Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Spring 2001

L to R Roy McIntosh, Ginger Stewart, Patrick McIntyre, Garland Smith and Don Donald

March 1 Meeting to be Held at Sterrett-McWilliams House

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, March 1, 2001 at the Sterrett-McWilliams House. Most of you will recognize this home as the Cook-Smith Home located at 400 Clifton Street in Camden. Garland Smith has graciously agreed to host this late afternoon meeting which will start at 5:00 P.M. We will have a brief business meeting and then Patrick McIntyre of the Alabama Historical Commission will speak on “Alabama’s Endangered Properties” and specifically on the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Home. Following his talk, we will be treated to refreshments. This is a no-charge event and all members and prospective members are invited!

Inspired by the works of architect Samuel Sloan, the home is an outstanding example of antebellum eclecticism, and was built in 1851 for Judge David W. Sterrett who came Camden as an attorney. He became a planter and trustee of the Wilcox Female Institute. His wife was Susan McConnico. In building the house, Sterrett set out to “out do them all” in building a house befitting his station as a legislator and probate judge. The home is a blend of many different styles – Greek Revival, Haitian, and Italian. This home features an unusual rake parapet and scroll cut balustrades. Inside, twin cantilevered staircases spriral up from the shallow foyer which is lighted by red glass sidelights. Original gasoliers in the parlours mirror the acanthus leaves in the plaster molding.

The Sterretts died in 1858 leaving an only child, Sally Brooks Sterrett. Sally married attorney Walter Tate and in 1870 sold the home to Richard B. McWilliams, a local merchant. Mr. McWilliams served in Company B – First Alabama Infantry from 1862 to 1865, and was captured twice. On November 9, 1869, he married Amelia Lindsay Coate. They had ten children, including Maude McWilliams Shook and Marguerite McWilliams Cook, the mother of William M. (Billy) Cook, the father of Garland Smith and Lindsay Cook. Many of the furnishings in the house today belonged to this family.

Patrick Mctntrye is a Cultural Resource Coordinator with the Alabama Historical Commission and works in the Historic Endangered Landmarks Program. Before joining the staff of the Commission in 1999, he served as a private consultant specializing in historic research and the preparation of Alabama and National Register nominations. In 1998 he perfonned a comprehensive countywide survey of Autauga County for the Cahaba Trace Commission, during which he documented over 1500 historic sites, logged over l,000 miles, and took some 2,500 photographs. A native of Montgomery, he received his M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and a BA. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama. He is past vice president of the Alabama Preservation Alliance, the statewide non-profit historic preservation organization. He has recently received a Rotary Fellowship to Brazil to study how historic preservation is practiced in the state of Sao Paulo. His other interests include archeology and Southern folk culture, and his article on dirt-eating appears in the current issue of Tributaries, the journal of the Alabama Folklife Association.

Loose Records Microfilming

The local society is working with the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History in preparing loose records for microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). These records, which include pre-1915 estate case files, loose marriage and divorce records up to 1950, guardianship and apprenticeship files, slave records, and Confederate pension records, contain some of the most historically significant information held by Alabama Counties. Our volunteers, led by Ruth Liddell, are unfolding and flattening the records, cleaning as necessary, alphabetizing, and then placing the records in acid-free folders in preparation for the microfilming operation. We are working on records in the courthouse and in the old jail building, and if you are interested in assisting in this ongoing project, please call Ruth Liddell at 682-9622. We have “flattened” and filed several volumes to-date, so please join us in this worthwhile effort. Let’s get started again!

Current Business Items

As you may recall from the November 17, 2000 meeting, several of us met with Patrick McIntyre on October27 at the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner House on Broad Street to assess the condition and historical significance of this structure. Mr. McIntyre wrote a letter to our Society and to the James Bonner Trust trustees stating the very important historical significance of this building. The original portion of this house was constructed circa 1825-30 as a two-story loghouse by Thomas Dunn. Then most likely some 10 to 15 years later a two-story frame addition was built onto the rear of the original house, resulting in a “double pile “plan. The mantels in the upstairs rooms are of Federal Period origin, while later Victorian period mantels were placed in some of the downstairs moms. It was during the Victorian Period (1890’s) that the house was updated again to its current form, including the addition of the fill-facade portico, the half-story above the second, and the extended eaves. This home came into the possession of the Bonner family in 1882. Last November we discussed if our Society would like to take possession of the property and coordinate the period restoration of the home. This issue needs to be finalized at the March 1 meeting.

Another item discussed was the erection of a National District historic marker for Camden. We need to decide what should go on the marker, and where it may be erected.

And a final item of old business concerns the erection of a memorial sign/marker for Lieutenant Joseph M. Wilcox being coordinated by the local DAR chapter. A committee chaired by Slaton Crawford will report on their findings at the meeting. Costs for both markers will also be discussed.

2001 Fall Pilgrimage

We have set the date for this year’s Pilgrimage. It will be on September 29 and 30, and will feature the Camden

area. Sister McDuffie Curry and Jane Shelton Dale have agreed to serve as co-chairpersons for this event. Thanks! Come and hear what homes and sites are to be on tour.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers for 2000 and 2001:

Don Donald, President
Garland Cook Smith, V.P/Program Chairperson
Secretary: Ruth Liddell
Treasurer: Roy MacIntosh
Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough
Curator: Ernestine Dunnam

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