My View of Girard Alabama part 2

Girard Alabama

My View of Girard Alabama part 2

by Sandra Waldrop Doolittle

Living in Columbus, Georgia all my life I never thought that much about Phenix City and Girard Al. These two small towns were just a part of us. I was grown and married before I read about the consolidation of these two separate communities. The consolidation of these two Girard and Brownsville resulted in Phenix City, Alabama.

Stories go that the City was originally named for the Eagle & Phenix Mill located in Columbus, GA. Tradition says that the “O” was dropped from the word phoenix because of the spelling or it was a way of distinguishing themselves from Phoenix, Arizona. Our spelling may be slightly different, but legendary phoenix bird is the same.

Girard Cemetery gates

Gates of the Girard Cemetery (November 2006) My ancestors are buried here as well as Riverdale Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia.

I had read that Phenix City, Alabama, and Phoenix, Arizona was confusing to the Post Masters so that was one reason it was changed. Many times in emailing back and forth in genealogy people would correct my spelling of Phenix City and Muscogee County. They would correct me by writing me back and saying Phenix should be Pheonix and Muscogee should be Muskogee. After a few years, I gave up and replied un-huh. A friend in Tulsa, while we were there visiting, asked me how to spell Muskogee, I spelled it Muscogee. She told me she was surprised that I couldn’t spell my own County. I thought about an answer but wasn’t worth losing our friendship over the spelling of Muscogee.

My grandmother was born in Girard in 1887 and mama was born there in 1906, it was after I was grown when I read that Girard was around sometimes before 1820. Girard was developed as a trading post within the Creek Indian Territory. It was located on the West bank of the Chattahoochee River opposite the settlement that would eventually become Columbus, Georgia. 1820? It never crossed my mind that Girard was that old and was active as a trading post and later a community, then a small town. Later was when my mamaw told me about how active Girard was in her time. Still, it was hard for me to see in my mind the little town she was telling me about and the little town that is there now.

Girard is still active in its own way. Jan, my daughter and I were able to talk to families who have lived in Girard for generations. We found one black lady who had graduated from Girard High School in 1967. She was also a member of one of the oldest black Methodist Churches in Girard. This past weekend they celebrated their one hundred and eleven years in Girard. We were able to visit inside of the Church and it was beautiful. I was delighted to see a Church that was standing in Girard when my grandmother was a young lady and she had passed it many times while living in Girard.

Girard Methodist Church, in Girard Al. One hundred and eleven years old. (November 2006) This Church is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.

There were several Churches in Girard. There was Girard Methodist Church, one other Methodist and a couple of Baptist Churches. There are homes left and part of the Bank on Dillingham Street. We found a beautiful on ..or maybe just off the Brick Yard Road. The home was large and it set on a lot that was well kept. The back of the house faced Chattahoochee River. The family that lived in the house could look across the River and see all of Columbus. It appears that someone is living there now. The home is well kept and signs of love are showing. You could tell someone lived there and was taking care of it, Godwin, not to mention the large black dog who came barking at me while I was standing at the fence admiring the home. The big black dog didn’t care what I was admiring, he just wanted me out of there and I quickly obliged him.

While researching Girard, I often thought about the name Girard and who was the man this little town was named after. I found in1832 Girard was named in honor of Philadelphian Stephen Girard and became the first county seat. He owned much of the land that would become Russell County, Alabama. In 1890 the Alabama legislature officially incorporated the city of Girard. My grandmother was born in 1887, so she was born before Girard was incorporated as a city. By the time my mother was born in 1906 Girard was a small City in Alabama.

While researching Girard I ran across a man named John Godwin and his slave Horace King. My friend Ron Rollin’s not long ago wrote a wonderful story about John Godwin and his slave Horace King. He wrote an interesting story about the Bridges Horace King built in Alabama and Georgia. Ron’s story goes into details of the Godwin / King relationship and the life story of Horace King. What I found out in my short research was John Godwin and his slave Horace King were two of the most notable citizens of the early days of Godwin, was a contractor, he had moved to Alabama from South Carolina. The growth in the area and the demand for improved transportation Godwin and King were involved in numerous construction projects. Horace a slave that belonged to Godwin was his foreman. Horace had the ability to bring together a diverse group to accomplish a very difficult task. It was Horace King that was responsible for the completion of the first bridge across the Chattahoochee River. For the rest of the Godwin / king story go to Columbus Georgia OnLine and click on the Community page and read Ron’s story. (The Ins and Outs of Harris County)

Crossing Dillingham Bridge and going into Girard, Alabama. This is a small area of Girard, Alabama left. However, the little area was quite busy the Saturday morning we were there. There is plenty of life left in Girard. These are the same streets my grandmother walked in the mid-1890s.

Brownsville. now here was a name I had never heard of until I was grown, it was just north of Girard, it was originally a part of Lee County. Brownville was established prior to the Civil War. This part of town was known by many names. Before the name Brownsville became commonplace, it’s post office was called “Lively”, its railroad station was referred to as “Knight’s Station” The name of Brownsville was officially changed to Phenix City by the Alabama Legislature in 1889. If the folks in 1889 had known about “Sin City USA” in the 1950s, they just might have left the name of the Post Office, “Lively”.

After more researching I and discovered, 1923 Girard and Phenix City consolidated. This meant to me that my mother and grandmother were born the Girard before it was consolidated. It was after the consolidation of Girard and Phenix City, a variety of local government plans were implemented. I also read where Phenix City is the 15th largest city in Alabama and has played a significant role in the history of the area. The ” Battle of Girard”, fought in April of 1865. Due to the last land battle of the Civil War and due to the lack of speedy communication was fought one week after the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. This is another story written by Ron Rollins that goes into details how that last “Battle of Girard” was fought. Ron goes into details about the Northern and Southern boys and what they went thru on a dark night while waiting for dawn to kill one another. It was dark and the men from both sides were inside the wooden Bridge, the fire started and the smoke was so thick that none of the men knew who were his friends or who was his enemy. The Civil War was over for everyone except them. They were both sides giving their lives after the War was over because no one was able to get the news to them.

The families were sitting on the hills which is now known as Hamilton Road overlooking the river and watching the fighting out Summerville Road, the lights from the cannons were on one side and the Dillingham Bridge burning on the other. In the middle was what we now know as Girard and Phenix, Alabama.

The people of Phenix City drive every day thru the areas where men set up for war and then came the time to fight. People drive every day where the young men fought the last battle and where the smoke from the guns and young men were killed. Each side fighting for what they thought was right. Oh to be able to reach up in the air and pull some of the conversation out of the air of days gone by and be able to hear what was said that night. From Dillingham Bridge to out Summerville Road they were preparing to fight. That was a night that went down in History in April 1865.

No matter what we think there will always be people who remember in a negative. The people who live in Phenix City are proud of their community and its many outstanding citizens. It is true thru out the United States that Phenix City was once known as “Sin City”, and to many people who live in other states it is still remembered that way. what many people fail to remember is that it was the citizens within the community who began the struggle to oppose the illegal activities and corruption that were prevalent in the early 1950’s.

It was the “Russell Betterment Association” and the unstoppable voice of Albert Patterson right triumphed over the widespread presence of crime. The crime that just about everyone in the city was involved. These people lived next door to you, they were related to you and even attended Church with you. Most of the people knew who the evil people were, but there wasn’t anything that could be done. Not until the time when all the good people joined together and refused to be beaten.

A sad but true story, Albert Patterson was gunned down. Another true story but one with a happy ending, Albert Patterson’s son John followed in his footsteps and successfully ran for State District Attorney. John later served as Alabama’s 46th Governor. Today, Phenix City is known as a progressive community which seeks to maintain a wholesome family atmosphere. Riding thru Phenix City and watching her grow is like watching a green blade of grass growing thru the crack of a cement sidewalk. Today a few blades, years from now you will need a lawn mower to clean off the sidewalk, where Phenix City has grown from here to Opelika.

Remembering families from Phenix City. Columbus, Georgia is my home. Girard and Phenix City, Alabama is our neighbor. While growing up in Columbus, there were families in Phenix City that attended our Church, Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and one was Dr. T. W. David Chi who came from China, stationed at Fort Benning and joined our Church when he first arrived Fort Benning, Georgia. When asked what Church he wanted to attend he answered, ” I am a Christian”, so with that the Officers at Fort Benning, Georgia sent him to our Central Christian Church. This is how we met our beloved David T. W Chi. Dr. Chi worked in Columbus and then he worked at Cobb Hospital. Then he opens his own practice, where many people in Girard and Phenix City met Dr. Chi and learned to love him.

If ever there was a Saint on this earth, it would have been Dr. Chi. Not to have been born in America where he would have been surrounded by Christians he knew and loved The Holy Father and His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well as any Christian born here.

When Dr. Chi left Columbus Disciples of Christ Church he joined the Phenix City Disciples of Christ Church and as far as I know he worked there until he died.In my Glory Days of growing up, Dr. T. W. David Chi will always stand out in my memories. When I left Dr’s. Mercer C. Blanchard’s, papa and son, I went straight to Dr. Chi and stayed with him until my first baby, he sent me to Dr. Robert Carpenter. After our first baby, we went back to Dr. Chi and stayed with him for many years.

Dr. Chi came to our Church when I was about six or seven years old and I shall always remember him as the kindest, warm-hearted, and loving Christian, I’ve ever known. “Rest in Peace, Dr. Chi, you deserve it.”

Another member of our Church was Mrs. Lena Booth was in my mother’s Sunday School class. Mrs. Booth was the wife of Mr. Booth who owned Booth’s Drug Store. Ms. Lena was one of the sweetest women my mother had as a friend. My mother was Ms. Lena’s Sunday School teachers and when Ms. Lena wasn’t in Sunday School, mama and I would catch the Phenix City Bus and visit her that Sunday afternoon. I can’t remember how Ms. Lena became a member of our Church. I can only remember she attended my mama’s Sunday School Class for many years.

Another member in Phenix City was a very Dear Lady, Mrs. Hilda Finlatter, her husband, a wonderful Christian man George Finlatter. Also Mr. George’s mother Mrs. Finlatter also attended. The older Mrs. Finlatter was in my mama’s Sunday School Class, The Loyal Women’s Bible Class. Mr. George Finlatter was an active member of our church. Mr. George was an Elder and a Deacon and was always there when you needed him.

The Finlatter’s son Fletcher was in my youth group and we traveled to many youth activities together with all the young people who attended Central Christian Church. We traveled from above Atlanta, down to Macon on down to Waycross on over to Savannah, Georgia and South Carolina meeting with other youth in other Disciple of Christ Churches attending conventions and conferences. These too were our “Glory Days” of meeting new friends and sharing The Father, Son and Holy Spirit with the youths of other Churches.

I saw Fletcher several months back, I hadn’t seen him in years. But when he walked down the path from his house, it was like going back to our teenage years. Here we were married, children and grandchildren but all of a sudden the past appeared and we started asking one another, “Do you remember this and that ” and what happened to “Jack, Bill, Dianne, where are they now?.” Do you remember the Church parties, Hay rides, and the live Nativity Pageants held where our Church was, the corner of Macon Road and Dixon Drive? For a few minutes, our “Glory Days” came back and they flashed before our eyes. Then we walked away from each other and tucked our memories away for another day.

There are more good people from Phenix City who were members of our Church. I hope to write about them later.They too were part of our ‘Glory Days”.

Next Read Part 3

Emails from friends and neighbors of Girard and Phenix City, Alabama.

Thanks for letting me share my memories with you all.


Girard Alabama“, by Sandra Waldrop Doolittle

About Sandra W. Doolittle 14 Articles

Sandra shares her Glory Days. Her early years are a look into the history of our part of the world. Her High school days, the sock hops, the soda fountains, her friends and love of family. Join Sandra for an interesting read.

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