Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2001

Fall Pilgrimage on September 29

Our biannual tour of homes and historical sites is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 from 9:00 A.M. to 6 P.M. We have a stellar lineup of homes and historical buildings and we urge each Society member to spread the word about this event. You will note that it has been scheduled to take advantage of cooler temperatures (hopefully!) and to avoid conflict with the Alabama and Auburn football games. (Alabama plays at South Carolina and Auburn at Vanderbilt this day.) Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $5 for students, with children under 6 free. Tickets are being sold at tour headquarters (Wilcox Female Institute). Advance tickets can be purchased by contacting the Wilcox Historical Society at P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726.

We have printed 3,000 color brochures, and these are being distributed by the Alabama Tourism Council and other historical associations. A special thanks is extended to Camden National Bank, Town and Country National Bank, Bank of Pine Hill, and Weyerhaeuser, Pine Hill Mill for underwriting the printing costs. And a sincere thank you to each homeowner for placing their home on this year’s Pilgrimage and providing information for the brochure. Also, we thank Ouida Woodson and Dan Brooks for their valuable historical input.

Sister Curry and Jane Shelton Dale, our tour co-chairs, are putting together the hostess – and host – list. Please call Sister at 682-9440 and Jane Shelton at 682-9833 and volunteer. We men can work too! We also encourage local students to participate. All volunteers will be issued complimentary tickets to the Pilgrimage.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

(Article reprinted from last issue)

The “Wilcox True Blues” were the first company formed in this part of Alabama in early 1861, and was comprised of young men from east Wilcox County and the Camden area. The ladies of the families of these volunteers decided to present the company with a suitable flag, and while the company was being organized, the women began to make the flag. Since the stores in Camden had no suitable material, Miss Adele Robbins of Canton Bend presented the ladies with a blue silk dress to be used for the flag. Mr. Samuel Tepper volunteered to paint the inscription on the banner which consisted of the words “Wilcox True Blues” on one side, and on the other side was depicted a steamboat, cotton boll, and a coiled rattlesnake. Mrs. Ella Thompson presented the flag to the company which the Honorable S.C. Cook accepted on its behalf. The company left Wilcox County in February 1861 and was engaged in the capture of Fort Barrancas and Fort McRea near Pensacola. The “Wilcox True Blues” then were organized into the First Regiment of Alabama as Company B and Judge Purifoy of Furman was made color bearer. Captain was I.G.W. Steadman, a medical doctor from Oak Hill. This regiment was the first one transferred to the Confederate service, and was ordered to Island 10 on the Mississippi River. On the way to this outpost, thinly clad, many of the young soldiers became ill. The color bearer, among the sick, was put off the boat a private residence at Tiptonville, Tennessee. There he and his colors were captured by Wisconsin troops, and sent to Madison where it was placed in a military museum. Captain Steadman became very ill also, and was replaced by another young doctor from Oak Hill, David Wardlaw Ramsey. (D.W. Ramsey became a Baptist minister after the war, and served churches in east Wilcox County for many years. He is the great grandfather of one our members, Joe Ramsey of Dothan. His wife’s (Sharman Burson) great grandfather, Elkanah Burson of Furman, was a private in this company, and later became the attache’ to General Robert E. Lee. He delivered the surrender papers from Lee to Grant).

Many years later, the museum was destroyed by fire, and it was assumed that the flag had been destroyed. However, in 1917, Miss Maud McWilliams of Camden was visiting her sister Mrs. Margueritte McWilliams Cook, in Lansing, Michigan, and happened to discover the “Wilcox True Blues” banner in a military museum there, which she recognized from the description given her by her father. When the word reached Richard Ervin McWilliams (an original member of the Company, later serving as a Major in the Confederate Army, and who had spent many years trying to locate the flag), he wrote the Michigan State Auditor and the Grand Army of Michigan requesting its return. The flag was returned to Alabama sometime later, and was displayed at the Wilcox County Courthouse for a period of time. Later it was placed in the Department of Archives and History, where it rests today, though in dire need of repair. We have in hand a proposal to repair the flag, and have established a flag fund at Town and Country Bank. If you would care to contribute to this project please send your tax deductible contribution to our Society address. Our Federal Tax I.D. – 63-0737652.

(The above information was excerpted from an article written by R.E. McWilliams, a Private in Company B, and which appeared in the Wilcox Progressive Era on February 10, 1921. Mr. McWilliams, the great grandfather of our Vice President, Garland Cook Smith, died on August 25, 1921).

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

The deed completing the gift of this property to our Society was signed on June 11, 2001. As noted in our last newsletter, we applied to the Alabama Historical Commission for a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home. This grant in the amount of $5,000 was approved on August 2! We are submitting an actual restoration grant application in early September to AHC, and also are soliciting grants from other sources. Meanwhile, stabilization of the home per Historical Commission Guidelines began in early August.

Loose Records Microfilming Update

The local society has been working with the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History in preparing loose records for microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). Our volunteers, led by Ruth and Will Liddell, have unfolded and flattened some records, cleaning as needed. Most of the work has been the result of the full-time volunteer effort by Josephine and Marvin Ek of Utah. They are working in the genealogical room of the local library most days, so please give them a hand if you can.Call Ruth at 682-9622 if you need more information.

World War II Veterans Project

This project, led by Phil Tate, has literally skyrocketed. Starting with the limited entries reported at the June 28 meeting, we now have approximately 100 sets of pictures and data assembled. Many are on display at local banks, restaurants, and businesses. This is probably the most important project that our group has undertaken, and the response has been phenomenal. The final posters, photographs, and memorabilia will be displayed at the Female Institute, Beck-Miller Law Office, and the Hugh Dale Building on tour day. They will be on permanent display at the Female Institute in the near-term, and ultimately will be displayed at the Dunn-Bonner “museum”.

We have a Veterans’ Project Fund established also, and if you would care to contribute, please send to our local address and note “Veterans’ Project”. This project will include other wars also when the current project is complete. A special thanks to Phil for a great job!

The Wilcox Historical Society was founded in the late 1960’s, with the initial goal to save and restore the Wilcox Female Institute. Our goal as a society continues to be to preserve the history of this region and to act in some regard as a clearing house and reference source to people searching for genealogical information. Our local Wilcox Library is an excellent source of information and features one of the best genealogical rooms to be found anywhere. You may contact us our local address: P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net or call 334-682-9825 for information. Our web site link is http://www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history. The cost to join the society is $10 per person, or $15 per couple annually. Please join with us! To get back on schedule, payment is due by September 1, 2001.

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

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