Through Good Times and Bad
Built some time in the 1800’s, this home grew along with the people it sheltered, as its family nurtured a small community outside these walls. Born in 1821 in North Carolina, James Pope would marry Mary Elizabeth Sheperd in 1843. They would have twins, James and Anne in Georgia just before finally relocating to Pike County, AL in the 1850’s as some of the earliest white settlers to this area. These pioneering families would’ve been met with a variety of challenges and life on the frontier must’ve been more difficult than any of us could imagine now. This family’s experience was no different and tragically, the twins would pass away in a cabin fire sometime shortly after the family settled in Alabama.
James and Mary would have at least 5 other children that they would raise in this home. Their sons George and Charles would continue the pioneer tradition that their parents had laid for them as they worked to create a small but self-sustaining community for themselves. George in particular is remembered as an important founder in this area. His skills as a blacksmith were only met with his talents as a large animal veterinarian. He traded horses and agricultural products with locals and travelers, he concocted itch creams to aid his fellow community members, all while raising seven children in this home with his wife Martha Cope. Years later, the couples only daughter, Eula, would continue to live in this home and was known for her gracious hospitality and home cooking- which she shared often as this home frequently served as a voting precinct and community center.
Undeniably, Mr. Pope must’ve been an invaluable member of this small rural community during a time when you had to rely on your neighbors, however few they may number. In a place where the nearest transport lines were an 11 mile trek away. These pioneer families had to be cut from a certain kind of cloth to be able to survive in the face of the challenges they faced daily.
As I approached the sleepy crossroads where this home sits, I paused for a moment to make sure what I wasn’t seeing things. The buildings were so perfectly set against a beautifully crisp blue Alabama sky. The surrounding fields were astir as tractors re-tilled the freshly harvested land. A passer by stopped to ask if I knew where Wiley’s BBQ was. Could this be a dream?
For a few moments that day, I felt happily stationed in a snapshot from the past. I lost myself for a moment imagining that George’s view as he gazed across his fields might’ve been similar to the one I got that day.
[Bullock County, AL c. 1800’s]