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FW: July 7 column [Capitol Book; Montgomery history]

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: Capitol Book [mailto:capitolbook@capitolbook.com] Sent: Tuesday, July 09, 2002 1:14 PM To: Capitol Book E-Letter
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2002
      fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Capitol Book [mailto:capitolbook@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, July 09, 2002 1:14 PM
      To: Capitol Book E-Letter List
      Subject: July 7 column



      The Society of Pioneers of Montgomery, Alabama is a misnamed organization. None of the members, past or present, was ever a pioneer of Montgomery . Instead, membership is limited to 100 men who can trace their ancestry to residents of Montgomery County prior to January 2, 1855 , that date having been picked because the Society was founded in 1955, so that a member must have an ancestor who was living in Montgomery County at least 100 years prior to the founding of the Society. 100 men, 100 years. That makes sense, but still the name bothers us, not that we have a better idea, and not that anybody asked us. One wag around the store suggested they call it The Society of the Sons of Pioneers, because The Sons of the Pioneers was a great western singing group, best remembered as the backup vocalists for Roy Rogers, and the thought just amused him.


      But misnamed or not, the Society has made a number of important contributions to the written history of Montgomery over the years, the most enduring being "A History of Montgomery in Pictures," first published in 1962, then unavailable for years, then reprinted in 1998 and still available today. Their most requested title around here is "City Directory and History of Montgomery, Alabama" by M.P. Blue, popularly known as "Blue's History," and sadly now unavailable. Our personal favorite was " Old Oakwood Cemetery : A Brief History," published in 1986, also now out of print. In 1961 the Society reprinted a little gem called "Recollections of the Early Settlers of Montgomery County and Their Families," written by W.G. Robertson, and first published in 1892. It's a politically incorrect little book, but also very interesting, in a way that the newest book by the Society, "Pioneers Past & Present, 1855-2002," is not, at least not to the general reader.


      We should hasten to add, however, that this new book was really never intended for the general reader; rather, it's a book by, about, and for members of the Society and their families, and to that audience, and to others seriously interested in the histories of the founding families of this area, this book must read like the latest John Grisham. The book contains the family tree, and a one-page personal history, of every one of the current members of the Society, as well as a brief biographical sketch of all of the hundreds of pre-1855 folks by whom the present members claim their membership right. And, as a real pleasant surprise, at the end of this book is reprinted the "Recollections of the Early Settlers" we mentioned above. Only in this final, brief little section do we finally read a little bit about the other side of the pioneers -  the murders, double crosses, duels (well, one duel), disasters and political intrigues that flesh out the little entries on the genealogical charts.


      Now, contrast that new book with another that was published here a few months ago, "The Heritage of Montgomery County, Alabama," compiled by a group calling itself The Montgomery County Heritage Book Committee. It's part of a project by another outfit called Heritage Publishing Consultants to produce a "family history" book for every county in Alabama , and you can hardly turn to any of its 325 pages without finding something compelling.


      The scholarship is questionable, at best, since most of the family histories here were written by the families themselves, and most of them paid to have their entries printed, but what the book may lack in scholarship, it more than makes up for, in most cases, with some sincerely moving little remembrances of people who would never appear in any book about pioneers or founders of anything, except maybe of their own little piece of the community that most of us inhabit. Rich, poor, black, white, distinguished and not-so, you'll find it all in this wonderfully entertaining book. And no doubt, you'll find lots of people you know, or knew, in it.


      Both of these books are now easily available to the general public. The first one, the "Pioneers" book, even though it was really published for the members of the Society, is in bookstores, too. It's a substantial hardcover book, 362 pages, for $75. The second book, the "family history" book, which has heretofore only been available through its publisher, is now also available in bookstores. It, too, is hardcover, 325 pages, $60.




      Thomas Upchurch
      Capitol Book & News Company
      1140 E. Fairview Avenue
      Montgomery, AL 36106
      Voice 334-265-1473
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