Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2005

Fall Meeting to Feature Program by Bonnie Mitchell

The next meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society will be held Thursday, October 6, 2005 at 2:00 P.M. at the home of Connie and Steve Penry located at on Highway 21 South  in Oak Hill. Turn south at the 4-way stop and go about ½ mile south on Highway 21.  The home is on the north side of the road.  You can’t miss it!

A program on the history of Oak Hill and adjoining communities – and their people – will be presented by  Rosebud resident Bonnie Mitchell.  Bonnie is a lifelong resident of this area and possesses a wealth of knowledge of the area’s history.  Bonnie asked that we not print a biographical sketch of her, but instead include a brief history of the magnificent home in which the meeting is being held.

This beautiful antebellum  home, a cabin portion built in 1826 and the remainder in 1847,  is situated on a wooded hilltop on the southern side of the historic town of Oak Hill  in eastern Wilcox County. Oak Hill was designated a National Historic District in 1999.  The home style is “Raised Carolina Cottage” which was common to this area in the pre-war era (War between the States). The home was built by Dr. and Mrs. William Dale around two rooms of a log cabin constructed circa 1826 by Dr. Wiley Williams , a pioneer merchant from nearby Allenton.  The large beams from this early cabin are visible on the south side of the home today.  A large den, plus a wood burning radiator heating system, were added to the home in the 1980’s by Erskine and Betty Kennedy who made this their home for many years. Darrell and Sharon Fell purchased the home from the Kennedy family and performed extensive restoration, including finishing the upstairs area which was not completed to the stage of the downstairs area. Connie and Steve Penry purchased the home from the Fells and now make it their second home. Much of the original glass remains in the house.  The home features a large front porch with the columns set on separate piers. The large entry hall is flanked by four large rooms, which are presently used as a living room, dining room, and two bedrooms.  The hall leads to a kitchen, breakfast room, pantry, and the den at the back of the house. There are two full baths located downstairs, with provisions for a half bath in the den.  The upstairs area is comprised of two large bedrooms and a large foyer area, plus plenty of storage area in the attics.  The 14-foot high ceilings greatly facilitate cooling.

Please plan to attend this meeting and invite anyone you know who might be interested in this unique presentation in one of the most historic homes in Alabama.

 Wilcox Historical Society 2005 Spring Pilgrimage held May 14                  

As everyone is aware, our Fall Pilgrimage was cancelled due to Hurricane Ivan.  It was  rescheduled as a Spring Pilgrimage as noted above. Everyone agrees that this was one of the most successful pilgrimages ever sponsored by this Society. A special thank you is extended to Sister Curry for coordinating with the homeowners, and to the homeowners for placing their homes on tour.  A Spring event in honor of the homeowners and workers will be held at the home of Ginger and Jimmy Stewart.

Bear Creek Baptist Church  Project  

An organizational meeting was held at the historic Bear Creek Baptist Church in the Caledonia community of east Wilcox County on Saturday, July 16, 2005 for the purpose of implementing a restoration plan for the church building.  This church has been a vital contributor to the spiritual growth of Wilcox County since 1835.  At this time the church building is in need of repair, and the group that met Saturday hopes to get this project started before further deterioration takes place.  Those in attendance were former church members, descendants of former members, Brandon Brasil from the Alabama Historical Commission, Dr. Frances Hamilton of the Baptist Historical Commission, Eugenia Brown and Don Donald, ABHC commissioners, Dr. Wayne McMillan, Mission Director of the Bethlehem and Pine Barren Baptist Association, Gladys Mason, Secretary-Treasurer of the Pine Barren Baptist Association, and other interested parties.  If you would like to support this restoration effort as a member of a work party or financially, please call Gladys Mason at 334-682-5100.

Following is a brief history of Bear Creek Baptist Church.

 “Bear Creek Baptist Church was admitted to the Bethlehem Baptist Association in 1835 with 46 members. In 1845 there were 22 baptisms at Bear Creek, and in 1848, 16 were baptized. In 1850 the Pine Barren Baptist Association was organized and commenced the session with the Bear Creek Church on the Saturday before the third Sunday in October 1850. At that time Bear Creek had 60 members. Reverend Hugh G. Owen was pastor.  His pastorate lasted 22 years. In 1877  Bear Creek led the association in baptisms with 21. It did so again in 1881 with 27 baptisms reported and a membership of 105. Reverend A. A. Sims was pastor.  Mr. D. P. Watts became church clerk in 1885. He held that position for the next 64 years until his death in 1949. He was also treasurer for many of those years. The Jones, Philip Sadler, Sheffield, Turner, Watson, and Watts families and others were all actively involved in the Bear Creek Church.  The Bear Creek Church record was last included in the 1962 associational minutes with a membership of 38.

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