Days Gone By - stories from the past

History of the Confederate White House in Montgomery, Alabama

HISTORY OF JEFF DAVIS HOUSE

(Montgomery Advertiser, October 7th, 1900)


The Alabama Division of the Daughters of the Confederacy will convene in the city of Opelika Tuesday, May the first, in annual assembly.

A brief historical sketch of the frame dwelling house corner of Lee and Bibb Streets in this city known as the Jeff Davis house, in which all the chapters of the State are interested may throw some light upon the subject. It has been given careful research and the books written of those troublous times, in 1861 have been attentively studied. The house was built in ‘the year 1839 or 1840, by Mr. Wm. Sayre, the father of the late distinguished Paul Tucker Sayre. A. M. Bradley, who did most of the building at that time was the contractor. Montgomery then had a population of about 8,000.

Mr. Sayre sold the house to Mr. Wm. Knox, he to Mr. George Mathews, then Mr. Freeman became the owner. Next, the late Colonel Jos. G. Winter who remodeled it.

Christmas decorations in foyer White House of the Confederacy (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Mr. Calloway bought the house from Mr. Winter. At the outbreak of the war Mr. Edmond Harrison was living there. It was he who rented the house to Jefferson Davis, The Confederate Government took no part in this transaction. It was sold to Mr. Wm. Crawford Bibb, and after him Mr. Archibald Tyson of Lownesboro became the possessor. He left the place to his daughter Mrs. Render of LaGrange, Ga., who now owns it.

White House of the Confederacy dining room (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

It is entailed property. Mr. Davis arrived in Montgomery Saturday night, February 16th, 1861. He was met by a large and enthusiastic throng, Mr. Edward C. Bullock who had been Commissioner to Florida, made the welcoming address. Mr. Davis replied from the balcony of the Exchange Hotel. He was followed by W. L. Yancey.

The inauguration of the President of the Provisional Government took place Monday, February 18, at 12 o’clock at the Capitol. On February 20th he closes a letter to his wife at Briarfield their home in Mississippi: “As soon as an hour is my own I will look for a house and write to you more fully.”

Nursery at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

In the next few days the appointment of the cabinet was made. The first meeting of the cabinet was held in Room No. 22 of the Exchange Hotel.

There appeared in The Weekly Confederation of March 1st, 1861, a paper published in Montgomery at that time, the following paragraph:

“The President’s Mansion. We understand the fine house belonging to Colonel Edmund Harrison has been procured for the President’s Mansion.”

Mrs. Davis in her book, Jefferson Davis, ex-President of the Confederate States,” Vol. 2, Page 35, writes: “My journey up the Alabama River to join Mr. Davis in Montgomery was a very sad one, sharing his apprehensions, knowing our needs to be so many and with so little hope of supplying them. When we reached the hotel, where the President was temporarily lodged, the Provisional Congress had assembled, he had been inaugurated, and the day of my arrival, the Confederate flag had been hoisted by the daughter of Colonel Robert Tyler and the granddaughter of the ex-President. The family was at this time living in Montgomery.”

Varina Howell Davis’s bedroom at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama. (Alabama Department of Archives and History

Miss Letitia Tyler raised the new flag on March 4th, 1861. The flag had a blue union with stars in white at equal distances, and two red bars and one white at equal distance. In the issue of The Weekly Confederation, on March 10th, there is this notice: “Mrs. President Davis: This lady who has already made a most favorable impression upon our community, left last Thursday for her home in Mississippi. She proposes,’ however, to return shortly with her family and will occupy the handsome residence of Colonel Edmund Harrison, on Washington Street, which will be the White House for this year, at least. The President is still at the Exchange Hotel, where his time is almost entirely engrossed with official business.” Lee Street was then known as the continuation of Washington Street.

White House of the Confederacy (Alabama Department of Archives and History

On Monday night, March 11th, 1861, there was held in the parlors of the Exchange Hotel, the first official reception of the Confederate Government. It was in pursuance of the following resolution, introduced by Mr. Crook, in the Alabama Convention, which adopted the ordinance of secession. The resolution was adopted March 7th: “That the President of this convention be requested to inform the President of the Confederate States that it is the desire of this convention to call upon him in a body at such time as he may designate.”

The delegates met in the reading room of the Exchange Hotel half past eight o’clock. They were called to order by Mr. President Brooks, and proceeded in a body to the reception parlor, where each member was introduced to President Davis by Chairman Brooks. Most of the cabinet were present and several members of the Confederate Congress.

There were many ladies present upon this occasion, distinguished not more by beauty and grace than the lively interest they exhibited in the stirring events of the times.

The Vice-President, Mr. Stephens, made his appearance, was toasted from the hearts of the guests, and responded in a speech which was eloquent in its earnest simplicity.

*This clipping from a Montgomery Advertiser of 1900 is pertinent in that it refers to the original residence of Mr. Davis and his family in Montgomery and likewise gives one account of the story of Mr. Davis’ reception. The reader should note that this story credits Col. Edward C. Bullock as having introduced Mr. Davis. Most writers have given credit for this to Mr. William L. Yancey.— (Editor)

SOURCE

The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 01, Spring Issue 1956.

Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past

This book is a compilation of some of the funny and helpful tips from our past history. Some recipes and tips date back to 1770s. One or two sound a little dangerous and I would never try them myself, but I’ve included then in this book for their humorous and historical value. A few are useful, especially for our ‘green’ society today

Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past



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Vinegar of the Four Thieves: Recipes & Curious Tips from the Past (Paperback)

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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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5 comments

  1. People forget Montgomery Moore(R) at the St. Stephens Meridian at the just a hair above the 31st Degree North Latitude.

    The original Capital of Alabama was called St Stephens.

    But the White House is at Mount Vernon along with the all of the Capital Buildings.

    Interesting?

    Alabama’s Greatest Secret.

  2. The White House at St. Stephens Meridian of the Alabama Territory at present Mt. Vernon Alabama the old Federal Reserve of George Washington Byrd…

    In Mobile County Alabama where the Place was called the Columbia District by Ellicott while when he lived he just called it Natchez..

    The Home of Geronimo at the place taken from the Settlers by Gálvez.

  3. Wow! As I write this I am reading the documents of the people who live in Alabama making a petition to stay in lands they know don’t belong to them.

    Ouch!

    The Alabama Ancestors admitting they have no right of the soil.

    Priceless!

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