AN EXCERPT FROM EARLY HISTORY OF PIKE COUNTY ALABAMA
(Covering the period from 1821 to 1900) 1
By MRS. MARGARET PACE FARMER2
Pike County, Alabama, was organized in 1821, four years after Alabama had become a territory and two years after it had been created a state. It will be seen that this happened in the early days of the state, when conditions were still very primitive here. Indeed in 1818, only three years before the organization of Pike County, Green Beachamp visited the section and reported that there were not one hundred white people in the whole country comprising the eight counties now of Houston, Covington, Crenshaw, Pike, Dale, Coffee, Geneva and Henry. Pike County was named in honor of Zebulon Montgomery Pike of the United States army.
Zebulon Pike, was an American brigadier general and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado was renamed (
Carved from two counties
Pike County was carved from part of Montgomery and part of Henry County, these two counties to then having covered the entire Southeast Alabama, and the new county thus created covered no less than eleven hundred square miles. From her bosom there came the material that entered in part into the creation of the counties of Barbour, Bullock and Crenshaw until the extent of her territory was reduced to about 674 square miles, Upon the organization of the county, its seat was located at Louisville, now belonging to Barbour County. Later the county seat was moved to Monticello, The town of Monticello was incorporated by an act of the Legislature, January 7, 1835. It had been selected as the seat of justice in 1827, and the court house built in 1828.
After Louisiana had been purchased, the Southwest became the Eldorado to the venturesome spirits of the older states and the stream of emigration began to swell toward the new country. Many emigrants on their way to the Southwest in passing through Alabama, were attracted by its great prairies. And the rich soil they saw offered them sufficient promise to stop any further search in the country that lay beyond. Most of the settlers of Pike County came from North Carolina, and were with few exceptions of Scotch Irish origin.
Life full of hardships
The labor of subduing a wilderness is one that tests the strongest and the best elements in human nature. Life was full of hardships and it demanded the deprivation of nearly every comfort. Primitive forests had to be exterminated, new lands were to be broken, and produce had to be hauled for long distances over new and stumpy roads to far off markets. The toil was incessant and the reward was modest indeed. Pike County was essentially a white man’s county. Before the Civil War it belonged to the poorest section of Alabama; slaves were few and the largest portion of the labor was performed by white people. The dwelling places that the people occupied were primitive indeed, containing only such furniture as was absolutely needed, most of which was home made. The only piece of furniture that was bought was the bedstead and its adornment with quilts became the pride of the family.
And while the men labored in the fields, their wives at home worked at the spinning wheel and the loom and fashioned the garments for themselves and their families. And the lives of their families they sweetened gradually embellishing their poor homes. Their bare walls they would paper with pictures that every now and then they would come across. They would plant their yards with magnolias, with jasmine bushes and honey suckle; and with the grace of their feminine touch, they added fragrance and beauty to the exuberance of nature which surrounded them. But labor was not without its reward. The inhabitants were frugal, and though wealth was not widely accumulated, the people were self sustaining and in some instances they saved money.
The first court house for Pike County was built in Monticello in 1828. At this time travel was slow and difficult. There were no railroads and few roads in the county. People traveled on horseback or in large covered wagons. Only a few settlements were dotted here and there over the county. Monticello was a Federal Post Office as early as 1832 and three separate post roads served it.
Court session was a time of great gathering at Monticello. If a man had to attend court, it was necessary for him to take his family along as bands of marauding Indians had been known to swoop down on an unprotected home and brutally murder an entire family. Sometimes a man and his wife would ride the same horse—the wife riding behind the husband on the journey to court.
Mrs. Ann Love, a poor but very pious woman, kept the inn at Monticello. During court session her inn was lively with all the women from all parts of the county. It was a time of gossip, knitting, and quiltings—-a great social time that was looked forward to with much pleasure by these women, for at home the nearest neighbor was perhaps five miles away. When court was over, Monticello and the inn were practically deserted places. Perhaps once in six months a traveler on horseback would pass that way and stop for the night or a meal.
Battle of Hobdy’s Bridge
While the county seat was at Monticello, the battle of Hobdys Bridge between the whites and the Indians occurred in February, 1836. The Seminole War had been concluded, but the Creek Indians then had a reservation in the County of Macon and the County of Lee, and others, and they were supposed to be contemplating escaping and joining the Seminoles in Florida. Several bloody conflicts had occurred between the whites and the Indians, and so when in February, 1836, a body of seventy-five warriors, well painted and armed, were discovered coming down Pea River, the whites became alarmed and collected what force they could. Captain Jack Cooper of Louisville, Alabama, was the Commander of these collected white men, consisting of about one hundred fifty, who camped near the residence of Harrell Hobdy, a well known point near Hobdys Bridge.
On the evening before the battle, the Indians were located on the opposite side of the river just above where Pea Creek runs into Pea River. They had their women and families with them and made their fires, and the smoke could be seen rising through the trees. They did not conceal their presence. The battle occurred the next morning, the whites dividing their forces and attacking the Indians on several sides. A good many Indians were killed, but Harrell Hobdy was the only white man wounded. The Indians finally escaped and went on down Pea River, and were later destroyed in another battle down that river by some other white forces.
Battle of Pea River
Another battle occurred on March 10, 1836, between another force of Indians and the whites, which should not be confused with the first battle. This is called the Battle of Pea River. The leader of the Indians in that battle was a noted warrior by the name of Enotichopka. The whites from Pike County again started from near Hobdy’s Bridge. The militia from Pike County was Jeff Burford’s Company. The battle occurred two miles above where Pea Creek runs into Pea River. There were two hundred fifty whites engaged in all. The Indians were almost completely annihilated. A considerable number of them were taken prisoners, but the remainder, men, women, and children were cruelly slain. Some of the Indian prisoners were made slaves.
After this, what is now known as the County of Pike, was rapidly settled. A few communities had been settled in 1825. A larger number, perhaps fifteen or twenty, bought land from the government in 1827, when Monticello was established. But the great immigration into Pike really occurred in 1835 and 1836. Again in 1855 another great number of people came into this country, There was no more trouble with the Indians as by the treaty of 1832, the Indians ceded their territory to the United States and subsequently all the Creek Indians were removed to Arkansas. Some of the Indians managed to escape to Florida and joined the Seminoles in the gloomy expanse of the Everglades.
New site for courthouse
Monticello being located far to one side of the county made it very inconvenient for some of the people living so far away to reach easily-and the journey had its dangers. It was decided to find a place more centrally located. A committee was selected to look the county over and choose a better site. Thus it happens that Deer Stand Hill (where Troy now stands) was visited.
The Deer Stand Hill, as the name implies, was simply a hill covered with beautiful oaks and tall wild oats. In the vicinity were low flat places covered with cane brakes, where deer were found. Hunters would chase the deer from the brakes and they would seek shelter in the tall oats on the hill. Thus the hill was called deer stand. The hill was traversed from north to south by an Indian trail which was used by the Indians in going .to their hunting grounds in Tennessee. It crossed very few water courses and constituted the great divide or water parting in Pike County.
At this time the trail was used by the white people as a road. Later it became of greater historical importance. Andrew Jackson used it in his march from Pensacola to Tennessee. He is supposed to have blazed three notches on the trees at intervals to guide his men. By this mark the Indian trail became known as the Three Notch Road. And was later designated in the town as North Three Notch Street and South Three Notch Street.
North Three Notch Street, Troy, Alabama (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Messrs. John Hanchey and John Coskrey owned the Deer Stand Hill and were exceedingly anxious to have the new county seat located on their property. But they had a competitor. A man (name unknown) who owned some land two miles southeast of the Deer Stand Hill was anxious to sell his property to the commissioners. While he was showing his property to the commissioners, Messrs. Hanchey and Coskrey got busy and decided to make the commissioners a better offer. Their plan was to give the county a deed to about thirty acres of their land on Deer Stand Hill, each giving about fifteen acres. The commissioners decided to accept this splendid proposition and when court convened it was decided to move the county seat from Monticello to the Deer Stand Hill. This decision was rendered in 1838 but it was two years later before the new court house was begun.
Only courthouse allowed in center square
Much work had to be done in preparing the new site. The Deer Stand Hill was cleared of its beautiful oaks and wild oats A square – one hundred sixty yards on each side – was laid off The new courthouse was to be placed in the center of the square. No other buildings were allowed to be placed inside this square.
The old courthouse at Monticello was sold at public auction. Mrs. Love’s customers furnished the money for her to buy it with. She bought the public square and house for $250. The house was then torn down and moved to Deer Stand Hill where it was rebuilt as an inn in 1840. This inn occupied the place where the Carroll Building now stands on the corner of Church Street and Oak Street. However, before the inn could be built court convened and Mrs. Love had some rough pole shanties constructed in order to be able to accommodate her boarders. The kitchen was out under a large arbor and they cooked camp fashion. Court was held in one of the little stores which had been rolled up in place on the west side of the square.
South of Deer Stand Hill on the Three Notch Road were three little stores. They were very small and were built of pine poles. They were owned by John Hanchey, John Coskrey, and Nathan Soles. The place was- called Centerville. About once each year these men made the journey in covered wagons to Pensacola for their supplies. When work was begun on the new town on Deer Stand Hill these men put their stores on rollers and in this way rolled them up to the west side of the square. The entire east side of the square was reserved for lawyer’s offices. It was not until 1839 that the first court house, a wooden structure was built on Deer Stand Hill by Nubel A. Moore. In 1841 Nathan Soles built a hotel on the south side of the square where the First Farmers and Merchants National Bank now stands.
One of the first buildings to be constructed in the new town was a jail. There were some very desperate characters that made this building necessary. It was built on what is now Walnut Street at the place where the Catholic Church stands. It was stoutly constructed having double walls of logs placed horizontally and poles dropped vertically between the two horizontal layers of logs. This was done to prevent the prisoners from sawing out. Mrs. Love visited the prisoners and conducted prayer services for them regularly. Her son, Andrew Pickens Love, was the first jailor.
Two hotels, one store, one grocery, one saloon, one blacksmith shop, a post office and a jail was all of Troy from 1839 to 1844. The post office in the earliest days was run by the merchants in the stores in turn. There was no pay in it and very little mail. Indeed the mail could be handled in a hat. Postage was 6 1/4 to 25 cents, according to the distance. Up to this time the nearest railroad had not reached Montgomery. The post rider came about once a month.
An Act of Congress, 1842, established Troy as a federal post office and at least two post roads served it at that time. The post roads are designated in federal records as follows: (1) from Montgomery to Troy in Pike County and from thence to Dixon precinct and Scroggins Mill to the court house of Dale County; (2) from Tuskegee via Valerda, Union Springs, Aberfoil to Troy in Pike County. The post office in Troy occupied at least two locations on North Three Notch Street prior to 1900, having been at one time on the ground floor of the Masonic Building on the corner of Walnut Street and North Three Notch Street.
The Masonic Lodge is one of the oldest organizations in Troy. The lodge was organized in 1841 and a hall erected in 1843.
Needed a more dignified name
As the town began to grow the people decided that a more dignified name was needed. Legend says that the name ZebuIon was considered, but it was not chosen because no one could make a capital Z. A man from Troy, N. Y., is said to have suggested the name of his home town. This name was chosen because it was easy to spell and easy to write, Thus it was that Deer Stand Hill became Troy about 1839 or 1840.
Streets were laid off and residences begun. These streets were North Three Notch Street, South Three Notch Street, one branching off of South Three Notch Street and leading to Montgomery (Montgomery Street), and one leading to Orion (Orion Street). About 1845 business increased somewhat. James Murphree arrived from Tennessee and opened a store of general merchandise. Being a fine business man, full of energy and enterprise, he stimulated others and in a few years Troy could boast of several new business houses. From this time until the sixties, Troy’s growth was slow but steady. During the trying days of the sixties, Pike furnished her quota of brave men.
Did not feel blight of Civil War
Pike County was fortunate not to have felt the blighting effects of the Civil War, nor the subsequent evils of the reconstruction period as they were endured elsewhere in the state and in the south. Before the war Pike was not one of the great slave owning counties, nor was its territory during the war within the zone of the theater of the destructive activity of the conflict. The changes brought about by the Civil War, comparatively speaking, had but little effect on Pike County.
The first momentous uplift to the life of the early villagers came in 1870 with the extending of the Mobile and Girard Railroad, now the Central of Georgia, from Columbus, Georgia, to Troy, making Troy the center of trade for several counties. At the time of the* completion of the railroad, Troy’s population numbered only five hundred.
In 1889 came the second great impetus to Troy in the building of another railroad, the Alabama Midland, now the Atlantic Coast Line, an enterprise of some of Troy’s far-sighted citizens, with the late O. C. Wiley the first president of the road. Thus was Troy removed entirely from the fastness of its hills.
A brick court house was erected on the square in 1888 wooden court house was bought by Messrs. Frank and Joe Minchener and torn down and rebuilt as an “opera house” on the corner of Walnut Street and Market Street, where it remained for a number of years and served as a center of entertainment for the town. A newspaper of 1891 tells of the collapse of Folmar’s opera house which killed Misses Annie Foster and Fannie Lou Starke. The opera house was repaired after this tragedy and was used for many more years. –
1Transcribed from the Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 10, Nos. 01,02, 03, 04, 1948
2(Margaret Pace Farmer is the wife of Curren Adams Farmer, of Troy, a member of the faculty of the State Teachers College there. She was born in Troy, October 28, 1912, the daughter of Matthew Downer and Sarah Sinclair (Collier) Pace. She received her early education in Troy and received the B. S. degree at State Teachers College, August 1932. She has taught in the High School at Enterprise, Brundidge and the Elyton School in Birmingham. She is a member of the Troy Methodist Church and in addition to a series of articles on Pike County which have been published in the Troy Messenger, she has also presented through radio station W. T. V. F., a series of programs on. Pike County history. She was married to Mr. Farmer at Troy, December 1, 1934 and they are the parents of three children, John, Hollinger and Julia.) ADDITIONAL NOTE ON Margaret Pace Farmer obituary 2007 – Margaret Pace Farmer died Friday, Jan. 19, 2007, at the age of 94, leaving a legacy that will benefit many generations to come. Bill Rice, Troy historian, said Farmer was so important in preserving the history of Troy and Pike County that it is hard to think that anyone else could have done what she did.
Margaret Pace Farmer wrote the best history books about Pike County that have ever been written, and they will always be the best history books about the county,” Rice said “The first was a classic history of the county until 1900. The other was the 150-year history of the county, through 1971.
“Every history that had been written about Pike County was wrong until she wrote those two books. Margaret wrote a weekly historical column for The Troy Messenger and was personally responsible for The Troy Messenger being put on tapes and on file for use in historical research. She was also responsible for the re-establishment of the public library in Troy.”