McArtan family came in 1900 for turpentine industry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Another family attracted to this area by the turpentine industry was that of Duncan Archibald McArtan, a native of North Carolina. There was still an abundance of timber in the area that fostered the development of this industry around the turn of the century.

Duncan was born January 31, 1853, in Hornett County, N.C. He was the youngest son of Duncan and Mary (McDonald) McArtan. He was the only one of the sons to be born in the United States and to be given a double name.

Duncan's schooling was very limited, but he often told his children how the catechism and the Bible were an important part of the curriculum when he did attend school. With some of the first money he earned, Duncan bought a Blue Back Speller, some books on practical mathematics and law books, which he kept all his life. His children told of how he would often line them up at night and have spelling matches using his spelling book. He also conducted multiplication drills with them.

Duncan's father died when he was still a young lad. He continued to live with his mother and helped keep their home open to all the family, especially the nieces and nephews who lived with them.

Duncan was drawn to the turpentine business and eventually left home to pursue that work. He went to Fowlstown, Ga., where he worked for about a year for a Mr. McNeill. After that he returned to his home and formed a partnership with Duncan Angus McRainey, one that would last throughout their lives. They were both full-blooded Scots, and each was true to his Scotch Presbyterian training.

The two men began their business in South Carolina, moved on down into Georgia and then into Florida. Each time they moved, the majority of the Negro employees moved with them.

It was in Chattahoochee, Fla., that Duncan met his future wife, Lucy Cornelia McAplin. She was born on Sept. 4, 1870, and lived until 1931 at which time she was buried beside her husband in the Magnolia Cemetery behind the Covington County Courthouse. While residing in Florida, Duncan was instrumental in the building of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church where he was an elder or deacon.

In 1900 Duncan and McRainey moved their business to Covington County. This was also the time when the railways reached the area. The resulting growth of the little town was a great environment for their turpentine business to prosper. The family lived for a few years in the Salem community where the turpentine still was located before moving into town when his oldest child entered school.

Duncan had other diversified interests such as banking, buildings to rent, and the Opera House. From The Andalusia Standard, December 17, 1914, we learn that he was President of the Andalusia Bank & Trust Company. The article states that it was the leading bank of the county, especially in the areas of security and conservatism. The writer further describes Duncan, "Mr. D.A. McArtan is a gentleman of the old school, of a genial, sunny disposition, and to know him is to at once become his friend." Duncan's partner, D.A. McRainey, was vice-president, and L.M. Studstill was cashier. The bank, located in a building at the site of the former City Drug, was merged after a few years with the Bank of Andalusia, located on the Square.

Another impressive adventure for the two partners was construction of the Opera House on the corner of South Three Notch Street and Pear Streets. Completed before 1905, the majestic three-story building featured a large auditorium with stage, tiers of seats, a balcony and four comfortable opera boxes. Performances included local talent shows, operettas, piano recitals, school plays and traveling shows. In 1907, Sam Berman's class at Andalusia High School held its graduation exercises there. The Opera House truly became the social center for Andalusia during the early 1900s. Tragically, a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the building circa 1914. Later, a smaller McArtan Building was constructed on the site, which has housed many businesses through the years.

Duncan became involved upon arrival in the area with the local Presbyterian Church, which had its beginning in River Falls. In 1901, a Sunday school was organized in Andalusia with only the McArtan and McDonald families as members. In 1905, the River Falls group joined those in Andalusia, and they met in a hall over the First National Bank Building until the Opera House was finished. The church then met in it until a building was constructed on a lot donated by Duncan and his partner. At Duncan's death in 1821, Minister Woodson stated, "While he was a man of few words, he was always held in highest esteem by those who knew him for they had the opportunity to know his goodness of heart and the real strength of his moral and religious character."

Also, during the early 1900s Duncan purchased a wooden Victorian house, located at 115 Sixth Avenue. Fortunately it has been well maintained and the third generation of the family continues to reside there.

Duncan and Lucy reared the following five children: Carson, b. 1897, d. 1918 single of the "flu" epidemic which swept America; Mary Eliza, b. 1900, d. 1975, m. Marshall Ney Doyle from Mobile, Ala.; Berta, b. 1902, d. 1990, m. David Euclid Cook, Jr.; Duncan A. Jr., b. 1904, d. 1932 single in a boating accident on the river, trying to save a friend from drowning; and Ethel Christian, b. 1906, d. 1916 as a child from kidney problems.

Mary Eliza and her husband, Marshall Doyle, lived in Mobile where he ran a furniture store with his brother. They reared two children: Marshall Ney Doyle, Jr., army career man, d. 1980, m. Lucille Carmichael; and Lucy McArtan, m. James "Jim" Winfield Brady, an engineer who died in 1980. When Marshall Sr. died in 1940, Eliza moved her family back to the family home in Andalusia and lived with her sister, Berta. She resided there until her death in 1975 and was buried beside her husband in the Magnolia Cemetery. Also, when Lucy's husband died of leukemia in 1983, she moved back to the same home and lived with Berta until Berta's death a few years ago. Currently, Lucy resides in the family home and has retired from teaching at East Three Notch Elementary School.

With three of the children dying at a young age and single and Berta and her husband not having any children, the next generation narrows to Lucy and her brother, Marshall. Marshall and his wife had only one daughter, Rosemarie. Lucy and her husband had two children, Mary Eliza and James Winfield Jr. Eliza, a registered nurse, and her husband James "Jim" Bryan Wade, reside in Jackson and have two daughters, Brady McArtan and Riley Elizabeth. Winfield and his wife, Meredith Riley of Andalusia, live in Dothan with their children, Carson, named for the oldest McArtan son, and Anna Camille.

The McArtan family has truly had a significant impact on Andalusia and the surrounding area. Some testaments to this are the three streets named for members and associates: McArtan Street, Doyle Street and McRainey Loop.

Appreciation is expressed to Lucy Doyle Brady for sharing her folder of family history and to those such as Sidney Waits, Joe Wingard and Ed Dannelly who have written informative stories on this family.

Anyone who might have corrections or additions to the above is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at Rt. 9, Box 97, Andalusia, AL 36420 or Email:

Family Reunion:

Descendants of Isaac Wilson Odom, Lucy Blocker and Martha English Brooks are having a reunion at the Rose Hill Community Center on Saturday, May 25, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Bring a covered dish dinner. Call 222-4742 for more information.

Historical Meeting:

The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, at the Andalusia Public Library. Members are urged to attend and guests are welcome.