History of Early Dothan

A Downhome Perspective on All Things Southern

Home About Us Blog Genealogy Recipes Gardening Manners and Etiquette Real Estate Destinations History
Hunting and Fishing Photojournalism Southern Furniture Maker Inspiration Write Life Opinion Contact-



Houston County, Alabama, Heritage

History of Early Dothan, Alabama


Dr. Hurt's Sunday School Class Foster Street Methodist Church
Walter Acree, J. R. Crawford, S. M. Smythe, Will Flowers, Reverend Hurt, Mrs. W. M. Hunter, John Crary, A. T. Marchman, Mr. Whaley, Bob Crawford, W. S. Wilson, Sr., Bob Stough, F. B. Culver, Jim Grant. R. W. Lisenby, Mrs. S. M. Smythe, Mrs. Ola Flowers, Mrs. Cordie Parker, Mrs. John Mellinger,
Dr. M. S. Davie's Sunday School Class First Baptist Church Mrs. W. C. Wilson's Methodist Sunday School Class Judge Harry K. Martin's First Baptist Sunday School Class R.L.. Gaines, white haired to the left of the man in the white suite, can be seen in this photo at the opera house circa, 1926.  R.L. was council president of the Choctawhatchee Council, BSA

From the Dothan Eagle March 11, 1945

History Of Dothan, by Mrs. A D WHIDDON.

The Eagle published today the *** installment of a history of Dothan, prepared by Mrs. A D WHIDDON, widow of a former Dothan mayor and one of this city's early residents. The history was written for the Dothan Garden Club but because we believe it is of great interest to both the old and new residents of Dothan we are publishing it in installment form, ** will appear next Sunday.

On East Main Street under Liddon Furniture Company, which is across from the Martin Hotel, there is a boiling? Spring which was known as Poplar Head Spring before Dothan came into existence. The water from this spring is now piped to the City Light and Water Plant, where it is put to use as it is free from magnesia; then it is carried off and empties into Golf? Creek.

In early days farmers in this part of the Wiregrass carried their farm products in covered wagons to Columbia, Eufaula, Geneva and Troy, Ala., to market them, and do their trading for supplies for home use and farming. Poplar Head Spring was at the cross-roads of these travelers and on account of the water supply they would camp here over night on their marketing trips, bringing food for themselves and their farms.

The natural beauty around the spring was long remembered by the early pioneers. There were poplar trees, for which the spring was named, oaks, sweet gums, and pines. One of the trees still stands in the rear of the Ritz Movie Theater. The flowering shrubs were crepe myrtle, mountain laurel, wild honeysuckle and ***wined among the shrubs was the yellow jasmine.

This section was heavily timbered with pine trees. There were many oaks and some cypress. The chief occupation was agriculture. The fertile soil for agricultural purposes and the timber of the land attracted people from other localities. The business opportunities became noised abroad. As the country became more thickly populated, there was a need for a town to market the farm products and in turn supply their needs. In the very early days the PILCHERS and FOLKES owned practically all the land on which Dothan now stands.

The first business at the Poplar Head Spring was a blacksmith shop and a general store which sold a few groceries, merchandise and even liquor.

Saw mills to utilize the lumber, turpentine stills to distill the turpentine from the rosin of the pine trees, and agricultural pursuits were the backbone of Dothan's progress.

In 1878 the U S Government gave this locality a post office under the name of Dothan-spelling it Dothen. No one seems to know whose fault this was. Various families in the neighboring community took turns in handling the mail free of charge. Then later a Mrs. WOOTEN was appointed the first postmaster.

In 1885 the town had grown and was incorporated; at this time the spelling from Dothen to Dothan was made. Mr. J P FOLKES and a Mr. JERKINS selected the name from the Bible Story, Genesis 37:-17. Judging from this incident, a keen interest in the Bible and religion held a prominent place in their lives, also in the life of the community. They evidently were impressed with the story which suggested to them the name for their town. The word Dothan means "Two wells" in Peloubet's Bible Dictionary. All true Dothanians enjoy the story of Joseph's wandering in a field in search of his brethren and the place where they were feeding their flocks. He inquired where his brethren were and a certain man told him "They are departed hence; for I heard them say, "Let us go to Dothan." And Joseph went after his brethren and found them in Dothan."

"For I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.' Appears on the front page of every issue of The Dothan Eagle under the name of the paper. This paper is now published daily, with the exception of Saturday. It was established in 1902 as a weekly and edited from 1905 to 1924 by Mr. William Theodore HALL, who came to Dothan from Haleburg, Ala. His son, Julian, edited it from 1924 to 1939, when he met with a fatal accident. His brother, Horace, succeeded him and is now Publisher.

In 1889, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was built through this section. This was the beginning of Dothan's rapid progress.

In 1900 the Central of Georgia was extended from Albany, Ga., to Dothan and later extended to Lockhart, Ala., being completed in 1904. This railroad serviced towns in passenger travel and freight; however, this service now has been supplanted almost by automobiles, buses and trucks.

The Atlanta and St. Andrew's Bay Railway was completed from Dothan to the Gulf of Mexico in 1907. At the present time more freight is carried over that short railway than any other of its mileage in the U S A. It has contributed greatly to Dothan's development, giving access to a beach resort only 83 miles away. Dothan is the gateway to Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico.

As the population increased the needs of the people were supplied in homes, stores, cotton gins, warehouses, churches, school buildings, banks, telephone system, opera house, public utilities, movies, etc.

Until 1903 Dothan was in Henry County. In 1902 work was begun to make a new county with Dothan the County Seat. This was a need realized by the lawyers and those who had to make the trip in Abbeville to court and such matters. Mr. Tom ESPY, Attorney-at-law, worked diligently and was chairman of the committee. He was appointed to choose the name for the County. Several names were proposed but he favored Houston, George HOUSTON was the first governor of Alabama and to him went the honor.

"Editor's note: Gov. Houston was the first Governor after the War Between the States and is generally remembered as the "Reconstruction Governor." Actually, William Wyatt BIBB was the State's first Governor, serving as such while the State was a territory and then winning election."

Half of Henry and 76 square miles of Dale were taken to make Houston County.

Judge and Mrs. O S LEWIS came to Dothan from Tuskegee, Ala. We do not associate them with the early history of Dothan, however their contribution for the past twenty-five years deserves worthy appraisal. Mrs. LEWIS led a group of men and women in 1932 who organized the Dothan Garden Club, the first club of its kind here. It is a member of the Federated Clubs. About this time two sons of Mr. George HOUSTON, for whom Houston County was named,, passed on leaving $2000 each to the County of Houston to be used in some way as a memorial to their father. It was decided to use these contributions toward building a library. Mr. George H MALONE gave the lot for the building site. Mr. John WHIDDON was serving at the time as Chairman of the County Commissioners. Through his efforts the County contributed $2000; the City of Dothan, $2000, and the remainder came from PWA (Public Works administration Funds.) It was named Houston Memorial Library in memory of the Houstons. The Dothan Garden Club was highly instrumental in securing it and yearly makes a contribution to its upkeep.

After the library was completed, the Dothan Garden Club had a portrait of Mr. George MALONE painted and presented to the library.


History of Dothan (Part III)

The early history of Dothan would be incomplete without mentioning M. CHERRY's Millinery and Dry Goods Store on West Main Street. He married a daughter of a pioneer family, Mr. and Mrs. John DAWSEY. In those days millinery departments had milliners who designed beautiful creations in the work rooms for the individual. Willow plumes, egrets, birds, feathers, and flower bedecked leghorns are now only a memory of those gay and colorful days.

The Joe SANDERS family came from Garrard Cross-roads, Ala., and engaged in general merchandise, buggies, wagons, mules and horses. The sons developed the Poplar Head Mule Co. on South St. Andrews Street. Later Messrs. John SANDERS, W T SINGLETARY, and A D WHIDDON had a partnership business known as John SANDERS and Co. When this was dissolved, Mr. SANDERS took his elder son, Joe, in business with him, and Joe now operates Sanders Mule Co. and Sanders Trading Co. in the same location. Mr. SINGLETARY and Mr. WHIDDON formed a partnership, Singletary and Whiddon, and operated a general merchandise business on South Foster Street, furnishing farmers from groceries to farm implements and machinery. When this was dissolved, Mr. SINGLETARY took his adopted-son, Archie D. CARMICHEAL, in business with him and operates at the same location under the name Singletary and Carmichael. Mr. WHIDDON and his only son, Beaty, formed a partnership under the name of Whiddon Implement and Truck Co. on South Oates Street, which is now owned and operated by Beaty WHIDDON.

The PILCHER brothers, Ben, George, and Crate were pioneers. I remember their father's house on East Main Street as the first white-painted house in town.

Mr. and Mrs. H BLUMBERG came from Baltimore. They started in mercantile business in a very humble way. The sons developed the department store, Blumberg and Sons and Blumberg's Thrift Annex. They also own three of Dothan's best apartment houses.

Mr. and Mrs Ben W CLENINAN, Sr., came from Abbeville, Ala., Mr. CLENDINEN sold buggies and harnesses on North Foster Street. The figure of a life-sized grey horse in the front advertising the business was missed by young and old alike when it disappeared from the scene. Their son, Mr. Ben W CLENDINEN, has continued in the leather goods, adding tarpaulins and awnings, under the firm name of The Clendinen Co.

The first automobile appeared in Dothan in 1893 owned by Dr. MIDDLEBROOKS, who lived on South Foster Street. The horse and buggy has disappeared from our streets. Only a few horses ridden by children and adults are in evidence. But we look up at the skies and see many airplanes racing and training for overseas duty in the U S A Army. Recently, a very elderly person made the remark, calling his daughter by name, "The clouds are making a lot of noise today" He seemed not to be able to realize it was the airplanes in the air making the noise. His sight being dim, he couldn't see the planes.

The early doctors of Dothan were Dr. J. R. G. HOWELL, whose elder son, Dr. Will HOWELL, is also a physician and lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dr. F I. MOODY, whose son, Dr. Earl MOODY built the Moody Hospital; Dr. J L ELLIS, whose son, Dr. John ELLIS, has become widely known in surgery and owns and operates Frasier-Ellis Hospital; Dr. Harvey YOUNG, brother of Mr. Jim YOUNG; Dr. Beaty STAPLETON; Dr. M S DAVIE, who built and operates Davie Hospital, Dr. S O CARLISLE, whose wife and daughter own and operate Carlisle's Dress Shop in the Penney Building; Dr. Henry GREEN for whom the Henry Green Apartments are named; and Dr. George HAMMOND, physician for the A. C. L. Railroad His only son, Mr. Donnald B. HAMMOND, and family still live here.

Dr. and Mrs. J L ELLIS' only daughter, Florence, is the wife of Mr. Van RITCH who has the Van Ritch Shop (ladies ready-to-wear).

Now in 1945, during World War II, Dothan has an estimated population of over 24,000. The last government census in 1940 was 17,172. The rapid increase in population has been caused by war activities at Camp Rucker, near Ozark, Ala., and Napier Field, six miles away, for trainees in advanced flying.

And Dothan marches on'
(Written for the Dothan Garden Club by Mrs. A D WHIDDON, Feb, 15, 1945.)


Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster