The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Posts tagged “Florence Alabama

J T Flagg Knitting Mill…

was a place where lots of Shoals area people were employed at one time. The following photograph shows the workers. The date of the photograph is not known, or the name of the workers. Any help in making identification would be appreciated.

photo of workers at J T Flagg Knitting Mill in Florence Alabama in an undated photo

Weeden Heights School…

in an old photo.

old photo of Weeden Heights School in Florence AL

A 1937 photo of a beautiful Shoals lady…

can you be the first one to identify her?

This is a 1937 photo from the Junior Class at Florence State Teacher’s College annual. It was the first annual for Florence State.

Linnie Beckman 1937

I never knew there was a Jefferson Hotel in Florence…

but here it is in the photo of Court Street made back in 1913. That was the most beautiful courthouse. They took it down in the 1960s, iirc.

Photo of Court Street in Florence AL showing the old courthouse and the Jefferson Hotel

Strange that…

two  young women from two different lines of a family could be classmates at college in 1913.

Miss Eulalia Kerby and Miss  Sarah LUTIE Murray were both in the Freshman class at State Normal College in Florence in 1913.

Here is part of the list of freshmen for that class:

Photo of freshman class in year 1913

There is a list of students in the Freshman class of 1913 at State Normal School and this photo. There were no names attached to identify what names match which person.

List of some of the freshman class 1913

Small world.

Memory lane is a sweet lane to travel down…

O'Neal Bridge - The Shoals, AL (Southern Bluff...

and sometimes pictures say it best. There is a group that is trying to restore the neon signs that were atop the Coca-Cola Bottling Company during my generations youth, before, and beyond. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company was as the crest of the hill just past O’Neal Bridge on Court Street in Florence for decades. It was across the street from the Holiday Inn. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company had a pair of neon signs that were the colors of their logo, red and white. The red bars on the neon signs would go up and down. The sequence of the lights caught the eye of those stopped at the nearby red light. They were memorable. Fragments of the memories of childhood, both the signs and the WOWL-TV owl sign across the street on the corner of the embankment at the Holiday Inn.

The neon signs were taken down and stored in 2004; as late as last year there were hopes that they could be restored and placed again on the streets of Florence, Alabama.  It is not known when the WOWL owl sign was taken down. One eye was a red light that signaled caution as there had been a fatality in the area; while the green light meant all was safe for the present. Both building have been torn down now. They were both iconic. Florence just is not the same.

Below are some of the photos of the signs and buildings:

Reproduction of WOWL sign Coca-Cola Bottling Company 1950s CocaCola Bottling Company in Florence Sign comes down in 2004 CocaCola Bottling Company view from Holiday Inn Coca Cola bottling plant 1975

1942 Florence Alabama…

was such an idyllic city. The lampposts that were discussed online are seen in the photograph. Also seen is the Majestic Theater  City Cafe Florence style, and First National Bank.

Memory does play tricks sometimes. This is not what I recalled the lamposts looked like.

Memory does play tricks sometimes. This is not what I recalled the lampposts looked like.

Does anyone recognize exactly where in Florence, Alabama…

this photo may have been taken?

This is William Roscoe McDougal, son of Annie Mae Hand and William Carroll McDougal. The information with the photo says Florence, AL. The girl with him is possibly Lillian Katherine McDonald who became his wife in 1949. William Roscoe was born 3 October 1929 in Colbert County, Alabama. He died 24 August 2003 in Mishawaka, Indiana.

W R McDougal lived in Colbert County where he was born ; then lived at Woodland in Lauderdale County. Annie Mae Hand is the daughter of James Henry Hand and Welthy Ann Alizabeth Pace Hand. He moved to Indiana after 1949 and lived in Mishawaka, St Joseph County, Indiana until his death. He is known to have been in Indiana as early as 1980, but likely before that. More information on the photo and the people would be welcomed.

James Henry “Jim” Hand and Welthy Ann Hand were also the parents of William Riley Hand. William Riley Hand and Josephine Fleming Hand were the parents of Mamie Louanne Hand who married Grady Sledge.

Photo of William Roscoe McDougal

We all came from somewhere else first…

Map of Martin County, North Carolina, United S...

before settling in Alabama. At least everyone except the native americans, there were five civilized tribes here before the white settlers. If one researches the modes and trails of travel of the early days, you could almost predict where your family lived in various places before Alabama. That is unless you run into the South Carolina morass.

Edward Balentine is as far back as our limited research got us. He was found on the census records and tax lists in Martin County, North Carolina. Martin County was formed in 1774 from Halifax and Tyrrell counties, Martin County was named in honor of Josiah Martin, the last Royal Governor of North Carolina 1782-1785 and l789-1792. It is in the eastern part of North Carolina, bounded by Beaufort, Bertie, Edgecombe, Halifax, Pitt and Washington counties. In 1779 Williamston, first called Squhawky (or Skewarky), was laid out and is now the county seat. Edward was born about 1725. He was last documented on the 1790 tax list and was aged 65.

We know that Edward had a son named Nehemiah Balentine. Nehemiah was born about 1750 and was in Martin County, North Carolina as late as 1787. Nehemiah and wife Martha had son John Balentine who lived from 1786 to 1865. He was born in Martin County, North Carolina.

Information  from the second edition 2003 book “The Heritage of Lauderdale County, Alabama.” Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc. Pg.99 gave the following information. John and Sarah Culpepper Balentine are first found on 1835 Tennesse State census, 1840 and 1850 Federal census, living in Wayne County, Tennessee.  Both were born in South Carolina, as were their children William Jefferson, 1813; John Harrison (J.H.) 1820; James born between 1815 and 1824;  Sarah 1826; Richard Houston 11 January, 1827; and Benjamin Simmons 1832.

John and Sarah were listed on the 1860 census with son William J. Balentine’s family, in Cypress Inn, Wayne County, Tennessee. John apparently died between 1860-1870, Sarah died between 1860-1879; both probably buried in Wayne County, Tennessee. Their burial sites are unknown.

William J. Balentine married Sarah Ann Darby on 21 September, 1835 in Lauderdale County, Alabama. They lived in Cypress Inn, Wayne County, Tennessee on the 1840,1850 and 1860 census, and then were in  Waynesboro on the 1870 census. Their children were born in Wayne County:  James H., 11 October 1837; John William, 1840; Phillip Selvey, 25 November 1841; William J., 1844; Eliza C., 1846; Samuel D., 1849; Richard H., 1853; Benjamin Simmons, 1857; David M, 30 November 1858 and Elizabeth, 1862.  William and Sarah were still in Wayne County, Tennessee on the 1860 census; likely both died and were buried there, places unknown.

James H. Balentine married Elvira Cooper, daughter of Stephen Cooper, on 25 February 1857, in Lauderdale County, Alabama.  Their children: William, 1858; George, 1860; James (Jimmy Hawker) Wesley, August 1862; Sidney Cedric (Sidney Hawker), April 1869; Sarah E, 1872 and Leander S, 1879; all born in Wayne County, Tennessee.  James H. and Elvira were on 1870 census in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Their burial sites are unknown.

James (Jimmy Hawker) Wesley Balentine married Amanda E. Balentine, daughter of Phillip Selvey and Sarah E. J. Vickery Balentine, circa 1884, with these children: Walter Zebedee, 03 Spetember 1885; Velma; Clyde (Candy), 19 September 1891. William Clarence, June 1893; Hattie M., May 1895; Dona (Donie), May 1898; Lee (Dovie), 1903 and Amanda E buried at Pine HIll Cemetery, Lauderdale County, Alabama.  Walter Zebedee Ballentine married Jeanette (Jennie) Ayers, born 07 January, 1884 to William H. (Billie) and Lydia Ann Gargis Ayers; at Pruit Plantation in Colbert County, Alabama on 26 January 1908.  They started housekeeping at Cypress Inn, Wayne County, TN. where the following children were born:  Mary Ida, 11 July 1909; Walter D, May 1911-died 1912; and Paul Jackson, 01 January 1913.  The family moved to the Crooked Oak area of Colbert County, Alabama; where more children were born:  Dennis Fleet, 03 December 1916; William Wesley, 20 August 1919; Mollie Mae, 28 December 1921; Nellie Cole, 20 May 1923 and Margie Denette, 28 December 1925.  Zebedee died of a heart attack 07 February 1940.  Jeanette lived a long, active life; she died 27 November 1976 in Decatur, Morgan County, Alabama; where she lived with daughter Mary Ida Ballentine.  Mary Ida Ballentine married John Bea Mayfield on 13 October 1923 in Tuscumbia, Colbert County, AL. Their children all born in rural Leighton were: John Reed, 21 July 1929-died 04 October 1988; Anne Thomas, 20 June 1931; Camilla Cecile, 01 May 1933 and Betty Jean, 29 January 1940.

In a family newsletter covering the Balentine family Melissa Jason Carpery writes this:

There are many Balentine Family Descendants alive today in the Stone County area and world wide because of a brave husband and wife. They traveled the mountains of Tennessee, waded the Mississippi River, and found their way to the hills of the Ozark Mountains near Onia, Arkansas over one hundred and twenty two years ago. I would like to introduce my Great Great Great Grandparents to you.Benjamin Simmons Balentine was born in Wayne County, TN, August 11, 1833, to John Balentine and Sarah Culpepper.  He was their youngest child. On December 22, 1855Benjamin married Melissa Elzura Erdine Sport in Lauderdale County, Alabama.  Melissa was born September 1839, in Lauderdale County, Alabama, to James Sport and Catherine Baxter.  Children of Benjamin and Melissa are:1. William “Bill” Joseph Balentine, born October 31, 1856 in Lauderdale County, Alabama; died May 23, 1939 in Stone County, Arkansas. He married Mahulda Jane Branscum June 6, 1880 in Stone County, Arkansas.

2.Mary Minerva Balentine, born April 25, 1858 in Wayne County, Tennessee; died October 13, 1958 in Stone County, Arkansas.  She married James Franklin Woody December 7, 1881 in Stone County, Arkansas.

3. Richard Houston Balentine, born December 18, 1859 in Wayne County, Tennessee; died June 19, 1951 in Arkansas.  He married Sarah “Sallie” A. Branscum October 5, 1879 in Stone County, Arkansas.

4.Benjamin Simmons Balentine, born July 23, 1862 in Wayne County, Tennessee; died May 20, 1960 in Arkansas.  He married Laura M. Anderson December 21, 1884 in Searcy County, Arkansas.

5. Harriet C. Balentine, born November 1865 in Wayne County, Tennessee.  She married Asa B. Lawrence.

6.John James Balentine, born December 19, 1867 in Wayne County, Tennessee; died January 21, 1957 in Stone County, Arkansas.  He married (1) Malinda Louise Branscum May 13, 1888 in Stone County, Arkansas. (2) Elizabeth Jane Sartin October 18, 1915 in Stone County, Arkansas. (3) Abbie Conway September 13, 1947 in Stone County, Arkansas.

7. Solomon “Daniel” Balentine, born March 1869 in Wayne County, Tennessee; died October 1, 1931.  He married Olivia Sarah Vaughn April 7, 1889. 

8. Nancy Ann Balentine, was born October 7, 1873 in Wayne County, Tennessee, died September 4, 1911.  She married V.E. Altaffer January 23, 1900, Stone County, Arkansas.

9. Ladasky “Erdine” Balentine, born October 8, 1876 in Alabama, died June 13, 1949.  She married William Rankin Ramsey August 19, 1894 in Big Flat, Arkansas. 

10. Amanda Ioney “Maudie” Balentine, born November 20, 1883 in Stone County, Arkansas, died November 1, 1911.          

It is difficult to determine the exact year that Ben and Melissa moved to Stone County, Arkansas.  In 1870 they are in Wayne County, Tennessee and in 1880 they are in Stone County, Arkansas.  It looks like they moved from Wayne County to Alabama between 1873 and 1876.  Because in the 1880 Stone County, Arkansas Census taken June 2, it states that their daughterNancy was born in Tennessee and 6 years old and their daughter Daska was born in Alabama and 3 years old.  So they probably moved sometime after Daska was born in 1876.Some contradictions of when Ben and his family moved comes from information in interviews with some of John James Balentine’s (Benjamin and Melissa’s son) children and grandchildren.  The story is that the family moved when John was five years old, which would make it about 1873.  Also another interview with Ollie Woody Gilbert says that her mother Mary Balentine (Benjamin’s daughter) walked behind the wagon the whole way from Wayne County, Tennessee when the family moved to Arkansas carrying her little brother on her back.  The only little brother this could have been would be Daniel who was born in 1869.  The problem with John and Ollie’s account is that the 1880 Stone County, Arkansas Census shows that Nancy was born in Tennessee in 1873 and that Dasky was born in Alabama in 1877.  Ladasky Erdine is listed in the 1900 Stone County Census and states again that she was born in Alabama.  Another story in the family says that Ben and his family moved in the fall of 1878.  So they could have left anytime after Ladasky was born in October of 1877.  As you can see the exact time when they arrived in Stone County is not not an easy thing pinpoint.     A little bit of geography explanation may help in explaining some of the movement of the family.  Wayne County, Tennessee and Lauderdale County,  Alabama are border counties and people moved from county to county and state to state in farming year to year.  Thus they did not pay much attention to county and state lines.[Census records are notorious for having a lot of mistakes; the information was only as accurate as the informant’s actual knowledge and the census takers spelling and degree of error free writing]     

Benjamin’s family came to what is now known as Stone County in a covered wagon and waded the Mississippi River. The family homesteaded at Hickory Grove, which is located between Onia and Big Flat. In an interview with Lilly Shipman, Benjamin’s Granddaughter, she describes some details about the family.  “The children grew up working  hard on the family farm to stay alive and to make a little extra money. They worked from sunrise to sunset six days a week and rested on Sunday. This left little time to go to school. Any schooling they received was at home.”  Benjamin was a farmer and is described as being “Black Dutch.”  Benjamin grew up in Wayne County, Tennessee, a short distance west of Cypress Inn. His parents, John Balentine and Sarah Culpepper, came to Wayne County in the late 1820’s or early 1830’s from South Carolina.

They were in their early forties in age, and already had a large family. In the 1840 Census of Wayne County, Tennessee, Benjamin’s father John is listed with three boys and one girl living at home; one boy is between five and ten years old (assumed Benjamin Simmons), one boy is between ten and fifteen years old (assumed Richard Houston), one boy between fifteen and twenty years old (assumed J. H.), one girl between fifteen and twenty years old (assumed Sarah ) and a female between forty and fifty years old (assumed Sarah Culpepper Balentine). The 1850 Census for Wayne County, Tennessee lists: Sarah , age 24, and Benjamin , age 18, living with their parents John , age 65, and Sarah age 64. John is a farmer and is listed as blind at this time. Sarah (John’s wife) is listed as not being able to read or write. It is told in family stories that John was known to have the nickname “One Eyed John.”  

The 1880 Stone County Census lists Benjamin as the head of household and 47 years old. His occupation is a farmer with his wife Malisa as keeper of the home and 40 years old. The other household members are: son William , age 23, born in Alabama, single, and working the farm; son Benjamin , age 17, born in Tennessee, single, and working the farm; daughter Harriet , age 15, and single; son John, age 12, working the farm, and son Daniel , age 10, working the farm.     We know that Benjamin could write his name because his signature is found on a bond for marriage license for his son Benjamin Simmons Balentine, Jr. in Searcy County, Arkansas, on December 19, 1884.    

Benjamin is listed in the 1900 Stone County Census living with his wife Malissia A and daughter Amanda I It states that they had been married for 44 years  and that both of Ben’s parents were born in South Carolina.  Benjamin has not been found on a 1910 census so it is presumed that he died between 1900 and 1910.  Benjamin is buried in the Pordue Cemetery at Onia, Arkansas.  Benjamin’s stone is a cement slab in the ground that reads as follows “Ben Balentine-Father of John Balentine.” 

With all that background information under our belt, now our attention turns to Richard Houston Balentine, son of John and Sarah Culpepper Balentine.  He was born 11 Jan 1827 and died 19 Mar 1882 in Wayne County, Tennessee. Dick Balentine and Mary A Cooper were married in Lauderdale County by John McCorkle, Justice of the Peace on 11 Mar 1846. Of their many children we will follow son Richard Houston Balentine who was born in Wayne County in August of 1855. He married Belizabeth Jane Jennie D Dulin who went by the initials “BJ” although some researchers do give her name as Elizabeth.  They married in Wayne County 16 October 1881; Richard was 26 at the time of the marriage.

Richard Houston Balentine died resulting from a chronic obstruction of the intestine at the spignoid flaxure of the colon on 2 Mar 1917 as a patient in a Nashville hospital. He was 62 years old. This family moved to Cloverdale in Lauderdale County between the 1900 census when they resided in Wayne County, Tennessee and the 1910 census when they were located in the Cloverdale community. According to the death certificate he was interred in Florence, but the name of the cemetery is not yet known.  His obituary states this: Mr R H Balentine, a prominent farmer of the Cypress Inn neighborhood died last Friday at St Thomas Hospital in Nashville where he had been for several days for treatment, and where everything was done that was possible to stay the ravages of an intestinal disease. The body was brought to Florence  Sunday afternoon and was taken to Cypress Inn. On account of high water in the creek there it was impossible to get to the family home, and the funeral services were held at the home of a neighbor, followed by interment in the local cemetery.Photo of the Richard Houston Balentine  family

Mr. Balentine was the father of Mr W B Ballentine, a member of the force of the Florence post office who was called to Nashville on the receipt of the sad news of his father’s death. The deceased is survived by his wife, and eight sons and one daughter. There is record of both BJ and Richard Houston Balentine’s burial at the family cemeterybearing the name Balentine Cemetery in Wayne County, Tennessee.

The known children of Richard Houston Balentine and BJ Dulin Balentine were: Thomas Grant Balentine 1857 – 1919;  Charlie Houston Balentine 1883 – 1965;  William Henry”Will”  Balentine 1884 – 1973;  John Dave Balentine (1888 – 1951); Mary Jane Balentine 1886 – 1902; Robert Larimore Balentine 1886 – 1969; Irvin Balentine born ca 1890; L Annie Balentine 1892 – 1965; and Edgar W Balentine 1894 – 1964.

The line of the family of interest here continues with Charlie Houston Balentine. Charlie was born 24 Sep 1882 at Cypress Inn, Tennessee and died  11 Jan 1965 at Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama. He and his wife, Martha “Mattie” Ada Vickery had the following children: Elva, sometimes listed as Elsa Balentine born ca 1906, Richard K Balentine 1912-1982; and Mary E Ballentine born ca 1935.

Richard K Balentine was born 6 June 1912 in Lauderdale County, Alabama and died 9 September 1982 in Florence, Lauderdale, Alabama. On the 1940 census his occupation was given as truck driver for as a government worker; his age was given as 27. Richard K Balentine and wife Hazel had two children: Ray Balentine and Carolyn June Balentine. His wife Hazel and daughter June Balentine are also deceased. They are buried at Greenview Memorial Cemetery in Florence.

A life can be summed up by just one document…

as is the case with this one. This Balentine boy was just 23 when a bullet ended his life. There will be more about his family in our next bit of history recounting. Much of his life story is documented in his death certificate that follows:

Photo of death certificate for Thomas Grant Balentine

Death Certificate of Thomas Grant Balentine 1919


is just a memory now. The Majestic Theatre long ago disappeared. On 6 April 1917 you could see the movie for as little as five cents. Showing on that date was the story of the British convict ship “Success”.


Photo of venue at Majestic Theatre on 6 April 1917.

Relatively speaking…

travel was cheap in the old days. That is compared to today’s ridiculous prices for flights, train, or bus travel. Southern Railroad offered this travel opportunity in the Florence Times newspaper in April of 1917:

Southern Railway advertisement

Southern Railway advertisement

Postcards from the past…

photo of the Shepard Home on Walnut Street in Florence Alabama

Look at that fox!

When a photographer came around in the early 1900s, people gathered themselves together and got their picture made quickly while the opportunity presented itself. My grandmother told me about the day a photographer made this photo of her parents, Minnie Viola Russell and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby. They saw the photographer coming up the road while out in their yard on Trade Street in Florence, Alabama around 1923. Not dressed up for pictures they hurriedly put on a jacket and a fox stole. My grandmother, Marie, was particularly fond of this picture. She would laugh every time she looked at it.It was a little perplexing to me to see that around my great-grandmother‘s neck. I wasn’t used to seeing animals fur with the head still on it.

I remember seeing the fox stole, I think my Aunt Irene had it. I thought it was pretty morbid — head and all! I wonder if anyone else has a picture of their ancestors with a fox stole? Well, needless to say the picture  is a keepsake to me!

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby 1923

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Andrew Ethelbert Kerby 1923

Hey Kerby cousins out there… do you have any more info on the fox stole?

Pretty ribbons, pretty paper…

of blue; wrap your presents to your darling from you were lyrics to one of her favorite songs. Her favorite color was blue. Her favorite people were her grandchildren. She lived a lonely life alone for most of her adult years. But when

My Darling Kim 1964

My Darling Kim 1964

she died she left a hole in the hearts of four grandchildren: Kim, Gary, Mark and Julie. She left them behind with only her memories; she left little of monetary value but that mattered little to them. 

What she left was mostly pictures that were valued beyond gold that were left to be treasured. And every card that her granddaughter had sent to her or given her was stacked and tied together. That was a tender moment watching her as she held that stack. The biggest treasure for her granddaughter was the little photo of her when she was born that Mammy had written “Darling Kim” on it.

Mammy was Marie Kerby Wright. The photo with the three adults leaves us to wonder, just who is that handsome man dressed to the nines and who is so suave and debonaire in the photo? On the left is Marie Kerby’s brother-in-law Jimmy Marks. In the middle is Marie Kerby all petite and young. And her sister Irene Kerby Marks took the photo as her shadow can be seen in the photo as she held the camera.  But the gentleman on the right is not identified. Could it be a Butler who lived nearby? Perhaps, a Butler descendant can answer that question and solve that puzzle for us. The  photograph is vintage 1944 or 1945 and the photo was taken at Seven Points in Florence, Alabama.