I’m Alabama born and raised. My favorites places in Alabama vary from the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast, to the nature trails of the Appalachian foothills, and from the cosmopolitan splendor of Birmingham, to the rural serenity of the forests that dot the state. I wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.
But one thing I love most about Alabama is the history it’s steeped in. Like a fine tea, you’ll discover its richness and variety the moment you take a sip.
In late afternoon we climbed the tall steps to the wraparound porch of the Queen Anne style mansion in the little neighborhood of Monterey Place in Mobile, Alabama. Our host, Wendy James, greeted us at one of the two doors gracing the front of the house. She later explained that the extra door was a relic from World War II. The Shepard family converted the mansion into a boarding house to lodge workers employed during the war effort. Mobile’s contribution of airplanes and ships helped win the war in the Pacific.
Inside the Kate Shepard House, the décor was warm, ornate woodwork, antique light fixtures (many original to the house), stained glass windows, and built-in bookcases. A grand piano sat enthroned in the parlor. We followed our host up the winding staircase to the second floor where Wendy settled us in the Barber Room, named for the architect George Franklin Barber on whose designs the house was built. She told us that Charles Martin Shepard and his wife might have chosen the plans from Barber’s mail order catalog after seeing an advertisement in a women’s magazine. It is rumored that more than a dozen railroad cars of building supplies arrived in Mobile from Knoxville, Tennessee to create the Kate Shepard House.
The Barber room was furnished with a tall, comfortable carved oak bed, a fireplace, and a wonderful view of the magnolia trees and garden. A few steps led to the bathing area housing a huge two-person soaker tub (TMI—I know this from experience). A water closet, hid behind tiny French doors, enclosed the commode.
While dining the next morning on pecan praline French toast, Wendy informed us that when she began preparing the house for visitors, the attic yielded a treasure trove of Civil War correspondence and letters. Kate Shepard, the daughter of Charles Martin Shepard, was the great niece of Colin J. McRae, the Confederacy’s Chief Financial Agent to Europe. The papers Wendy and her husband found changed recorded history, proving that Great Britain aided the Confederate States during the Civil War. In addition to the correspondence and financial documents from the Civil War, there were dozens and dozens of personal letters lovingly preserved. The correspondence revealed intimate details of the McRae family life and included receipts for items bought or sold, recipes, school records, medical records, property deeds, and court settlements. She explained that one letter detailed the anguish experienced as family members succumbed to Yellow Fever, quarantined and nursed by mothers and daughters also stricken with the dread disease. Overall, the McRae’s saved more than 2500 documents that spanned a hundred years. The collection is one of the most complete histories of that era in the South.
And here’s the best part: Wendy and Bill James have donated all these papers to a museum with the caveat they be available to anyone who asks to examine them. The papers are now housed at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum. You can view a listing of the collection at https://www.crr.sc.gov/exhibits/mcrae and request to see them for yourself.
So have you ever thought of visiting Alabama? One lucky commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card! Remember to leave a contact link.
About the Author
Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, began writing at twelve years old but took a hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons, produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, fold origami, send ping pong balls into space, and amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it has been a lifelong dream of Aidee's to write both romance and erotica with a little science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.
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