Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2002

Haas Strother to Speak at July 18 Meeting

The next Wilcox Historical Society meeting will feature a presentation by one of our own members.  Haas Strother will speak on the history of the Miller family, specifically Rev. John Miller, patriarch of the Miller Family and father  of Gov. Benjamin Meek Miller,  and the contributions of this family to Wilcox County and the State of Alabama.  It is interesting to note that Rev. Miller was the chaplain of the “Wilcox True Blues”.The meeting will be held at the Wilcox Female Institute at 5:30 on Thursday, July 18.  Please make your plans to attend since we have some significant business in addition to the program.  Because this is a regular meeting, no reservations are required.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

The “Wilcox True Blues”project is moving rapidly toward the awarding of a contract.  As noted in the spring newsletter, this flag was captured by Union troops and was thought to have been destroyed in a fire until discovered in a military museum in Michigan.  Through the efforts of Richard Ervin McWilliams, the flag was returned to Alabama and now is in controlled storage at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Gail and James Edwin Tait were gracious hosts at their beautiful home located in the Sedan area of south Wilcox County for the special flag fund raiser party on May 18.  With prior contributions and the money raised from this event, we now have slightly more than $8,000 to contribute to the Archives Flag Fund.  We extend a heartfelt thank you to Gail and James Edwin for this truly spectacular party, and to Sister Curry for coordinating the event.

Bob Bradley, who is the flag coordinator at the State Department Archives and History, has set up a special reception for our Society on Saturday, August 3 at the Archives Auditorium in Montgomery to honor us for raising the necessary funds to enable this project to go forward.  We will present a check for our part of the project at this meeting,

There will be a short presentation on the State sponsored flag program, followed by a guided tour of the flag storage vault in which we will be able to view the “Wilcox True Blues” flag in its present condition. We will also be able to view flags that have been restored which were in similar states of deterioration as  our flag.

The reception/program will begin at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon. The Archives Department is located at 624 Washington Avenue in the State Capitol area of Montgomery.  You should be able to park around the main building, or in one of the adjacent parking lots.  The auditorium is located on the first floor of the building.

Efforts are being made to contact descendants of R.E. McWilliams to attend the August 3 meeting.

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As noted previously, we received a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home in the amount of $5,000 on August 2, 2001.  We applied for a $25,000 restoration grant on November 1, 2001 and were notified on February15, 2002 that we did not receive the grant this year. We will reapply, but are currently pursuing other funding sources.  Meanwhile, stabilization of the home per U.S. Department of Interior Guidelines was completed in mid-December 2001, and the archeological study at the site has been performed by the University of South Alabama and reports distributed to the Wilcox County Commission and to our Society. Richard Hudgens, historical architect from Selma, is preparing preservation plans and guidelines so that work can start soon after receiving funding.   We have also had inquiries about the possible purchase and/or lease of this historic home.  Our deed provides for these possibilities as long as the specific preservation guidelines are followed.  We are also pursuing a preservation easement that would further assure that future restoration is performed per historical guidelines, regardless of the ownership. Please be assured that we are making every effort to complete this restoration and use the facility as a museum or some other compatible use.

Projects Summary

We have had a very active two years of projects, and following is a brief summary of these projects.

Historical Records Microfilming – All of the records from the courthouse and old jail which met the criteria have been flattened and cataloged, and are currently stored in the Lane Butane Building. These are being moved to the library for the actual microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah.  Once done, this project will be complete.

World War II Veterans Project – The bank account for this project has been closed out, and Phil Tate will be completing the processing of the information on hand.  The

boards which have been completed are on display in the back room (historical display room) of the Beck-Miller Law Office.  Frank Walburn, who is leasing this building, is keeping this room open and available for not only these display boards but other memorabilia that we may want to  exhibit.  One such item is Governor Benjamin Meek Miller’s desk that he used in this office.  This desk was recently donated to our Society by Moody Maness, and it is currently being restored.

Joseph M. Wilcox Historical Marker – This project was completed with the dedication of the marker on April 7, 2002.

Postal Routes Historical Marker – This marker, which originally was located at the intersection of Highways 28 and old Highway 10 (now 162) on the west side of the Alabama River at Prairie, had been “lost” since the construction of the new bridge.  Inquiries to the Alabama Highway Department resulted in this marker being found behind a storage building at the Camden facility.  The Highway Department has agreed to re-erect the marker.  We have discussed having this marker and the Wilcox Female Institute marker cleaned and repainted by Logan Painting Company of Tuscaloosa.  The cost will be $300 per sign.

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 County Public Library is the best source of genealogical information and features one of the best genealogical rooms to be found anywhere. The library staff can be reached at 334-682-4355, 100 Broad Street, Camden, AL 36726, e-mail at wcl@pinebeltnet.net. The Historical Society may be contacted at  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 www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history.  The cost to join the society is $10 per person, or $15 per couple annually.  Please join with us!  Payment of dues is due by September 1 of each year.  Alyce Yarbrough is our membership chairman, and is keeping up with the active membership list.  Please use the following coupon to make your payment and update any data that needs changing.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers elected at the January 20, 2002 meeting who will serve thru December, are:

Don Donald, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Secretary: Lindsay Johnson

Treasurer: Mary Charles Donald

Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough

Curator: Ernestine Dunnam

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