Notes from the past…

Fourth of July Tidbits: The Independent State of Winston?

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This interesting article from today’s Alabama Pioneers Newsletter:

A Much Different July 4 celebration in 1861

Have you ever heard the story about the Free State of Winston?  It is a very interesting event in Alabama history. In 1861, Winston County, Alabama seceded from Alabama and declared itself  ‘the free state of Winston.’  The incident occurred on July 4th 1861.

In 1860, Winston County, Alabama had only 14 slave owners and 122 slaves, while 637 families owned no slaves.

When Alabama Governor Moore called a State Convention December 6th to meet at the Capitol on January 7, 1861 regarding secession from the United States, Representative Charles C. Sheets, from Winston County , attended the convention. Charles C. Sheets had campaigned, and was overwhelmingly elected on a platform pledged to “vote against secession first, last, and all the time.”  A. B. Moore states in History of Alabama, “Many people in North Alabama were not pleased with the work of the convention or with the Southern Confederacy……Secession was distinctly a South Alabama achievement.”

When Charles Sheets returned from Montgomery, the weather and roads were bad and he didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the events of the convention with his constituents so it wasn’t till around the latter part of May 1861, that a group of people met in Winston county to learn of the results of the convention. They decided to have a mass meeting at Looney’s Tavern on the 4th of July to discuss their desire for neutrality. The meeting included 2500 people from Lawrence County, Morgan County, Blount County, Marshall County, Walker County, Fayette County, Marion County, Franklin County, as well as Winston.

Charles C. Sheets was the principal speaker at the meeting.  Three resolutions were adopted stating their desire for neutrality. When the second resolution was read, Dick Payne, who had been in the audience remarked, “Oh, oh, — Winston secedes!! The Free State of Winston!” From that day forward, Winston County was refered to as ‘The Free State of Winston.’ Although the second resolution affirmed the right of the county to secede from Alabama, it did not actually declare Winston’s secession.

You can read more about the events that took place on this special 4th of July in this article.  The county’s opposition to the Confederacy is briefly mentioned in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition by Harper Lee.

Who knew!

One thought on “Fourth of July Tidbits: The Independent State of Winston?

  1. That’s one of my favorite lines from To Kill a Mockingbird: “When Alabama seceded from the Union. . .Winston County seceded from Alabama, and every child in Maycomb County knew it.”

    Also one of my favorite books of all time. I think I’ll dig it out of the bookshelf and re-read it. : )

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