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Lapine has interesting history

Nancy Conklin has a story to tell.

It is one that might interest anyone in our area.

For many years now, Nancy has been compiling information regarding the history of Lapine. She has many pictures dating back as early as the 1800s. She also has letters, cards and newspaper clippings. She has visited graveyards, spoke to people who can remember the "good ole days" and has rummaged through things people in the community were going to throw away only to discover historical treasures.

Settlers arrived in Lapine in the early 1800s, before the town had an actual name, but was recognized by Tucker. The first official settler was George Webster, who arrived in approximately 1868. He married Ms. Hattie Webster in 1873 and had eight children. They became the prominent members of this community and opened up a store here. (The family built many of the houses that remain in Lapine today).

Many other families also moved to the town during this time: the Tankersely family, the Bradleys, the Edwards, the Storys, the Dukes, the Depriests, Warners, Spears, and the Churchwells. (Many ancestors of these families still live in the community). As reported in the Montgomery News at the time, the Union Army went through Lapine and took livestock and other goods from the local residents, which were talked about for many years.

Lapine was then established as a railroad town and grew rapidly. It also was the main link to the Highland Home College and provided transportation by carriage there daily. Also the train would transport the college students and the community residents to Montgomery in the morning for a daily excursion and then would bring them back in the afternoon.

Boardinghouses and stores were abundant. In the height of its popularity, there were 42 stores in all. Some of these stores were a drugstore, bank, hotdog stand, barbershop, furniture and iron work shops, a blacksmith, an icehouse, a butcher, a clock repair shop and a restaurant. There were many stores that sold merchandise, as well as several auto repair shops. There was also a doctor and dentist to serve the community. A fish market even inhabited the small town. You could also trade mules at the mule-trading barn. A two-story schoolhouse and a post office were also present. Local commerce revolved around cotton, lumber, cattle, farming, and merchandising.

But there was also fun to be had in historical Lapine. Traveling circuses visited on occasions and would set up in a local pasture. There was also the arrival of the horse-drawn medicine shows. These were wagons with a band, hula dancers, snake charmer and a man who sold a "special cure-all medicine." This special "medicine" contained 12 percent alcohol, which had an exhilarating effect on anyone who drank it. There was also traveling carousels, traveling tents, which showed black and white movies and occasionally gypsies.

The Bradley and Edwards store was particularly a center of activity. On the first floor was an array of practical items such as buckets, boots, candy, chamber pots and ammunition. Sometimes even luxury items were provided, especially at Christmas. But the second floor was a different matter: an inventory of caskets adorned every inch of floor space. The store had a huge porch, which hosted many "folks" on warm days. They were busy talking, playing checkers, whittling and chewing tobacco. Some prices at the time were loafs of bread at five cents, eggs were 12 cents per dozen, milk was 20 cents per gallon and butter was 15 cents per pound. Unfortunately, a raging fire burnt this store as well as Barrett's general store to the ground. The present community house stands on a portion of the site formerly occupied by Bradley and Edwards.

Another dark period of Lapine History is the diphtheria, typhoid fever and flu epidemics of the 1920s. Many loved ones were lost in this period of extreme sadness. It was a custom at the time that when a person died, relatives and close friends would hold a continuous around the clock wake in the home of the deceased. These wakes would begin from the time the casket was placed in the home until the departed was removed and carried to the church or graveside for burial.

Lapine is a very interesting and history rich community. Unfortunately, when the train no longer traveled to Lapine, the town also died. Many of the homes there have been there for a century. Most of us remember the old buildings that were torn down, but are not old enough to remember or know the amazing history that was lived there. The Baptist and Methodist church, which still remains today, was built in the 1800s and was attended by our ancestors. Some of the residents there still tell these wonderful stories.

Conklin is attempting to preserve these stories by sharing with us. If you would like to contribute something to the Lapine history or would like to learn more about it, please contact her at 537-9565. She is particularly searching for families whose ancestors once lived there.

I would also like to credit the Crenshaw County Historical Society for their insightful story in the July 2004 issue. This was a great help in writing this article.

We must make our history known, so that it will not be lost forever.

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Laura Simmons of Highland Home recently won a cash prize and awards in the Creative Living Center during the 2004 Alabama National Fair held Oct. 8-17 at the Garrett Coliseum and the fairgrounds in Montgomery

A total of $111,185 was paid in prize money and awards to winners during the 51st annual fair.

Congratulations Laura!

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If you have any comments, suggestions or information you would like to submit to this column, call Mrs. Wilson at

537-4511 or e-mail her at pen122@mon-cre.net