A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin: The Trotman Family
By Madison historian John P. Rankin
MADISON – In 1986 when I moved to Madison after spending more than 15 years in the metropolitan areas of Houston, Texas, and San Francisco, California, it took me a little while to appreciate that many of the folks here were closely related. That certainly had not been my previous experience in the highly mobile aerospace communities where I had been living. Of course, since that time, Madison has also become an aerospace and military community of people from all over. By continuing my hobby of research into the pioneer families of Madison, I have gained further awareness of the interconnections that bound the original Madison-area families together.
One of the families central to the early establishment and survival of the town of Madison was the Trotman line. Trotmans of the area intermarried with the pioneer families of Farley, Crutcher, Barbee, Carter, Tribble, Williams, Whitworth, Dublin, McGaha, Beadle, Nail (Nale), Gillespie, Cowan, Reedy, and Dublin among others. Some of these surnames are found on tombstones in the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery. The cemetery is on land that was initially owned from 1818 by Michael Farley, who was married to Sarah Trotman. Michael also had a half-sister, Sarah Farley, who married Dr. Thomas Barbee Trotman.
Michael Farley’s land extended generally from Slaughter Road to Shelton Road south of Old Madison Pike, but it included land north of OMP in the Woodland Hills area east of Skyline Acres and another parcel south of the railroad toward Hughes Road and south of Portal Lane to encompass Stratford Square Estates, Westgate, and Shelton Station developments. Of course, those landmark names did not exist during Michael’s lifetime, but we can relate to them today. From 1818 Reuben Crutcher had the land near Hughes Road to the west of Michael’s southwestern parcel, and the Trotman family purchased most of his other land at public sale from Michael’s estate after his passing.
The earliest birthdate on a Farley-Crutcher Cemetery tombstone that was known to be there until sometime after the 1970s was for Samuel H. Trotman. That tombstone is now missing, but the base of the headstone and the associated footstone remain to show the location of the grave. Virginia was the birthplace of Samuel H. Trotman, born on March 4, 1794.
According to descendant Tillman Williams, a grandson of James E. Williams and a great-great-grandson of Samuel H. Trotman, Samuel’s father was another Samuel Trotman. The senior Samuel was an Englishman who came to America in 1774 at age 16 as an indentured servant on “The Sampson”, a ship sailing from London.
The senior Samuel fought as a patriot in the American Revolution and married Catherine Barnet in 1783 in Virginia as the war for independence concluded. They had two children born in Virinia before moving to Tennessee, where three more children were born to them. William and Samuel Jr were born in 1787 and 1794, respectively, before their move to Tennessee. In that state they had Obedience (1801), John B. (1812) and Thomas (unknown birthyear). It is thought that Tennessee was also where Samuel and Catherine died.
In Madison County the junior Samuel married Mary Francis Aday on December 12, 1827. However, it is known that Samuel was here at least nine years earlier, by 1818, when he was listed in Probate Court records as having spent $28 at the estate sale of Absolom Looney for plow irons, calves, and bottles. Absolom owned land and died at the site of the old airport in Huntsville. He had two sons who survived him, one living on Indian Creek near Triana, and the other near, but a bit south of where the town of Madison would be founded almost 40 years later.
Samuel and Mary Francis Aday Trotman had nine known children in this area before the town was founded. Their children were Yancy Preston, Martha Ann, Micajah, Elkanah, Cornelia, Emily, Hilry (Hillery, a male), Sarah, and Mary. Cornelia Jane Trotman in 1858 married Joseph D. Williams and became the mother of one of Madison’s wealthiest pioneer citizens, James Edward Williams, who lived at 19 Front Street after building that house in the early 1900s.
Joseph and Cornelia Trotman Williams left a daughter buried in the Farley-Crutcher Cemetery before they moved to Arkansas. The tombstone of Sarah Taylor Williams (1877-1880) has been broken and needs repair to continue the commemoration of the short life of this little sister of Jim Williams, who returned from Arkansas to live where his sister died.
Through Mary Aday, the wife of Samuel Trotman Jr., local descendants are linked to numerous notables of America and England. Mary was a daughter of Levi Aday. Her grandfather Walter Aday (born in Virginia in 1747) was married to Mary Maxey. Her Maxey line and other Trotman ancestors are reported on Ancestry.com to tie to English authors Alfred Tennyson, Jane Austen, and Elizabeth Browning, as well as to American poet Emily Dickinson.
The Trotman-Aday links also connect to Virginia-born Lady Nancy Langhorne Astor, first female member of the English House of Commons. Lady Astor was famous for her conflicts with Winston Churchill. Closer to home, there is a Trotman relationship to Presidents Bush, Gerald Ford, James A. Garfield, and Rutherford B. Hayes.
Additionally, the Trotmans are connected to the wives of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Theodore Roosevelt, and Grover Cleveland. Other American notable links include Eli Whitney, Howard Hughes, and Robert Goddard. Even Sir Isaac Newton is listed as a distant relative, as are outlaws Frank and Jesse James plus actresses Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, and Audrey Hepburn. As with us all, there are gene pool connections to the brilliant and the average, the good and the bad, and the plain and the beautiful. On the whole, the local Trotman heritage is among the best of America, and it has served Madison well.