More on the development of the Straughn community

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2003

Although various aspects of the Straughn family, community, and School of Covington County have been presented in earlier columns, it has been requested that these be merged into one story. Today's column will be an attempt at coordinating the facts known to this writer into an historical account of the development of the Straughn community as it is known today.

The area known as Straughn is located about seven miles northeast of Andalusia on US Highway 43, which is known as the Old Three Notch Trail. On earlier maps the site is labeled as Haygood. The reason for this will be explained further in the story.

Around 1819, when Alabama became a state, it was created from the Alabama Territory. Most of the native Indians who lived in the area for a long time had been removed to reservations. Numbers of settlers from the southeastern states were arriving in the area to claim the new land made available by the United States Government. The men were especially attracted to the virgin timber and other natural resources in this locale.

With the presence of more families, a need for local government emerged. Within two years, in 1821, the County of Covington was created out of land, which had been Conecuh County in 1818 and Henry County in 1819.

Before Covington County was created in 1821, a tax record of all residents of Conecuh County was made. Identified were two men of note, Travis Strawn and Fielden Strawn. Much is known about Travis who was of English descent and came to Alabama at a very early date.

Travis had moved into the Covington County sometime before 1826 and had settled in the vicinity of the Straughn community. There are records of him representing the Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church at association meetings from 1826-1834. In 1828, he purchased 80 acres of land near the Heath community for $80.13. This means he was one of the earliest settlers who acquired property. Two years later, he was listed as a farmer and owning one slave. By 1840, he had moved to the State of Mississippi where he died during the war at an advanced age.

One of Travis's sons, Leroy Marion Straughn, moved to Alabama with his parents. Around 1834, he was married to Mary Ann (Polly) Taylor, daughter of Wendell Taylor of renowned fame in the Rose Hill community. Circa 1835, the couple moved with his family to Mississippi, but they returned after three years. They settled near his wife's parents' home in Rose Hill and reared a large family of 14 children.

Travis's oldest son, Travis Wendell, was featured in the Memorial Record of Alabama, an account of notable men of the State. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant in the Confederate Army where he was injured and disabled for life. Following the war, he returned home to continue his tannery shoe business and farming. In 1874, he was elected to the Alabama Legislature and was reelected in 1876. In 1881, he became county surveyor. It is stated in the memorial record that he was "one of the substantial and reliable men of the county and stands high in the estimation of his fellow citizens."

Three other sons of Travis, David, Edwin, and William, were involved in the building of the first Straughn School, a log structure completed in 1887-88. Undoubtedly, this influence and their many children attending the school was the source of the name given to the school and community.

To return to the first settling of the area, as early as 1823, a William Carter applied for a homestead patent in the Gantt area. Other early settlers included J.F. Hicks, R.B. Broom, H.H. Tillman, and W.H. Powell. During the 1850s, those that came included the following: John D. Caton, Nathan M. Baker, Nicholas Purifoy, John W. Thompkins, Isaac Smith, John M., Peacock, Marcus L. Dauphin, Reading Stokes, Enos Harrelson, John D. Bradley, William Bradley, Stephen and James Thompkins, Jacob Weese, Eli Cooper, Aaron J. Williams, John Gainus and John Gurganus.

During the late 1800s, the following settlers arrived to further populate the area: Pollard, Lewis B. and Stonewall Gantt, Burrell and John W. Jones, Bush and Elias Harrelson, Susan Harrelson, Thomas Jeffreys, Thomas J. Green, David H. White, Benjamin J. Radford, Shade Carter, George Robbins, Kindred Bracewell, Daniel T. Chism, Jonathan and William C. Johns, James W. Tipton, and Thomas P. Cottle.

To consider some of the notable citizens, Thomas P. Cottle was probably the most prominent public figure. He served as County Judge 1868-1874. There has been a rumor that his grandson, T.W. Cottle, once had a significant piece of county history-a large key believed to have been to the old courthouse, which was the white, frame, two-story building that burned in 1896. (At this date, it has still not been located, but it would certainly be a valuable item for placement in the Three Notch Museum).

Another citizen of note is John W. Haygood who homesteaded 160 acres in the area in 1888. It was his daughter Annie E. who married Thomas Cottle and convinced him to name the first post office created in 1892 as Haygood in honor of her father. The office was located in the Cottle home, and Annie became the first postmistress. She was succeeded two years later by William N. Powell who was followed by Rufus B. Broom in 1898. The office was closed in 1904, but the name Haygood still exists on some forms of maps of the area.

This appears to be a good place to break this narrative and continue it next week with a look at other aspects of the community: school, churches, cemeteries, and businesses. Sources for the this writing include the following: Wyley Ward's Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871; Gus and Ruby Bryan's Covington County History, 1821-1976; census, land, church, and family records.

Anyone who might have any correction to the above or additional facts is encouraged to contact Curtis Thomasson at 21361 Rabren Road, Andalusia, AL 36420 or Email


The Straughn Community Club has adopted a new project to preserve the history of Straughn School and community. The plan is to collect historical memorabilia of the school and commuity and house it at Straughn School. The initial stage will be to collect items from individuals and groups and store these until sometime in the future when they might be made available for viewing. Anyone with items to donate may contact any of the following individuals: Rubie Gantt at 334-338-2707, Ann Wiggins at 334-222-3279, or Faye Clark at 334-222-3288. Any related items or financial assistance for the project will be greatly appreciated.