A trip through time

Published 10:12 am Monday, November 19, 2012

Above, Atmore resident Nancy Karrick gives members of the Leadership Atmore class a tour of Williams Station Cemetery, in character as the widow, Mrs. Stewart Thursday morning. The class spent the day touring some of Atmore’s historic sites and learned how the town was formed.


The history of Atmore came very alive for the members of the 2012-13 Leadership Atmore class Thursday as they attended the history of Atmore session of the program.

Bonnie Bartel-Latino was part of the historical festivities on Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church, where she performed a historical re-enactment as Mrs. Carney, the wife of William Marshall Carney, who is known as the father of Atmore. She covered the history of the town’s name change, which occurred in 1897. Bartel-Latino explained the townspeople wanted to name it Carney, but there was already a nearby town named Carney. As an alternative, Bartel-Latino said Carney’s daughter, Laura, suggested they name the town Atmore after Carney’s friend C.P. Atmore, who died without ever having visited the town.

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Bartel-Latino said Atmore was the General Passenger Agent in Louisville, Ky. He was influential enough, she explained, to have his obit featured in the New York Times. The obit read, “C.P. Atmore drops dead.”

Lesser known to most residents is the fact that Trinity Episcopal Church was originally called “Church of the Heavenly Rest,” also suggested by Laura Carney after another church in New York.

“I imagine 112 years from now this church is still gonna’ be here,” Bartel-Latino said while playing the character.
Following the live history lesson at Trinity, class members took a walk across the street to the Williams Station Cemetery where they were given another lesson from yet another of Atmore’s famous late citizens – the widow Mrs. Stewart played by Nancy Karrick. Karrick took the group on a tour of the cemetery, pointing out what citizens were laid to rest there before Jerry Gehman took over to explain the role trains played in Atmore’s formation.

Class members next piled together for a hayride that took them on a tour of some of Atmore’s most historic sites, including the Boy Scout Hut, Watson Cabin, the Peavey-Webb Building, First United Methodist Church, as well as several other locations. At each stop, another famous Atmore citizen, played by current Atmore residents, appeared to tell the group the story of the particular site.

Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Director Sheryl Vickery coordinates Leadership Atmore and said during Thursday’s event she felt the class was gaining valuable knowledge about the place they call home.

“I think they’re having fun and learning a lot they didn’t know,” Vickery said.

The group finished out Thursday’s history session with lunch at Gaines Chapel, a history of African Americans in and around Atmore and a trip to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians newly-opened museum.

Vickery said the overall goal of bringing the class members closer to their community was certainly achieved.

“It went really well overall,” Vickery said. “Looking at the evaluations, a lot of them said they had lived here all there life and didn’t know a lot of this. It just makes them connect closer to their community when they know the history of it.”