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.
Dunn-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.
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 Courthouse, Broad, Claiborne, Court & Water Streets, Camden, Wilcox County, AL by photographer Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)
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 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.
“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.
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 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
- Brewer, Alabama (1872), p. 578;
- Northern Alabama (1888), p. 223;
- Polk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 248.
- Wilcox County Chamber of Commerce
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