Stagecoaches were important in our past

Published 5:35 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2013

While I was trying to arrive at a theme for this week’s column, a friend of mine stepped up and solved my problem.

Woodrow Pettis furnished me a copy of his “Heritage 92,” a historical tabloid published by The Atmore Advance in 1992. Actually, it was a dual publication by The Advance and sister newspaper, The Brewton Standard. His copy of this paper was in relatively good condition.

Looking through this publication, I found several interesting stories and photos of Atmore’s past, and Brewton’s, too.

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One story of interest was the story of Jack Springs. As most of you know, this is one of our more popular streets leading north of Atmore. But it is also a highway penetrating through Lottie into north Baldwin County. The road was prized in early days as a main stagecoach mail route, with coaches running twice a week from Montgomery to Mobile and serving our area with two rest stops. During those days, according to the story, “Jack Springs had nothing but rough, muddy roads and crude log buildings including an Inn. A stage would announce its arrival with the sounding of an old cow horn, which meant get fresh horses ready.”

It got its name because of so many fresh water springs situated along the road and the fact that Jack Keller was a popular stage driver. Other area rest stops included Lomax’s Homestead and Cruit’s Homestead.

Because the road had so many fresh water springs, the Indians used it earlier as a camp ground.

Another story of interest was the one about McCullough’s thriving town in the early 1900s.

The Heritage issue quoted news from the Atmore Record’s Dec. 16, 1916, edition. Among the stores in McCullough in those days were “Sawyer Mercantile Company, T.J. Shiver, L.H. Driskell, Wise Hardware Company, J.C. Shepard , Prestwood Brothers, W.J. Donelly, S.K. Ellison Insurance Agency and Espy Drug Store, which was described as having an elaborate and appealing soda fountain. Two professional men were prominent there, Dr. C.E. Sellers and A. Taimby, D.D.S.

A wide half-page photo of the old crook Hotel was also in that edition.

This two-story frame structure was built by W.M. Carney in the early 1900s and operated as the Carney hotel until it was sold to George Crook, father of Dr. S.M. Crook in 1924. Later, it was known as the Norman Hotel and Burton Hotel. A sign displayed on the lawn, “Up In Norman’s Arms,” was quite popular at that time. This huge and stately structure was torn down in 1960 to make way for The Bank of Atmore.

Other items that caught my interest in that paper were the advertisement of local stores in 1992. Some of those advertisers were Gerlach Main Street Grille, Smith’s Small Engines, The Decorating Center owned by John and Martha Sharpless, Gray Oil Company, Maxwell-Haley-Castleberry Real Estate and insurance, Builders Hardware, Brantley Tires, Atmore Goodyear, Robinson Funeral Home, Vanity Fair, Green Lawn Pharmacy, Gandy Oil Company, Snyder’s Furniture and Swift Lumber Company.

By the way, I will have more news from stories and advertisers in this 1992 publication in my column next week.

Now, here is an item of interest that some of you may have never really thought about. You know all this chatter about Nick Saban leaving Alabama and going to this college and that college? Well, two weeks ago the talk among University of Texas fans were “bring us a fast break, quick huddle, Jack Rabbit good recruiting coach like the ones at Oregon, Baylor, Texas A&M and AUBURN.” Did I say Auburn? Indeed I did. You see, Gus Malzahn is fast becoming highly recognizable for his successful coaching methods. In fact I would not be surprised to see him named National Coach of the Year, considering his turning the Tigers from a 2012 disaster to a top 10 football team.

Why would Malzahn be such a popular coach for the Longhorns in the event they decide to dump the old conventional coaching style of Mack Brown? Here’s why. Fans want their teams to be like Oregon, Baylor and now Auburn. Look at the teams ESPN reporters are talking about these days. Look at which teams are getting more TV viewers and more highlights. And Malzahn is right there at the top of the list of coaches with teams in this category.

I have been particularly reading Internet articles about him on Texas websites, as well as other Internet sites. He and the Baylor coach are perhaps at the top of the list right now as mentors of exciting and creative college football teams. But, to say he will be drawn away to another college is not for me to say. Who knows when and why a coach will take a job at another institution?

I do know his efforts have generated the Auburn Tigers into a top 10 position in the rankings this week. And certain schools looking for innovative new coaches across the country know this too.

Next week we will take a look at more news and events from days gone by.


You can email Lowell McGill at