81 comments

  1. Enjoyed this article. Am presently reading “Tories of the Hills” All of this is fascinating to me having grown up in Walker Co. and only recently found out about my ancestors who fought in the 1st Calvary for the Union.

  2. My 3rd Great Grandfather was at Looney’s Tavern that day.

    1. My Grandmothers Great- Great Uncle was Chris Sheats:)

  3. Do you have any stories about him?

  4. He was John Newton Lowrimore. He fought with the 1st Alabama Cavalry Union. Here is a testimony he gave for David Manasco. http://www.freestateofwinston.org/dcmclaim.htm

  5. He was John Newton Lowrimore. He fought with the 1st Alabama Cavalry Union. Here is a testimony he gave for David Manasco. http://www.freestateofwinston.org/dcmclaim.htm

    1. Steve my ancestor was Sarah Icedo Lowrimore, dau of Andrew (Andy), Son of William. We connect right? My Ingles come off of Peter Ingle.

  6. My Lowrimore’s are also mentioned in “The Bell Letters”. Elizabeth Lowrimore Bell is John Newton Lowrimore’s aunt. http://www.freestateofwinston.org/bellletters.htm

  7. My Lowrimore’s are also mentioned in “The Bell Letters”. Elizabeth Lowrimore Bell is John Newton Lowrimore’s aunt. http://www.freestateofwinston.org/bellletters.htm

  8. This is an excellent article on Winston County History…Do you think anybody will care in the future that the First 911 call or call center as well as the 911 code was created in Winston County,Alabama in the small town of Haleyville,Alabama on Feb.16,1968??? This historic landmark is Haleyville’s City Hall and is used daily by the mayor/water/fire/police/dispatcher and municipal court but yet the current mayor and council are in the process of selling it to a developer who plans to demolish this historic landmark and replace it with a CVS drugstore..Do you think it is worth preserving??? I do and I have tried every thing I know to do to make this happen..Our governor and our state and federal representatives will not get involved in local issues..This is a historic landmark known worldwide as the beginning of saving lives and should be preserved for future generations to visit and learn more about its humble beginnings..

  9. Very.true.history

  10. The Winston County Archives is across Hwy. 195 from the courthouse and Duel Destiny Statue.

  11. […] (continued from Once a section of Alabama seceded from the state – here’s what happened ) […]

  12. My family was part of The Free State of Winston 🙂

  13. Eileen Cummings LeMaster

  14. Read the book, “Tories of the Hills” by Wesley S. Thompson. What the people of Winston County went through simply because they did not want to be involved.

    1. If you’ve got a copy of Tories … it’s worth a lot.

    2. BTW I’ve read it along with So Turns The Tide, and The Free State Of Winston by Sylvester Thompson also the Annals Of Northwest Alabama by Carl Elliot have a lot of the history of that era. Volume 2 has the most.

    3. I have all of them. Hard backs

    4. I’ve got a copy…It’s all about my ancestors (mom’s side). Another good one is Southerners in Blue…several 3rd GGrandfathers in both.

    5. Another good read is The South Was Right by James & Walter Kennedy.

  15. There are no exit ramps onto I-65 in Winston County. Coincidence?

    1. I-65 doesn’t touch Winston County. Although prior to the civil war it did go to the area if I-65.

    2. There’s a sign for Double Springs at the 2nd Cullman exit.

    3. I 65 does not go through Winston county

  16. And it wasn’t just Winston County. Much of north Alabama was opposed to secession. But the hotheads in Montgomery prevailed.

  17. Supposedly when all the counties sent representatives to Montgomery for a vote on succession the man from Winston County made the statement: “We only have 3 slaves in the entire county, and we don’t think they are worth fighting a war over.” I thought that was a most enlightened and sensible statement.

  18. My gggrand was the first sheriff of Winston County

    1. After the war, mine was in Limestone

    2. So was my gg grand

      1. Post their names. They won’t mind. My gggrandfather, Joseph Benjamin Jackson was in the 1st Alabama Cavalry. His son, my great grandfather was named Union Asbury Jackson.

  19. I attended the Dick Payne memorial dedication at the Old Houston Jail. Took so many pictures and video that I came home feeling like a thief. The speeches were outstanding, especially a 20 minute one by a Confederate scholar who has taught the subject for decades.

  20. I have that book Donald L. Burleson. I’m going to get it back out and read it again..

  21. Very interesting. One of my ancestors, Greene Beauchamp, helped write the Alabama Constitution.

  22. Ownership of slaves back then is akin to owning a jet plane now,, both luxuries of the one %. Most wars only benefit that one %.. I’m always surprised how readily they can always find poor people to fight for their interests despite history always proving veterans are cast aside and forgotten afterwards. Nothing has changed .

    1. Interesting take on slavery. I never thought of fact that person was of some wealth in order to own slave. But an adult male was would bring around $1200 in 1850s. Such a strange concept now, it’s hard to imagine. My gr gr gr grandfather owned 8 slaves in Russell Co. Green Beauchamp was on list of top slave owners in Alabama history.

  23. I worked for Felton Collier, architect, while a student at Auburn. While we were designing buildings at Daniel Payne College, he told me about this and that they were the last county to get state funds for paving roads!!!

  24. Another book is Southerners In Blue by Don Umphrey.

  25. Very interesting piece of Alabama history. Used to be an outdoor play about this.

  26. Interesting. My family owned a lake house on Smith Lake in Winston County. I always wondered why — when driving down that dirt road in the middle of nowhere — there was a sign that said, “Welcome to the Free State of Winston County.”

  27. I was born and raised in Winston County.

  28. I grew up in Winston County, at Houston (the historical Civil War jail in Houston is incorrectly tagged as Looney’s Tavern), and had two great, great, grandfathers who fought in the war–one for the South and one for the North. The grandfather who was for the North later changed to the South after he met and married my great, great grandmother. When I was little there was an old wooden bridge between Houston and Arley we traveled frequently to go to my dad’s parents house in Arley.
    I remember being scared every time because it was so far down to the little creek that flowed through the canyon. That was before the dam was built at Curry to make Smith Lake.
    When dad was little Grandaddy Knight at Arley ran a grist mill in the middle of town, right where the town hall is today.

  29. […] This blog at its core is influenced by one of the strongest human desires…the quest for freedom.  The freedom simply to choose, to do, and to say what you think is right.  I admit I have been influenced by my upbringing, as I grew up in a rural county commonly referred to as “The Free State of Winston“. […]

  30. The sheets they talk about is kin to me

  31. According to The Free State of Winston by Dr. Donald B. Dodd, Winston County received almost no funding from the state until World War II because of their actions during the Civil War. Dodd also states that the meeting at Looney’s Tavern was also attended by Unionists from Lawrence, Walker, Blount, Marshall, Franklin, Fayette, and Marion Counties. Northwest Alabama was a hotbed of anti-secessionists with almost 2,600 crossing over to fight for the Union.

  32. Mississippi* My family was from Jones County. One was a Knight, supposedly related to Newt. But for that reason, no one would talk about her family. :/

  33. Even in Western North Carolina there were unionist counties

  34. There were union counties in every part of the Confederacy. In Virginia the entire western section of the state seceded to become West Virginia. It would be refreshing if these history posts were written with a stronger frame of reference and facts were checked (as noted below — the Free State of Jones is in Mississippi, not Missouri).

  35. Too bad he couldn’t prevail.

  36. […] Source: Once a section of Alabama tried to secede from the state – here’s what happened | Alabama Pionee… […]

  37. When my son was in the 4th grade and studying Alabama history, I told him the story about the Free State Winston. We live in Baldwin County so it’s not well known there. When I got home the next night, he excitedly told me his teacher wanted me to come tell the class about the Civil War. I told him that I had already told him all I knew.

  38. In Carl Carmer’s book “Stars Fell On Alabama” there was mention of a meeting in Montgomery before the war started. All the counties sent a representative that could vote on succession. Charles Sheets representing Winston County, and he told everyone that there were only three slaves in Winston County, and they wasn’t worth fighting over, so he reckoned he and his neighbors would stay out of the fuss.

  39. Growing up in blount county in the 50’s there was still animosity toward ‘The Free State of Winston’ by the average person. But even Blount county had soldiers for both sides.

  40. Just so you all know that is not the flag that they were carrying then. Definitely not in Alabama. that is a battle flag from one state not the Confederate flag for our state.

    1. Its a fine flag. Why does it need context?

    2. Wrong. The battle flag was carried by the Army of Tennessee, the Army of Alabama, Mississippi. Most Alabamians would have fought under the battle flag. After 1862 the battle flag was used by most Confederate Armies to prevent confusion.

  41. “The Free State of Winston County”

  42. My ancestor Peter Ingle was one of the early settlers of Winston County. He came over on a boat from Germany in 1776, was a Calvary officer in War of 1812, and not long after settled near Black Swamp, which I think is named Lynn now…….

  43. My great great grandfather was in the 1st Alabama Calvary that fought for the Union. There is a book called Southerners in Blue and he is in it.

    1. Same here. And that is a great book along with Tories in the Hills.

  44. Please don’t let this great statue be torn down.

  45. I was a Civil War Reenactor for over 20 years. Each reenacting unit portrays both CSA and Union (US) companies, according to the needs of an event. When portraying a Union company, my unit chose “the 4th Alabama Cavalry Co. B, U.S, from the Free State of Winston”. Although I am a true Southerner at heart, I was also proud of a very interesting part of our Alabama history.

  46. Take it down or you’ll offend an African.

  47. It didn’t mean war. Many in the North didn’t want war either and many publishers in the North who did were locked up by Lincoln. The right of secession was a right by most all legal minds of the day. That was proven when Jefferson Davis was charged with treason but never tried because most legal authorities believed he was not a citizen of the U.S. Most thought the courts would have exonerated him making Lincoln’s war illegal. Search “Jefferson Davis the famous trail that never was” very interesting read.

  48. […] DR version: Geography as destiny. Winston County, alongside present-day Blount and Cullman Counties, had practically no slaves at […]

  49. The picture labeled Looney’s Tavern is actually the old Houston Jail. It’s an interesting part of our history, but it is NOT Looney’s Tavern.

  50. […] of William W. and Mary Sheets, Charles Christopher Sheets was born in Walker County, Alabama, April 10, 1839. He received a good education at the Somerville […]

  51. My three times great grandfather was William Hilley of northeast Georgia. He and his wife had fifteen children, two of which died as infants. When the civil war came, William was too old to fight , but of his sons and grandsons he furnished eighteen confederate soldiers.
    There were no union soldiers in this family.

  52. Most Southerners did not support secession until Abe Lincoln called upon 75,000 troops from Southern States to invade South Carolina..

    1. Rusty Crane and some of us southerners flew the black flag against the Yankee

  53. As a spokesman for Winston County, Mr. Sheets spoke up for what the majority of the people in Winston County believed. I admire anyone that stands up for their beliefs and convictions.

  54. Morgan county voted against secession, but Decatur was torn to pieces.

  55. And they were correct.

  56. The South was right. And nothing had changed. The Beast Behind the Beltway still lives.

  57. I have read Tories of the Hills and Southerners in Blue (written from the Journal of John Phillips) Wesley Thompson brings out that the original vote to secede was 54 to 46! 18 changed their vote after threat of imprisonment. Chris Sheets was imprisoned.

    Also Winston County never seceded from Alabama as this article states. They just did not want to break from the union and wanted to remain neutral.

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