Fact and Fiction of the Free State of Winston

Note: Fact and Fiction of the Free State of Winston was prepared and printed in a limited edition for distribution on the occasion of the celebration of the 100th birthday of Winston County in 1950. "To John B. Weaver a native son -- beloved and respected -- this booklet is affectionately dedicated"

Winston is situated in the northwest section of the State of Alabama, and is bounded on the north by Franklin and Lawrence counties, and on the south by Walker, on the east by Cullman, and on the west by Marion. The county is rectangular in shape, extending thirty miles east and west and twenty-one miles north and south with a total area of 630 square miles. It has an elevation ranging from 500 to 1500 feet above sea level. It belongs to the Coal Measures region and its topography ranges from rolling and hilly to rough and mountainous. It is rich in mineral deposits and coal mining is one of the important industries. The soils of the county are characteristic of the Appalachian Highlands. Many creeks, Sipsey and Clear, flowing into the Black Warrior, water the county. Much of Winston is included in the National Forest where oaks, poplar, beech, holly, chestnut, gum, hemlock, and hickory abound.

The first white people came to Winston County during the Revolutionary War, followed the Indian trails, made friends with the Red men, and lived under bluffs at first. According to L.D. Miller’s History of Alabama, the following Indian tribes were here: "The Cherokees, Creeks, and Chickasaws, each claimed indefinite parts of this territory (Winston) and probably used it as a common hunting ground."

The first permanent settlers came from North Carolina in 1814, settling near the present site of Lynn. Other settlements were made soon after in different sections of the County by settlers from Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana, Louisiana, and even from as far north as Rhode Island. Richard McMahan located near where Haleyville now is; Peter Ingle settled near Nauvoo, and was the father of "Andy" Ingle who was the father of Double Springs, and who died here in 1896.

The "Byler Road" was completed through this section about 1820 by John Byler, and connected the Tennessee Valley with Tuscaloosa via what later became Haleyville, Delmar, and Natural Bridge.

All this time Winston was a part of Blount and Tuscaloosa counties. In 1824 when Walker County was carved, Winston was included, and remained a part of Walker until 1850, when on February 12, by an act of legislature was created almost entirely out of north Walker, a county named Hancock in honor of Governor John Hancock, of Massachusetts, of Revolutionary fame. The county seat was Old Houston, east of Brushy Creek, about 3 miles northeast of present Houston. Then on January 22, 1858, Hancock county was changed to Winston, honoring ex-governor John A. Winston, and the following commissioners were appointed to organize the county and locate the "seat of justice": John Hill, John W. Blackwell, Oran Davis, John Jones, James Vest, Daniel Speigles, and John Cargell.

On January 30, 1858 an act was passed to locate the county site of Winston County, which act authorized the Sheriff of said county to hold an election in every precinct of said county on first Monday in May, 1858, giving 10 days notice in time and place of such election, "which shall be conducted as any general election."

One stipulation was that Houston be one of the places voted on, and the following commissioners were selected to choose the other place to be voted on: A.J. Judge, John Taylor, John W. Allen, Michael Dodd, Thomas J. Harville, Sam Wiley, and Deddy Lane. The election resulted in the removal of the county site from Old Houston east of Brushy to the present Houston where it remained from 1859 to 1884 when it was moved to Double Springs, by majority vote of the people, under the supervision of Commissioners John W. Wilson, Thomas Wadsworth, William Penn, Francis Revis, William R. Cole, Riley Bonds, John C. Long, Felix McLain, Anderson Ward, Isiah Hopson, Henry Weaver, and Thomas Patrage.

Second Court House at Double Springs

Double Springs is still the county seat of Winston County, It is located in the center of the county; on Clear Creek and on the headwaters of a branch of the Sipsey; about 10 miles east of Delmar, its nearest railroad shipping point, and about 25 miles north of Jasper. Population: 1880—100; 1910—225.

The Winston Herald, a Democratic weekly newspaper established in 1880, was published here until September 1945, when it was taken over the Advertiser-Journal, Haleyville, Alabama.

It is the site of the Winston County High School, built in 1907.

The city was incorporated June 17, 1943 with Rev. A.B. Curtis as first mayor.

Double Springs received its name from the two springs located there, and is the second largest town.

Haleyville is the largest town and principal shipping point. It is in the northwestern part of the county, located on the I.C. Railroad. Altitude—915 feet. Population: 1910—1,111; 1940—2,427.

It was incorporated February 28, 1889. The town was named for its first merchant and postmaster: C.L. Haley. Its first settlers were the Haley, Roden, Taylor, and Davis families. It has a city hall erected in 1913. The present mayor is V.H. Albright (in 1950).

Addison, the third incorporated town in Winston County, was formerly known as Cobbs Store. It has a post office, schools, churches, and is one of the oldest communities in the county.

Lynn is a small town in west Winston located on the Southern Railroad, and was named for John Lynn, descendant of a Revolutionary soldier.

Delmar and Natural Bridge are also located in the western section on the Southern Railroad. Delmar was formerly known as "Frog Level." Natural Bridge was formerly known as "Low Die."

Natural Bridge is one of the scenic spots of the county, with the natural bridge comparing in beauty to the great Natural Bridge of Virginia. People have journeyed from many states to view its beauty.

This is the lumber and coal mining section of the county.

Arley is located in the eastern part of the county and is a rich farming section. The first consolidated school in Winston County was located here. They have a post office and a large school.

One other town in the county has a post office. This community is known as Houston. It is the former county site. The old jail built there in the 1850’s is still standing.

Winston was settled by the followers of Andrew Jackson. It was Democratic from the beginning until 1861. During Jackson’s administration South Carolina passed the Nullification Act. Our people were with Jackson and against South Carolina, Calhoun, and Nullification.

The Democrats controlled the County from 1801 to 1861, with the exception of 12 years. There was never a day from the beginning of Washington’s administration until March 4, 1861, that the South did not have the President or Vice-President, and during Jackson’s first administration the South had both the President and Vice-President, Jackson and Calhoun. The people here then were proud of it, Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats.

Why then did Winston change her politics during the war?

Winston had only 14 slave holders with 122 slaves in 1860. Less than 5 percent were slave owners.

The Southern Democrats bolted the regular Democratic nominee, Stephen A. Douglas, in 1860, because the platform and Douglas did not agree to permit the slave owners to carry their slaves into free territory where the people had voted it out. The bolters nominated a slave owner, or sympathizer, John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, and Lincoln was elected President. The people of Winston supported the regular Democratic nominee, Mr. Douglas.

When Lincoln was elected the Southern states began to secede.

In Winston, when the election was held on December 24, 1860, to elect delegates to the secession convention, "Chris" Sheats was the Jefferson-Jackson Democratic candidate who told the people that if he were elected he would "vote against secession, first, last, and all of the time."

He was elected by a good majority and kept faith with his people. Mr. Sheats with 22 other delegates refused to sign the secession resolutions. When he returned to Winston County the latter part of January 1861, the weather was bad, as were the roads.

However, about June 1, 1861, a number of prominent citizens of Winston County met at Houston, the county seat, and held a consultation; at the conclusion of which it was decided to have a "mass meeting" at Looney’s Tavern on July 4, 1861, to discuss the situation, and to see what action should be taken.

Early Street Scene of Double Springs

This decision being agreed to, six men volunteered to ride six days to let the people know about it, to publicize the meeting that they might have a good turn-out. Hence, they rode for six days, six men in different directions and sections; all over Winston County, south Lawrence, northwest Blount, west Marshall, north Walker, northeast Fayette, east Marion, and southeast Franklin Counties.

The Looney’s Tavern mass meeting was held as planned and as advertised on July 4, 1861, at which more than 2500 people were present form the counties aforesaid.

A.B. Moore’s History of Alabama Volume 1, page 543 says:

"Meetings and conventions were held in Fayette, Marion, Winston, and counties to the north in which a desire for neutrality was expressed."

At the said mass meeting at Looney’s Tavern, July 4, 1861, Hon. "Chris" Sheats was the principal speaker. A committee on resolutions was appointed. When the committee reported it presented some resolutions which were overwhelmingly approved. The substance of the resolutions were as follows:

1st. We commend the Hon. Chas. C. Sheats and the other representatives who stood with him for their loyalty and fidelity to the people whom they represented in voting against secession, first, last, and all of the time.

2nd. We agree with Jackson that no state can legally get out of the union; but if we are mistaken in this, and a state can lawfully and legally secede or withdraw, being only a part of the Union, then a county, any county, being a part of the state, by the same process of reasoning, could cease to be a part of the state.

3rd. We think that our neighbors in the South made a mistake when they bolted, resulting in the election of Mr. Lincoln, and that they made a greater mistake when they attempted to secede and set up a new government. However, we do not desire to see our neighbors in the South mistreated, and, therefore, we are not going to take up arms against them; but on the other hand, we are not going to shoot at the flag of our fathers, "Old Glory," the Flag of Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson. Therefore, we ask that the Confederacy on the one hand, and the Union on the other, leave us alone, unmolested, that we may work out our political and financial destiny here in the hills and mountains of northwest Alabama.

On reading the second resolution, Uncle "Dick" Payne, a Confederate sympathizer, one of the few present, sitting back in the audience made the following remark, "Oh, Oh, Winston secedes!" "The Free State of Winston!"

From that date, it has been "The Free State of Winston."

It is clear from the foregoing that the people in this section of Alabama wanted neutrality, and endeavored to pursue that course.

The people not only desired neutrality. When the Confederate Cavalry from other counties came into Winston County, arrested the single men over 18 years of age, as well as the married men, under the "Conscript Act," carried them to jail in other counties and gave them only five days to make up their minds to go and fight for the Confederacy, or to be shot in the back, it did not take long for our people to change from an attitude of neutrality to one of indignation and hostility.

First Jail at Double Springs

Winston has continued to do its part up through the years for peace and harmony in our nation.

The first soldier from Winston County killed in World War I was Pvt. George Harrison Whitehead #1342355. He was killed in action while serving as an Infantryman with the A.E.F. in France, October 1918, 121st Infantry, Company H.

John Hoggle, #1346779, Pfc. Engrs. Company D, 123 Infantry of Delmar, Alabama was our hero from Winston County. He received the Distinguished Service Cross April 8, 1919. He was cited for Distinguished Conduct in bridging the Meuse River at Dunsun, Meuse, November 4, 1918. He was in Meuse Argonne Offensive October 5 and November 18, 1918. He was also in St. Mehiel offensive September 1918.

He enlisted at Double Springs, Alabama, September 20, 1917 at the age of 30 ½ years. He was a miner before enlisting in the service of his country.

Winston County suffered great loss in lives during World War II. Russell Wade of Houston, Alabama was the first one.

The third Senatorial and seventh Congressional districts furnished the first casualty and here of both World War I and World War II. Kelly Ingram—World War I and Russell Wade—World War II.

(Winston also has boys in the Korean War at the present time and will continue to take and do its part in everything good in the future.)

In the beginning of Winston County it had four churches. Two Methodist and two Baptist. The largest Methodist church, which had a seating capacity of one hundred, was located at Littleville near Haleyville. The other, with a seating capacity of 50, was located at Falls City. The first Baptist church was and still is New Prospect near Haleyville. It was organized in 1824 or just sixteen years after the first one in Alabama.

New Prospect could justly be called the mother of most all the churches in the surrounding territory.

The other Baptist church was near Falls City, probably Bethlehem, which still exists.

Sardis Number one, three miles north of Lynn, probably existed in the 50’s or soon after, because one Nancy Barton, born 1844, was buried there, at the age of 18, in 1862. Other graves there show great age and the information handed down through the generations seems conclusive to that effect.

The church houses in the early days were built of logs and not very comfortable. They were lighted with pine knots. They were placed near the end of the house where the preacher stood so he could see the Scripture and hymns.

A primitive Baptist church named Antioch, where the Union Grove Baptist Church now stands, about eight miles west of Double Springs, existed in the early days of the county. People attended this church prior to the Civil War. It was built of logs. Some six or eight men prepared and brought the logs and built the walls. At this time some of the brethren disagreed and they were not only brethren in the Lord, but brethren in the flesh. So one of them counted his rightful part of logs and went privately and took his part from the wall. This left the building in a rather awkward condition for worship.

People were just folks then and folks are just people yet.

On October 9, 1874 the Baptists had ten churches in the county and organized into an association. They met at Rock Creek Church and named it Clear Creek Baptist Association. Rev. Thomas M. Martin was elected moderator. Rev. James Hilton, clerk.

In 1883 there were about 700 members. In 1950 the Baptists have 43 churches with 5,917 members.

At the present time, Winston County churches are not only Baptists and Methodists, but consist of many other denominations.

One of the outstanding Baptist ministers of Winston County in 1950 is Rev. J.M. Burns, of Haleyville, Alabama. He furnished quite a bit of information for this sketch and is an inspiration to all who meet him.

Early School Building

The schools in Winston County were very small at the beginning. The county had 4 common schools. Three of these had eighteen pupils each and one had twenty. They only had one teacher each.

The first two teachers were Jersey Lott and William Looney.

In 1950 we have seventeen white school units and one colored unit, six thousand pupils, and one hundred fifty-nine teachers with an average salary of $1850.00 yearly.

Items of Interest

The three first officers of Winston County were: Willis Farris (1st sheriff, 1850), John W. Blackwell (1st probate judge, 1850), and T. DeGraffenreid (1st circuit clerk, 1850).

Absalom Little was Representative in 1858 from Winston County, and was the grandfather of Mayor Cooper Green of Birmingham, Alabama. 75% of the population in 1940 lived on farms. There was one negro farmer in 1947.

In 1850 there were 231 families with an average of more than six to the family.

Population, 1850—1,482 whites—62 slaves, making a total of 1,544. Seven families owned slaves in 1850, namely: John Barker (2 slaves), Jim Tittle (3 slaves), Allen McClain (8 slaves), Murray DeGraffenreid (5 slaves), William Hewlett (1 slave), John Jones (1 slave), and Oran Davis (42 slaves).

In 1850 there were 58 heads of families born in Alabama, Tennessee 56, North Carolina 39, Georgia and South Carolina 25 each, Virginia 16, Kentucky 3, Pennsylvania 2, Indiana, Louisiana, and Rhode Island 1 each, and 4 were unknown, living in Winston County.

The first mail line was from Moulton by Walker Court House to Tuscaloosa, March 1829. (Taken from Statues at Large. Vol. 4, page 225.)

The first post office in Winston County was Thorn Hill, 1836 or 1837. Thomas Thorn was the first postmaster. It was located near Haleyville. Clear Creek Falls and Houston were next in 1850. Clear Creek Falls’ first postmaster was Benjamin Boteler. Houston’s first postmaster was David W. Pettus. Littleville followed in 1857, with C.M. Little as postmaster. Larissa, west of Lynn in 1859, with A.J. Ingle, postmaster. Winston County now has the following post offices: Double Springs, Haleyville, Addison, Arley, Houston, Delmar, Natural Bridge, and Lynn.

An act to establish certain election precincts therein named Section 29 and be it further enacted that there shall be established in the county of Walker (now Winston) the following additional election precincts: at the home of Wyatt Cheatham on Clear Creek, where said Cheatham’s turn-pike crosses the sand. One at William Brown’s on Blackwater. One at Matthew Payne’s on Sipsey near Cheatham road. One at Eldridge Mallard’s on Byler road. Approved January 13, 1827. Taken from Acts 1827, pages 23-26. A voting place was established at Jacob Pruitt’s Haleyville, 1828.

In the early days of 1880, Capt. Ab Little, Geo. Baird, and W.R. Adkins went to Jasper with two ox wagons and brought back a small printing outfit which they bought from L.B. Musgrove. They started a paper at Houston. In April of that same year, Mr. Adkins bought out the other two interests and turned the plant over to his son, George Adkins, then ten years old.

A Legend of Clear Creek Falls
By Charles D. Hudgins

Hast thou ever stood at the noon of night, when heaven’s candles were
Burning bright, and round full moon was riding high and
Chasing juno across the sky?
I say, hast thou ever, when the cock calls,
Stood at the foot of clear creek falls, alone, and watched for the
Spirit twain whose flight to the eternal realms was taken
From the deep pool, as I’ve been told who was skilled in
Legends old?

You have not! Well, go and stand at night when the air is crisp
And the stars are bright, and watch for spirits of the fell,
And then return, if thou canst, and tell what thou has seen.
And if no sprite plunged over the falls to greet the sight,
At least thou’lt own God never planned a work than this so sublimely
Grand. For then the mellow moonbeams play and dance in a wall
Of silvery spray, and deep caverns there around with a
Tumultuous voice resound, while strange, fantastic shadows creep
Under the hemlocks that fringe the steep, just as they did on a
Summer night when the soul of Allulla took its flight from that
Deep pool, and her lover gave his manly form to the whirling wave.
While Venus, from her throne on high, looked down with an
Approving eye and called them to the realms above, as with a
Braid of angel’s hair she twined their souls together there.
For as on earth, in heaven the light of love is Virtue’s beacon
Bright. It flashed from Eve’s celestrial eyes on flowery beds of
Paradise, and as our first grandparent felt its power, and at its
Altar knelt, so man still kneels and owns its sway, and will
Till earth shall pass away.

And yet how often love has led its votary to its dying bed,
When stern, parental hands prevent a union of two souls intent
On journeying thro’ life side by side and O'er death’s
Mysterious tide. And thus it was--so I’ve been told,
Love brought to death two hearts of gold, long ere the "Paleface"
Strode these hills and drank from Winston’s sparkling rills.
Allulla was an Indian maid, of radiant beauty, it is said,
Whose sire, a Cherokee renouned, upon a Choctaw warrior frowned.
Whose manly suit had won the love of his fair daughter; and he
Strove by methods stern to draw the dart cupid had wafted to
Her heart. But all in vain! The maiden gave her whole soul
To her Choctaw brave, and they together sought to flee to his
Far lodge beside the sea where never chilling blasts had come,
And flowers eternal decked his home.

When it was learned the maid had fled, Tacomah shook his hoary
Head, and called the bravest of his band, and thundered forth
This stern command: "Pursue, and ne’er return again till
Yampo’s blood has dyed the plain!"
‘Twas then the lovers southward bent their steps, until the day
Was spent, and then rested till fair lunas face the eastern welkins
'Gan to grace, when, hand in hand, again they flew, Thro’ the
Dark forest, dank with dew, all thankful for the shades of night,
That hid them from pursuer’s sight.
For well they knew avenging wrath was following on their tortuous
Path, and if o’ertaken the warrior's eyes no more would greet
Floridian skies.

At length on a Clear Creek's band they stood and viewed its darkly
Rushing flood, for it was angry then, and high; And hark! A
Voice! The chase was nigh. Allulla knew that death was near for
Him she loved. Like frightened deer she glanced first up, then
Down the tide. And, lo, a bark canoe she spied, left by some
Traveler on the shore, and quick begins their journey o’er;
But all to late, for yells resound, while showers of arrows
Fall around. The brave Choctaw drops the stave with which he
Sweeps the angry wave, his life blood gushing from his side, and
The barque drifts adown the tide, bearing the living freightage
O’er the fall--and they are seen no more.

The Chieftan, when he learned his child had perished ‘neath the
Waters wild, cursed his own fierce, revengeful mood, and sought
The forest's solitude; and aimless roamed until one day,
He stood and watched the sunbeams play against that e’er descending
Wall of rushing water, Clear Creek's Fall, and there
Remained till orbs of night replaced the suns more glorious
Light; in trem'lous tones his voice he reared, and sang a
Requiem for the maid whose life for love's sweet sake was paid.
And these lines his sorrow poured for her whose mem'ry
He adored:

"Sweet maid of the mountains, bright angel of light
How sad is the world since thy pure spirit fled
To the depths of yon river, away from my sight,
When cataracts thunder above thy fair head,
And fishes delight in thy presence so rare and polish their
Scales in thy glorious hair.

"Yes, sad is the world, and a desert my home since thou hast
Departed no more to return; and, broken in spirit, I carelessly
Roam, while the flames of remorse unceasingly burn. And often
When slumber enchains me I hear thy gentle reprovings fall soft
On my ear.

"But sweet by thy dreamings deep under the lee: and long may the
Tales of thy virtues be told, that maids and their lovers may
Emulate thee, and value their ‘throthal more highly than gold;
For love is a gift from heaven sent down by an angel of light,
Earth’s virtues to crown.

"And tho’ thy dark tresses are straying tonight o’er the breast
Of thy hero, on whose arm thy beauteous head, with virgin delight
Is pillowed secure from intrusion of harm. Yet I know thy pure
Spirit is floating above and sipping delight from the goblet of

The singer’s voice was suddenly stilled, for lo! a sight appeared
That chilled his very blood, as o’er a tide, a ghostly barque did
Seem to ride, bearing a warrior and a maid, whose queenly arms
Were stretched for aid one moment; then the cruel wave bore them
Triumphant to a grave. The old chieftan kneeling there, forgiveness
Sought of God, in prayer. Until the eastern sky was
Grey, when he in sorrow turned away and sought his home; and
Since that night, when e’er the full moon throws its light
Straight down upon the rushing tide at the mid-hour, twain
Shadows glide over the falls, while softly rolls an anthem to
Their passing souls, and slow ascending, soars on high and
Seems to mount into the sky.

A Legend of Clear Creek Falls

Clear Creek Falls, situated in the southern portion of Winston County, Alabama, is perhaps as fine an example of unbridled power as can be found in any state. There are two of these falls, about one-fourth of a mile apart. At the upper fall the water tumbles down a distance of thirty-eight feet; at the lower fall the descent is forty-two feet. These falls, if properly harnessed, could be made to generate enough electricity to turn every wheel now in operation in Alabama, and will doubtless some day be a great source of wealth. -- From State Commissioner of Agriculture, Culver's Book on Alabama.

Charles D. Hudgins was a resident of Double Springs, for approximately twenty years -- from about 1888 until about 1908, occupying the hill where the A.B. Burdick home is now, and was an able lawyer of that day.

Clear Creek Falls

Hollis Tidwell, Chairman
Horace Glenn
Dorthen Wadsworth
* * *
PETE RAY, Representative
L.H. McDONALD, Probate Judge
C.D. COVINGTON, Tax Assessor
SELVA MOODY, Tax Collector
BOB MOORE JR., Circuit Judge
WAYNE WEAVER, Circuit Solicitor
JOHN NICHOLS, Circuit Clerk
BOYCE ALBRIGHT, Supt. of Education