Along with several other adventurers from the Etowah Historical Society, the Vagabond recently traveled to Ashville to view all of the town’s historical landmarks. Here are some of the sites we visited:
The place known as the John W. Inzer home was built in 1852 by an early settler, Moses Dean. Dean and his wife, Eliza Hoke Dean, entered land at Ashville in 1825. Their first home was a log “dog-trot” house. The couple had the beautiful, clear spring — the very same spring that today furnishes Ashville’s water supply and is spoken of as Dean’s Spring.
Dean was one of Ashville’s first merchants, whose large store stood across the street from Court Square. It was a busy place, as Dean furnished town folks and local farmers with all necessary commodities.
In 1852, Dean sold his spring property and built what today is known as the Inzer home. However, Dean died in 1855 and was unable to finish the house. Soon afterwards, Dean’s wife began to dispose of her Ashville property, as she planned to move her family to Jacksonville to be near her Hoke relatives.
Shortly after the Civil War Judge Inzer came in possession of the Dean house. He brought his bride, Sally Elizabeth Pope, to live in the house in 1866.
John Washington Inzer, who was born in Georgia, came first to Talladega in 1854. He read law in the office of Messrs. A. J. Walker and John T. Morgan. Inzer passed the bar and came to Ashville in 1856, where he began his law practice
Inzer was a popular man and was elected St. Clair County’s representative to the Secession Convention at Montgomery in January 1861. He was 26 years old and the youngest delegate to sign the Ordinance of Secession. Inzer served with distinction in the Confederate Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In the Battle of Missionary Ridge, the Yankees captured Col. Inzer and many of his regiment. He was imprisoned on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie and there he remained until surrender.
Inzer resumed his law practice after the war and lived through the terrible Reconstruction period. Much has been written regarding the role he played in bringing law and order to St. Clair County. There were many important things that Inzer accomplished during his 94 years.
The Inzer House is a one-story Greek Revival structure. The small portico has two Doric pillars, flanked by two square ones. The pilasters are square, and the double doors, with glass of ruby red for transom and sidelights add the perfect touch. Including room dividers, the walls are 16 inches thick from the ground up.
The house was built of red brick, fired on the grounds. Sometime during its long history, the house has been given a coat of white paint, so the beauty of the hand-pressed brick has been hidden. The rooms are spacious, and many of the original furnishings are still intact. The hand-planed floors and woodwork retain their classic beauty.
The lawn and garden are picturesque, with old-fashioned flowering shrubs, colorful spring-blooming bulbs and stately magnolias that speak of the love and care of by-gone days. The house is on the National Register of Historic Homes. It was deeded to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp No. 308, which operates the Inzer House today.
Masonic Lodge Building
Next on the tour was the adjoining Masonic Lodge. This building was the home of Cataula Masonic Lodge, Number 187. The lodge was organized around 1850 and is still active. The name was soon changed to Ashville Masonic Lodge, Number 187. The lodge was built in 1858 on the site of the present Methodist Church. The structure was used by both the Methodist Congregation and the Masons until 1892.
At that point, the Methodists deeded their one-half interest in the lodge building to the Masons and the structure was moved to its present location.
The lodge is Ashville’s only example of federal architecture and has been restored and preserved. There is a museum located on the second floor.
Looney House Museum
The Looney House Museum (1820) is likely the oldest two-story log dogtrot house in the state.
The house was originally built in lower Beaver Valley by John Looney and his son Henry, who served with Andrew Jackson’s volunteer Tennessee Army during the Creek War of 1813-14.
The Looneys had helped build Fort Strother and were experts in using native materials.
The house’s foundation consists of huge stones quarried from the hillside. The sills are cedar, and the pine logs are dovetailed to fit perfectly.
Exposed rafters are held together with hand-carved pegs. There are no metal nails in the entire structure.
There are four large rooms, two downstairs and two upstairs, with breezeway or dogtrot both up and downstairs. Each downstairs room features a fireplace large enough to burn five-foot logs. The twin chimneys are made of hand-pressed brick. The house is furnished with primitive handmade pieces.
The Looney House is an excellent example of pioneer architecture and is on the National Register. Col. and Mrs. Joseph Creitz deeded the house to the St. Clair Historical Society. The Etowah Historical Society sponsors an annual fall festival during which the following activities take place – candle dipping, soap making, quilting, basket weaving and fiddling.
Ashville Museum and Archives
Located across from the historic St. Clair County Courthouse is a depository for some of the county records and newspapers. The depository also features memorabilia exhibits. The Ashville Museum and Archive is a great research opportunity for historians and genealogists.
There are all kinds of county records stored in the museum, such as probate records of estates, wills, deeds, orphan court records and probate minutes.
There also are records of births from 1893 to 1906, record of deaths from1881to1888, the census of Confederate Soldiers of 1907, and the first court records from 1819 to 1849.
The archive also includes old newspapers such as the Southern Aegis from 1879 to 1880. Miscellaneous information such as cemetery records is available, and many family history books are located in the museum with over 500 family history files to be found.
The Ashville Museum and Archive is indeed a great research opportunity for historians and genealogists.