Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2003

Louis Finlay to Speak on History of Canton Bend on  January 16

The next Wilcox Historical Society meeting will feature a presentation by Louis Finlay on the history of Canton Bend.  The meeting will be held at the Strother-Gibbs home in Canton Bend at 3:00 on Thursday, January 16. The meeting is open to both Society members and others who may be interested in Canton Bend’s contribution to the region’s history. In addition to the history presentation, attendees will be able to tour this magnificent home.  

Following is a biographical summary for Louis M. Finlay, Jr. who was born in Mobile , Alabama :  

Personal: Married to the former Laura Croom Rivers of Montgomery; two children, Elizabeth Vingi of Mt. Pleasant , SC and Robert Finlay of Mobile ; four grandchildren.  

Education: Jackson Grammar and High School; Gulf Coast Military Academy ; BS, University of Alabama (business).  

Career: Air Force Squadron Adjutant & Personnel Officer in Alabama , Ohio , and North Africa ; career in lumber business with M.W. Smith Lumber Co., Inc. of Jackson , Alabama , later to become Boise Cascade Corp.; retired in 1993.  

Affilations: Member and former senior warden of St. Peters’s Episcopal Church, Jackson; past president of Clarke County Historical Society, now quarterly editor; serves on Clarke County Museum Steering Committee; past chairman, Kimbell House Committee, Jackson; member, St. Stephens Historical Commission; member, Library Board, Jackson.

 Following is a brief history of the Strother-Gibbs home and family taken from the 1991 Tour of Homes brochure:   

         Three generations of the Strother family have enjoyed life in the Canton Bend home built by George Hicks Strother, III.  The exact construction date is unknown, but according to information from Mrs. Bessie B. Thompson, the marriage of Annie E. Bryant and Mr. Strother took place about the time of the construction.

          According to the Wilcox County marriage records, the couple were married on April 18, 1894 .  Mr. Strother was a descendant of Alabama pioneer families.  His grandparents, George Hicks and Sarah Ann Bethea Strother, were married in South Carolina in 1819. Shortly after their marriage, they emigrated to the Alabama Territory and settled near St. Stephens.  Before the end of her first year of marriage, Sarah was a widow and anticipating the birth of her first child, George Hicks Strother, Jr., born on January 1, 1820.

         As soon as travel was permitted, the young widow and her infant son returned to the South Carolina home of her parents, David and Mary Ann Pledger Bethea.  In 1822, they returned to Alabama with  her parents and continued to live on the plantation of David Bethea until her marriage to James C. Irvin.

         George Hicks, Jr. grew to manhood near Canton .  After the death of his first wife, Mary Ann Blue, he married Mrs. Selina Kimbrough Weir in 1865.  Six children, including George Hicks, III, were born to the couple.  The third generation son to carry the name of his paternal ancestor, George Hicks, a South Carolina patriot, also grew up in Canton .  Following the death of his wife Annie in 1914, Mr. Strother married Daisy L. Dale of Oak Hill.  Four children were born to Mr. Strother and his wives.

         For the construction of his home, Mr. Strother hired a Mr. Coleman of Sumter County .  Building materials were purchased in Mobile and were shipped up-river by steamboat.  In her  reminiscences, Mrs. Thompson recalled that Mr. Coleman also built the Canton Bend home of her parents and that some time later after the construction of the houses, he was drowned while crossing a swollen Sumter County stream.

         Following Mr. Strother’s death in 1937, his son Jack became the owner of the home.  Mr. Strother and his wife Sarah Moore Strother, spent the remainder of their lives there.  In 1950 a major renovation of the dwelling was undertaken.  Its original design, which included a porch on all four sides, was changed.  The columns used in the alteration were made in Philadelphia and shipped to Canton Bend.  Other changes suited the home to the needs of Mr. and Mrs. Strother and their children.  Beautifully maintained throughout the years, the home continues in the ownership of the original owner’s granddaughter and her husband, Billie and Al Gibbs. 

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