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.

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2005

Winter Meeting to Feature Program by Ed Patillo

The next meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society will be held Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 2:00 P.M. at “Dry Fork”, the home of Gail and James Edwin Tait.  Should  you need directions, please call 334-682-9825.

A program on the “Spencer Family Letters” will be presented by Montgomery resident Ed Patillo.  Mr. Patillo is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Columbia University , and is a noted historian.  He has authored articles on the Spencer family and will speak on this topic.  In addition, Bob Gamble, Alabama Historical Commission historian, and Dana Sadler, current owner of the property, will add some interesting notes.  After the meeting, we will caravan to the Spencer home.

Dry Fork has been featured in recent Pilgrimages and  and the Taits have hosted many other community, club, and historical events.  In case you are not familiar with the history of this beautiful home, a short synopsis is presented as follows:

Dry Fork was approved for inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and was placed on the registry in 1999.  It is one of the oldest documented homes still standing in Wilcox County and is a fine example of late Federal style double–pile house form containing examples of folk versions of Federal style woodwork.  It was constructed for James Asbury Tait during the years of 1832-1834 by carpenter/joiners Hezekiah and Elijah.  Restoration of the home began in 1998. James Asbury Tait was born in 1791, the only child of Charles and Ann Lucas Tait to survive infancy. He grew up on his grandfather’s plantation in the Broad River country near Savannah , Georgia .

The floor plan specified that the house should have eight rooms with four on each floor.  There are two porches on the front, although one appears to be a later addition since James Asbury Tait’s Memoranda does not mention it..  All rooms are 18 feet square and with 11-foot ceilings downstairs and 8 ½ foot ceilings upstairs. The original house required more than 25,000 board feet of cut lumber, and the roof was covered with 6,000 wooden shingles.  The chimneys required 12,000 bricks, made from clay on the plantation.  Gail and James Edwin (Jim) Tait, great-great grandson of the builder,  have beautifully restored the original home just described, and have constructed majestic additions to the original structure.  Appurtenances and gardens result in a one-of-a-kind property that one has to see to fully appreciate.

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 True Blues Flag Project

The restoration of the Wilcox True Blues Flag is nearing completion in Maryland and the flag should be delivered to the Alabama Department of Archives and History this Spring.  We will plan to have celebration of this magnificent restoration project later this year .

Wilcox Historical Society Facts

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 people 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, or reached by e-mail at wilcoxgen@frontiernet.net, or by mail 100 Broad Street , Camden , AL 36726 .  If research is needed, they can refer you to  a local historian who can perform the research for a nominal fee. The Historical Society may be contacted at  P.O. Box 464 , Camden , AL 36726 . 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.  Payment of dues is due by September 1 of each year Please plan to renew at this time so that we can keep our computer list of members current.

Officers for 2006 were elected at the October 6, 2005 meeting held in Oak Hill.  They are:

Jeannie Hollinger, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary

Mary Charles Donald, Treasurer

Gail Tait, Curator

Don Donald, Publicity

William Malone, Web Master

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2004

Antique Seminar on June 24

 There will be a special seminar on antique preservation and valuation on Thursday, June 24 sponsored by Gail Tait’s Antique Shop.  The presentation will be “Living with Antiques” by John Thompkins and William Germaine.  Mr. Thompkins and Mr. Germaine will also be available to appraise “small” pieces that attendees may bring. Each attendee may bring one item to be valued. The meeting will be held at the Wilcox Female Institute.  As noted the building has been recently painted and kitchen modifications have been made.  Come and see the progress.

 This will be a luncheon meeting which will catered by GainesRidge Dinner Club.  The cost will be $10 per person.  Lunch will be served at 12 noon, with the program to follow.  There is a limit of 48 attendees, so please make your reservations as soon as possible by calling Betty Kennedy at 334-682-9707.

Pine Apple Front Porch Tour

This annual event, sponsored by Pine Apple Promotions, is coming up this coming Sunday, May 30.  The attached leaflet provides details of the tour.  Please note that several of the homes will have open parlors, and that there are two very historic homes that have not been featured on previous events.  These are Dellmont in Mount Moriah and the Chesnut-Moore home in Allenton.  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 Historical Society 2004 Fall Pilgrimage – September 25

 The homes, churches, and buildings to be featured on this year’s Pilgrimage have been finalized, and preparation of the color brochure is in progress. We have a great lineup for this year, and a special thank you is extended to Sister Curry for coordinating with the homeowners. The tour is on Saturday from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Following are the featured structures:

o Dry Fork Plantation

o Bethea/Strother/Stewart Home (Pleasant Ridge)

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

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

 As reported in the last Newsletter, the flag is currently in the restoration process in Maryland.  It is anticipated that it will be nearly another year before it is returned to the Department of Archives and History.  It will then be available for display at our historical events.

 Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As noted in prior newsletters, we received a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home in the amount of $5,000 on August 2, 2001. Richard Hudgens, historical architect from Selma, has  completed the preservation plans and drawings.  We received notice from the Alabama Historical Commission on February 10, 2003 that our Society had received a grant in the amount of $25,000.  This was a matching grant, and we had intended to start Phase I work in the summer of 2003, but the funds were withdrawn as part of the Governor’s cost cutting actions.  Applications and information on other sources were received and have been pursued, but no funding sources have been located. With the national and state economies in dire straits, it is very unlikely that there will any funds forthcoming for several years.   Therefore, the Executive Board of the Society has recommended  the building and grounds be placed on the open market, with any buyer being required  to follow the preservation guidelines established in Mr. Hudgens’ restoration package.  This recommendation will be voted on at the June 24 meeting.

 Dulaney Family Tribute

 The Dulaney Family is sponsoring a tribute to Hardy Dulaney at the Bethel ARP Church Cemetery in Oak Hill on June 19, 2004.  Mr. Dulaney life’s history is fascinating, and Dr. Marvin Dulaney, his great-great-great grandson will be presenting the family history. Mr. Dulaney participated in the Civil War, and if anyone has any other documented history of African-Americans from Wilcox County who were active in the War, please contact Millie Lee Dulaney at 5020 South Maryland Parkway, No. 9, Las Vegas, NV 89119. David Fuller, Mayor of Oak Hill, will welcome attendees at the event which will start at 12 noon.  There will be a cemetery workshop to follow at the Dulaney Cemetery located east of Camden just north of Highway 10.  Interested parties should contact Ms. Dulaney.

 Other Projects Update

 World War II Veterans Project –  The boards which have been completed will be on display in the back room (historical display room) of the Beck-Miller-Bonner Law Office. They are currently displayed at the Historical Room at Moore Academy School in Pine Apple for the Front Porch Tour and are available for display at our locations upon request. The Miller Law Office room is open and available for not only these display boards but other memorabilia that may be available for exhibition.  This building has been leased to Gail Tait, and you should coordinate any tour requests by calling Gail at 337-4756.

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 people 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.  Payment of dues is due by September 1 of each year Please plan to renew at this time so that we can keep our computer list of members current.  You may use the attached cutout card to renew.

 The 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

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2004

Jane Shelton Dale to Present  Program on the H. L. Hunley

 Local resident Jane Shelton Dale will present a program on the war-time history, the discovery, and recovery of the Confederate submarine H.L.Hunley on Friday, February 6, at 2:00 PM at the Wilcox Female Institute.   All Wilcox Society members and guests are invited.  This program is also  open to the general public at no charge.  The Hunley was built in Mobile and was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in battle.  It was sunk in Charleston Harbor in 1864 with the crew of eight going down with the vessel.  It was discovered in 1995 by salvage hunters and raised from the harbor in 2000. The bodies of the crew were recovered, most of which were still at their battle stations.  This 3rd and final group of heroic men will be interred at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on April 17, 2004.  You will have to attend the meeting to hear the fascinating details of the history of this vessel and crew, and the recovery procedure!

Jane Shelton Dale and her family have been active members of our Society for many years.  She is a native of Camden and attended local schools, and graduated from Erskine College in 1973.  She is active in many organizations and is a former school teacher at both Catherine Academy and Wilcox Academy.

 Historical Records Microfilming

The  project has been completed, and the records from the courthouse and old jail which met the criteria have been flattened and cataloged, filmed, and are currently stored in the library genealogical room.  Tom Turley and Lyn Frazier of the Historical Records Department, State Department of the Archives, were instrumental in originating this program and are due a debt of gratitude for their contribution.  Locally Ruth and Will Liddell , Bettie Morgan and her staff, Bobby Lane, and John Clyde Riggs and ATRC are extended a special thank you for their efforts in completing the project.  Mr. Turley and staff will deliver the microfilm to Wilcox County at the February 6 meeting, and recognize the local contributors to this project.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

Following is a reprint of an article by Mini Lambert  that appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of FOTA Facts, the official publication of the Friends of the Archives:

It is said that flags represent the fabric of a people.  In the case of the Wilcox True Blues, a Confederate militia from Camden and east Wilcox County, this sentiment wasn’t just a metaphor.  It was true.  The flag was actually sown from a blue silk dress donated by a local resident, Adele Robbins.  Pieces of the dress were sewn together by ladies from the soldiers’ families, and then the flag was painted by Samuel Tepper.  He painted the company’s name on one side of the banner and a steamboat and cotton boll of the other.  ADAH curator Bob Bradley explained that when the war broke out, there was a fervor to make flags for military companies .  “Each company had its own flag, and the idea was for the flag to be unique and set that company apart,” said Bradley.  The people of Camden and Wilcox County refused to let their young men go off to war without a suitable banner; thus, the flag – and the story behind it – were created, forming yet another interesting piece of Alabama history.

 Preserving the 140-year old flag became a project in the local community just as creating it had been.  The Wilcox Historical Society worked diligently to raise funds for the flag’s conservation, and on August 3, 2002, the society’s president, Don Donald, presented a check to Bob Bradley to be used for the conservation of the Wilcox True Blues banner. “They have done better with fund-raising than any single group that’s sponsored a flag,” Bradley said.  The conservation process, which will take over a year, will be conducted by Textile Preservation Associates of Keedysville, Maryland, for a cost of $25,634.  With a third of this amount provided by the Wilcox Historical Society, the remainder will come from the Friends of the Archives Flag Fund, which is primarily made up of donations from the Alabama Division of the Confederate Veterans and the Alabama Division of Civil War Re-enactors.  During an examination of the flag, preservation professionals noted that the silk fabric is in good condition, but the paintings are severely damaged and fragmented.  With numerous loose pieces, approximately 40 per cent of the flag is missing.   “Nobody alive has seen this flag intact,” said Bradley. “When it’s restored, we’ll not only be getting a flag.  We’ll be getting a painting as well.  It will be truly spectacular.”  The flag is slated to be displayed in the new ADAH Museum of Natural History.

 Originally, the flag was presented to the company prior to their departure for Pensacola, Florida, in February 1861.  After the regiment was captured at Island 10 in April 1862, the flag was kept in a private home near there, but it subsequently disappeared. In 1917 Maude McWilliams of Camden discovered the flag on display at the capitol in Lansing, Michigan.  She notified her father, Richard Ervin McWilliams, who had served with the True Blues.  Through his efforts, the flag was returned to him by permission of the Board of Governors of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Grand Army of the Republic.  The flag was presented to the Department of Archives and History in 1921.  Richard McWilliams’ great-granddaughter, Garland Cook Smith, currently serves as vice president of the Wilcox Historical Society.

Note: The Friends of the Archives is a very worthwhile organization, and Don Donald was nominated and installed as a  member of the Board of Directors in 2003.  You are encouraged to join “Friends” to  help support many worthwhile projects such as our True Blue Flag project.  Membership is only $25 per year.  You can contact them at P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, AL or contact Don for a membership application.

 Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As noted in prior newsletters, we received a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home in the amount of $5,000 on August 2, 2001. Richard Hudgens, historical architect from Selma, has  completed the preservation plans and drawings.  We received notice from the Alabama Historical Commission on February 10, 2003 that our Society had received a grant in the amount of $25,000.  This was a matching grant, and we had intended to start Phase I work in the summer of 2003, but the refunds were withdrawn as part of the Governor’s cost cutting actions.  Applications and information on other sources have been received and are being pursued.  Another option would be to place the building and grounds on the open market, with any buyer being bound to follow the preservation guidelines established in Mr. Hudgens’ package.

 Other Projects Update

 World War II Veterans Project –  The boards which have been completed are on display in the back room (historical display room) of the Beck-Miller-Bonner Law Office. This room is open and available for not only these display boards but other memorabilia that may be available for exhibition.  This building has been leased to Gail Tait, and you should coordinate any tour requests by calling Gail at 337-4756.

 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 people 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.  Please join with us!  Payment of dues is due by September 1 of each year.

 The current Wilcox Historical Society Officers:

Don Donald, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Secretary: Lindsay Johnson

Treasurer: Mary Charles Donald

Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough

Curator: Vacant

We plan to elect officers for 2004/2005 term at the February meeting.  We have a partial slate of persons willing to serve as officers for the coming year, and will accept nominations from the floor.

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Winter 2003

Louis Finlay to Speak on History of Canton Bend on  January 16

The next Wilcox Historical Society meeting will feature a presentation by Louis Finlay on the history of Canton Bend.  The meeting will be held at the Strother-Gibbs home in Canton Bend at 3:00 on Thursday, January 16. The meeting is open to both Society members and others who may be interested in Canton Bend’s contribution to the region’s history. In addition to the history presentation, attendees will be able to tour this magnificent home.  

Following is a biographical summary for Louis M. Finlay, Jr. who was born in Mobile , Alabama :  

Personal: Married to the former Laura Croom Rivers of Montgomery; two children, Elizabeth Vingi of Mt. Pleasant , SC and Robert Finlay of Mobile ; four grandchildren.  

Education: Jackson Grammar and High School; Gulf Coast Military Academy ; BS, University of Alabama (business).  

Career: Air Force Squadron Adjutant & Personnel Officer in Alabama , Ohio , and North Africa ; career in lumber business with M.W. Smith Lumber Co., Inc. of Jackson , Alabama , later to become Boise Cascade Corp.; retired in 1993.  

Affilations: Member and former senior warden of St. Peters’s Episcopal Church, Jackson; past president of Clarke County Historical Society, now quarterly editor; serves on Clarke County Museum Steering Committee; past chairman, Kimbell House Committee, Jackson; member, St. Stephens Historical Commission; member, Library Board, Jackson.

 Following is a brief history of the Strother-Gibbs home and family taken from the 1991 Tour of Homes brochure:   

         Three generations of the Strother family have enjoyed life in the Canton Bend home built by George Hicks Strother, III.  The exact construction date is unknown, but according to information from Mrs. Bessie B. Thompson, the marriage of Annie E. Bryant and Mr. Strother took place about the time of the construction.

          According to the Wilcox County marriage records, the couple were married on April 18, 1894 .  Mr. Strother was a descendant of Alabama pioneer families.  His grandparents, George Hicks and Sarah Ann Bethea Strother, were married in South Carolina in 1819. Shortly after their marriage, they emigrated to the Alabama Territory and settled near St. Stephens.  Before the end of her first year of marriage, Sarah was a widow and anticipating the birth of her first child, George Hicks Strother, Jr., born on January 1, 1820.

         As soon as travel was permitted, the young widow and her infant son returned to the South Carolina home of her parents, David and Mary Ann Pledger Bethea.  In 1822, they returned to Alabama with  her parents and continued to live on the plantation of David Bethea until her marriage to James C. Irvin.

         George Hicks, Jr. grew to manhood near Canton .  After the death of his first wife, Mary Ann Blue, he married Mrs. Selina Kimbrough Weir in 1865.  Six children, including George Hicks, III, were born to the couple.  The third generation son to carry the name of his paternal ancestor, George Hicks, a South Carolina patriot, also grew up in Canton .  Following the death of his wife Annie in 1914, Mr. Strother married Daisy L. Dale of Oak Hill.  Four children were born to Mr. Strother and his wives.

         For the construction of his home, Mr. Strother hired a Mr. Coleman of Sumter County .  Building materials were purchased in Mobile and were shipped up-river by steamboat.  In her  reminiscences, Mrs. Thompson recalled that Mr. Coleman also built the Canton Bend home of her parents and that some time later after the construction of the houses, he was drowned while crossing a swollen Sumter County stream.

         Following Mr. Strother’s death in 1937, his son Jack became the owner of the home.  Mr. Strother and his wife Sarah Moore Strother, spent the remainder of their lives there.  In 1950 a major renovation of the dwelling was undertaken.  Its original design, which included a porch on all four sides, was changed.  The columns used in the alteration were made in Philadelphia and shipped to Canton Bend.  Other changes suited the home to the needs of Mr. and Mrs. Strother and their children.  Beautifully maintained throughout the years, the home continues in the ownership of the original owner’s granddaughter and her husband, Billie and Al Gibbs.