Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2022

Dear WHS Members,

I hope you are all well and are enjoying the change of weather. As you know it has been a very exciting fall for the Historical Society. From two great meetings and a fabulous Harvest Arts Concert to receiving another big grant and announcing Lady Carnarvon’s visit, we are making a big impact in Wilcox County. Thank you for being a part of this dynamic team!

We have so many reasons to be thankful. First, we are the largest civic organization in the county with well over 300 members and counting. We had not one, but two families contribute $10,000 each last month to start our first matching fund campaign for the Female Institute’s Restoration. As if that were not enough, the Hunter’s stepped forward as our first Diamond Sponsor of the Tour of Homes making Lady Carnarvon’s visit possible. Thank you all for your support, generosity, and enthusiasm for our Historical Society. Without you all, we would not be where we are today.

Even with all that has already happened this fall, we are just getting started. I am looking forward to guiding our first WHS Trip to Natchez, Mississippi, the first week of November. We will be exploring the architecture of this great Southern City with its majestic homes filled with antiques. While there our group will be dining in some of the finest homes in the South. It is the first of what I hope will be a number of travel opportunities for the WHS. We are already looking at options for next year from Charleston to Newport and beyond.

“Membership has its privileges…” they say. Your membership in the WHS gives you the first opportunity to purchase tickets (at a reduced rate) to the 2023 Tour of Homes in Pine Apple with our Guest Speaker, the Right Honorable Countess of Carnarvon of Highclere Castle. Lady Carnarvon has been fantastic to work with and is going to be a dynamic addition to the Tour. I hope you will all return the WHS Member Ticket Order Form on the last page of this Newsletter to guarantee your ticket to this year’s Tour.

The homeowners of Pine Apple have been hard at work since the spring preparing their homes for the Tour. Houses are being painted, floors refinished, drapes are being made, and furniture purchased to ensure that our guests see Pine Apple at its best. Thank you all for your hard work, time, and investment. I understand the commitment it takes and we appreciate all of your efforts.

What a great time to be a part of the Wilcox Historical Society. My friends, together we will Raise the Bell at the Institute, host another successful Tour of Homes, and together we will show a Countess what Southern Hospitality is. We need your continued help and support to make this happen.

Thank you all,

Lance Britt, WHS President     

The British are coming!

We have been overwhelmed by the response to our announcement that the Right Honorable Countess of Carnarvon, of “Downton Abbey’s” Highclere Castle will be our Keynote Speaker at the Tour of Homes. We worked with Lady Carnarvon to plan a day full of royal experiences on March 24, the day before our Tour in beautiful Pine Apple. It will be the perfect way to start our Tour Weekend!

As you know, Highclere Castle is one of the most notable homes in the world and Lady Carnarvon has been integral in its preservation. We are honored she has agreed to join us to share her experiences in restoring and preserving a 300-room castle. She has been an absolute joy to work with and is looking forward to her first visit to Alabama.

Between her visit and our nine gracious homeowners, we are going to have a fantastic weekend. Not only will we raise money for the WHS, but we will also generate positive public exposure for Pine Apple and Wilcox County. As if that were not enough, our Tour generates thousands of dollars in tax revenue for the county and is a big weekend for our local business owners as well. You will find the WHS Member Tour of Homes Ticket Order Form on the final page of this Newsletter. IT MUST BE RETURNED NO LATER THAN NOVEMBER 10 TO BE ELGIBLE FOR THE MEMBER PRESALE. Please return it immediately so we can process these orders before tickets are released to the general public. We will not honor any requests received after November 10. You will know by November 15th if we were able to fulfill your ticket request.

We will fulfill as many of your requests as possible. However, we can only accommodate a limited number of guests at certain events. Please understand we will not be able to accommodate every ticket request. We will do our best to offer other options in the event certain tickets sell out. If we are not able to accommodate your request, the money for that specific event will be refunded.

Remember, with all the interest in our Tour of Homes and Lady Carnarvon’s visit, we are going to need your help to make it run well. As always, we will need volunteers to be guides in the homes on Saturday and we are going to need greeters at our various events Friday as well. Make plans now to be here March 24 – 25, 2023, and to be a volunteer one of the two days as we welcome British Nobility and over 1000 guests to Wilcox County. We are going to need all of your help!

to new members: from Alabama –David and Eleanor Cheatham of Orrville, John Crenshaw, Michael Respess and Betty Cooper Mathews of Montgomery, Lynne Givhan of Safford, Kathy McCoy of Atmore, Shirley McClurklin of Thomasville, John Deupree and Monica B. Rice of Camden. And welcome to new members Jaimie and Kelly Jordan of Rome, Georgia and Larry Lynam of Tucson, Arizona!

And welcome to new Life Members – M. Stephen and Lila McNair of Mobile and Jackie Sharp / Capell House of Camden! Thank you all for joining the WHS!


The Raise the Bell Campaign has taken off like a rocket. This is thanks to the generosity of two families who have pledged to match every dollar donated up to $20,000! As a result, we have already raised close to $3000 in additional contributions since our September meeting. Please continue to help us spread the word about this great matching fund program. For more information or to get our Sponsorship Form, please go to our website wilcoxhistoricalsociety.org. Together we can meet our $20,000 goal and Raise the Bell at the Female Institute.

In addition to the matching fund campaign, we received a $37,500 grant last month from the Alabama Historical Commission to help us restore the Institute! This is the third consecutive year we have received a grant from the AHC. We are very thankful for their continued support.

The Board would like to thank Ms. Katie Summerville of Faunsdale for writing this grant which was our largest award by far from the AHC. She is currently working on other grant requests for us as well. With her expertise and experience we hope to continue to raise grant funds for the Female Institute.

This award is our second this year. As previously reported, we received a $40,000 grant from the Alabama Council for the Arts this summer. Together, the $77,500 in grant monies along with those pledged and raised through our Matching Fund Campaign, have generated over $100,000! With your continued support and Katie’s grant writing skills, we will Raise the Bell at the Female Institute.


Martha Grimes Lampkin

I am pleased to be the WHS Newsletter Editor and Social Media Manager – two jobs that were created when I became WHS President in 2017. I served as president for 3 years. With the encouragement of my niece, Elizabeth Grimes, (then Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce Director), plans for an annual WHS Tour of Homes were renewed in 2017. The

“Homes of the River’s Bend Tour” was a big success with Elizabeth as Tour Coordinator and the WHS tours have grown to one of the largest historical homes tours in Alabama under Lance Britt’s leadership.

I grew up in the little town of Marion Junction, Dallas County, Alabama and graduated from Auburn University Montgomery with a degree in Finance. After college I moved to Birmingham and worked in the AmSouth Trust Department for several years later moving to Daphne, Alabama and working for real estate developer, Tonsmeire Development Corporation. I returned to banking in 1989 working as a credit analyst and then a mortgage loan officer at Regions Bank in Mobile. 

Growing up hearing stories of family history and Alabama history with a few ghost stories mixed in as told by my grandmother, Frances Donald Grimes and my parents, Harold and Virginia Grimes, I learned to appreciate my Southern heritage. My grandmother was a wonderful historian and story teller and she was well known for her knowledge of local history. In 1978 she published My Family History and Memoirs for our family after years of genealogy research and the year she died, 1989, she completed a History of Pine Apple Wilcox County, Alabama 1815-1989 with Robert A. Smith, III.

Being greatly influenced by my grandmother’s love of family, history and research I have spent years researching my father’s family lines of the Grimes, Watts, Donald, Yeldell, Roberts, Thigpen and others as well as my mother’s family lines of Lamkin, Hamilton, Williams, Majors and others. As they say, “Genealogy is not a hobby, it is an obsession.” I am an active contributor to FindAGrave memorials and have transcribed and published the Friendship Baptist Church of Pine Apple records for the years 1862-1907.

I enjoy photography and gardening. I also manage social media accounts for the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society as well as the Bear Creek Preservation Association and our guest house, The Pine Apple Bungalow. We are members of the Church of the Highlands in Montgomery.

Since 2015 I have worked as Marketing Coordinator for Lake Martin Voice Realty, a small real estate firm in the Lake Martin, Alabama area. In this job I manage the social media accounts, website updates and blog posts, coordinate the listings of new property for sale, continually update the LMVR app and help create real estate listing videos and photos.   My husband, James and I married in August 1991 in a church my family and I hold dear, the Mt. Moriah Fellowship Baptist Church near Monterey located at the Butler County / Wilcox County lines. This little “church in the wildwood” was established in 1828 with my ancestors joining in the 1830s and each October we gather for an annual homecoming celebration. Our wedding reception was held at Greenleaves in Pine Apple and I know my grandparents are pleased that we continue to enjoy time in the family home to this day. I feel so fortunate to be the owner of

Greenleaves and James and I are happy to be the caretakers of this beautiful old home that has been in my family for over 150 years.

James and I are the proud parents of two children, Harold Brooks Lampkin, MD married to Margo Edwards Lampkin and Virginia Frances “Ginny” Lampkin Morgan, OD married to Jake Morgan. We are also the proud G Daddy and Marmee of little granddaughters, Lucy Clare Lampkin and Julia Frances Lampkin. And I certainly don’t want to forget to mention we have two spoiled cocker spaniels, Kisses and Bentley.

The WHS 2023 Tour of Homes will feature nine historic homes in Pine Apple this year and we are happy to have two homes on the Tour – Greenleaves (pictured above) and the Pine Apple Bungalow. Greenleaves was built in 1854 by Augustus Powell. My great, great grandmother – Letitia Roberts Grimes, bought the home in 1869, two years after the death of her husband, my great, great grandfather, Wiley Grimes. 

W H Grimes Family, c 1912

After the 1893 marriage of my great grandfather, William Henry Grimes to Josephine Watts, the home was remodeled adding the three front gables and two front rooms and porches with gingerbread trim. Pictured at left is the Grimes family about 1912 on the front steps of Greenleaves.

James and I renovated Greenleaves in 2005 and live there part time and in Montgomery part time. 

The Pine Apple Bungalow next door to Greenleaves, was built in the early 1920s for my great aunt Lois Grimes and husband Hayden Lewis. Next my grandfather Harold Watts Grimes lived there bringing his bride, his childhood sweetheart, my grandmother, Frances Donald Dudley Grimes and her son, Hugh Dudley to live there when they married in 1927. In 1930 my father was born and the family lived there until 1931 when they moved next door to Greenleaves. My husband and I together with help from our children, friends and family have recently restored the bungalow and enjoy using it as a guest house and hunting lodge.

My Wilcox County roots go back to 1824 when Wiley Grimes first appeared in public records for his marriage to his first wife, Elizabeth Coleson. A number of my ancestors came to Alabama before the Territory became a state – 1815 with James Powers, to 1816 with Richard Warren and James Steen, to 1818 with Robert Anthony Yeldell. I am proud to support Wilcox County and preserve its history for future generations. I agree with Daniel Webster who said, “He who knoweth not from whence he came, careth little whither he goeth.”


Many thanks for your gifts and continuing support!

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 September Meeting  

The Search for Mabila and Medieval Spaniards in Alabama

On Sunday afternoon, September 18th, members and guests of the WHS enjoyed hearing from Dr. Ashley A. Dumas, Associate Professor of Anthropology at The University of West Alabama.  She is an archaeologist specializing in the late prehistory and history of the Southeastern United States.

“For more than a century, historians, archaeologists and anthropologists have scoured areas of west Alabama in search of the remains of Mabila – a fortified Indian village where, in October 1540, the forces of notorious Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto clashed with Native American warriors under the direction of their dynamic leader, Chief Tascalusa.” This battle is believed to be the largest battle every found between Europeans and the indigenous people of North America.

Now supported by a growing collection of artifacts, Dr. Dumas and the University of West Alabama team are convinced they are within a few miles of finding the site of the town and the infamous battle. Those in attendance were able to view some of the artifacts the team has found in Marengo County.

The meeting was held at the Wilcox Female Institute with a reception afterwards.

Pictured is Dr. Ashley Dumas with WHS members Andy and Kathy Coats examining a fragment of a 16th century horseshoe which is one of the documented artifacts that is leading to the discover of the battle site. In Marengo County, Dumas and her colleagues have thus far found 52 confirmed pieces of Spanish-made metal, such as horseshoe remnants and iron chisels repurposed from the metal bands that strengthened wooden barrels.



The Camden Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was the venue for the Harvest Arts Harp Quintet on September 26th. A large crowd attended the concert sponsored by the WHS.

The concert featured performers on Violin, Viola and Cello in addition to Wilcox County favorites Madeline Cawley, Flute and Hannah Cope Johnson, Harp. The violinist and violist perform with the Nashville Symphony and the cellist just returned from a nationwide Broadway Tour of Oklahoma!

The WHS hosted a reception at the Wilcox Female Institute following the concert.

WHS October Meeting 

Rosemary Plantation and

the Families Who Called it Home

Our October meeting was held on Sunday afternoon, October 9th at Rosemary Plantation in the Miller’s Ferry area of Wilcox County near Camden. Members and guests enjoyed hearing three speakers share the history of the home and the families who lived there.

The speakers included the present owner, Brock Jones and Mason McGowin, a descendant of the Mathews family and Carter Fowlkes, a descendant of the Mathews-Cade family. Mr. Fowlkes also shared with us portraits of Peter Early Mathews and wife Virginia Vaughan Mathews.

Rosemary sits near the Alabama River and was built on the highest land in the river valley. The home, circa 1856, was built for the Peter Early Mathews family on roughly 2,000 acres of land. Sadly, Mr. Mathews died in 1856 leaving the estate to his wife.  

After the death of Mrs. Mathews in 1891 “The Mathews Place” was inherited by nephew Frank Cade in 1897. The home was named “Rosemary” by Mr. Cade’s wife, Mary, not for roses or her own name, but for the fragrant herb. Mary also added a second story to the home and the large center staircase around 1900.

Those present at the meeting enjoyed touring the house and grounds as well as refreshments and fellowship.

Editor’s Note – the WHS Winter 2022 Newsletter has a more detailed article written about Rosemary by Mr. Carter Fowlkes and it can be found on our website. 

Hugh Joseph Dudley, 97, passed away at his home in Huntsville on October 5, 2022. Mr. Dudley was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up in Pine Apple, Alabama. He graduated from Moore Academy in 1943. He served in the Pacific during WWII in the Navy Seabees. Mr. Dudley graduated from Auburn University in 1949 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Mr. Dudley had been a resident of Huntsville since 1953. He worked for the Marshall Space Flight Center and served on the Space Sciences Laboratory staff before accepting a position in Advanced Development where he worked until retirement in 1980. At that time, Mr. Dudley accepted a consulting job to restore the Huntsville Depot. He was a leading authority on Railroad History and was honored for his community service and contributions to the North Alabama Railroad Museum by the naming of the Hugh Dudley Railroad History Center.

Mr. Dudley was the son of the late Hugh Joseph Dudley and Frances Donald Dudley Grimes. His wife of 58 years, Bobbie LaGrone Dudley preceded him in death.

Mr. Dudley is survived by his two daughters, and son-in-law, Terry Dudley Lott, Drs. Robbin (Dudley) Klemm and Mike Klemm, three grandsons and brother, Harold (Hal) Watts Grimes.

Margaret Jane Gaston of Belleville, Conecuh County, Alabama passed away on September 28, 2022. She was a lovely person with a heart of gold and an energetic and unique personality that made her loved and admired by so many. She was the one to ask if you had a question about local history or Hank Williams. She worked tirelessly on organizing the historical research room at the Rose Memorial Library in Georgiana, Butler County, Alabama. She donated many books to the RML and until only a few months ago was checking out and reading several books a week. Miss Gaston was a life-long learner and a loyal supporter of local history.

Miss Gaston was the daughter of the late James Allison Gaston and Willie Dent Rumbley Gaston.  

Dearest Mother and Daddy

A Letter by Hugh C. Dale

Shared by daughter, WHS member Jane Shelton Dale

Sabbath night

Dearest Mother and Daddy,

I saw the President-elect last night. Was just about to come back to Forest Home after the teachers’ meeting yesterday afternoon when suddenly I decided I wanted to go to Montgomery, so I went. It didn’t take me any time to find a mighty nice fellow going that way. He was a Methodist preacher who lives in Montgomery and is now chaplain for the State convict department. Had his son, a boy about my age, along with him and also a man from Evergreen, a Mr. Rushton who manages the Ford agency there. Got there about five-thirty. The president’s train was to get in at seven so I went up to the capitol grounds early and got me a good place to stand where I could see and hear well.  In fact, I think I had about as good a position as anybody; I stood just at the top of that long flight of steps leading up to the capitol and he and Uncle Meek spoke from the front porch, so, you see, I was just in front of them. There was certainly a mob of people there, and so many soldiers, national guards, etc. The Parade came up Dexter and then went around back of the capitol and they came in to the capitol from the back and on to the porch. Uncle Meek made a fine introduction and then Roosevelt’s speech was fine too. You’ll read them and all about it in the papers, of course. I could see them all perfectly and hear every word. I passed by the mansion and saw it all decorated up for the reception but of course I didn’t see any of the folks. Well, I really didn’t have any plans as to what I’d do after that – didn’t know whether I’d spend the night here or not – but decided I’d go to the Exchange and maybe run up on somebody from Camden. You know, if you’ll just stand around there, you’ll see everybody in Montgomery. I saw the J.R. Bells from Selma and talked with them awhile. Mrs. Bell asked about you. Also saw C. F. and Warb Primm, Jack Alford, Pettus Randall, the Banks girls, Miss Ruby Duke and her folks, some people from Greenville, and in fact about the first person I saw was Mr. Watt. He and two other fellows from here had gone up there in his car so they had plenty of room for me to come home with them. The other two fellows had his car off somewhere and were supposed to meet him there at nine, but they were real late getting back and we didn’t get home until about 2:15 this morning.   

Your devoted,


Mr. Hugh Dale graduated from Erskine College in 1932 and his first job was principal at the school in Forest Home, Butler County, Alabama. Jane Shelton Dale shares that soon after this letter was written her Daddy went to Columbia University and received a Master’s in Chemistry and taught in Birmingham and Atlanta before WWII. 

Editor’s Note: President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt’s visit to Montgomery was on Saturday, January 21, 1933.  The Montgomery Advertiser’s headlines on January 22 read “Roosevelt Won by Tumultuous Welcome Here.” The headline went on to read “Visit Brings Largest Crowd Ever Seen In Streets; Governor Gives Dinner”. And Uncle Meek as mentioned in the letter was Governor Benjamin Meek Miller from Camden – Alabama governor from 1931-1935.


Written by Frances Donald Dudley Grimes in 1977 – the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II

In the early spring of the year 1926 George V sat upon the throne of England. Only one of his four sons was married, Prince Albert, Duke of York. Yet for 70 years the male succession to the throne had seldom seemed more secure.

Three years had passed since the splendid Duke of York’s wedding in Westminster Abbey to Elizabeth Bowes Lyon in 1924. Tho’ the Duke stood second to the crown, he and the Duchess had no permanent home, for known as the Industrial Prince, he travelled throughout the realm and they lived mostly out of suitcases.

When the happiness of a future baby became assured, the Duchess decided that she wanted her baby to be born in her parent’s London home at 17 Bruton Street.

This was the first public statement to herald the present queen: her Royal Highness, the Duchess of York was safely delivered of a Princess at 2:40 a.m. this morning, Wednesday, April 21st, 1926. King George V and Queen Mary were awakened at 4:00 a.m. to tell them of the good news and Queen Mary said: “Such a relief and joy.”

Two weeks later, on May 29th the baby princess was christened in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace, with ceremonial water brought from the River Jordan. She wore the christening robe of cream Brussels lace that had been used for the children of Queen Victoria. She was named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

The early years of the future Queen Elizabeth chronicled in some detail by her family, by friends and by at least one governess, Miss Marion Crawford, a Scot woman who became known as Crawfie by the two little princesses. Her family was dominated by her grandfather, King George V who was the first British Monarch to exemplify the majesty of the ordinary man. He personified all that his people felt most comfortable with and set the stage for British Monarchy that has been followed ever since, most notably by his granddaughter, Elizabeth II. Patriotism for the king was a personal thing. He believed in God, the invincibility of the Royal Navy, the essential rightness of whatever was British, the unquestioning subordination of thine to duty and a boundless capacity for hard work. These are some of the debts, instinctive and cultivated that Queen Elizabeth II owes to her grandfather and they have helped make her a descendant and successor of whom he could feel thoroughly proud.

Queen Mary, who was more than an ordinary grandmother set out to play the most active role in the upbringing of Princess Elizabeth and her influence on her life, work and personality was to emulate that of her royal Grandfather.

On August 21, 1930, the Duchess gave birth to another daughter, who was named Margaret Rose. Elizabeth might have been overshadowed in the public eye if her mother had given birth to a son but the arrival of Margaret Rose had the opposite effect. Queen Mary saw the danger of all of this –on one occasion, at Herrod’s one of London’s most prestigious stores, Queen Mary saw the little princess wriggling and asked if she wanted to go home. “Oh no Granny,” she said. “Think of all the people who are waiting to see us,” where upon Queen Mary had the little girl taken down the back way and sent home in a taxi. Gratifying the public, Elizabeth must learn was not an end in itself and being a royal was a matter of living out a role, not acting it.

When Elizabeth was 6 years old, Miss Crawford, her governess, organized a 6-day school curriculum for her, which included history, geography, Bible reading, with detailed emphasis on physical geography of the Dominions and India.

By the early 30’s life was taking on a pleasantly settled character for the Duke and Duchess of York and their two little daughters. It was about this time though that Edward, Prince of Wales first met Mrs. Wallis Simpson, which relationship led to his abdication in 1936 and put Elizabeth in direct line of succession to the throne. But even more important, it provided the awful example that overshadowed the Princess’s adolescence and remains a shadow over the royal family to this day, of how not to behave when one is blessed with the sacred trust of monarchy.

The Prince of Wales, David to his family, was Princess Elizabeth’s favorite uncle and he got great pleasure in indulging her. In her early childhood there was little suspicion a betrayal of this sacred trust by her uncle David. In fact, he seemed to be blazing a new trail for 20th century monarchy to follow. He had fought to get close to the trenches in World War I and had won. He had been the first member of the Royal family to speak on radio and other incidents seemed to herald a more democratic approach to monarchy in the future. He was a playboy though and had several affairs with women which King George and Queen Mary tried to ignore, for the prince was the rogue factor in the representative monarchy that thy had so painstakingly molded and which made for constant tension in the family.

Now began the bitterness over Wallis Simpson, a twice married woman, which divided the British royal family well into the reign of Queen Elizabeth II for feelings began to harden as he began parading his relationship with her in the autumn of 1934. He bought fabulous jewels for her form Cartier in Paris, and as if that were not enough, to which hurt King George and Queen Mary especially was that many of the jewels that Mrs. Simpson paraded were royal heirlooms from the priceless collection of the King’s mother Queen Alexandra, who bequeathed them to the Prince of Wales to be worn by his future wife.

It was in 1934-35 that people began to see a dulling of the Prince’s appetite for work and a boredom and irritation on his face as he carried out his public engagements. King George was greatly worried as he spent long hours of the last September of his life discussing the problems of his son with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

King George V died on January 20th, 1936; his death had taken everyone by surprise even tho’ he had been in bad health for sometimes. Before his father’s death, tho’ the Prince of Wales closest friends were talking about the possibility of him renouncing his right of succession in favor of his younger brother, the Duke of York.

Public opinion now began to focus upon the little Princess Elizabeth, who was now 10 years old but she was totally unaware of this.

Flouting the wishes of his elected government and pursuing personal enthusiasm with no regard for the reaction of the nation as a whole, Kind Edward VIII wanted to be himself on his own terms which was impossible. 

On the evening of November 16, 1936, he had dinner with his mother, Queen Mary, and spoke openly to her, for the first time, of his love for Mrs. Simpson. This was the parting of ways. In Edward’s eyes his duty was to the woman he loved rather than duty to the monarchy. Queen Mary wrote a letter to her son in 1938 giving him her interpretation of Duty from which are some excerpts, “You remember how miserable I was when you informed me of you intended marriage and abdication and how I implored you not to do so for our sake and for the sake of the country. You did not seem able to take in any point of view but your own. It seemed inconceivable to those who had made such sacrifices during the war, that you, as their king refused a lesser sacrifice. My feeling for you as your mother remains the same, and our being parted and the cause of it, grieve me by your words, after all, all my life I have put my country before everything else and simply can’t change now.”

On Friday, December 11, 1936, was the day that Princess Elizabeth formally became heir to the throne, for her father became King by the instrument of abdication which Edward had signed the day before. The Ex-King made his farewell broadcast that night which most of us remember, and I remember I cried.  (To be continued in the WHS Winter newsletter.)



A paper by Viola Liddell given for the Wilcox Historical Society, March, 1968

A few years ago I recall grieving over the fact that all the big things, all the progressive things, happening in the South were passing us by here in Wilcox county, But when we of this sleepy bend in the Alabama River, without a super highway, without an airway, with but a spur railroad and a handful of people, discovered that one of the largest paper and pulp mills in the world was locating here, we at first were startled, then skeptical, then, when we knew it was true, tremendously gratified that something of a miracle was really happening to us.

Thinking about other great things happening in our state set me to thinking that, by whatever names we may call them, giants are walking in our land. These giants, after slumbering for endless ages are just recently being awaked and, like Aladdin’s genie, being put to work. Our state was still dominated by King Cotton when the giants of coal and iron were aroused from their beds, mined, forged, and cast into the mighty muscles of tens of thousands of lesser giants of mechanized industry. The great green forest giant has come alive and now wherever he spreads his arms, other man-made giants of saw, and plane, and lathe have arisen. Only in the past few years has the great black oil giant risen from his millions of years of sleep under the skin of our earth and is shaking the southern portion of our state into a reservoir of industrial might.

The genial giants with which Nature has ever blessed Alabama – a temperate climate, abundant rainfall, rich soil – are just now being fully appreciated by those of us who have lived here always and even more so by those who have struggled in other areas with the inhospitable giants of snow and ice, heat and drought, rock and dust.

But perhaps the greatest giant of all – the wonder, life-giving giant of water – dozed and lazed leisurely on and on until the need for power and more power, mechanical and electrical, prodded him into flexing his muscles, first in the northern part of the state, then in the east and west, and at last in the south-central portion – particularly in Wilcox County when on April 15, 1963, Miller’s Ferry Lock and Dam and power house were begun. Once this giant is harnessed and put to work, other industries such as McMillan-Bloedel will come and cluster near his great sinews to receive strength of their endeavors. And people will come from miles around to find renewal of spirt in its thousands of acres of placid waters and evergreen play-grounds.

But since I must confine my talk to matters concerning Wilcox County, I have chosen for my subject that part of our beautiful and ever-lasting stream, the Alabama River, which is responsible for this new development in our county – one bound to be profound and far-reaching – how it has affected our lives in the past and how it has helped to mold and make us through our many eras of change. That it will be the maker and molder of life in Wilcox County for many years to come is a fore-gone conclusion.

There is no doubt that Wilcox County was in its pre-pioneer days heavily populated with Indians because of the length of the Alabama River passing through the county and because of the ample systems of creeks flowing into it. These waterways gave stability to Indian life as remains of their villages, mounds, relics, artifacts and history itself indicate.  And because of their stability the Indians here had reached a high degree of civilization before the white man came. There is strong evidence that besides the small villages that the great Indian city of Maubila where DeSoto decisively defeated the Maubilian Indians, was situated near the confluence of the Alabama and Pine Barren Creek in Wilcox County. Besides being a ready source of food, the streams were both highways and communication systems for the Indians.

Although DeSoto came overland into Alabama, most of the early explorers came up-river; traders in furs, French missionaries, English speculators, and finally settlers themselves. These pioneers used skiffs, rafts and keel-boats – the heavier craft for downstream traffic which, being too heavy to fight the upstream current, had to be built anew for each trip to the Gulf. But in the early 1800’s the Alabama River became a red carpet for the River Queens which churned and hooted through Alabama’s cotton kingdom taking out the white gold and bringing in all the kingdom needed to sustain and enhance it – from needles and plows to Italian marble and Parisian gowns.

Because of its tortuous course through its diagonal length, Wilcox County can boast of more miles of river frontage that any other county in the state, which fact is perhaps a reason for it having more river landings than any other during the steam-boat days. Another reason was that, as part of the Black Belt, Wilcox County was also part of this Cotton Kingdom which shared in a sort of Gone-with-the-Wind glory in ante-bellum days. Of eighty-four recorded landings in the county, many bore names of pioneer families, others of incidents buried in folklore. But all will for years to come sprinkle the conversation of our native inhabitants: Yellow Jacket, Prairie, Clifton, Walnut and Hurricane Bluffs; Tait’s, Burford’s, Ellis and Bridgeport landings; Cobb’s and Miller’s Ferries, and many, many more.

Once bustling points of traffic and travel, so much so that a typical one – Prairie Bluff – was at one time considered for the capitol of the state – now largely obliterated by the onslaughts of time and neglect, they are still bleak reminders of a past which, though brightly embroidered by nostalgia, will ever be cherished as places of refined and gracious living. Though the towns have disappeared, a few private homes of this era remain intact – the Starr, Ervin, Tait, and Harris homes, and the Shook and Beck (now the Darwin) homes in Camden, if Camden might be, and I feel that it can, be classified as a river town.

And the steamboats which plied the river, their memorable exploits and frightful disasters, as well as their colorful and intrepid captains, pilots and crews were as familiar topics of conversation to the past generation as moon rockets and space ships are today. Built for speed, beauty, and business, these River Queens, often called and quite often mis-called Floating Palaces, were the hand-maidens of King Cotton; and with the affluence of the ante-bellum era, were pace-setters for the social and economic life of the Black Belt of Alabama during those halcyon days. Some, with swept-back smoke stacks, decked out in fancy ginger-bread trim, were two hundred and more feet long and boasted of as many as six steel boilers. The pilot house perched atop the Texas which housed the officer quarters; below the Texas were the passenger deck and quarters; and near the water level, the freight deck with its cargo and crew of deck hands.

The early river boats were usually side-wheelers with powerful machinery, often pushed to dangerous and explosive pressures by the heart pine fed into their fire-boxes – plus fat-back or pure rosin when a race or delayed schedule demanded maximum speed. The later boats were often stern-wheelers which were considerably more dangerous in the unpredictable river waters. A special and exclusive whistle, a sort of trade-mark for each boat, elicited great pride and envy among captains and pilots, while a calliope – if the boat were prosperous enough to own one – furnished gay tunes for dockings and farewells or any festive occasion.   (To be continued in the WHS Winter newsletter.)                  




There are a variety of ways you can help us restore the Female Institute. For more information on naming opportunities for the archives or either phase of the restoration, please contact Lance Britt, WHS President, 256.975.7616.

To contribute to the cause, send a check made payable to: Wilcox Historical Society, P.O. Box 464, Camden, Alabama 36726. Your potential tax deduction is based on the stated value for goods or services provided.

TOGETHER we can Raise the Bell at the Wilcox Female Institute!

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. 

 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:

Hello, I have been working on genealogy. My third great grandfather was John Jared Roach who lived in Camden, Alabama. He was born in 1811 and died in 1891. He was a lawyer and judge and married first to Martha Fluker Hill and second to Sarah Frierson. My Uncle remembers seeing a portrait of him in his robes somewhere in Montgomery he thought in a government building – this would have been around 1955. The state archives do not know anything about it though. I was just wondering if y’all have any information on John Jared Roach or know of this portrait.

Do you know if there are any records of the burials in Camden Cemetery? I have a genealogy book that says John Jared Roach is buried there but I notice his grave is not listed on FindAGrave. Thanks so much for everything. I would like to visit Camden one day.  Shannon Douglas Cotham, West Columbia, SC

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Camden Cemetery Association 2014 Camden Cemetery Survey compiled by WHS members, Will Liddell, Jr. and Ruth H. Liddell did not indicate a tombstone for Mr. Roach; only one for his second wife.

Hello, I need help with family information for the Jordan, Jackson, Reid and Englett families in Wilcox County as follows: Willie Eugene Jordan (1870-1902), Isabella Jackson Jordan Reid (1870-1938), Mary Bell Dunn Jackson (1840-1924), James Robert Jackson (1834-1895), Thomas w. Englett (1892-1957) and Thomas J. Englett (1848-1924). Thank you for any information!  Krista Pilkilton, Florence, AL

I came across a relative’s WWII US draft card that lists employment at W.M. McGowin Lumber Company in Pine Apple. His name was Willie Morris Henderson and he was living in Georgiana. I would love to know if the spelling is correct and a rough time period in which it was in operation. I live in Savannah Georgia and grew up in Panama City Florida. My mother was born in East Chapman, Butler County. Nearly all her relatives including brother, father and grandfather worked for W.T. Smith Lumber Company. Chriss Perkins, Savannah, GA

I am doing research on my great-grandmother, Minnie Lee Jay Forte. At age 7, according to the 1880 US Census, she was living in Fox’s Mills, ED 185, Wilcox, AL. I have tried to find this location with no success. I was wondering if someone at the Wilcox Historical Society could help me with this location.

I have found information on the Fox Mill Plantation and wondered if there was some area connection. My Great-Grandmother was orphaned at a young age and raised by her mother’s family “up in the Foxs Mill area”. Her parents and younger brother were “going west” but only got to Claiborne where there was a yellow fever outbreak. They were returning to their families in Wilcox County, but only got as far as McWilliams where the parents and brother died.

In the 1930s my grandfather met “an old-timer” at a store in McWilliams who remembered the story and said he could show my grandfather where they were buried beside the road outside of McWilliams. He had been told the little girl was taken to her family. Sadly, my grandfather was working and couldn’t go with the man. When he returned to the area, the man had died.

If someone could give me some clue as to the location of Fox’s Mills, ED 185, Wilcox, AL as listed on the 1880 census I would sincerely appreciate the help.

I have also bookmarked your site for information on the 2023 tour. I have taken several tours in Monroe County in the past, but only learned of the Wilcox tours today. Will be looking forward to attending in March 2023.

Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Sheila Forte Gresham Morrissey

I am looking for any information about the Moseley Place near Bellview in Wilcox County as mentioned in The Slave Narratives. Jim Phillips

I am interested in information about the L&N train route in Camden as it headed to the sawmill in Vredenburgh. David Boykin, Forestville, MD

We are looking for a contractor to help with some repairs at Snow Hill Institute. I am a grandson of the founder and would appreciate any referrals. Wendell Edwards, Northport, AL


  • Tuesday – Friday, November 1-4 -Trip to Natchez, Mississippi
  • Saturday, November 26 – Hunter Appreciation Day, Pine Apple
  • Saturday, December 3, 3-5pm -WHS Christmas Open House, Magnolia Glen, Furman
  • Sunday, December 18, 6:30pm – Christmas in Furman, Bethsaida Baptist Church
  • Thursday, February 23, 2pm – WHS Meeting, Female Institute, Tom McGehee, Speaker
  • Saturday, March 11, Time -TBD – WHS Trip to Bellingrath Gardens, Mobile
  • Friday–Saturday, March 24–25, 2023, WHS Tour of Homes, Pine Apple


12 July 1878

Wilcox News and Pacificator, Camden




Open to young ladies and gentlemen, and solicits patronage in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Commercial Arithmetic, Book Keeping, English Grammar, Latin Grammar, Composition and Rhetoric, Phonography and Elocution, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and Plain and Ornamental Penmanship.

Specimen of Penmanship fresh from the pen of S.S. LANDRUM, Principal of Academy, Professor of Mathematics and Penmanship

June 14, 1878

27 July 1887

Wilcox Progressive Era, Camden

Miss Minnie Presley, who has been teaching music in N.C., returned to Oak Hill on the 19th inst.

W.J. Bonner, our efficient circuit clerk, was visiting relatives on Oak Hill last week.

Mr. E.I. McBryde’s store came very near being destroyed by fire on the 19th inst., in the following way: He had some fireworks left over from Christmas, among which was a substance composed of Sulphur and gun powder, which ignited, it is supposed, from the intense heat on that day, and but for the presence of his clerk and others, the store would certainly have been consumed.

In the adjoining beat, Fox’s Mill, DeWitt Sadler, accidently killed a Mr. Harrison, with a shot gun, on the 19th inst.

Sometimes ago one of our colored citizens was paid off by the railroad company and remarked that “he was going to Selma, get drunk, and kick up h—l generally.” I supposed he executed his threat, as the last that was heard of him, he was in the chain gang.

We noticed R. Harriss, of Pineapple, on the streets yesterday.

Several of our farmers report caterpillars.


5 March 1914

Wilcox Progressive Era, Camden


Sedan beat which was established about the time of the battle between the Germans and French, about 1870, is located in the south western part of our county and tradition has that it was given its name by the late Capt. E.R. Cannon, who was a German sympathizer. It is almost a level section of the Pursley and Gravel creek hills. There is however considerable broken and hilly lands. Here and nearby are the residences of Messrs. W.P. Preston, J.B. Sessions, D.J. McCarty, Capt. O.H. and W.F. Spencer, and others. Mr. D.J. McCarty, W. P. Preston, A.J. Bigger, J.B. Sessions and W.J. Griffin have stores in the beat, and D. J. McCarty, J.B. Sessions, S.C. McMurphy and A.J. Bigger have steam ginneries. Considerable cotton and corn is raised in the beat and much attention is given to hog and cattle raising. Bellview is the post office, and is at Mr. J.B. Session’s store. Reeve’s Chapel is a Methodist church of which Rev. Hastings in pastor.

19 March 1914

Wilcox Progressive Era, Camden

The railroad reached Camden in 1902, bringing in new citizens and putting new life into the old so that much of the town is now new with continued improvements, and very much of the credit for bringing this railroad to Camden is due to the efforts of Hon. S.D. Bloch.

6 June 1957

Wilcox Progressive Era, Camden

Graduation Exercises at Moore Academy

Graduation exercise of Moore Academy were held in the school gymnasium Thursday, May 23, at 8:00 p.m.

The invocation was given by the Reverend Robert Glass, pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church. The salutatory was given by Rosa Lee Jones and the valedictory by Winston Stuart.

The address was delivered by Dr. H.B. Woodward, former principal of Moore Academy and now director of the Bureau of Educational Research at the University of Alabama.

Honors and awards were presented by W.J. Jones, county superintendent, Mary Alice Jones received the Good Citizenship Girl award; and Winston Stuart, the Balfour award.

Roy F. Bragg, principal, presented diplomas to the following: Leon Girlie, Rosa Lee Jones, Julia P. Steen, Jr., Mary Alice Jones, Gordon Strickland, Doris Ann Beard, Winston Stuart, Barbara Faye Evans, Mary Effie Griffin and Lewis Jones. 

30 August 1962

Wilcox Progressive Era, Camden

Five Camden Boys Take Boat Trip

Five young men left very early Wednesday morning on a three-day boat trip which will take them to Cahaba and Selma before their return to the Camden landing Friday.

Fleet Lane, Bud Selsor, Ed Wetherbee, Charlies Wetherbee and Harry Ratcliff spent Tuesday night “on the river” so that they might be ready to shove off early Wednesday morning on the trip which should prove to be interesting and scenic.

The trip is being made in the 62-foot paddle wheel river boat designed by the father of one of the boys, Bob Lane of Camden, and also built by Mr. Lane with the help of his boys and some of the employees of Lane Butane Co,

The boat is spacious and well-built and completely powered with LP gas, as Mr. Lane says, “even to the whistle”.

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!

Wilcox Historical Society 2023 Tour of Homes Sponsorship Opportunities

DIAMOND SPONSOR – $7500 and above

• Name placed prominently in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• Recognition of your support at the Welcome Reception

• 4 Royal Package Tickets to the Tour of Homes – $1400 Value

• 2 Tickets to the Luncheon – $500 Value

• Personalized, Signed Copy of Seasons at Highclere – $50 value

• Complimentary 1 year membership in the Wilcox Historical Society

• Name included in all print/social media Tour Advertising


• Name included in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• 2 Royal Package Tickets to the Tour of Homes – $700 Value

• 2 Tickets to the Luncheon – $500 Value

• Personalized, Signed Copy of Seasons at Highclere – $50 value

• Complimentary 1 year membership in the Wilcox Historical Society

• Name included in all print Tour Advertising


• Name included in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• 2 Royal Package Tickets to the Tour of Homes – $700 Value

• Personalized, Signed Copy of Seasons at Highclere – $50 value

• Complimentary 1 year membership in the Wilcox Historical Society


• Name included in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• 2 Highclere Package Tickets to the Tour of Homes – $300 Value


• Name included in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• 1 Highclere Package Ticket to the Tour of Homes – $150 Value


• Name included in the Tour of Homes Brochure

• 2 Tour Package Tickets for the Tour of Homes – $100 Value

Checks should be made payable to the

Wilcox Historical Society

PO Box 464 Camden, Alabama 36726

Your potential tax deduction is based on the stated value for goods or services provided.

Wilcox Historical Society Tax Exempt #63-0737652

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