As I was driving through Double Springs, Alabama I saw in front of the courthouse what looked like the ubiquitous small-town war memorial which I have found pretty much everywhere I’ve visited on this journey in both the North and the South. But this one was different because unfurled behind it were both Union and Confederate flags, so I hit the brakes and went in for a closer look. What I discovered was a Civil War memorial to The Free State of Winston. The plaque on the memorial read as follows:
The Civil War was not fought between the North and South but rather between the Union and Confederate armies. Perhaps as many as 300,000 Southerners served in the Union Army. The majority of the Appalachian South, from West Virginia to Winston County, was pro-Union. Winston provided 239 Union and 112 Confederate soldiers, 21 of whom shared last names.
St. Francisville, Louisiana may be small, but it sure packs a big punch. This beautiful Southern town got its start way back in 1809. It was built on a hill overlooking the older French settlement of Bayou Sara, which was at one time the largest port on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Memphis. For 74 days back in 1810, St. Francisville served as the capital city of the independent Republic of West Florida when it ousted its Spanish occupants before being annexed by the United States. In the years leading up to the Civil War, St. Francisville was the supply center and main town for surrounding plantations, perfectly situated for trade on a bluff high above the river. Today it contains a fascinating collection of antebellum, creole and Victorian homes, and some beautiful churches and businesses as well. I spent a lovely afternoon there, wandering the quiet streets and taking these photos. The few people I met on my stroll were remarkably pleasant and kept pointing me towards even more beautiful parts of town for me to shoot. The river has been high this year, and you’ll see a few photos at the end of the flooding in the area. St. Francisville is a wonderful escape from the big cities and offers a magical combination of small-town charm, fascinating history and delightful people. You should definitely put it on your list!
Traveling around the small towns and back roads of West Virginia, occasionally I came across a big beautiful building. Of course there are many beautiful churches around, but I thought a lot of these courthouses and government buildings were really wonderful to photograph. The Cover Photo for this post is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston. Just the name gives me the creeps, but knowing it was in use until 1994 is staggering. Same goes for the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville which was in use until 1995. Some of these courthouses have amazing stories. The Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town was the site of John Brown's trial for leading a slave uprising in 1859. It was also the site of the miners' trials after the Battle of Blair Mountain. The McDowell County Courthouse in Welch was the site where...