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Old 01-07-2008, 05:36 AM   #1
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St. Stephens Alabama - A forgotten Piece of Alabama's past

Last weekend a buddy and I rode down to the southwest Alabama town of St. Stephens in rural Washington County to camp a couple of days and explore the area. I was assigned to do a magazine piece on St. Stephens' history so it was a work/pleasure trip.

St. Stephens is at the head of navigable water up the Tombigbee River from Mobile about 80 miles and is one of the oldest cities in Alabama. A Spanish fort was established here in 1789 and 10 years later it was ceded to the U.S. In 1817 it became the first Territorial Capital of the Alabama Territory.

In fact, at one point in its history it population of 2,000 was more than double that of Mobile! With statehood in 1819 the first Alabama State Capital was established in the central part of the state at Old Cahawba and the once thriving city of St. Stephens went to seed.

The St. Stephens Historical Commission now operates a park on the site of a limestone quarry that provided concrete to build "most of New Orleans" and other cities. Today all that remains is an abandoned steam shovel and parts of the old tipple used to load crushed limestone onto barges that carried the materials downriver.

Anyway, today there's a very nice campground and recreation area just off the banks of the Tenn-Tom Waterway at the old quarry site. We camped there a couple of days and did some exploring in the area.

On the way down we veered eastward in order to cross the Alabama River at Davis Ferry in northern Monroe County. The route took us through the little town of Sunny South, or rather what remains of Sunny South...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:39 AM   #2
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Davis Ferry...

...We got there at the exact wrong time Friday - just after noon. The two guys who run the ferry have lunch from 12-1 and make no exceptions. So, at around 1 p.m., the old Chevy pickup motor that runs the ferry fired up and they came across to pick us up...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:41 AM   #3
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Biscuits...

...The guys in the pickup truck had also waited for the ferry to come across. They told me sometimes if on the trip over in the morning they bring the ferry operators some biscuits from Hardees they'll run between 12-1, but today they hadn't brought the biscuits, so they had to wait just like us...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:42 AM   #4
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Exiting the ferry...

...It wasn't too bad this day, because the river level was somewhat up. On days when the level is low the ramps have a steeper incline....
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:44 AM   #5
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The road to the ferry...

...is a fantastic, smooth, dirt road on both sides of the river...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:44 AM   #6
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Lots-O-Spanish moss...

...on the Perry County roads...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:46 AM   #7
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Our camp at St. Stephens...

...Saturday morning these deer were inching their way into camp, until my buddy got up and scared them away...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:48 AM   #8
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The old Washington County Courthouse...

...is now restored as a museum for St. Stephens. The territorial legislature used to meet in this building....
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:49 AM   #9
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:49 AM   #10
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One of several...

...ongoing archaeological digs under way at the Old Town area of St. Stephens. This one is being conducted by the University of South Alabama.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:51 AM   #11
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St. Stephens...

United Methodist Church...
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:52 AM   #12
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Exploring Saturday...

...at Bladon Springs State Park 25 miles north was this old pickup in the woods.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:53 AM   #13
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The park itself...

...was just a bunch of these springheads with hand-pumps on them. Popular in summer I guess, but we didn't see another person while there.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:55 AM   #14
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Back at St. Stephens...

...This shot from one of the quarry bluffs shows one of the most popular park activities - horseback riding. The rusting shovel now sits where it stopped working in the middle of the old quarry.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:56 AM   #15
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Another view...

...of the ancient shovel...
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