The Era of Steamboats on the Alabama River
WHS Meeting – October 18 at 2PM
Steamboats played an important part in the economic development of Alabama. Beginning in the 1830’s, Montgomery and Mobile became connected by a series of river packets that carried cotton, passengers and supplies ranging from hoop-skirts to whiskey.
Speaker for the afternoon will be Tom McGehee. He will discuss the rise of river traffic, the boats and their captains, as well as the decline in the early 20th century. Disasters ranging from deadly fires to a suicide will be covered and even a lingering ghost or two.
Since 1994, Tom McGehee has served as Museum Director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home. For more than thirty years he has written about the history of Mobile and the city’s lost architectural heritage. Tom serves on the boards of the Historic Mobile Preservation Society, the Rotary Club of Mobile and the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion. He is a past secretary of the Victorian Society in America and is currently president of the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery.
The Thursday, October 18th meeting will be held at RiverBend, the home of Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan on Bridgeport Road. This home, known to locals as the Moore-Welch-Yarbrough Home, has been recently restored with additional emphasis on the grounds. The address of RiverBend is 279 Bridgeport Road.
Due to expected interest and excitement to see this home, we are requesting that members only attend. Guests may accompany members but are highly encouraged to become members at the door. Dues are $15 a year for singles and $20 for a couple or $150 lifetime membership for singles and $200 for couples.
Please join us! ♦
AHA Fall Meeting in Camden!
The Alabama Historical Association will be holding its Fall Meeting and Pilgrimage in Camden on Saturday, October 27. The meeting will begin at 10:30 AM at the Camden United Methodist Church with a program by Camden native, Daniel Fate Brooks.
After lunch, tours of homes and other sites in Camden will begin. Some of the sites to see include the McIntosh-Hicks Home, the Liddell-Burford Home, the Matthews-Curry Home, the Sterrett-McWilliams Home, Old St. Mary’s-Hamilton Home, the Shoe Shop Museum and the Dale Lodge.
Friday, October 26 will be the pre-meeting tour in Furman. Some of the sites to see in Furman will be Wakefield, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, the Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, the Palmer-Britt Home and the newly restored Deerfield – the Perdue-Estes-Suggs Home. Several special presentations are planned for the afternoon.
Please note this is NOT a Wilcox Historical Society tour of homes. Tickets will not be available on the day of the tour. Registration is not being handled locally.
Non-members of the Alabama Historical Association are welcome, but if you would like to attend this event, registration is $40 and should be received by October 17. Registration forms may be picked up at Black Belt Treasures.
Register online: www.alabamahistory.net/meetings ♦
Historical Society Member, Gail Edith Prince Shorter (1937-2018), was a homemaker, beloved wife and mother. Gail was an avid musician and loved to play the piano and was the church organist at several Episcopal churches throughout her life. She was a native of Castleton-on-Hudson, NY and met her husband, William Wyatt Shorter while attending college at the University of Maine. She and Wyatt raised five children. In 1978, they moved to Camden where they lived the remaining years of their life together.
Historical Society Member, Edward Blake Field (1933-2018), was a native of Boston, MA. He spent his formative years in Camden in the care of his grandfather, the late Senator J. Miller Bonner. After graduating from Wilcox County High School, he attended the University of Alabama. He was employed for many years with the State of Alabama Highway Department. He married Bettie Albritton Falkenberry in 1983. In his retirement Blake enjoyed restoring several of the older homes on Camden’s Broad Street.♦
Mark your calendars! The WHS Spring Pilgrimage will be held March 23!
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival – November 24!
The Town of Pine Apple will sponsor the 22nd Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday, November 24. The event will be a family fun-filled day featuring various craft vendors, a big buck contest, antique car show and parade, children’s activities and live entertainment.
Proceeds from the event will be used to preserve and beautify the Town of Pine Apple.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
October 20 – Pine Hill Depot Day – Arts and Crafts and Entertainment! For more info: (334) 963-4351
October 28 at 2PM – Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society program – The World War I Service of the 167th Alabama Infantry Regiment – the famed unit that made history in France as part of the Rainbow Division. The speaker will be Dr. Ruth Truss. For more info: (334) 382-6959
November 7-10 – Alabama Frontier Days at Fort Toulouse – Fort Jackson Park near Wetumpka. Enjoy a living history event – see the south as it transitions from Creek Indian lands to military forts and civilian homesteads from 1700-1820’s
November 9-11 – Battles for the Armory in Tallassee. Tallassee Historic District and Gibson’s Plantation – Battle Reenactment of the Battles of Chehaw Station and Franklin. Interactive exhibits, period artillery, infantry, field hospital, blacksmith, carriage rides, tours of the Confederate Armory and more! For more info: (800) 923-4699
November 10 – West Dallas Antique Tractor, Car, Gas Engine and Craft Show in Orrville! Tractor parade, antique farm equipment demonstrations, entertainment and more! For more info: (334) 996-8970
November 11 at 3:30PM – Remembering WWI: An Armistice Centennial Concert on the Alabama Archives front terrace in Montgomery. Held on the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI the concert will feature a performance by the 151st Army Band of the Alabama National Guard with dramatic readings by Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Greta Lambert and Rodney Clark.
December 1 at 11AM – Happy Birthday Alabama Presentation at Old Cahawba. Celebrate Alabama’s birthday at the site of the first permanent state capital! For more info: (334) 872-8058
Do you have an event you would like to be included in the newsletter?
Let us know – email us at email@example.com. ♦
Thank you to our 2018 Lifetime Members!
Mr. & Mrs. Robert Bullock
Ms. Annie Crenshaw
Ms. Jane Shelton Dale
Mr. Ryan Dunagan & Mr. Chris Bailey
Ms. Lucy Hicks
Mr. & Mrs. Fleet Lane
Mr. & Mrs. Donald McLeod
Mr. & Mrs. Floyd Moore
Lifetime memberships are available
for $150 single and $200 couple.
The Old Jail Purchase
The old Wilcox County Jail building located on Water Street in downtown Camden behind the Courthouse has been purchased. The two buyers offered to purchase, renovate and re purpose the building to benefit the community to use as a welcome center and museum.
This jail was the county’s third jail and was constructed in 1889 by L.Y. Tarrant for $4,800. The features of this rare old two-story jail include superb brickwork and an ornate wooden porch.
This building is a contributing property to Camden’s Wilcox County Courthouse Historic District that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). ♦
WHS January Meeting
Stay tuned for more information about our January meeting! James Lamb from the University of West Alabama will be our guest speaker. The subject of the program will be Paleontology and Archaeology of Wilcox County. ♦
A Look Back…
Ads from The Camden Republic 19 July 1860
Price’s Classical and Mathematical School
Classes resume the first Monday in September
Two teachers and number limited to 40
G.F. Spurlin and Company
Main Street, Camden
…Cotton stripes, plaids and osnaburgs .10 to .12 ½ per yard, black silk .85 to 1.50 per yard, ladies’ gaiters .74 to 1.25, ladies’ gaiters with heels 1.00 to 2.50, hoop skirts .60 to 1.25, Coats spool thread 5 cents per spool
New store, new goods in great variety at Mobile prices!
A.J. Saddler’s Excelsior Grist Mill
Will grind 40-50 bushes of good meal a day
Nathaniel Ashely, “Mr. Saddler put me up a set of Gin gear and attaches it to one of his excelsior mills which performs at my entire satisfaction.”
Mark your calendars! The WHS Spring Pilgrimage will be held March 23!
Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
We are very pleased to welcome back the Alabama Historical Association to Camden! Not since 1980 has the AHA held a meeting in Wilcox County.
Friday, October 26 will be the pre-meeting in Furman at 1:30 PM. The tour begins at Bethsaida Baptist Church. The sites to see in Furman will be Wakefield, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, the Moore-Burson-Rushing home and the Palmer-Britt home and the newly restored Deerfield – the Perdue-Estes-Suggs home. Several special presentations are planned for the afternoon.
Also on Friday in Furman, the Britt family is hosting a full reception following the tour of their home for all participants.
The meeting will begin Saturday morning, October 27 in Camden. Registration, coffee and book sales will begin at 9 AM at the Dale Lodge. At 10:30 a program by Camden native, Daniel Fate Brooks will begin at the Camden United Methodist Church. After lunch beginning at 12:30, tours of homes in Camden and other sites will begin. The sites to see in Camden include the Jones-McIntosh-Hicks home, the Bagby-Beck-Horn-Liddell-Burford home, the Thompson-Spurlin-Matthews-Curry home, Old St. Mary’s Church-Hamilton home, the Sterrett-McWilliams home, the Wilcox Female Institute, Camden Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the First Presbyterian Church, Dale Lodge, the Camden United Methodist Church, the Shoe Shop Museum, and the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center. Tours will end at 5 PM.
The registration fee is $40 per person which includes lunch on Saturday. Registrations must be received by October 17. Registration is available online using PayPal at www.alabamahistory.net. Or checks payable to Alabama Historical Association can be mailed to: Alabama Historical Association, c/o CMD Center for the Arts & Humanities, Pebble Hill, Auburn University, AL 36849. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furman, Pine Apple & Oak Hill Spring Pilgrimage Was a Big Success!
The Spring Pilgrimage held March 24, 2018 was a big success which makes two strong years in a row to showcase our county’s rich history and tradition. The azaleas were blooming and the weather was perfect!
Over 200 tickets were sold this year. We had visitors from all across Alabama as well as Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and California.
Here are a few of the comments we heard from visitors:
“We enjoyed the tour immensely.” Beverly
“That was an outstanding tour! Many thanks go out to everyone…those that planned and supported the event and especially those home owners who allowed us to see their beautiful homes! I hope y’all will do this again.” Mike
“”We had a fabulous day! This year’s tour has definitely been my favorite.” Diane
“We were overjoyed to spend the day celebrating and learning about Wilcox County history with y’all! Beautiful homes cared for by such sweet people. It was a pleasure.” Marlee
“This seemed to be very well planned with amazing history and locations to visit during our trip. We look forward to any other events there.” Jonathan
Many have asked when we were planning our next tour. We are pleased to announce our next tour will be March 23, 2019.
The 2019 tour will feature homes and other historic locations in the Camden area. We would love to have you involved and we welcome your suggestions to make the 2019 tour another big success for Wilcox County! ֎
Alabama Historical Association Will Hold Their Fall Pilgrimage in Camden
Not since 1980 has the AHA held a meeting in Wilcox County. We are very pleased to welcome them back and share our remarkable history.
Friday, October 26 will be the pre-meeting tour in Furman. Some of the sites to see in Furman will be Wakefield, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, the Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, the Palmer-Britt Home and the newly restored Deerfield – the Perdue-Estes-Suggs home. Several special presentations are planned for the afternoon.
The meeting will begin Saturday morning, October 27 with a program by Camden native, Daniel Fate Brooks. After lunch, tours of homes in Camden and other sites will begin. Some of the sites to see in Camden include the McIntosh-Hicks Home, the Liddell-Buford Home, The Matthews-Curry Home, the Sterrett-McWilliams Home, Old St. Mary’s-Hamilton Home, the Shoe Shop Museum and the Dale Lodge.
For more information contact Jane Shelton Dale, AHA board member or see: www.alabamahistory.net. ֎
Thank You from the ADAH!
By Meredith McDonough, Digital Assets Coordinator Alabama Department of Archives and History
Thank you all so very much for the work that you’ve been doing on the Alabama World War I service records transcription! We are amazed at the success of the project, and all the credit goes to you, our dedicated volunteers. It has been less than three months since we launched this effort and only 10% of the cards remain to be done! Thanks again for donating your time and attention to this endeavor. We’re already planning for the next project! ֎
WHS Members Visited the Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit
The WHS met on April 6th for a short meeting at the Auburn Agricultural Experiment Station in Camden and then enjoyed the Alabama Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit being hosted by the Wilcox Area Chamber at the Gees Bend Ferry Terminal. The exhibit truly brought our state’s 200-year history to life! ֎
Dr. David Matthews – the featured speaker at WHS April Meeting
On April 19 the WHS met at the Wilcox Female Institute to hear our special guest, Dr. David Matthews, former President of the University of Alabama and now President of the Kettering Foundation.
Dr. Matthews spoke to the large crowd in attendance about public education in general and their relationship with the community in which they are located. Being one of the nation’s experts on communities, Dr. Matthews gave a very inspiring talk. ֎
The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church Historical Society to Meet in Camden
The next AWF Historical Society meeting is September 20, 2018 at Camden United Methodist Church. Anyone is welcome to attend.
Wilcox County is rich with Methodist history. Ebenezer Hearn, a circuit rider from the Tennessee Conference, is called the Father of Methodism in Alabama. He preached his first sermon in the Alabama Territory on April 18, 1818 in present day Blount County. He faithfully rode across Alabama sharing the Gospel until his death in 1862.
Reverend Hearn settled in Wilcox County and was one of the original owners of GainesRidge – now a local favorite restaurant. Hearn is buried in the Camden Cemetery.
Reverend Ed Shirley will portray Hearn in a dramatic monologue. This will be your opportunity to learn about Hearn’s call to ministry, his adventures in the Creek Indian War and his work in spreading Methodism throughout the newly formed State of Alabama.
For more information and to register for the meeting please call (334) 682-4478. The cost is $20 which includes lunch at GainesRidge. ֎
WHS Welcomes Tom McGehee in October
Mark your calendars for October 18 at 2PM to hear Tom McGehee, Museum Director at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, speak on The Age of Steamboats in Alabama. For more than 30 years he has researched Alabama history and his column, Ask McGehee, has been a regular feature of Mobile Bay Magazine for the last 15 years. The October meeting will be held at Riverbend – the home of Ryan Dunagan and Chris Bailey. This home known to locals as the Bell-Moore home is located on Bridgeport Road. ֎
Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival
The Town of Pine Apple will sponsor the 22nd Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday, November 24, 2018. The event will be a family fun-filled day featuring various craft vendors, a big buck contest, antique car show and parade, children’s activities and live entertainment.
Enter the Les Moorer Memorial Big Buck Contest for a chance to win the top prize of $500. Prizes of $250 will be awarded for the Women’s Division and $150 for the Juvenile Division for ages 17 and younger.
Proceeds from the event will be used to preserve and beautify the Town of Pine Apple.
Butler County Historical Society presents program on William Weatherford
On Sunday, July 29th the BCHS program will be given by Judge Trip McGuire on the noted part-Creek leader, William Weatherford alias Red Eagle. Several members are sharing Indian artifact collections at the program.
The meeting will begin at 2PM at the Greenville City Hall. For more information, contact Annie Crenshaw, (334) 382-6959 or email@example.com. ֎
Calendar of Events
World War I Memorial Dedication
Date: July 26, 2018
Place: Greenville Chamber of commerce
The Fort Dale Chapter of the DAR will dedicate the Butler County World War I Memorial. Historian and author Nimrod Frazer will be speaking at the dedication.
154th Battle of Mobile Bay Commemorative Day
Date: August 4, 2018
Place: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island
Time: 9AM – 5PM
Experience a living history day for the whole family. Enjoy blacksmith demonstrations, military drills, firing of the cannons and much more.
Fort Mims Reenactment & Living History
Dates: August 25 – August 26, 2018
Place: Fort Mims State Historic Site
Witness living history of the re-enactment of the Battle of Burnt Corn followed by the Battle of Fort Mims. Also enjoy period music, arts, crafts, tomahawk throwing, dancing and 1800s cooking demonstrations.
Alabama Genealogical Society Fall Seminar
Date: October 13, 2018
Place: Alabama Department of Archives and History
Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, will speak on the topic -Genealogy‘s Deeper Well – When the Easy Stuff Runs Dry. He will cover Alabama records and migration, Dower, Dowry and Detinue – Women and their Men’s Property, Selling Spirituous Liquor without a License and Other Wonderful Court Records and finding Uncle John by Talking to Neighbors.
A Look Back…
21 November 1840 from the Alabama Herald
Pleasant Ridge Academy
Near Canton, Wilcox County
Spelling, reading and writing – per session $12
Arithmetic, Geography, English Grammar or History – per session $16
Greek, Latin, French, Mathematics or higher branches of English Literature – per session $25
Boarding and Washing – $10 per month
15 January 1908 from the Pine Apple News
The following applicants for teaching certificates took the examination held by Superintendent Cook, in Camden on Tuesday of last week:
1st grade – John Henry, Oak Hill
2nd grade – Misses Ella Norred, Pine Apple; Corrie Newell, Camden; Bettie Price, Ackerville; Ruth Cook, Capell; Beulah Wilkinson, Shawnee; Annie Rollins, Ackerville; Maggie Nell Patterson, Camden; Mr. Jesse L. Chandler, Neenah.
3rd grade – Misses Julia Melton, and Corinne Melton, Pine Apple; Annie Matt Tate, Neenah; Maude Young, Shawnee; Ella Tate, Shawnee and Helen Dexter, Camden.
18 October 1980 from the AHA Pilgrimage to Camden program
Wilcox County Arrangements Committee Daniel Fate Brooks, Chairman, Judge F.R. Albritton, Mrs. Lena Miller Albritton, George F. Alford, Jr., Mrs. J.W. Axon, Rev. Fred Carr, William M. Cook, Hugh C. Dale, Mrs. W.N. Darwin, Ernest Dyess, Mrs. Al Gibbs, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Griffin, Mrs. Harold Grimes, Mrs. Taylor J. Harper, Arnold Holt, Mrs. B. N. Ivey, Dr. and Mrs. Renwick C. Kennedy, Mrs. Ralph Martin, E. Leroy McIntosh, Mrs. Dot D. Moore, Montgomery; Miss Leacy Newell, Mrs. Miriam Hasson Shannon, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Slaughter, Mrs. Ouida S. Woodson, Sam Davis Chapter, Children of the Confederacy.
From ALABAMA A SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE STATE by Marie Bankhead Owen, 1938: Wilcox County was created by the Alabama Legislature December 13, 1819, and was named for Lieutenant J.M. Wilcox. It is situated in the south central part of the state. Its elevation ranges from 275 feet to 475 feet above sea level, and its topography is from undulating to hilly. It lies wholly within the Gulf Coastal Plain; and its soil may be divided into two groups: the uplands, or hill lands, and the lowlands, or made lands. There is a small area of black prairie or limestone soil in the county. The soils are well suited to agriculture. Cattle and hog raising are also found to be profitable.
The county is well drained by the Alabama and its tributaries and McCants’, Pussley’s, Rhodes’, Pine Barren, Prairie, Wolf, Little Bear, Straight, Studivant, Breast Works, Hills, Chulatchee, Foster’s, Turkey, Red, Moccasin, Goose, James, Beaver, Tiger and Bear Creeks. The forest trees of the county are long- and shortleaf pine, oak, hickory, ash, elm, poplar, cedar, cypress, cottonwood, sycamore, mulberry, beech and magnolia.
It is presumed by students of the subject that the Indian inhabitants of Wilcox County were Maubila Indians, later known as Mobilians, who were a Choctaw-speaking people. Nanipacna, meaning “hill top”, visited by the DeLuna expedition in 1560, was situated on the east side of the Alabama River in the upper part of Wilcox County. It seems there were no Indian settlements in Wilcox County during the French and Indian times, although there were two, doubtless both Creek settlements, in later American times. Because peach trees were found growing there, these two localities were called Upper and Lower Peach Tree. Lower Peach Tree still retains its name, but Upper Peach Tree has been given the modern name of Clifton. Wilcox County was in the Creek domain and became an American possession by the Treaty of Fort Jackson August 9, 1814. Burial mounds and town sites have been located along the river.
A number of white pioneers made settlements in the county in 1816. Peter Thornhill made the first road through the woods. The road was constructed to enable him to find his way to and from his hunting expeditions. Following the Creek Indian War of two years previous, the people of the Mississippi Territory were still subject to military duty; and the pioneers coming into Alabama from Mississippi were not exempt from that duty but were required to rendezvous at Fort Claiborne for drill and inspection by the proper officers every three months. As the county was infested with roving bands of Indians who were bitter over their defeat and ready for any act of violence, the trips of the militia down to Fort Claiborne were always attended with danger.
These militiamen would travel in squads of three or four, always on foot, and were armed with rifles and hunting knives. Since most of them lived on the west side of the river, they usually crossed the Alabama River at Yellow Bluff. To baffle the Indians and to avoid being ambushed, they seldom travelled the same road twice. On several occasions, they were followed by Indians; but they usually succeeded in throwing them off the track. During the absence of the men at the militia muster, their families would concentrate at one place for better protection. These precautions were kept up until the Indian troubles were ended by General Jackson’s Seminole campaign.
Camden, the county seat, is situated near the Alabama River in the central part of the county. The town was settled in the early 1830’s by Thomas Dunn and a Mr. Hall. The settlement was first called Barboursville, and the county seat was removed from Clanton to that point in 1832. In 1841, the name was changed to Camden, for Camden, South Carolina, whence many of the settlers had come. In 1853, a handsome brick building for the use of the Wilcox Female Institute was built.
Homes of the River’s Bend Tour – March 25, 2017
Enjoy the Spring Tour of some of our area’s most beloved homes.
This year’s theme is “A Tour of the River’s Bend” as we open up homes in Canton Bend, Possum Bend, Sedan, and Camden.
Tickets are available at the Gee’s Bend Ferry Terminal and Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center.
$20 for adults
$10 for youth.
For advanced tickets/group rates or additional information, please call (334) 682-4929.
Following is a brief history of the home and the flag, including a reprint of February 10, 1921 article in the Wilcox Progressive Era written by R.E. McWilliams, Sr., a private in Company B, First Alabama Regiment, and who is responsible for the flag being returned to Alabama .he next meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society is scheduled for Thursday, September 18, 2008 at the Canton Bend home known as “River Bluff House”. This home is currently owned by Judi and Doug Talbot of New Orleans , and has been featured in several Pilgrimages. The Talbots have graciously agreed to host this late afternoon meeting which will start at 2:00 P.M. This meeting will be jointly hosted by the Wilcox Historical Society and the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Bob Bradley, Flag Curator of the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History will accompany the “Wilcox True Blues” flag which was sewn on this very property in early 1861. The flag underwent several years of restoration in Maryland , and was returned to the Archives in 2007. This will be the first time it has “come home” to Wilcox County since its return from Michigan in 1921. Following Mr. Bradley’s presentation on the restoration effort, refreshments will be served. This is a no-charge event and all members and prospective members are invited!
“River Bluff House” was built around 1847 for William King Beck, a nephew of William Rufus King of Collirene, a vice president of the United States . He had migrated to Wilcox Countyaround 1820 with his three brothers from North Carolina . Like many men of the Old South, he combined a law practice with cotton planting, and achieved considerable local prominence. Apparently Mr. Beck was married twice, with his second wife being Anne Eliza Smith, daughter of a neighboring planter, Duncan C. Smith. This home was their principal residence until they moved to Camden .
“River Bluff House” is a large Greek Revival Cottage with a recessed porch supported by octagonal columns. The columns and the eared architraves framing the interior window and door openings strongly link this structure to history. J. D. Bryant, who owned the home in the late 1800’s, altered the hipped roofline from the original form.
The roof, which extends over the veranda, was characteristic of a number of mid-19th century plantation homes that once existed across south central Alabama . This home was initially restored by Don Bell in the early 1990’s and then altered to its current state by Mr. and Mrs. Jim Bridges in the mid-1990’s.
The “Wilcox True Blues” was the first company formed in this part of the State (initially formed as Company K in Allenton on February 9, 1861, later to become Company B), and was initially comprised of young men from east Wilcox County followed by young men from the Camden area. The ladies of the families of these volunteers decided to present the company with a suitable flag, and while the company was being organized, the women began to make the flag. Since the stores in Camden had no suitable material, Miss Adele Robbins of Canton Bend presented the ladies with blue silk dress material to be used for the flag. Mr. Samuel Tepper volunteered to paint the inscription on the banner which consisted of the words “Wilcox True Blues” on one side, and on the other side was depicted a steamboat, cotton boll, and a coiled rattlesnake. Mrs. Ella Thompson presented the flag to the company which the Honorable S.C. Cook accepted on its behalf. The company left Wilcox County in February 1861 and was engaged in the capture of Fort Barrancas and Fort McRea . The “Wilcox True Blues” then were organized into the First Regiment of Alabama as Company B and Judge Purifoy of Furman was made color bearer. Captains were I.G.W. Steadman, a medical doctor from Oak Hill, and David Wardlaw Ramsey. The First Lieutenant was J.K. Hawthorne. This regiment was the first one transferred to the Confederate service, and was ordered to Island 10 on the Mississippi River . On the way to this outpost, thinly clad, many of the young soldiers became ill. The color bearer, among the sick, was put off the boat at a private residence at Tiptonville , Tennessee . There he and his colors were captured by Wisconsin troops, and sent to Madison where it was placed in a military museum.
Many years later, the museum was destroyed by fire, and it was assumed that the flag had been destroyed. However, in 1917, Miss Maud McWilliams of Camden was visiting her sister Mrs. Margueritte McWilliams Cook, in Lansing , Michigan , and happened to discover in a military museum there the “Wilcox True Blues” banner, which she recognized from the description given her by her father. When the word reached Richard Ervin McWilliams, an original member of the Company, and who later served as a Major in the Confederate Army, and who had spent many years trying to locate the flag, he wrote the Michigan State Auditor and the Grand Army of Michigan requesting its return. The flag was returned to Alabama in 1921, and was displayed at the Wilcox County Courthouse for a period of time. Later it was placed in the Department of Archives and History, where it rested for over 80 years, though in dire need of repair. The local Wilcox Historical Society spearheaded the effort including a fundraiser to have this flag restored, and through the special efforts of the ADAH, this is has come to fruition.
(The above information was excerpted from an article written by R.E. McWilliams, a Private in Company B, and which appeared in the Wilcox Progressive Era on February 10, 1921 . Mr. McWilliams, the great-grandfather of our Vice President, GarlandCook Smith and her sister Jean Lindsay Cook, died on August 25, 1921 ).
Camden Cemetery listed on Alabama Historic Cemetery Register
The Wilcox Historical Society received notice in June 2008, that the Camden Cemetery , located on Broad Street in Camden , “has been favorably reviewed and is now listed on the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.” The AHCR is a prestigious listing of historic cemeteries in Alabama . The selected cemeteries are worthy of both recognition and preservation. Listing on the state cemetery register is an honorary designation.
According to Lee Anne Wofford, Architectural Survey & Cemetery Program Coordinator, with the Alabama Historical Commission, the Camden Cemetery is the third cemetery in Wilcox County to be listed on the register, which features 214 cemeteries statewide.
Historic Jail in Camden
Ed Shirley believes this is the oldest jail standing in Alabama ! Dorothy Walker with the Alabama Historical Commission met with a local committee to examine the property. The part of the structure closest to the street was probably constructed around 1850. Even the additions are more than likely before the Civil War, because of the type of bricks.
The building is very ornate with rather elaborate masonry work, especially for a “jail.” When you want a building for the purpose of locking up rowdy folks, who cares about aesthetics? Somebody did.
The county owns the building. Circuit Clerk Ralph Ervin represents the county’s interest in the structure. We are seeking estimates on repairing the windows and doors. The first step is to secure the building. The second step is to repair and paint all windows and doors to improve the old jail’s appearance. The front porch is a Victorian era addition, but it would be nice to keep it because it adds character to the structure. Once an estimate is established, measures to fund the project can be discussed.
It is indeed very rare to find an old jail still standing in the state. And its architectural details are certainly worth preserving.
Wilcox Historical Society
The Wilcox Historical Society was founded in the late 1960’s, with the initial goal to save and restore the Wilcox Female Institute. Our goal as a society continues to be to preserve the history of this region and to act in some regard as a clearing house and reference source to people searching for genealogical information. Our local Wilcox Library is an excellent source of information and features one of the best genealogical rooms to be found anywhere. You may contact us our local address: P.O. Box 464 , Camden , AL 36726 or on the web: The cost to join the society is $10 per person or $15 per couple annually. Please join us!
Wilcox Historical Society Officers:
President: Ed Shirley
V.P./Program Chairperson: Garland Cook Smith
Secretary: Jane Shelton Dale
Treasurer: Sheliah Jones
Curator: Pie Malone