Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2022

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season with family and friends. We have an exciting 2022 ahead of us. We will build on last year’s unprecedented success to continue our positive impact in Wilcox County. Thank you all for being part of the team!

 Please plan on attending our next meeting, Sunday afternoon, February 20th, at 2:00 pm at the Female Institute. The Board will be presenting the renderings and floor plans for the expansion of the Institute. We have received four versions and after discussion and revisions have come up with an exciting product that preserves the original look of the building while making it functional for our current and future needs. We look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Thank everyone that has already contributed to this project. The WHS Classes of 1962 and 1963 gave a generous contribution to the Female Institute in honor of Governor Kay Ivey last month and others targeted year-end donations that were matched by their employers. In addition, we are continuing to explore grant options to help us raise the needed funds to complete this important project.

As if that were not enough, many of you have given generously in memory of WHS Member Palmer Hamilton. Your contributions will go toward the preservation of our historic buildings which he was so passionate about. Thank you all for honoring his legacy.

Our Tour of Homes in Historic Furman with Guest Speaker P. Allen Smith is right around the corner! Ticket sales online have been quite strong thus far with a majority of tickets sold being our Friday/Saturday VIP Ticket. Tickets are now available locally in Camden at The Pecan on Broad, Fox and Hen, and in Oak Hill at The Brittany House Antiques. I strongly suggest you get your tickets early as the Friday Night Reception is on track to sell out.

We need your help working as home guides this year. There will be shifts, so you will have plenty of time to see the homes on Tour. Ms. Mary Glen Grant is our volunteer coordinator this year. She can be reached at maryglengrant@protonmail.com. Please help us make the Tour a great success by volunteering!

I am happy to announce the continuation of our Concert Series in 2022! We are currently planning a concert in April/May and one in July as well. Your support of these special events has allowed us to continue to bring great music to Wilcox County. It is our plan to expand these special events to allow children from our schools to experience the music during the day before the evening concerts. We will release the dates as soon as they are available.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to visit the Pieces of History Exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Pieces of History tell the story of early 19th century Southerners and what they moved with them, purchased, made, and used while they made homes and lives and includes pieces of furniture and stories from Wilcox County. I had the pleasure of seeing the exhibition in New Orleans and it is really fantastic. It is in Montgomery until April 10th.

We made great strides in 2021 and have big plans this year. Make sure to renew your membership to continue to be a part of this special organization. Thank you for your support and I hope to see all of you on February 20th!

Sincerely,

Lance Britt, WHS President      

WELCOME to new members: from Alabama –John and Lou Harmon of Pine Apple, Governor Kay Ivey of Montgomery, and Gill and Robyn Deitheim of Birmingham. And welcome to new member Jeri Jones of Commerce City, Colorado!

And welcome to new Life Members –Linn and Trisha Pritchett of Minter, Alabama! Thank you all for joining the WHS!

TOUR OF HOMES UPDATE 

As you know, our Tour of Homes in Furman is Saturday, March 26th with a Welcome Reception Friday night, March 25th. To date, we have already sold over $10,000 in tickets to this year’s Tour. With your help we will make this year’s Tour another success.

There are two tickets this year. Our VIP Ticket is $100 and gets you in to both the Welcome Reception Friday night at Wakefield and Saturday’s Tour. The standard ticket is $50 and is a Saturday only ticket. WHS Members receive a $10 discount on their tickets when you purchase them locally. The discount is not available through eventbrite.com. All ticket holders will get breakfast at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill Saturday morning from 8:30 – 10:00.

The weekend starts for our VIP Guests with Friday night’s Cocktail Reception at Wakefield in Furman at 6:00 pm with Guest Speaker P. Allen Smith, renown Landscape Designer, speaking at 7:00. The Pecan on Broad will be providing all the hor d’oeuvres, wine, and other refreshments. We are very thankful for their continued support as a Platinum Sponsor of Tour this year as well as the Fox and Hen. Valet parking will be provided at Wakefield Friday night.

This year’s Tour will feature eight homes and two churches as well as other historical buildings in Furman. Homes on tour include the Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, c. 1885; Wakefield Plantation, c. 1840s; Magnolia Glen – the Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, c. 1833; Laura Ann – the Watson-Moorer-Tabor Home, c. 1860; Rockwood – the Cox-Robbins-Kennedy-Snyder Home, c. 1855; Deerfield – the Perdue-Williams-Estes-Suggs Home, c. 1895; Fox Hill, c. 1840s; and Patience Plantation, c. 1841. The churches on tour are Bethsaida Baptist Church, c. 1858 and Furman Methodist Church, c. 1857.

All guests, including WHS Members, will register at Furman Methodist Church (across the street from the Post Office) upon arrival either Friday or Saturday to receive their arm band for the weekend.

As previously mentioned, we need your help as house guides this year. You will have time before or after your shift to see the other homes on Tour and you will be given the information about your assigned home in advance so you will know what to share with our guests. Please contact Mary Glen Grant to volunteer. She can be reached at maryglengrant@protonmail.com.  We need your help!

Laura Ann – the Watson-Moorer-Tabor Home, Furman, Alabama

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT – Laura and Kent Tabor

We met in January, 1974. I was attending Riverside Military Academy; she was attending public school. I informed Rita, Laura’s mom, that I was going to marry their daughter when we graduated. 

We married right after high school, 1976. We spent the first two years of our married life in Germany, I was in the Army Military Police, and discharged from the Army in 1979 after serving my obligation. While there we were impressed at the history and age of things around us. We visited many old castles and villages.

Kandace was born in Germany, 1978, and was seven weeks premature. Kelli was born in 1981 in Michigan. We have five grandchildren ranging in age from 10 to 15.

Laura and I worked together off and on, in the family business in Michigan until 1982 when we left for sunny Florida. Laura worked in Port Everglades and I learned to install carpet and then run a warehouse. In 1985 we moved back to Michigan. I went back to school during the nights and Laura worked days for a company in the accounting department. I got my Bachelors in Business Management and shortly thereafter re-joined the family business where I stayed for the next twenty-five years. Laura worked in our accounting department for many years. When the girls entered high school, Laura decided she would remain home. When we sold the business in 2017, we had over one hundred employees.

We have always been drawn to older homes that seem comfortable and in need of a little TLC. The majority of homes we owned have been at least 100 years old.

We also enjoy attending auctions that feature antiques and unusual items.

While deer hunting in Eufaula in 2017, I really liked the feeling of Alabama and the South. We talked about finding a small place in Alabama but did not really pursue that idea.

We found Furman by a twist of fate.

In 2018 we booked a hog hunt in Beatrice, Monroe County, Alabama.  While there I had my lap top out and was looking for available land. It turned out that our host was also a real estate agent. Laura and I both wanted something small and manageable. The agent kept taking us to properties that did not fit with what we were imagining. 

Laura has joined me on many hunts and has often been the only woman at camp. She gets along with people and has helped recover harvested animals. (Ask her about Newfoundland someday.)

We were browsing the internet when we came upon the Moorer house being sold through Great Southern Land Company in Camden. Our agent reached out to Don Donald and set up a meeting. We toured Furman first, and Mr. Donald pointed out many of the homes and gave us some history about the area. Our first positive note was Don’s welcoming attitude.

When the Moorer house came into view it was an “Oh wow!” moment. I looked at Laura and said, SOLD. She told me to hold on. As we approached the house, I noticed that Laura was very interested and knew that we had found our winter home. The house was not in great shape but as they say “the bones are good.” The hand planed walls and the circa 1855 build date were an added bonus.

We made an offer on the home and it was accepted. Soon afterwards we met Pastor Don Bell and attended Bethsaida Church. We immediately felt accepted by the congregation and the community.

Out initial intention for the house was a modest clean-up and upgrading of structure. Ha.

Laura and I contacted Don Bell to help us move the stairway out of the dogtrot. That was the beginning of over a year long restoration of the house. We installed all new plumbing, wiring and HVAC and a front and back porch. The original structure has been shored up and repaired where needed; all piers under the house were replaced. The heart pine floors were repaired (there had been some termite damage). Four fireplaces were constructed in their original locations. Mortises and pegs hold the original structure together. The septic system was replaced when we inadvertently let trucks delivering 32,000 bricks for fireplace and pier repairs crush our septic field. The fence in front of the house is of period design and is made of almost 1,000 pickets! It is a work in progress.

We are keeping the original house as close to period as possible. Our living space is attached to the back of the house. With the help of Lance Britt and Brittany House Antiques, we have been slowing furnishing the house. Our home, named Laura Ann, is pictured at the beginning of this article.

We are also in the process of renovating the old Hunt House, acquired in 2019 in Furman with the intention of making it an Airbnb. It was constructed sometime in the late 1800s. The house will be a mixture of old and new. The original part of the house will be put back as close to period as possible and the addition will be updated. The house was in terrible shape when purchased. The back roof had holes in it and the floor was rotted. Every time it rained there was a creek running under the house! All of this has been remediated. With Don Bell’s help we replaced the entire back wall of the house when we found the base had rot and was structurally unsound. The house should be complete sometime late March 2022.

From there we will begin a modest update of the Speir’s home in Furman. We are not sure yet how in depth the renovation will be.

We now live in Furman year-round. We love the feeling of community. Laura and I were baptized in 2020 at Bethsaida Church in the newly discovered baptismal; the first baptisms to take place there in over a hundred years.   

Furman National Historic District

A HISTORY OF FURMAN

As written on the Furman National Historic District historical marker that was erected by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Community of Furman in April 2010.

Representing 10,300 acres with 73 buildings, and 14 structures, the Furman Historic District, encompassing Old Snow Hill Road, Wilcox County Road 59, Burson Road, and AL 21, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 13, 1999. The town’s history began circa 1802 when the first settlers came to the area from South Carolina. Most of the Wilcox County towns, including Furman, were settled by Scottish, Irish, and English, however, some of the early settlers of Furman also came from the South Carolina low country and were of French ancestry. In the early 1800s, the William Snow family settled on a high hill north of present-day Furman, now the site of Old Snow Hill Cemetery. Thus, the early community was known as Snow’s Hill. It was renamed Furman in 1872 after the town of Furman, South Carolina. A new community was founded a few miles to the west and named Snow Hill. Furman Academy was a popular school in the late 1800s with students from across the state.

Most of the earliest settlers came from the Carolinas. Family groups included, among others, the Albrittons, Carters, Lees, Palmers, Purifoys, Gulleys, McCondiches, Bursons, Hearsts, Stablers, Powells, and the Simpsons after the Civil War. The town’s most notable citizens have included persons such as Elkanah Burson, an attaché to General Robert E. Lee and John Purifoy, a member of Company C who later served Alabama as Secretary of State. Mr. Burson, an original member of the Wilcox True Blues Company, delivered the Confederacy surrender papers to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox. He returned home to Furman and later served in the Alabama House of Representatives. Direct descendants of these original settlers have continued to own homes and property in Furman. Landmarks include Trails End, Patience Plantation, Wakefield Plantation, Fox Hill Plantation, Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, McCondiche-Stabler Home, Purifoy-Lipscomb Home, Perdue-Williams-Estes Home, Watson-Moorer Home, Burson-Rushing Home, Robbins-Kennedy Home, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, and Hopewell Church.

D O N A T I O N S

Many thanks for your gifts and continuing support!

In Honor of Governor Kay Ivey for the Wilcox Female Institute Restoration Project from the Wilcox County High School Class of 1962 and the Wilcox County High School Class of 1963

In Honor of Arthur Joe Grant from Bud and Penny Selsor

In Honor of Garland Smith from Peggy Heard Galis and Henry and Carolyn Ray

To Be Used for the Wilcox Female Institute Restoration Project from Pippa Nicholson-Kuenn

In Memory of Palmer Hamilton from Mr. and Mrs. Jason Puckett, Mr. Thomas C. McGehee, Mr. and Mrs. Lathrop Smith, The Pecan on Broad – Mr. Chris Bailey and Mr. Ryan Dunagan, Mr. and Mrs. George Patton Kyser, Mr. and Mrs. Brock Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Peck, and Mr. and Mrs. Schley Rutherford

A memorial, birthday, anniversary or just a nice way to say thank you can be done in a donation to the Wilcox Historical Society. Your donation is tax deductible. Donations can be mailed to: WHS, P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726 or contact our Treasurer, Mary Margaret Kyser for more details. She can be reached at 334.324.9353 or m2kyser54@aol.com.

WHS November Meeting

Souvenirs of Travel: Southerners on the Grand Tour

On Sunday afternoon, November 14th, a large crowd of members and guests of the WHS gathered at the historical Wilcox Female Institute in Camden to hear Jeff Mansell, Lead Historian, of the Natchez National Historical Park in Natchez, Mississippi. A native of Pickens, Mississippi, Mansell spent 21 years directing private, non-profit preservation organizations across the country prior to his being at Natchez. A wonderful program about travel in the antebellum era by Southern travelers and the objects they acquired on their European journeys was given by Mansell. Mrs. Pie Malone had a wonderful array of food for all at the reception following the presentation. It was an enjoyable afternoon.

WHS CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE AT WAKEFIELD

Wakefield was the site of our annual Christmas Open House Saturday, December 4th. Mrs. Pie Malone provided wonderful holiday food that included homemade gingerbread cookies. The home was adorned with four live Christmas trees, live garlands, greenery, and poinsettias throughout in preparation for a photo shoot the following Monday for the 2022 Christmas issue of Victoria Magazine. The beautiful floral arrangements were the creation of Ryan Dunagan. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon and getting to see the house decorated for Christmas.

The Wilcox Historical Society would like to thank Dr. Sylvia Burson-Rushing and Mr. Tom Rushing for once again opening their beautiful home for us. They have spent the last eighteen months working on the restoration of Wakefield’s interior and have brought many original pieces back to their historic home. We look forward to seeing their efforts showcased in Victoria Magazine later this year and at the Welcome Reception in March!

CHRISTMAS CONCERTS IN CAMDEN

The Female Institute was once again host to the Harvest Arts Duo on December 17th and 18th. Hannah and Madeline amazed us all with the premier of their first Christmas album. The chocolate pie at intermission was a big hit as well. Over two hundred people enjoyed one of their five visits to Wilcox County last year! They plan to return in 2022 to not only perform evening concerts, but also do events for our schools as well. We look forward to their return and expanding the Concert Series this year.


PIECES OF HISTORY EXHIBITION

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is the final stop of the Pieces of History Exhibition that includes furniture and stories from right here in Wilcox County! It was organized by the Decorative Arts of the Gulf South Project highlighting their best finds from the last ten years of documenting objects in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They visited Wilcox County during the summer of 2017. Their director, Sarah Duggan, has spoken at two of our meetings in recent years. We encourage you to attend this special exhibition that runs until April 10, 2022 at the MMFA.

THE MMFA’S DESCRIPTION In the early 19th century, the American South was the destination for the earliest settlers who ventured from the Eastern seaboard to what was then considered to be “the west” to find land and opportunity. Some came by choice—seeking new business opportunities, to establish homes and families—others were brought with them, without choice, as property. But each of them left their marks in the land and in the culture of the Gulf South.

Pieces of History tells the story of these people and what they moved with them, purchased, made, and used while they made homes and lives. What we today call “decorative arts” or “material culture” convey their legacies, in many ways speaking more eloquently than the rare written words which survive the centuries. Their domestic furnishings, whether elegant or humble, speak to the routines of daily life and bring places distant in time back into focus. Many objects are familiar and have counterparts in our own lives, while others have lost their usefulness or significance in modern societies.

The exhibition will recreate spaces that were found in homes of the 19th-century Gulf South with furnishings that would have been used there. In the homes of the wealthy, these furnishings were often shipped great distances, from Eastern seaboard cities such as Boston or Philadelphia, through the ports of Mobile or New Orleans, making their way by ship over sea and river to rooms in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. In other cases, furnishings locally crafted sought to mimic the styles of these imported pieces with more rudimentary craftsmanship.

The exhibition was organized by the staff and fellows of the Decorative Arts of the Gulf South Project housed at the Historic New Orleans Collection, which researches and maintains records of decorative arts found in the early 19th-century Gulf South. In Montgomery, theshow isexpanded to include loans of furnishings and materials from Alabama’s Black Belt and the central Alabama region from the collections of the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and private lenders.

First Baptist Church, Pine Apple

History of the First Baptist Church, Pine Apple, Alabama

By Patricia Westbrook and James Suggs

The First Baptist Church, Pine Apple, Alabama was established in 1898 as the colored, First Baptist Church. It has been in existence for 123 years and is still in the original location. The original building became delipidated and had to be replaced. However, the doors to the fellowship hall, the banister that divides the choir stand, and some of the lumber is from the original building.

Although the church was founded in 1898 and erected with the permission of the owner of the land, the land was officially donated by J.T. Adams and his wife, Pauline Davidson Adams on September 7, 1949. The Adams originally donated one acre, which encompasses the church building and cemetery. In later years the Adams family donated another acre for room to grow.

The building on site was built in 1969. The church bell that stands in the tower to this day is the original bell from the old building. Furnishings and other items that are still in use from the original church are the ladder back choir chairs and the communion set, with glasses.

The deacons that were instrumental in establishing the church were: Dec. Curtis Hardaway, Dec. Johnny Stanford, and Dec. John Palmore.  In later years, the church service was led by Rev. Holt, Rev. N.P Smith, and Rev. Isaiah Posey. As the church grew, other deacons that served the church included Dec. Howard Mahan, Dec. Moses Suggs, Sr., Dec. Zelvis Hines, Dec. Leeguster Arnold, Dec. Edwards, Dec. Blackmon, and Dec. Tommy Arnold. At the present, deacons are Dec. Prince Arnold, Chairman, Dec. James Suggs, Co-Chairman, Dec. Moses Arnold and Dec. Henry Blackmon.

THE STORY OF YELLOW BLUFF, ALABAMA –

COMMUNITY AND POST OFFICE

By Ila S. Shamburger, postmaster

Yellow Bluff, in Wilcox County, Alabama was a river landing on the Alabama River and was named for the steep red or yellow clay bank just below the landing.

Mr. James (Jim) McCall was the first postmaster.

The Reverend George Fontaine lived in the house on the river bank before Mr. McCall, the first postmaster, occupied it. Rev. Fontaine was my husband’s grandfather. He moved out into the hills.

Mr. McCall had several children. A son, Dan McCall (who was born at Yellow Bluff landing), lived at Thomasville, Ala. One son, John McCall brought his father to visit the cemetery several years ago. People still gather at the cemetery on the second Friday in July each year to cut the bushes and clean off enough so that the graves are visible. Several graves have been marked in recent years. A fence is maintained around the cemetery. Mr. McCall sold his home and moved to Pine Hill.

Mr. Pat Matheson was the second postmaster. He married Miss Lucy Gaines of Lower Peach Tree. He passed several years ago. “Miss Lucy” moved to Birmingham. She was past 90.

J.P. Shamburger was the third postmaster. His sister, Mrs. M.L. Kirven bought the McCall house. After college and nursing training she married Dr. McLean Pitts. Mrs. Pitt’s grandmother was Helen C. Norris Shamburger.

Robert Lee Hawthorne of Camden was the next postmaster.

During the years of the Civil War there were a number of families at the river landing and out in the hills about two miles away. Some of the families were: Dr. Oats, Redden Tyler, several families of Sheffields, Dr. Williams, Alfred and Gus Bright, Mr. Joe Bryan, the Hamp Jordan family, the Griffins or Griffiths (who moved to Texas), J.R. Davis, and his sister, Alice, Rev. George Fontaine, William Kirven (of Jefferson) who married Mary Lee Shamburger, Walter and Bob Kirk, who were nephews of J.R. Davis, a Mrs. Betty Sheffield, a widow, who had a son, Frank and a daughter Alice. Alice went to Coy. Frank went to Clarke County.

When you walk through the cemetery you read: McNeil, Tom Nettles, Jordan, Wright, Tyler, Daniels, George Mayton and his wife Elizabeth and small daughter, Martin Dumas, Mrs. Ella Pitts, the daughter of William and Mary Kirven and sister of Oscar Shamburger Kirven (his grave, like a number of others, is unmarked). Dr. John Godbold’s mother and sister Lily and infant are among the graves in the old cemetery. Lily Godbold was the wife of Gus Bright.

In 1909 there were 20 families in the hills.

The Mt. Andrew Church was first a Methodist church. Mt. Pisgah, at Bethel, about three miles away, was Baptist. As years went by, people moved. There were not enough Methodists left to keep the church going. Many Baptists moved their membership from Pisgah to Pine Hill. The Baptists that were left at Yellow Bluff bought the church building from the Methodists and had prayer services and preaching (once a month). Rev. Tom Paul from Grove Hill was the last pastor.

The hills now show little signs of any people who ever lived there. 

Editor’s Note: The Story of Yellow Bluff, Alabama – Community and Post Office history was first published in the July, 1958 issue of The Bama Postmaster. It was reprinted in the Alabama Genealogical Society’s Volume 20 – Nos 3 & 4, 1988 magazine, pages 109-110.  With permission of the AGS, it is included in this issue of our newsletter.

Give the Gift of Membership

Gift memberships are now available! Help us grow our membership and take pride in the history of Wilcox County. If you are interested in gifting a membership to a friend or family member for a birthday or other special occasion let us know. We will mail them a beautiful gift certificate along with our latest newsletter. For more information, please contact us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.   

Rosemary Plantation

ROSEMARY PLANTATION AND ITS PEOPLE

WILCOX COUNTY, ALABAMA

By Carter Fowlkes

The lovely and serene Rosemary Plantation sits near the Alabama River, about 10 miles northwest of Camden.  The home was built circa 1856 by Peter E. Mathews and his wife Virginia on roughly 2,000 acres of land planted originally in cotton.  Mathews’ father, Col. Charles L. Mathews, moved to Alabama from Goose Pond, Georgia soon after Alabama became a state in 1819 with his four sons, and began acquiring land.  Each son became a successful planter himself.  Oldest son George William Mathews (1807-1880) is buried beneath a large monument in the Camden Cemetery with his wife Lucy Mayhew.  The two other sons were Joel E. and Thomas M. Mathews.

The Peter Mathews Family

Virginia was the oldest child of Martha Hatcher and Fielding Vaughan of Cambridge, Dallas County, Alabama. (now Crumptonia).  She and Peter had three daughters.  Daughter Virginia died at age 7 in 1854 and Anna died three weeks later at age 12.  Peter died in 1856 at age 39.  The last daughter, Martha, known as Mattie, survived childhood and married Nathaniel Rives Chambliss in 1865, only to die two months after her wedding.  All four were buried in the Joel E. Mathews family cemetery near Cahaba.  But Virginia continued to manage family lands, including Rosemary, during her widowhood.  

Anna Gayle Fry in her book “Memories of Old Cahaba” describes the antebellum formal balls held in Cahaba and mentions “Mrs. Virginia Mathews in her point lace and diamonds, with the air and manner of an empress.”

Virginia Vaughan Mathews

Virginia lived on alone until her death in 1891.  In her Will she directed that her daughters and husband all be exhumed and reburied with her in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma.  That was done by her nephew and co-executor, Sam Fowlkes (the author’s great-grandfather) at a cost to her estate of over $1,200 to move the bodies and monuments.  They all rest in Live Oak today.

Rosemary, then known simply as “The Mathews Place” was inherited by nephew Frank Cade in 1897.  He lived there until his death in 1935. His wife Mary lived there almost until her death in 1962. Frank Cade Jr. moved back into Rosemary in 1968 until his own death in 1987.  So, the place was owned and occupied by the same family for 131 years.  In 1989 Watson Jones of Camden purchased the 2,000-acre plantation from the Frank Cade estate.  Today it is owned by his son Brock Jones of Tuscaloosa, who is conscientiously slowly restoring it, being mindful and appreciative of its long history.  Rosemary is presently rented to a hunting club.

In 1970 Frank Cade Jr. wrote a brief history of Rosemary, based on his own experiences and stories of his parents.  Shortly after moving in around 1900, his mother Mary named it Rosemary, not after her roses or her own name, but for the fragrant herb, since “Rosemary means remembrance.”  Mary also undertook to enlarge the one-story house, adding a second story and large staircase around 1900-1905.  The staircase is unusual in that it rises from the middle of the main hallway to the upper level.  Her objective, Frank recalled, was to screen the view out the back of the main hall, consisting of outbuildings and objects she thought detracted from the view.  She did have a large flower garden too, plus roses that lined both sides of the driveway for more than a mile. 

Frank also described a Sunday school class for the African Americans living on the property that his mother ran for over 40 years.  He attended at times himself and recalls the joyous hymns and Bible education that the children received.

Shipping up and down the river would stop at the floating dock near the house known as “Mattie’s Landing.”   The Miller’s Ferry dam nearby has changed the configuration of the river at Rosemary, but the area of the landing still exists.

Mattie Mathews Chambliss

Mattie Mathews Chambliss’ portrait as a young lady, hangs in Sturdivant Hall in Selma today.  She had no connection to Sturdivant, but Cade donated the portrait in 1960 and Sturdivant uses the portrait to represent antebellum life in the Black Belt.

Rosemary Plantation has 165 years of storied history and a bright future as well!

Carter Fowlkes was born in Selma in 1944 and lives in Atlanta.  His great, great grandmother Mary Fielding Vaughan Cobb was a sister of Virginia Vaughan Mathews.  His great grandparents, Pinkie and Samuel Fowlkes, lived in Rehoboth.  Samuel was a member of the Wilcox County Revenue Commission and was elected to the state legislature in the 1880s as a representative from Wilcox County.   Carter has enjoyed, in retirement, exploring his Wilcox County connections. 

Carter thanks Brock Jones, who also contributed to this article. 

Inquiries and Comments 

We often receive genealogical and local history inquiries on the WHS Facebook page, Instagram page and website. If you have any information to help with these inquiries, please let us know and we will be happy to pass it along or put you in contact with the interested party. Our email address is wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or you can text or call Martha Lampkin at 334.296.1076. We also love receiving comments on our posts on social media. The more comments, likes and shares also help our posts be viewed by more people. Here are a few inquiries and comments received since our last newsletter:

I am writing a book on the July 6, 1863 Battle of Hagerstown, Maryland during the Confederate withdrawal from Gettysburg. I have found reference to a 2 LT William W. Williams, a native of Allenton, Alabama, who was killed on July 5 between Smithsburg and Boonsboro, Maryland. He enlisted in the US Army artillery in 1859, and in late 1862 he was discharged to accept a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in Battery E, 4th US Artillery. I am finding precious little on this individual. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. S. Bockmiller, Waynesboro, PA

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shared with Mr. Bockmiller was the following information: Found in the 1830 US Federal Census for Wilcox County was William Williams. Also found was reference to the Last Will & Testament of William Williams. His Estate was to be kept together until the death of his wife or she remarries. If she remarries, she is to receive an equal portion with the children Milly Malinda, William W., Mary E., Iduma, Edward B. & Prudence A. Williams. Executors to be Isaac & Henry Newberry with Witnesses Edward Bowin, E.H.J. Motley & U.C. Banks. Signed 4/8/1847. Proven 6/21/1847

Do you have information about a National Geographic article about the courthouse in Camden, AL? I don’t know a date for the article, possibly 1940s, 50s or 60s. Thank you for any help you can provide. E. Goltry, Beaver Dams, NY

II know it’s been a LONG time since I contacted you about the Bloxom family. Albert Bloxom moved to Louisiana with his family sometime after the war and after his trip to Brazil. I come through the line of his son named Seneca Bloxom. Albert Bloxom was a son of Washington Bloxom. I am hopefully going to visit Wilcox County between Nov 13-18, 2021. I am so excited to visit and see exactly where my relatives lived. I know you wrote that your parents actually own the old Bloxom house (which is so amazing to me). I know with this Covid stuff I probably won’t be able to go inside the house, but I’d like to drive by. Is there a way you could give me the address to the old house? Are there any places I should visit while I’m here? B. Dolan, LA

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Washington Bloxom house, circa 1840s, is located on County Road 7 in Pine Apple. It is owned by WHS Members, Harold and Virginia Grimes. When Wiley Watts and Elizabeth Thigpen married in 1868, James Thigpen, Elizabeth’s father, bought and gave it to her for her wedding dowry. Wiley Watts is the great, great grandfather of Harold Watts Grimes. Ms. Dolan was also directed to the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery in Pine Apple where several members of the Bloxom family are buried.

Email Comment from WHS Member:

I felt the urge to write and tell you how great the WHS is doing.  I remember the start of this organization around “saving the Female Institute” for which my grandmother Lena Tucker Miller Albritton was so dedicated! She would be amazed today and by bearing her name (and I cherish this) I am proud to be a member. Her biggest disappointment back in the 1970s was the destruction of the Train Depot building.  So glad Pine Hill saved the one there.  

Fast forward to today and I dream of a time we will be closer to Wilcox County so Sam and I can take part in all the various activities.  Thank you for all you do for the wonderful organization! L. Hall, Alexandra, VA

From a WHS Facebook post from RuralSWAlabama.org of the Hawthorne House in Pine Apple

So much history! We would visit Gladys Hawthorne and enjoy her stories. J. Melton

So beautiful! S. Matrango

From a WHS Facebook post from RuralSWAlabama.org of the Tait-Starr Home aka White Columns in Possum Bend

The J.M.W. Turner connection is magical! B. Barrett

From a WHS Facebook post shared from Lee Peacock – “News Highlights from 100-year-old editions of the Wilcox Progressive Era newspaper in Camden, Alabama from January 1922” featuring a current photo of Coast to Coast in Camden (formerly Matthews Hardware)

Always enjoy stopping in the former Matthews Hardware. My grandmother’s brother, Hunter McDuffie, married Bess Matthews in 1933 and sadly died in 1941. Buried in Camden Cemetery. T. McGehee

From a WHS Facebook and Instagram post for Tombstone Tuesday of Elkanah George Burson, MD (1882-1970)

I remember Dr. Burson well. Mother would take me to Furman when I was sick to see Dr. Burson. Sometimes she would use Dr. Burson, sometimes Dr. Thompson in Pine Apple and sometimes Dr. Paul in Camden. bethyoder14

He delivered my mother-in-law when they lived in the cottage. melanie.andress.3

Our family doctor, we loved him. M.F. Nichols

WHS DATES TO MARK ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • Sunday, February 20, 2022, 2PM – WHS Meeting, Wilcox Female Institute
  • Friday–Saturday, March 25–26, 2022, Tour of Homes, Furman

A LOOK BACK…  

30 December 1896

Wilcox Progressive Era

Miss Bessie Lee Marshall, a charming young lady who has been attending the Wilcox Female Institute, has returned home at Perdue Hill to the regret of her many friends.

We regret to learn of the serious illness of Mr. W.R. Alford and Dr. W.M. Bryant of Canton. They are both improving under the skillful attention of Drs. Jones.

Hon. W. W. McConnico of Allenton, Ex-Sheriff Herrington of Monroe County, Mr. Enoch Burson of Fatama, and many of our county citizens were in the city last Monday.

17 January 1901

Wilcox Progressive Era

Oak Hill Items

Several of our agriculturalists, who had begun plowing, had to suspend, on account of excessive rains.

Mr. Sam Grace, of Bell’s Landing, has been visiting relatives at Oak Hill.

It is said that our colonial forefathers cured headaches by kissing a pretty girl. How would the girls like such treatment now?

Master Jodie Hall Jones left after the holidays to enter the Marion Military Institute.

Mrs. Nettie Booth, nee McBryde, of Glendon, Ala. visited her mother and relatives, at Oak Hill, and on returning, was accompanied by her mother Mrs. L.A. McBryde.

Wanted: – A passable, (not a good) road, from Oak Hill to Allenton Depot. In wanting this, I trust the reader will not think the writer selfish, in leaving out other roads. Wanting and wishing, for good roads, seems to be all that is, or can be, done; and those interested in the road question, must do their own wanting and wishing. With few exceptions, our roads are a disgrace to the county.

Mr. and Mrs. Claude Jones, of Mount Hope, have been visiting relatives in our midst.

We are pleased to report the convalescence of Mrs. Dr. Perdue, visiting at Nadawah, who has been seriously ill with typhoid fever.

Mr. J.H. McWilliams and family, and Mr. Geo Kyser, attended the Hill-Melton wedding at Pine Apple.

Mr. Clarence B. Jones and bride, formerly Miss Janie Harper, of Rosebud, left on the 5th inst., for their home in the Lone Star State. The bride’s host of friends regret to see her departure.

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Martin have moved to McWilliams to take charge of the hotel, recently erected at that place. Mrs. T.M. McWilliams and family, have moved from their plantation into the home vacated by Mr. Martin.

One of our young men, who is on “the carpet” says that in every one hundred letters written by the fair sex, 99 of them have postscripts, are written on the margins and across the lines.

Did you have the bears, monkeys and Turks, with you Mr. Editor? We did, and some of our young Caucasians evidently were so much smitten with the show, that they wanted to be clowns and try the trapeze.

18 December 1902

Wilcox Progressive Era

New Bank

A new and the first incorporated Bank in Wilcox County was determined on in Pine Apple on 13th inst. The amt. of subscribed capital required by law has been secured and cash paid in capital of $15000.00 has been secured mostly by local parties. The bank will open for business in a short while. The personnel of the organization stamps it as a success in the beginning. The officers will be: W.H. Lloyd – President, J.I. Adams – Vice President, H.C. DuBose – Cashier. Directors: W.H. Grimes, Henry Melton, Jno Miller, J.S. Patterson, Claude Hardy, W.R. Mills, J.F. Melton.

Watch out for dividends and surplus and the advance of stock on the market.

11 August 1933

Greenville Advocate

Dr. and Mrs. P.V. Speir were hosts last Thursday to a large crowd of Wilcox and Butler County friends at their plantation near Furman. Mr. and Mrs. Wyeth Speir and Mr. and Mrs. Will Faison had prepared a barbecue dinner, which was served under the moss-covered cedar trees in the large pasture.

After the dinner, which consisted of barbecued meats, Brunswick stew, pickles, sliced tomatoes, salads, cold drinks and cake, all deliciously prepared, and served picnic style, Dr. Speir called on a number of guests for talks. Circuit Judge Gamble, Probate Judge McLeod of Wilcox and Probate Judge Golson of Butler, Tax Assessor Watts of Wilcox and Tax Collector Calhoun of Butler and others made interesting short talks.

Hon. D.M. Powell was the principal speaker, and he made a most enjoyable address, reminiscing of the days of his boyhood spent in the neighborhood where the barbecue took place.

Judge Purifoy, of Furman, introduced Dr. Philip Speir, who has recently returned to Greenville, after completing medical college and hospital training to join with his father in the practice of medicine here. Mr. Purifoy stated that Furman gave Greenville one of her best citizens when Dr. Speir came here, and is giving one of the “finest boys that ever lived” in young Dr. Speir.

The large crowd was served bountifully of the barbecue dinner, and then the plantation “hands” were fed. A third group to be given dinner was the crowd of Negros from nearby plantations who had gathered at the scene of the barbecue, probably drawn there by the smell of meats and stew as it was cooked in the open.  

12 March 1942

Wilcox Progressive Era

Furman P.T.A.

PTA met at the school house Tuesday, at 4 p.m. with Mrs. M.L. Knight presiding. The minutes and financial report were given and old business dispensed with.

Plans were completed for entertainment and supper Friday night, March 13th. Hank Williams and his band will be here. Supper will be sold before entertainment.

Those present were: Mrs. J.S. Williams, Mrs. W.G. Williams, Mrs. P. Newsome, Mrs. J.P. Cunningham, Mrs. Mary Griffin, Mrs. M.L. Knight, Mrs. R.F. Ray, and one visitor Mrs. Paul Shanks.

Everybody is invited to come early Friday night.

18 February 1962

Wilcox Progressive Era

What’s Done in School

Wilcox Female Institute

The information about the Wilcox Female Institute at Camden was taken from Mrs. M.E. Curtis’s scrapbook. According to this scrapbook a copy of the deed for the Institute shows that the indenture was made and entered into June 29, 1850, transferring the property from John P. Fairley and his wife Martha Fairley and James A. Tait to L.W. Mason, Joseph George, and their associate stockholders of the Wilcox Female Institute. This paper was assigned before John H. Jackson, probate judge of Wilcox County. The price of the land for the site of the Institute was $400. When efforts were made to raise $10,000 for the erection of the building, people pledged amounts varying from $25.00 to $200.00

—-

In January 1851, the newspaper, The Southern Republic, carried the notice of the first year of the school. The Board of Visitors of this institution take pleasure in announcing to the patrons and to the public that the institution, having almost completed five months of the first session, is in a most prosperous and flourishing condition. The second term of the session will begin the second Monday in February. The Institute will be continued under the management of its founder and present able principal, Mrs. Upson. Mrs. Maxwell and Mrs. Reynolds will be associated with Mrs. Upson. The boarding house connected with the establishment will be continued under the management of Mrs. L.W. Mason, who has given, so far, entire satisfaction. Tuition rates for a five months’ term are as follows: Primary Classes $10.00, More Advanced Classes $15.00, Higher English $18.00, The Languages, ancient and modern, $15.00, Music with use of instrument $25.00, Painting and embroidery, $15.00, Incidental expenses, $1.00. Board at the seminary and town $8.00 to $9.00 per month.

—-

John C. Andrews from New York was the first music teacher of the Wilcox Female Institute. His family lived in the house now occupied by Mrs. John Miller. Henry Andrews, one of the sons, wrote “Ripples of the Alabama,” a piano solo much loved by a former generation. In 1854-55, according to a handbill of the Institute, instruction in other musical instruments besides piano was offered. Instruction in harp was $80.00 and in all other instruments $12.50. Painting in oil was $20.00. Painting in water was $15.00. Drawing in pencil and crayon, $12.50. Ornamental needlework $12.50. Reverend Plott Stout was the agent of the board to collect money, and Reverend J.S. Bacon was principal.

—-

In 1868 the school opened under the principalship of Reverend John Miller, a graduate of Erskine College, Due West, S.C. This year about one hundred and twenty-five students were enrolled.

—-

Mr. Miller was an educator, and also an Associate Reformed Presbyterian preacher. He served as pastor at Bethel ARP Church in Oak Hill for thirty-one years. He was a man of rather slender build with dark hair and dark whiskers. He was very intelligent and very dignified, always wearing the garb of a preacher of his day, a Prince Albert coat of broadcloth. He owned and operated the Wilcox Female Institute for many years, having associated with him the best teachers that the county afforded.

—-

In 1870 Dr. Miller opened a school in Camden for men and boys entirely separate from the female college. On July 7, 1871 Dr. Miller retired as principal of the Institute. He was succeeded by Mrs. Amanda Blakenny and Mrs. Fannie Holman.

—-

The old Wilcox Female Institute building still stands and is in constant use as part of the Camden public school plant.

 22 August 1963

Wilcox Progressive Era

Old Female Institute to Be Preserved

The historic 115-year-old Wilcox Female Institute building in Camden will not be destroyed. This decision came Wednesday after much discussion at a meeting held in the Wilcox County High School and attended by several hundred persons throughout the county. Also present were Arthur Grant and Tom Kirkland, architects from Montgomery.

Following a lengthy discussion, the decision to leave the front part of the building containing two classrooms downstairs and two classrooms upstairs, was made. The rest of the building will be torn away because of the unsafe conditions and plans for the renovation of the old building are being made.

Recommendations from the architects were that adequate escapes, new rest room facilities new heating system and renovating be done on the building and quoted an approximate cost of $19,000 for the work.

The new vocational agriculture and home economics building will be located at approximately the same location as the present building. Schedule for construction will be announced as soon as architects can prepare plans which they could not do until the exact site was agreed upon. The present agricultural building is located at the rear of the gymnasium.

The old Female Institute building was constructed in 1848 when a board of citizens confronted with the problem of education made up subscriptions for the construction of the building. Part of the heritage of Wilcox County, it stands as a monument to over a hundred years of educational learning. The structure was built by slaves and the bricks used throughout came from the clay in the space now used as the athletic field of the Wilcox County High School.

25 December 1985

The Selma Times-Journal

Miss Rubye is honored by Wilcox Historical Society

Mrs. Sam Woodson prepared and delivered a concise biography of Mrs. Rubye Adele Rikard McWilliams (1885-1975) at the meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society at the Wilcox Female Institute, a few days before “Miss Rubye’s” 100th anniversary.

“Miss Rubye” who was the first woman in Alabama to be elected county tax collector and the only woman in Wilcox County to be elected to public office, so far, was Wilcox County tax collector for 14 years, 1934-1948, following the death of her husband, William Francis McWilliams, Wilcox County tax collector in 1934.

Mrs. McWilliams attended Montevallo College and the University of Alabama and taught in the Rikard School and Arlington School. She also taught music and on display was a photography of her music class in 1914.

“Miss Rubye” held several business positions in Selma and Pine Hill before her marriage and was highly regarded for her business acumen, her insights into human nature, her love, concern, and generosity for all persons, especially children.

Mrs. Woodson was introduced by the program chairman, William C. Griffin.

Mrs. Dan Bragg Cook and Mrs. William C. Griffin, nieces of “Miss Rubye” displayed a variety of “Miss Rubye’s” keepsakes including her baby trunk, her silver baby mug, tributes by her father, William Jacob Rikard, and her mother Lila Adele Nettles Rikard written in 1888, her favorite popular song, Red Wing, her wedding dress which she made herself.

Will Philpot, who is director of music at Camden Baptist Church, gave a timely devotional message on Thanksgiving using as scripture Psalms 100.

Mrs. Frank Cade who is president of the Wilcox Historical Society presided at the business session. Mrs. Oliver Steen, secretary, read minutes of the September meeting. Roy McIntosh gave the treasurer’s report. Appreciation was expressed to Mrs. William Darwin for arranging assembly room.    

If you are interested in submitting an article for the newsletter, please let us know! Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or send via snail mail to P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. We will be happy to review it for a future issue!

Don’t forget! Annual dues are $30 for a couple, $25 for single. Lifetime dues are $300 for a couple and $250 for single. Dues are renewed in January.  A membership form is available on our website: WilcoxHistoricalSociety.org. Or if you prefer, please mail dues to: P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726 and be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address and phone number. Payment may also be made with PayPal. Questions? Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks!

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