Category: Alabama

S-Town, Alabama

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

If you have not finished the S-Town podcast, please do not read any further or view the photos and descriptions included in this blog until after you have listened to the podcast in its entirety.

If you have listened to the popular podcast, S-Town, you have probably been curious about what the town looks like. Maybe you’ve wanted to drive through S-Town, just to see the town featured in the podcast and possibly understand a bit more of John B. McLemore’s world.  I recently visited and wanted to share some of the sights that are of note.

John B. McLemore reached out to reporter, Brian Reed, to ask him to investigate what he believed to be a murder in his small Alabama S*** t Town. He hated that he kept hearing stories about Kabrum Burt, a member of a local family, murdering someone and getting away with it. The Burt family is well off and owned local lumber stores known as K3 Lumber. It’s important to note that Reed investigated and discovered the murder never happened. As is often the case, a story was told and kept being told and was blown out of proportion. But without that story, Brian Reed would have never met John B. McLemore and we would never have heard about his life. Here are some photos from John’s world of Woodstock and Greenpond, Alabama…

K3 Supply, formerly known as K3 Lumber, in Greenpond

***This is one of the businesses owned by the Burt family.

Entrance to John B’s property

***The public is not allowed on the property so I wasn’t able to see the maze. I have heard it’s overgrown now.

John B’s Little Ceasar’s Pizza Palace

View as you drive the road to Greenpond Presbyterian Cemetery, where John B. is buried

Entrance to Greenpond Presbyterian Cemetery.

***If you ever visit and want to pay your respects, enter this gate for easiest access to John’s gravesite

John B’s Grave

Gee’s Bend Quilt Mural Trail – Gee’s Bend, Alabama

For over 10 years I’ve had “Visit Gee’s Bend” on my Explore the South bucket list. And this week, I marked that item off my bucket list! While vacationing in my home state of Alabama, I was joined by my mom as we drove from Birmingham to the Black Belt region of the state to Gee’s Bend (known now as Boykin, Alabama). Gee’s Bend is a large bend in the Alabama River. There are about 700 residents in this small, remote, community and most are descendants of slaves. Few people have ever moved out of Gee’s Bend and few have ever moved in. This community has overcome hard times again and again. You can read the history of Gee’s Bend here so you can understand why the residents have such vivid stories to tell through their quilts.

For generations the women of Gee’s Bend have created quilt masterpieces. The women of Gee’s Bend quilt in an improvisational style that is unique in the traditional American quilting world, transforming recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants into works of art. Their voice and their personal stories come through in each piece they create. Quilter, Revil Mosely, once mentioned in an interview that she was taught to quilt by her grandmother. While learning from her, she pricked her finger and bled and she was crying over the pain. Her grandmother told her that she had to learn that that’s how life is going to be, “you might get hurt but you got to go ahead on.”

The Gee’s Bend masterpieces date back to the early 20th century and were brought into the mainstream art world by writer, artist collector and curator, William Arnett who saw a photo of one of the Gee’s Bend quilts and tracked down the quilters because he fell in love with their work!  In 2002, Arnett arranged the first influential exhibition of the Gee’s Bend quilts at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend collection has since been shown at museums of art across the United States. In August of 2006, the United States Postal Service released commemorative Quilts of Gee’s Bend stamps that helped garner more attention for the women and their work.

After the stamps were released an artist painted a mural based on each of the 10 stamps and those murals became the Gee’s Bend Quilting Trail. You can drive the trail and when you do I highly encourage you stop by the Quilter’s Collective that is open by appointment.

Mary Ann Pettway manages the collective and spends much of her time here, with her fellow quilters, creating masterpieces. My mom and I arranged to meet Mary Ann on a Saturday morning and when we arrived we met Mary Ann Pettway and Nancy Pettway, who were so warm, kind and generous with their time and willingness to share about their work and the history of the quilters. We were giddy like little kids to meet these women who are like celebrities to us. These women, and generations before them, are Alabama treasures!

I asked Mary Ann about the year Mr. Arnett discovered Gee’s Bend and the quilts and she laughed and said it was like “a good bomb going off” because it set in motion the chance to share their work with an audience that they never would have imagined would see what they do. Mary Ann and Nancy loved showing off the quilts they were working on and the quilts they have available to purchase in their store. And they loved pointing out that there are tiny signatures that are quilted into each piece that you may not even notice unless the quilter, or someone familiar with the quilter, lets you in on the unique signature in the quilt.

You can purchase mini quilts, large quilts and even quilted coasters that are made by 92 year old Ruth Kennedy who has vowed to keep on creating something beautiful until she’s run out of time on this earth.

Gee’s Bend Mural Trail
Quilt 1 – Ms. Patty Ann Williams: “Medallion” with Checkerboard Center

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 2 – Ms. Annie Mae Young: “Blocks and Stripes”

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

 Quilt 3 – Ms. Minnie Sue Coleman: “Pig in a Pen”

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 4 – Ms. Lottie Mooney: “Housetop” Four Blocks (or Half Log Cabin)

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 5 – Ms. Alonzia Pettway: “Chinese Coin”

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 6 – Ms. Jessie T. Pettway: “Bars and String” Pieced Columns

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 7 – Ms. Mary Lee Bendolph: “Housetop Variation”

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 8 – Ms. Loretta Pettway: “Roman Stripes “(aka by locals as “Crazy Quilt”)

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Quilt 9 – Ms. Ruthy Moseley: “Nine Patch” (note: on the day of our visit we learned from Mary Ann Pettway at the Quilters Collective that this mural had been knocked down. It was not viewable on that day. So if you look and don’t see it, it has not been repaired and replaced)

Quilt 10 – Ms. Loretta Pettway: “Medallion”

Gee's Bend Mural Trail

Directions to Gee’s Bend (from Montgomery, Alabama)

Go west on US 80 to Selma
Go west on AL 22, which will become AL 5 South as you continue your drive
Near Alberta, Alabama mile marker 32, go southeast on CR 29 (you’ll see a sign for the Gee’s Bend Ferry).
Once you turn on CR 29, the quilt trail will begin at the Freedom Quilting Bee site.

The Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective


14570 Co Rd 29, Boykin, AL 36723
Open by appointment.
Call ahead to speak with Mary Ann Pettway. Phone: 334.573.2323

Fort Morgan State Historic Site – Mobile Bay, Alabama

Fort Morgan Historic Site

As you walk through what remains of Fort Morgan, you feel as though you can hear echoes of soldiers singing that old song, “Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave, Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore, Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave. Oh! Hard times come again no more.”

Some historical highlights from Fort Morgan’s website:
  • Fort Morgan is a pentagonal fort that was constructed between 1819 and 1834.
  • The U.S. Army garrisoned Fort Morgan as a staging area for Creek Indians who were being removed to Indian Territory in 1837.
  • When Alabama politicians prepared to debate secession, the state militia seized Fort Morgan on January 5, 1861, and it remained under Confederate control until August 1864. After the Battle of Mobile Bay, Union land and naval forces subjected Fort Morgan to a siege of more than two weeks before its commanding officer surrendered on August 23, 1864. Although the Corps of Engineers had repaired the severely damaged structure by 1867, it and other harbor defenses languished in the years after the Civil War.
  • The fort was used as a training facility during World War I, but the War Department declared Morgan obsolete in 1923 and sold it to the state of Alabama in 1927 for use as a state park.
  • Fort Morgan was briefly activated during World War II to counter the German U-boat threat in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mooresville Church of Christ – Mooresville, Alabama

Mooresville Church of Christ

While exploring Mooresville, Alabama I almost passed by this church without taking a photo. It seemed so simple. But every church has a story and this one involves a future President of the United States. Mooresville Church of Christ has held services in this building since 1854. Future president James A. Garfield preached a sermon in the building when he was stationed nearby as a federal soldier during the Civil War. Glad I took photos of this place…it’s a historical treasure.

Kymulga Covered Bridge – Childersburg, Alabama

Kymulga Covered Bridge

There’s something special about covered bridges. Even the oldest of covered bridges have a picturesque quality to them. Alabama appreciates the beauty of them and even has a Covered Bridge Trail you can drive along to see the 11 remaining historic covered bridges across the state.

One of the bridges on the trail is the Kymulga Covered Bridge in Childersburg, Alabama. The 105 foot covered bridge, built in the 1860s, spans Talladega Creek. Nearby you’ll find the Kymulga Grist Mill, which is still operational. The Kymulga Covered Bridge leads park visitors to a series of nature trails, perfect for romantic walks and exploration of the land that was once populated by Native Americans, farmers and craftsmen. You can learn more about the bridge, mill and events held here throughout the year here.

Bamboo Forest – Prattville, Alabama

Wilderness Park Bamboo Forest

Take a walk through Wilderness Park in Prattville, Alabama. Wilderness Park is a bamboo forest that was used by the U.S. military for Vietnam-era combat training. The forest provided a humid environment with vegetation more similar to that found in Southeast Asia than most training sites on this continent. Thankfully, the park was preserved as a place of beauty and peace. Areas of the forest have 60-ft.-tall bamboo with trunks 6 inches in diameter. Hundreds of varieties of plants are found here, including one of Alabama’s largest beech trees.

Pine Flat Presbyterian Church – Deatsville, Alabama

Pine Flat Presbyterian Church

That moment you turn around to take a picture of a lovely country church off an Alabama back road and realize it was a filming location for one of your favorite Tim Burton movies, Big Fish. If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Most of the movie was filmed in Alabama and there are many locations you can visit the next time you’re in the state including this picturesque church.
Pine Flat Presbyterian Church in Deatsville, Elmore County, Alabama was founded in the early nineteenth century and was the shooting location for Ed Bloom’s funeral in the film.