Days Gone By - stories from the past

Did you know Greenville, Alabama was first named Buttsville? [see vintage photographs]

Greenville is a city and the county seat of Butler County, Alabama. The name change from Buttsville to Greenville in 1822 when the county seat was moved from Fort Dale to Greenville.

At the 2010 census, the population was 8,135. The city is the county seat of Butler County and is known as the Camellia City.Map of Greenville

Emigrants from South Carolina

It was first settled in 1819, when some emigrants from Greenville, SC, encamped for the night. Eight families and several other men with 12 wagons and 52 horses composed the party. They were so pleased with the location that they decided to make their homes near Routan’s creek. Each selected a spot for a home and built a log cabin.

A few weeks later another party of emigrants arrived and later in the year, still another. Thus the town had its beginning. In 1820 a committee appointed by the legislature selected Greenville as the county seat of Butler County.

 Tavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL

Joseph Hartley House

W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Front & Side View, S. E.

W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Front and Side View, S. E. - Tavern & Stage Inn, Greenville

 Tavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL

Joseph Hartley House

W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Rear and Side ViewW. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Read and Side View,

 Tavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL

Joseph Hartley House

W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Fireplace 1st FloorTavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL Fireplace 1st floor

 Tavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL

Joseph Hartley House

W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. SW room upstairsTavern & Stage Inn, County Road 58, Greenville, Butler County, AL Fireplace SW room upstairs


 W. N. Manning Photographer, June 13, 1935. Front & side view , S. W.

(OLD GUS WOMACK HOUSE) – T. Augustus (Gus) Womack House, County Road 54, Greenville, Butler County, ALold gus womack house W. N. Manning Greenville, Alabama 1935

Named for Indian Fighter

The town was laid out in May 1822. It was first called Buttsville for a Georgia Indian fighter of the War of 1813-13 but later named Greenville because the dense forests of oak trees reminded the immigrants of their home in Greenville, SC.

The name was formally changed by an act of December 28, 1822. A substantial courthouse was built and was used until 1852, when it was destroyed by fire, together with all the records. A temporary structure was erected and served until 1871 when a brick building was completed.

The first county seat was at Fort Dale, a fortification that was named for Sam Dale, who fought to defend the area during the Creek War. The site of Fort Dale lies on the north of the city near the Fort Dale Cemetery, along what is now Alabama Highway 185.


W. N. Manning, Photographer, June 12, 1935. Old Crenshaw House, (used before plantation house) County Road 54, Greenville, Butler County, AL

old Will Crenshaw house = Greenville, AL Jun 12, 1935 w. n. manning

First store was a log structure

About 1822, James Johnson built the first store, a log structure. The store was occupied by Caulfield & Bell, who hauled their goods from Claiborne on the Alabama River, 75 miles away.

Ward Nicholson Corner Store, Greenville, AlabamaWard Nicholson Corner Store, -Greenville, AL

Greenville, Alabama

Greenville, Alabama

Movement to change state flower started in Greenville

The first Methodist Church was erected in 1822, on a spot that later enclosed the cemetery. Its first pastor was Rev. James Dulaney. This church was used by other denominations for some years.

The first Presbyterian Church was built in 1830 and used by the Baptists also until 1854. In 1860 the Protestant Episcopal Church was established by Rev. James Jarrett, of Montgomery. In 1881, Samuel J. Boiling gave a site to the Primitive Baptists for a church building.

The first school of high grade was the Greenville Female Academy, established in 1846, which later existed as The Institute. It was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Herbert, of South Carolina. The male high school was established in 1876, and the “Collegiate Institute” in 1872, by Rev. J. Dunklin. The old stagecoach road from Montgomery to Mobile passed through Greenville. The railroad was afterward built on the same route. Within. 3 miles of the city are the Roper mineral wells.

Among the pioneer settlers and prominent residents were Dunklin, Boiling, Stallings, Camp, Manning, Steiner, Herbert, Coleman, Graydon. Gafford, Burnett, Caldwell, Bell, Caulfield, Pickens, Gilbert, Thigpen, Palmer and Hutchinson families, Judge Anderson Crenshaw, Judge Benjamin F. Porter, Judge J. C. Richardson, Gov. Thomas Hill Watts, John K. Henry, Rev. John Duncan, Rev. Dr. J. B. Hawthorne, Rev. B. H. Crumpton, Dr. W. B. Crumpton, W. W. Wilkinson, J. F. Thames, A. B. Dulin, Col. Hilary A. Herbert, Col. J. B. Stanley, Col. Thomas J. Judge, Mrs. Ina Porter Henry-Ockenden, Dr. Urquhart, Thomas Herbert, Prof. Mack, Prof. George Thigpen, L. A. Graham, Thomas W. Peagler, Rev. W. A. J. Briggs, Joseph Steiner, Professors Dyer, Hughes, Holmes, Butt, Rice, and Mustin, and Mrs. M. E. Garrett, educator, R. A. Beeland, A. G. Winkler, the Powell, Hamilton, Lane, Reynolds, and Herlong families.

The old stagecoach road from Montgomery to Mobile passed through Greenville. During WW II, a satellite camp for German prisoners was based in Greenville.


Movement to change state flower started in Greenville

The movement to change the official Alabama state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia originated in Greenville.

The namesake of the county, Captain William Butler, was killed during the Creek War. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, which is across from the oldest church in Butler County, the First United Methodist Church of Greenville.


Pioneer Cemetery, Butler County, Alabamapioneer cemetery

Butler County High School junior class 1938-1939 Greenville, Alabama

Butler County High School junior class 1938-1939 Greenville, Alabama


  • Acts, 1822-23, pp. 25-26;
  • Ibid, 1870-71, pp. 121-129;
  • Brewer, Alabama (1872), pp. 145-150
  • Little, Butler County (1885);
  • Alabama Official and Statistical Register, 1915.
  • Polk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 395;
  • Alabama Official and Statistical Register, 1915.

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  1. Sometimes it’s bad enough to say Walker County, knowing the judgement that begins as soon as it comes out of your mouth. At least we don’t have to say Buttsville too! Lol.

  2. I cannot thank you enough!!!!!

  3. Love the old pictures

  4. Greenville has the worst Cracker Barrel ever! Just ask Buddy Brock

    1. We were there yesterday. Sat for 15 minutes and was never acknowledged

  5. Good Lawd, can a white boy get a cup of coffee in Greenville? They got plenty of Auburn hats tho.

  6. Linda, my parents are from Greenville !! In fact, my roots are deep in the heart of Butler county !!


  8. What about Central Alabama patriarchs

  9. Learn something new everyday! Anthony Lewis , Ledrick Crenshaw, Terrence Hall, Steven McKinney, Glennece Pond, Andrea Hawkins, Tameka Hawkins

  10. That explains a lot

  11. Stacey BeautifulMahogany

  12. Griffin Huggins Lacy Huggins Christopher Thomas Ricky Gray Rene Taylor

    1. Wish I knew who was in the 1938-39 class pic

    2. Wish I knew who was in the 1938-39 class pic

    1. Check out the article. Lots of cool pics

  13. I always wonder about that

  14. I heard it called Buttsville before & I thought it was a joke!

  15. Glad to hear there was once a village named after the Butts’s. Understand that I even had a namesake sometime ago named Frank Butts.

    Frank Butts
    (an old rebel from Spring Hill, TN)

  16. Samuel Butts was an ancestor of mine and was a well known Indian fighter. Butts county in Georgia near Atlanta is his namesake as well as a small town east of there. Know your history? Butts is a name of Germanic origins from the Landers district in Belgium. Shakespeare mentioned a Dr. Butts who was the personal physician to Kind Louis the fifteenth If I remember correctly. In olde English the named butts referred to an archer. Lot of history behind the name. Most of the folks whose name is Butts live in California and Ohio, but Georgia comes in third A recent candidate for Alabama attorney General was Judge Terry Butts from south Alabama. A super nice man. Wally Butts, famous University of Georgia’s football coach was a great coach there when I went to college. Live and learn. LOL

  17. I was born in Greenville, Al. — this article says folks from Greenville, S.C. settled here and changed the name to Greenville!

  18. Nancy A. Gafford you may already know this, but found it interesting.

  19. Tammy Braden Barg Josh Free

  20. Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church in Greenville, Alabama is on the historic list. Built in 1910 I think.
    Great information and pictures. Thanks!

  21. I have been told that my mother, Henrietta Skipper Gardner, attended a school/college in Greenville, AL.
    After reading this newsletter, I am wondering if it was the Greenville Female Academy / The Institute??
    The date of her attending would have been sometimes in 1920 – 1930’s. Could anyone tell me how I may research this??

    1. Your mother would have attended Butler County High School. The Greenville Female Academy was long gone by the 1920’s.

  22. Were the Thigpens who settled there connected to the Perry County Thigpens? I have a strong Counts/Thigpen ancestry and just wondered if anyone knows of a connection?

  23. It’s really informative to know that Greenville, Alabama was first named Buttsville. The vintage photos of various houses brings back good memories of my house. Great information!

  24. My dad was a slave to the Crenshaw knowing this make me sick to my stomach … white people did watever they wanted to do to us when ever they like an still does it …

  25. I agree Tashianna. Slavery is and was very sickening. My African American roots are deeply embedded in Greenville,, Ala. When I think of the way they lived back then and the way my ancestors were treated by the back woods racist, it makes me want to throw up. That is just the way thing were back then. Those racist just didn’t know any other way but to demean people with darker skin tone than their. My great grandmother did their laundry and clean their home for little to nothing. Hopefully they moved on from then and learned to accept other’s differences. I live in Atlanta and can buy that entire little back wood’s town, where nothing ever matters there. The history is still real though. Not a black face in that picture but was there to clean up their crap I bet! SMH

  26. A spelling correction–it should be Samuel J. Bolling instead of Samuel J. Boiling. The article list the Boiling family as one of the early pioneer so Greenville. Again the family name id Bolling, not Boiling.

  27. I have several very old photos of the Greenville Christian Church (one was with a letter from 1889 & a color photo labeled “Greenville Christian Church” that I do not know the source, but of the same building.) This is a large red brick building with steeple section on corner. D.W. Pritchett was the pastor during and/or just after the Civil War.

    I would like to find when it was built. Since I can not find any current photos, I assume it has been replaced. Also any history of the Civil War time period.

    I am working on a book about my great grandfather, Dr. V.T. Chew, who was a Civil War surgeon. He possibly did some work at the Confederate Hosp, but was also a member of the Christian Church and apparently attended this one when there during the war.

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