Several historical communities were located near McKenzie

Published 2:45 am Saturday, June 30, 2018

Since the Town of McKenzie, located on the border between Butler and Conecuh Counties, was featured in last week’s column, it seems timely to review some of the other early settlements that sprung up in the surrounding areas. As settlers arrived in this area of Alabama, their choice for locating and building homes was mostly determined by the trading routes.

Major trade and commerce points surrounding McKenzie included Montezuma in Covington County, Sparta and Burnt Corn in Conecuh County, and Greenville, county seat of Butler County. The road from Greenville to Montezuma ran east of McKenzie and likely stops were at Oakey Streak, Pigeon Creek and Westover. The road from Greenville to Sparta ran in a southwestern direction and probably passed through Starlington. The road from Montezuma to Sparta ran just below McKenzie, and there was a smaller road which intersected with it that cut through South Butler, the name given early on for this area.

The early South Butler settlement was about eight miles square. Although the exact location is not clear, the old cemetery can be found which lies about two miles north of the Elizabeth Church Cemetery. John Wheeler and Jessie R. Hinson settled there in 1823. The earliest store was opened by Pleasant G. Jackson in 1835. It was located near the Sparta Road which ran about two miles from the South Butler Methodist Church in 1827.

The Bennett neighborhood was created quite early, and it was located about three miles south of the current Town of Starlington. Benjamin Parker, an earlier pioneer, was the first to settle in the area in 1820. Phillip Coleman, another pioneer, located there in 1821. He was followed by three men who migrated from Mississippi: Joe Ainsworth, Joel Ellis and Elijah Hobbs. The Sparta to Greenville road was cut circa 1825. In 1830, Benjamin Parker’s son, Starling Parker, opened a store for the community; and thus, the area became known as Starlington.

The Oakey Streak community developed on the south east side of Pigeon Creek in lower Butler County. It has been proposed that the name was chosen because of the abundance of oak trees in an area where pine trees were usually dominant. Thomas Hester, Daniel Stallings and William Graydon were the first settlers. The Greenville to Montezuma road was cut about 1821. In 1826, George W. Wilson and Lovet B. Wilson moved to Oakey Streak from Conecuh County. Also, during that year, David Simmons, Isaac Smith, George Tillman, Richard Prewhitt, and Joe Jones settled there. In 1830, Lem Harvel from Covington County moved there and opened a store. From 1830 to 1840, the town was called Middleton. Then when a post office was established, it was renamed Oakey Streak.

Shreve is a small community located about five miles south of McKenzie in Conecuh County. Some believe the name of Shreve came from the Shreve Commissary which was operated in connection with a local sawmill. Although it is actually older than McKenzie, the little town never developed more than four stores at any given time. There were several springs in the area, and some of the land was shown on early property deeds as city lots. A Mr. Majors has been reported to be have operated a sawmill at Shreve and opened the first store.

When the L&N Railroad was put through in 1899 to Andalusia, some effort was made to secure land in Shreve for a “Y.” However, the land owners were reluctant to give up their property, so a comprise was reached. This plan was to have an additional siding laid which would allow trains to pass and for box cars to be left for loading and unloading. At the time, there was much harvesting and shipping of timber and lumber. Also, farming supplies and certain food items could be brought to the area. James Richard “Jim” Smith, as well as his son, John D. Rockefeller Smith, operated large stores there. The Shreve Post Office was run by the Smith family in their stores. Jim Smith, Eli Lee and Asa Peevy were a few of the very earliest settlers in Shreve.

There were others who operated stores in the Shreve community during the early days. These included Asa Eli “Cap” Peevy, Charles Hester and Isom Rainer. There were two “beer joints” located in the area for a number of years including the 1930s with one being owned by Gene Lee. It was said that men worked in the local tobacco farms, and after work they would stop by and spend some of their earnings for a cold beer. Later, another son of Jim Smith, William James “Jimmie” Smith, ran a store near a large oak tree, which was still standing during the 1980s and may still be alive. It was believed to be around 100 years old at the time.

During the 1940s, James Vester Lee owned a store and later bought Jimmie Smith’s. In the 1960s, Clarence Gomillion operated a store and service station. William Horton had a Country Mart store on Highway 55 South, and Leroy Smith ran one on the old farm road. The current Circle W Trailer business is being operated with members of the fourth generation of the Horton family. The Sweet Home Baptist Church in Shreve is yet quite active with Allen Joiner serving as minister, and there is a cemetery adjacent to the church building.

The Shreve community has been active with numerous businesses and large farming operations. The well-known Wingard’s Produce owners grow their crops in Shreve. Currently there are several chicken houses in operation. Mayme Wilson, a current resident, once operated her Life Enrichment Center as a day-care facility for seniors and disadvantaged individuals. She manages the center now as a “one-step” agency to assist those who need guidance in making contacts with referral agencies and legal matters. Calvin Hudson, a young man who resides in Shreve and works as a welder, established his own lawnmower business in McKenzie. He has also grown into mechanical repair of local logging trucks, etc.

Georgiana is a current thriving small town located a few miles north of McKenzie. John Shepherd, a native of Georgia, was the first to settle in the location in 1824. However, the town was actually established in 1855 by Pitt S. Milner, a Baptist preacher. He established a post office and named it Georgiana after his daughter, Georgia Anna. Milner opened a store in 1858, and T.H. Powell opened a saloon. Miles and Peter Simpson and John W. Wheeler had each opened a store by 1860. The town steadily grew into a substantial business center.

The Garland settlement was formed about 1840 in the swamp between Persimmon and Sepulga Creeks. As early as 1845, John Coleman, Hamp Kebler, Tom and Dan Koker, and Edmund Etheridge had places on the east side of Sepulga. Elias Presley, John P. Mires, Andrew Dunham, and James Adams had settled on the west side of Persimmon. John F. McPherson lived about five miles up the creek, and John Rogers lived in the fork of the two creeks. The town received its name in 1860 by Colonel W.P. Garland, a chief engineer on the Mobile and Montgomery Railway. Edmund Brooks owned the land where Garland was built, and he took in Col. Garland as a partner. In 1860, Robert Powell opened a saloon while John Rhodes and H. Clay Armstrong opened stores. Elias Hinson erected a hotel, and John Julian established a steam powered sawmill. There are still vestiges of the town located near the railroad.


The sources for this story include the winter 1983 publication entitled “McKenzie People,” and interviews with Mamie Wilson and Mary Alice Horton, current residents of the Shrive area.

Anyone who may discover 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 Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 5, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. The program will be a presentation by Compatriot John Allen Gantt. Anyone interested in the Confederate heritage is invited to attend. The camp is always seeking new members who are men who had a Confederate ancestor. For more information, contact Curtis Thomasson at the above addresses.