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PROFILE: Crenshaw through the years

The following article was part of the Profile 2016 special section of The Luverne Journal. The section in its entirety can be found in the March 31 edition of The Luverne Journal.

This year marks a milestone for Crenshaw County that not many nowadays can boast. Since the county’s founding in 1866, Crenshaw has lived, thrived and expanded tremendously, and this year it will celebrate its 150th birthday.

This collection of stories and photos will be used to showcase a few of the families who have lived in Crenshaw for many of those 150 years, and also highlights a few historical sites, monuments and businesses around the county.

The early history of Crenshaw County dates back before 1814 when the territory was part of the Creek Indian Confederacy, but it was officially recognized by the government in 1866. It was determined that the counties surrounding what is now considered Crenshaw County had too many miles in their borders. Crenshaw was then formed from Covington, Pike, Lowndes, Butler and Coffee counties shortly after the Civil War.

A majority of the early settlers of this territory came from Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. However, others came from other sections further north and some from Maryland.

Crenshaw County got its name from the honorable Judge Anderson Crenshaw of Butler County. Crenshaw was born in South Carolina in 1776, and was also a very well-respected member of the community. He was honored in 1866 by the people who remembered him as the namesake of the county.

The first county officials to be elected were George W. Thaggard, probate judge; John R. Snow, sheriff; Francis Cody, circuit clerk; W.T. Massey, tax assessor; and James M. Lawrence, tax collector.

“George W. Thaggard was the first probate judge of Crenshaw County, and he lived in Rutledge,” said Eve Stringer, acting secretary of the Crenshaw County Historical Society. “He surveyed the land for Crenshaw County.”

The Town of Rutledge, as it is currently known, was originally named Barber’s Crossroads before 1867, but was changed to Crenshaw for a brief period of time. The town was elected as the county seat after being named Crenshaw.

Crenshaw also participated in its first state constitutional convention in 1867, and the county sent James H. Howard as the representative.

Soon after, the town was officially named Rutledge on June 10, 1876 in honor of Captain Henry Rutledge of Company H. 59th Alabama Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. who was killed in battle of Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia.

At that time, Luverne was a fairly new town and was officially incorporated by the Alabama government on Feb. 6, 1891. The town received its name from the wife of M.P. Legrand of Montgomery, who had purchased land in the county for a railroad. The following were the first city elected officials were elected for a one-year term: J.O. Sentell, mayor; Dr. J.R. Horn, George A Folmar, G.W. Pope, J.M. Cody and R.P. Fundaburk, councilmen. Fundaburk was also named as the town clerk and treasurer, and G.W. Turner was elected town marshall.

“The first store in Luverne opened on Christmas Day in 1888,” Stringer said.

From March 1876 until May 1893, Rutledge held the county seat. In 1889, Luverne residents began working on getting the county seat moved from Rutledge to Luverne. A political debate occurred and the move of the county seat was voted on and passed. The move took place after an election on Jan. 3, 1893, and all county records were moved on Jan. 5.

For many years, Rutledge was a thriving community, but after the construction of the Alabama Midland Railroad from Montgomery to Luverne in 1880, traffic by-passed the town.

Printing in the county was not present until the close of the Civil War and at the end of the 19th century. At the time, five newspapers were published in the county between 1890 and 1900. Publications present during the times were: Searight Beacon, The Rutledge Wave, The Gleaner, The Luverne Enterprise, The People’s Advocate, the Brantley Reporter, Crenshaw County News, Crenshaw County Critic, Crenshaw County Banner, The Luverne Democrat, The Bugle and The Luverne Journal.

Many years later, the City of Luverne remains the county seat, and is lovingly referred to as “The Friendliest City in the South.”

Over the years, Crenshaw County has grown tremendously and can be seen today as a successful and close-nit county. Many in the county are proud of the foundations their families laid and also for the accomplishments many have achieved. While not every family and every accomplishment can be documented in this chronicle, it is important to remember that without our history, there is no future. Without the dedicated and hard working citizens of the first cities, there would be no Crenshaw County, and for that we thank every family who had a hand in bringing about this fine county.