Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2002

Haas Strother to Speak at July 18 Meeting

The next Wilcox Historical Society meeting will feature a presentation by one of our own members.  Haas Strother will speak on the history of the Miller family, specifically Rev. John Miller, patriarch of the Miller Family and father  of Gov. Benjamin Meek Miller,  and the contributions of this family to Wilcox County and the State of Alabama.  It is interesting to note that Rev. Miller was the chaplain of the “Wilcox True Blues”.The meeting will be held at the Wilcox Female Institute at 5:30 on Thursday, July 18.  Please make your plans to attend since we have some significant business in addition to the program.  Because this is a regular meeting, no reservations are required.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

The “Wilcox True Blues”project is moving rapidly toward the awarding of a contract.  As noted in the spring newsletter, this flag was captured by Union troops and was thought to have been destroyed in a fire until discovered in a military museum in Michigan.  Through the efforts of Richard Ervin McWilliams, the flag was returned to Alabama and now is in controlled storage at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Gail and James Edwin Tait were gracious hosts at their beautiful home located in the Sedan area of south Wilcox County for the special flag fund raiser party on May 18.  With prior contributions and the money raised from this event, we now have slightly more than $8,000 to contribute to the Archives Flag Fund.  We extend a heartfelt thank you to Gail and James Edwin for this truly spectacular party, and to Sister Curry for coordinating the event.

Bob Bradley, who is the flag coordinator at the State Department Archives and History, has set up a special reception for our Society on Saturday, August 3 at the Archives Auditorium in Montgomery to honor us for raising the necessary funds to enable this project to go forward.  We will present a check for our part of the project at this meeting,

There will be a short presentation on the State sponsored flag program, followed by a guided tour of the flag storage vault in which we will be able to view the “Wilcox True Blues” flag in its present condition. We will also be able to view flags that have been restored which were in similar states of deterioration as  our flag.

The reception/program will begin at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon. The Archives Department is located at 624 Washington Avenue in the State Capitol area of Montgomery.  You should be able to park around the main building, or in one of the adjacent parking lots.  The auditorium is located on the first floor of the building.

Efforts are being made to contact descendants of R.E. McWilliams to attend the August 3 meeting.

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As noted previously, we received a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home in the amount of $5,000 on August 2, 2001.  We applied for a $25,000 restoration grant on November 1, 2001 and were notified on February15, 2002 that we did not receive the grant this year. We will reapply, but are currently pursuing other funding sources.  Meanwhile, stabilization of the home per U.S. Department of Interior Guidelines was completed in mid-December 2001, and the archeological study at the site has been performed by the University of South Alabama and reports distributed to the Wilcox County Commission and to our Society. Richard Hudgens, historical architect from Selma, is preparing preservation plans and guidelines so that work can start soon after receiving funding.   We have also had inquiries about the possible purchase and/or lease of this historic home.  Our deed provides for these possibilities as long as the specific preservation guidelines are followed.  We are also pursuing a preservation easement that would further assure that future restoration is performed per historical guidelines, regardless of the ownership. Please be assured that we are making every effort to complete this restoration and use the facility as a museum or some other compatible use.

Projects Summary

We have had a very active two years of projects, and following is a brief summary of these projects.

Historical Records Microfilming – All of the records from the courthouse and old jail which met the criteria have been flattened and cataloged, and are currently stored in the Lane Butane Building. These are being moved to the library for the actual microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah.  Once done, this project will be complete.

World War II Veterans Project – The bank account for this project has been closed out, and Phil Tate will be completing the processing of the information on hand.  The

boards which have been completed are on display in the back room (historical display room) of the Beck-Miller Law Office.  Frank Walburn, who is leasing this building, is keeping this room open and available for not only these display boards but other memorabilia that we may want to  exhibit.  One such item is Governor Benjamin Meek Miller’s desk that he used in this office.  This desk was recently donated to our Society by Moody Maness, and it is currently being restored.

Joseph M. Wilcox Historical Marker – This project was completed with the dedication of the marker on April 7, 2002.

Postal Routes Historical Marker – This marker, which originally was located at the intersection of Highways 28 and old Highway 10 (now 162) on the west side of the Alabama River at Prairie, had been “lost” since the construction of the new bridge.  Inquiries to the Alabama Highway Department resulted in this marker being found behind a storage building at the Camden facility.  The Highway Department has agreed to re-erect the marker.  We have discussed having this marker and the Wilcox Female Institute marker cleaned and repainted by Logan Painting Company of Tuscaloosa.  The cost will be $300 per sign.

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 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@pinebeltnet.net. The Historical Society may be contacted at  P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726.  You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net or call 334-682-9825 for information.  Our web site link is www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history.  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.  Alyce Yarbrough is our membership chairman, and is keeping up with the active membership list.  Please use the following coupon to make your payment and update any data that needs changing.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers elected at the January 20, 2002 meeting who will serve thru December, are:

Don Donald, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Secretary: Lindsay Johnson

Treasurer: Mary Charles Donald

Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough

Curator: Ernestine Dunnam

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Spring 2002

Joseph M. Wilcox Historical Marker Dedication 

The dedication of the historical marker honoring Lieutenant Joseph Morgan Wilcox was originally scheduled for January 20, 2002, but due to some text problems with the marker, the dedication was delayed until April 7, 2002. This project is the culmination of a joint effort of the Wilcox Historical Society and the local Lt. Joseph M. Wilcox Chapter of the Alabama Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Extensive research by Slaton Crawford and his committee resulted in the text contained on the marker.

The dedication and marker unveiling ceremony will be held at the Wilcox Female Institute at 2:30 P.M. on Sunday, April 7. All Wilcox Historical Society members and friends are urged to attend.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

The “Wilcox True Blues” was the first company formed in this part of Alabama in early 1861, and was comprised of young men from east Wilcox County and 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 a blue silk dress 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 departed Wilcox County in February 1861.

As most of you know, this flag was captured by Union troops and was thought to have been destroyed in a fire until discovered in a military museum in Michigan. Through the efforts of Richard Ervin McWilliams, the flag was returned to Alabama and now is in controlled storage at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. We have received a proposal to repair the flag, and have established a flag fund at Town and Country Bank. To-date, we have approximately $6,000 in this fund, and need to raise nearly $5,000 more to match the funds to be provided by the Archives Department. They are holding funds in reserve for our project until July 1, but it is imperative that we provide the matching funds by this dateWe will have a special fund-raiser party in May as noted below. Meanwhile, if you would care to contribute to this project, please send your tax deductible contribution to our Society*s address – P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. Please see the form included herein for details.

Dry Fork Plantation Party

There will be a very special party at Dry Fork Plantation on Saturday, May 18. Gail and James Edwin Tait will host the event at their beautiful home located in the Sedan area of south Wilcox County. The “southern picnic” party will start at 5:00 P.M. and food and refreshments will be catered by Gaines Ridge Dinner Club. Sister Curry has agreed to chair this event. Additional details on the party and a history of “Dry Fork” will be forthcoming, and you can contact Sister at 334-682-9440 for more information.

As noted above, this party will be used as the fund-raiser for the “True Blues” project. All money over and above the cost of the event will go to the flag fund. There is a limited number of reservations, so please go ahead and make yours by sending in the attached coupon.

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As noted in a previous newsletter, we received a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home in the amount of $5,000 on August 2, 2001. We applied for a $25,000 restoration grant on November 1, 2001 and were notified on February15, 2002 that we did not receive the grant this year. We will reapply, but are currently pursuing other funding sources. Meanwhile, stabilization of the home per U.S. Department of Interior Guidelines was completed in mid-December 2001, and the archeological study at the site has been performed by the University of South Alabama. We are proceeding with the completion of the preservation plans and guidelines so that work can start soon after receiving funding. We have also had inquiries about the possible purchase and/or lease of this historic home. Our deed provides for these possibilities as long as the specific preservation guidelines are adhered to. We are also pursuing a preservation easement that would further assure that future restoration is performed per historical guidelines. Please be assured that we are making every effort to complete this restoration and use the facility as a museum or some other compatible use.

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 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@pinebeltnet.net. The Historical Society may be contacted at P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net or call 334-682-9825 for information. Our web site link is www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history. 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. Alyce Yarbrough is our membership chairman, and is keeping up with the active membership list. Please use the following coupon to make your payment and update any data that needs changing.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers elected at the January 20, 2002 meeting who will serve thru December, are:

Don Donald, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Secretary: Lindsay Johnson

Treasurer: Mary Charles Donald

Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough

Curator: Ernestine Dunnam

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2001

Fall Pilgrimage on September 29

Our biannual tour of homes and historical sites is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 from 9:00 A.M. to 6 P.M. We have a stellar lineup of homes and historical buildings and we urge each Society member to spread the word about this event. You will note that it has been scheduled to take advantage of cooler temperatures (hopefully!) and to avoid conflict with the Alabama and Auburn football games. (Alabama plays at South Carolina and Auburn at Vanderbilt this day.) Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $5 for students, with children under 6 free. Tickets are being sold at tour headquarters (Wilcox Female Institute). Advance tickets can be purchased by contacting the Wilcox Historical Society at P.O. Box 464, Camden, AL 36726.

We have printed 3,000 color brochures, and these are being distributed by the Alabama Tourism Council and other historical associations. A special thanks is extended to Camden National Bank, Town and Country National Bank, Bank of Pine Hill, and Weyerhaeuser, Pine Hill Mill for underwriting the printing costs. And a sincere thank you to each homeowner for placing their home on this year’s Pilgrimage and providing information for the brochure. Also, we thank Ouida Woodson and Dan Brooks for their valuable historical input.

Sister Curry and Jane Shelton Dale, our tour co-chairs, are putting together the hostess – and host – list. Please call Sister at 682-9440 and Jane Shelton at 682-9833 and volunteer. We men can work too! We also encourage local students to participate. All volunteers will be issued complimentary tickets to the Pilgrimage.

Wilcox True Blues Flag Project

(Article reprinted from last issue)

The “Wilcox True Blues” were the first company formed in this part of Alabama in early 1861, and was comprised of young men from east Wilcox County and 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 a blue silk dress 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 near Pensacola. 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. Captain was I.G.W. Steadman, a medical doctor from Oak Hill. 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 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. Captain Steadman became very ill also, and was replaced by another young doctor from Oak Hill, David Wardlaw Ramsey. (D.W. Ramsey became a Baptist minister after the war, and served churches in east Wilcox County for many years. He is the great grandfather of one our members, Joe Ramsey of Dothan. His wife’s (Sharman Burson) great grandfather, Elkanah Burson of Furman, was a private in this company, and later became the attache’ to General Robert E. Lee. He delivered the surrender papers from Lee to Grant).

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 the “Wilcox True Blues” banner in a military museum there, which she recognized from the description given her by her father. When the word reached Richard Ervin McWilliams (an original member of the Company, later serving 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 sometime later, 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 rests today, though in dire need of repair. We have in hand a proposal to repair the flag, and have established a flag fund at Town and Country Bank. If you would care to contribute to this project please send your tax deductible contribution to our Society address. Our Federal Tax I.D. – 63-0737652.

(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, Garland Cook Smith, died on August 25, 1921).

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

The deed completing the gift of this property to our Society was signed on June 11, 2001. As noted in our last newsletter, we applied to the Alabama Historical Commission for a planning grant relating to the preservation of the home. This grant in the amount of $5,000 was approved on August 2! We are submitting an actual restoration grant application in early September to AHC, and also are soliciting grants from other sources. Meanwhile, stabilization of the home per Historical Commission Guidelines began in early August.

Loose Records Microfilming Update

The local society has been working with the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History in preparing loose records for microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). Our volunteers, led by Ruth and Will Liddell, have unfolded and flattened some records, cleaning as needed. Most of the work has been the result of the full-time volunteer effort by Josephine and Marvin Ek of Utah. They are working in the genealogical room of the local library most days, so please give them a hand if you can.Call Ruth at 682-9622 if you need more information.

World War II Veterans Project

This project, led by Phil Tate, has literally skyrocketed. Starting with the limited entries reported at the June 28 meeting, we now have approximately 100 sets of pictures and data assembled. Many are on display at local banks, restaurants, and businesses. This is probably the most important project that our group has undertaken, and the response has been phenomenal. The final posters, photographs, and memorabilia will be displayed at the Female Institute, Beck-Miller Law Office, and the Hugh Dale Building on tour day. They will be on permanent display at the Female Institute in the near-term, and ultimately will be displayed at the Dunn-Bonner “museum”.

We have a Veterans’ Project Fund established also, and if you would care to contribute, please send to our local address and note “Veterans’ Project”. This project will include other wars also when the current project is complete. A special thanks to Phil for a great job!

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. You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net or call 334-682-9825 for information. Our web site link is http://www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history. The cost to join the society is $10 per person, or $15 per couple annually. Please join with us! To get back on schedule, payment is due by September 1, 2001.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers for 2000 and 2001:

Don Donald, President

Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson

Secretary: Ruth Liddell

Treasurer: Roy MacIntosh

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Summer 2001

June 28 Meeting to be Held at Beck-Bryant-Talbot Home

Our next meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, June 28, 2001 at the home known as “River Bluff House”. This home is currently owned by Judi and Doug Talbot, and was featured in our 1999 Fall Pilgrimage. The Talbots have graciously agreed to host this late afternoon meeting which will start at 5:30 P.M. We will have a brief business meeting and then Bob Bradley of the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History will speak on historical flags of Alabama, and will specifically address the present status of the “Wilcox True Blues” flag which was made on this very property in early 1861. Following his talk, we will be treated to refreshments. This is a no-charge event and all members and prospective members are invitedPlease see attachment for directions to the home.

“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. Mr. Beck had migrated to Wilcox County around 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 Alexander Bragg as the builder. According to local history, J. D. Bryant, who owned the home in the late1800’s, altered the hipped roof line 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 in early 1861, 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 a blue silk dress 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. Captain was I.G.W. Steadman, a medical doctor from Oak Hill. This regiment was the first one transferred to the Confederate Army, 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, Wisconsin. The flag 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 also. However, in 1917, Miss Maud McWilliams of Camden was visiting her sister, Mrs. Margueritte McWilliams Cook, in Lansing, Michigan, and happened to discover the “Wilcox True Blues” banner in a military museum there. She recognized it from the description given to her by her father. When the word reached Richard Ervin McWilliams, an original member of Company B 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 sometime later, 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 rests today, though in dire need of repair. We have in hand a proposal to repair the flag, and this proposal will be discussed at the meeting.

(This information was excerpted from an article written by R.E. McWilliams, a Private in Company B. This article appeared in the Wilcox Progressive Era on February 10, 1921. Mr. McWilliams, the great grandfather of our Vice President, Garland Cook Smith, died on August 25, 1921).

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Project

As you may recall from the March 1, 2001 meeting, our Society voted to accept the donation of this home from the trustees of the James Bonner Trust. The deed completing this gift was signed on June 11, 2001, and we now officially own the property. There is a reversion clause in the deed which states that it will revert to the Trust if we have not begun restoration within three years of the donation. We plan to start stabilization/restoration efforts on the home per Historical Commission Guidelines within a few weeks.

Our Society has agreed to allow James David Bonner to clear the rear grounds of the property as his Eagle Scout project, with work to be done under our auspices. We have submitted a planning grant application to the Alabama Historical Commission (June 1), and will be submitting a restoration grant application by November 1, 2001. This property was placed on the list of the Top 10 Endangered Buildings in Alabama on May 17.

Loose Records Microfilming Update

The local society has been working with the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History in preparing loose records for microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). These records, which include pre-1915 estate case files, loose marriage and divorce records up to 1950, guardianship and apprenticeship files, slave records, and Confederate pension records, contain some of the most historically significant information held by Alabama Counties. Our volunteers, led by Ruth and Will Liddell, are unfolding and flattening the records, cleaning as necessary, alphabetizing, and then placing the records in acid-free folders in preparation for the microfilming operation. We are working on records from the courthouse and the old jail building. If you are interested in assisting in this ongoing project, please call Ruth Liddell at 682-9622. Society volunteers have “flattened” and filed several volumes to-date, but the effort really took off with the full-time volunteer effort by Josephine and Marvin Ek of Utah. They are working in the genealogical room of the local library most days, so please give them a hand.

Other Business

Another item discussed in March was the erection of a National District historic marker for Camden. We need to decide what should go on the marker, and where it may be erected. Jane Liddell and John Creswell are to report on this project. Another item of old business concerns the erection of a memorial sign/marker for Lieutenant Joseph M. Wilcox being coordinated by the local DAR chapter. The committee chaired by Slaton Crawford will report on their findings at the meeting. The final committee report will be from Phil Tate on the Veteran Memorial display project. We will be displaying memorabilia such as pictures, uniforms, and other items honoring our veterans in a display housed in the Wilcox Female Institute.

2001 Fall Pilgrimage

We have set the date for this year’s Pilgrimage. It will be on Saturday, September 29 from 9:00 to 6:00, and will feature the Camden and Canton Bend area. Sister McDuffie Curry and Jane Shelton Dale have agreed to serve as co-chairpersons for this event. Thanks! You can see what homes and other buildings are featured this year by visiting our web page, or come to the meeting and get an old-fashioned handout!

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. You can also e-mail us at grsouth@frontiernet.net or call 334-682-9825 for information. And we have a web site link under http://www.wilcoxwebworks.com/history.

The cost to join the society is $10 per person, or $15 per couple annually. Please join with us! To get back on schedule, payment is due by September 1, 2001.

Don Donald, President
Garland Cook Smith, V.P./Program Chairperson
Secretary: Ruth Liddell
Treasurer: Roy MacIntosh
Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough
Curator: Ernestine Dunnam
Pilgrimage Chairpersons: Sister Curry & Jane Shelton Dale

Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Spring 2001

L to R Roy McIntosh, Ginger Stewart, Patrick McIntyre, Garland Smith and Don Donald

March 1 Meeting to be Held at Sterrett-McWilliams House

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, March 1, 2001 at the Sterrett-McWilliams House. Most of you will recognize this home as the Cook-Smith Home located at 400 Clifton Street in Camden. Garland Smith has graciously agreed to host this late afternoon meeting which will start at 5:00 P.M. We will have a brief business meeting and then Patrick McIntyre of the Alabama Historical Commission will speak on “Alabama’s Endangered Properties” and specifically on the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Home. Following his talk, we will be treated to refreshments. This is a no-charge event and all members and prospective members are invited!

Inspired by the works of architect Samuel Sloan, the home is an outstanding example of antebellum eclecticism, and was built in 1851 for Judge David W. Sterrett who came Camden as an attorney. He became a planter and trustee of the Wilcox Female Institute. His wife was Susan McConnico. In building the house, Sterrett set out to “out do them all” in building a house befitting his station as a legislator and probate judge. The home is a blend of many different styles – Greek Revival, Haitian, and Italian. This home features an unusual rake parapet and scroll cut balustrades. Inside, twin cantilevered staircases spriral up from the shallow foyer which is lighted by red glass sidelights. Original gasoliers in the parlours mirror the acanthus leaves in the plaster molding.

The Sterretts died in 1858 leaving an only child, Sally Brooks Sterrett. Sally married attorney Walter Tate and in 1870 sold the home to Richard B. McWilliams, a local merchant. Mr. McWilliams served in Company B – First Alabama Infantry from 1862 to 1865, and was captured twice. On November 9, 1869, he married Amelia Lindsay Coate. They had ten children, including Maude McWilliams Shook and Marguerite McWilliams Cook, the mother of William M. (Billy) Cook, the father of Garland Smith and Lindsay Cook. Many of the furnishings in the house today belonged to this family.

Patrick Mctntrye is a Cultural Resource Coordinator with the Alabama Historical Commission and works in the Historic Endangered Landmarks Program. Before joining the staff of the Commission in 1999, he served as a private consultant specializing in historic research and the preparation of Alabama and National Register nominations. In 1998 he perfonned a comprehensive countywide survey of Autauga County for the Cahaba Trace Commission, during which he documented over 1500 historic sites, logged over l,000 miles, and took some 2,500 photographs. A native of Montgomery, he received his M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and a BA. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama. He is past vice president of the Alabama Preservation Alliance, the statewide non-profit historic preservation organization. He has recently received a Rotary Fellowship to Brazil to study how historic preservation is practiced in the state of Sao Paulo. His other interests include archeology and Southern folk culture, and his article on dirt-eating appears in the current issue of Tributaries, the journal of the Alabama Folklife Association.

Loose Records Microfilming

The local society is working with the State of Alabama Department of Archives and History in preparing loose records for microfilming by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). These records, which include pre-1915 estate case files, loose marriage and divorce records up to 1950, guardianship and apprenticeship files, slave records, and Confederate pension records, contain some of the most historically significant information held by Alabama Counties. Our volunteers, led by Ruth Liddell, are unfolding and flattening the records, cleaning as necessary, alphabetizing, and then placing the records in acid-free folders in preparation for the microfilming operation. We are working on records in the courthouse and in the old jail building, and if you are interested in assisting in this ongoing project, please call Ruth Liddell at 682-9622. We have “flattened” and filed several volumes to-date, so please join us in this worthwhile effort. Let’s get started again!

Current Business Items

As you may recall from the November 17, 2000 meeting, several of us met with Patrick McIntyre on October27 at the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner House on Broad Street to assess the condition and historical significance of this structure. Mr. McIntyre wrote a letter to our Society and to the James Bonner Trust trustees stating the very important historical significance of this building. The original portion of this house was constructed circa 1825-30 as a two-story loghouse by Thomas Dunn. Then most likely some 10 to 15 years later a two-story frame addition was built onto the rear of the original house, resulting in a “double pile “plan. The mantels in the upstairs rooms are of Federal Period origin, while later Victorian period mantels were placed in some of the downstairs moms. It was during the Victorian Period (1890’s) that the house was updated again to its current form, including the addition of the fill-facade portico, the half-story above the second, and the extended eaves. This home came into the possession of the Bonner family in 1882. Last November we discussed if our Society would like to take possession of the property and coordinate the period restoration of the home. This issue needs to be finalized at the March 1 meeting.

Another item discussed was the erection of a National District historic marker for Camden. We need to decide what should go on the marker, and where it may be erected.

And a final item of old business concerns the erection of a memorial sign/marker for Lieutenant Joseph M. Wilcox being coordinated by the local DAR chapter. A committee chaired by Slaton Crawford will report on their findings at the meeting. Costs for both markers will also be discussed.

2001 Fall Pilgrimage

We have set the date for this year’s Pilgrimage. It will be on September 29 and 30, and will feature the Camden

area. Sister McDuffie Curry and Jane Shelton Dale have agreed to serve as co-chairpersons for this event. Thanks! Come and hear what homes and sites are to be on tour.

The Wilcox Historical Society officers for 2000 and 2001:

Don Donald, President
Garland Cook Smith, V.P/Program Chairperson
Secretary: Ruth Liddell
Treasurer: Roy MacIntosh
Membership Chairperson: Alyce Yarbrough
Curator: Ernestine Dunnam

Wilcox Historical Society Youpon Plantation Party – September 2000

Over 180 members and guests of the Wilcox Historical Society attended the Historical Society’s Youpon Plantation Party on the evening of Saturday, September 23, 2000. 

Schley and Laura Rutherford, new owners of the antebellum home located in the Canton Bend area of Wilcox County, were gracious hosts.  

An excellent meal was served courtesy of John Brousard of the Faunsdale Bar & Grill.  The crowd enjoyed a first hand look at the renovations and improvements to this over 150 year old home.     

This historic antebellum home is one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in Alabama. It was built by a northerner, William T. Mathews who came to Camden by way of Haiti. Construction began in 1840 using a design by George Lynch, a local architect. It took five years to complete using both local and foreign artisans.

The home is now situated among large oak trees, but was originally surrounded by “Youpon” shrubs from which it derived its name. It features a large veranda supported by four fluted Doric columns and free hanging balcony with a crowfoot balustrade. Sliding interior doors and plantation windows make it possible to convert the entire first floor into a dance floor. The basic living quarters are located upstairs. And the most distinguishing feature about the home is the full basement, the only home of this era known to have this feature.

Some other information on the home excerpted from “Deep South” by Caldwell Delany published in 1942 is as follows:. “A special kiln was constructed to produce the thousands of bricks used in the basement. The main support timbers were hand hewn and planed under the supervision of the local architect. The fan-lighted front door opens into a hall 15 feet by 40 feet. Matching halls are located on the second floor and in the basement. On each side of the central hall are two rooms with those on the lower floor connected by large sliding doors. The dining room and drawing room are elaborately frescoed and corniced in plaster design.”

The home and property were purchased by the Tait family around the turn of the century, and remained in this family until the Rutherfords purchased the home and 32 acres in the Fall of 1999. Time has not changed this home much over the years, although a tornado carried away the front steps and lower portico rail, and many of the oak trees in the late 1800’s. A much earlier modification involved the basement. When it was no longer possible to keep a butler in the upper pantry, and the cook who replaced him became too old to climb the basement stairs, the basement kitchen with its two pantries, dumb waiter leading to the dining room above, wine room, and other storerooms had to be abandoned. The octagonal overseer’s office which originally stood in the garden was moved to the rear of the house and served as a kitchen. A recent modification enclosed the back porch and attached the octagonal kitchen to the main structure.