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

Posts tagged “Franklin County Alabama

Phil Campbell…

Rainbow Falls at Dismals Canyon near Hacklebur...

Rainbow Falls at Dismals Canyon

a Franklin County, Alabama town has a most interesting history.

Phil Campbell located in Franklin County, Alabama, twelve miles south of Russellville, was founded in 1857. In the 1880s, a railroad work crew leader and engineer by the name of Phillip Campbell who resided in Sheffield, Alabama. “Campbell. Campbell was born in Liverpool, England in 1848. In 1880, he was employed as a railroad construction superintendent in Evansville, Indiana. A few years later, he moved to Sheffield to supervise the construction of the Birmingham, Sheffield and Tennessee River Railroad and was appointed to the first board of alderman for Sheffield in 1885. He served as mayor from 1893 to 1895. He was often addressed as “Major” but nothing is known about his military service.”

“With blast furnaces under construction in Sheffield and Birmingham, the promoters of the new railroad dreamed of making a fortune by handling iron ore, limestone and coal to the two industrial sites….Campbell’s contract required that the tracks from Sheffield be extended into Franklin County by a certain date with a locomotive on it. The construction gang worked furiously to finish laying the rails on time, but someone forgot to fire the steam engine. When the oversight was discovered, the deadline was about to expire. Campbell quickly gathered several yoke of oxen from nearby farms and hitched them to the locomotive. This is how the first “iron horse” entered Franklin County, in disgrace, but it was on time” i

Mel Allen, a prominent local businessman in Franklin County, wanted to establish a town in the vicinity of his general store. He told Campbell if he would construct a railroad depot and add a side track to the stretch of railroad going through the area, he would name the subsequent town after Major Phil Campbell who was then the mayor of Sheffield. Campbell built both the depot and siding, which led to Phil Campbell being the only town in Alabama to have both the first and last names of an individual. Major Campbell eventually left the County and moved to New Orleans where he died June 30, 1932, aged 84 years and 6 months.

The first school in Phil Campbell was a two story frame building constructed in 1910. It was located at the back of the Phil Campbell Methodist Church. The school was subsequently destroyed by fire.

The second school was constructed in 1915 and was located at the site of the present school on Alabama State Route 13 in Phil Campbell. This school was a small wooden building. Like the previous school, this school was also destroyed by fire. The fire began at six o’clock in the evening on Christmas Day, 1924.

During the next two years, school was held in local church buildings, the town’s former bank building, and the U.S. Post Office building located near the railroad.

Graduation services for the first accredited Phil Campbell High School class were conducted in the Phil Campbell Methodist Church. The year was 1926 and the class had eight graduating members.

The third Phil Campbell school was completed in 1926. There were two buildings, a main classroom building and a vocational school. After the main building was destroyed by fire in 1954, the present school buildings were constructed.

“Phil Campbell is the birthplace of Billy Sherrill (born Nov. 5, 1936) a record producer and arranger who is most famous for his association with a number of country artists, most notably Tammy Wynette. On February 23, 2010 Sherrill was selected for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Don Williams, Ferlin Husky, and Jimmy Dean. Other artists with whom Sherrill has worked include Shelby Lynne, Marty Robbins, Ray Charles, Elvis Costello, Johnny Paycheck, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Janie Fricke,Barbara Mandrell, Lacy J. Dalton, Ray Conniff, Bob Luman, Johnny Duncan, Jim and Jesse, Jody Miller, Joe Stampley, Charlie Walker, Johnny Duncan, Barbara Fairchild,Andy Williams, Cliff Richard (“The Minute You’re Gone”) and David Allan Coe.”ii

Near the town of Phil Campbell can be found Dismals Canyon. It is believed that the dark, misty canyon got its dreary name from Scotch-Irish settlers. Known for its colorful history of secret Indian rituals and as a hideout for outlaws, Dismals Canyon was also the holding ground for some of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians prior to the Trail of Tears. Within the area’s boundaries is one of the oldest stands of forest east of the Mississippi River. Waterfalls, rock formations, cliffs and natural bridges are also features in Dismals Canyon. Night tours are conducted during the summer to see the glow-in-the-dark worms known as “Dismalites,” which are seen on moss-covered boulders in the canyon. This is the only known location in the United States to see these night creatures. Other known locations are China and New Zealand.

The human history of the canyon is a long one. Artifacts from Paleo-indians—the earliest known Americans—have been found dating back ten thousand years. Later inhabitants were the Pueblos, the Cherokees and of course, the white settlers. U.S. troops held a large group of Chickasaw Indians captive in the canyon in 1838 before forcing them to Muscle Shoals where they began what historians now call the Trail of Tears.

In June 1995 the writer Phil Campbell organized and wrote about a convention of people who shared their name with the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. Twenty-two Phil Campbells and one Phyllis Campbell, hailing from all over America, attended. The story of the Phil Campbell convention was published in Might Magazine, a San-Francisco-based publication founded by Dave Eggers. The essay was later included in Might’s anthology, Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp, and the convention itself was mentioned by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

A second “Phil Campbell Day” was organized the following year, but it was not as well attended. Phil Campbell’s city hall, however, still maintains a file of all the Phil Campbells who visit and another “Phil Campbell Day” was planned for mid 2011 but on April 27, 2011, the town suffered extensive damage from a swift moving tornado with 11 confirmed deaths. According to the Mayor Jerry Mays, preliminary reports show that about one-third of the town’s buildings were destroyed and the estimated property damage was at $119 million.


i Sheridan, Richard – newspaper article –


Some people from home…

count a Hovater among their relatives.


Henry C Jones…

was a native to Franklin County, Alabama. He served his country with honor in the judiciary. His brother-in-law Wade Keys followed a similar path.

Author: Vol. II. Brant & Fuller. Madison, Wis., 1893. pp. 358-359



HENRY C. JONES, a prominent citizen of Florence, and solicitor for the eighth judicial district of Alabama, was born in Franklin county, January 23, 1821. HeLaGrange College Site is a son of William S. and Ann (Cox) Jones, both natives of Virginia, and of English descent. Thomas Jones, grandfather of Henry C., was a colonel in the Revolutionary war, and William Jones, father of Henry C., came to Alabama in 1813, locating in Madison county, and removing thence to Franklin county, in 1819, where he died in 1874, at the age of seventy-six.

Henry C. Jones was educated primarily at the county schools, and then attended LaGrange college, graduating in 1840. He next read law under Prof. Tutwiler of La Grange college, and with Hon. Daniel Coleman of Athens, was admitted to the Franklin county bar in 1841. During the same year he was elected probate judge of Franklin county, and held the office for eighteen months. Being then elected to the legislature,
he resigned his judgeship and served in the legislature with distinction, both in the lower house and in the senate.

His work in both branches of the legislature gained him prominence all over the state. In 1856, Judge Jones settled in Florence, and continued the practice of his profession In 1860 he was a Douglas elector, and was a member of the state convention called up on
the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. In that convention he vigorously opposed secession, yet when the state had seceded, notwithstanding his vigorous opposition, to a secessional policy, he was elected to the Confederate provisional congress, in which body he served one year. During  which he was engaged in the manufacture of cottons and woolens in Mississippi, under a contract for the Confederate government.

After the war he returned to Florence, and resumed the practice of law, taking rank with the leading members of the bar. Judge Jones has always taken an active part in politics, and has given his services freely to the party in time of need. During the period of reconstruction he was for five years chairman of the democratic central committee. In 1876, he was the Tilden elector for his district, and made speeches throughout northern Alabama.

In 1874, Judge Jones was elected, by the legislature, solicitor for the eighth district, and he has been re-elected to that position at each election since. He is now serving his third term, which expires in 1892, and intends to retire with its expiration. Judge Jones was married in Athens to Martha L. Keyes, who died in Florence, May 6, 1887.

[Memorial Record of Alabama. Vol. II. Brant & Fuller. Madison, Wis., 1893. pp.

Judge Jones married Martha Louisa Keyes, daughter of General Keyes and sister to Wade Keyes on 13 Oct 1844 in Limestone County, Alabama.

Wade Keyes also resides in this county, but is a native of Limestone. His father, Gen. Keyes, was a planter, and merchant at Mooresville, where the son was born in 1821. His mother was a Miss Rutledge of Tennessee. Educated at Lagrange College and the University of Virginia, he read law under the eye of Judge Coleman in Athens, and in Lexington, Kentucky,

After a tour in Europe, he located in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1844. While there he wrote a volume on contingent remainders, and another on the practice hi chancery.

In 1851 he removed to Montgomery, this State. At the session of the general assembly in 1853 he was elected chancellor of the southern division, over Messrs Bugbee of Montgomery, and Sterling G. Cato of Barbour. He filled this station with marked ability for six years. In 1861 he was appointed assistant attorney general of the Confederate States, and held the position during the existence of that government He resumed the duties of his profession at the close of the war in Montgomery, but came to reside in this county in 1867, and an office in Florence.

Chancellor Keyes is justly admired for a profound knowledge of law, and for the dignity and impartiality with which he presided as a judicial officer. His attainments as a scholar are shown in the ease and clearness of his writings, which are restricted to professional subjects, and are valued by the members of the bar. He married a daughter of Gen. George Whitfield of Florida.

John Franklin Taylor…

was a Franklin County man.  He was the son of William Pleasant Taylor and a relation to the Sparks family that included Acley Thomas Sparks. There are numerous descendants of these two families in the Shoals area, while many others have ventured to other states.

In 1848 John Franklin Taylor married Cynthia Overton in Franklin County, Alabama. Their known children are:  James F (or H )Taylor who was born 1849 in Alabama, Abner Taylor who was born 1853, and Mary J Taylor born 1855 and who died 1912.

In 1870 John Franklin Taylor married Rilla Catherine Jones in Franklin County, Alabama. Their known children are: Riley Franklin Taylor who lived 1872 – 1940, Alma Rebecca Taylor who lived 1875 – 1951, and Florence Esther Taylor who lived 1878 – 1945.

In the 1860s John Franklin served honorably with Gen. Phillip Roddy, whose home was in Courtland in Lawrence County, Alabama and his mansion remains in tact today. Gen. Roddy headed up the gallant 4th Regiment of Cavalry also known as Roddy’s Regiment. The tin type photo shows John Franklin Taylor in his cavalry uniform.

American Civil War Soldiers: about John Franklin Taylor:
John Franklin Taylor Military Service GravemarkerJohn Franklin Taylor Gravemaker at Macedonia Church Cemetery

Name: John Taylor
Side Served: Confederacy
State Served: Alabama
Service Record: Enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant.
Commission in Company E, 4th Cavalry Regiment Alabama.
Sources: 425

He is buried  at Macedonia Cemetery at Horseshoe Bend, off Franklin County Highway 16, in Alabama. This is close to TVA’s Bear Creek Lake and the Horseshoe Bend Campground.

John Franklin Taylor

The letter that accompanied the copy of the tintype follows:

Letter from Neil Taylor

Letter from Neil Taylor

I love the old timey names…

they would call each other in the olden days. In my family lines, often someone would have four, maybe even five or six, given names and not be called by any of them. Gran would call you what he thought you looked like to him.

The photo below is of Vinnie C Carpenter, his wife Flora Vandiver Carpenter, and their first-born, Tecumseh Carpenter. Vinnie was called Carp for obvious reasons. And Tecumseh was called “Cump.” This date of this photo is ca 1920. Cump Carpenter was born 1918.

Carp, Flora, Cump Carpenter

Carp, Flora, and Cump Carpenter

The first merchant in Franklin County…

The King: Cotton

Way Down Yonder in the Land of Cotton

was Bryce Alexander Wilson.

We learn this wonderful little tidbit from the past in the pages of  Annals of Northwest Alabama.  William H Key, Sr. writes thusly:

Bryce Wilson, Franklin’s first Merchant

Into this valley in 1820 came a young man from Scotland. He had come to America two years before, but had remained in Nashville. He no doubt heard Andy Jackson’s old soldiers talk of Northwest Alabama and planned to settle there. He was in the mercantile business sin Nashville. His name was Bryce Wilson, and he was my great grandfather. I have some of the old records from his store _ the first in the Russellville area _ which give an idea of how people had to do business in the early days. He was a stickler for making records of each transaction. When he wrote a business letter, he made a copy of it in a large ledger. I have one of the old ledgers, and the entries or letters written in it are most interesting. As an example of his transactions, let’s say he would buy the cotton crop of James M. Kirk and store it in a warehouse at Tuscumbia landing. He would write Messrs. Van Husen & Downs, the warehouse operators, to ship, say, sixty bales of cotton to Fern & Donnigan of New Orleans, by the ‘first good steam boat having neither flot or keel boat in tow, and pay no more than $1.50 pre bale freight.” He would then write Fern & Donnigan at New Orleans, advising them to be on the lookout for this shipment and to sell it, when the market was right. Fern & Donnigan would do so and give him credit on their books. They, no doubt, could have mailed him a check for the cotton, as there were banks in New Orleans, but he had no way of cashing a check in Russellville, for there was no bank in the area. After some appreciable amount from cotton sales has accumulated on the books of Fern & Donnigan to his credit he would write the company to mail a check to Sitter & So, in Philadelphia, for, say, $5,000. He would then advise Sitter & Co., of that fact and they would credit his account with say, $2,000, and with the balance pay various other Philadelphia firms from whom he had bought merchandise for his store.

Once a year Bryce would make a trip to Philadelphia to buy merchandise, having it hauled overland to Pittsburg, then down the Ohio River to Paducah, then up the Tennessee to Eastport, and overland to Russellville, Of course, by the time ladies’’ dresses reached Russellville from Philadelphia by this land and tedious rout, they were out of style in Philadelphia. However, I doubt if the ladies in Franklin County knew that, and they were no doubt just as happy without the knowledge. Thus was business conducted in Franklin County, during the early days.

I have always lived in Franklin County have always been glad that I have. I have always been glad that Franklin County is a part of Alabama, for Alabama is a great state. I think that when the Creator made the world. He was especially proud of that part of what is Alabama; that He smiled upon it, and blessed it lavishly. He gave it wide prairies, mighty rivers, and majestic mountains, bulging with treasures for man to appropriate and enjoy. He spread across Alabama’s brow the mighty Tennessee River, as if He had crowned her with a band of silver. He adorned her breast with precious stones of coal, iron ore, and limestone. Around her waist he placed a girdle of shining steel. Her skirts are woven from the pure white cotton from the fields of the Black Belt, fringed at the hem with the green of Wire Grass. And thus she sits in queenly splendour, her feet     in the Gulf.

Yes, God has been good to Alabama, and may she and her people be forever grateful for, and deserving of, the manifold blessings that He has so lavishly bestowed upon her.

Source: Annals of Northwest Alabama: Volume II: Early Days of Franklin County – Bryce Wilson, Franklin’s first Merchant by William H Key, Sr.*

*William H Key, Sr. Is a lawyer at Russellville and Representative of the 7th Congressional District and on the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.

Bryce Alexander Wilson gave a lot to the Shoals area, more specifically to Russellville and Franklin County. He was meticulous in everything he did business wise. He even gave his son and namesake in the War of Northern Aggression.

Descendants of Matthias Yocum…

Pictured is Marion Matthias Calvin Reed who was a grandson of my Matthias Yocum by Matthias Yocum’s daughter Susan E Yocum. Marion M C Reed married Mary Lee Jackson. The photo captures their children, their children’s spouses and their grandchildren. These all look like fine people to me.

Matthias was born in Kentucky in 1780 and died in Franklin County, Alabama in 1870. It is not known where he is buried. Another of Matthias Yocum’s daughters, Mary Ann Yocum, who married John Wesley Allen, was my great-great-great-grandmother on my paternal side. So, if your name connects with Murray, Allen, Isbell, Peebles, Tolbert, Terry, Gregory, Vandiver, Sparks, Yocum, Bryant, Linam, Lucas, Smith, Elkins, Goins, Norwood, Brown, Birdwell, Hollingsworth, McBride, Box, or Harbin, then we are likely related in several directions. Further, the name is also spelled Yoakum, Jochem, and Yokem.

Descendants of Matthias Yocum

Marion Mathias Calvin Reed and Mary Lee Jackson Reed family