Early History of the Free State of Winston

Submitted by: Robin Sterling

The Haleyville Advertiser-Journal, June 4, 1931

What is now Winston County, Alabama, was once a part of other counties. It was a part of Marion from the time Alabama became a state in 1819 to 1824, Walker from 1824 to 1850, Hancock from 1850 to 1858 and then took the name of Winston in honor of Governor Winston.

Settlements. At first there were no permanent settlements in Winston County. However there were camping places and trading posts where the white people would stop and trade with Indians.

Peter Ingle and Jim Tittle were among the first white people to make permanent settlement in Winston County. Peter Ingle was born in N.C. in 1765 and came to what is now Winston in 1816, settled near what is now Nauvoo, Alabama. Mr. Ingle was the father of several children who married in the community and his descendants are numerous in and around Nauvoo at the present time. Mr. Tittle came from East Tennessee in 1817, settled near what is now Natural Bridge, Alabama. He, like Mr. Ingle, was the father of several children and their descendants still live in and around Natural Bridge. Berry Dodd came from Georgia in 1823 or 1824. He is the grandfather of the well known Uncle Will and Uncle Lee Dodd.

The old settlers like Mr. Ingle, Mr. Tittle, Mr. Dodd and others tell us that there were some old settlers here as early as 1800 and possibly before the Revolutionary War. Evidence of the early settlers can be found along the banks of the creeks that flow through the County, like Splunge, Blackwater, Brushy and Rock Creek.

Richard McMahan, who settled near what is now Haleyville, Alabama, was the first one to secure title to land. About thirty days after Alabama became a State he went to Huntsville, Alabama, where the Government land office was and brought back Winston County’s first Patent to land.

Question of Secession. Andrew Jackson, the Indian War hero, was in the mind of the people of Winston County as no other man had been up to 1860 and possibly to this day. They thought that what he said was just that way and could be no other. In 1832 when S.C. drew up the nullification papers Jackson said “That no state had the right to secede.” The people of Winston County heartily agreed. They were the sole followers of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, had always been Democrats and had nothing else in mind. They named their children after Mr. Jackson, Jackson is a name that many Republicans bear today, as the Bartons, Roses, Curtis and Mobiles as well as others. Winston County people voted for Douglass in 1860. Not Lincoln nor Breckinridge.

W.L. Yancey was a great southern leader and was for the South first, last and all the time. But the people of Winston County did not agree with him on the question of slavery. They believed with Douglass in squatter sovereignty. When Yancey bolted the Democratic party in 1860 at Baltimore because he could not get the party to put in the Alabama Platform, slaves should be allowed to be carried into any state or territory that the owner saw fit, he, with many others, left the hall, rented another, organized a new party, and nominated Breckinridge, from Kentucky, for their candidate for the presidency of the United States. Winston County said, “We believe with Jackson. (Not Lincoln).”

Secession was a political question in Winston in 1860. The candidate for representative C.C. Sheets ran on the platform “That if you will elect me I will fight secession first, last and all the time” and was elected. When the question came up in the house he did fight it along with others. Sheets lost and affirmed that his county (Winston) would take no sides, but would be neutral. Sheets returned home and announced that there would be a mass meeting held at Looney’s Tavern on July 4th, 1861. Andy Ingle, Henry Weaver, Tom Hughes and three others rode horseback for a week spreading the news so that everybody that so desired could be there. They met, had speaking in the morning and appointed a committee on resolutions.

Report of the Committee. Be it resolved by the people of Winston County, Alabama, in mass meeting assembled at Looney’s Tavern on July 4th, 1861, that:

First. We endorse and commend our representative, Hon. C.C. Sheets, for his action in voting against secession.

Second. We believe with Jackson that no state can legally get out of the Union. However, if a state can on its own motion, because the majority of its citizens so desire it, get out of the Union, ceasing to be in the compact, then by the same process of reasoning a county, any county could on its own motion, if a majority of the people of that county so desire it, legally cease to be a part of that State.

Third. While we do not endorse the action of our fellow citizens in the South in their attempt to destroy the Union, we will not and do not intend to join the Confederacy: neither will we make war upon the Union and fire upon Old Glory, the flag of Washington, of Jefferson, of Jackson and our fathers. Hence we respectfully request both the Union and the Confederacy not to molest us, but to leave us along to work out our own political and financial destiny.

The above request was not kept. The South needed men. She made a conscript law and began to enforce it. Came to Winston County and carried off, against the protest of the people, many young men to become soldiers for the South. The Confederacy killed some of the leaders of the county. Men like the Probate Judge Curtis, Wash Curtis, Joe Curtis, Tom Curtis, Mr. Baughn, Mr. Norris and others. The people were furious, they also killed at sight, organized and flocked to the Union in great numbers. Mr. Bill Looney, known as the Black Fox, carried one bunch of men after another across the line to the Union Army.

Since the war ending in 1865 Winston County has been Republican. L.W. Weaver.