Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A historical detour

We said our goodbyes to our family and decided to head for home.  We made an overnight stop at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL.  It is very close to the interstate and makes for a convenient stop both for the Famcamp (campground)  and the base stores.  We were lucky enough to get a spot with some shade and a level pull through site. I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered the article about the lunar eclipse that was occurring overnight, so I decided to take a quick look.  Despite the dense fog in the area, the moon was visible and I managed to get a couple of shots through the fog.  I can understand how earlier civilizations were fearful of these events without the knowledge of what was really occurring.  Luckily, I just found it very interesting.

We also decided that we were going to take a bit of a detour on the way home to absorb some history.  First, we were going to take the National Historic Trail between Montgomery and Selma, AL.  In the sixties, the civil rights movement was growing across the country. In Selma, AL, there was unrest over depriving Black Americans their legal voting rights.  Dallas County, AL was the wealthiest county in the state.  Farming of land owned and controlled by wealthy whites made it very difficult for the African American lease holders to make a living.  These owners did not want their farm tenants to vote, as this would certainly reduce their profits and perhaps cause them to lose control of the political process.  In Lowndes County, AL in 1965, just eighty six white families owned ninety percent of the land in the county.

The stage was set for what was to become a key part of the Civil Rights movement in that decade. 18 Feb 1965, a small group declared that they were going to march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the death of a peaceful demonstrator . They were met on the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the river in Selma by the State Police, who proceeded to drive them back with tear gas and then chased them down on horseback into the streets of Selma where the police continued to beat participants. This came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

Bloody Sunday became a rallying call for those seeking justice.  Martin Luther King and others began a new campaign to gain the attention of Gov Wallace and the government in Montgomery.  This resulted in the march of thousands starting on 21 March, 1965 from Selma to Montgomery with protection from federal troops ordered in by President Johnson. The march to Montgomery took five days.

We drove the historic trail , otherwise known as AL route 80 between the two cities.  There is very little to see of historic interest along the route.  But located along the middle section of the route is the National Interpretive Center with artifacts and historical information about the march and the civil rights movement.  They also have a very informative short documentary film.  This center also notes that after the passage of the voting rights act, many of the tenant farmers were forced off the farms by the landowners and for some time were forced to live in what came to be known as tent cities.

Our tour of Selma itself was a bit of a bust.  The streets were very crowded and had limited parking.  The one place that was high on my list was the Old Live Oak Cemetery located on the west side of town.  Unfortunately,  there was no parking anywhere near the cemetery and we decided to move on.

One of the things that we have found over and over in our travels is that you can nearly always find something interesting that we have never even heard of before getting to an area.  One of the brochures we picked up was for Old Cahawba. Old Cahawba was the first state capitol of Alabama.  The site was approved by the territorial convention in Nov 1818, even though it was just wilderness and located along the banks of the Cahaba River where it met the Alabama River.  Once approved the town was laid out in grid formation with the lots selling out to the highest bidders quickly.  Most of the buildings including the state capitol, businesses and homes were completed quickly.  Almost immediately, there were groups demanding that the capitol be moved.  At times of flooding, there was often no access to the town from the outside.

It became the functioning capital in 1820, but was not popular with many of the state's residents due to its reputation for flooding and unhealthy "airs".  In 1825, there was a major flood with portions of the capital building collapsing along with damage to many other buildings.  In early 1826, the Capital was moved to Tuscaloosa. It remained a county seat until the end of the Civil War.  Later it was occupied by newly emancipated slaves. Soon after that is was suddenly and mysteriously abandoned.

Today the town is considered an archeology site, as nearly all above ground evident of the town is gone.  It is a bit eerie to drive the streets with map in hand to observe where many large buildings once stood and now just land and a few hints of what once existed. We walked some of the streets to get a feel for the town, but at one point we were walking along a small road to the oldest burial ground before there was a formal cemetery, when a worker stopped his truck to advise to keep a sharp eye for copper head snakes.  He said he had killed a large one very near where we were standing and that they were all over the place.  We continued walking for a bit, but since we were in shorts and sneakers and no walking stick, we went back to the motorhome and drove to the rest of the sites and always carried the walking stick as we hiked the various points of interest.

Remains of a river plantation along the Cahaba river:

The Capital area:

Brick church and schoolhouse:

 1852 face well head:

 Burial ground-this was located at the far east of the settlement and I could find no explanation about it.  Since some of the graves are dated after the establishment the "new"cemetery, I believe these may be the graves of slaves and former slaves who may not have been allowed to be buried in the cemetery.  This is a large area with graves sort of scattered around, so we only went a short ways along the trail due to the snake warning.
The "new" cemetery was opened in 1851 and has been vandalized over the years.

A wooden church had collapsed, but the wood and bricks were recovered along with pieces of stain glass from the windows. The church has been relocated and reconstructed near the entrance to the town.

Lastly, one building remains mostly intact.  It was originally slave quarters.  This property and the surrounding lands were purchased by a Confederate soldier named Samuel Kirkpatrick, who was a farmer by trade after the war.  He removed buildings from the other properties and returned it to farm land. They lived in the plantation house and the family owned the property until 1940.  In 1935 the main house was destroyed by fire.  The family added columns to the remaining former slave quarters and lived there until 1940.

The end


Paul and Marti Dahl said...

Hard to fathom that the civil rights battles occurred during our lifetimes. Even harder to understand how this hatred came about in the first place.

A dark stain on our nation's history.

Nan Talley said...

I wonder what MLK would say about the demonstrations in St. Louis. Would he approve or encourage a peaceful resolution>

Sherry said...

We visited the National Historical Center and thought it was one of our favorite stops ever. It is so well done and so powerful especially if you were even a child at the time. What an education for anyone not old enough to remember this travesty. Great pictures. Thanks for taking me back there.

Laura Skjenna said...

In some ways I wonder if much has changed...

I was glad not to see any photos of snakes - I guess they kept out of sight.

Erin Erkun said...

Thanks for taking us on the historic trail ... we didn't get to do that when we were staying in Montgomery last year.

Judith Bell said...

I found that Nat'l Historical Center to be the second most moving place I've visited. The first was Andersonville and the Prisoner of War Museum. Hard places to visit, but well worth it.

Bob and Jo said...

Thanks for the history tour.

George Yates said...

A great tour , thanks for taking us along.

George Yates said...

Nice detour.

Paul and Marsha Weaver OCT. 17, 2009 said...

The lunar eclipse photo is fantastic!

I remember reading about Bloody Sunday. What a terrible time and embarrassing time in our history.

Thanks for the great tour of Old Cahawba. I love looking at our history and imaging what it must have been like to live there.

Sue B said...

a tour..thanks for bringing us all along.

Rick Doyle said...

Thanks for such an interesting tour and history lesson. It's still hard to believe that kind of hatred happened such a short time ago.

Your lunar eclipse shot is one of the best I've seen!