Days Gone By - stories from the past

Photograph of first school building in Pike County, Alabama

AN EXCERPT FROM EARLY HISTORY OF PIKE COUNTY ALABAMA

(Covering the period from 1821 to 1900) 1

By MRS. MARGARET PACE FARMER2

Jonathan A. Butterfield established the first bank in Troy (Alabama) in 1877; succeeded by Pike County Bank, in 1878, with E. B. Wilkerson, president; in 1882 it became the property of Fox and J. C. Henderson, and the name was changed to Farmers and Merchants Bank with Fox Henderson, president, and J. C. Henderson, vice-president, and L. M. Bashinsky, cashier. W. B. Folmar and Sons Bank (first called People’s Bank) was established in 1895 with W. B. Folmar, president. The First National Bank was established in 1900 with J. S. Carroll, president.


INDUSTRIES

In 1870, Troy could boast of but half a dozen stores. By 1900, on every side of Court Square and extending beyond, with the court house still in the center, as originally designed and decreed by the civic authorities, many dozen store houses of brick and stone replaced the sparse frame buildings of olden days. One notable feature of the town was the great number of saloons, one on practically every corner. A few of the business establishments begun late in the 19th century follow:

  • T. K. Brantley & Sons (hardware) 1868
  • Douglas Jewelers 1871
  • The Gellerstedt Tailoring Co. 1874
  • Henderson-Black Co. (wholesale dry goods) 1879
  • F. S. Wood (furniture & undertaker) 1881
  • Troy Grocery Co. (wholesale) 1888
  • Rosenberg Bros, (dry goods) 1893
  • Sam A. Williams (druggist) x 1893
  • M. S. Ross & Sons (dry goods) 1898

Prior to 1900 Troy had both a shoe factory and a knitting mill. Both of these concerns were fairly short-lived. The knitting mill had been housed in a large two-story brick building on the corner of Oak Street and Academy Street. After the knitting mill closed, Dr. J. M. Collier, physician, bought this building and operated a wholesale drug business there. Other industries noted at this period in Troy were ice works, bottling vaults, cotton compress, and fertilizer factory.

NEWSPAPERS

The Troy Messenger (daily) was established in 1866 and is one of the oldest successful newspapers of the state. The first newspaper published in Pike County was published in Troy by James M. Norment in 1851 and was called the Palladium. A paper published in 1875 by Frank Baltzell was called The Enquirer.

SCHOOLS

A boarding school was taught at Orion where the people of Troy and vicinity sent their children to be educated. Orion in the earlier days was a center of wealth, aristocracy, and learning in Pike County. The old colonial homes in Orion were designed by the planters and built by the slaves.

Old school, around one hundred years old, first one built in Pike County, Alabama picture taken March 1934(Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress)

One of the most beautiful of these homes was that of Solomon Siler, the impressive circular staircase having been imported from Europe. Isaac N. Nail donated forty acres of land and Solomon Siler advanced three thousand dollars for the building of a school house for the youth of Orion and the surrounding communities, Orion Institute was created by an Act of the Legislature of Alabama on February 10, 1846 – the first incorporated school in the county. The Orion Institute was a large two-story building with four stately columns. There were twenty five large windows with green shutters. Eight spacious fireplaces were used to heat the building.

Early deeds show that the land in Orion was laid off in blocks and lots, embracing the present village, and thus the present highway was designated as Broad Street. The deeds further show that the lots were sold with the requirement that not less than a thousand dollars should be expended by the owner for improvement on each lot. It was also the plan that a certain amount was to be paid by each property owner into a school building fund. Solomon Siler gave the bells for the school and the Baptist Church in Orion.

These bells were cast in England and cost $100.00 each. Orion enjoyed the great advantage of being connected with Montgomery by a plank road — made of planks covering wooden stringers or sills. Orion prospered until the railroad came to Troy. Then Orion began to wither and Troy began to grow.

Troy began to grow

Education in Troy began with a school taught by John Carr in 1839 or 1840. Duncan Maloy taught the second school, and James Key the third. Then followed Alfred Boyd, H. A. Gaston, and John R. Goldthwaite, who taught through the forties and into the fifties. There is no record of any school in the sixties, doubtless due to the confusion and demoralization of the war period. In 1852, on Academy Street, school was taught in a little wooden building by Mr. R. W. Priest. This school was known as the City Academy and was located just east of the present location of the Community Club House. An editorial in the Troy Messenger of August 10, 1871, calls attention to the opening of the Troy Female College with a faculty of six members. By 1876, several schools are mentioned. There was a Troy High School, the Baptist High School, the City Academy. In 1877 Professor J. W. Wright arrived to take charge of the Methodist High School. (J, W. Wright was the father of E. M. Wright, later on the faculty of the Troy State Teachers College.)

The old academy type school had many elements of educational value and produced many great teachers. Troy had one such teacher who stood apart-Professor Simeon J. Doster who taught in Troy prior to the Civil War and again in 1879-84. Professor Doster usually began the day’s work at 8 o’clock in the morning and taught until 4:30 in the afternoon. The course of study ranged from the A. B. C.’s taught in the blue-backed speller to Virgil and Horace in Latin; geometry, trigonometry, algebra, in mathematics; Zenophen and Homer in Greek; with a plentiful interspersing of physics, geography, and reading between. (Simeon J. Doster was the father of James J. Doster later connected with the University of Alabama.)

A very interesting item in The Troy Inquirer for July, 1877, states that “school mania has attacked the negroes in the city. Many ladies have had to teach their servants or lose them.” John Wiley, a well known negro, taught the first negro school in Troy in 1866. A white man by the name of Eubanks taught among the negroes in Troy in 1872 and 1873. In the fall of 1855, Mr. J. L. Stephenson, a merchant and county superintendent of education, failed in business and resigned the superintendence This threw the schools into confusion until February 15, 1886, when Mr. A. Haley was appointed to succeed Mr. Stephenson. Mr. Haley began immediately to plan a reduction of the number of schools. There were fourteen schools in Troy at the time. The white schools selected for survival were the Troy Male High School and the Troy Female Seminary, and the negro schools selected were the one taught in the old church in the “Baptist Bottom” and the one taught by Hattie Davenport, wife of Virgil, the barber. This was one of the first actual consolidations of schools in Alabama. As an indication of the interest the; people of Troy had in education during the period 1880-85, the total enrollment in the various schools in any city probably did not exceed in any year 150 pupils, although at this time Troy was a city of more than 3,000 people.

In 1887 strong educational centers had been built up at strategic points throughout the county-at Brundidge, Henderson, Spring Hill, Orion, and China Grove. Smaller, yet important, schools were at Goshen? Briar Hill, Josie, and Little Oak. The year of 1887 marks an era in Troy’s educational history. Largely through the effort of Charles Henderson, then the mayor of Troy and later the governor of Alabama, the Legislature appropriated $3,000.00 annually toward the maintenance of a Normal School in Troy for the training of teachers. This grant was made on the condition that the city would furnish and equip a suitable building for the school.

Mr. S. T. McLeod of Orion was a member of the Alabama Legislature of 1886-87. It was he who introduced the bill which created the Troy Normal School, now Troy State Teachers College. The city purchased a lot from William Murphree as a site for the new Normal School. This lot stood facing the length of College Street, being the east terminal of College Street. On May 26th the contract was let for the building. This building was a rather rough, but very substantial, two-story brick building with eight class rooms. The corner stone was laid on August 24, 1887, with appropriate ceremonies, the Masons taking the leading part. They were assisted by the Try Brass Band, the Gates Rifles, and twelve little girls who deposited various souvenirs in the cornerstone vault. The School opened in 1887 in temporary quarters with a faculty of twelve members. Joseph M. Dill served as president of the institution in 1887. Edwin Ruthven Elridge served in 1888-1899. E. M. Shackelford was made president in 1899 and served the school long and well. In 1893 the name of the school was changed to “State Normal College” and the school was authorized to grant degrees. In 1895 the appropriation was increased to $5,000.00 annually.

Students at the State Normal College in Troy, Alabama (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

1Transcribed from the Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 10, Nos. 01,02, 03, 04, 1948

2(Margaret Pace Farmer is the wife of Curren Adams Farmer, of Troy, a member of the faculty of the State Teachers College there. She was born in Troy, October 28, 1912, the daughter of Matthew Downer and Sarah Sinclair (Collier) Pace. She received her early education in Troy and received the B. S. degree at State Teachers College, August 1932. She has taught in the High School at Enterprise, Brundidge and the Elyton School in Birmingham. She is a member of the Troy Methodist Church and in addition to a series of articles on Pike County which have been published in the Troy Messenger, she has also presented through radio station W. T. V. F., a series of programs on. Pike County history. She was married to Mr. Farmer at Troy, December 1, 1934 and they are the parents of three children, John, Hollinger and Julia.) ADDITIONAL NOTE ON Margaret Pace Farmer obituary 2007 – Margaret Pace Farmer died Friday, Jan. 19, 2007, at the age of 94, leaving a legacy that will benefit many generations to come. Bill Rice, Troy historian, said Farmer was so important in preserving the history of Troy and Pike County that it is hard to think that anyone else could have done what she did.

Margaret Pace Farmer wrote the best history books about Pike County that have ever been written, and they will always be the best history books about the county,” Rice said “The first was a classic history of the county until 1900. The other was the 150-year history of the county, through 1971.
“Every history that had been written about Pike County was wrong until she wrote those two books. Margaret wrote a weekly historical column for The Troy Messenger and was personally responsible for The Troy Messenger being put on tapes and on file for use in historical research. She was also responsible for the re-establishment of the public library in Troy.”

One Hundred Fifty Years in Pike County Alabama 1821-1971 

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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