Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

The White-Force Cottage

The White-Force Cottage in Selma, Alabama
(Credit: Joana Thomas)

One of the things I decided when I embarked on researching and writing the Stonewall Goes West trilogy was that while it was inevitable that some reader or critic somewhere would say “that place wasn’t really like that,” they would not be able to say it for want of my trying to make it so. I can’t say I’ve been to all of the locations that have been or will be used in the trilogy, but I can say I’ve been to all of the battle locations and many of the other settings. This is so much the case that I sometimes joke about having dragged my poor, long-suffering wife to every county seat in the Mid-South.

These visits have proven invaluable in helping me set my battles and choose my settings, and the process has brought its own rewards. One of the things I found so worthwhile about all the road-tripping involved were all the things I did not expect to find along the way.

So it was with Sturdivant Hall, referred to as the Lee House in Stonewall Goes West. I recently referred to this house on my author’s Facebook group, where I sometimes share modern and period photos relevant to the story. Sturdivant Hall is a truly lovely house museum, and given that it is in the severely depressed town of Selma, it is likely the most overlooked antebellum mansion of its kind in America. The place is truly worth going out of your way to see if you like this sort of thing.

But it was next to Sturdivant Hall that I had my little surprise. Right next door was the equally historic White-Force Cottage, the former home of one Martha Todd White, the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. Whenever the Radical Republicans accused Mary Todd Lincoln of relaying government secrets to her treasonous relatives, they most likely had her half-sister Martha Todd White in mind, as the woman was an ardent secessionist.

I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where the Mary Todd Lincoln House has been a fixture of downtown history for very nearly my entire lifetime (it was restored and opened to the public in 1977). The house was the childhood home of Mary Todd, and probably Martha Todd too. So, in looking for a setting I used in book #1 and intend to use again in book #3, I stumbled right over this lovely place that looped right around to a historic house I grew up with.


Clarkson-Legg Covered Bridge

The Clarkson-Legg Covered Bridge,
just a few miles from the Crooked Creek Museum.

One of the more off-beat things I visited while doing my field research in Alabama was the Crooked Creek Museum in Cullman County. Opened in 2006, the site is the labor of love of one Fred Wise, and is dedicated to the a little skirmish that took place on April 30, 1863 as part of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s pursuit of Abel Streight’s Raid.

Wise has a cabin converted into his museum, with a modest gift shop and a much larger display room, filled with Wise’s collection of Civil War artifacts and a handful of dioramas of both the Crooked Creek action and other Civil War battles. Wise’s property also includes a trail down to picturesque Crooked Creek, which is a pleasant walk and adjoins a picnic area and small campground.

Near the Crooked Creek Museum is the Clarkson-Legg Covered Bridge, another picturesque destination. Forrest’s chase of Streight passed by this area too, but the bridge dates to 1904. If you are approaching by way of U.S. Highway 278 to get to the county road (see below), you will see signs pointing out both the bridge (turn left) and the museum (go straight).

These are both minor attractions of the quaint and roadside variety, but if you are a Civil War buff and should find yourself on I-65 near Cullman, or in north-central Alabama generally, the museum and bridge are about 9 miles from the interstate. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a nice break from the road.

Crooked Creek Museum is located at 516 County Road No. 1127. Admission is $5, and if you want to camp there, call ahead and talk to Fred Wise at 256-739-2741.