Before white settlers moved into the area of Greensboro in 1816, it was part of the Choctaw Nation and named the Russell settlement. The next year it was renamed, Troy. After being relocated to its present site and renamed New Troy in 1819, the town was incorporated in 1823 and received its final name of Greensboro. At the time of Greensboro incorporation, it was part of Greene County, but in 1867 it became the county seat of the newly established county of Hale.
The following excerpts which describe the locations of some settlers of Greensboro are from a book published in 1908 and provide a glimpse of early days in the town.
It was in the year 1816 that the first settlements were made in and around what is now known as Greensboro, Alabama. The pioneers came from Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina.
Andrew, Caleb and Isaac Russell, three brothers, came from Baldwin County, Georgia, in 1816, and located some three to four miles east of the present court house, on the Marion road, and so far as can be ascertained, were the first white people to settle in this immediate section. Caleb and Isaac Russell resided here for a few years and then moved to Big Black, Miss. Andrew Russell remained after the removal of his brothers, but in a year or two removed, with his large family of children, to near Providence church in Perry County. The place near Greensboro where the Russells first located was for many years known as “Russell’s Ridge.”
It was also in the year 1816 that John Herran settled three miles south of the present town, near the “Pickens Place,” now owned by L. J. Lawson. He died in Newbern, Ala., in October 1894, at the age of 86 years, and was buried in the Herran graveyard, situated near the spot where he first located in 1816.
The Year of 1817
The next year—1817—a number of others took up their abode in and around the present corporate limits of the town, among them being Frederick Peck, Edwin Peck, Anthony Kinard, Joseph Nail, Joseph Middlebrooks, William Lovell, Louis Stephens, Lawrence Carr, Benjamin Baldwin, James Yeates, Jason Candy, Shelby Cozine, Silas Baggett, M. Kinard, Messrs. Bennett, Davis, McConnico, Hopkins, Caldwell, and Holifield.
These early settlers soon built up a small village near where the Southern University now stands, to which they gave the name of Troy. Jason Candy was the first merchant in the new village, or in fact, in the county of Greene. He is the same Candy that established the formerly well known “Candy’s Landing” on the Warrior river.
Frederick and Edwin Peck were among the earliest merchants of Troy, and became, in the after years, quite wealthy and prominent citizens of this section. The Pecks were for a long while residents of Greensboro. The family graveyard is near the former home of Frederick Peck —the lot now owned and occupied by Mrs. W. W. Powers.
John and Peter Stokes were also among the earlier settlers. They resided near the Murphy place on Tuscaloosa street and owned hundreds of acres of land in that locality.
Low places were extensive reed brakes where cattle died
The low places to be seen in and around the Greensboro of today—the depressions on Tuscaloosa street, the one where is now located the water works, and the one west of the colored Baptist church—were extensive reed brakes, into which cattle frequently went never to come out alive, on account of the boggy nature of the soil. The reed brake extended as far up as Main street from the depression in the rear of the Moore buildings.
Early houses were rude affairs
The early settlers went industriously to work to erect houses in which to live. To be sure they were very rude affairs—typical log huts—and as for furniture, they had none—only that they made themselves. For bedsteads they bored holes in the logs of their cabins, into which were driven pieces of wood, across which boards were laid; a three-legged stool for each member of the family, and a high bench for a table was the sum total of the furnishings for the houses. However, the inhabitants seemed contented and happy and labored industriously to clear off the ground to make room for the crops they were to plant. The soil was rich and responded generously even to the rude cultivation given it, and large crops of grain were made each year. Cotton was not much of a commodity and the farmers gave but Small attention to its cultivation. Cattle raising was quite extensively engaged in. They had but little money in those early years, but all had the necessities of life, and barter of the products of the soil largely took the place of ready cash.
Coming of the Preachers
It was then, even as now. The Methodist and Baptist preachers followed in the wake of all settlements, no matter how remote from the throbbing pulse of the great outside world. The first sermon ever preached in Greene (now Hale) county, was in the year 1818, at the town of Troy. In that year the Rev. James Monette, a Methodist minister, cultivated a crop and preached to the inhabitants of Troy. The next year he moved to Erie, and his house in that village was used as a place of worship for some years.
Rev. Robert Payne—afterward Bishop Payne—filled regular appointments there, as he did also at the house of Capt. Edward Clement in Greensboro in 1820, at which time there was no church edifice in the town. . Close in the footsteps of the Methodist ministers came the Baptists. The Rev. Joseph Ryan, a Baptist preacher, settled in Troy and was the first Baptist preacher to come to this portion of Alabama. He founded the Baptist church at Greensboro, which was located in the eastern part of the present town, very near where stands the residence of Mrs. Walker, at the forks of the Marion and Newbern public roads.
The Presbyterians and Episcopalians came later on. The first sermon preached in Greensboro by a Presbyterian minister was in 1822, by a Mr. Hunter. The same year the Rev. James Hillhouse of South Carolina, delivered his first sermon here and established the present Presbyterian church, which was located near the Greensboro Graded School building. He died several years afterwards, and was buried in the Stokes graveyard in the northern Suburbs of the town. His grave may yet be seen, as the tombstone is in an excellent state of preservation. In 1833, the Episcopalians met and selected St. Paul’s, Greensboro, as the name of the Parish, but it was not until 1840 that it was duly incorporated. The Rev. Caleb S. Ives was connected with the church at this place as early as 1834 and preached in the Presbyterian church. He was followed in 1837 by the Rev. J. S. Goodman, who in turn, was succeeded in 1842, by Rev. Julian Sawyer.
In 1822, Ezekiel Pickens opened the first law office in the village in a house that stood on the present Dugger old homestead lot. The second was opened the same year by W. C. Chapman near where the Steinhart Grocery store is located. The latter part of the same year, John Erwin came from Kentucky and located. He resided first in a log house situated on the lot in the rear.
Hon. John Erwin, came to Greensboro in 1818. He resided there until his death in 1860. He was among the most able lawyers in Alabama and took a very prominent part in the Secession Convention.
“THE OLD RED HOUSE.”
“The Red House” was regarded as quite a commodious dwelling when it was erected back in the latter part of the twenties. The above is a splendid picture of the old two-room building.This is the oldest structure in Greensboro (that was still standing in 1908.) It was erected in the early Twenties. (1820s)
The Al Stollenwerck old homestead lot extended to the then road; a private dwelling, occupied by Mr. Lowry, Known as the “Red House,” so-called from the color it was painted, stood very near the road so that in looking down Main street, it seemed to block it. This old house is still in existence, and was used for many years by the Stollenwercks as a kitchen. It is yet in the back yard of the Stollenwerck lot.
TOWN LIMITS OF GREENSBORO
In 1835 a further proposed addition was made to the town of Greensboro. At that time the corporate limits extended west only to the cross street dividing the Stollenwerck old homestead from the N. L. Castleman place. What is known as McAlpine’s addition was, in 1836, sold at public sale
In 1835, the road from Erie, the then county seat of Greene, made no turn at the N. B. Jones’ front gate as now, but continued at an angle in the rear of the Benners’ house near the present location of the Pasteur home, went across the Boardman front yard, and then entered Main street.
Beyond the Boardman residence was the home of Mrs. Ashe, and further on, as far as Dr. Wm. Jones’ plantation, which was located in the rear of the present Hobson homestead, all was a dense forest covered with thick undergrowth. The hollow just east of where W. B. Inge resides, was a very dense thicket, with a rippling stream flowing through it.
The following is a copy of the original advertisement of the Sale:
The said land will be sold out in lots of various sizes, containing from one-fourth of an acre to six acres, with streets from 66 to 75 feet wide. The above tract of land is situated immediately West and adjoining the Town of Greensborough, Green County, Alabama. Persons wishing to reside in the said town or its immediate vicinity, would do well to examine the above premises, in person, previous to the day of sale. Some of the lots have beautiful groves and elevated situations for building—one of them containing four acres, is verv well improved, having on it a comfortable frame dwelling, all other necessary out houses, a good garden, excellent well of water, and a fine peach orchard. The undersigned Commissioners, will give to the purchaser or purchasers, a certificate for the lot or lots they may purchase; deeds given by them when the last payment shall have been made. Terms of sale, one-third cash, and the balance in one and two years. Notes with good securities, will be required. Sale to commence at 10 o’clock and continue from day to day. J. C. McALPINE, WILLIAM McALPINE, JOHN N. McDOWELL, Commissioners
Greensboro’. Dec. 23, 1835.
The McAlpines were prominent citizens of Greensboro for a number of years.
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