Antioch Baptist Church

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.

Granite marker in the side of the current Antioch Baptist Church building, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama

Antioch Baptist Church historical marker, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama

Antioch Baptist Church
Mount Meigs, Alabama

Organized on June 5, 1818, the Antioch Baptist Church at Mt. Meigs was the first church of any denomination established in Montgomery County. Rev. James McLemore was its founder and first pastor. Antioch, like most churches in the county, had both white and black members before the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Antioch was officially incorporated in May of 1911 under a 9-man board of trustees. In 1919, the Antioch congregation built a new church building on land adjoining the Peoples Village School using material from the old church building; it was bricked and rededicated in 1980. In 1989, classrooms and a fellowship hall were added and a larger sanctuary with a capacity for 1,500 worshipers followed in 1999. The public road leading to the church is designated “Antioch Lane” in recognition of the role Antioch has played in the surrounding communities.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2008

Antioch Baptist Church historical marker location, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama

Antioch Baptist Church, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama


The next two photos show the Old Antioch Cemetery, and the final map show its location.

Antioch Baptist Church, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama

Antioch Baptist Church, Mount Meigs, Montgomery County, Alabama


Ray Cemetery

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.

Ray Cemetery historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Ray Cemetery
Est. 1849

John W. Ray and his wife, Martha; their infant son; and her fifteen-year-old brother, James R. Conyers, moved to Mt. Meigs from Greene County, Georgia. He and his older brother, Isaac Ray, owned extensive landholdings along Vaughn and Taylor Roads. These early settlers were devout Missionary Baptists. John W. Ray assisted in organizing Antioch Baptist Church, the first church of any denomination organized in Montgomery County, in 1818 at Mt. Meigs. John W. Ray, James R. Conyers, and members of the Ray, Conyers, Nicholson, Handey and Relfe families are buried here. Among them are veterans of four wars: Dr. John C. Nicholson, Surgeon 1 AL Cavalry Regt. Civil War; his uncle, Vincent Cogburn, veteran of the Mexican War; Mason Handey, Navy, World War I; and John Robert Refle, Captain, US Army, World War II.
— Alabama Historic Cemetery Register - 2008

Ray Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Ray Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Ray Cemetery interior, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Ray Cemetery tree, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama


Lucas Hill Cemetery

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.

Lucas Hill Cemetery historical marker, Pike Road, Montgomery County, Alabama

Lucas Hill Cemetery
Circa 1816

The Founders of The Waters relocated and restored this historic cemetery in May 2005. The original cemetery site, located along the Old Federal Road beyond the boundary of the Creek Indian lands at Line Creek, had fallen into ruin due to years of neglect. The Lucas Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for some of the earliest settlers who established plantations and farmsteads along the Mount Meigs Terrace now present day eastern Montgomery County, Alabama.
— The Waters at Waugh, LLC - 2006

Lucas Hill Cemetery, Pike Road, Montgomery County, Alabama

Site of Lucas Hill Cemetery historical marker, Pike Road, Montgomery County, Alabama


The Old Augusta Cemetery

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.

At a very early day in the history of the county Montgomery had a rival, in a nice little town twelve miles above the city on the Tallapoosa river. It was located on a beautiful spot on the bank of the river, and had at one time between fifty and seventy-five family residences, with store-houses, hotels, academy, black-smith and wood shops, tailor shops, etc.; but after a few years the place proved to be sickly, and it was abandoned altogether. Augusta was the name of the town. Then everything centered to Montgomery, the only town in the county, and a very small place.
— Recollections of the Early Settlers of Montgomery County and Their Families by W.G. Robertson

Old Augusta Cemetery gate, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Old Augusta Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Gravestone 1, Old Augusta Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Gravestone 2, Old Augusta Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Gravestone 3, Old Augusta Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Old Augusta Cemetery historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Augusta & the Old Augusta Cemetery

Augusta, home of Old Augusta Cemetery, was built on the site of a former Indian village, “Sawanogi”, on high ground close to the Tallapoosa River. In 1824 a disastrous flood swept over the plateau, invading shops and residences. A year later a deadly form of malarial fever took half the population to their graves, killing the town as well. The cemetery, burial place for the Ross, Charles, and Taylor families, continued to be used until the early 20th century. The iron fence surrounding the cemetery formerly was erected around the state Capitol in Montgomery.
— East Montgomery County Historical Society & Alabama Historical Association - 2006

Site of the Old Augusta Cemetery historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama


Fair Prospect Cemetery

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.

16th century engraving of Strabo (public domain)

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.

Fair Prospect Cemetery historical marker, Montgomery County, Alabama

Fair Prospect Cemetery
Montgomery County

Atop this hill lies Fair Prospect Cemetery, established in the 1840s as part of Fair Prospect Church. Land was donated for the church and cemetery by Benjamin Mitchell (1765-1848) and his wife Jane Scrimpton Mitchell (1775-1850). The location of their graves is unknown. The earliest marked burials date to 1851 and the cemetery is still active today. Justus M. Barnes, founder of Strata Academy, was a leader in the congregation and his parents are buried here. In the 1870s, the church burned after lightning struck it and the congregation began meeting at Strata Academy. When the Academy moved and became Highland Home College, the church retained the campus building on the site of Strata Church of Christ. A.S. Naftel, founder of the Naftel community, acquired much of the Mitchell lands after 1850 and members of his family are buried here.

Listed in the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register
— Jay & Ruth Mitchell Ott, Descendant of Bejamin Mitchell - 2011

Memorial to the founders of Strata Academy, Fair Prospect Cemetery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Barnes, Jordan, Kilpatrick

Preachers, teachers, planters,
when this was wild frontier,
taught with love unstinted,
helped bring religion here.
Kith and kin take notice.
These leaders neath this sod
shaped a growing country
their monument to God.

— Erected in loving memory by Dr. M.B. Kirkpatrick

Entrance to Fair Prospect Cemetery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Strata Church of Christ, former site of Strata Academy, Montgomery County, Alabama


Bethel Cemetery

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.

Bethel Cemetery gate, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Baptist Church split marker, Bethel Cemetery, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Baptist Church
Feb. 13, 1819
Elder Eleclius Thompson, JaS. McLemore, Edward Mosley, Builder, Geo. Shackleford
Split of Primitive and Missionary
Site marked Nov. 4, 1923

Bethel Cemetery interior, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

Bethel Cemetery historical marker, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama

The Bethel Cemetery

Bethel Cemetery was constituted Feb. 13, 1819 and located on Federal Rd. Bethel Church was 1 of 4 churches in the Alabama Baptist Association which was formed on Dec. 13, 1819. On July 22, 1837, the church became the object of a major split in Baptist life. In Oct.. Missionary Brethren were excluded from the church and the split became final. A marker memorializing the division between the Primitive and Missionary Baptists was placed in the cemetery by the Montgomery Baptist W.M.U. on Nov. 4, 1923. Pintlala Baptist Church acquired the cemetery in 1998.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2000

Setting of the Bethel Cemetery historical marker, Pintlala, Montgomery County, Alabama


"Tee-Tot" Payne

Rufus Payne was born in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1884.  By 1890 his father, a mule-driver, had moved the family to New Orleans.  Rufus was drawn to music, and eventually learned to play jazz and the blues.  He also learned to drink, and was given his nickname "Tee-Tot" as a sarcastic shortening of the term "teetotaler".  By 1915 he was back home in Alabama, and Tee-Tot was developing a musical following.  He would play wherever he could find a job, from Montgomery down to Greenville, and sometimes even further south.  In 1932 Tee-Tot was playing down in Georgiana when he met a 9-year-old boy named Hiram.  Hiram would sell peanuts and shine shoes for all of the workers as they passed through the railroad station.  He already had a guitar, but he couldn't play like Tee-Tot, so he convinced Tee-Tot to teach him.  

Like many Americans during the middle of the Great Depression, Hiram and his mom were always moving, but they stayed in the region so Hiram could play with Tee-Tot.  They left Georgiana for Greenville, then spent a year in Garland before moving back to Georgiana.  In 1937 Hiram and his mom moved to Montgomery, and he started singing in front of the WSFA studios downtown.  That fall he won a talent show at the Empire Theater, and a producer at WSFA invited Hiram to starting singing on the radio.  Hiram decided that Hank was a better name for a country music singer, so Hank Williams was born.  Tee-Tot moved to Montgomery and continued to play with his pupil.  Hank started a backup band, the Drifting Cowboys, and dropped out of school in 1938 to start touring full time.  Tee-Tot died the next year and was buried in an unmarked grave in Lincoln Cemetery.  There are no surviving photographs of Tee-Tot Payne, and he was never recorded playing music, but he left a lasting mark on county music through his star pupil, Hank Williams.

The next few photos show the Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne historical marker, the reverse side with general information on Lincoln Cemetery, the large stone memorial to Tee-Tot erected by Hank Williams Jr., and the front gate of the cemetery.

Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne historical maker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Rufus Payne, 1884-1939
’Tee-Tot’, mentor of Hank Williams

Born in Lowndes County, Alabama, Rufus Payne grew up in New Orleans in the midst of jazz musicians. Young Payne learned every instrument possible. At death of his parents, he came back to Greenville where he soon had a following of both races, playing jazz and blues for all segments of society. In nearby Georgiana he met young Hank Williams, an eager student of the rhythm and beat of Tee-Tot’s music. In 1937, Williams moved to Montgomery and soon thereafter Tee-Tot came to the city where he lived until his death in 1939, a friend of Williams’ family and mentor to the singer-composer. Hank Williams stated that Payne was his only teacher. Tee-Tot died a pauper and lies here in an unmarked grave.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2001

Lincoln Cemetery historical marker, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Lincoln Cemetery

In 1907 the American Securities Company opened Lincoln Cemetery for African Americans and Greenwood Cemetery for whites, the first commercial cemeteries in the city. Landscape design indicates Olmstead influences with curving drives and two circular sections. Space allotted for 700 graves with first interment in 1908. Most graves are simple concrete slabs with evidences of African-American funerary art and late-Victorian motifs. Marble markers denote members of Mosaic Templars of America, black benevolent society, or graves of veterans. American Securities owned site until tax-exemption ended in 1957. Vandalism and neglect have seriously damaged graves and landscape.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2001

"Tee Tot" Rufus Payne memorial, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama


Hank met Tee-Tot around 1933 on the street in Georgiana, Alabama. Tee-Tot helped Hank with guitar chords, rhythm, and was very instrumental in Hank’s learning sing and play the “blues”.

Hank’s mother fed Tee-Tot in exchange for Hank’s guitar lessons. They moved to Greenville, Tee-Tot’s hometown, in the summer of 1934. They continued to work together until the Williams’ moved to Montgomery in July 1937.

Tee-Tot died at a charity hospital in Montgomery March 17, 1939 at about age 55. His death certificate showed a Montgomery address.

Front of Lincoln Cemetery, Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama

Some of the people behind the musical Hank Williams: Lost Highway developed a playlist of the kinds of music young Hiram would have likely learned from Tee-Tot, which you can listen to here.  Hank Williams Jr. wrote a song called Tee-Tot, and you can watch him perform that song live here.