Top photo From left to right, Beth DeBusk, Lynn Burrell, Barbara Russell, Larry Caver, Judge Joy Booth, David Washatka and Michele Washatka
On Friday, August 19, the Old Autauga Historical Society and Judge Joy Booth proudly unveiled a project they have been working on for years at the Autauga County Courthouse in Prattville.
The project is a set of four panels, each depicting an Autauga County courthouse and explaining the history of each, dating back to 1818. Society President Larry Caver explained, “Most people don’t realize that there have been more than two courthouses in Autauga. county and that we were a county prior to the formation of Alabama in 1819.”
The Old Autauga Historical Society officially formed on January 1, 2020 and currently has approximately 300 members. The mission of OAHS is “to share and preserve the history of ancient Autauga County, which includes present-day Autauga County, and areas west of the Coosa River in Autauga County. Elmore and areas south of Chestnut Creek in Chilton County”.
Caver tells us that the Autauga County Courthouse project was just one of many the company is working on, including the preservation of the Vine Hill Presbyterian Church, as well as the old schoolhouse. Mulberry.
The Autauga County Courthouse project was important to complete first because “many residents don’t understand that our county has such a deep history,” Caver explained. The sign display is located in the lobby of the current Autauga Courthouse.
Judge Joy Booth told EAN that in her 12 years at the courthouse, “we wanted something to commemorate Autauga County. We have a lot of visitors who don’t come to trial, like excursions and tourists, and we wanted people to know the story.
So she got together with Caver and OAHS and the project came to life.
OAHS got to work and discovered that there was quite a bit of historical documentation in a safe behind Judge Booth’s desk containing chancery records, which were the missing pieces from their search.
The four panels each share a part of Autauga County’s history. The first panel shows the original courthouse located in the city of Washington, which is now the current property where International Paper is located. There is not much photographic information about the period, but there are well-preserved chancery records.
The second panel shows the town of Kingston, which is now considered a ghost town, and would be considered the current area northeast of Prattville. This courthouse was the center of the county until the end of the Civil War. However, after the Civil War, the present counties of Chilton and Elmore were formed and Daniel Pratt wanted the courthouse to be in Prattville. It was moved, which Caver says “Concreting Prattville as a city”.
The third and fourth panels show the two Prattville courthouses. The third courthouse was located where the Martin Dance Factory now stands and was built in 1870. It was the courthouse until the current building was built in 1905 and completed in 1906.
These panels contain many more photos and recordings and these are now on public display.
There are maps showing where everything was located in the county as well as the names of the citizens who worked at the courthouse. A local barrister and chancery, Captain Abney, worked until his death in his courthouse office. A judge lived in the prison and there was a special door that separated his residence from the prison itself.
A special piece of paper caught the eye of this reporter which displayed the name of Pleasye Northington, who was the first woman to work at the registry office.
All in all, this exhibit is one every resident of Prattvillian and Autauga County must visit at least once. The large amount of historical information in a small space is truly remarkable. OAHS has done a fantastic job of capturing the significance of the Autauga County Courthouse’s history and really brought the hall to life.
The Old Autauga Historical Society meets quarterly and you can join for just $10. You can follow their activities by joining their private group on Facebook. Their first quarterly meeting of 2023 will take place on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at the historic Robinson Springs UMC in Millbrook, so be sure to mark your calendars.