All you need to know about Old Cahawba

Published 11:56 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

In the almost 200 years since Cahawba was the capital of this fledgling state, a continuing interest in the historic site has prompted numerous efforts “to do something about its present ghostly state.”

With the 1986 appointment of archaeologist Linda Derry as site director of the Cahawba Archaeological Park by the Alabama Historic Commission, visitor interest has helped efforts to create a full-time interpretive park with nature trails, tours of the old cemeteries and an on-site picnic area with grills, restrooms and water points.

Self-guided walking tours and a canoe launch are available from noon to 5 p.m. at the center and, with advance notice, guided tours may be scheduled by calling 872-8058.

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Plans have been drawn to rebuild the welcome center, destroyed by lightning more than a year ago and upon completion, a focus will be on Cahawba Descendants, a committee organized by the recently formed Cahaba Foundation Inc. Headed by President Dr. Daniel J. Meador, with several Selma residents on its board, the foundation is working with the Alabama Historical Commission.

The foundation is aware that each year several thousand Cahawba descendants contact or actually visit the historic site. To be eligible for membership in the Cahaba Descendants there are several categories:

Anyone who has resided in Cahaba during the 19th century;

Anyone who served in Alabama State Government when Cahaba was the seat;

Anyone who served on active duty in the Cahaba Rifles of Lewis’ Battalion between 1861-1865;

Any Union soldier confined as a POW in Castle Morgan;

Anyone who has substantial connections with Cahaba in the 19th century, socially, politically or in business.

Efforts locally through the Cahaba Descendants are ongoing to identify those eligible and to encourage membership. An eye to the future, perhaps this summer, calls for a get-acquainted reunion at Cahawba with summer fun for all. The development of a strong organization to promote tourism at the historic site is the ultimate goal, plus ensuring that it remains a true Green Site.

Descendants will be encouraged to share photographs, family history and memorabilia when the visitor center is completed, Derry says.

Already involved, some for many years, are: Menzo Driskell, descendant of Menzo Watson, Cahawba 1856; Selma attorney Cartledge Blackwell, whose great-great-grandfather lived at Cahawba in 1851; Dr. David Hodo, whose grandparent lived in the Crocheron House; Tommy Gayle, descendant of 1827 Alabama Government Reese Darrington Gayle; Evelyn Youngblood, descendant of John C. Calhoun and Andrew Pickens Calhoun of Cahawba; James Boatwright, great-grandson of Molette’s Bend resident; Attorneys Harry Gamble and William Gamble, descendants of Dr. Robert James Ware Jr. Cahawba; Dr. Gerald Anderson, great-great-great-grandson of James A. McElroy, Cahawba 1818; and Harvey Clapp, whose ancestor Elijah Clapp has a headstone in old Cahawba cemetery.

And no one is more interested and involved than Linda Derry, who is eagerly anticipating the old-time celebration. She may be reached at 875-2529 or by e-mail cahawba family