Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2018

The Era of Steamboats on the Alabama River

WHS Meeting   – October 18 at 2PM

Steamboats played an important part in the economic development of Alabama. Beginning in the 1830’s, Montgomery and Mobile became connected by a series of river packets that carried cotton, passengers and supplies ranging from hoop-skirts to whiskey.

Speaker for the afternoon will be Tom McGehee. He will discuss the rise of river traffic, the boats and their captains, as well as the decline in the early 20th century. Disasters ranging from deadly fires to a suicide will be covered and even a lingering ghost or two.

Since 1994, Tom McGehee has served as Museum Director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home. For more than thirty years he has written about the history of Mobile and the city’s lost architectural heritage. Tom serves on the boards of the Historic Mobile Preservation Society, the Rotary Club of Mobile and the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion. He is a past secretary of the Victorian Society in America and is currently president of the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery.

The Thursday, October 18th meeting will be held at RiverBend, the home of Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan on Bridgeport Road.  This home, known to locals as the Moore-Welch-Yarbrough Home, has been recently restored with additional emphasis on the grounds. The address of RiverBend is 279 Bridgeport Road.

Due to expected interest and excitement to see this home, we are requesting that members only attend. Guests may accompany members but are highly encouraged to become members at the door. Dues are $15 a year for singles and $20 for a couple or $150 lifetime membership for singles and $200 for couples.

Please join us! ♦

AHA Fall Meeting in Camden!

The Alabama Historical Association will be holding its Fall Meeting and Pilgrimage in Camden on Saturday, October 27. The meeting will begin at 10:30 AM at the Camden United Methodist Church with a program by Camden native, Daniel Fate Brooks.

After lunch, tours of homes and other sites in Camden will begin. Some of the sites to see include the McIntosh-Hicks Home, the Liddell-Burford Home, the Matthews-Curry Home, the Sterrett-McWilliams Home, Old St. Mary’s-Hamilton Home, the Shoe Shop Museum and the Dale Lodge.

Friday, October 26 will be the pre-meeting tour in Furman. Some of the sites to see in Furman will be Wakefield, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, the Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, the Palmer-Britt Home and the newly restored Deerfield – the Perdue-Estes-Suggs Home. Several special presentations are planned for the afternoon.

Please note this is NOT a Wilcox Historical Society tour of homes. Tickets will not be available on the day of the tour. Registration is not being handled locally.

Non-members of the Alabama Historical Association are welcome, but if you would like to attend this event, registration is $40 and should be received by October 17. Registration forms may be picked up at Black Belt Treasures.

Register online: www.alabamahistory.net/meetings

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!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival – November 24!

The Town of Pine Apple will sponsor the 22nd Hunter Appreciation Day Arts and Crafts Festival on Saturday, November 24. The event will be a family fun-filled day featuring various craft vendors, a big buck contest, antique car show and parade, children’s activities and live entertainment.

Proceeds from the event will be used to preserve and beautify the Town of Pine Apple.

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.

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2005

Spring Meeting to Feature Program by Mrs. Camilla Selsor

The next meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society will be held Friday, April 22, 2005 at 3:00 P.M. at the home of Pie and Billy Malone located at 425 Clifton Street in Camden. Mrs. Camilla Boykin Jones Selsor will present a program of “historic recollections” from her perspective.

Camilla was born on June 12, 1908 to Marie McDaniel Miller Jones and Dr. James Heustis Jones in Camden.  She finished high school after 11 grades at age 15.  Camilla then attended Judson College and graduated at age 19.  The following year she was a student at American University in Washington, D.C.  After the year in Washington, she pursued a masters’s degree at the University of Alabama.

Camilla married and had four daughters.  She later remarried and had a daughter and a son.  Her second husband, Jack Selsor, died on October 15, 1946.  At that time she returned to Camden and worked as a case worker for the Wilcox County Welfare Department.  After two years, Camilla was given permission to go to graduate school at Tulane University to become Director of the Welfare Department.  She served in this position for twenty-eight years before retiring on March 31, 1977.

Please plan to attend this meeting and invite anyone you know who might be interested in this unique presentation.

In addition to Mrs. Selsor’s program, we plan to have Delia Brand, director of Blackbelt Treasures, give a brief overview of this new business which is scheduled to open in October of this year.

Wilcox Historical Society 2005 Spring Pilgrimage – May 14 !!!                   

As everyone is aware, our Fall Pilgrimage was cancelled due to Hurricane Ivan.  It was  rescheduled as a Spring Pilgrimage as noted.

The homes, churches, and buildings to be featured on the Pilgrimage are described below, and 3,600 brochures have been printed, with the majority of these distributed throughout Alabama. William Malone has placed the entire brochure on our designated Wilcox Historical Society link to the www.wilcoxwebworks.com site.  Please go online and check out the brochure “large scale”. A special thank you is extended to Sister Curry for coordinating with the homeowners, and to the homeowners for placing their homes on tour. Please note this year’s Pilgrimage is on Saturday, May 14 from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Following are the featured buildings and sites:

o Dry Fork Plantation

o Beck/Bryant/Talbot Home

o Youpon Plantation

o Bagby-Liddell-Burford Home

o Lenoir-Pritchett-Bush-Grods Home

o Canton Bend Methodist Church

o Camden Presbyterian Church

o Wilcox Female Institute

o Beck/Miller Law Office

o Dunn-Fairley-Bonner-Field Home

o GainesRidge Dinner Club


Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project  

Due to the withdrawal of a grant received from the Alabama Historical Commission,  the Executive Board of the Society recommended that the building and grounds be placed on the open market, with a buyer being required  to follow the preservation guidelines established in Richard Hudgens’ restoration package.  This was done and an offer from Mr. and Mrs. Blake Field was received in mid-June 2004.  The offer was presented to the membership at the June 24, 2004 meeting and was unanimously accepted. The Fields are well along with  restoration work (new roof already) and the overall progress can be observed on tour day.

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2005

Winter Meeting to Feature Two Local Photographers

The next meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society will be held Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 3:00 P.M. at the Wilcox Female Institute.  The program will be given by two local photographers, Marian Furman and Linda Selsor Etheridge and will feature Vintage Photographs of Camden and Wilcox County.  The program will feature a display of the combined collections of photographs from Mrs. Furman and Ms. Etheridge.  Included in the display will be Miss Edith Morgan’s fascinating photographs of Paddle Wheelers that formerly docked in Wilcox County during the mid to late l800’s.  The public is invited to attend this meeting and everyone is encouraged to bring old photographs to share during the program. Linda Etheridge restores old photographs and will be available for any questions that you might have.

Please plan to attend this meeting on Thursday, February 10th and invite anyone you know who might be interested in viewing old photographs of Camden and Wilcox County!

Wilcox Historical Society 2005 Spring Pilgrimage – MAY 14 !!!!  

As everyone is aware, our Fall Pilgrimage had to be cancelled due to Hurricane Ivan.  It has been rescheduled as a Spring Pilgrimage as noted.

The homes, churches, and buildings to be featured on the Pilgrimage are described below, and 3,000 brochures have been printed. Over 2,000 of the brochures have been distributed to various historical organizations to-date.  The Alabama Preservation Alliance graciously distributed our brochure to their membership through a mass mail out. They have been notified of the date change.  William Malone has placed the entire brochure on our designated Wilcox Historical Society link to the www.wilcoxwebworks.com site.  Please go online and check out the brochure “large scale”. A special thank you is extended to Sister Curry for coordinating with the homeowners, and to the homeowners for placing their homes on tour. To summarize, this year’s Pilgrimage is on Saturday from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Following are the featured buildings and sites:

o Dry Fork Plantation

o Beck/Bryant/Talbot Home

o Youpon Plantation

o Strother/Gibbs Home

o Canton Bend Methodist Church

o Camden Presbyterian Church

o Wilcox Female Institute

o Beck/Miller Law Office

o Dunn/Fairley/Bonner Home

o GainesRidge

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

Due to the withdrawal of a  grant,  the Executive Board of the Society recommended that the building and grounds be placed on the open market, with a buyer being required  to follow the preservation guidelines established in Richard Hudgens’ restoration package.  This was done and an offer from Mr. and Mrs. Blake Field was received in mid-June. The offer was presented to the membership at the June 24 meeting and was unanimously accepted. The Fields have begun restoration work and the progress can be seen on tour day.

Wilcox Female Institute

You may have noted the new exterior paint job and the vastly improved kitchen facilities at our last meeting.  A special thanks is extended to Gail Tait for coordinating this effort.  The roof is leaking, and we have received several quotes for replacement.  A contractor has been selected and the roofing material has been ordered.  We anticipate that the new  roof installation will begin in mid to late February.

The Female Institute is available for rent for various functions, and you coordinate the requests  by calling Gail Tait at 337-4756.

Other Upcoming Events

  • The annual Pine Apple Front Porch Tour will be held on Sunday afternoon, May 29, from 1:00 to 6:00 PM.  This year’s event will feature an antique car show in addition to other special entertainment. You may request brochures and other information by calling Dale Winters at 251-746-2785.
  • Black Belt Treasures” is coming to Camden this October 1 and will feature arts, crafts, and foods prepared by local residents. The showroom will be located in the old McGraw-Webb building.  This project is sponsored by ATRC. For more information, please visit their web site at http://www.blackbeltreasures.com.

Society History

The Wilcox Historical Society was founded in the late 1960’s with the initial goal to save and restore the Wilcox Female Institute.  The primary goal of the Society continues to be to preserve the history of this region and to act in some degree as a clearing house and reference source to persons searching for genealogical information.  Our local Wilcox County Public Library is the best source of genealogical information and features one of the best genealogical rooms to be found anywhere. The library staff can be reached at 334-682-4355, 100 Broad Street, Camden, AL 36726, e-mail at wcl@pinebelt.net. If research is needed, they can refer you to  a local historian who can perform the research for a fee. The Historical Society may be contacted at  P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726.  You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net .Our web site link may be accessed through www.wilcoxwebworks.com.  The cost to join the society is $10 per person, or $15 per couple annually.  Dues are payable on September 1 of each year

Current Wilcox Historical Society Officers:

Jeannie Hollinger, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Lindsay Johnson, Secretary

Mary Charles Donald, Treasurer

Gail Tait, Curator

Don Donald, Grants Coordinator/Publicity

William Malone, WebMaster

Note: We will be electing officers for 2005 at the February 10 meeting.