For about three decades in the late 19th century, Pickett Springs was the place people in Montgomery went to "get away". The Western Railroad of Alabama bought the plantation formerly owned by Albert Pickett's father-in-law and turned it into a park and resort that would tempt people to ride their rails. Automobiles and movie theaters led to the decline of places like Pickett Springs, and about a decade into the 20th century the Salvation Army began using the site as a camp for the homeless. The outbreak of World War I led to the site's transformation into Camp Sheridan, which we'll look at in a later post.
The Antioch Baptist Church was founded in 1818, and is the second oldest church in Montgomery County. James McLemore and his brothers moved to the Mount Meigs area from Jones County, Georgia, and he immediately started the new congregation at Antioch. The original location is just north of Interstate 85, but today only the old cemetery remains on that site. The congregation moved to a new site adjacent to the Peoples Village School in 1919. That building has been expanded and renovated numerous times over the years, and is still the congregation's home today. The next set of photos show the church building and its historical marker, as well a map showing the church's location.
The next two photos show the Old Antioch Cemetery, and the final map show its location.
Today we're going to look at another old church here in Montgomery County. The most interesting thing about Grace Episcopal Church is that it was designed in 1861 according to the popular architectural style of the time, Carpenter Gothic. Sadly the outbreak of the Civil War and its aftermath delayed the actual construction until 1893. Rather than soliciting a new, more contemporary design, the congregation used Joseph Pierson's original plans.
We've got another quick post today. Ray Cemetery dates back to 1849 and is hidden just south of Vaughn Road and west of Ryan Road out in the Mt. Meigs area. A little research shows that it was still being actively used as recently as 2012. If you're doing research into the early history of the Montgomery area, Ray Cemetery might prove to be a useful source.
Julius Rosenwald was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1862 to German Jewish immigrants. When he was 16 he moved to New York City to apprentice under his uncles in their clothing business. He eventually started a clothing manufacturing company with his brother, but it went bankrupt in 1885 and the Rosenwald brothers decided to start over closer to home in Chicago. They started their new company, Rosenwald & Weil Clothiers, with their cousin. In 1893 Rosenwald & Weil became the chief clothing supplier for Sears, Roebuck & Company, and by 1903 Julius Rosenwald owned half of Sears. In 1908 Rosenwald became president of the company, and during several corporate re-organizations Rosenwald became acquainted with the banker Paul J. Sachs. Sachs in turn introduced Rosenwald to Booker T. Washington.
Washington is one of the greatest Alabamians in history, and we'll cover him in finer detail in many future posts, but for now we'll look at the basics. Washington was born a slave in Virginia in 1856. As a young adult he worked in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia to save money to attend Hampton Institute back in Virginia. After graduating and working at Hampton as a teacher, Washington was chosen to be the founding principal of the new Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Tuskegee opened in 1881, and Washington started his career as one of the preeminent African-American educators in the nation. Washington quickly realized that there were wealthy industrialists from outside of the South who might be inclined to offer financial support to the cause of African-American education.
Soon after Rosenwald and Washington's first meeting, they partnered to build six small schools in rural Alabama to be operated by graduates of Tuskegee. In 1917 the Rosenwald Fund was established by the family to further "the well-being of all mankind", and the so-called "Rosenwald Schools" soon became one of the funds crowning achievements. The Rosenwald School program provided funding to build new schools to educate rural African-American children throughout the South, but it centered on matching funding from the local community and a pledge from the local school board to administer the school once construction was complete. Students and scholars at Tuskegee developed architectural plans that were optimized for conditions in the rural South (such as weather and the lack of electricity), and in thirty years over 5,000 schools were built in fifteen states.
This is going to be another quick post. We've previously discussed the Lucas Tavern on the Old Federal Road in Pike Road, Alabama. Years after the tavern itself was moved to Old Alabama Town, a nearby cemetery from the same time period when the tavern was operating had fallen into complete disarray. In 2005 the founders of a new Pike Road community, The Waters, arranged to move the cemetery a few miles south and take over its care.
You can see the historical marker, it's transcription, and a couple of photos of the cemetery itself below.
Today we're going to look at one of the early settlements in Montgomery County. Augusta, Alabama was founded in 1816 by a group from Georgia. They settled at what would later be known as Ware's Ferry, and for about a decade it looked like Augusta could become the capital of civilization in central Alabama. Unfortunately, flooding and disease killed the town, and Montgomery rose to prominence.
The first quote comes from a book published by The Society of Pioneers of Montgomery in 1961. Then there are photos of the Old Augusta Cemetery, followed by photos of the historical marker and a transcription of said marker.
I don't have much to add in today's post. Keep reading to see the transcription of the large stone historical marker standing on the grounds of the Elmore County Courthouse in Wetumpka, which gives a pretty thorough overview of the town's past and founding.
In 1814 William Raiford Pickett was a sheriff, tax collector, and state legislator in Anson County, North Carolina. He and his wife had three children, the youngest a four year old boy named Albert James Pickett. When William heard about the Treaty of Fort Jackson and all of the new Creek land available for purchase in the Mississippi Territory, he decided to take part in the land rush. In 1818 he bought a tract of land in Autauga County in the newly separated Alabama Territory, and established the Cedar Grove plantation and a trading post. He went on to be a very successful planter and served in both houses of the Alabama state legislature.
Albert was eight when his family moved to Alabama, so the second half of his childhood was spent on the frontier. He was mostly self-taught, but did spend a year each studying at private academies in Massachusetts and Virginia. His older brother, William Jr., was a successful lawyer, so in 1830 Albert decided to study law at his practice. That only lasted a few months. Albert's sister, Eliza, had married Moseley Baker, owner and founding editor of The Montgomery Advertiser, so Albert decided to try journalism next. He discovered that his passion was writing, and it would prove to be his professional focus for the rest of his life.
In 1832 Albert married Sarah Smith Harris and her father, William Harris, gave the couple a 1,100 acre plantation, Forest Farm. Albert took to the life of a planter, and quickly became one of the first planters in the region to use science to inform his decisions on the plantation. He even contributed articles to several scientific journals, including The Southern Cultivator, but his principle written legacy came in the field of history.
Albert spent his adult life researching and collecting first-hand accounts of the early settlement of the southern United States. He also helped to found the Alabama Historical Society. In 1851 he published his principal work, History of Alabama, and Incidentally Georgia and Mississippi, From the Earliest Period. It covers the history of what is now the state of Alabama from Hernando de Soto's 1538 expedition until Alabama achieved statehood in 1819, and is still the essential starting point for people interested in Alabama's early years.
In 1858 Albert bought a house in Montgomery, which you can read about here, where he hoped to continue working on his comprehensive history of the southern United States. Unfortunately, he died before he could move into the house or complete his next work. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, and is remembered today as Alabama's first historian.
This is going to be one of those posts where I basically sit back and let the words I've found get the story across. The Jonesville Community historical marker was placed in Mathews, Alabama to commemorate the life of Prince Albert Jones, Sr. The first photo is Albert and his wife Essie. It is followed by a transcription of the obituary for Albert that ran in the Montgomery Advertiser. After that you'll find photos of the two sides of the the Jonesville Community historical marker, as well as a transcription of that text. Hope you enjoy this story of an ordinary man who led an extraordinary life.
The Figh-Pickett House was built in 1837 by John P. Figh, Sr. Figh was a brickwork contractor, and his portfolio included the original campus of the University of Alabama and the first state capitol building in Montgomery. Sadly, both were destroyed by fire, but Figh recovered some of stone flooring from the capitol and incorporated them into his home. His services were retained for the building of the current capitol building in 1850.
In 1858 Figh sold the house to Albert James Pickett. Though trained as a lawyer, Pickett made his name as Alabama's first published historian. His two volume History of Alabama was published in 1851, and he was working on a comprehensive Southern history when he bought his new home. Unfortunately he died before his family was able to move in, but they lived their after his death for nearly half a century.
Following the end of the Civil War, the Union Army forces sent to Montgomery requisitioned the Pickett home for use as their headquarters. Following their departure, Pickett's widow, Mrs. Sarah Pickett, was forced to operate her home as a bed & breakfast. Mrs. Pickett died in 1894, and in 1906 the Pickett family sold the home to Elly Barnes.
In 1898, Justus McDuffie "Mack" Barnes and his son Elkanah Ruff "Elly" Barnes resigned their teaching positions at Highland Home College to open a new school in Montgomery. The Barnes School opened in the same year, but Mack only stayed on as a teacher until 1904. In 1906 Elly bought the Pickett home and renovated it to serve as the new campus for his nearly one hundred students. The Barnes School operated as the premier private school for boys in Montgomery with Elly Barnes as headmaster until 1942, when the loss of faculty members to serve in World War II forced its closure. Starting with the one room Strata Academy on a farm in 1856 and ending in 1942 in downtown Montgomery, the Barnes family provided nearly a century of education to central Alabama. It's only a rumor that I haven't been able to verify yet, but I've even been told that Elly Barnes sold the majority of the school's supplies and materials to another institution that started up later in 1942, Montgomery Bible School. MBS became Alabama Christian College in 1953, and in 1985 it split into Faulkner University, Alabama Christian Academy and Amridge University, so it's possible the Barnes legacy is still technically alive today.
Following the closing of the Barnes School, the building served as a car dealership, a church, a paint store, and a convenience store. In 1996 it was slated for demolition to make room for the expansion of the federal courthouse. The Alabama Historical Commission stepped in and partnered with the Montgomery County Historical Society to save the building and have it moved to its current location. The Society immediately set about restoring it to a more historical appearance, and the building currently serves as their headquarters. It is the oldest surviving brick home in Montgomery County. The photos below show the two sides of the Figh-Pickett House historical marker, as well as a current look at the front of the building.
In our last post we learned about the Barnes family and the establishment of a new community around their plantation and their school Strata Academy. We're going to pick back up today and focus on the school.
In 1856 Strata Academy was founded in southwestern Montgomery County by Justus McDuffie "Mack" Barnes. Mack had just returned home with a new degree from Bethany College, and his father decided to help him set up a school. The first year Mack had thirteen students and classes met on his father's farm, but Strata Academy thrived. Within a few years they built a new building to the east of the family home, and in 1872 that site became a campus when Mack hired his first partner. Samuel Jordan also became Mack's brother-in-law, and in 1879 they Colonel M.L. Kirkpatrick married the other Barnes daughter and became the third brother-in-law and third teacher and partner at Strata Academy. The next three years saw serious sickness, including the deaths of three students, which prompted the trio to look for a new site for the school. In the end they bought 500 acres on a ridge about six miles to the south, just across the border into Crenshaw County. The move provided an opportunity to rebrand, and so in 1881 Strata Academy became Highland Home Institute. In 1889 the name was changed again, to Highland Home College.
The new building was the largest structure in the county, and contemporary reports indicate it may have been the nicest educational building in the entire region. Here is a photo of the building, followed by a description from Mack's son, Elly Barnes.
Kirkpatrick taught at the college until his death in 1892. In 1898 Mack Barnes and his son Elly decided to start a new venture in Montgomery, the Barnes School. That institution will be the focus of our next post. The two Barnes men continued their relationship with HHC as board members. While the school had seen a high enrollment of nearly 500 students, the onset of World War I, along with the establishment of colleges run by the state, caused declining enrollment. Mack Barnes died in an automobile accident in Montgomery in 1913, and in 1915 Highland Home College closed its doors with Samuel Jordan still serving as President. The campus was sold to the state of Alabama for educational use, and Highland Home High School sits on the grounds today.
The next two photos show the Highland Home College historical marker and the location of the marker in front of Highland Home High School.
First, let me apologize for the unscheduled two week break. My computer was acting up, and in the end I got a new PC and I'm running Windows 10, and everything seems to be going smoothly now. Second, we're going to do a bit of a series with the two posts this week and the first post next week. Today we're going to start with a hidden cemetery on a little bluff above US-331, but it's going to eventually lead to the birth of organized education in central Alabama.
In 1828 a twenty-three-year-old preacher from Georgia named William McGauhy came through central Alabama. His evangelistic efforts ended with the establishment of the Fair Prospect Church, the oldest Restoration Movement church in the state, and one of the twelve original members was seventeen-year-old Mary Lumpkin. Two years later Mary married Elkanah Barnes, and six years after that they had their first child, Justus McDuffie Barnes, better known as Mack. By the time Mack was 11, he had two little sisters, and the Barnes family moved from their one room log cabin into a new plantation house. Mary intended to name the home, and the community around it, after the Greek geographer Strabo. Unfortunately, the postal service misread her letter, and so the new post office was named Strata. In 1854, the Barnes family sent Mack to study at Bethany College, a liberal arts school in West Virginia founded by Alexander Campbell in 1840. Mack finished his degree in only two years, and returned to his father's farm unsure of what to do next. His father encouraged him to teach, and so in September 1856 Strata Academy was founded with thirteen students on the Barnes plantation. We'll return to Strata Academy in our next post.
The Fair Prospect Church was thriving in the 1850s, and they had established a cemetery adjacent to the building. The oldest extant graves date back to 1851. In 1870, the church building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The congregation left the cemetery in place but started meeting in one of the new Strata Academy buildings a little less than two miles north on present-day US-331. The Academy left the property in 1881 (we'll cover the reasons in our next post), and the old Fair Prospect congregation still meets to this day on that site as the Strata Church of Christ.
The Fair Prospect Cemetery is still in use as well, even if it is a little hard to get to. Elkanah and Mary Barnes are both buried there, and there is a memorial for Mack, but he is actually buried in Montgomery. Below you'll find photos of the cemetery's historical marker, the memorial for Mack Barnes, the entrance to the cemetery along US-331, and the current Strata Church of Christ building. The map shows the cemetery historical marker, but if you follow US-331 about 1.7 miles north you'll find the current church building on the right side of the road at Hickory Grove Road.
I don't have a ton of information to add to the text of the historical markers in today's post, but I think it's a pretty interesting look into the founding of Montgomery nonetheless. Following the end of the Creek War and the ceding of Creek lands to the U.S. government, General John Scott led the first group of settlers to buy land in Montgomery County. They established Alabama Town about two miles down the Alabama River from present-day downtown Montgomery in 1817. A few months later, a second group led by Andrew Dexter, Jr. bought another parcel of land to the east of Alabama Town. The Dexter group named their town New Philadelphia, and it immediately began outpacing Alabama Town. This prompted the Scott group to relocate closer to New Philadelphia, and start over with East Alabama Town.
Though the two towns initially saw themselves as rivals, on December 13, 1819 they merged to become Montgomery. The only lasting evidence of Montgomery's split origin is the orientation of the streets on either side of Court Square, with the New Philadelphia streets running north-south and east-west while the East Alabama Town streets run parallel or perpendicular to the Alabama River.
The first two photographs show Court Square looking north towards the former site of East Alabama Town, both in 1867 and today. After that you'll see the two sides of the City of Montgomery/Court Square historical marker, along with transcriptions of both sides. The final photos show a plaque on the ironwork of the fountain, along with a closeup of the fountain itself.
As we've discussed in a previous post, country music legend Hank Williams was born in Alabama, and spent the majority of his short life here. In September 1952 he was staying in a cabin on Lake Martin and writing songs. One of the local place names was Kowaliga, named after a former Creek town. There was also a life-size wooden carving of an Indian near the lake that locals called Kowaliga, and the statue inspired Williams to write one of the last songs of his career, "Kaw-Liga".
The story names the statue Kaw-Liga, and has him falling in love with another statue of an Indian maiden in the local antique store. "Kaw-Liga" was recorded during the last recording session of Williams' life, at Castle Studio in Nashville, Tennessee on September 23, 1952. That sessions also produced "I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You", "Take These Chains From My Heart", and "Your Cheatin' Heart". While "Your Cheatin' Heart" is now widely considered Williams' masterpiece, it was actually released as the B-side to "Kaw-liga", which was Williams' first posthumously-released single. "Kaw-liga" also spent 14 weeks at number one on the country charts, compared to only 6 weeks for "Your Cheatin' Heart".
In 1990, the area around the cabin was dedicated as the Lake Martin campus of Children's Harbor. If you're not already familiar, click the link and check out their website. Children's Harbor is a great non-profit that was set up to provide a recreation area for long-term seriously ill children and their families. In 2001 they restored the old cabin, but more importantly opened a second facility at the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham, Alabama.
The historical marker dedicated to the cabin, along with a transcription of the text and a map showing the location of the marker, are included below. The actual cabin is inside the entrance to Children's Harbor.
Located on a pronounced eastward bend in the Tallapoosa River about 20 miles east of downtown Montgomery, Tukabatchee was once the major Creek town in what has now become southern Alabama. One legend says Tukabatchee is the birthplace of the Green Corn Ceremony, a harvest ritual practiced throughout Creek and Seminole society. Tustanagee Thlucco (Big Warrior), principal chief of the Upper Creeks in the early 1800s, lived in Tukabatchee until his death in 1826. Opothleyahola (Good Shouting Child) was born in Tukabatchee in 1798, and eventually rose to the position of Speaker of the Chiefs. But Tukabatchee is most remembered for a famous visit.
Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa came to Tukabatchee in 1811 to convince the Creek Nation to join their pan-tribal campaign against encroaching European society. Tecumseh's ideas met with some support, but the combination of Big Warrior and Benjamin Hawkins, Indian Affairs agent, was successful in keeping the Creek Nation out of Tecumseh's machinations. Tukabatchee remained a thriving town until the Treaty of Cusseta ceded all Creek lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government.
In 1929, the Alabama Anthropological Society commissioned a plaque to mark the spot of what they called Tukabahchi. That stone can be seen below. It current sits in from of City Hall in Tallassee, but presumably it was originally placed much closer to the actual site of the town.
The Alabama Historical Association placed a modern marker honoring Tukabatchee just west of its home bend in the Tallapoosa in 2011. The reverse side of the marker contains the exact same message as the front, but this time written in Muskogee.
For about five years around 1930, the small town of Monroeville, Alabama was home to two children who would go on to literary fame. Harper Lee was born and died in Monroeville, and we'll discuss her in depth in later posts, but Truman Capote was only passing through. He had been born in New Orleans, and before he was 10 he had moved to New York City, but for five years he lived in rural Alabama, and those years were recounted in several of his works.
Two years after the release of his masterpiece, In Cold Blood, Capote's short story "The Thanksgiving Visitor" was published in the November 1967 issue of McCall's. The story is, at least in part, autobiographical, and deals with a young boy and his struggles with the local bully. The same year the story was published, a TV movie version aired. The Thanksgiving Visitor starred Geraldine Page, and she earned her second Emmy for the role. It was also filmed right here in Montgomery County, at the Marks House.
The Marks House was originally built in 1825 by William Mathews Marks. Additions were made by members of the Churchill Marks family in the 1920s, and in 1957 the home was sold to Dr. Woody Bartlett. The house was the set of the film a decade later, and a year after that began its stint as the Pike Road Community Club Center, a role it still fills today.
The Alabama Baptist Association was formed on December 13, 1819 by four congregations from the area surround Montgomery: Antioch, Elim, Rehobeth, and Bethel. The Bethel congregation was just north of the Old Federal Road in Pintlala. The building is gone, but their cemetery is still standing and being maintained by the Pintlala Baptist Church just south on the Mobile Highway.
The Bethel Cemetery was opened in 1819, so it is old, but that alone might not have been enough to warrant a historical marker. This cemetery's claim to fame is an odd marker placed in 1923 commemorating an event that took place in 1837. A missionary movement was sweeping through the Baptist faith in the 1800s, and eventually made its way to the Bethel congregation. Just like in many other congregations both before and after, the Bethel congregation developed a division over the missionary concept. One group was in favor of this missionary movement, and wanted to make an active effort to go out and recruit new followers, both at home and abroad. This group became known as Missionary Baptists. The other group held tightly to the Calvinist idea of "the perseverance of the saints", which essentially means that God chose all of the people who would follow him before the world was created. If all of the believers had already been chosen by God, there was no need to go "recruiting". This group was known as Primitive Baptists.
In 1837, this disagreement came to a head at the Bethel Baptist Church, and the Primitive members voted to exclude their Missionary members from the congregation. The Missionary Baptists formed the original Pintlala Baptist Church, which only lasted five years but was revived several decades later. The Primitive Baptists continued to meet as the Bethel Baptist Church, but their membership declined and the congregation disbanded in the early 1900s. The Women's Missionary Union placed the original stone marker at the Bethel Cemetery commemorating the split of the Bethel Baptist Church in 1923, and in 1998 the Pintlala Baptist Church was able to acquire the cemetery property and begin a much needed restoration project. The following year the cemetery was placed on the Alabama Registry of Landmarks & Heritage, and the year after that the Alabama Historical Association placed the new historical marker.
The next few photos show the cemetery gates, the stone marker commemorating the split, and the modern marker. Transcriptions of both markers are also included.
Well, I missed my first post date last Thursday, but we're going to get back on track today. Starting in the early days of the Civil War, the United States Army decided to start providing horses and mules for all cavalry and artillery units with funding from the federal government. In previous wars, work animals were often provided by the officers of individual units. Procurement and training of horses and mules was provided by the Quartermaster Corps, and in 1908 the Remount Service was set up as a division of that Corps. Purchasing centers were established in Idaho, Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and California, while Fort Reno in Oklahoma was established as processing and distribution center for the new military animals. In 1918, the Remount Service even ventured into breeding its own new horses and mules.
The U.S. Army established Camp Sheridan on the north side of Montgomery in July 1917, and we'll cover the camp in more detail in a future post. That same summer a remount depot was established on a 160-acre plot closer to downtown. The depot was built near the Keyton Station train stop, while Camp Sheridan was established near the Vandiver Park stop. The new depot had room for 5,000 animals, and including a blacksmithing school to train new farriers.
The next two pictures show the two sides of the historical marker, and as always I've included the transcriptions. The third photo shows the marker's current setting.
This is a pretty crazy week for me in my real job, so prepare for a bit of a "fluffy" post. Let's talk flowers!
In 1959, the Alabama State Legislature named the Camellia the state flower of Alabama. Here's the specific law on the books today:
The plot thickens though, because the Camellia is a usurper. In fact, it's a foreign usurper. Alabama's original state flower was the Goldenrod, and from 1927 to 1959 everyone was happy with that. The Yellowhammer was also the state bird, so they even had a color theme going. In the 50s, one group started arguing that the goldenrod can't be the state flower, because it's really just a weed. The fact that this group grew camellias was completely unrelated to their protestations. They appealed to a state legislator, and in August 1959 the Camellia's coup was complete. But why the camellia? What tied it to Alabama?
It turns out, there isn't much about the Camellia that screams "Alabama!". Camellias are actually from East Asia, and the Camellia japonica specifically is native to the southern regions of Korea and Japan, as well as a region in China just across the East China Sea. The oldest known camellias in Europe are in Campo Bello, Portugal, and were planted around 1550. The camellia didn't make it to North America until 1807, when it was originally sold as a greenhouse plant. The best connection I can make between Alabama and the camellia is that they've both been a part of the United States for about the same length of time.
The historical marker commemorating the Camellia's rise to Alabama supremacy can be seen next, along with a transcription of the text and a shot of the marker's surroundings on the northern end of the Capitol grounds.