Days Gone By - stories from the past

Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama – Do you believe they bury official records in a coffin?

There are many historic houses and buildings in Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama.


Camden is an incorporated town and county seat of Wilcox County, situated near the Alabama River, in the central part of the county, about 30 miles northwest of Pine Apple, and about 40 miles southwest of Selma.

Settled by Thomas Dunn and Hall

The area was settled in the early thirties by Thomas Dunn and Hall. Thomas Dunn donated land for the courthouse. The first county seat was in the community of Canton Bend. Dunn’s Federal style house, which was originally built as an 1825 log cabin is now the oldest documented house in town.

Thomas Dunn House, Broad Street, Camden, Wilcox County, AL Alex Bush, Photographer, March 27, 1937 WEST (FRONT) ELEVATION (Library of Congress)Thomas Dunn House, Broad Street, Camden, Wilcox County, AL Alex Bush, Photographer, March 27, 1937, WEST (FRONT) ELEVATION (Library of Congress)

Thomas Dunn House, Broad Street, Camden, Wilcox County, AL Alex Bush, Photographer, March 27, 1937 REAR (EAST) AND NORTH ELEVATION (Library of Congress)Thomas Dunn House, Broad Street, Camden, Wilcox County, AL Alex Bush, Photographer, March 27, 1937, REAR (EAST) AND NORTH ELEVATION (Library of Congress)

Dunn-Fairley-Bonner House ProjectDunn-Fairley-Bonner House Project  Restored in 2006 (courtesy of Wilcox Historical Society)

Later arrivals were William Stearn, O. B. and Henry Savage, and Daniel Block, the first merchants. Dr. Fant was the first physician; Rev. B. Dulaney, the first preacher. The Methodists erected the first church near the present cemetery.

The first postmaster on record was B. B. Ruffin, appointed in 1833.

First called Barboursville

The settlement was first called Barboursville in honor of United States Congressman Phillip Barbour of Virginia. In 1832, the county seat was moved from Canton to Barboursville, and in 1841, Dr. John D. Caldwell changed the name to Camden, after Camden, S. C., his home town.

The town was incorporated by an act of December 30, 1841. The original courthouse was used until 1858, later a brick structure was erected.

Wilcox County Courthouse (Library of Congress) Wilcox County Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, AL ca. 1937

During the Civil War, the courthouse was ransacked by Union forces in 1865, but an advance warning allowed county officials to remove county records to a safe place. (legend claims that they were buried in a coffin) The 2nd courthouse is now listed on the National Register.

Wilcox County Courthouse2 (Library of Congress)Wilcox County Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, AL ca. 1937 (Library of Congress)

Wilcox County Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, ALAlex Bush, Photographer, January 8, 1937 LOOKING NORTH EAST IN COURT ROOM - Interior of Wilcox County Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, AL by photographer Alex Bush 1937 (Library of Congress)

2010 courthouse camden

Wilcox County Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, AL by photographer Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)

Historic Buildings

In 1853, a handsome brick building for the use of the Wilcox Female Institute was built and later used as a county high school. It is one of several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. It has housed the Wilcox County Historical Society since 1976. In the same year, a brick hotel was erected.

Wilcox Female Institute by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)Wilcox Female Institute by Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)

The Camden Phenix was the town’s earliest known newspaper. The Wilcox Progressive Era, a Democratic weekly newspaper established in 1887, was also published there.

Fires occurred in Camden during 1869 and 1870 which destroyed about two-thirds of the town, but the 1880s brought recovery. The first bank was incorporated in 1894.

Law Offices, Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama (photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston 1939 Library of Copngress)Law Offices, Camden, Wilcox County, Alabama (photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston 1939 Library of Congress)

“Camden benefited economically during the mid-20th century with the construction of a paper mill at Yellow Bluff and of the Millers Ferry Lock and Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Alabama River near Millers Ferry that created the William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir.

Some Notables

Frederick King Beck, a Confederate hero and state politician was a native of Camden as well as Sallie Cargill Jones, the founder of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Children of the Confederacy for the State of Alabama. Also born in Camden were Alabama Governor Benjamin Meek Miller and A. B. George (1829 – 1899) mayor of Minden. Louisiana, state senator, district attorney, and judge of the appeals court.

Confederate statue in Camden Cemetery, by Carol HighsmithConfederate Statue in Camden Cemetery photographed by Carol Highsmith 2010

Some later notable people include: Baseball legend Hank Aaron who was born here but raised in Mobile; Elliott Jones, first head football coach for Vanderbilt University; Ronnie McNeir, singer/songwriter; Jeff Sessions, U. S. Attorney, Alabama Attorney General, U. S. Senator

SOURCES

  1. Brewer, Alabama (1872), p. 578;
  2. Northern Alabama (1888), p. 223;
  3. Polk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 248.
  4. Wikipedia
  5. Wilcox County Chamber of Commerce

RIBBON OF LOVE: 2nd edition – A Novel Of Colonial America: Book one in the Tapestry of Love Series Ribbon of Love is a wonderful love story of Henry and Mary living and struggling to succeed as one of the first families in the colony of Virginia in the 1600s. In addition to the love story, the descriptions of the clothing, home furnishings, personalities, family life, church and community are most intriguing. The exhilarating action and subplots keep the reader in constant anticipation. It is almost impossible to put the book down until completion. – Dr. Don P. Brandon, Retired Professor, Anderson University 

 

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RIBBON OF LOVE: 2nd edition – A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love Book 1): Book 1 in Tapestry of Love Series


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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .
For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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12 comments

  1. Christi Gibson

    Love a home with history. This one is beautiful, Joe.

  2. Arlee McCoy

    Uder the “late commers” the William Stearn was my 4th grand uncle (Mary Fisher Starnes, mother). They came from old Mecklenberg Co., NC and arrived about 1826. Earlier settler was Mary’s brother William Fisher in 1820. William Fisher owned a great deal of land at Canton’s Bend. I visited this area in April 2015. Enjoyed the photos of the old homes. The court house today looks the same at the photo.

  3. I have a lot of Hawthorne cousins that lived in Camden since the 1800’s. Over in Pineapple, the Hawthorne Plantation House belonged to my cousin Col. Joseph Richard Hawthorn.

  4. Great photograph presentation! Enjoyed it very much.

    1. Thanks, Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Henry Lowery

    Thomas Dunn was my great, great, grandfather.

  6. Arlee McCoy

    William Stearns/Sterns/Starnes was Mary Fisher Starnes son. However, William Fisher, my 4th great uncle was the one who went to Camden Co. first. See the 1820 census. He owned land. Grew cotton. My 4th great grandmother, Mary Fisher Starnes, went to Wilcox Co. in 1838 from Monroe, NC to be near William Fisher, her brother. He was her only family left. She also had a son, Rev. Paul Starnes was a Methodist minister there. The name was spelled Starnes in NC and corrupted to Sterns, Stearns, Sturns along the way to Alabama. I made a trip to Camden Co., AL in 2014. Thanks for posting this article.

  7. Linda Eyke

    We went to a Methodist Church in Salem Alabama and there were two families with the last name of Dunn; one of which was a Thomas.

  8. My son and wife just recently purchased one of the older homes, they plan to move there permanently
    in a year or so, we went down to see the house with them recently and it is such a lovely old house. If only walls could talk. We would love to know the history of the house,
    They choose Camden to retire there because of its quietness, peacefulness, and the charming historical areas. The people of this area are so friendly and polite, something you do not see in larger cities today. Hope to visit them often and learn more about the area.

  9. Has anyone ever seen the date that Union troops entered Camden in 1865?

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