Red Oak post office was orignally Rye

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 16, 2003

During their 2001 Homecoming festivities, members of the Red Oak Baptist Church published a history of the congregation including a brief history of the surrounding community. Genealogists find records of this nature very informative as to the families involved in the history of the community and the nature of the people residing in the area. A brief review of the history of this community is offered in today's column.

Red Oak is a rural community located midway between Andalusia and Florala on Alabama Highway 55. Much of the surrounding land was settled during the mid-to-late 1800s. Before this time, the Creek Indians inhabited the area. A legend has it that an Indian burial ground is located on Turkey Berry Island, located near the Red Oak Baptist Church building. A number of Indian relics such as arrowheads have been found locally during the past years.

Some of the earlier white settlers included members of the following families: Bulgers, Clarys, Cockcrofts, Eilands, Henleys, Hobbies, Sealeys, Soles and Williams. Many of the current residents are descendants of these families.

Many of the settlers farmed, and others engaged in work in the logging and turpentine industries. At one time a railroad line ran through the community to serve the logging camps and the turpentine operations. The tracks have long been covered over, but a railroad spike is found occasionally by those farming the land.

A post office was established in the community on February 18, 1899. It was named the Rye Post Office, and James K. Soles was appointed the first postmaster. (Does anyone know the origin of the Rye name?) It was located just north of the Red Oak Church on the old Soles place, which was later known as the Lee Patterson place. As so many of the rural post offices were, it was discontinued after a few years of operation in May 1905. Mrs. S.M. Martin served as an assistant to Soles. James is probably the James L. who homesteaded 160 acres of land in the community in 1889.

Some of the earliest stores to serve the area included one operated by Bill Hart. J.A. Eiland owned and operated one at his home, and Bob Hilson later operated a store and gas station across the road from his home. Beyond these occasional stores, there was never any establishment of a significant business district. The Red Oak name probably came from a natural stand of red oak trees growing in the locale.

One of the earliest schools in the southern part of Covington County was located at Red Oak about one mile south of the current church building. The school was moved later to a site across the road from the church on property where the current church's recreation area is located. The school was later consolidated with the schools in Lockhart and Florala.

Many of the men who have resided in the community have been members of the Masonic Order. In 1971, the North Creek Masonic Lodge constructed a modern building on a lot located across the highway from the church. Current members continue to hold meetings bi-monthly.

The current site of the Red Oak community is the dividing line for telephone service to area residents as well as rural mail delivery routes leading from the two towns of Andalusia and Florala. However, the children of the area are transported to Florala to attend schools there.

To think of the Red Oak community is to immediately recall one of its widely known citizens. Pierce Donald Bulger (1829-1923) who is buried in the Red Oak Baptist Church Cemetery. P.D., as he was known, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, as the son of General Michael and Pamela (Donald) Bulger. In 1850, he was married to Sarah Ann Cockcroft in Union Springs. They moved soon after this to the Rose Hill community in Covington County. After a few years there, they moved to the New Hope community south of Opp and eventually settled in the Red Oak community.

In 1859 P.D. represented the Harmony Missionary Baptist Church at the Zion Association meeting. Also representing the church with P.D. was a relative of his wife, A.J.Cockcroft, and M. and N.A. Purifoy. P.D. was serving the 33-membership church as clerk at the time.

In September 1861, P.D. was serving as Adjutant of the 60th Regiment (Covington County) 8th Brigade, 11th Division, Alabama Militia. On April 1, 1862, he was enlisted at Andalusia by Captain James T. Brady into Company E, 42nd Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army. He served throughout the war even though he was captured at Vicksburg, was paroled and then rejoined his unit. Following the end of the war, he returned to the Red Oak community and resumed his work as pioneer missionary with the Missionary Baptist Churches in the region.

Available records indicate there were few Missionary Baptist Churches in the southern part of Covington County which P.D. did not help organize and/or serve as pastor for a period of time. Some of these include the following: Judson, Shady Grove, Red Oak, and the First Baptist of Florala, which was organized in 1881 with P.D. as the first pastor.

In addition to mission work and military service, P.D. was a certified schoolteacher. He was highly regarded by his students and the citizens of his community. A few years ago, a memorial service was conducted by his descendants at his gravesite in the Red Oak Cemetery. A special marker designating his Confederate service was unveiled and dedicated on that occasion.

Another Confederate Veteran who lived in the Red Oak community and was buried in the same cemetery was Micajah "Mike" Henley. Mike and his wife, Mary Ann Abbigail (Thomasson) Henley, reared a large family in the area, and they have many descendants who currently reside in the same general area.

The source for most of the above information was the special history published in 2001 by a committee representing the Red Oak Baptist Church. It is a book filled with valuable history of the community as well as the church and its cemetery.

Anyone who might have corrections or additions to this writing on the history of the Red Oak community is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 21361 Rabren Road, Andalusia, AL 36420 or Email: