By RUSSELL BROWN
Special to Atmore News
It was 1988 when two ladies came together with the idea that their little church was of historic merit and deserved to be noted as such. After a little research, they decided to make the necessary requests and have the church added to a national listings of U.S. historic sites called The National Register of Historic Places. The ladies quickly learned the almost impossible task of making that happen. (I recall once having a conversation with a National Park Ranger, who told me that a single building might be added to the register now days if the first line of the description read something like “Washington slept here.”) The ladies persisted however, and found that that area around their church could be recognized on the register as an entire district which would include the church. However, only an approved organization could make such a request, so The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society was chartered. In 1989, through the society’s effort, the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company Residential Historic District in the old town of Century was added to the national register as the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company Residential Historic District. The district was deemed unique because the town was almost totally built by the Alger-Sullivan Company. Unfortunately, since then most people have largely forgotten about the district.
Satisfied with their initial achievement, the society went on to other things, but with the mission always in mind to preserve things of history from our region. Over the years the society’s collections have grown and today fill our museum rooms with many unique curiosities.
Those who have never had a tour of our museums think that we are only about Century’s past, but this town’s past is a large part of the area’s past. Here are some of the things that a museum guest sees: a steam locomotive from 1915 that pulled logs for 20 years to the sawmill from as far away as Monroeville; an egg X-ray machine; an 1880-era 10 gauge shotgun made in Montgomery by a gunsmith who once supplied the Confederate army; one of only 1,600 combination radios and Victrola record players ever made; a traveling dentist’s tool set from the 1930s; a teacher’s paddle from the Byrneville school when such a thing was still permitted; an abundance of photos of Century High students; marked bricks made at plants that once operated along the Escambia River; a large collection of medical equipment from the 1960 era; hand tools; logging tools; a gas-powered wheeled logging saw from 1950; and a blacksmith shop. One of our newest items is a ROTC honorary brigade colonel uniform worn by Margherita Swift of Atmore at the University of Alabama in 1938 as our country was preparing for WWII.
Tours of the museums are always accompanied with discussions of our local history by a knowledgeable guide. If you would like to visit our museums with your family, call 256-3980 to make an appointment or come by on Saturdays before 2.
Next year will be the 30-year anniversary of our first achievement, creating a historic district. The society has decided to mark this significant event by purchasing a state history marker, a 40-inch wide sign standing almost seven feet tall, which will identify as well as describe the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company Residential Historic District in the old town area of Century. It is hoped by the society that this, along with new improvements in the district, will help generate new interest in the old town. The application to the state has been filed and the Town of Century has agreed to place the marker on Front Street near Jefferson at the old mill site. Finances for the society, as always, are the question. Sales of local interest books and our Sawmill Day meals bring in enough to pay bills, but we need the support and donations of our friends and neighbors also. The majority of funds have been found for the marker effort, but we are still in need of several hundred dollars. If you could help us with a donation toward this project, send it to 610 4th St. Century, Fl. 32535, or call our president at 850-256-3980, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or come by the society on our meeting night or Saturdays. All help will be appreciated.