We are pleased to share that the Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes 2023 will be held in beautiful Pine Apple, Alabama on Saturday, March 25!
More info coming soon!
We are pleased to share that the Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes 2023 will be held in beautiful Pine Apple, Alabama on Saturday, March 25!
More info coming soon!
The Restoration of the Wilcox Female Institute
Happy New Year Everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season with family and friends. We have an exciting 2022 ahead of us. We will build on last year’s unprecedented success to continue our positive impact in Wilcox County. Thank you all for being part of the team!
Please plan on attending our next meeting, Sunday afternoon, February 20th, at 2:00 pm at the Female Institute. The Board will be presenting the renderings and floor plans for the expansion of the Institute. We have received four versions and after discussion and revisions have come up with an exciting product that preserves the original look of the building while making it functional for our current and future needs. We look forward to sharing it with all of you.
Thank everyone that has already contributed to this project. The WHS Classes of 1962 and 1963 gave a generous contribution to the Female Institute in honor of Governor Kay Ivey last month and others targeted year-end donations that were matched by their employers. In addition, we are continuing to explore grant options to help us raise the needed funds to complete this important project.
As if that were not enough, many of you have given generously in memory of WHS Member Palmer Hamilton. Your contributions will go toward the preservation of our historic buildings which he was so passionate about. Thank you all for honoring his legacy.
Our Tour of Homes in Historic Furman with Guest Speaker P. Allen Smith is right around the corner! Ticket sales online have been quite strong thus far with a majority of tickets sold being our Friday/Saturday VIP Ticket. Tickets are now available locally in Camden at The Pecan on Broad, Fox and Hen, and in Oak Hill at The Brittany House Antiques. I strongly suggest you get your tickets early as the Friday Night Reception is on track to sell out.
We need your help working as home guides this year. There will be shifts, so you will have plenty of time to see the homes on Tour. Ms. Mary Glen Grant is our volunteer coordinator this year. She can be reached at email@example.com. Please help us make the Tour a great success by volunteering!
I am happy to announce the continuation of our Concert Series in 2022! We are currently planning a concert in April/May and one in July as well. Your support of these special events has allowed us to continue to bring great music to Wilcox County. It is our plan to expand these special events to allow children from our schools to experience the music during the day before the evening concerts. We will release the dates as soon as they are available.
Finally, I would encourage everyone to visit the Pieces of History Exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Pieces of History tell the story of early 19th century Southerners and what they moved with them, purchased, made, and used while they made homes and lives and includes pieces of furniture and stories from Wilcox County. I had the pleasure of seeing the exhibition in New Orleans and it is really fantastic. It is in Montgomery until April 10th.
We made great strides in 2021 and have big plans this year. Make sure to renew your membership to continue to be a part of this special organization. Thank you for your support and I hope to see all of you on February 20th!
Lance Britt, WHS President
WELCOME to new members: from Alabama –John and Lou Harmon of Pine Apple, Governor Kay Ivey of Montgomery, and Gill and Robyn Deitheim of Birmingham. And welcome to new member Jeri Jones of Commerce City, Colorado!
And welcome to new Life Members –Linn and Trisha Pritchett of Minter, Alabama! Thank you all for joining the WHS!
TOUR OF HOMES UPDATE
As you know, our Tour of Homes in Furman is Saturday, March 26th with a Welcome Reception Friday night, March 25th. To date, we have already sold over $10,000 in tickets to this year’s Tour. With your help we will make this year’s Tour another success.
There are two tickets this year. Our VIP Ticket is $100 and gets you in to both the Welcome Reception Friday night at Wakefield and Saturday’s Tour. The standard ticket is $50 and is a Saturday only ticket. WHS Members receive a $10 discount on their tickets when you purchase them locally. The discount is not available through eventbrite.com. All ticket holders will get breakfast at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill Saturday morning from 8:30 – 10:00.
The weekend starts for our VIP Guests with Friday night’s Cocktail Reception at Wakefield in Furman at 6:00 pm with Guest Speaker P. Allen Smith, renown Landscape Designer, speaking at 7:00. The Pecan on Broad will be providing all the hor d’oeuvres, wine, and other refreshments. We are very thankful for their continued support as a Platinum Sponsor of Tour this year as well as the Fox and Hen. Valet parking will be provided at Wakefield Friday night.
This year’s Tour will feature eight homes and two churches as well as other historical buildings in Furman. Homes on tour include the Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, c. 1885; Wakefield Plantation, c. 1840s; Magnolia Glen – the Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, c. 1833; Laura Ann – the Watson-Moorer-Tabor Home, c. 1860; Rockwood – the Cox-Robbins-Kennedy-Snyder Home, c. 1855; Deerfield – the Perdue-Williams-Estes-Suggs Home, c. 1895; Fox Hill, c. 1840s; and Patience Plantation, c. 1841. The churches on tour are Bethsaida Baptist Church, c. 1858 and Furman Methodist Church, c. 1857.
All guests, including WHS Members, will register at Furman Methodist Church (across the street from the Post Office) upon arrival either Friday or Saturday to receive their arm band for the weekend.
As previously mentioned, we need your help as house guides this year. You will have time before or after your shift to see the other homes on Tour and you will be given the information about your assigned home in advance so you will know what to share with our guests. Please contact Mary Glen Grant to volunteer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need your help!
MEMBER SPOTLIGHT – Laura and Kent Tabor
We met in January, 1974. I was attending Riverside Military Academy; she was attending public school. I informed Rita, Laura’s mom, that I was going to marry their daughter when we graduated.
We married right after high school, 1976. We spent the first two years of our married life in Germany, I was in the Army Military Police, and discharged from the Army in 1979 after serving my obligation. While there we were impressed at the history and age of things around us. We visited many old castles and villages.
Kandace was born in Germany, 1978, and was seven weeks premature. Kelli was born in 1981 in Michigan. We have five grandchildren ranging in age from 10 to 15.
Laura and I worked together off and on, in the family business in Michigan until 1982 when we left for sunny Florida. Laura worked in Port Everglades and I learned to install carpet and then run a warehouse. In 1985 we moved back to Michigan. I went back to school during the nights and Laura worked days for a company in the accounting department. I got my Bachelors in Business Management and shortly thereafter re-joined the family business where I stayed for the next twenty-five years. Laura worked in our accounting department for many years. When the girls entered high school, Laura decided she would remain home. When we sold the business in 2017, we had over one hundred employees.
We have always been drawn to older homes that seem comfortable and in need of a little TLC. The majority of homes we owned have been at least 100 years old.
We also enjoy attending auctions that feature antiques and unusual items.
While deer hunting in Eufaula in 2017, I really liked the feeling of Alabama and the South. We talked about finding a small place in Alabama but did not really pursue that idea.
We found Furman by a twist of fate.
In 2018 we booked a hog hunt in Beatrice, Monroe County, Alabama. While there I had my lap top out and was looking for available land. It turned out that our host was also a real estate agent. Laura and I both wanted something small and manageable. The agent kept taking us to properties that did not fit with what we were imagining.
Laura has joined me on many hunts and has often been the only woman at camp. She gets along with people and has helped recover harvested animals. (Ask her about Newfoundland someday.)
We were browsing the internet when we came upon the Moorer house being sold through Great Southern Land Company in Camden. Our agent reached out to Don Donald and set up a meeting. We toured Furman first, and Mr. Donald pointed out many of the homes and gave us some history about the area. Our first positive note was Don’s welcoming attitude.
When the Moorer house came into view it was an “Oh wow!” moment. I looked at Laura and said, SOLD. She told me to hold on. As we approached the house, I noticed that Laura was very interested and knew that we had found our winter home. The house was not in great shape but as they say “the bones are good.” The hand planed walls and the circa 1855 build date were an added bonus.
We made an offer on the home and it was accepted. Soon afterwards we met Pastor Don Bell and attended Bethsaida Church. We immediately felt accepted by the congregation and the community.
Out initial intention for the house was a modest clean-up and upgrading of structure. Ha.
Laura and I contacted Don Bell to help us move the stairway out of the dogtrot. That was the beginning of over a year long restoration of the house. We installed all new plumbing, wiring and HVAC and a front and back porch. The original structure has been shored up and repaired where needed; all piers under the house were replaced. The heart pine floors were repaired (there had been some termite damage). Four fireplaces were constructed in their original locations. Mortises and pegs hold the original structure together. The septic system was replaced when we inadvertently let trucks delivering 32,000 bricks for fireplace and pier repairs crush our septic field. The fence in front of the house is of period design and is made of almost 1,000 pickets! It is a work in progress.
We are keeping the original house as close to period as possible. Our living space is attached to the back of the house. With the help of Lance Britt and Brittany House Antiques, we have been slowing furnishing the house. Our home, named Laura Ann, is pictured at the beginning of this article.
We are also in the process of renovating the old Hunt House, acquired in 2019 in Furman with the intention of making it an Airbnb. It was constructed sometime in the late 1800s. The house will be a mixture of old and new. The original part of the house will be put back as close to period as possible and the addition will be updated. The house was in terrible shape when purchased. The back roof had holes in it and the floor was rotted. Every time it rained there was a creek running under the house! All of this has been remediated. With Don Bell’s help we replaced the entire back wall of the house when we found the base had rot and was structurally unsound. The house should be complete sometime late March 2022.
From there we will begin a modest update of the Speir’s home in Furman. We are not sure yet how in depth the renovation will be.
We now live in Furman year-round. We love the feeling of community. Laura and I were baptized in 2020 at Bethsaida Church in the newly discovered baptismal; the first baptisms to take place there in over a hundred years.
A HISTORY OF FURMAN
As written on the Furman National Historic District historical marker that was erected by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Community of Furman in April 2010.
Representing 10,300 acres with 73 buildings, and 14 structures, the Furman Historic District, encompassing Old Snow Hill Road, Wilcox County Road 59, Burson Road, and AL 21, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 13, 1999. The town’s history began circa 1802 when the first settlers came to the area from South Carolina. Most of the Wilcox County towns, including Furman, were settled by Scottish, Irish, and English, however, some of the early settlers of Furman also came from the South Carolina low country and were of French ancestry. In the early 1800s, the William Snow family settled on a high hill north of present-day Furman, now the site of Old Snow Hill Cemetery. Thus, the early community was known as Snow’s Hill. It was renamed Furman in 1872 after the town of Furman, South Carolina. A new community was founded a few miles to the west and named Snow Hill. Furman Academy was a popular school in the late 1800s with students from across the state.
Most of the earliest settlers came from the Carolinas. Family groups included, among others, the Albrittons, Carters, Lees, Palmers, Purifoys, Gulleys, McCondiches, Bursons, Hearsts, Stablers, Powells, and the Simpsons after the Civil War. The town’s most notable citizens have included persons such as Elkanah Burson, an attaché to General Robert E. Lee and John Purifoy, a member of Company C who later served Alabama as Secretary of State. Mr. Burson, an original member of the Wilcox True Blues Company, delivered the Confederacy surrender papers to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox. He returned home to Furman and later served in the Alabama House of Representatives. Direct descendants of these original settlers have continued to own homes and property in Furman. Landmarks include Trails End, Patience Plantation, Wakefield Plantation, Fox Hill Plantation, Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, McCondiche-Stabler Home, Purifoy-Lipscomb Home, Perdue-Williams-Estes Home, Watson-Moorer Home, Burson-Rushing Home, Robbins-Kennedy Home, Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, and Hopewell Church.
Many thanks for your gifts and continuing support!
In Honor of Governor Kay Ivey for the Wilcox Female Institute Restoration Project from the Wilcox County High School Class of 1962 and the Wilcox County High School Class of 1963
In Honor of Arthur Joe Grant from Bud and Penny Selsor
In Honor of Garland Smith from Peggy Heard Galis and Henry and Carolyn Ray
To Be Used for the Wilcox Female Institute Restoration Project from Pippa Nicholson-Kuenn
In Memory of Palmer Hamilton from Mr. and Mrs. Jason Puckett, Mr. Thomas C. McGehee, Mr. and Mrs. Lathrop Smith, The Pecan on Broad – Mr. Chris Bailey and Mr. Ryan Dunagan, Mr. and Mrs. George Patton Kyser, Mr. and Mrs. Brock Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Peck, and Mr. and Mrs. Schley Rutherford
A memorial, birthday, anniversary or just a nice way to say thank you can be done in a donation to the Wilcox Historical Society. Your donation is tax deductible. Donations can be mailed to: WHS, P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726 or contact our Treasurer, Mary Margaret Kyser for more details. She can be reached at 334.324.9353 or email@example.com.
On Sunday afternoon, November 14th, a large crowd of members and guests of the WHS gathered at the historical Wilcox Female Institute in Camden to hear Jeff Mansell, Lead Historian, of the Natchez National Historical Park in Natchez, Mississippi. A native of Pickens, Mississippi, Mansell spent 21 years directing private, non-profit preservation organizations across the country prior to his being at Natchez. A wonderful program about travel in the antebellum era by Southern travelers and the objects they acquired on their European journeys was given by Mansell. Mrs. Pie Malone had a wonderful array of food for all at the reception following the presentation. It was an enjoyable afternoon.
Wakefield was the site of our annual Christmas Open House Saturday, December 4th. Mrs. Pie Malone provided wonderful holiday food that included homemade gingerbread cookies. The home was adorned with four live Christmas trees, live garlands, greenery, and poinsettias throughout in preparation for a photo shoot the following Monday for the 2022 Christmas issue of Victoria Magazine. The beautiful floral arrangements were the creation of Ryan Dunagan. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon and getting to see the house decorated for Christmas.
The Wilcox Historical Society would like to thank Dr. Sylvia Burson-Rushing and Mr. Tom Rushing for once again opening their beautiful home for us. They have spent the last eighteen months working on the restoration of Wakefield’s interior and have brought many original pieces back to their historic home. We look forward to seeing their efforts showcased in Victoria Magazine later this year and at the Welcome Reception in March!
CHRISTMAS CONCERTS IN CAMDEN
The Female Institute was once again host to the Harvest Arts Duo on December 17th and 18th. Hannah and Madeline amazed us all with the premier of their first Christmas album. The chocolate pie at intermission was a big hit as well. Over two hundred people enjoyed one of their five visits to Wilcox County last year! They plan to return in 2022 to not only perform evening concerts, but also do events for our schools as well. We look forward to their return and expanding the Concert Series this year.
PIECES OF HISTORY EXHIBITION
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is the final stop of the Pieces of History Exhibition that includes furniture and stories from right here in Wilcox County! It was organized by the Decorative Arts of the Gulf South Project highlighting their best finds from the last ten years of documenting objects in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They visited Wilcox County during the summer of 2017. Their director, Sarah Duggan, has spoken at two of our meetings in recent years. We encourage you to attend this special exhibition that runs until April 10, 2022 at the MMFA.
THE MMFA’S DESCRIPTION In the early 19th century, the American South was the destination for the earliest settlers who ventured from the Eastern seaboard to what was then considered to be “the west” to find land and opportunity. Some came by choice—seeking new business opportunities, to establish homes and families—others were brought with them, without choice, as property. But each of them left their marks in the land and in the culture of the Gulf South.
Pieces of History tells the story of these people and what they moved with them, purchased, made, and used while they made homes and lives. What we today call “decorative arts” or “material culture” convey their legacies, in many ways speaking more eloquently than the rare written words which survive the centuries. Their domestic furnishings, whether elegant or humble, speak to the routines of daily life and bring places distant in time back into focus. Many objects are familiar and have counterparts in our own lives, while others have lost their usefulness or significance in modern societies.
The exhibition will recreate spaces that were found in homes of the 19th-century Gulf South with furnishings that would have been used there. In the homes of the wealthy, these furnishings were often shipped great distances, from Eastern seaboard cities such as Boston or Philadelphia, through the ports of Mobile or New Orleans, making their way by ship over sea and river to rooms in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. In other cases, furnishings locally crafted sought to mimic the styles of these imported pieces with more rudimentary craftsmanship.
The exhibition was organized by the staff and fellows of the Decorative Arts of the Gulf South Project housed at the Historic New Orleans Collection, which researches and maintains records of decorative arts found in the early 19th-century Gulf South. In Montgomery, theshow isexpanded to include loans of furnishings and materials from Alabama’s Black Belt and the central Alabama region from the collections of the Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and private lenders.
By Patricia Westbrook and James Suggs
The First Baptist Church, Pine Apple, Alabama was established in 1898 as the colored, First Baptist Church. It has been in existence for 123 years and is still in the original location. The original building became delipidated and had to be replaced. However, the doors to the fellowship hall, the banister that divides the choir stand, and some of the lumber is from the original building.
Although the church was founded in 1898 and erected with the permission of the owner of the land, the land was officially donated by J.T. Adams and his wife, Pauline Davidson Adams on September 7, 1949. The Adams originally donated one acre, which encompasses the church building and cemetery. In later years the Adams family donated another acre for room to grow.
The building on site was built in 1969. The church bell that stands in the tower to this day is the original bell from the old building. Furnishings and other items that are still in use from the original church are the ladder back choir chairs and the communion set, with glasses.
The deacons that were instrumental in establishing the church were: Dec. Curtis Hardaway, Dec. Johnny Stanford, and Dec. John Palmore. In later years, the church service was led by Rev. Holt, Rev. N.P Smith, and Rev. Isaiah Posey. As the church grew, other deacons that served the church included Dec. Howard Mahan, Dec. Moses Suggs, Sr., Dec. Zelvis Hines, Dec. Leeguster Arnold, Dec. Edwards, Dec. Blackmon, and Dec. Tommy Arnold. At the present, deacons are Dec. Prince Arnold, Chairman, Dec. James Suggs, Co-Chairman, Dec. Moses Arnold and Dec. Henry Blackmon.
By Ila S. Shamburger, postmaster
Yellow Bluff, in Wilcox County, Alabama was a river landing on the Alabama River and was named for the steep red or yellow clay bank just below the landing.
Mr. James (Jim) McCall was the first postmaster.
The Reverend George Fontaine lived in the house on the river bank before Mr. McCall, the first postmaster, occupied it. Rev. Fontaine was my husband’s grandfather. He moved out into the hills.
Mr. McCall had several children. A son, Dan McCall (who was born at Yellow Bluff landing), lived at Thomasville, Ala. One son, John McCall brought his father to visit the cemetery several years ago. People still gather at the cemetery on the second Friday in July each year to cut the bushes and clean off enough so that the graves are visible. Several graves have been marked in recent years. A fence is maintained around the cemetery. Mr. McCall sold his home and moved to Pine Hill.
Mr. Pat Matheson was the second postmaster. He married Miss Lucy Gaines of Lower Peach Tree. He passed several years ago. “Miss Lucy” moved to Birmingham. She was past 90.
J.P. Shamburger was the third postmaster. His sister, Mrs. M.L. Kirven bought the McCall house. After college and nursing training she married Dr. McLean Pitts. Mrs. Pitt’s grandmother was Helen C. Norris Shamburger.
Robert Lee Hawthorne of Camden was the next postmaster.
During the years of the Civil War there were a number of families at the river landing and out in the hills about two miles away. Some of the families were: Dr. Oats, Redden Tyler, several families of Sheffields, Dr. Williams, Alfred and Gus Bright, Mr. Joe Bryan, the Hamp Jordan family, the Griffins or Griffiths (who moved to Texas), J.R. Davis, and his sister, Alice, Rev. George Fontaine, William Kirven (of Jefferson) who married Mary Lee Shamburger, Walter and Bob Kirk, who were nephews of J.R. Davis, a Mrs. Betty Sheffield, a widow, who had a son, Frank and a daughter Alice. Alice went to Coy. Frank went to Clarke County.
When you walk through the cemetery you read: McNeil, Tom Nettles, Jordan, Wright, Tyler, Daniels, George Mayton and his wife Elizabeth and small daughter, Martin Dumas, Mrs. Ella Pitts, the daughter of William and Mary Kirven and sister of Oscar Shamburger Kirven (his grave, like a number of others, is unmarked). Dr. John Godbold’s mother and sister Lily and infant are among the graves in the old cemetery. Lily Godbold was the wife of Gus Bright.
In 1909 there were 20 families in the hills.
The Mt. Andrew Church was first a Methodist church. Mt. Pisgah, at Bethel, about three miles away, was Baptist. As years went by, people moved. There were not enough Methodists left to keep the church going. Many Baptists moved their membership from Pisgah to Pine Hill. The Baptists that were left at Yellow Bluff bought the church building from the Methodists and had prayer services and preaching (once a month). Rev. Tom Paul from Grove Hill was the last pastor.
The hills now show little signs of any people who ever lived there.
Editor’s Note: The Story of Yellow Bluff, Alabama – Community and Post Office history was first published in the July, 1958 issue of The Bama Postmaster. It was reprinted in the Alabama Genealogical Society’s Volume 20 – Nos 3 & 4, 1988 magazine, pages 109-110. With permission of the AGS, it is included in this issue of our newsletter.
Gift memberships are now available! Help us grow our membership and take pride in the history of Wilcox County. If you are interested in gifting a membership to a friend or family member for a birthday or other special occasion let us know. We will mail them a beautiful gift certificate along with our latest newsletter. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Carter Fowlkes
The lovely and serene Rosemary Plantation sits near the Alabama River, about 10 miles northwest of Camden. The home was built circa 1856 by Peter E. Mathews and his wife Virginia on roughly 2,000 acres of land planted originally in cotton. Mathews’ father, Col. Charles L. Mathews, moved to Alabama from Goose Pond, Georgia soon after Alabama became a state in 1819 with his four sons, and began acquiring land. Each son became a successful planter himself. Oldest son George William Mathews (1807-1880) is buried beneath a large monument in the Camden Cemetery with his wife Lucy Mayhew. The two other sons were Joel E. and Thomas M. Mathews.
Virginia was the oldest child of Martha Hatcher and Fielding Vaughan of Cambridge, Dallas County, Alabama. (now Crumptonia). She and Peter had three daughters. Daughter Virginia died at age 7 in 1854 and Anna died three weeks later at age 12. Peter died in 1856 at age 39. The last daughter, Martha, known as Mattie, survived childhood and married Nathaniel Rives Chambliss in 1865, only to die two months after her wedding. All four were buried in the Joel E. Mathews family cemetery near Cahaba. But Virginia continued to manage family lands, including Rosemary, during her widowhood.
Anna Gayle Fry in her book “Memories of Old Cahaba” describes the antebellum formal balls held in Cahaba and mentions “Mrs. Virginia Mathews in her point lace and diamonds, with the air and manner of an empress.”
Virginia lived on alone until her death in 1891. In her Will she directed that her daughters and husband all be exhumed and reburied with her in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. That was done by her nephew and co-executor, Sam Fowlkes (the author’s great-grandfather) at a cost to her estate of over $1,200 to move the bodies and monuments. They all rest in Live Oak today.
Rosemary, then known simply as “The Mathews Place” was inherited by nephew Frank Cade in 1897. He lived there until his death in 1935. His wife Mary lived there almost until her death in 1962. Frank Cade Jr. moved back into Rosemary in 1968 until his own death in 1987. So, the place was owned and occupied by the same family for 131 years. In 1989 Watson Jones of Camden purchased the 2,000-acre plantation from the Frank Cade estate. Today it is owned by his son Brock Jones of Tuscaloosa, who is conscientiously slowly restoring it, being mindful and appreciative of its long history. Rosemary is presently rented to a hunting club.
In 1970 Frank Cade Jr. wrote a brief history of Rosemary, based on his own experiences and stories of his parents. Shortly after moving in around 1900, his mother Mary named it Rosemary, not after her roses or her own name, but for the fragrant herb, since “Rosemary means remembrance.” Mary also undertook to enlarge the one-story house, adding a second story and large staircase around 1900-1905. The staircase is unusual in that it rises from the middle of the main hallway to the upper level. Her objective, Frank recalled, was to screen the view out the back of the main hall, consisting of outbuildings and objects she thought detracted from the view. She did have a large flower garden too, plus roses that lined both sides of the driveway for more than a mile.
Frank also described a Sunday school class for the African Americans living on the property that his mother ran for over 40 years. He attended at times himself and recalls the joyous hymns and Bible education that the children received.
Shipping up and down the river would stop at the floating dock near the house known as “Mattie’s Landing.” The Miller’s Ferry dam nearby has changed the configuration of the river at Rosemary, but the area of the landing still exists.
Mattie Mathews Chambliss’ portrait as a young lady, hangs in Sturdivant Hall in Selma today. She had no connection to Sturdivant, but Cade donated the portrait in 1960 and Sturdivant uses the portrait to represent antebellum life in the Black Belt.
Rosemary Plantation has 165 years of storied history and a bright future as well!
Carter Fowlkes was born in Selma in 1944 and lives in Atlanta. His great, great grandmother Mary Fielding Vaughan Cobb was a sister of Virginia Vaughan Mathews. His great grandparents, Pinkie and Samuel Fowlkes, lived in Rehoboth. Samuel was a member of the Wilcox County Revenue Commission and was elected to the state legislature in the 1880s as a representative from Wilcox County. Carter has enjoyed, in retirement, exploring his Wilcox County connections.
Carter thanks Brock Jones, who also contributed to this article.
We often receive genealogical and local history inquiries on the WHS Facebook page, Instagram page and website. If you have any information to help with these inquiries, please let us know and we will be happy to pass it along or put you in contact with the interested party. Our email address is email@example.com or you can text or call Martha Lampkin at 334.296.1076. We also love receiving comments on our posts on social media. The more comments, likes and shares also help our posts be viewed by more people. Here are a few inquiries and comments received since our last newsletter:
I am writing a book on the July 6, 1863 Battle of Hagerstown, Maryland during the Confederate withdrawal from Gettysburg. I have found reference to a 2 LT William W. Williams, a native of Allenton, Alabama, who was killed on July 5 between Smithsburg and Boonsboro, Maryland. He enlisted in the US Army artillery in 1859, and in late 1862 he was discharged to accept a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in Battery E, 4th US Artillery. I am finding precious little on this individual. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. S. Bockmiller, Waynesboro, PA
EDITOR’S NOTE: Shared with Mr. Bockmiller was the following information: Found in the 1830 US Federal Census for Wilcox County was William Williams. Also found was reference to the Last Will & Testament of William Williams. His Estate was to be kept together until the death of his wife or she remarries. If she remarries, she is to receive an equal portion with the children Milly Malinda, William W., Mary E., Iduma, Edward B. & Prudence A. Williams. Executors to be Isaac & Henry Newberry with Witnesses Edward Bowin, E.H.J. Motley & U.C. Banks. Signed 4/8/1847. Proven 6/21/1847.
Do you have information about a National Geographic article about the courthouse in Camden, AL? I don’t know a date for the article, possibly 1940s, 50s or 60s. Thank you for any help you can provide. E. Goltry, Beaver Dams, NY
II know it’s been a LONG time since I contacted you about the Bloxom family. Albert Bloxom moved to Louisiana with his family sometime after the war and after his trip to Brazil. I come through the line of his son named Seneca Bloxom. Albert Bloxom was a son of Washington Bloxom. I am hopefully going to visit Wilcox County between Nov 13-18, 2021. I am so excited to visit and see exactly where my relatives lived. I know you wrote that your parents actually own the old Bloxom house (which is so amazing to me). I know with this Covid stuff I probably won’t be able to go inside the house, but I’d like to drive by. Is there a way you could give me the address to the old house? Are there any places I should visit while I’m here? B. Dolan, LA
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Washington Bloxom house, circa 1840s, is located on County Road 7 in Pine Apple. It is owned by WHS Members, Harold and Virginia Grimes. When Wiley Watts and Elizabeth Thigpen married in 1868, James Thigpen, Elizabeth’s father, bought and gave it to her for her wedding dowry. Wiley Watts is the great, great grandfather of Harold Watts Grimes. Ms. Dolan was also directed to the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery in Pine Apple where several members of the Bloxom family are buried.
Email Comment from WHS Member:
I felt the urge to write and tell you how great the WHS is doing. I remember the start of this organization around “saving the Female Institute” for which my grandmother Lena Tucker Miller Albritton was so dedicated! She would be amazed today and by bearing her name (and I cherish this) I am proud to be a member. Her biggest disappointment back in the 1970s was the destruction of the Train Depot building. So glad Pine Hill saved the one there.
Fast forward to today and I dream of a time we will be closer to Wilcox County so Sam and I can take part in all the various activities. Thank you for all you do for the wonderful organization! L. Hall, Alexandra, VA
From a WHS Facebook post from RuralSWAlabama.org of the Hawthorne House in Pine Apple
So much history! We would visit Gladys Hawthorne and enjoy her stories. J. Melton
So beautiful! S. Matrango
From a WHS Facebook post from RuralSWAlabama.org of the Tait-Starr Home aka White Columns in Possum Bend
The J.M.W. Turner connection is magical! B. Barrett
From a WHS Facebook post shared from Lee Peacock – “News Highlights from 100-year-old editions of the Wilcox Progressive Era newspaper in Camden, Alabama from January 1922” featuring a current photo of Coast to Coast in Camden (formerly Matthews Hardware)
Always enjoy stopping in the former Matthews Hardware. My grandmother’s brother, Hunter McDuffie, married Bess Matthews in 1933 and sadly died in 1941. Buried in Camden Cemetery. T. McGehee
From a WHS Facebook and Instagram post for Tombstone Tuesday of Elkanah George Burson, MD (1882-1970)
I remember Dr. Burson well. Mother would take me to Furman when I was sick to see Dr. Burson. Sometimes she would use Dr. Burson, sometimes Dr. Thompson in Pine Apple and sometimes Dr. Paul in Camden. bethyoder14
He delivered my mother-in-law when they lived in the cottage. melanie.andress.3
Our family doctor, we loved him. M.F. Nichols
WHS DATES TO MARK ON YOUR CALENDAR
30 December 1896
Wilcox Progressive Era
Miss Bessie Lee Marshall, a charming young lady who has been attending the Wilcox Female Institute, has returned home at Perdue Hill to the regret of her many friends.
We regret to learn of the serious illness of Mr. W.R. Alford and Dr. W.M. Bryant of Canton. They are both improving under the skillful attention of Drs. Jones.
Hon. W. W. McConnico of Allenton, Ex-Sheriff Herrington of Monroe County, Mr. Enoch Burson of Fatama, and many of our county citizens were in the city last Monday.
17 January 1901
Wilcox Progressive Era
Oak Hill Items
Several of our agriculturalists, who had begun plowing, had to suspend, on account of excessive rains.
Mr. Sam Grace, of Bell’s Landing, has been visiting relatives at Oak Hill.
It is said that our colonial forefathers cured headaches by kissing a pretty girl. How would the girls like such treatment now?
Master Jodie Hall Jones left after the holidays to enter the Marion Military Institute.
Mrs. Nettie Booth, nee McBryde, of Glendon, Ala. visited her mother and relatives, at Oak Hill, and on returning, was accompanied by her mother Mrs. L.A. McBryde.
Wanted: – A passable, (not a good) road, from Oak Hill to Allenton Depot. In wanting this, I trust the reader will not think the writer selfish, in leaving out other roads. Wanting and wishing, for good roads, seems to be all that is, or can be, done; and those interested in the road question, must do their own wanting and wishing. With few exceptions, our roads are a disgrace to the county.
Mr. and Mrs. Claude Jones, of Mount Hope, have been visiting relatives in our midst.
We are pleased to report the convalescence of Mrs. Dr. Perdue, visiting at Nadawah, who has been seriously ill with typhoid fever.
Mr. J.H. McWilliams and family, and Mr. Geo Kyser, attended the Hill-Melton wedding at Pine Apple.
Mr. Clarence B. Jones and bride, formerly Miss Janie Harper, of Rosebud, left on the 5th inst., for their home in the Lone Star State. The bride’s host of friends regret to see her departure.
Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Martin have moved to McWilliams to take charge of the hotel, recently erected at that place. Mrs. T.M. McWilliams and family, have moved from their plantation into the home vacated by Mr. Martin.
One of our young men, who is on “the carpet” says that in every one hundred letters written by the fair sex, 99 of them have postscripts, are written on the margins and across the lines.
Did you have the bears, monkeys and Turks, with you Mr. Editor? We did, and some of our young Caucasians evidently were so much smitten with the show, that they wanted to be clowns and try the trapeze.
18 December 1902
Wilcox Progressive Era
A new and the first incorporated Bank in Wilcox County was determined on in Pine Apple on 13th inst. The amt. of subscribed capital required by law has been secured and cash paid in capital of $15000.00 has been secured mostly by local parties. The bank will open for business in a short while. The personnel of the organization stamps it as a success in the beginning. The officers will be: W.H. Lloyd – President, J.I. Adams – Vice President, H.C. DuBose – Cashier. Directors: W.H. Grimes, Henry Melton, Jno Miller, J.S. Patterson, Claude Hardy, W.R. Mills, J.F. Melton.
Watch out for dividends and surplus and the advance of stock on the market.
11 August 1933
Dr. and Mrs. P.V. Speir were hosts last Thursday to a large crowd of Wilcox and Butler County friends at their plantation near Furman. Mr. and Mrs. Wyeth Speir and Mr. and Mrs. Will Faison had prepared a barbecue dinner, which was served under the moss-covered cedar trees in the large pasture.
After the dinner, which consisted of barbecued meats, Brunswick stew, pickles, sliced tomatoes, salads, cold drinks and cake, all deliciously prepared, and served picnic style, Dr. Speir called on a number of guests for talks. Circuit Judge Gamble, Probate Judge McLeod of Wilcox and Probate Judge Golson of Butler, Tax Assessor Watts of Wilcox and Tax Collector Calhoun of Butler and others made interesting short talks.
Hon. D.M. Powell was the principal speaker, and he made a most enjoyable address, reminiscing of the days of his boyhood spent in the neighborhood where the barbecue took place.
Judge Purifoy, of Furman, introduced Dr. Philip Speir, who has recently returned to Greenville, after completing medical college and hospital training to join with his father in the practice of medicine here. Mr. Purifoy stated that Furman gave Greenville one of her best citizens when Dr. Speir came here, and is giving one of the “finest boys that ever lived” in young Dr. Speir.
The large crowd was served bountifully of the barbecue dinner, and then the plantation “hands” were fed. A third group to be given dinner was the crowd of Negros from nearby plantations who had gathered at the scene of the barbecue, probably drawn there by the smell of meats and stew as it was cooked in the open.
12 March 1942
Wilcox Progressive Era
PTA met at the school house Tuesday, at 4 p.m. with Mrs. M.L. Knight presiding. The minutes and financial report were given and old business dispensed with.
Plans were completed for entertainment and supper Friday night, March 13th. Hank Williams and his band will be here. Supper will be sold before entertainment.
Those present were: Mrs. J.S. Williams, Mrs. W.G. Williams, Mrs. P. Newsome, Mrs. J.P. Cunningham, Mrs. Mary Griffin, Mrs. M.L. Knight, Mrs. R.F. Ray, and one visitor Mrs. Paul Shanks.
Everybody is invited to come early Friday night.
18 February 1962
Wilcox Progressive Era
What’s Done in School
Wilcox Female Institute
The information about the Wilcox Female Institute at Camden was taken from Mrs. M.E. Curtis’s scrapbook. According to this scrapbook a copy of the deed for the Institute shows that the indenture was made and entered into June 29, 1850, transferring the property from John P. Fairley and his wife Martha Fairley and James A. Tait to L.W. Mason, Joseph George, and their associate stockholders of the Wilcox Female Institute. This paper was assigned before John H. Jackson, probate judge of Wilcox County. The price of the land for the site of the Institute was $400. When efforts were made to raise $10,000 for the erection of the building, people pledged amounts varying from $25.00 to $200.00
In January 1851, the newspaper, The Southern Republic, carried the notice of the first year of the school. The Board of Visitors of this institution take pleasure in announcing to the patrons and to the public that the institution, having almost completed five months of the first session, is in a most prosperous and flourishing condition. The second term of the session will begin the second Monday in February. The Institute will be continued under the management of its founder and present able principal, Mrs. Upson. Mrs. Maxwell and Mrs. Reynolds will be associated with Mrs. Upson. The boarding house connected with the establishment will be continued under the management of Mrs. L.W. Mason, who has given, so far, entire satisfaction. Tuition rates for a five months’ term are as follows: Primary Classes $10.00, More Advanced Classes $15.00, Higher English $18.00, The Languages, ancient and modern, $15.00, Music with use of instrument $25.00, Painting and embroidery, $15.00, Incidental expenses, $1.00. Board at the seminary and town $8.00 to $9.00 per month.
John C. Andrews from New York was the first music teacher of the Wilcox Female Institute. His family lived in the house now occupied by Mrs. John Miller. Henry Andrews, one of the sons, wrote “Ripples of the Alabama,” a piano solo much loved by a former generation. In 1854-55, according to a handbill of the Institute, instruction in other musical instruments besides piano was offered. Instruction in harp was $80.00 and in all other instruments $12.50. Painting in oil was $20.00. Painting in water was $15.00. Drawing in pencil and crayon, $12.50. Ornamental needlework $12.50. Reverend Plott Stout was the agent of the board to collect money, and Reverend J.S. Bacon was principal.
In 1868 the school opened under the principalship of Reverend John Miller, a graduate of Erskine College, Due West, S.C. This year about one hundred and twenty-five students were enrolled.
Mr. Miller was an educator, and also an Associate Reformed Presbyterian preacher. He served as pastor at Bethel ARP Church in Oak Hill for thirty-one years. He was a man of rather slender build with dark hair and dark whiskers. He was very intelligent and very dignified, always wearing the garb of a preacher of his day, a Prince Albert coat of broadcloth. He owned and operated the Wilcox Female Institute for many years, having associated with him the best teachers that the county afforded.
In 1870 Dr. Miller opened a school in Camden for men and boys entirely separate from the female college. On July 7, 1871 Dr. Miller retired as principal of the Institute. He was succeeded by Mrs. Amanda Blakenny and Mrs. Fannie Holman.
The old Wilcox Female Institute building still stands and is in constant use as part of the Camden public school plant.
22 August 1963
Wilcox Progressive Era
Old Female Institute to Be Preserved
The historic 115-year-old Wilcox Female Institute building in Camden will not be destroyed. This decision came Wednesday after much discussion at a meeting held in the Wilcox County High School and attended by several hundred persons throughout the county. Also present were Arthur Grant and Tom Kirkland, architects from Montgomery.
Following a lengthy discussion, the decision to leave the front part of the building containing two classrooms downstairs and two classrooms upstairs, was made. The rest of the building will be torn away because of the unsafe conditions and plans for the renovation of the old building are being made.
Recommendations from the architects were that adequate escapes, new rest room facilities new heating system and renovating be done on the building and quoted an approximate cost of $19,000 for the work.
The new vocational agriculture and home economics building will be located at approximately the same location as the present building. Schedule for construction will be announced as soon as architects can prepare plans which they could not do until the exact site was agreed upon. The present agricultural building is located at the rear of the gymnasium.
The old Female Institute building was constructed in 1848 when a board of citizens confronted with the problem of education made up subscriptions for the construction of the building. Part of the heritage of Wilcox County, it stands as a monument to over a hundred years of educational learning. The structure was built by slaves and the bricks used throughout came from the clay in the space now used as the athletic field of the Wilcox County High School.
25 December 1985
The Selma Times-Journal
Miss Rubye is honored by Wilcox Historical Society
Mrs. Sam Woodson prepared and delivered a concise biography of Mrs. Rubye Adele Rikard McWilliams (1885-1975) at the meeting of the Wilcox Historical Society at the Wilcox Female Institute, a few days before “Miss Rubye’s” 100th anniversary.
“Miss Rubye” who was the first woman in Alabama to be elected county tax collector and the only woman in Wilcox County to be elected to public office, so far, was Wilcox County tax collector for 14 years, 1934-1948, following the death of her husband, William Francis McWilliams, Wilcox County tax collector in 1934.
Mrs. McWilliams attended Montevallo College and the University of Alabama and taught in the Rikard School and Arlington School. She also taught music and on display was a photography of her music class in 1914.
“Miss Rubye” held several business positions in Selma and Pine Hill before her marriage and was highly regarded for her business acumen, her insights into human nature, her love, concern, and generosity for all persons, especially children.
Mrs. Woodson was introduced by the program chairman, William C. Griffin.
Mrs. Dan Bragg Cook and Mrs. William C. Griffin, nieces of “Miss Rubye” displayed a variety of “Miss Rubye’s” keepsakes including her baby trunk, her silver baby mug, tributes by her father, William Jacob Rikard, and her mother Lila Adele Nettles Rikard written in 1888, her favorite popular song, Red Wing, her wedding dress which she made herself.
Will Philpot, who is director of music at Camden Baptist Church, gave a timely devotional message on Thanksgiving using as scripture Psalms 100.
Mrs. Frank Cade who is president of the Wilcox Historical Society presided at the business session. Mrs. Oliver Steen, secretary, read minutes of the September meeting. Roy McIntosh gave the treasurer’s report. Appreciation was expressed to Mrs. William Darwin for arranging assembly room.
If you are interested in submitting an article for the newsletter, please let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send via snail mail to P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726. We will be happy to review it for a future issue!
Don’t forget! Annual dues are $30 for a couple, $25 for single. Lifetime dues are $300 for a couple and $250 for single. Dues are renewed in January. A membership form is available on our website: WilcoxHistoricalSociety.org. Or if you prefer, please mail dues to: P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726 and be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address and phone number. Payment may also be made with PayPal. Questions? Email us at email@example.com. Thanks!
WELCOME TO THE TOUR OF HOMES!
Set on the Eastern Side of Wilcox County, Historic Furman, Alabama, is the site of the Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes, Saturday, March 26, 2022. This year’s tour includes nine homes and two historic churches. Registration will be at Furman Methodist Church both Friday and Saturday. All ticket holders will need to register at the church to receive an arm band, brochure and map. Your arm band is needed for all events!
The Tour this year will include the Purifoy-Lipscomb Home, c 1840; Moore-Burson-Rushing Home, c 1885; Wakefield Plantation, c 1840s; Magnolia Glen – the Palmer-Barlow-Britt Home, c 1833; Laura Ann – the Watson-Moorer-Tabor Home, c 1860; Rockwood – the Cox-Robbins-Kennedy-Snyder Home, c 1855; Deerfield – the Perdue-Williams-Estes-Suggs Home, c 1895, Fox Hill, c 1840s and Patience Plantation, c 1841. The two churches on the Tour will be Bethsaida Baptist Church, c 1858 and Furman Methodist Church, c 1882. Also on tour is the original Alabama Baptist Newspaper building – first published in 1843.
All tickets holders will be provided breakfast Saturday Morning at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill. Breakfast will be offered from 8:30 am to 10:00 am. Brittany House is located at 5931 Highway 21 in Oak Hill – about 15 minutes from Furman.
For our VIP Guests, the weekend starts with a Welcome Reception Friday Night, March 25, 2022, at 6:00 pm, on the grounds of Historic Wakefield Plantation in Furman. This special event will feature wine and hor d’oeuvres provided by one of our Platinum Sponsors, The Pecan on Broad in Camden, Alabama. Valet parking will be provided. Cocktail attire.
Our special guest speaker at the reception will be P. Allen Smith. Mr. Smith is often described as one of America’s most talented garden designers. Read more about him below.
Also at the reception enjoy music from Tommy Ward. Mr. Ward has been compared to Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. He is a singer and musician with a classic sound and silky voice. See below to listen to one of his recent YouTube videos.
Tickets are available online (see link below) and will be available for purchase the day of the Tour and Friday beginning at 5:00 pm. Members – please note: the $10 discount can only be given on tickets purchased locally.
–Schedule for Friday, March 25th (for VIP ticket holders only): Registration at Furman Methodist Church opens at 5:00 pm. Welcome Reception at Wakefield begins at 6:00 pm. Reception Guest Speaker, P. Allen Smith begins at 7:00 pm.
–Schedule for Saturday, March 26th: Breakfast at The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill from 8:30 -10:00 am. Registration at Furman Methodist Church opens at 9:30 am. The Tour of Homes from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Lunch at the Furman School and KayBri from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm.
-The Tour of Homes on Saturday, March 26th is from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm central time.
–Lunch locations Saturday, March 26th – 11:00 am – 2:00 pm will be in Furman at KayBri located at 8654 Freedom Farm Road aka County Road 59 in Furman (across from Bethsaida Baptist Church) and at the Furman Community Center located at 8191 County Road 59 in Furman. Lunch at the Community Center will be catered by The Pecan on Broad. Please see below for lunch menus.
–Pop-Up Shops featuring The Pecan on Broad, Fox and Hen, Black Belt Treasures and Coast to Coast Hardware -all from Camden, will be located at the Furman School.
–Restroom locations on Saturday will be at Bethsaida Baptist Church, Furman Methodist Church, KayBri, Little House – Moore-Rushing Home (stop #9 – behind the house in the boot room) and the Furman School.
–Furman is located about 35 miles from Greenville off I-65, about 40 miles from Selma, and 21 miles from Camden. From Mobile via I-65 Furman is 155 miles, from Birmingham – 153 miles, and from Montgomery – 74 miles.
-Hotel availability in nearby Greenville – Best Western, Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.
P. Allen Smith, often described as one of America’s most talented garden designers, is the product of five generations of southern nurserymen. His foundational childhood experiences in planting naturally led to an appreciation for horticulture, genetic diversity, plant pairing and for an orderly and holistic approach to work. Later, as a garden and landscape graduate student in England, his design processes were refined to embrace each site’s unique characteristics and the needs of each unique commissioning family. Eschewing fashion, Mr. Smith identifies and sensitively accentuates the natural gifts of the landscape, imparting balance, harmony and beauty in the classic tradition of Palladio, Brown, and Repton. His designs are an expression of his client’s lifestyle and their legacy melding site with living material and improvements to create environments that mature and improve with the seasons. And Mr. Smith’s many esoteric interests and insights allow for a myriad of inclusions such as ornamented aviaries, sheep pastures, walled gardens, fruit orchards, kitchen herb gardens, container gardens, stumperies, rare rose collections, wildflower and pollinator fields, apiaries, ponds, and architecturally appropriate built structures and follies. The result for his clients are timeless gardens and landscapes.
Part of Mr. Smith’s life mission is to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for design and beauty. His generosity of spirit has produced a significant body of accessible work for the public. To date, he is the author of six bestselling books, host and producer of one of PBS’s most successful and award-winning television shows, he runs a media enterprise focused on garden design and health, he is a speaker at many of the country’s important architectural and historic homes (and opens his own home to the public each Spring and Fall). He is regularly quoted in national publications and was a regular garden contributor on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Mr. Smith’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Architectural Digest, People Magazine, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Southern Living, Southern Accents, Flower Magazine and over 100 additional publication titles. Mr. Smith is deeply passionate and involved with preservation and conservation efforts. In addition to green building and material use in his designs, he is a trustee of Winterthur House, a former board member of the Royal Oak Society (of the British National Trust), is a certified fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, an honorary member of the Garden Club of America, the Honorary President of the Herb Society of America, and a life member of the Livestock Conservancy, Rare Breeds Trust (UK) and the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. He is a TEDx speaker and the founder of the Heritage Poultry Conservancy. Mr. Smith makes his permanent home with his partner, two Scottish Terriers, and hundreds of heritage birds in Arkansas, where his voracious appetite for new projects, design challenges and sharing his love of the garden with new friends takes shape at his design studio and farm. His visit is sponsored by The Pecan on Broad, The Fox and Hen in Camden, and Bailey Dunagan Properties & Investments.
Tommy Ward, jazz crooner from Las Vegas, will be our musical guest at the VIP Welcome Reception on Friday night!
Menus for Saturday’s Lunch
A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR 2022 TOUR OF HOME SPONSORS
Platinum Sponsors – The Pecan on Broad, The Brittany House Antiques, Fox and Hen Camden, Bailey Dunagan Properties & Investments, Laura and Schley Rutherford and John and Zoe Hunter
Gold Sponsor – Town-Country United Bank
Silver Sponsors – Coast to Coast Hardware Camden, Handiman Building Supply, Garland and Lathrop Smith and Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center
Bronze Sponsors – Wilcox Progressive Era, Commissioner’s Pit Stop, Whitaker Drugs, Camden Jewelry & Gifts, McGraw-Webb Chevrolet, Urban Cookhouse, Holman Insurance, Community Neighbor Bank, Big Daddy Lawler, Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce and Albritton’s Florist
Tour of Homes Rescheduled (Again)
As you all know by now, we have had to reschedule our Tour of Homes yet again. Our new dates are March 26 – 27, 2021, the last weekend in March. To begin, I want to thank all of our homeowners for their flexibility and understanding as we moved not once, but TWICE! If it weren’t for their kindness, this entire process would have been a nightmare. From the middle of March, we have worked together to make the Tour of Homes a success in these very unusual times.
Another thank you goes out to Chris Bailey and Ryan Dunagan for their help throughout this process as well. Not only are they hosting the Reception, but they have been our sole point of contact with James Farmer and his representatives. Their hard work has ensured he will be with us in March!
The entire weekend will operate as originally scheduled with two exciting additions. As mentioned, James Farmer will still be the Guest Speaker at RiverBend Plantation on Friday night, March 26. However, the expanded tour now includes seven homes and three churches on Saturday, March 27. The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill will provide all ticket holders breakfast that morning as planned. Finally, the Pilgrimage Ball, sponsored by the Furman Historical Society, will be held at Wakefield in Furman on Saturday night, March 27.
As a thank you for your patience and support, two historic sites have been added to our Tour of Homes! The first addition is Pleasant Ridge, circa 1844. This tall-columned “big house” is not only the last extant brick antebellum house in Wilcox County, but also one of less than a dozen brick homes of the period to survive in the Black Belt. Thank you to its new owners, Mr. & Mrs. Scotty Myers for volunteering their beautiful home.
We are also adding the historic Antioch Baptist Church. Opened in 1885, it is one of the oldest African-American churches in Wilcox County and was a crossroads of the civil rights movement. In fact, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the church twice in 1965. Thank you, Ms. Betty Anderson, for making this possible!
Please know the decision to move the Tour of Homes again was not made lightly. Many of our guests planned travel months in advance and have adjusted those plans to join us for the Tour. Ultimately, the public health and safety of our guests, homeowners, and our community must be our number one priority.
Finally, you can help us immensely by continuing to spread the word about our date change and that tickets are still available. Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com and wilcoxhistoricalsociety.org. We will start selling tickets locally again in January. By working together and spreading the word we will make this our most successful Pilgrimage ever!
For more information, please contact me at 256.975.7616.
Lance Britt, Tour Director
WHS October Meeting at Gaines Ridge
It is with great delight that we are announcing our next meeting, October 8, 2020! Betty Gaines Kennedy and Haden Gaines Marsh will regale us with stories of their iconic home and restaurant Gaines Ridge. Box lunches will be provided for $15 each, and we will be socially distanced on the back porch and patio at Gaines Ridge.
Please make a reservation by replying to Garland Smith via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 205.967.6841. Lunch will begin at 11:30 followed by their talk, “Gaines Ridge – 170 Years in the Making.” You may pay Garland for lunch at the door or send your check to: 4060 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213.
Gaines Ridge is located at 933 Hwy 10 in Camden. ♦
WHS November Meeting in McWilliams
We are excited to announce our meeting on Sunday, November 8 at 2 pm. Our program on the Winters Excelsior Mill will be given by Philip Winters. He will be sharing the history of his family’s business – established in 1915 to the present-day operation. Philip is the grandson of James Albert Winters, the founder of Winters Excelsior.
The meeting will be held at the McWilliams Methodist Church which is located at 706 Holly Street. McWilliams is located on Highway 21 about 7 miles south of Oak Hill. Signs will be on the road to direct you to the church.
After the program, you are invited to the home of Beth and Bob Yoder at 212 Cedar Street in McWilliams. Refreshments will be served outside, weather permitting. ♦
We are excited to announce that the Wilcox Historical Society’s Tour of Homes won Alabama Magazine’s 2020 Award for Best of Bama for Best Heritage Tour in the State. These awards are voted on by their readers each year. They choose the best of the best of Alabama’s entertainment, restaurants, people, and places from our northern border to our shores of the Gulf. It is a great honor for our Historical Society! ♦
Member Spotlight – Beth Jones Yoder
Growing up in Wilcox County, the daughter of John Ervin Jones and beloved 4th grade teacher “Miss” Nell Gwin Jones, Beth Jones Yoder lived in Camden where she graduated from WCHS in 1962. Then she was off to Birmingham to attend University Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1965. While there she met and married Bob Yoder. After his residence they moved to The Azores for military service in 1970.
After returning to the States, another year was spent in the military in Ft Worth, Texas – finally to settle down in Florence, Alabama in 1973 where they lived for 33 years. Bob practiced general surgery and when he retired in 2005, they moved to Birmingham. This was a perfect location as it put them close to their three children and six grandchildren.
In 2011 they purchased the Youngblood home in McWilliams and love spending time there where Bob is in a hunting club and Beth is close to her sister, Dale Winters, and of course she gets to come to Camden often. They also enjoy the peace and quiet the country offers.
Beth loves to travel, walk, work in her yard and spend time with family, friends and her church.
Beth says she often gives thanks for having grown up in Camden. She loves Camden, the people and all the happy memories it brings to her.
“It has been such a joy to belong to the Wilcox Historical Society, connect with old friends and make new ones. I am blessed.” ♦
Wilcox Historical Society awarded Alabama Humanities Relief Grant
The Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) awarded WHS a CARES Act relief grant through funding made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
AHF awarded 79 nonprofits in the state that have humanities as a significant part of their mission $507,500 in relief grants to help meet operational needs – including salaries, rent, property maintenance, utilities, supplies and equipment during the COVID-19 crisis.
After receiving funding from NEH, AHF began identifying operational needs in early May and conducted a two-week application process that saw 103 nonprofits around the state apply for $1.3 million in funding.
“This has been a difficult time for nonprofits throughout our state, and we were proud to play a role in supporting these organizations during this crisis,” said AHF Executive Director Lynn Clark.
The Wilcox Historical Society was the only organization in Wilcox County to receive funds from the relief grant. ♦
As of September 1, 2020, we have 46 Life Memberships (25 singles, 21 couple) and 162 annual memberships (89 singles, 73 couples) for a total of 235 members!
We currently have members from 12 states other than Alabama – Georgia -7, Colorado -3, California -2, Tennessee – 2, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia each have 1 member. ♦
Social Media Counts!
Our Facebook page has 1,638 fans with 72% women and 27% men. The percentages of fans in age categories are as follows: 22% are 65+, 18% are 55-64, 14% are 45-54, 11% are 35-44, 5% are 25-34 and 2% are 18-24. Most fans are from Camden, Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Monroeville. Rounding out the top ten are Thomasville, Tuscaloosa, Selma, Auburn and Greenville.
Our Instagram page has 753 followers with our top reaching post featuring photos of Yaupon, the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home, announcing our 2020 Tour of Homes. This post in December 2019 reached 1,200 accounts. ♦
Wilcox Female Institute and Miller Law Office Repairs
from Chris Bailey, Chairman of the Planning and Fundraising Committee
We have temporarily secured the Female Institute from water intrusion. The two main sources of leaks are at the bell tower and the front top window. The window sill needs to be rebuilt. Flashing needs to be added to the base of the tower. Luckily there does not seem to be any roofing failure and these are fairly easy repairs. We already have the heart pine material for the window repairs. We will have to purchase flashing upon starting. The contractors are scheduled to make the necessary repairs tentatively in September. They are extremely busy with several projects, but I feel like the wait is worth it. I am confident that utilizing them will be most cost effective. I also have confidence that the repairs will be completed correctly with attention to details.
The second floor of the Institute is a major project. We will begin developing the design plan to include replacing the flooring that has been removed and finishing out an area to house the WHS office and Genealogy Research Room. We will also make plans to add additional bathroom facilities.
We have done a walk though of the law office to assess where it stands in order to get a complete plan together for all our properties. The Law Office is in real need of both interior and exterior painting. The ramp and porches also need some maintenance work done. There is some repair work that needs to be done on it as well. Nothing major, but things that need to be addressed now or we are going to have to spend much more later. We will obtain estimates for the repairs and painting work. ♦
Welcome to new member James Ron Williams of Arlington, Tennessee and to new Life Member – Rebecca Welch Atwell from High Point, North Carolina! Thanks for joining the WHS. ♦
Inquiries and Comments
We often receive genealogical and local history inquiries on the WHS Facebook page, Instagram page and website. If you have any information to help with these inquiries, please let us know and we will be happy to pass it along or put you in contact with the interested party. Our email address is email@example.com or you can text or call Martha Lampkin at 334.296.1076. We also love receiving comments on our posts on social media. The more comments, likes and shares also help our posts be viewed by more people. Here are a few inquiries and comments received since our last newsletter:
We are searching for a portrait of Mrs. Catherine Margaret ParrishEllis. She was born in Tuscaloosa in 1832 and died in Camden in 1890. She married Hewey W. Ellis in 1832. She was the niece of William Rufus King and as she was orphaned at an early age she was raised by King. Thank you. R. Kemper, PA
I hope you can give me some information about my great, great, grandfather Col. James T. Johnson and wife Corcyra E. Mathews. I know he had a law office in Camden in 1851. He was a member of the state House in 1847-1848 and the Senate in 1851-1852 representing Wilcox County. I have no record about his parents, his birth date, and place of birth. I did see one reference in a newspaper that he was born in New York and came to Georgia and Alabama as an adult. The newspaper stated he died in November, 1856. I have no record where he was buried. Any information or references about him will be greatly appreciated. I am enclosing an envelope in the hope you can send me some information and a personal check of $20 as a donation. Once the history of our families and country is lost, it’s gone forever. I commend your efforts to preserve our history. Thank you. B. Johnson, TX
Do you know where I can buy some copies of Story of Pine Apple by William L. Stanford? Thank you. B. Melton, AL
I have been researching my family genealogy. Some of my ancestors are from Camden, Alabama. Of particular interest to me is the John P. Fairley and Thomas Dunn families. My second great grandparents are a Peter Fairley (1835-192?) and Mariah Hicks (1837-1929). They were both enslaved individuals. I do not know the source of the surname Fairley. None of my available relatives know this information. My best guess is that Peter Fairley would have been owned by Thomas Dunn and then John P. Fairley, as part of an estate when he married Martha Hobbs Dunn. I did find an 1854 Alabama Supreme Court case associated with Martha Fairley. The slave in question in that case was named Jim. Hopefully, it is obvious that I am hoping to find Peter somewhere in the Dunn or Fairley records. My assumption is that Peter took the surname of his owner at the time of emancipation. Does the Historical Society have any household records that list the slaves of Thomas Dunn, John P. Fairley or Martha Fairley (after her husband’s death)? Thanks for any information, guidance or direction you might have concerning my query about the Fairley household records. I should also comment about my surname. My great grandfather was Gus Watts, born in Camden, December 1869. I believe his biological father was Gustavas Watts, the youngest son of John Watts. DNA confirms the relationship through to John Watts. Any descendant of John Watts shows as a biological cousin in the databases of Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage. The Fairley connection is because Gus Watts married Annie Fairley. As a result, I would welcome any information associated with John Watts. Some decades ago, one cousin did interviews with older relatives. A claim was made that after the Civil War, Gov. Thomas Watts would periodically visit his cousins in Camden. Corroborating stories would be welcomed. Fred Watts, III, NC
Hello. In researching my family history, I discovered a great article about my great great grandfather, David McNeill. It was published in the July 14, 1932 issue of the Wilcox Progressive Era as part of an ongoing, periodic column entitled. “Childhood Memories of Prominent Citizens of Half a Century and More Ago”. The writer of the column is shown as “Sixty”. In 1932, Stanley Godbold was the President of the Wilcox Progressive Era, Inc., and I originally thought he might be the author but his date of birth was too recent. Most of the columns were written from a child’s perspective and most note the person the column is about died in the 1870s or 1880s. This predates S.G.’s birth. Maybe “Sixty” is Leonard William Godbold, the father of Stanley, but I have nothing to confirm that. And that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask assistance in discovering the identity of “Sixty”. Please advise if you or anyone in the Society knows. If not, I would appreciate any suggestions you may have for locating this information. Regards, L. McNeill, TX
I follow you guys on Instagram (I’m not on Facebook) but wondering if you send out a periodic email to which I can subscribe. Please let me know. And assuming this would include fund raising / gift opportunities too. Question I’m hoping you can answer: do you know how I can get my hand on any of Ms. Ouida Starr’s books? I’ve found (and read) so many books about Wilcox but Ms. Starr’s I cannot find. Thank you much, J. Ferguson, GA
My ancestors who settled there were the families of Nathan Williams and MontfordStokes, who married sisters Sarah and Cecilia McMurphy in 1822 in Clarke County, GA. They went together to Alabama very quickly, as Nathan got a patent for land in southern Perry County in 1825 and in 1834 got a patent in Wilcox County. Family lore has Sarah teaching at the Wilcox Female Institute, which is almost certain not true. But there were 6 Stokes girls and I would not be surprised if one or more did not attend. My 2nd great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Williams, was born in Wilcox County in 1858 to Josephine Stokes, who I think was his first cousin. Not sure about that, though. The minister who performed the ceremony was a Reverend McCarty, a Methodist minister and interestingly enough, Benjamin’s son became a Methodist circuit rider in Northern Mississippi in the late 1800s.Could you please provide me information on how to join? I hope to come to Wilcox County soon. Regards, R. Williams, TN
I am most interested in knowing if you have 1860’s verified dated photographs of any of your still-standing buildings. I am particularly interested in verified 1860’s photographs of your Wilcox Female Institute and Ackerville Baptist Church. I am a retired teacher thinking of doing a children’s activity game book where the children would have to match 1860s photographs with their contemporary views. I believe it would be fun and educational as well. Please feel free to pass on this email to anyone who may assist and suggest a website where I might find 1860’s photographs. Respectfully, Peter Vetrano firstname.lastname@example.org
Does Wilcox County have an official location for your historical society? I am in North Carolina and would like to visit the area this week. A. James, NC (Editor’s note – Ms. James was directed to the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce.)I’m researching the name Grimes. My GGG grandmother’s name was Frances “Fannie” Grimes. The census has her listed in Wilcox Co. and married in Wilcox Co. in 1829. She m. William “Willie” Lewis Crain b. 1790 in GA. They had children in Wilcox, William Lewis JR., b 1830, Harvey 1835, Ellen Elizabeth 1839, Geo. Washington 1841, Sarah Frances 1842, Emanuel 1846. They moved to Milton, Santa Rosa Co. FL and lived there until death. Harvey was my GG grandfather. He married Florida Chance 1866 in Milton. They had my grandfather Thomas Jefferson Crain who married Josephine “Josie” Chestnut and they had my mother Ellen Marie Crain. I have checked Find a grave and
ancestry.com but to no avail. There was a Thomas Grimes listed in Pine Apple who was b. 1800. I’m thinking maybe they were brother and sister? The census says Thomas was b. 1800 in Fairfield SC. I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know where else to turn. Tom had a daughter named Frances b 1845. Thomas was married to Martha Flowers. They also lived in Milton at one time. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. L. Bacon, NV
Please put me on your mailing list for the Wilcox Tour of Homes. L. McConnell, KY
Hi there. I’m doing some family research and I’ve come across a possible ancestor (DickColeman) in Snow Hill, Wilcox County, Alabama in the 1870 U.S. Census. There’s a neighbor CharlesCrawford (land owner) that I was hoping you might be able to retrieve some records on. Do you have any Freedman’s Bureau Records or know where I might find some for your county? I’m looking for possible Ration Applications or share cropper’s agreements between Charles Crawford and Dick Coleman. Thanks. K. Jacobson, NV
I am looking for information on a Hayes/ Hays family who was in the area of Wilcox and Clarke County, Alabama in the early-mid 1800s. I have a lot of conflicting information in my tree and other online trees which has me a little confused. One particular individual is a William Hays who seems to have several different birthdates across 30 years. It could be 3 different Williams that are all related. One of the descendants of this Hays family from Wilcox County – George Washington Hayes (1863-1927) served as the Governor of Arkansas. He was the son of Thomas Hays and Parthenia Jane Ross Hays. Are there any local resources that can be used to help me figure some of this out? Any help would be appreciated. O. Lundy, GA
I have some items I would like to send you. The Wilcox County items are from Gastonburg 1954-1959. During those years, my grandfather, Rev. Virgil C. Herndon was the Methodist minister there and served several surrounding communities as well. I am sending a cookbook “What’s Cooking in Wilcox County”, a picture of the parsonage at Gastonburg, a card listing the congregations “Pap” served and to toot my own horn just a little bit, a copy of a school paper I wrote when I was 17, reminiscing about good times in Gastonburg when I was 8 to 11 years old. Hope these are welcomed items for your collection. J. Rousso, AL
Editors note: The items listed have been received and will be held to place in our future Wilcox Historical Society museum. The school paper about Gastonburg is published in this newsletter on page 11.
It was nice speaking with you today about the Historical Society and my genealogy research. The 1880 census identifies Richard Williams, his Mother, Mary, sister, Sarah and brother, William in one household and brother Claiborne, living at another address. His wife Dollie died between 1902 and 1910 and they disappeared from the census rolls. Whatever additional information you can provide me on Richard, his mother and father and the rest of the family would be greatly appreciated. Note that Mary was widowed in 1880. Thank you for your help. M. Williams, GA
I have ancestors named Martin and Geck and others that lived in Wilcox County starting in the 1830’s and I am looking for documents that would show more information about them and the history of Camden, Wilcox County and towns around there like Buena Vista, Alabama. Can you tell me any kinds of histories and records that are available from about 1830-1910? I really appreciate it. R. Wright, OR
Comments to a WHS Facebook page post on September 2 for #WaybackWednesday that featured an old photo of the Alco Theater in Camden:
My daddy worked at the Alco. He has a lot of stories about it. C.M. Reynolds ~ I remember it well! Admission was 15 cents, I believe! L.L. Tait ~ I remember that theater from my childhood trips to Camden. A. Rohmer ~ Love seeing this! L. Hall
Comments to a WHS Facebook post on August 15 that was shared from the This is Alabama page featuring photos of homes in Pine Apple:
Never tire of seeing pictures of Wilcox County! R. Jones ~ It’s one of my favorite places in Alabama! It’s close to my historic home. It has the nicest people there! M. Fort~ Pine Apple is a treasure and so are its residents and their ancestry. So much history! I just love her and her people so much. S.R. Arnold
Comments to a WHS Facebook post on July 23 that was shared from the Old Alabama Family photos page courtesy of Bob Lowry featuring two photos from dinner on the grounds at Sunny South Baptist Church in the 1960s:
Nothing like a good ole dinner on the grounds. Been to many of them. S.C. Presnall ~ Remember these at Bear Creek and Shilo! B. Yoder
Comments to a WHS Facebook post on July 19 that was shared from the Furman Historical Society with photos and news of the Robbins House, circa 1845, undergoing a complete restoration by Don Bell:
My ancestor’s home. My great grandmother was born in this house. So happy it’s being restored. Don Bell is a miracle worker on old homes. M.C. Bates ~ Looks great! I have history in Furman! D. Boone ♦
Alabama Black Belt Adventures Feed your Adventure
Flavors of the Black Belt
Flavors of the Black Belt is the perfect back roads adventure for this fall!
“Enjoy a back roads weekend jaunt through Alabama’s historic Black Belt region to feed upon the bounty of drinks and eats created by the locals! You’ll be amazed at the unending baked, brewed, butchered, canned, distilled, gathered, ground, pickled, roasted and smoked goods!
The color-coded map outlines nine different themed trails. Each one is featured on the linked, PDF pages available for download. The Shopping Checklist on each page highlights each trail’s delectable creations you’ll want to sample and take home with you as well as various cultural and historical must-sees!”
Restaurants featured in Wilcox County are Miss Kitty’s, The Pecan on Broad, Gaines Ridge and Jackson’s Fried Chicken. Places to stay include Capell House at Pebble Hill, Liberty Hall Bed & Breakfast and Roland Cooper State Park. And included in what to see and where to go are Black Belt Treasures and The Old Shoe Shop Museum in Camden and The Brittany House Antiques in Oak Hill and Gee’s Bend Quilt Collective Building in Boykin.
For more information see https://alabamablackbeltadventures.org/ or call 334.343.6173. ♦
Pine Apple’s Connection to the Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company in Montgomery
by Martha Grimes Lampkin
In 1871, two young men formed a partnership to enter into the general merchandise business in Pine Apple. At the time Pine Apple was a prosperous town in Wilcox County. Shortly before 1870 the Selma and Gulf railroad was built bringing commercial changes to the town. It was the earliest arrival of a rail line in the county and made Pine Apple a regional commercial center. It was described as “a flourishing town of very nice and comfortable homes and located on a ridge.” According to the census the population of Pine Apple in 1870 was 1,960. In 1872 the town of Pine Apple was incorporated.
The two young men were Louis Steiner and Nathan Lobman – Jewish merchants who made Pine Apple their home in the early 1870s.
The historical marker erected in Pine Apple in 2010 cites Steiner and Lobman, along with others, as “pioneers, founding families, and entrepreneurs active in the civic and commercial life of Pine Apple.”
Louis Steiner was born in 1849 in Tachau, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) to Michael Steiner and Babette Löwy. He was educated in Germany and came to the United States as a young man in 1867. Louis settled in Montgomery and worked for Meyer Uhlfelder and Company, a mercantile business. Meyer’s wife was Elizabeth Steiner – Louis’ aunt.
Meyer Uhlfelder and Elizabeth Steiner married in Butler County on 13 November 1854. They had four children – Samuel, Esther, Morris and August. Morris died as in infant in 1859 and his mother Elizabeth died in 1860. Meyer married Mary Fraleigh in 1862 and they had four known children: Katherine “Katie”, Hellen, Bernard and Henry and probably two infants, Jacob and Sarah, who both died in 1865.
Louis Steiner married Susan “Susie” Lobman on 12 February 1873 in Montgomery. Louis and Susie had eight daughters and one son: Emma, Theresa, Michael, Maud, Beulah, Rosa, Hattie, Kate and Gertrude.
Nathan was born in 1851 in New York City to parents Henry Lobman and Theresa Steiner – immigrants from Bavaria and Austria, respectively. According to the 1860 census, the Lobman family resided in Greenville, Alabama, but moved to Montgomery by 1870. While in Greenville, Nathan received a limited education and attended a school taught by Col. Thomas Herbert until sixteen. He then clerked for Lewis Bear, a peddler at L. Bear & Company in Greenville. Nathan then moved to Montgomery where he opened a general store. Two years later, Nathan removed his $800 stock of goods to Pine Apple and opened a general store with Louis Steiner.
After Nathan’s mother’s death in 1875 his father, Henry Lobman, moved to Pine Apple and worked in the Steiner and Lobman store. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Pine Apple he is found living with Louis and his family with his occupation listed as “clerk in store.”
Nathan Lobman married Carrie Pollak in 1884 in New York. They had four children – three daughters and one son: Theresa, Walter, Myron and Bernard.
Louis Steiner and Nathan Lobman were first cousins and brothers in law. Louis’ father Michael was the brother of Nathan’s mother. Louis’ wife Susan was the sister of Nathan.
Time in Pine Apple
As young men living in Pine Apple, Nathan and Louis got into a bit of trouble. On 2 October 1873 the Town of Pine Apple charged Nathan (age 22) with assault and battery against the person of Wiley Jones. He was found guilty and fined.
Between March 1874 (age 25) and January 1888 (age 39) Louis Steiner was charged with assault and battery or fighting seven times by the Town of Pine Apple. Each time he pled guilty and was fined.
According to the Montgomery City Directory, Steiner and Lobman were also involved with Greil Brothers & Company in Pine Apple in 1880 and 1881. Greil Brothers was a wholesale grocer, cigar, tobacco, liquors and agent for Schlitz Milwaukee beer.
The population of Beat 11 – the Wilcox County district in which Pine Apple was located, was 2,426 according to the 1880 census. The Town of Pine Apple had a population of 358 as compared to 590 in the Town of Camden, the Wilcox county seat.
By the 1890s Pine Apple had eight to ten business establishments, several saloons, a post office, and a depot, which was located 1.5 miles west of town. Young men were known to ride their horses at full gallop through the town firing their pistols. Nathan and Louis were certainly not alone in being charged with fighting in Pine Apple’s heyday.
Louis and Nathan built homes in Pine Apple not far from their downtown store. Later on, Dr. William Whitman Stuart purchased the Steiner house but tore it down, leaving a vacant lot. In 1903 Paul Davidson built a Queen Anne style two-story home on the lot, which remains today. The Lobman house still stands in Pine Apple and is currently used as a hunting lodge. It is a one and a half story gabled coastal cottage type house with decorative jigsaw work brackets on the porch and gable. The Steiner-Lobman store burned in the tragic fire that destroyed most of the business part of Pine Apple in December 1903.
Move from Pine Apple
The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper published in March 1928 stated:
“As the two young men prospered, they began to look around for broader fields in a more thickly settled territory. Montgomery being the Capital City, appealed to them and in 1891 they purchased the property on the corner of Commerce and Tallapoosa streets, having in view at that time the close proximity to the Alabama River and the railroads. All the county bordering the river was served by the Nettie Quill and Tinsie Moore, two paddle wheel steamboats which maintained a regular schedule between Montgomery and Mobile. The business and political life of the entire state centered around Montgomery and these two farsighted young business men were quick to grasp the opportunity to further their dream of a great mercantile business.”
The Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company became one of the largest dry goods establishments in Alabama. It was also the oldest establishment of its kind in the state.
In the late 1890s the company established the Steiner-Lobman Pants Factory at 212 Commerce Street in Montgomery. The plant employed about 75 workers and made “Polly” brand overalls and other lines of work clothing. The apparel manufacturing plant moved to 152 Coosa Street and grew to over 150 employees in a factory space of 80,000 square feet producing eighteen thousand pairs of slacks and jeans per week.
In 1979 the Steiner-Lobman and Teague buildings on Commerce Street were added to the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings were completed in 1891. The structures are of the Victorian-Italianate style with pressed metal covering the upper floors. Architectural historian Jeff Benton writes, “some describe the buildings as resembling masonry palaces of the Italian Renaissance.” Further described by Benton:
“Except for roof ornaments and minor decorative details, the two buildings are identical. The three-story masonry buildings share a common firewall. They have separate hipped roofs. The Commerce Street elevation of each building has six bays separated by cast-iron pilasters that support the masonry of the upper floors, and allow for wide show windows or doors on the ground floor. Originally, each bay had a double door with lower paneled sections, large single upper light, and ten smaller colored lights. There was a large, rectangular single-light transom above each pair of doors. A full entablature of sheet metal separates the ground floor from the second floor. The upper two floors are sheathed in pressed metal embossed with rosettes, rope molding, raised panels, and with egg-and-dart and leaf-and-tongue motifs. Pressed zinc, tin, or galvanized iron provided an inexpensive imitation, very freely adapted, of the stone decorative features of Italian Renaissance buildings.”
The most well-known and unusual feature of the Steiner-Lobman building is the roof top ornamental coffin like structure. Many stories have been told about the coffin and rumors circulated about who was buried there. But it is hollow and made from sheet metal hammered out in the shape and completely empty. It may have been used to hide a water tower at one time.
Also, atop this building is an eight-foot goddess, perhaps Athena. The Teague Hardware Company building’s symbol is an anvil. Many theories have been created to explain the three features but it seems that no one knows the true meaning of each. Their symbolism has been lost.
With the store operating out one of the buildings, Teague Hardware purchased the other portion in 1895. William Martin Teague had prospered in the mercantile business in Greenville, Alabama before coming to Montgomery and founding a hardware business. Both firms were located in the buildings until the mid-1970s. Both buildings are now owned and occupied by the law firm Rushton Stakely.
Nathan Lobman died in April 1915 at the age of 66 at his residence on South Lawrence Street in Montgomery after an illness of several months. Mr. Lobman was a member of the Montgomery city council for six years, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Masons, Elks, Knights of Pythias and B’Nal B’Rith and was a devout member of Kahl Montgomery. He left $10,000 to charity to be distributed by his wife. In today’s currency, that amount would equal about $254,000. His son, Walter Lobman, his brother, Emanuel Lobman and his long-time business partner Louis Steiner were named executors of Nathan’s estate.
Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company became a corporation in 1915, after the death of Mr. Lobman, with Louis Steiner as President. He was active in the business until his death, a period of 55 years and was “the dean of the wholesale dry goods business of Alabama.” He was also president of the Steiner-Lobman Realty Company and was formerly a director of the Fourth National Bank of Montgomery. Louis was a member of the Masons, Knights of Pythias and the Standard Club. He was also a trustee of the congregation of Kahl Montgomery, and an active member of Temple Beth-Or. In his will he named Temple Beth-Or, the Montgomery Tuberculosis League, the Jewish Widows’ and Orphans’ home of New Orleans and the National Jewish Hospital in Denver as beneficiaries. In today’s currency, the amount left these charities would equal over $35,000. His seven surviving daughters were given stock in the Steiner-Lobman Dry Goods Company and the Steiner-Lobman Realty Company along with cash or houses in Montgomery.
At the age of 77, in April 1926, Louis Steiner passed away while visiting his daughter Hattie Saxe (Mrs. Louis Saxe) in Mt. Vernon, New York. The news came as a shock to his family and friends as he left Montgomery in good health.
His obituary published in The Montgomery Advertiser on 17 May 1926 reads:
“The recent passing of Louis Steiner, a familiar figure in the life of Montgomery for many, many years, brought sorrow to his hundreds of friends. It was always a pleasure to visit him in his store or to stop and chat with him for a few minutes on the street. He had the ‘larger heart, the kindlier hand,’ which always does so much good for humanity. One of the secrets of Mr. Steiner’s success in the business world was his unerring judgment of men. He helped many a merchant to make a start in life, and generally the man to whom he sold his first bill of goods became a customer for life. Montgomery will miss Louis Steiner.”
The Steiner-Lobman partnership was strong for many, many years. Both men lived “to see the realization of their dreams and left their business in the hands of their children to carry on to further success.”
The Louis Steiner family and the Nathan Lobman family have adjoining lots in the Old Jewish Cemetery in the city cemetery of Oakwood in Montgomery known as the Land of Peace – partners in eternity no doubt. ♦
History of Pine Apple Wilcox County, Alabama 1815-1989 by Robert A. Smith, III and Frances Donald Dudley Grimes, published 1990.
A Sense of Place Montgomery’s Architectural Heritage 1821-1951 by Jeffrey S. Benton, published 2001
The Historical Ownership Map of Pine Apple, Alabama by Joy Maxwell Dees, Harold W. Grimes Jr. and Joyce H. Wall and originator William D. Melton
Die Geschichte Der Juden in Tachau (The History of the Jews in Tachau) by Josef Schon, published 1927
The Town of Pine Apple Justice Court Records, 1872 – 1893
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service – The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Pine Apple Historic District, January 1999
HMdb.org – The Historical Marker database, Downtown Pine Apple Marker erected 2010 by the Alabama Tourism Department and the Town of Pine Apple
Newspapers.com – The Montgomery Advertiser, 28 April 1915, 11 May 1915, 26 February 1919, 22 April 1926, 1 May 1926, 17 May 1926, 15 March 1928, 1 March 1970, 6 July 1976, 5 April 1979, 7 May 1994; The Weekly Advertiser 3 October 1860
https://www.census.gov/library/publications U.S. Census Bureau 1870 Census: A Compendium of the Ninth Census
https://www.census.gov/library/publications U.S. Census Bureau 1880 Census: A Compendium of the Tenth Census
Ancestry.com – United States Federal census records 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900; United States Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885; Alabama Compiled Marriages from Selected Counties 1809-1920; U.S. Passport Applications 1795-1925 Immigration and Travel; Montgomery, Alabama Directories 1880-1895 Directories and Membership; Notable Men of Alabama: personal and genealogical with portraits; Cook County, Illinois Deaths Index 1878-1922,
The Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 48, No. 2 and Volume 56, No. 3
By Jo Anne Howington Rousso, written in 1966 at age 17
Small towns are often more intriguing and picturesque than the most exciting city. They are not carbon copies like larger municipalities, but each has its own distinctive characteristics. Gastonburg, Alabama, a very small village boasting a post office, one store, and two churches, has more appeal than many larger places.
The system of paved streets forms a small semicircle leaving the highway at the store, passing the lovely colonial home on the right which is the home of the Wilkersons. The next sight is the Presbyterian Church dressed in white, brightening the right side of the street. The street turns left here and makes a circle back to the highway and post office which is next to the store. At the post office, there is a fork in the street, one goes to the highway and the other to the post office. In the middle of the fork is a lovely flower garden. It always seemed to give the whole area a breath of beauty and springtime.
Another street goes straight from the Presbyterian Church past the Methodist Church where services are held once a month. There is no Presbyterian minister, so the people of Gastonburg alternate the Sunday school between the two churches.
Next on the tour is the Methodist parsonage. This is the most familiar sight in Gastonburg to me. My grandfather and grandmother lived here for six years. I can remember many happy visits to this home, and many good times in the yard with the fence around it. One of the pleasantest memories I have of my visits is the walks from the parsonage to the store. I nearly always took a short-cut, (which really was no short-cut for the distance by the road could surely not have been any longer), through what seemed to me to be like a park. There was a little trail and a cement park bench. I always stopped there on my way back home to eat my ice cream.
The rest of the shady street is the setting for about five homes. The street then is swallowed by the main highway. To passersby Gastonburg is only a “wide place in the road,” but to me it holds many memories of a quaint, beautiful community, and many happy visits to the Methodist Church parsonage. ♦
Please encourage others to become a member of the Wilcox Historical Society! Annual dues are $20 for a couple, $15 for single. Lifetime dues are $200 for a couple and $150 for single. A membership form is available on our website: WilcoxHistoricalSociety.org. Or if you prefer, please mail dues to: P O Box 464, Camden, AL 36726 and be sure to include your name, mailing address, email address and phone number. Questions? Email us at email@example.com. Thanks! ♦
Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2020 – Martha Grimes Lampkin, President and Editor, Garland Cook Smith, Vice President and Program Chairperson, Jane Shelton Dale, Secretary, Mary Margaret Fife Kyser, Treasurer and LaJunta Selsor Malone, Curator. ♦