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 County Plantation Tour – September 27, 2003

The Wilcox Historical Society is sponsoring a special event on Saturday, September 27, 2003 in which historical homes, churches, and other sites in the Dry Fork, Possum Bend, Canton Bend “Plantation Bend” area of the Alabama River will be open for tour. The pilgrimage will start at 9:00 AM and conclude at 6:00 PM.  Tour headquarters will be the Wilcox Female Institute located on Broad Street in the town of Camden.  The price will be $15 for adults and $5 for students. Lunch will be available at GainesRidge Dinner Club and the Belleville Restaurant.  Funds raised from the event will be used to maintain the Female Institute, Beck-Miller Law Office, and to aid in the restoration of the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Home which has been donated to the Wilcox Historical Society.

Homes scheduled to be on tour include “Youpon”(shown herein), Dry Fork Plantation, and many others which will announced in the Spring.  In addition, the Dunn-Fairley-Bonner Home, the Beck Miller Law Office, Canton Bend Methodist Church and Cemetery, and Camden Cemetery will be available for tour

Furman Spring Pilgrimage – April 12, 2003

Wakefield in Furman

The Furman Civic Club is sponsoring a one day event on Saturday, April 12, 2003 in which historical homes, churches, and sites in the Furman area will be open for tour. The tour will start at 9:00 AM and conclude at 6:00 PM. Tour headquarters will be the Furman Community Center (old school) located on Highway 59. The price will be $10 for adults and $5 for students, and lunch will be available at the school. Funds raised from the event will be used to maintain the Community Center and fund National Historic District signs to be placed on Highway 21.

Homes scheduled to be on tour include “Wakefield”, the classic steamboat gothic house featured in Silent in the Land, Patience Plantation, the Purifoy/Lipscomb home featured in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s Thirteen Ghosts and Jeffrey, “Fox Hill”, recently restored by Don and Katrina Bell, the Stabler Home, the Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, and several other homes not previously on tour. In addition, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, Palmer Cemetery, Old Snow Hill Cemetery, and Snow Hill Cemetery will be available for tour.

Furman was designated a National Historic District in 1999 and has many antebellum homes and structures still standing. The town has a fascinating history beginning circa 1802 when the first settlers came to the area from South Carolina. Most of the Wilcox County towns were settled by Scotch and English settlers, and Furman also to some degree. However, many of the early settlers of Furman came from the South Carolina low country and were of French ancestry. The Snow family settled on the high hill now the site of Old Snow Hill Cemetery around this date, and thus the present day Furman community was known as Snow Hill. It was renamed Furman at a later date, and a new community was founded a few miles to the west – Snow Hill. Furman Academy was a popular school in the late 1800’s and is the predecessor of present day Huntingdon College in Montgomery.

Some fascinating persons came from this small town, including Elkanah Burson, an attache’ to General Robert E. Lee. Mr. Burson, a original member of the Wilcox True Blues company and later to serve in the Alabama House of Representatives, delivered the Confederacy surrender papers to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox. He then returned home to Furman. (His great granddaughter is now the owner of Wakefield.) Some direct descendants of these original settlers still own homes and property in Furman, and will be hosts at the pilgrimage.

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. 

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