Small Community Tour

Small Community Tours:

1.)  Bellamy

  • Welcome/Introduction: Bellamy was founded by Evan F. Allison and established in 1899 as a sawmill town for the Allison Lumber Company. It was the home of Sumter County’s first hospital.  During its prime, Bellamy had a pressing shop, hotel, shoe shop, library with a telephone office, post office, commissary, filling station, slaughter house, opera house, train depot, gambling house, two recreation halls, two swimming pools (one for whites & one for blacks), and three churches (one for whites & two for blacks. According to tradition, residents decided against naming their town after a prominent citizen or famous person. Instead, they sought out the least respected person in town, Mr. Volney Bellamy, a Union Army veteran, and named the town for him.

    In 1903, the Lumber Company built a small frame structure near the site of the hospital to be used as a school (and a church on Sundays).   The Lumber Company hired and paid the teachers.  The first teacher at the school was Miss Georgia Mellown.   The school eventually moved to a one-room red frame building known as the “Little Red School” which was constructed around 1908.  Between 1914 and 1916, it became a two-teacher school and an additional room was added.   The school year lasted eight months, and the average salary for the teacher was $50 per month.  All the students were allowed to go home for lunch each day. In the 1920s, it became an elementary school (as high schoolers were transferred to Livingston); history states that the school offered grades 1-6.  Mrs. Florence Haynie was teacher & principal for many years until her death in 1939. Miss Lottie Hood began teaching there approx. 1930 and stayed more than 30 years, serving as teacher, manager, director, and custodian. In September 1963, the school finally closed its doors after much of the student population transferred to Livingston.

  1. Site 1: Train Station Depot – Built in ca. 1904 for the Sumter and Choctaw Railroad. Operated by Mr. Woodruff and other town folk.
  2. Site 2: Allison Lumber Administration Building – this building was built ca. 1901 by Evan F. Allison, the founder of Bellamy.  The town of Bellamy was established in 1899 as a sawmill town by the Allison Lumber Company.  The Allison Lumber Company’s wooden Soctum fire tower was built in Bellamy in 1922. It was the first in the State of Alabama, but was torn down in the 1960s.

2.)  Belmont

  1. Welcome/Introduction: Founded in 1832 by Marteniere, one of the Vine and Olive Company founders.  Original spelling, Belmonte, means “Fair Mountains.”
  2. Site 1: Mimosa Ridge – overlooks the beautiful Tombigbee River. Mimosa Ridge has a Wedding Chapel amd five cabins available for rent for family vacations, retreats, weddings.  Other amenities include a catering service, laundry service, outdoor BBQ pits, and walking trails.  It is also five minutes away from Belmont Park and the Demopolis Wildlife Management Area.  For more information, please visit www.mimosaridge.com

3.)  Bluffport

  1. Welcome/Introduction: Bluffport was settled in 1832 by William H. Tolbert from Davidson County, TN. The name Bluffport pays homage to the high bluffs on the Tombigbee River.  Warehouses were built up on the bluffs to house ncoming and outgoing freight for river boats that were vital to the early settlement of Sumter County.  The town, like Gainesville, was known for its shipping industry; it served the area from Sumter County, AL to Lauderdale County, Mississippi. There was a stage coach inn and relay station for the coach line that ran from Linden, AL to Lauderdale, MS. There was also the Bluffport Hotel and the Black Jack Academy. In 1870, the census reported a population of 555 people. Today, Bluffport is considered a ghost town.  All that is left of the town are a few bricks scattered on the white chalk ground, 18 cisterns, an old cemetery and some man-made caves, which were once used to store perishable items such as milk and ice.
  2. Site 1: Quietude Plantation – “Quietude” was originally known as “Jim Hawkins Place” and was built ca. 1842 on County Road 21 by Thomas H. Hawkins.  The home was built in the Greek Revival Plantation style.  It is currently owned by descendants of the original builders.

4.)  Cuba

  1. Welcome:  Cuba was originally called Cuba Station and was located approximately half-way between York and present-day Cuba. The Cuba post office existed prior to 1850, though the present-day site of the town of Cuba was nothing but wilderness. The first man to live in this site was Mr. R.A. Clay, who moved here from Autauga County, AL, with his family and about 100 slaves in 1852.  He purchased all the land which later became present-day Cuba. By 1861, the town was a thriving agricultural community and had a sizeable truck-crop enterprise.  Also during this time, the Southern Railroad was being built. Clay donated land for the railroad right-of-way, built mainly with slave labor. In 1870, Mr. Clay sold half of the town to Mr. Warner Lewis and divided it into lots, with two set aside for the building of the Baptist and Methodist churches. Cuba Baptist Church was organized in 1879 and the original building is still in use.  The Town of Cuba was incorporated in 1890 with Dr. A.L. Vaughan as its first Mayor.  Much of Cuba’s original business center, including a hotel, movie theatre, attorneys’ offices and doctors’ offices, burned in 1947.  All but one of Cuba’s old school buildings are gone: the high school closed in 1945 and was later torn down, Cuba’s Elementary School burned in 1995.  Only the private school remains – it is now the Cuba Museum, which houses a lot of school books and old desks, among other things.
  2. Site 1: Pitts-Beavers-Munoz House (also known as Dr. James Alvis Beavers House) – this lovely ante-bellum home was built ca. 1845 by Dr. J. A. Beavers.  His son A. D. Beavers, who also lived in the home, owned and operated a general mercantile business and a soda fountain in Cuba during the early 1900s.  It is Greek Revival style with Victorian features, and the peak of the house is similar to a “captain’s walk” or “widow’s walk” which at one time was a cupola.  This house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located on Old Livingston Road off of Highway 11.
  3.  Site 2: Ward House – was built ca. 1890 and is located on Railroad Avenue. This house was built by Sergeant David Solomon Ward, who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  It is Country Vernacular with a wrap-around porch and is occupied by the grandchildren of the original builder.
  4. Site 3: Ward-Ganguet-Gray House – a Greek Revival style home, built ca. 1860 by Dr. Henry B. Ward who began the practice of medicine in Cuba and established his general store business in Cuba around 1881.  It is located at 202 Fourth Avenue. This house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  5. Site 4: Cuba Museum – the Cuba Museum houses Cuba memorabilia documenting the history of the town since its beginning.   Of special interest are the photographs of Cuba life since 1852.

5.)  Emelle

  1. Welcome:  Emelle was established in 1912 with the completion of the AT&N Railroad. Mr. Joseph Ed Dial donated the land for the right-of-way, provided the town would be named in honor of his two daughters, Emma and Ella. Emelle actually evolved from three different communities: Ramsey, Central and Burton.  Less than two miles away was Ramsey, named for Captain Ambrose Knox Ramsey who was the president of another railroad running from Mississippi to Tuscaloosa.  The first log cabins built in Emelle were built by David Montgomery Dial, Edward Dial, and William Kerr on a ridge east of Highway 17.  The earliest school in the area on record was a Boy’s College Preparatory School about one mile east of present day Emelle.  The Ramsey School was consolidated with the Central School to become the Emelle Consolidated School.  Emelle has more Century Farms, farms that have been continuously owned by a single family for 100 years or more, than any other comparable area in Sumter County because its early settlers remained in the area.  For example, the first doctor in Emelle was Dr. Benjamin Armistead Jones, a Virginian, and his farm is still owned and run by his descendants.
  2. Site 1: Bethel Memorial Chapel – This sturdy brick Presbyterian chapel is located between Emelle and Sumterville at the intersection of county roads 24 and 74. The present Gothic structure was built in 1908 on the site of the original church as a memorial to the Confederate soldiers of the area. Their records are inscribed on marble plaques on the inside walls of the church.  The church also features a Rose stained glass window; rose windows, also known as Catherine Window (for Saint Catherine of Alexandria), wheel window, or ocular window, are named for their circular and multi-pedaled rose like design and is a characteristic found in churches of the Gothic architectural style. In addition, there is an interesting cemetery in the churchyard containing the graves of several of the founders of the original church. Services are held on the first Sunday in May each year.
  3. Site 2: “Amason-Burton-Elliott House” was built ca. 1840 and is located on Bessie Fuller Road off of County Road 24.  It is one of the few “I” type frame houses surviving in Sumter County.

6.)  Sumterville

  1. Welcome: Sumterville was first known as Patton’s Hill in honor of William S. Patton who lived on the north side of the community.   It was a stagecoach stop between Montgomery and Gainesville.  By 1844, the town had grown large enough to be incorporated, so the name was changed to Sumterville.  At one time, there were eight businesses, an inn (owned by the Webb family), a West Alabama Male Academy, and a Girls Boarding School.   There were also several churches built between 1831 and 1841 including Old Side Primitive Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church (which was moved to Gainesville in 1839).  During the Civil War, the Boys’ Academy was turned into a hospital, and 35 soldiers are buried in unmarked graves in the Methodist Church yard.  As late as 1852, there was a dentist’s office, a drugstore, and a bookstore.  Sumterville was settled close to an old Indian village, and even today, arrow heads, bits of bone, and pieces of pottery can be found on the hill just east of town.  Today, Sumterville is just a few homes and three streets that form a triangle, Summterville Road, Ozment-Bell Road and County Road 20.
  2. Site 2: The Bethel Presbyterian Church was established on September 22, 1835, near Emelle where the Bethel Memorial Chapel now stands.  It was moved to its present location on Ozment-Bell Road (off of County Highway 20) in 1897.  There are extensive church records on the Presbyterian Church dating back to the early 1830s. Prominent among the early congregation members were the Ramseys, the Pattons, the Flemings, the Kerrs, and the Dials.
  3. Site 3: The Sumterville Baptist Church was organized in 1833 at what was then called Patton’s Hill.  It is the second of the two existing antebellum churches in Sumterville.  A notable architectural feature of this church is its original spacious windows which retain their double-hung sashing.  The louvered external blinds also appear to be original.  It is located in Sumterville off of County Road 20.
  4. Site 4: “The Cedars” a unique modified Greek Revival antebellum Plantation was built in 1848 by John Evander Brown.  The two-story front porch is supported by four small square wooden columns on each level.  There are thirteen rooms and the entire house was built of longleaf pine.  The house received its name from the 500 cedars Brown brought from Jones’ Bluff and set out around the house. It is located on Breezon-Nixon Road near Sumterville.

7.)  Epes

  1. Welcome: Epes was incorporated in 1899 and named for Dr. John W. Epes, who donated the right-of-way for Southern Railroad.  Epes was built on the high lime-rock bluffs of the Tombigbee River and around the Great Southern Railroad line.  Standing on top of the bluffs, you could see steamboats, fishermen, and a ferry carrying travelers across the river.  Along the railroad in Epes, you could find cotton compresses, fleecy stables, oil mills, Munger Gins, and the Casey Hotel.  There was one school house which served as a public and private school; five months of the year were for the public school and four months of the year were for the private school.  Located next to a river and a major rail line, the 550 inhabitants of Epes had seven general merchandising stores, two grocery stores, one drug store, and two livery stables to choose from.  Today, the people of Epes are known for their hospitality, and the saying is, “If ever a man gets the Epes mud on his feet once he will come back.”
  2. Site 1: Fort Tombecbe – was erected by the French in 1736-37.  In 1763, the French surrendered the Fort to the British, who renamed it Fort York.  The British abandoned the Fort in 1767.  Then, in 1794, the Spanish built Fort Confederation on the site of the old French fort.  The Spanish withdrew in 1797.  The Choctaw Trading house was moved from St. Stephens in 1816 to a site near the old French Fort on Factory Creek; the Trading Post was closed in 1822.  The Fort site is located on Styes Street off of Main Street.

8.)  Geiger

  1. Welcome: The town of Geiger was incorporated in 1912. W.L. Waller and John H. Pinson, who married sisters of the Geiger family, planned and created Geiger around the A. T. and N. Railroad, which came through the area in 1909.  Skillful and colorful promotional gimmicks went into the development of the town.  One of the biggest promotions was the drawing for free lots and farms.  The town grew very fast.  A block of brick stores was built, and, soon after, the town had a post office, church, bank, hotel, livery stable, bottling works, brick kiln, barber shop, newspaper (The Geiger Times), cotton gin, sawmill, three doctors, and a drug store.  Geiger flourished until the boll weevil came through, destroying the cotton fields and devastating farm life.  Because Geiger’s economy was based on agriculture – specifically cotton, the farms and people began moving away.
  2. Site 1: Geiger School – was built in 1910 and was the first public school in Alabama to provide free transportation.  Its first commencement was in 1913 and lasted three days – Sunday, May 11th to Wednesday, May 14th, 1913.  The two-story brick school served as a consolidated school from 1910 until 1962 and is located on County Highway 32.  The Yakety-Yak Homemakers Club of Geiger bought the building, had it listed in The Alabama Registry of Historical Places, and used the school as a community center until 1992.  At that time the building was in such disrepair that it could no longer be used.  More recently, a campaign was started to make repairs and restore the school to its former glory.
  3. Site 2: “(Pinson) Waller-Gilbert House” was built in 1909 and is located north of County Highway 32.  The house has been home to some of the town’s original founders: John H. Pinson, W. L. Waller, and William L. Gilbert.  It is a two-story turn-of-the-century style home with Greek Revival influences.