Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2020

Tour of Homes Rescheduled (Again)    

As you all know by now, we have had to reschedule our Tour of Homes yet again. Our new dates are March 26 – 27, 2021, the last weekend in March. To begin, I want to thank all of our homeowners for their flexibility and understanding as we moved not once, but TWICE!  If it weren’t for their kindness, this entire process would have been a nightmare. From the middle of March, we have worked together to make the Tour of Homes a success in these very unusual times.

Another thank you goes out to Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan for their help throughout this process as well. Not only are they hosting the Reception, but they have been our sole point of contact with James Farmer and his representatives. Their hard work has ensured he will be with us in March!

The entire weekend will operate as originally scheduled with two exciting additions. As mentioned, James Farmer will still be the Guest Speaker at RiverBend Plantation on Friday night, March 26. However, the expanded tour now includes seven homes and three churches on Saturday, March 27. The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill will provide all ticket holders breakfast that morning as planned. Finally, the Pilgrimage Ball, sponsored by the Furman Historical Society, will be held at Wakefield in Furman on Saturday night, March 27.

As a thank you for your patience and support, two historic sites have been added to our Tour of Homes! The first addition is Pleasant Ridge, circa 1844. This tall-columned “big house” is not only the last extant brick antebellum house in Wilcox County, but also one of less than a dozen brick homes of the period to survive in the Black Belt. Thank you to its new owners, Mr. & Mrs. Scotty Myers for volunteering their beautiful home.

We are also adding the historic Antioch Baptist Church. Opened in 1885, it is one of the oldest African-American churches in Wilcox County and was a crossroads of the civil rights movement. In fact, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the church twice in 1965. Thank you, Ms. Betty Anderson, for making this possible!

Please know the decision to move the Tour of Homes again was not made lightly. Many of our guests planned travel months in advance and have adjusted those plans to join us for the Tour. Ultimately, the public health and safety of our guests, homeowners, and our community must be our number one priority.

Finally, you can help us immensely by continuing to spread the word about our date change and that tickets are still available. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com and wilcoxhistoricalsociety.org. We will start selling tickets locally again in January. By working together and spreading the word we will make this our most successful Pilgrimage ever!

For more information, please contact me at 256.975.7616.

Lance Britt, Tour Director 

WHS October Meeting at Gaines Ridge

It is with great delight that we are announcing our next meeting, October 8, 2020! Betty Gaines Kennedy and Haden Gaines Marsh will regale us with stories of their iconic home and restaurant Gaines Ridge. Box lunches will be provided for $15 each, and we will be socially distanced on the back porch and patio at Gaines Ridge.

Please make a reservation by replying to Garland Smith via email garlands@charter.net or by phone 205.967.6841. Lunch will begin at 11:30 followed by their talk, “Gaines Ridge – 170 Years in the Making.” You may pay Garland for lunch at the door or send your check to: 4060 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213.   

Gaines Ridge is located at 933 Hwy 10 in Camden. ♦

 WHS November Meeting in McWilliams

We are excited to announce our meeting on Sunday, November 8 at 2 pm. Our program on the Winters Excelsior Mill will be given by Philip Winters. He will be sharing the history of his family’s business – established in 1915 to the present-day operation. Philip is the grandson of James Albert Winters, the founder of Winters Excelsior.

The meeting will be held at the McWilliams Methodist Church which is located at 706 Holly Street. McWilliams is located on Highway 21 about 7 miles south of Oak Hill. Signs will be on the road to direct you to the church.

After the program, you are invited to the home of Beth and Bob Yoder at 212 Cedar Street in McWilliams. Refreshments will be served outside, weather permitting. ♦

Congratulations WHS!

We are excited to announce that the Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes won Alabama Magazine’s 2020 Award for Best of Bama for Best Heritage Tour in the State. These awards are voted on by their readers each year. They choose the best of the best of Alabama’s entertainment, restaurants, people, and places from our northern border to our shores of the Gulf. It is a great honor for our Historical Society! ♦

Member Spotlight – Beth Jones Yoder

Growing up in Wilcox County, the daughter of John Ervin Jones and beloved 4th grade teacher “Miss” Nell Gwin Jones, Beth Jones Yoder lived in Camden where she graduated from WCHS in 1962.  Then she was off to Birmingham to attend University Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1965.  While there she met and married Bob Yoder. After his residence they moved to The Azores for military service in 1970.

After returning to the States, another year was spent in the military in Ft Worth, Texas – finally to settle down in Florence, Alabama in 1973 where they lived for 33 years.  Bob practiced general surgery and when he retired in 2005, they moved to Birmingham. This was a perfect location as it put them close to their three children and six grandchildren.  

In 2011 they purchased the Youngblood home in McWilliams and love spending time there where Bob is in a hunting club and Beth is close to her sister, Dale Winters, and of course she gets to come to Camden often. They also enjoy the peace and quiet the country offers.

Beth loves to travel, walk, work in her yard and spend time with family, friends and her church.

Beth says she often gives thanks for having grown up in Camden.  She loves Camden, the people and all the happy memories it brings to her.  

“It has been such a joy to belong to the Wilcox Historical Society, connect with old friends and make new ones.  I am blessed.” ♦

Wilcox Historical Society awarded Alabama Humanities Relief Grant

The Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) awarded WHS a CARES Act relief grant through funding made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

AHF awarded 79 nonprofits in the state that have humanities as a significant part of their mission $507,500 in relief grants to help meet operational needs – including salaries, rent, property maintenance, utilities, supplies and equipment during the COVID-19 crisis.

After receiving funding from NEH, AHF began identifying operational needs in early May and conducted a two-week application process that saw 103 nonprofits around the state apply for $1.3 million in funding.

“This has been a difficult time for nonprofits throughout our state, and we were proud to play a role in supporting these organizations during this crisis,” said AHF Executive Director Lynn Clark.

The Wilcox Historical Society was the only organization in Wilcox County to receive funds from the relief grant. ♦

MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS

As of September 1, 2020, we have 46 Life Memberships (25 singles, 21 couple) and 162 annual memberships (89 singles, 73 couples) for a total of 235 members!

We currently have members from 12 states other than Alabama – Georgia -7, Colorado -3, California -2, Tennessee – 2, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia each have 1 member. ♦

Social Media Counts!

Facebook Numbers 

Our Facebook page has 1,638 fans with 72% women and 27% men. The percentages of fans in age categories are as follows: 22% are 65+, 18% are 55-64, 14% are 45-54, 11% are 35-44, 5% are 25-34 and 2% are 18-24. Most fans are from Camden, Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Monroeville. Rounding out the top ten are Thomasville, Tuscaloosa, Selma, Auburn and Greenville.

Instagram Numbers

Our Instagram page has 753 followers with our top reaching post featuring photos of Yaupon, the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home, announcing our 2020 Tour of Homes. This post in December 2019 reached 1,200 accounts. ♦

Wilcox Female Institute and Miller Law Office Repairs

from Chris Bailey, Chairman of the Planning and Fundraising Committee

We have temporarily secured the Female Institute from water intrusion. The two main sources of leaks are at the bell tower and the front top window. The window sill needs to be rebuilt. Flashing needs to be added to the base of the tower. Luckily there does not seem to be any roofing failure and these are fairly easy repairs. We already have the heart pine material for the window repairs. We will have to purchase flashing upon starting. The contractors are scheduled to make the necessary repairs tentatively in September. They are extremely busy with several projects, but I feel like the wait is worth it. I am confident that utilizing them will be most cost effective. I also have confidence that the repairs will be completed correctly with attention to details.

The second floor of the Institute is a major project. We will begin developing the design plan to include replacing the flooring that has been removed and finishing out an area to house the WHS office and Genealogy Research Room. We will also make plans to add additional bathroom facilities. 

We have done a walk though of the law office to assess where it stands in order to get a complete plan together for all our properties. The Law Office is in real need of both interior and exterior painting. The ramp and porches also need some maintenance work done. There is some repair work that needs to be done on it as well. Nothing major, but things that need to be addressed now or we are going to have to spend much more later. We will obtain estimates for the repairs and painting work. ♦

Welcome to new member James Ron Williams of Arlington, Tennessee and to new Life Member – Rebecca Welch Atwell from High Point, North Carolina! Thanks for joining the WHS. ♦

 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:

We are searching for a portrait of Mrs. Catherine Margaret ParrishEllis. She was born in Tuscaloosa in 1832 and died in Camden in 1890. She married Hewey W. Ellis in 1832. She was the niece of William Rufus King and as she was orphaned at an early age she was raised by King. Thank you. R. Kemper, PA

I hope you can give me some information about my great, great, grandfather Col. James T. Johnson and wife Corcyra E. Mathews. I know he had a law office in Camden in 1851. He was a member of the state House in 1847-1848 and the Senate in 1851-1852 representing Wilcox County. I have no record about his parents, his birth date, and place of birth. I did see one reference in a newspaper that he was born in New York and came to Georgia and Alabama as an adult. The newspaper stated he died in November, 1856. I have no record where he was buried. Any information or references about him will be greatly appreciated. I am enclosing an envelope in the hope you can send me some information and a personal check of $20 as a donation. Once the history of our families and country is lost, it’s gone forever. I commend your efforts to preserve our history. Thank you. B. Johnson, TX

Do you know where I can buy some copies of Story of Pine Apple by William L. Stanford? Thank you. B. Melton, AL

I have been researching my family genealogy. Some of my ancestors are from Camden, Alabama. Of particular interest to me is the John P. Fairley and Thomas Dunn families. My second great grandparents are a Peter Fairley (1835-192?) and Mariah Hicks (1837-1929). They were both enslaved individuals. I do not know the source of the surname Fairley. None of my available relatives know this information. My best guess is that Peter Fairley would have been owned by Thomas Dunn and then John P. Fairley, as part of an estate when he married Martha Hobbs Dunn. I did find an 1854 Alabama Supreme Court case associated with Martha Fairley. The slave in question in that case was named Jim. Hopefully, it is obvious that I am hoping to find Peter somewhere in the Dunn or Fairley records. My assumption is that Peter took the surname of his owner at the time of emancipation. Does the Historical Society have any household records that list the slaves of Thomas Dunn, John P. Fairley or Martha Fairley (after her husband’s death)? Thanks for any information, guidance or direction you might have concerning my query about the Fairley household records. I should also comment about my surname. My great grandfather was Gus Watts, born in Camden, December 1869. I believe his biological father was Gustavas Watts, the youngest son of John Watts. DNA confirms the relationship through to John Watts. Any descendant of John Watts shows as a biological cousin in the databases of Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. The Fairley connection is because Gus Watts married Annie Fairley. As a result, I would welcome any information associated with John Watts. Some decades ago, one cousin did interviews with older relatives. A claim was made that after the Civil War, Gov. Thomas Watts would periodically visit his cousins in Camden. Corroborating stories would be welcomed. Fred Watts, III, NC

Hello. In researching my family history, I discovered a great article about my great great grandfather, David McNeill. It was published in the July 14, 1932 issue of the Wilcox Progressive Era as part of an ongoing, periodic column entitled. “Childhood Memories of Prominent Citizens of Half a Century and More Ago”. The writer of the column is shown as “Sixty”. In 1932, Stanley Godbold was the President of the Wilcox Progressive Era, Inc., and I originally thought he might be the author but his date of birth was too recent. Most of the columns were written from a child’s perspective and most note the person the column is about died in the 1870s or 1880s. This predates S.G.’s birth. Maybe “Sixty” is Leonard William Godbold, the father of Stanley, but I have nothing to confirm that. And that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask assistance in discovering the identity of “Sixty”. Please advise if you or anyone in the Society knows. If not, I would appreciate any suggestions you may have for locating this information. Regards, L. McNeill, TX

I follow you guys on Instagram (I’m not on Facebook) but wondering if you send out a periodic email to which I can subscribe. Please let me know. And assuming this would include fund raising / gift opportunities too. Question I’m hoping you can answer: do you know how I can get my hand on any of Ms. Ouida Starr’s books? I’ve found (and read) so many books about Wilcox but Ms. Starr’s I cannot find. Thank you much, J. Ferguson, GA

My ancestors who settled there were the families of Nathan Williams and MontfordStokes, who married sisters Sarah and Cecilia McMurphy in 1822 in Clarke County, GA. They went together to Alabama very quickly, as Nathan got a patent for land in southern Perry County in 1825 and in 1834 got a patent in Wilcox County. Family lore has Sarah teaching at the Wilcox Female Institute, which is almost certain not true. But there were 6 Stokes girls and I would not be surprised if one or more did not attend. My 2nd great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Williams, was born in Wilcox County in 1858 to Josephine Stokes, who I think was his first cousin. Not sure about that, though. The minister who performed the ceremony was a Reverend McCarty, a Methodist minister and interestingly enough, Benjamin’s son became a Methodist circuit rider in Northern Mississippi in the late 1800s.Could you please provide me information on how to join? I hope to come to Wilcox County soon. Regards, R. Williams, TN

I am most interested in knowing if you have 1860’s verified dated photographs of any of your still-standing buildings. I am particularly interested in verified 1860’s photographs of your Wilcox Female Institute and Ackerville Baptist Church. I am a retired teacher thinking of doing a children’s activity game book where the children would have to match 1860s photographs with their contemporary views. I believe it would be fun and educational as well. Please feel free to pass on this email to anyone who may assist and suggest a website where I might find 1860’s photographs. Respectfully, Peter Vetrano peter.vetrano@yahoo.com

Does Wilcox County have an official location for your historical society? I am in North Carolina and would like to visit the area this week. A. James, NC (Editor’s note – Ms. James was directed to the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce.)I’m researching the name Grimes. My GGG grandmother’s name was Frances “Fannie” Grimes. The census has her listed in Wilcox Co. and married in Wilcox Co. in 1829. She m. William “Willie” Lewis Crain b. 1790 in GA. They had children in Wilcox, William Lewis JR., b 1830, Harvey 1835, Ellen Elizabeth 1839, Geo. Washington 1841, Sarah Frances 1842, Emanuel 1846. They moved to Milton, Santa Rosa Co. FL and lived there until death. Harvey was my GG grandfather. He married Florida Chance 1866 in Milton. They had my grandfather Thomas Jefferson Crain who married Josephine “Josie” Chestnut and they had my mother Ellen Marie Crain. I have checked Find a grave and

ancestry.com but to no avail. There was a Thomas Grimes listed in Pine Apple who was b. 1800. I’m thinking maybe they were brother and sister? The census says Thomas was b. 1800 in Fairfield SC. I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know where else to turn. Tom had a daughter named Frances b 1845. Thomas was married to Martha Flowers. They also lived in Milton at one time. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. L. Bacon, NV 

Please put me on your mailing list for the Wilcox Tour of Homes. L. McConnell, KY

Hi there. I’m doing some family research and I’ve come across a possible ancestor (DickColeman) in Snow Hill, Wilcox County, Alabama in the 1870 U.S. Census. There’s a neighbor CharlesCrawford (land owner) that I was hoping you might be able to retrieve some records on. Do you have any Freedman’s Bureau Records or know where I might find some for your county? I’m looking for possible Ration Applications or share cropper’s agreements between Charles Crawford and Dick Coleman. Thanks. K. Jacobson, NV   

I am looking for information on a Hayes/ Hays family who was in the area of Wilcox and Clarke County, Alabama in the early-mid 1800s. I have a lot of conflicting information in my tree and other online trees which has me a little confused. One particular individual is a William Hays who seems to have several different birthdates across 30 years. It could be 3 different Williams that are all related. One of the descendants of this Hays family from Wilcox County – George Washington Hayes (1863-1927) served as the Governor of Arkansas. He was the son of Thomas Hays and Parthenia Jane Ross Hays. Are there any local resources that can be used to help me figure some of this out? Any help would be appreciated. O. Lundy, GA

I have some items I would like to send you. The Wilcox County items are from Gastonburg 1954-1959. During those years, my grandfather, Rev. Virgil C. Herndon was the Methodist minister there and served several surrounding communities as well. I am sending a cookbook “What’s Cooking in Wilcox County”, a picture of the parsonage at Gastonburg, a card listing the congregations “Pap” served and to toot my own horn just a little bit, a copy of a school paper I wrote when I was 17, reminiscing about good times in Gastonburg when I was 8 to 11 years old. Hope these are welcomed items for your collection. J. Rousso, AL

Editors note: The items listed have been received and will be held to place in our future Wilcox Historical Society museum. The school paper about Gastonburg is published in this newsletter on page 11.

It was nice speaking with you today about the Historical Society and my genealogy research. The 1880 census identifies Richard Williams, his Mother, Mary, sister, Sarah and brother, William in one household and brother Claiborne, living at another address. His wife Dollie died between 1902 and 1910 and they disappeared from the census rolls. Whatever additional information you can provide me on Richard, his mother and father and the rest of the family would be greatly appreciated. Note that Mary was widowed in 1880. Thank you for your help. M. Williams, GA

I have ancestors named Martin and Geck and others that lived in Wilcox County starting in the 1830’s and I am looking for documents that would show more information about them and the history of Camden, Wilcox County and towns around there like Buena Vista, Alabama. Can you tell me any kinds of histories and records that are available from about 1830-1910? I really appreciate it. R. Wright, OR  

Comments to a WHS Facebook page post on September 2 for #WaybackWednesday that featured an old photo of the Alco Theater in Camden:

My daddy worked at the Alco. He has a lot of stories about it. C.M. Reynolds ~ I remember it well! Admission was 15 cents, I believe! L.L. Tait ~ I remember that theater from my childhood trips to Camden. A. Rohmer ~ Love seeing this! L. Hall 

Comments to a WHS Facebook post on August 15 that was shared from the This is Alabama page featuring photos of homes in Pine Apple:

Never tire of seeing pictures of Wilcox County! R. Jones ~ It’s one of my favorite places in Alabama! It’s close to my historic home. It has the nicest people there! M. Fort~ Pine Apple is a treasure and so are its residents and their ancestry. So much history! I just love her and her people so much. S.R. Arnold 

Comments to a WHS Facebook post on July 23 that was shared from the Old Alabama Family photos page courtesy of Bob Lowry featuring two photos from dinner on the grounds at Sunny South Baptist Church in the 1960s:

Nothing like a good ole dinner on the grounds. Been to many of them. S.C. Presnall ~ Remember these at Bear Creek and Shilo! B. Yoder

Comments to a WHS Facebook post on July 19 that was shared from the Furman Historical Society with photos and news of the Robbins House, circa 1845, undergoing a complete restoration by Don Bell:

My ancestor’s home. My great grandmother was born in this house. So happy it’s being restored. Don Bell is a miracle worker on old homes. M.C. Bates ~ Looks great! I have history in Furman! D. Boone ♦

Alabama Black Belt Adventures Feed your Adventure

                                                Flavors of the Black Belt

Flavors of the Black Belt is the perfect back roads adventure for this fall!

“Enjoy a back roads weekend jaunt through Alabama’s historic Black Belt region to feed upon the bounty of drinks and eats created by the locals! You’ll be amazed at the unending baked, brewed, butchered, canned, distilled, gathered, ground, pickled, roasted and smoked goods!

The color-coded map outlines nine different themed trails. Each one is featured on the linked, PDF pages available for download. The Shopping Checklist on each page highlights each trail’s delectable creations you’ll want to sample and take home with you as well as various cultural and historical must-sees!”

Restaurants featured in Wilcox County are Miss Kitty’s, The Pecan on Broad, Gaines Ridge and Jackson’s Fried Chicken. Places to stay include Capell House at Pebble Hill, Liberty Hall Bed & Breakfast and Roland Cooper State Park. And included in what to see and where to go are Black Belt Treasures and The Old Shoe Shop Museum in Camden and The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill and Gee’s Bend Quilt Collective Building in Boykin.

For more information see https://alabamablackbeltadventures.org/ or call 334.343.6173. ♦

Pine Apple’s Connection to the Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company in Montgomery

by Martha Grimes Lampkin

In 1871, two young men formed a partnership to enter into the general merchandise business in Pine Apple. At the time Pine Apple was a prosperous town in Wilcox County. Shortly before 1870 the Selma and Gulf railroad was built bringing commercial changes to the town. It was the earliest arrival of a rail line in the county and made Pine Apple a regional commercial center. It was described as “a flourishing town of very nice and comfortable homes and located on a ridge.”  According to the census the population of Pine Apple in 1870 was 1,960. In 1872 the town of Pine Apple was incorporated.

The two young men were Louis Steiner and Nathan Lobman – Jewish merchants who made Pine Apple their home in the early 1870s.

The historical marker erected in Pine Apple in 2010 cites Steiner and Lobman, along with others, as “pioneers, founding families, and entrepreneurs active in the civic and commercial life of Pine Apple.”

Louis’ Background

Louis Steiner was born in 1849 in Tachau, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) to Michael Steiner and Babette Löwy. He was educated in Germany and came to the United States as a young man in 1867. Louis settled in Montgomery and worked for Meyer Uhlfelder and Company, a mercantile business. Meyer’s wife was Elizabeth Steiner – Louis’ aunt.

Meyer Uhlfelder and Elizabeth Steiner married in Butler County on 13 November 1854. They had four children – Samuel, Esther, Morris and August. Morris died as in infant in 1859 and his mother Elizabeth died in 1860. Meyer married Mary Fraleigh in 1862 and they had four known children: Katherine “Katie”, Hellen, Bernard and Henry and probably two infants, Jacob and Sarah, who both died in 1865.

Louis Steiner married Susan “Susie” Lobman on 12 February 1873 in Montgomery. Louis and Susie had eight daughters and one son: Emma, Theresa, Michael, Maud, Beulah, Rosa, Hattie, Kate and Gertrude.

Nathan’s Background

Nathan was born in 1851 in New York City to parents Henry Lobman and Theresa Steiner – immigrants from Bavaria and Austria, respectively.  According to the 1860 census, the Lobman family resided in Greenville, Alabama, but moved to Montgomery by 1870. While in Greenville, Nathan received a limited education and attended a school taught by Col. Thomas Herbert until sixteen. He then clerked for Lewis Bear, a peddler at L. Bear & Company in Greenville. Nathan then moved to Montgomery where he opened a general store. Two years later, Nathan removed his $800 stock of goods to Pine Apple and opened a general store with Louis Steiner.

After Nathan’s mother’s death in 1875 his father, Henry Lobman, moved to Pine Apple and worked in the Steiner and Lobman store. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Pine Apple he is found living with Louis and his family with his occupation listed as “clerk in store.” 

Nathan Lobman married Carrie Pollak in 1884 in New York. They had four children – three daughters and one son: Theresa, Walter, Myron and Bernard.

Louis Steiner and Nathan Lobman were first cousins and brothers in law. Louis’ father Michael was the brother of Nathan’s mother. Louis’ wife Susan was the sister of Nathan.

Time in Pine Apple

As young men living in Pine Apple, Nathan and Louis got into a bit of trouble.  On 2 October 1873 the Town of Pine Apple charged Nathan (age 22) with assault and battery against the person of Wiley Jones. He was found guilty and fined.

Between March 1874 (age 25) and January 1888 (age 39) Louis Steiner was charged with assault and battery or fighting seven times by the Town of Pine Apple. Each time he pled guilty and was fined.

According to the Montgomery City Directory, Steiner and Lobman were also involved with Greil Brothers & Company in Pine Apple in 1880 and 1881. Greil Brothers was a wholesale grocer, cigar, tobacco, liquors and agent for Schlitz Milwaukee beer.

The population of Beat 11 – the Wilcox County district in which Pine Apple was located, was 2,426 according to the 1880 census. The Town of Pine Apple had a population of 358 as compared to 590 in the Town of Camden, the Wilcox county seat. 

By the 1890s Pine Apple had eight to ten business establishments, several saloons, a post office, and a depot, which was located 1.5 miles west of town. Young men were known to ride their horses at full gallop through the town firing their pistols. Nathan and Louis were certainly not alone in being charged with fighting in Pine Apple’s heyday.

Louis and Nathan built homes in Pine Apple not far from their downtown store. Later on, Dr. William Whitman Stuart purchased the Steiner house but tore it down, leaving a vacant lot. In 1903 Paul Davidson built a Queen Anne style two-story home on the lot, which remains today. The Lobman house still stands in Pine Apple and is currently used as a hunting lodge. It is a one and a half story gabled coastal cottage type house with decorative jigsaw work brackets on the porch and gable. The Steiner-Lobman store burned in the tragic fire that destroyed most of the business part of Pine Apple in December 1903.

Move from Pine Apple

The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper published in March 1928 stated:

                “As the two young men prospered, they began to look around for broader fields in a more thickly  settled territory. Montgomery being the Capital City, appealed to them and in 1891 they purchased the   property on the corner of Commerce and Tallapoosa streets, having in view at that time the close  proximity to the Alabama River and the railroads. All the county bordering the river was served by the Nettie Quill and Tinsie Moore, two paddle wheel steamboats which maintained a regular schedule between Montgomery and Mobile. The business and political life of the entire state centered around   Montgomery and these two farsighted young business men were quick to grasp the opportunity to  further their dream of a great mercantile business.”

The Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company became one of the largest dry goods establishments in Alabama. It was also the oldest establishment of its kind in the state.

In the late 1890s the company established the Steiner-Lobman Pants Factory at 212 Commerce Street in Montgomery. The plant employed about 75 workers and made “Polly” brand overalls and other lines of work clothing. The apparel manufacturing plant moved to 152 Coosa Street and grew to over 150 employees in a factory space of 80,000 square feet producing eighteen thousand pairs of slacks and jeans per week. 

In 1979 the Steiner-Lobman and Teague buildings on Commerce Street were added to the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings were completed in 1891. The structures are of the Victorian-Italianate style with pressed metal covering the upper floors. Architectural historian Jeff Benton writes, “some describe the buildings as resembling masonry palaces of the Italian Renaissance.” Further described by Benton:

                “Except for roof ornaments and minor decorative details, the two buildings are identical. The three-story   masonry buildings share a common firewall. They have separate hipped roofs. The Commerce Street elevation of each building has six bays separated by cast-iron pilasters that support the masonry of the upper floors, and allow for wide show windows or doors on the ground floor. Originally, each bay had a double door with lower paneled sections, large single upper light, and ten smaller colored lights. There was   a large, rectangular single-light transom above each pair of doors. A full entablature of sheet metal separates the ground floor from the second floor. The upper two floors are sheathed in pressed metal embossed with rosettes, rope molding, raised panels, and with egg-and-dart and leaf-and-tongue motifs. Pressed zinc, tin, or galvanized iron provided an inexpensive imitation, very freely adapted, of the stone decorative features of Italian Renaissance buildings.”

The most well-known and unusual feature of the Steiner-Lobman building is the roof top ornamental coffin like structure. Many stories have been told about the coffin and rumors circulated about who was buried there. But it is hollow and made from sheet metal hammered out in the shape and completely empty. It may have been used to hide a water tower at one time. 

Also, atop this building is an eight-foot goddess, perhaps Athena. The Teague Hardware Company building’s symbol is an anvil. Many theories have been created to explain the three features but it seems that no one knows the true meaning of each. Their symbolism has been lost.

With the store operating out one of the buildings, Teague Hardware purchased the other portion in 1895. William Martin Teague had prospered in the mercantile business in Greenville, Alabama before coming to Montgomery and founding a hardware business. Both firms were located in the buildings until the mid-1970s. Both buildings are now owned and occupied by the law firm Rushton Stakely.

Later Life

Nathan Lobman died in April 1915 at the age of 66 at his residence on South Lawrence Street in Montgomery after an illness of several months. Mr. Lobman was a member of the Montgomery city council for six years, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Masons, Elks, Knights of Pythias and B’Nal B’Rith and was a devout member of Kahl Montgomery. He left $10,000 to charity to be distributed by his wife. In today’s currency, that amount would equal about $254,000. His son, Walter Lobman, his brother, Emanuel Lobman and his long-time business partner Louis Steiner were named executors of Nathan’s estate.

Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company became a corporation in 1915, after the death of Mr. Lobman, with Louis Steiner as President. He was active in the business until his death, a period of 55 years and was “the dean of the wholesale dry goods business of Alabama.” He was also president of the Steiner-Lobman Realty Company and was formerly a director of the Fourth National Bank of Montgomery. Louis was a member of the Masons, Knights of Pythias and the Standard Club. He was also a trustee of the congregation of Kahl Montgomery, and an active member of Temple Beth-Or. In his will he named Temple Beth-Or, the Montgomery Tuberculosis League, the Jewish Widows’ and Orphans’ home of New Orleans and the National Jewish Hospital in Denver as beneficiaries. In today’s currency, the amount left these charities would equal over $35,000. His seven surviving daughters were given stock in the Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company and the Steiner-Lobman Realty Company along with cash or houses in Montgomery.

At the age of 77, in April 1926, Louis Steiner passed away while visiting his daughter Hattie Saxe (Mrs. Louis Saxe) in Mt. Vernon, New York. The news came as a shock to his family and friends as he left Montgomery in good health.

His obituary published in The Montgomery Advertiser on 17 May 1926 reads:

                “The recent passing of Louis Steiner, a familiar figure in the life of Montgomery for many, many years,        brought sorrow to his hundreds of friends.  It was always a pleasure to visit him in his store or to stop and                 chat with him for a few minutes on the street.  He had the ‘larger heart, the kindlier hand,’ which always              does so much good for humanity. One of the secrets of Mr. Steiner’s success in the business world was his           unerring judgment of men. He helped many a merchant to make a start in life, and generally the man to               whom he sold his first bill of goods became a customer for life. Montgomery will miss Louis Steiner.”

 The Steiner-Lobman partnership was strong for many, many years. Both men lived “to see the realization of their dreams and left their business in the hands of their children to carry on to further success.”

The Louis Steiner family and the Nathan Lobman family have adjoining lots in the Old Jewish Cemetery in the city cemetery of Oakwood in Montgomery known as the Land of Peace – partners in eternity no doubt. ♦

Sources:

History of Pine Apple Wilcox County, Alabama 1815-1989 by Robert A. Smith, III and Frances Donald Dudley Grimes, published 1990.

A Sense of Place Montgomery’s Architectural Heritage 1821-1951 by Jeffrey S. Benton, published 2001

The Historical Ownership Map of Pine Apple, Alabama by Joy Maxwell Dees, Harold W. Grimes Jr. and Joyce H. Wall and originator William D. Melton

Die Geschichte Der Juden in Tachau (The History of the Jews in Tachau) by Josef Schon, published 1927

The Town of Pine Apple Justice Court Records, 1872 – 1893

United States Department of the Interior National Park Service – The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Pine Apple Historic District, January 1999

HMdb.org – The Historical Marker database, Downtown Pine Apple Marker erected 2010 by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Town of Pine Apple

Newspapers.com – The Montgomery Advertiser, 28 April 1915, 11 May 1915, 26 February 1919, 22 April 1926, 1 May 1926, 17 May 1926, 15 March 1928, 1 March 1970, 6 July 1976, 5 April 1979, 7 May 1994; The Weekly Advertiser 3 October 1860

https://www.census.gov/library/publications U.S. Census Bureau 1870 Census: A Compendium of the Ninth Census

https://www.census.gov/library/publications U.S. Census Bureau 1880 Census: A Compendium of the Tenth Census

Ancestry.com – United States Federal census records 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900; United States Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885; Alabama Compiled Marriages from Selected Counties 1809-1920; U.S. Passport Applications 1795-1925 Immigration and Travel; Montgomery, Alabama Directories 1880-1895 Directories and Membership; Notable Men of Alabama: personal and genealogical with portraits; Cook County, Illinois Deaths Index 1878-1922, 

The Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 48, No. 2 and Volume 56, No. 3

Dollartimes.com/inflation

Findagrave.com

Gastonburg Alabama

By Jo Anne Howington Rousso, written in 1966 at age 17 

Small towns are often more intriguing and picturesque than the most exciting city. They are not carbon copies like larger municipalities, but each has its own distinctive characteristics. Gastonburg, Alabama, a very small village boasting a post office, one store, and two churches, has more appeal than many larger places.

The system of paved streets forms a small semicircle leaving the highway at the store, passing the lovely colonial home on the right which is the home of the Wilkersons. The next sight is the Presbyterian Church dressed in white, brightening the right side of the street. The street turns left here and makes a circle back to the highway and post office which is next to the store. At the post office, there is a fork in the street, one goes to the highway and the other to the post office. In the middle of the fork is a lovely flower garden. It always seemed to give the whole area a breath of beauty and springtime.

Another street goes straight from the Presbyterian Church past the Methodist Church where services are held once a month. There is no Presbyterian minister, so the people of Gastonburg alternate the Sunday school between the two churches.

Next on the tour is the Methodist parsonage. This is the most familiar sight in Gastonburg to me. My grandfather and grandmother lived here for six years. I can remember many happy visits to this home, and many good times in the yard with the fence around it. One of the pleasantest memories I have of my visits is the walks from the parsonage to the store. I nearly always took a short-cut, (which really was no short-cut for the distance by the road could surely not have been any longer), through what seemed to me to be like a park. There was a little trail and a cement park bench. I always stopped there on my way back home to eat my ice cream.

The rest of the shady street is the setting for about five homes. The street then is swallowed by the main highway. To passersby Gastonburg is only a “wide place in the road,” but to me it holds many memories of a quaint, beautiful community, and many happy visits to the Methodist Church parsonage. ♦

Please encourage others to become a member of the Wilcox Historical Society! Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single. 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. Questions? Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks! ♦

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Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2020Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor, Garland Cook Smith, Vice President and Program Chairperson, Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary, Mary Margaret Fife Kyser, Treasurer and LaJunta Selsor Malone, Curator. ♦

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Spring 2020

WHS 2020 Tour of Homes

Treasures of the Old South!

The Tour weekend which was originally planned for March 27th – 28th has been rescheduled to September 25th – 26th. The entire weekend’s events are the same – beginning on Friday at 6:30 PM with a Welcome Reception at RiverBend, circa 1848, with wine and hor d’oeuvres. Owners Christopher Bailey and Ryan Dunagan have completed a full restoration of this country residence and its grounds. The highlight of this special evening will begin at 8:00 PM with our guest speaker, Mr. James Farmer, Southern author and interior designer.

Everyone attending the reception must take the shuttle from the Wilcox Female Institute – there will be NO parking at RiverBend.

On Saturday morning, September 26th, all ticket holders are invited to The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill with a complimentary Southern breakfast from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM.

The historic homes on tour this year from 10 AM to 5 PM Saturday include Yaupon – the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home, River Bluff Plantation – the Beck-Bryant-Talbot Home, the Strother-Gibbs Home, the Beck-Darwin-Hicks Home and House on the Hill – the Liddell-Phillippi Home.

This year’s tour also includes a Living History event at Liberty Hall. The grounds of Liberty Hall will be the scene of a reenactment portrayed by Company F of the 31st Alabama Infantry CSA and the 20th Kentucky Volunteers USA. This family unit represents both sides of the War and will reenact the day in April of 1865 when Union troops arrived at Liberty Hall with the intent to destroy it.

At 10:30 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM the living historians will reenact the arrival of Union troops to Liberty Hall. At noon, living historian, Scotty Myers, will appear as Jefferson Davis and will speak from the balcony of the house. His presentation is based on actual speeches Davis gave while traveling through Alabama in 1864.

The hall and formal rooms of Liberty Hall will be open for touring.

Churches in downtown Camden on the Tour are the First Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Also on Tour will be the Old Shoe Shop Museum, owned and directed by Ms. Betty Anderson, the Beck-Miller Law Office and the Old Wilcox County Jail in downtown Camden.

Lunch will be served at the following locations from 11 AM to 2 PM: the Dale Lodge – BBQ and sides, Wilcox Female Institute by Blue Spoon Cooking Company, and The Pecan on Broad – sandwiches, salads, sides and desserts.

Tickets to the Tour Package (including the Friday night reception, breakfast and the Tour) are $40. Group ticket price is $35 (available for groups of 10 or more), WHS Members $30, Student Admission $25 and Children 6 and under are free.

In addition, the Furman Historical Society is sponsoring a Pilgrimage Ball at Wakefield in Furman on Saturday night, September 26th from 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM featuring period music by the Un-Reconstructed string band. Guests are encouraged to wear period civilian dress from the antebellum era or formal attire.

Tickets to the Pilgrimage Ball at Wakefield are $75 per person or $150 per couple. All proceeds will go to the preservation and restoration of historic structures in the Town of Furman.

Tickets are on sale now and can be bought locally at Black Belt Treasures Cultural Art Center, The Pecan on Broad or at The Brittany House Antiques at Oak Hill or online at Eventbrite.com. Please note that only full price adult tickets are available online.

Tickets may also be purchased on Friday, September 25th at Tour Headquarters, the Wilcox Female Institute, from 2:30 PM to 6:30 PM and on the day of the Tour from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Everyone must pick up 2020 arm bands and maps at tour headquarters – Wilcox Female Institute – 301 Broad Street in Camden.

For more information call the Tour Coordinator at 256-975-7616 or email wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or see our Facebook page, Instagram page or website wilcoxhistoricalsociety.org.

Let’s all enjoy this special Weekend in Wilcox! ♦


WHS November Meeting

 The WHS met on November 14th at the Wilcox Female Institute to hear Dr. James P. Pate, independent scholar and historian, and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of West Alabama.

Dr. Pate spoke on his book The Annotated Pickett’s History of Alabama. This book was a special edition published as part of our state’s bicentennial.

The meeting was well attended by over 25 members and guests including some former students of Dr. Pate’s. ♦


Christmas In Furman

THANK YOU to the Britt family for hosting the annual WHS Christmas Open House at their historic home in Furman on December 7th. ♦


WHS February Meeting

 The Wilcox Female Institute was the site of the February 6th WHS meeting. Sarah Duggan of New Orleans was the featured speaker. “Field Work Finds: Historic Furniture in Wilcox County” was the topic of the program.

Ms. Duggan is the Coordinator and Research Curator of the Classical Institute of the South, a project of The Historic New Orleans Collection that documents historic decorative arts made or used in the Gulf South. With help from graduate student fellows, she conducts annual summer field work across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to explore the region’s material culture.

Many will recall that she spoke last March to tour participants at the Friday evening welcome reception before the Tour of Homes.

About 30 members and guests enjoyed the program. ♦


Letter from the President

Dear WHS members and friends,

Our March 27th -28th Tour of Homes has been rescheduled due to the Corona virus outbreak. A huge THANK YOU goes to Lance Britt, our Tour Coordinator, for the countless hours of phone calls, texts and emails he made to work out the details to reschedule. The support of all of our homeowners is phenomenal and we look forward to a successful Pilgrimage six months from now!

According to Lance, as of this week we have sold tickets to over 600 people from nine states – Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New York and Virginia.

In other news, we will soon be forming a few committees to help guide the WHS into the future. Committees will include Planning / Fundraising, Pilgrimage, Membership and Marketing. Let me know how you would like to serve.

To say there is a lot of interest in Wilcox County history is an understatement. We receive many requests for family history information and requests about various Wilcox County sites. If you are interested in being a resource for county history please let me know. Currently there are no researchers available for hire that I am aware of and being able to share some resources would be a wonderful service to those researching their roots!

I have the pleasure of serving as President and Editor of the WHS for the fourth year.  I like to think my grandmother, Frances Donald Dudley Grimes, one of the first Presidents of WHS, is smiling down on us and proud that the organization is strong and active!

Thank you for your continued support of the Wilcox Historical Society!

Best regards,

Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor

(334) 296-1076

wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com


Member Spotlight –

A native of Birmingham, Mary Margaret Fife Kyser and her husband, George resided in Montgomery for thirty-seven years. She taught history at Carver and Baldwin Arts and Academic Magnet and The Montgomery Academy. She later served as the Assistant Director / Senior Services of MACCOA, Montgomery Area Council on Aging.

Mary Margaret and George, a native of Carlowville, built a retirement home on the River and moved to Camden two years ago. She became active in Wilcox Artworks and founding of The Gallery. She has volunteered with Black Belt Treasures and has taught art to youth in the community. She also serves as the Senior Warden of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carlowville. Mary Margaret was elected as Treasurer for WHS this year.

She and George have one daughter, Mart Patton Kyser Whitten, one grandson and two dogs. ♦


Please encourage others to become a member of the Wilcox Historical Society! Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single. 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. Questions? Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks! ♦

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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. We also love receiving comments on our posts on the WHS Facebook page. Here are a few inquiries and comments received since our last newsletter:

Any information about the Young family from Wilcox County? I’m looking for more info on my 2nd great grandmother Amelia Young b. 1858. My great grandfather was Zach Young b. 1893. F. Young

 I am looking for information related to my mother and father who were both born in Camden. Their names were Estella Pritchett and Herbert Aaron. Estella and Herbert were also the parents of Henry “Hank” Aaron who went on to break Babe Ruth’s baseball home run record. My parents married early and left Camden for Mobile, Alabama. Majority of my family came from Camden and I have put together an extensive family tree but there are some missing pieces that you may direct me in securing. Thanks. A.A. Scott 

I happened upon your website this morning and I would appreciate your sending me a form to join. Also, I am hoping someone there has information on the location of a cemetery. I was always told the name of it was Ray-Sills-McNeill Cemetery. I recently found the graves for this cemetery listed in Findagrave as being in Stevenson Cemetery. Only about 12-15 people are buried here – mid 1800’s to early 1920’s. Interestingly, one person there has a Death and Burial Record showing she was buried in Mount Hope. So, hopefully these are some clues whereby someone can point me in the right direction.

One of the main reasons I ask this, is because my GGG Grandfather, Thomas Godfrey Tate (died 1861) and an infant of his who died in 1860 are buried there in unmarked graves. Thus, I would at least like to find the location of the cemetery. Sadly, someone has placed a marker ‘in memory of’ to him beside his wife, Matilda Ann Ray Tate, in the Society Hill Cemetery, so now everyone thinks he is buried there.

If anyone can help me with this cemetery question, I would be greatly appreciative!

I am a descendant of the early peoples of Wilcox County – and proud to be so. Ancestors include the family of Stewart and McBride of the Oak Hill area as well as the Tait/Tate family and Dailey and Burson of the Fatama area. Of course, there are others – Ray and Wilkinson for examples. We still have land in the Fatama (Old Stewartville) community and get back when we can – at least yearly to Enon Baptist Church for their memorial in which I was humbled to preach at last year.

Thanks for your help and what you do. G. Swanner (Editor’s Note: Rev. Swanner was put in touch with the landowner in which the cemetery is located and was able to visit the cemetery in February.)

I am looking for a photo of Captain George Lynch of Wilcox County, Company C, 6th Alabama Regiment Volunteers. Thank you. R. Long

I am the descendant of the Hunter family originating from Snow Hill, Alabama and residing in Allenton, Alabama per census (continued on page 5)

records. I am trying to locate any records for my Grandmother, Mernervia Arnold, born Nervie or Nerva Hunter in Snow Hill, Alabama on April 21, 1916. A. James

I am looking for a 1966 Alabama license plate from Wilcox County. Please let me know if there is a place or if someone has one for sale. Thanks. D. Dobbs, AL

Greetings. Thank you for keeping history alive in Wilcox County. As a person engrossed in history, I appreciate all you do!

I am seeking information on my grandfather, Ernest Wells Green, who was killed in a logging accident at Packard’s Bend on December 13, 1933. Are there any newspaper obituaries or articles from that time? Any information you may point me to would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. J. Emert

I am researching my early family history. My family names associated with Wilcox County are Blain, Gillespie, McDonald, Gordon and Ratcliff.

One branch was Scottish and Irish who originally settled in Virginia and South Carolina in the 1700s but were living in Wilcox County Alabama in the 1800s. I believe a number were buried in the Camden Cemetery.

I am interested in how were they living while in Alabama.

Some specific names: Duncan McDonald, born in SC about 1813, married Adaline Ratcliff, who was born in Wilcox County about 1837. Duncan died 25 April 1854 in Wilcox County and is buried in the Camden Cemetery. They were married 11 October 1836 in Wilcox County.

Their children were Mary Arabella – born 11 September 1837, Lelia – born about 1838, Mourning – born about 1848 and Duncan born about 1851. S. Knight, MA.

Is there a repository online somewhere where I can find old photographs of Camden/Wilcox County – houses, people, downtown, the river, etc.? Thanks. J. Ferguson, GA

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Response to a WHS Facebook page post about the Tour of Homes guest speaker James Farmer:

I had the privilege of meeting James Farmer in 2013 when he was a featured speaker during our alumni weekend in Athens, GA. He is not to be missed. J.K.B. Williams

Responses to a WHS Facebook page post for Tombstone Tuesday’s tombstone for Bertha Donald Miller (1871-1924):

Thank you for this wonderful post! Aunt Bertha cherished her family and lived with her sister, my great-grandmother, once they were both widowed. They lived together in Pine Apple for a number of years until her passing. She helped raise my grandmother (who lost her father at a very young age). Through letters we have learned more of Aunt Bertha and that her husband passed away on Thanksgiving Day. She did not celebrate Thanksgiving from that day forward in honor of him. Also, she and her husband’s families were deeply rooted in the South Carolina Presbyterian foundations established in Wilcox County via Erskine College. A.S. Williams

This was all very interesting and another history lesson! P. Peterson

Response to a WHS Facebook post about River Bluff:

My grandparents owned this home for many years. I cannot wait to see it again! G. Gault

Responses to a WHS Facebook post and photograph of “Letha with a Turkey 1910 Furman”:

The Mary Lee Simpson collection is a treasure. Thanks for sharing! M.C. Bates

What an amazing and beautiful pic!                    S. Matranga ♦


 Wilcox Artworks Art Exhibit

Wilcox Artworks will hold a juried Art Exhibit March 21-April 18. The opening reception on Saturday, March 21 has been cancelled. Winners will be notified digitally. The Gallery is located at 103 Broad Street, Camden. A People’s Choice Award will take place during the Hog Wild for Art Celebration on April 18. The winner and prize will be announced at that time.

Wilcox Artworks is the local arts council for Wilcox County supporting the arts and culture of our rich county.

Please contact wilcoxartworks@gmail.com for more information or to join! Memberships are now available: $25 Single, $35 Family, $50 + for Corporate. ♦

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Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2020 – Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor, Garland Cook Smith, Vice President and Program Chairperson, Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary, Mary Margaret Fife Kyser, Treasurer and LaJunta Selsor Malone, Curator ♦

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A LOOK BACK…

22 July 1920 WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

Mrs. Brooks Robbins of Catherine is in a Selma Hospital suffering from the effects of a congestive chill she had after coming to Selma Thursday on a motor trip with Mr. Robbins. Mr. Robbins is stopping at the Albert during his wife’s illness.

Mrs. W. S. Irby of Lower Peach Tree, who was called to Selma by the death of Mr. Geo. Herbert Kyser, left for home Thursday after spending a few days with her daughter, Mrs. R.I. Moore of Summerfield.

Misses Henrietta Irby and Mary Irby, of Lower Peach Tree passed through Selma Thursday en route to Richmond, Kentucky, to visit their sister, Mrs. Carl Park and family.

 School Notes

Forty dollars was the sum netted on the 3rd of July by the Watson Crossing picnic. This amount will be applied to the school needs.

Nearly $15000 has been raised by citizens of Pine Hill headed by Mr. W.J. Miller as chairman of the finance committee for erecting a new school building. The drive will not let up until sufficient funds are in hand to secure a commodious brick building.

Prof. N.J. Walker of Cameron, Texas, former Alabamian, and at present connected with Baylor University has accepted the principalship of the Wilcox County High School. Prof. Walker is highly recommended and has an enviable record as an educator. He will arrive about the middle of August.

Nine whites and seventeen colored applicants took the examination this week.

A contract will be let shortly for the erection of a new school building in McWilliams. It will be a four class room, with manual training department. The cost will be around $5,000. It will be completed in the early fall.

Miss Mildred Rutland of Evergreen has accepted a position in the Camden Grammar School.

Eight years ago, the public funds of Wilcox County were practically the same as the past year around $35,000. To maintain the same standard of schools as in the past would require a budget of at least $100,000 or $42,000 more than the total funds of the county the past year. Yet there are still many people in our county who oppose school levies, matriculation fees and supplemental plans.

The average cost in the United States per pupil for maintaining High schools is $84.94 per year, for maintaining elementary schools it is $31.65.

About 15 positions remain unfilled in the schools of Wilcox County.

The past year 110 children were transported to schools in Wilcox County. The maximum distance children were transported was about 7 miles. The average cost per month per pupil was about $3.00 or $27.00 per annum. This is rather below the average in the cost of transportation. Of the six vehicles used in transportation, one was a Ford truck, 3 cars one school has and one home equipped wagon. The most surprising feature of the transportation system is the fact that as high if not higher percentage of attendance of these children, than the regular average attendance will be shown.

22 January 1920 WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

 Local

Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Burford were Selma visitors Tuesday.

Mr. J.A. Mills of Pine Apple, was a business visitor to Camden on Tuesday.

Preaching at the A.R.P. Church next Sabbath at 11 a.m. Sabbath school at 10.

Mrs. Nellie Miller was called to Mobile last week by the death of her nephew, Mr. Tucker.

Mrs. J.O. O’Neal entertained for a number of friends on Monday last.

Mr. & Mrs. John Skinner were made happy on last week by the arrival of a baby girl. She has been christened Ethel Pritchett Skinner.

For Sale – Twelve Red Burbon Turkeys. Mrs. T. A. Capell, Route 3, Camden, Ala.

Mrs. M. McArthur and Mrs. J.D. Bryant had the pleasure of hearing Madame Curci give her song recital in Montgomery the past week.

Lost-Between Station and Liddell’s Store, Love chain with engraved B. on locket. Finder return and get reward. Mrs. T. M. Baggett

Dr. C.C. Daniel, President of Birmingham-Southern College will preach at the Methodist Church on next Sunday, January 25th, morning and evening.

Mesdames S.G. Brice of Chester, S.C. and Mrs. Pogue of Gadsden were visitors to their brother, Judge B.M. Miller and family this week.

Bledsoe-Nettles

A quiet wedding ceremony, which took place at 10:20 o’clock Saturday morning in the Hotel Albert parlors united Miss Evelyn Nettles, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Z.G. Nettles, of Camden, and the Rev. J.C. Bledsoe of Pine Hill in marriage. The officiating minister was Dr. John A. Davison, pastor of the First Baptist Church of this city.

8 April 1937 THE BUTLER COUNTY NEWS

Diamond Doings

Invading Pine Apple on last Friday, the locals turned the fewest hits into the most runs, defeating the Wilcox County lads by the score of 3-1.

Nick Stallworth went the full nine innings on the slab for the local team, and did a superb job. When hits meant runs, the local hurler was cold as ice, stranding many men on the bases for the opposition.

Turner turned in a great game for the home team, but his elbowing could not offset errors of his mates and the timely hitting of the local nine.

Score by innings:                              R  H  E

Pine Apple      000 100 000          1   7  3

Georgiana       001 000 002          3   6  2

Batteries: Turner and West; Stallworth and P. Chambliss

6 April 1939 THE ADVERTISER-JOURNAL (Haleyville, Alabama)


Wilcox Farmers Grow Hay Crops

Under the leadership of E.H. Kelley and F.C. Turner, county agent and assistant agent respectively, Wilcox County farmers are making great strides in growing perennial hay crops.

Wilcox farmers recently made a cooperative purchase of nearly 200,000 Kudzu crowns to set out for the production of legume hay, control of soil erosion and as a temporary grazing crop.

Mr. Leslie Rutherford, who has one of the largest Kudzu fields in southwest Alabama, states that he gets around two tons of good kudzu hay to the acre every year. His hay is not only palatable but is even more nutritious that alfalfa. “This added to the fact that it completely controls soil erosion makes it one of the most valuable plants that we can grow,” says County Agent Kelley. The Wilcox farm agent recommends that it be grown on any of the soils in Wilcox County except the Sumter and Houston soils of the Black Belt.

Many farmers of the section believe that kudzu can and will prove valuable as a supplement of their pastures during the dry spells which come nearly every summer, which is one of the most critical times for cattle raisers throughout middle Alabama. ♦


In Memoriam

Ouida Ann Starr Woodson (1944-2019)

Back in November we lost a very special lady – a mother, homemaker, writer, journalist and respected historian. She published several volumes of local history – Within the Bend, Books 1-6 and Men of Wilcox – They Wore the Gray.

She was a founding member and officer of the WHS and was instrumental in the restoration of the Wilcox Female Institute.

She was owner and publisher of The Wilcox American Newspaper in Camden from 1976-1984.

She was a member of the Camden Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. She was an officer of the Camden ARP Women of the Church and was active in many other church and civic affairs.

Mrs. Woodson was born in Gadsden but grew up in the Possum Bend community in Wilcox County. She spent her early years at White Columns, the family home. She graduated from Wilcox County High School and continued her education at Virginia Intermont College and graduated with a degree in journalism. She returned to White Columns in later life and reared her children there.

She is survived by her husband of 55 years, Samuel D. Woodson, Jr., three daughters, Margaret Murphy of Camden, Mary Lois Woodson of Possum Bend, and Ann Prime (Mike) of Jessup, GA, and son, Sam Woodson III of Mobile and four grandchildren, seven nieces and nephews, six great grandchildren and eight great nieces and nephews. ♦


James Farmer to Speak at Pilgrimage

 The WHS Friday night, September 25th Welcome Reception will feature James Farmer, a Southern author, interior designer and speaker. Mr. Farmer is the author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling books: A Time to Plant; Sip & Savor; Porch Living; Wreaths for All Seasons; A Time to Cook; Dinner on the Grounds; A Time to Celebrate and A Place to Call Home. His newest book; Arriving Home – A Gracious Southern Welcome will be released in August!

In addition, his work has been published in various magazines including Southern Living, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Southern Home, Flower and more. A skilled and entertaining speaker, Farmer is considered a fresh voice for his generation.

Mr. Farmer will also hold a book-signing at The Pecan on Broad, Saturday, September 26th during Pilgrimage. ♦


Blue Alabama by Andrew Moore

“Moore’s photographs of the Black Belt honor its complicated histories but depart from them, avoiding stereotypes and finding the hope, resilience and creativity that animate this place.”

This new book of photographs contains several images of Wilcox County including Pearlie Smith and her home, Broken Arrow in Sunny South. The book cover features a photo of downtown Camden. Blue Alabama – a great book to add to your library! ♦


Welcome New Members!

From Camden – Sara C. Blackwell and Amber and James Wright. From Arley, Alabama – Cheryl and Burk McWilliams. From Mobile – Ms. Lynn Stewart.

From Pine Apple – Life Member Kathy Stone Perryman


Please be sure to renew your membership and encourage others to join!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2019

Happy Birthday Wilcox County!

Celebrate our 200th birthday!

Wilcox County was created by an act of the Alabama legislature on December 13, 1819. It was formed from portions of Monroe and Dallas counties, which was created from Creek Indian lands acquired by the United States in the 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson. Most of the earliest settlers to Wilcox County came from Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee.

To celebrate Wilcox County’s 200th birthday, Camden native, Governor Kay Ivey, will visit Camden at the Wilcox Female Institute on Friday, December 13. This special celebration will begin at 10AM. Come join us as we celebrate being one day older than the State of Alabama! ~

Tour of Homes 2020

 The 2020 Wilcox County Tour of Homes will take place Saturday, March 28th.  A very special welcome reception is being planned for Friday evening at Riverbend sponsored by WHS members Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan, owners of The Pecan on Broad in Camden.

The list of historic sites to see will include: River Bluff Plantation-the Beck-Bryant-Talbot Home, the Strother-Gibbs Home, Yaupon-the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home, House on the Hill-the Liddell-Phillippi Home as well as the Camden Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and the First Presbyterian Church.

New this year is a living history presentation on the grounds of Liberty Hall. The home will also have a portion of the first floor open for visitors.

THANK YOU to the homeowners for agreeing to share your homes!

We look forward to another memorable weekend in Wilcox County and one to highlight our rich history.

Watch for more details and additional tour sites for the 2020 Tour! Be sure to save the dates and spread the news!

Tour coordinator this year is WHS member, Lance Britt, owner of The Brittany House of Antiques in Oak Hill. ~

WHS September Meeting

Jay Lamar, the Executive Director of the Bicentennial Commission of Alabama and Susan DuBose, the Education Director of the Bicentennial Commission spoke to the WHS at its September meeting held in Camden at our headquarters, the Wilcox Female Institute. About 30 members and guests attended.

Ms. Lamar and Ms. DuBose gave an overview of what had taken place in the state for the Bicentennial and reminded us of several events to finish out the year. They also shared with us several books and other items created for the bicentennial.

Camden was fortunate to be one of the first sites for the bicentennial traveling exhibit at Gees Bend Ferry Terminal facility.

As said at the September meeting, “…learning our history is not just dates and stories but an investment in our future.”

“On December 14th, there is only one place to be: Alabama’s Capital City for the grand finale of Alabama’s three-year bicentennial commemoration. This is sure to be the state’s biggest birthday party-at least in our first 200 years!” ~

Upcoming WHS Meetings

The next WHS meeting will be 2PM, Thursday, November 14 at the Wilcox Female Institute. Our speaker will be Dr. James P. Pate, independent scholar and historian, and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of West Alabama.

Dr. Pate has recently completed a stunning book, The Annotated Pickett’s History of Alabama.  This is a special edition and will be enjoyed by generations, remembered as part of our state’s bicentennial.

In addition, another book written by Dr. Pate, with local interest is Reminiscences of George Strother Gaines: Pioneer and Statesman of Early Alabama and Mississippi, 1805-1843.

Both books will be available to purchase at the meeting.

Please feel free to bring guests to this special talk. And note that this is a change in location and speaker from the earlier announced November meeting for the WHS.

Our next meeting will be in January (date and location to be announced) and we will hear from Sarah Duggan. Many of you may remember hearing from Ms. Duggan at the Alabama Historical Association Fall 2018 meeting or at the 2019 WHS Tour of Homes welcome reception.

She is the Coordinator and Research Curator of the Classical Institute of the South, a project at The Historic New Orleans Collection that documents historic decorative arts made or used in the Gulf South.

With help from graduate student fellows, Ms. Duggan conducts annual summer field work across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to explore the region’s material culture. She loves Wilcox County and will present to us her findings from our area. ~

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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. We also love receiving comments on our posts (continued from page 2) on the WHS Facebook page. Here are a few inquiries and comments received since our last newsletter:

I am searching for the Garrett Cemetery associated with Bone Hill Church on the road between Awin and Old Texas. Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. M.P. Stonestreet (Editor’s Note: The location of this old cemetery was shared. The cemetery is on Hwy. 47 in Monroe County)

Is there someone in or near Coy who can take pictures of two grave sites at Tates Chapel AME Church Cemetery, an African-American cemetery? Both grave sites are online at Findagrave.com – Joshua McPherson and Henrietta McPherson. I made photo requests to Findagrave but there was no response. I would truly appreciate someone taking photos where the inscriptions are readable. Speaking of Joshua and Henrietta, does the Society have any information about them that is not found online? Also, I would love to know the slaveholder’s name. J.R. Brown, Stone Mountain, GA (Editor’s Note: Photographs were taken by Elizabeth G. Reaves and were forwarded to Ms. Brown. It was noted that this cemetery is in disrepair.)

I am compiling a 26 plus volume series on Alabama called, Cavers Encyclopedia History of Alabama. Each volume includes one letter and entries are alphabetical. The collection includes historical and genealogical entries on the people, places, and events in the history of our state. I realize that Wilcox County has a lot of old families, churches, schools, etc. that need to be included in my collection. I am using original source materials for this collection. I am traveling the state researching in courthouses, cemeteries, church records, old schools, etc. If there are particular people, places, and events in Wilcox County history that you feel should be included let me know, and the best contacts for information. Thank you all in advance. L. Caver, Prattville, AL

I am looking for my family home place that once belonged to John and Lydia Erma Jackson, then later owned by Sarah Anne Pritchett. I think it is somewhere in the vicinity of Kimbrough or Pine Hill. Our family visited where my grandmother was raised over 20 years ago and can’t remember the directions to get there. T. King

Is there a Vernon Cemetery in the Ackerville area? I am looking for a descendant of Ephraim Vernon who died about 1848. Any help would be appreciated. J. Vernon

 I’m hoping you can help me with a planned visit to Wilcox County. My grandfather, William Enoch Gullett, was born in “Possum Bend”, and as I’ll be taking a road trip from Atlanta back home to Southern California, I’d like to visit the “Family Homeland.” My trouble is, as my grandfather, and all of his children, are long passed. I don’t really know “what” to visit. Perhaps there’s an area important to my family?  I see there’s a “Gullett Bluff Park”.  Can you tell me who that’s named after? Maybe there’s something of cultural significance in the Wilcox County/Possum Bend area?  Perhaps a courthouse, something, that would have been there in the 1850s?  It would be interesting to see something and know, “my grandfather grew up seeing that.Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated! D. Gullett (Editor’s Note: Some points of interest were forwarded to Mr. Gullett.)

 Response to a WHS Facebook page post about the recent Absolutely Alabama special feature on Camden:

Camden is my next destination when I fly out from California to research my family history. I have deep roots in Camden. P. Hawthorne

Likewise. Wilkinson, Gunter and Threadgill to name a few. Enjoy. I also hope to make that trip. N. Bruton

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Hawthorne and Ms. Bruton are WHS members who live in California.)

Alabama Historical Institute 2020

Announced recently was the news that the Alabama Historical Institute will begin their summer 2020 intensive for teachers with the first stop being in Camden, June 9-11. The purpose of the AHI (a continuation of the Bicentennial) is to help engage students all around the state with primary resources to foster their appreciation of history. The group will meet in the newly constructed space at Black Belt Treasures.

Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center is a nonprofit organization serving a nineteen-county area known as Alabama’s Black Belt region. BBTCAC is located at 209 Claiborne Street in Camden. Call (334) 682-9878 for more information. ~

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Don’t forget to follow us on social media! We have over 1,400 followers on Facebook and want you to be one of them! And since opening our account earlier this year – we have over 500 followers on Instagram. ~

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Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2019 – Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor, Garland Cook Smith, Vice President and Program Chairperson, Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary, Anne Farrell McKelvey Wright, Treasurer and LaJunta Selsor Malone, Curator ~

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A LOOK BACK…

2 November 1887 FROM WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

Married.

By Rev. W.D. Spurlin, at the residence of the bride’s mother, Mrs. L.F. McIntosh, on the evening of the 26th instant, Mr. J.E. Timberlake to Miss Katie McIntosh.

Mr. Timberlake has carried off one of Camden’s brightest and sweetest girls along with the best wishes of many friends.

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Dr. S.R. Bonner, a graduate of the University of this State, and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Baltimore, has located in Camden for the purpose of practicing his profession. Dr. Bonner, since he graduated has been assistant resident physician in the City Hospital in Baltimore where he gained large experience. We are glad to welcome to our social and professional circles a young man of such sterling qualities as he possesses.

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Snow Hill.

Snow Hill, Oct. 27. – Miss Effie Purifoy has gone to Altoona, Fla., to take charge of an art class. The art class at this place being too small to justify her continuing here.

Snow Hill delegation to greet the President and his “Ruler” on their recent visit to this state consisted of sixteen gentlemen, nine ladies and several children and a strong contingent of blacks.

Your correspondent visited the State Fair recently held in Montgomery. He was proud to see such a creditable display of agricultural products. Especially was it good in the live stock department. The display from Wilcox was conspicuous by its absence. This is not as it should be. Wilcox can show fine live stock and good agricultural products as any county in the State. Our Farmers Club should see to it that Wilcox is property represented in similar future displays.

Mr. Al. Carter, formerly of this county, now of Texas, is visiting his sister Mrs. W.M. Hobdy of this place.

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Allenton.

Allenton, Oct 28.-Quite a number of our citizens, white and black, visited Montgomery during the fair, and had the pleasure of seeing the President and “his bonny bride.”

Mr. Julius Dale took in the Piedmont exposition at Atlanta.

Our Nimrods have opened the fall and winter campaign on the birds.

Jerry Evans, living on Dr. L.W. Jenkins’ place, used his hand to brush the motes from under a gin in motion, which resulted in the loss of a finger, and having his hand terribly lacerated by the gin. Moral – Use a board next time, Jerry.

Mr. Frank Wooten, formerly of Snow Hill, but now proprietor of the Wooten Mills near Bremond, Texas, has been visiting J.B. McWilliams.

Rev. Paschal Hill, colored, on J.F. Jones’ place, came near having his leg fractured and did have his ankle severely sprained by a piece of falling timber, which will probably cause partial lameness for life.

Mr. Albert Liddell, of Buena Vista, Ala., has been visiting Mrs. Crook, and Messrs. Sam and Alex Crook.

4 December 1919 FROM WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

Alabama Football Teams

The cornfed youth of Alabama gave Georgia and Mississippi a test of their mettle yesterday, and put their home state high on the honor roll of football.

Georgia Tech was conceded to be the strongest team in the South. But Auburn ran thru it.  Officially Auburn may not be regarded as the champion of the South, but actually conceded we believe.

The University of Alabama, also a powerful aggregation of winners, closed the season by winning against Mississippi A&M. Thus, Alabama produces two great and famous football teams in one season, and all Alabama sport lovers are naturally proud.

It is but another triumph of diversified farming in Alabama. We knew it would happen sooner or later that Alabama youth, fed on Alabama pork and beef, Alabama corn and potatoes would be better than on a diet of Kansas and Illinois corn, paid for by Alabama cotton, selling at ten cents. – Montgomery Advertiser

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Local News

Miss Lena Miller is visiting in Mobile this week.

Drs. P.E. Godbold of Pine Hill and Z. Moore of Lamison were visitors to Camden Tuesday.

Mr. and Mrs. E.W. Berry and family spent Thanksgiving with Gastonburg relatives.

Mrs. Clem Jones and Mrs. T.H. Moore were Selma visitors Wednesday.

Dr. W.C. Duke is attending a Masonic Conference in Montgomery this week.

Mr. B.H. Matthews, Rev. H.T. Strout are attending the Annual Conference in at Demopolis this week.

Mr. Will Albritton and Clyde McKinney, and Rob Tait motored to Montevallo, Thanksgiving to witness the Basket Ball game.

Mr. and Mrs. H.D. Lazenby, and Miss Helen Lazenby of Forest Home, were the guests of Mrs. O.C. Weaver and Mrs. J.C. Jones this past week.

Miss Anna Mary Robins, of Catherine, was a visitor to her aunt, Mrs. W.J. Bonner Tuesday.

Mr. J.W. Dean of Caledonia, was a Camden visitor Saturday last.

Miss Margaret Miller, who is teaching in Selma spent the holidays with her parents, Judge and Mrs. B.M. Miller.

18 December 1919 WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

NO LOSS OF LIVES IN WILCOX FLOODS.

The loss of property in Wilcox from the floods of the past week will be comparatively small. Prompt action on the part of cattle owners resulted in getting most of cattle and hogs out of the overflow district. No loss of life has been reported of which we should all feel grateful.

RIVER REACHES HIGHEST MARK SINCE 1886

The Alabama River which has been on a rampage during the past week, reached the highest stage since 1886. The gauge reading in Selma gave it as 56.5.

Train service was brought to a practical standstill.

While the waters are higher than in 1916, the loss of Wilcox county will nothing like compare as in the previous flood, when the growing crops were destroyed.

Nearly all cattle were rescued from the low lands the past week.

7 December 1939 WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA

CANTON BEND NEWS   

Mr. and Mrs. Ed O’Rear, Peggie, Frankie and Ed Jr., spent the holidays here.

Monroe Thompson spent the weekend here.

Miss Hope Tait spent the holidays here.

Mrs. G.H. Strother, Misses Eugenia Strother and Bettie Compton spent Friday and Saturday in Montgomery.

Mr. and Mrs. Pressly Bryant motored to Montgomery Friday.

George Hicks Strother spent Thanksgiving in Auburn with Monroe Thompson and attended the Auburn-Florida game.

BRIDE ELECT HONORED-

Mrs. Bill Dannelly, Mrs. Sallie Davis entertained at a linen shower for Miss William Clarence Jones, Friday afternoon from 3 to 5 o’clock at the home of Mrs. Bill Dannelly in Grampion Hills. Many beautiful and useful gifts were presented to this charming and beautiful girl, who is the recipient of many pre-nuptial attentions. She will be married to Mr. John Wesley Hoover, at 5 o’clock, December 14th at the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.  ~

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Welcome New Members! From Alabama – Marion – Terry and Karen Nyman; Opelika – Debra Whatley ~

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Upcoming Events in 2019

    • November 30 – Hunter Appreciation Day in Pine Apple
    • December 3 – Christmas in Camden
    • December 7 – Christmas Open House at the Palmer-Britt home in Furman, 2PM-4PM
    • December 8 – Christmas Service at Bear Creek Baptist Church, 2PM
    • December 8 – Christmas Tree Lighting in Pine Apple, 6PM
    • December 14 – Christmas Parade in Pine Hill, 2PM
    • December 22 – Christmas in Furman, Lighted tour at dark, Candlelight service at Bethsaida Baptist Church, 6PM

Please encourage others to become a member of the Wilcox Historical Society! Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single. 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. Questions? Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks!

 

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2019

The 2019 Tour of Homes – A Resounding Success!

The 2019 Tour of Homes was a resounding success with a crowd of over 800 attending. The tour weekend of March 22-23 began with a Welcome Reception held at the Wilcox Female Institute on Friday night. Sponsored by WHS members Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan and The Brittany House Antiques, the night was spectacular – from the flowers to the food. Music was provided by harpist, Katherine Newman of the Huntsville Symphony. The guest speaker was Sarah Duggan who entertained everyone with her visual presentation on The Furniture of Wilcox County.  The art of Johnna Bush featuring some of Camden’s historical landmarks was also on display.

For those wanting to get an early start Saturday morning an early breakfast was provided by the Britt family at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill.

The Tour began at 10AM with six homes open along with the Beck Miller Law Office (Tour Headquarters), the Old Shoe Shop Museum, the old Wilcox County Jail, Coast to Coast Hardware Store, Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center, the Wilcox Female Institute and the Dale Lodge.  he historic homes on the 2019 tour were the Bell-Moore House (RiverBend), St. Mary’s Church – Hamilton House, the Sterrett-McWilliams House, the Capell House at Pebble Hill, the Bethea-Strother-Stewart House (Pleasant Ridge), and the Jones-McIntosh-Hicks House.

THANK YOU to the homeowners for sharing their homes! THANK YOU to Elizabeth Grimes Reaves for serving as the Tour Coordinator (again). THANK YOU to all of those who worked “behind the scenes” to make sure the Tour was a success! THANK YOU to everyone who attended! It was a memorable weekend and one to highlight our Wilcox County history!

We were happy to host a thank you dinner for the homeowners at Gainesridge on July 13.

Mark your calendars for next year’s tour – Saturday, March 28, 2020! Watch for more details in the next newsletter and on Facebook!

WHS January Meeting with Dr. James Lamb

Dr. James Lamb, the Black Belt Museum Director and Curator of Paleontology and professor at The University of West Alabama spoke to the WHS at its first meeting of 2019 on January 24. Dr. Lamb shared with the group several exhibits and explained the Museum’s mission – to collect, preserve and interpret the rich history of the Black Belt and the diversity of the region. If you would like to contact the museum located in Livingston call 205.652.3828 or email blackbeltmuseum@uwa.edu.

Pie and Billy Malone graciously welcomed over 50 members and guests into their home for the meeting and presentation. ~

Upcoming WHS Meetings

The next WHS meeting will be 2PM, Thursday, September 19 at the Wilcox Female Institute. Jay Lamar, Executive Director of the Bicentennial Commission of Alabama will be our speaker.

We were fortunate to be one of the first sites for the bicentennial traveling exhibit which we experienced at the Gee’s Bend Ferry Terminal Facility in Camden. We look forward to having Jay speak to us toward the end and the culmination of Alabama’s bicentennial.

On Thursday, November 14 at 2PM our meeting will be held at the McWilliams Baptist Church on Holly Street in McWilliams. McWilliams is located on Highway 21 about 7 miles south of Oak Hill. Look for signs directing you to the church.

Our speaker will be Philip Winters. He will be sharing with us the history of Winters Excelsior Company, his family’s business started in 1915 in McWilliams. Refreshments will be after the meeting at the home of Beth and Bob Yoder, 210 Cedar Street in McWilliams. ~

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. We also love receiving comments on our posts on the WHS Facebook page. Here are a few inquiries and comments received in 2019:

I am helping a lady in my community research the Nathaniel McCall family for membership in DAR. The last place I see Nathaniel is Wilcox County purchasing land on 10 April 1837. He married Mary Johnson on 2 December 1807 in Bullock County, GA. I think his parents were Charles and Nancy Williams McCall. I need to prove that Nathaniel and Mary had a daughter named Rebecca McCall who married Jesse Williams. V. Golden, Russellville, AR

Does anyone have any clues for me in researching my great-grandmother from Camden, Amandtine McKinnie Pritchett? L. Owen

I recently read an obituary from the Wilcox Progressive Era, January 15, 1931, that mentioned the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Bursonville being “blown away.” Hoping someone can explain what happened. Apparently, it was rebuilt in McWilliams. K. Christison

My great grandparents are here – Will and Delia McIntosh. V. Rose (Editor’s Note: comment on WHS Facebook photos of Jordan Cemetery and Church, Neenah, AL)

I am looking to visit the area as my family is from here. We are the descendants of Percy Smith (white) and Annie Craig Taylor (African American). They had 4 daughters – Pauline, Sarah, Mamie and Bernice. We started researching in 2011 and I just received my DNA results as well. Also, Percy Smith’s last living 1st grandchild & oldest passed away this month prompting me to want honor for his children. I am their great granddaughter. W. Harmon, Romulus, MI

I am planning to visit Camden in June. My parents were good friends of Dr. Emmett Kilpatrick and Rev. Kennedy. They were married  in the ARP Church and my siblings and I were all christened there. I have not been inside the church since 1969! I would love to see if I could get inside the church. Thanks. S. Wilson, Tallassee, AL

My ancestors Robert Dewilda George and Elizabeth David McMillan married in Camden on March 23, 1864. Any information you have about them would be appreciated, but I am particularly looking for a picture. Thank you. S. Graham

I am trying to collect a little history on my family for my husband’s 60th birthday. I have found that one of his ancestors is buried in Camden Cemetery. Since I know that I won’t be able to travel to Alabama, I am wondering if you could help me? The person in question is Ernest C. Lyons. I’d be forever grateful. M. Holbrook, Midlothian, VA (Editor’s Note: a photo was taken and forwarded to Holbrook.)  

Love this post…just hitting the heart icon wasn’t enough. S. Mendenhall, Gettysburg, PA (Editor’s Note: This was a comment on a WHS Facebook post regular feature – Tombstone Tuesday. Bertha Matheson Adams (1892-1972) was the subject of the post in April.)

The following comments about the 2019 Tour of Homes were received on the WHS Facebook page:

A whole lot of hard work and love went into this pilgrimage. L. Norman, Decatur, AL

What a perfect day! We had so much fun! Many thanks to all the owners who graciously opened their homes and to all of the people who made this tour of homes possible! B. Smith, Birmingham, AL

It was such a perfect event! Thank you to everyone that worked so hard on it. Camden at its finest! K. Fountain, Mobile, AL

A beautiful full day of lovely homes! A. McNeely, Mobile, AL ~

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Camden in the News

Have you noticed the positive publicity around the state for Camden recently? In May, AL.com featured The Pecan on Broad in an article titled, “Upscale eatery and market give this small town in Alabama new life.” On the front page of the Mobile Press Register in June was this headline “One Pecan turns town on its head – In Little Camden, two newcomers show what’s possible when you think big.” Also, in June, The Federalist published an article featuring local resident Betty Anderson – “How this Slave Descendant celebrates Juneteenth in Alabama and you can too!” DesignAlabama published an article titled “Revitalizing Camden” in July. And Alabama Magazine featured Camden in the July/August issue. Way to go Camden! ~

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Don’t forget to follow us on social media! We have over 1,300 followers on Facebook and want you to be one of them! And since opening our account earlier this year – we have 460 followers on Instagram. ~

Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2019 – Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor, Garland Cook Smith, Vice President and Program Chairperson, Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary, Anne Farrell McKelvey Wright, Treasurer and LaJunta Selsor Malone, Curator ~

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A LOOK BACK…

29 JUNE 1869 FROM THE WILCOX NEWS AND PACIFICATOR

(Camden, Alabama)

Commencement Ball

The Commencement Ball, under the direction of Mr. Willard H. Andrews, on Friday night last, at the Masonic Hall, was a complete success. We acknowledge the receipt of a complimentary ticket. It was largely attended, and many danced until a very late hour, and went away seemingly well satisfied with themselves and the Ball. But few, however, from some cause or other, came out in costume, as was at first intended, but those few certainly deserve credit. Had all appeared in costume, the interest would have been more manifest, and the spectacle more imposing.

A fine Supper was prepared by Col. J. L. Godbold, the clever proprietor of the Camden Hall, to which we were invited. The table was abundantly supplied with many of the delicacies of life, and all did full justice to them. Col. Godbold knows how to get up a good Supper on such occasions.

3 JULY 1903 FROM THE LIVING TRUTH

(Greenville, Alabama)

Branch Road Down L & N

Surveyors in The Field Running a Line out to The Little City of Pine Apple in Wilcox County.

That Town on a Boom

A gentleman who was been down into Wilcox County visiting the little town of Pine Apple, brings back a glowing account of the rapid progress that little city is making at this particular time.

He informed a reporter for The Times that a bank with a paid up capital of $40,000 had been organized, and that was ample to secure the confidence of the business public. Pine Apple is the center of a large cotton growing area and a bank will be a great benefit to the town.

A surveying party is in the field now for the purpose of running a spur for the L. & N. out to the town of Pine Apple, a distance of two miles. The money to build the spur is in hand and Pine Apple is sure to have a road running into its corporate limits at an early date.

A road is already being built toward a big saw mill, some thirteen miles out of Greenville in a straight line for Pine Apple, and the purpose of the citizens is to fill in that gap and have a line connecting Greenville and Pine Apple in the near future. They mean business and may accomplish what they are driving at.

Selma Times 

11 MAY 1906 THE LIVING TRUTH

(Greenville, Alabama)

Judge Beck is Dead; Prominent Wilcox

Selma, Ala., May 7, Judge J. T. Beck, probate judge of Wilcox County, died at a private infirmary here at an early hour this morning. Judge Beck was brought to Selma from his home at Camden about a month ago suffering from an abscess on the liver. Medical aid could do him no good and of late he had been gradually sinking until the end came this morning. His remains were carried to Camden today for interment. Judge Beck was one of the most popular men of Wilcox county and was known throughout the state.

31 JANUARY 1908 THE LIVING TRUTH

(Greenville, Alabama)

Oil Indications.

The well being bored for oil at McWilliams, in Wilcox county, is down 700 feet and the indications are all good for a strike.

1 JULY 1948 WILCOX PROGRESSIVE ERA (Camden, Alabama)

Arlington News

Mr. and Mrs. P.F. Smitherman were joined here Sunday by Mr. and Mrs. W.K. Dickson of Orrville and motored to Selma to attend the DeWitt – Trainham wedding.

The Home Demonstration Club met at the home of Mrs. Murphy Vice Friday afternoon.

Friends of Mr. F.F. Harris regret to learn that it was necessary for him to return to Selma for medical treatment. We hope for him a speedy recovery.

Mrs. Boyd Agee is visiting her son, Mr. F.K. Agee and family of Athens.

A crowd of young people motored to Millers Ferry Sunday afternoon, where they enjoyed swimming.

Kimbrough News

Miss Sarah Rankin of Magnolia former Frisco agent here, spent Friday and Saturday with Mrs. Harris.

Mr. R.A. Burge was a business visitor in Selma Thursday. He accompanied Mr. Alonzo Agee.

Mrs. Newton and three children have returned from Springfield, MO., after a two weeks vacation.

Misses Ollie Ruth and Reba Autrey attended the Lowery-Gaddy wedding in Sunny South Sunday afternoon. Both were attendants in the wedding.

Mr. L.C. Sealey made a business trip to Shreveport, La., last week.

Pine Hill News

Mr. and Mrs. Lacey Huey and son of Hueytown spent last week with her mother, Mrs. O.L. Lyles and family.

Miss Virginia Dare Simpkins is visiting her aunt, Mrs. W.P. Dunn, Mr. Dunn and her grandmother, Mrs. Simpkins.

Mrs. L.H. Mayo has returned from a visit to relatives in Citronelle.

Mrs. J.M. Finley and granddaughter, Jimmie Ann Vaughn have returned from a visit to Mobile and Galveston, Texas. ~

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Welcome New Members! Welcome *Life Members!

From Alabama – Camden – Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Abel, Mr. and Mrs. Reid Abel, *Ms. Laura Agee, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Creswell, *Ms. Susan Cade McKelvey; Mobile – Ms. Jan Weekly; Pine Apple – Mrs. Philip Winters; Oak Hill – *Mr. and Mrs. Ivey Griffin; Franklin – Mr. and Mrs. Tim Griffin and Sweet Water – Mr. Dewayne Allday

From New York, New York – Mr. David L. Brown

From Stone Mountain, Georgia – Ms. Jonnie Ramsey Brown

Thank you!

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Upcoming Events in 2019

  • October 19 – Pine Hill Depot Day
  • November 30 – Hunter Appreciation Day in Pine Apple
  • December 7 – Christmas Open House at the Palmer-Britt home in Furman, 2PM-4PM
  • December 22 – Christmas in Furman

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Please encourage others to become a member of the Wilcox Historical Society! Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single. 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. Questions? Email us at wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks!

 

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – 2018 Year End

Highlights of the Year

We began 2018 with a meeting in January at the McWilliams home in Oak Hill. Despite the icy roads and snowy weather, a large crowd was in attendance to hear Gary Burton speak on Settlers of the Old Federal Road. Thanks to hosts Cheryl and Burk McWilliams and Susan and Tennant McWilliams and to our speaker Gary Burton.

The Spring Pilgrimage of Furman, Pine Apple and Oak Hill was held in March. Visitors to the pilgrimage came from near and far!

In early April members enjoyed the Alabama Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit hosted by the Wilcox Area Chamber at the Gees Bend Ferry Terminal. Later in the month a meeting of the WHS was held at the Wilcox Female Institute. The special guest speaker was Dr. David Matthews. As one of the nation’s experts on communities, Dr. Matthews spoke about public education in general and the relationship with the community in which they are located.

October Meeting at RiverBend

The WHS met on October 18 at the home of Christopher Bailey and Ryan Dunagan. The subject of the program by Tom McGehee was The Era of Steamboats on the Alabama River. After the program the large crowd in attendance enjoyed touring the home and beautiful gardens. The home is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Thanks to hosts Chris and Ryan! New residents to Camden, Chris and Ryan are serious and committed preservationists and we are very pleased with their interest in Camden. We all enjoyed our visit to RiverBend!

AHA Fall Pilgrimage was a Big Success!

Valerie Pope Burnes, President of the Alabama Historical Association, was instrumental in bringing the AHA Fall Pilgrimage to Wilcox County in October. “Camden has always been one of my favorite towns in Alabama, so when I was asked to choose the location for our Fall 2018 pilgrimage, I knew exactly where we would be going.

Wilcox County is an architectural gem, with wonderful houses around every corner. The Wilcox County link to Charles Tait provided a strong bicentennial connection for the fall meeting before the 200th anniversary of Alabama’s statehood in 2019.

We would like to thank all of the great people and organizations that came together to roll out the red carpet for us. We can never thank Jane Shelton Dale enough for bringing everything together and convincing so many to open their homes. Lance Britt and the folks in Furman did an outstanding job and having two days of excellent sites available for tour really drew people in. The 2018 pilgrimage had the largest attendance of a pilgrimage in over a decade!”

Welcome New Members!

Joe Beery, Gary & Noma Bruton, Peggy Day, Leathea Eaton, Margaret Gaston, George & Mary Margaret Kyser, Vicki Lovinggood, Tom & Jane Phipps, Sven & Jackie Sharp, Neoda Strickland, Paul & Donna Wingard and Beth Yoder.

A Special Thanks!

A special thanks to Billy and Pie Malone for re-creating the park next to the Miller law office in downtown Camden, The park is beautiful and such a wonderful addition!

Spring Pilgrimage

The WHS tour of six historic homes and other historic places will be held in Camden from 10 AM-5 PM on Saturday, March 23. Added this year will be a reception on Friday night, March 22 at the Wilcox Female Institute.

Included with the ticket price, the reception will feature music, refreshments and a speaker.

Homes included in the 2019 tour will be the Bell-Moore-Welch Home (RiverBend), the Bethea-Strother-Stewart Home (Pleasant Ridge), the Capell-Huff Home at Pebble Hill, the Sterrett-McWilliams-Cook Home, Old Saint Mary’s Church Home, and the Jones-McIntosh-Hicks Home. Other historical sites included will be the Old Shoe Shoppe Museum, the Miller Law Office (tour headquarters), the Dale Masonic Lodge and the Wilcox Female Institute.

Tour coordinators are Elizabeth Grimes Reaves and Fran Cook. Tickets will be $35 for adults, $10 for students, children 6 and under free, $25 for WHS members.

Allenton Cemetery

We contacted Ted Urquhart, President of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance, Inc. (ACPA) to see if they were interested in helping us preserve this historic cemetery. Mr. Urquhart visited the cemetery in September and had this to say,

“There’s a lot of work to be done here and I really think it would be best for me and you and yours to meet at the cemetery and establish a priority list of things to be done before an actual work day – and I would say the first is to clear out a path to the cemetery. A quick list includes clearing underbrush of course, some stone and fence repair and some simple stone cleaning.”

Please let us know if you are interested in meeting at the Allenton Cemetery in the early Spring and help make plans to preserve it.

INQUIRIES AND COMMENTS

We often receive genealogical and local history inquiries on the WHS Facebook page and website. If you have any information to help with these inquiries please let us know and we will put you in contact with the interested party. Here are a few received this year:

Seeking information about the Wilcox Male Institute. According to the Journal of the Alabama House of Representatives in 1851-1852 a move was made by Mr. Beck to amend “…authorizing the quarter master general to deliver to the trustees of the Wilcox Male Institute one hundred muskets, ten swords and belts, and two bronzed field pieces, adapted to the use of the pupils of said institute, which was adopted.” Becky L., Birmingham, Alabama

Seeking information about the Crook family. James A. Crook owned property in Allenton and is buried in Oak Hill. Rem M., Ohio

Seeking information about the African American Carter family in Pine Apple. Michael C., Texas

Seeking information about the Wilcox Training School in Miller’s Ferry. Pamela S., Illinois

Seeking information about Caribbean natives migrating to Alabama. Stephanie H., Bessemer, Alabama

Seeking information about the Allday, Flowers, Bass and Grantham families from the early 1800’s in Wilcox County. Richard Allday owned a ferry business in Canton’s Bend. The Flowers, Bass and Grantham families migrated to Wilcox and Marengo counties from North Carolina and South Carolina with some of them appearing on the 1850 Wilcox County Census. Dewayne A., Selma, Alabama

Sometimes an inquiry is for help to locate a town on a map of Wilcox County. We were able to help locate Clifton on a map for Noma B. in California.

LeaLynn J. from Pennsylvania is a kindergarten student and her mother requested that we send LeaLynn a postcard for a social studies project. We mailed her a card and were happy to learn that she received post cards from all 50 states and collected a total of 86 post cards – winning for the most turned it! How did they find out about the Wilcox Historical Society? She googled Alabama Historical Societies!

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Calendar of Events

December 8

Christmas Open House at the Palmer-Britt home in Furman. Traditional favorites will be served and the house will be decorated with greenery from the property as was done in the 19th century. WHS members and guests are welcomed!

December 9

Christmas Community Service at Bear Creek Baptist Church in Caledonia at 2 PM. Hear the Christmas story, sing carols and enjoy the Christmas party to follow.

December 9

Christmas Open House at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill from 1 PM-6 PM. The shop will be decorated and refreshments will be served. Shop local!

And don’t forget for all your Christmas gifts – be sure to shop local first! Camden Jewelry & Gifts, Black Belt Treasures, Coast to Coast…just to name a few – have great ideas for gifts!

December 23

Christmas Driving Tour and Candlelight Service in Furman. Drive by tour of the “lighted” historic homes and churches will begin at dusk. The candlelight service is at 6:30 PM at the Bethsaida Baptist Church. Homes will remain lit until 9 PM.

January 17, 2019

WHS Meeting in Camden at the Burford-Malone home at 2PM. 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. The address for the meeting is 425 Clifton Street.

March 22-23, 2019

Spring Pilgrimage in Camden

……………………………………………..

A Look Back…

Christmas was a particularly joyous occasion and Papa and Mama made much of it. Christmas Eve, our stockings, long, black cotton ones, were hung from the mantel in Mama’s and Papa’s room. Christmas morning found them filled to overflowing with nuts, candy, bunch raisins, oranges, apples, Roman candles and fire crackers, and by each stocking a much wished for toy.

I shall always remember my first doll with real hair, open and shut eyes, bisque head and kid body, that Santa brought me. My first dolls had been rag dolls, until one day Papa, on one of his trips to Greenville, brought me a doll with china head, feet, hands and cloth body, stuffed with sawdust. How I loved it but the one Santa brought satisfied my fondest dreams. My Aunt Annie Belle dressed it in a lovely white dotted Swiss dress with red dots and a bonnet to match. That evening as I was rocking her in my little rocking chair, she fell out of my arms and her head broke into many pieces. My little heart broke too and that was my first tragedy.

Story told by Frances Donald Dudley Grimes (1901-1989)

******

December 31, 1886

The Pine Apple Gazette

Dr. E.D. Harris is now occupying the house he lately bought from Mr. W. W. Jackson.

Christmas at Pine Apple was very quiet and orderly, there being little or no intoxication and no arrests for disorderly conduct.

Mr. and Mrs. J.I. Bizzelle, Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Grimes, Miss Eva Adams and Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Matheson visited Selma last Wednesday to see Louise Balfe in Dagmar.

After the presents were distributed at the Academy Christmas Eve the assemblage was invited to repair to the garden of Mr. Bizzelle where a number of fireworks were exploded to the delight of all. The fireworks were purchased by the young men of Pine Apple.

Miss Bessie Kyser after spending several days with her cousin Miss Prudie Watts left for her home in Belleville, Conecuh County. Her stay was short but sufficiently long enough to capture and carry off the hearts of several of our young men.

******

December 7, 1905

Wilcox Banner  

“In our Social Realm”

From a recent special to the Age-Herald from Auburn we learn that two Wilcox boys, students at API have been made Cadet Sergeants; R.H. Liddell of Camden and Herman Grimes of Pine Apple.

******

January 7, 1913

Montgomery Advertiser

Company plans winter resort in Wilcox County

A summer and winter resort will be made of the mineral springs at Schuster, Wilcox County, by the Alabama Mineral Springs Company which filed articles of incorporation in the office of Cyrus Brown, Secretary of State, Monday.

The authorized capital stock of the new company is $25,000, of which $8,075 is paid in. The incorporators are J.J. Bonner and others. The company will develop lands near Camden and will place the waters of the Schuster Springs on the market.

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WILCOX HISTORICAL SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP

Whether you are a long-time member, new member or returning member, now is the time to join the Wilcox Historical Society for 2019! Your support of and interest in historical preservation in Wilcox County will be greatly appreciated!

Membership in the WHS would make a great Christmas gift too!

Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single.

Please mail dues to: P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. Be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address and phone number. Thanks!

wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2018

The Era of Steamboats on the Alabama River

WHS Meeting   – October 18 at 2 PM

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

In Memoriam

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!

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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.

For more information call (251) 746-2293 or (251) 746-2519 or email joycewall@yahoo.com or grsouthland@gmail.com.  ♦

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 ToulouseFort 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 3:30PMRemembering 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 wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.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

T.W. Price

Rehoboth, Alabama

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

Allenton

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!

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2018

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.

For more information call (251) 746-2293 or (251) 746-2519 or email joycewall@yahoo.com or grsouthland@gmail.com. ֎

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 anniecrenshaw@centurytel.net. ֎

Calendar of Events

World War I Memorial Dedication
Date:      July 26, 2018
Place:    Greenville Chamber of commerce
Time:       11AM

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
Time:     9AM-3PM

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
Time:      8:30AM-3:30PM

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
Terms/Tuition
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
McDonnel
Cragin

15 January 1908 from the Pine Apple News
Teacher’s Examination
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.

 

 

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2008

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

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Spring 2006

Prairie Bluff Tour 

There will be a special on-site historical tour and meeting at Prairie Bluff on Thursday, May 4, 2006 starting at 10:30 A.M. The meeting is being hosted by John and Gail Henderson, and will be held at their new home located on Shell Creek. You get to their home by taking Highway 28 west to the Prairie Bluff sign, then follow the new road into the subdivision, bear right, and then bear right again on Weslyn Way and you will run into the home lot. Following the meeting, John and Gail will conduct an on-the-ground tour of old Prairie Bluff. If you have never toured the old town site, and seen the old cotton warehouse foundation and cotton slide to the Alabama River, you are in for a real treat. In addition to the Prairie Bluff history presentation and tour, Lula Lee Tait will give a brief summary of the 100th anniversary celebration for Camden National Bank to be held on Sunday afternoon, May 7. An old photograph of the original bank building, circa 1920, is contained on the back page.

Following is a summarized account of the history of Prairie Bluff written by Jane McDonald Henderson and Bob Henderson.

After the Creek Indian War of 1812, the soldiers who returned home from the eastern colonies, told glowing stories of the fertile land of Prairie Bluff, Wilcox County, Alabama with its rich black soil mixed with lime and the beautiful green pastures. As a result, land hungry settlers and adventurers flocked to Wilcox County. Prairie Bluff was settled in 1815 several years before Alabama became a state on December 13, 1819. It became one of the greatest and wealthiest of the now forgotten river towns in Alabama. The name was changed to Daletown in 1822 to honor the great Indian fighter Sam Dale of Georgia, and was officially known as Daletown for the next 16 years at which time the name reverted to Prairie Bluff. Sam Dale and two associates first acquired land and divided it into town lots. It featured well defined streets named Bluff, Commerce, Second, Wilcox, etc. The town was able to serve the river boats with storage facilities for 3,000 barrels of “up-freights”, 3,000 bales of cotton awaiting shipment, and provide boat passengers with finest overnight accommodations in Holt’s Hotel.

By 1843, Prairie Bluff was the largest town in Wilcox County and it almost became the capital of the State. When heavy floods made
 it necessary to move the State Capital from Cahaba, Prairie Bluff and Tuscaloosa were the chief contenders for the honor of being the seat of state government. Tuscaloosa won by a single vote! During this time, Prairie Bluff was one of five major trading posts from Mobile to Cahaba. Three postal routes led from Prairie Bluff to Cahaba, St. Stephens, Greensboro, and Uniontown, and Prairie Bluff was also the shipping point for goods shipped to Tuscaloosa.

In the 1830’s,40’s, and 50’s, Wilcox County became an important duchy of the vast southern cotton empire, producing thousands of tons of the “white gold”. As a result, cultural life began to flourish and Prairie Bluff became a social hub. Lafayette Lodge, the first Masonic Lodge in the county, was built in 1826. Apparently, it was named in commemoration of the famous French General Lafayette who traveled down the Alabama River in April 1825. Civilization continued to flow in and out along the course of the historic Alabama River. By 1880, there were 16 large business houses, many of them brick, and paved streets. Some of remains of the foundations of the old buildings and of the brick streets can be seen even now.

Ironically there were 13 saloons and no churches during this era! It has been suggested that this may have been the reason for the demise of the town, but in reality the changing mode of transportation lessened the importance of the river towns, and Prairie Bluff gave way to the changing times.

Pine Apple Front Porch Tour

This annual event, sponsored by Pine Apple Promotions, will be held on Sunday, May 28. The attached leaflet provides details of the tour. Please note that several of the homes will have open parlors, and that there is one very historic home that has not been featured on previous events. This is the historic Kelley-Hawthorne house, the boyhood home of General John Herbert Kelley, Alabama’s “Boy General” during the Civil War. Also, there are different homes in the Pine Apple National Historic District that are featured this year. This is a special event, so please make plans to attend.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

As reported in the previous Newsletters, the flag is nearing completion of the restoration process in Maryland. When it is returned to the Department of Archives and History, it will be available for display at our historical events. Our Alabama Department of Archives and History is one of, if not the best, facility in America. The Friends of the Archives is a vital arm of theADAH, and you are encouraged to join. Please contact Garland Smith or Don Donald, current Directors of the Friends of the Archives for more information.

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2005

Fall Meeting to Feature Program by Bonnie Mitchell

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

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

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

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

 Wilcox Historical Society 2005 Spring Pilgrimage held May 14                  

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

Bear Creek Baptist Church  Project  

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

Following is a brief history of Bear Creek Baptist Church.

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