he had freed his household slaves. One of his former slaves was still living in his household with the surname Clemens in the 1860 Madison County census, when James was listed as age 83. In fact, James Clemens died soon after that census was taken. His death date was June 7, 1860. Even his son Jeremiah died in 1865, and the will of James was contested throughout the 1860s.

Considering that James Clemens was 83 in the 1860 census, he was therefore about 77 years old in 1854 when he bought the “school lands” from the State of Alabama to mark out lots for the town that became Madison. In fact, Madison County Deed Book CC, page 521, shows that James Clemens himself sold Lot 24 of his town to Edmund Martin on March 5, 1860. This is the last record of a land sale by James (rather than by his estate’s administrators) prior to his death 3 months later.

However, he was still buying land in the area of the town as late as March 31, 1860. At that time he purchased the SE/4 of Section 16, Township 4S, Range 2W, from William M. Gooch and his wife Maria H. Gooch. That purchase is recorded in Deed Book CC, page 549. It indicates that James still was pursuing his belief in the vitality of Madison when he was age 83, as he purchased that portion of the original “school lands” that he had not acquired when it was first available. According to the 1870 tax lists, that portion of the land was later owned by E. T. Martin and James H. Pride. The land of the purchase from Wm. Gooch extends from the area where the Post Office is now located, along Hughes Road to Madison Boulevard and from Wal-Mart north along Lanier Road to where the Halsey Grocery warehouse is found. It lies southeast of the original historic district of the town.

Maps of the original lots as laid out by James Clemens and subsequently by the administrators of his estate are found on the CD-ROM set of the Madison Memories Collection, which is available from the Madison Station Historical Society and at the Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street CafĂ©, the West Station Antique Mall, or Hartlex Antique Mall at the cost of $5 for any particular CD. The CD set also has photos of the older houses of the town, often with inclusion of historical notes about the houses and their owners. The CD set in fact has a collection of photos of contemporary Madison scenes (which show the houses as they are today) and of tombstones in the area cemeteries plus a compilation of historical tidbits about the town’s leaders and development through the years. Interviews with some of the older residents of the town have been recorded (audio), and those are on the latest CDs. Genealogical data about some of the pioneer families of the area have been researched, and that data is included in the CD set. That data shows that the immediate Madison area had several families with connections to George Washington and his wife Martha Dandridge Custis; to explorers Lewis & Clark; to Alabama governors Thomas Bibb, Clement Comer Clay, and Reuben Chapman; and to various European members of royalty or nobility. Throughout its early history, the leaders of the nation had their eyes on the Madison area, as this was home to some of their relatives and to very influential people. The town has returned in recent decades to its initial prominence. May the citizens of today maintain the strength and integrity of the community for generations to come.

John P. Rankin                                                 January 15, 2003
                                                                         Revised May 19, 2005