McKenzie was named for Capt. Bethune Beaton McKenzie

Published 12:52 am Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Town of McKenzie is a small Southern one located about 20 miles northeast of Andalusia. The site is rather unique in that it spreads over the corners of Butler and Conecuh Counties and is very close to the northern border of Covington County.

McKenzie was founded in 1899 as a depot when the railway south to Andalusia was completed. As men cleared the right of way, a settlement began to develop. Records show the pay for the workers was 50 cents per day for labor, and a boarding house offered bed and meals was 10 cents a day. One of the workers was J.C. Huggins who built a house in March 1899. That same year, he moved the post office from Lumber Mills to Persimmon Creek. That was what the area was called until the McKenzie name was adopted in 1900.

After the railroad was finished, S.D. Majors opened a general store, and D.B. Sellers and sons also built and operated stores. Dan Sellers built a house there as well. In a location just south of McKenzie, Robert A. “Bob” Lee had a store which was one of the very first in the general area.

In 1905, the young town consisted of four general stores, a hardware store, a drug store, millinery shops, a sawmill, and a cotton gin. The population was 65 people with continuous growth. The pioneer citizens included the following: H.J. Huggins, J.W. Huggins, J.L. Sellers, J.D. Sellers, B.D. Sellers, J.W. Hall, B.J. Griffin, R.W. Johnson, R.A. Lee and John W. Baldwin.

McKenzie town limits spread over about 3.7 acres. In 2000, the population was 644 inhabitants, and the current number is 530. This downward trend is not uncommon for rural communities since many are forced to move for suitable employment opportunities. A positive note is an increased enrollment in McKenzie School, a kindergarten through high school institution. In fact, a new seven-room classroom building was constructed in 2017.

The Town of McKenzie was named to honor Captain Bethune Beaton McKenzie, a native of Barbour County, Ala. He was born October 11, 1837, as the son of Daniel McKenzie and Amanda Burch. He was the grandson of Kenneth McKenzie and Anne Herrington of Rockingham, N.C., who migrated to Barbour County, Ala., in 1828. Kenneth was a Scotsman who was born in Isle of Skye, Scotland. Kenneth’s father along with his wife and five children sailed from the shores of Scotland in 1783, but he died of ship fever and was buried at sea. His widow and children landed at Baltimore, but they soon went to Richmond County, N.C.

Bethune McKenzie’s early education was at the Louisville Academy in Barbour County, and he was later graduated from Howard College (current Samford) in 1858. He had planned to pursue a degree in law, but his ill health prevented him from entering law school. He was married that year, 1858, to Caroline Elizabeth “Betty” Flournoy (1840-1927), daughter of Glen Thomas Flournoy of Barbour County, Ala. Betty has been described as “a lovely Christian woman.” The couple settled there, and Bethune began farming. Their beautiful home, “Liberty Hill,” was for years one of the most hospitable homes in the state and so was their later home in Eufaula.

With the break out of the war in 1861, Bethune enlisted to serve in the Confederate Army as a private in Company H, 7th Alabama Infantry Regiment, and he soon achieved the rank of sergeant. In 1862, he entered Company C, 39th Alabama Regiment as a first lieutenant. After a couple of years in the infantry, he realized his physical health would not allow him to continue in that way, so he returned home and organized a cavalry company for which he became Captain. In 1864, his unit along with others were ordered to the Virginia Department as a part of the Jefferson Davis Legion. He was actually present when General Johnston surrendered to General Sherman.

Throughout the war, McKenzie was regarded as a loyal and patriotic soldier. After the war ended, he as well as others returned home to a war-ravished country. He was elected to be a delegate to the Alabama Constitutional Convention where he was the youngest member. Returning to his engineering career, he surveyed and supervised the building of the Vicksburg and Brunswick Railroad from Eufaula to Clayton, Ala. He also became the chief engineer for the Central of Georgia Railway Company. In 1882, be became associated with the L & N Railroad where he managed the track department from Decatur to Mobile as well as the branch to Selma and Pine Apple. He later put in a sawmill and became principal owner of the Dunham Station Operation/Dunham Lumber Company circa 1881. He later purchased the Chewalla Cotton Mills, the business he operated until his death in 1913.

When the 1900 federal census was enumerated, the Bethune McKenzie family was residing in the Garland community in Butler county. (Garland is near the Town of McKenzie.) Bethune was listed as a mill operator, which was probably referring to the cotton mills. As a highly respected citizen of South Alabama, Bethune was elected to be a member of the Alabama Constitutional Convention in 1901.

Bethune B. McKenzie has been described as a “Man of highest principle and character, a consecrated Christian man of commanding appearance and personality, and outstanding in Barbour County as one of its most valuable citizens; a deacon in the First Baptist Church and a power of strength in that denomination in the county.”

Bethune Beaton McKenzie and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth “Betty” (Flournoy), were the parents of the following children: Edgar Flournoy, b. 1859, m. (1) 1884 A. Lena Lampley (2) Irene Mildred Mettee; Amanda, b.&d. 1861; Caroline R. “Callie,” b. 1862, d. 1999, m. 1883 Uriah C. Vinson (1849-1912); Georgiana “Anna” Josephine, b. 1866, d. 1893, m. 1885 Samuel Taylor Suratt (1856-1939); Amanda “Mandy” Burch, b. 1868, d. 1904, m. 1891 William Wightman Mangum (1867-1914); Daniel Burch, b. 1870, d. 1950, m. 1905 Esther Downing (1880-1958); Frances Flournoy, b. 1872, d. 1948, m. 1900 Edwin Marshall Lovelace (1854-1917); Mary Lou, b. 1874, d. 1951, m. (1) 1901 Edgar Hugh Roberts (2) 1907 James V. Methvin; Kenneth Bethune, b. 1875, d. 1952, m. 1908 Annie Clyde Methvin (1881-1955); Jannie May, b. 1876, d. 1877; and Susie Dean, b. 1888, d. 1974, m. 1913 John Alexander Copeland (1883-1953).

Bethune McKenzie’s maternal grandfather, Jesse Burch, was a Methodist minister who migrated along with his bride, Susan Dean, into Creek country as early as 1816. He staked a claim and soon built a log house, one of the first to be constructed in the area. Amazingly, the structure still stands with various additions that have been erected over the years. Currently it is known as the Schaeffer House. Burch probably preached to the Indians who were still in the area at that time. Benton McKenzie’s rich heritage would have contributed greatly to his successful life of public service.

Sources for this writing include, Memorial Record of Alabama, internet records and a booklet entitled “McKenzie People” published in Winter 1983.

Anyone who might find an error in the above history is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email:



The Covington Historical Society will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 28. This month, the group will gather in the parking lot of Bethany Church at 6:30 p.m. Robert McClelland will present the program in his nearby country store. Anyone interested in local history is encouraged to attend.