Published 12:00 am Friday, September 13, 2002
A tour of the "ghost town" of Falco and an informative visit with Neal and Catherine Gresham, John Jackson, and Charlie Smith of that community is the inspiration for today's column. The Gresham home is built on the site of the old Stokes house place on Falco Road. John W. Stokes and a number of his descendants lived on the site years ago. In the area are some remains of the gristmill operated by Stokes near the Stokes Mill Pond where the big sawmill was operated.
Much of the land surrounding Falco is currently owned by descendants in the Hamby family. They are maintaining what little of the former town survived the ravages of time. The most historical buildings include the brick bank building, the wooden, two-story Stokes Lodge and most of the mill superintendent's grand house. Only a few of the houses, which stood along the main streets, exist today. Some have been moved to other locations and restored.
The Falco School, formerly Stokes School, was located in several different locations throughout the community. Charlie Smith was one of the trustees along with Odis Barton and Enoch Spinks when the school was closed. Additional teachers who were not named in the earlier column included Mrs. O'Conner, Mrs. Lou Brown, and Mr. and Mrs. Chun with Mr. Chun being principal at one time. At its peak the school had seven classrooms and an auditorium. At times two grades would be grouped together due to the limited number of students. Some of the older residents have very pleasant memories of their tenure at Falco and the other small schools nearby.
The Falco Bank, established in December 1912, had proper endorsement from the State of Alabama. The original shareholders, their address, and their numbers of shares as listed on the incorporation records included the following: John H. Givens, Laurel Hill, 12; A.J. Peadon, Blackman, 6; Jackson Peadon, Blackman, 3; Elizabeth Peadon, Blackman, 1; G. Balkom, Falco, 10; David Atkinson, Oak Grove, 5; W.A. Richburg, Florala, 5; J.D. Cobb, Crestview, 10; John L. Richburg, Jr., Laurel Hill, 10; W.W. Thigpen, Falco, 1; Dallas Peadon, Blackman, 5; J.W. Gaskin, Laurel Hill, 10; J.A. Houge, Falco, 1; W.E. Thompson, Falco, 5; Daniel Campbell, Laurel Hill, 10; James F. Hart, Falco, 10; Isidore Berman, Falco, 1; Bessie Berman, Falco, 1; H.M. Stokes, Laurel Hill, 10; James A. Hart, Andalusia, 1; Oscar Steele, Laurel Hill, 10; W.K. Hyer, Jr., Pensacola, 5; B.H. Hart, Dorcas, 10; Allen T. Carr, Galliver, 2; S.A. Hutcheson, Falco, 1; and A.H. Leonard, Falco, 5. The 150 total shares were worth $100 each, so this totaled $15,000 in assets.
Documents in the possession of the Gresham family indicate the bank was dissolved on December 7, 1916. This was after the main sawmill, planer mill, and others were burned as a result of arson. The main sawmill was rebuilt, and it operated until it was destroyed circa 1925.
The bank building, which was later used by Dr. Waters for his office and drug store, has been restored to a substantial state. The very thick brick walls should stand indefinitely, but a new tin roof and selected wood framing around the windows have been added. The inside, used currently for storage, still has the original wooden shelving, a fireplace, and the concrete vault minus its door.
The street that ran in front of the bank and which was lined by several stores and businesses has long been closed. Today, McLelland Drive runs along the east side of the bank and loops in front of the former Ezra O. McLelland house and one currently inhabited by a Douglas family. It comes out next to the former Stokes Lodge, which sits beside Falco Road.
Across the road from the east side of the bank, is a rich, green pasture where the Falco Hotel once stood. The 40-room structure was built by the Falco Lumber Company during the early days of the town to accommodate the traveling businessmen and newcomers to the area. A good picture of this building exists to attest to its impressive size.
Also this week, a telephone visit with Mrs. Crawford (Rosie) Chavers of Boggan Level revealed interesting history of that community. It is located on Boggan Level Road between Beda and Open Pond; therefore, it is very near the Beda community discussed previously. In fact, many families of the communities of Beda, Boggan Level, Falco, and Wing are closely related.
The name came from the Boggan family who lived very early on the level land in the vicinity. It is remembered that the dad gave each of his children a 40-acre tract of land. Some of the other families who were settlers there as well as later residents include the following: Cason, Smith, Bass, Carter, Barrow, Little, Hart, Snowden, Humphrey, Sanders, Lassiter, Brown, Holt, Stokes, and Chavers.
Early on there was the usual timber harvesting, and this was followed by the turpentine industry. In addition to the large turpentine still, there were a few other businesses or stores including James Eli Smith's Blacksmith's Shop, Eli and William "Bill" Smith's Gristmill, Bill Smith's General Store and another store operated at one time by Jamie Hart. There was a number of houses along the roads where workers at the mill lived with their families. Eventually, the area led to farming as most rural sections did.
Just as in most communities, the residents organized a school and a church. They both bore the name of Zion Rock and met in the same small building. The school was never more than a one-room and basically one-teacher type. The only teacher remembered at this time was Edgar Ingram. After completing the lower grades here, the students transferred to Falco School. During the 1930's or 1940s, the Zion Rock School was closed and consolidated with Falco.
The Zion Rock Church was of the Primitive Baptist faith. The last minister that served the church before it was discontinued was a Mr. Lassiter who lived in the community. The Zion Rock Cemetery was created next to the church and may of the area residents are buried there.
Appreciation is expressed especially to Charlie Smith, John Jackson, Neal and Catherine Gresham, and Rosie Smith Chavers for sharing their history and memories of Falco and Boggan Level.
Anyone who has corrections to the above or additional information is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at Route 9, Box 97, Andalusia, AL 36420 or Email: email@example.com
The Henderson-Butler Reunion will be held on Saturday, October 19, at the Damascus Club House on Hwy 4, about 5 miles west of Lockhart in Covington County. A covered- dish dinner will be served at noon. Contact Mable Caraway for more information at 334-858-2513 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.