Wilcox Historical Society Newsletter – Fall 2020

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 garlands@charter.net 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. ♦

Congratulations WHS!

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. ♦

MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS

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!

Facebook Numbers 

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.

Instagram Numbers

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 wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.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 peter.vetrano@yahoo.com

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’ Background

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’s Background

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.

Later Life

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. ♦

Sources:

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

Dollartimes.com/inflation

Findagrave.com

Gastonburg Alabama

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 wilcoxhistoricalsociety@gmail.com. Thanks! ♦

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Wilcox Historical Society Officers for 2020Martha 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. ♦