The Vagabond – Gadsden’s first social club

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By Danny Crownover

In July of 1888 when Gadsden was experiencing its first big boom and many folks expected to get rich quick, several prominent men formed the city’s first social club.

The idea was to establish a club that would represent the city’s chief social and business interests. The club was officially known as the A.L. Glenn Club, named in honor of Alonzo L. Glenn, president of the First National Bank.

The social club, which was duly incorporated under Alabama law, had as its charter members

George E. Turrentine, Monroe C. Herstein, W.G. Hatchell, James W. Randall, Eugene Randall, Edgar A. Welsh, J. Beggs, S.M. Morrow, A. Bishop, E.T. Hollingsworth and J.D. Young. Turrentine was listed as president, Herstein as vice-president and Hatchett as secretary and treasurer. The club’s board of control was composed by the 11 charter members. Membership was limited to 150 persons.

It is interesting to note that the purpose of the organization, as stated in its charter, was to play billiards, pool, whist, casino, euchre, poker, vingtu, dominoes, backgammon, chess and draughts or checkers and all other games not prohibited by law. Wagers on games were prohibited, and it was stipulated that spirituous, vinous or malt liquors should not be sold, bought, kept or given away by members of the club. In other words, no violations of the law were permitted. It was likely that there was very little violation of state and city laws, because club members frequently had their women folk out, as women were guests every night the club was open.

Very little drinking was done in the club rooms, although a dumb waiter connected the club with a saloon downstairs. Dances were held almost weekly, and for a time, the club was the hub of Gadsden’s social whirl. The club’s members represented some of the pioneer families of Gadsden and Etowah County, but there were a few newcomers, mostly young men who were leaders in local business.

Membership gradually grew but the financial panic of the early 1890s caused the social club to close, much like many other institutions and business projects of the boom period in Gadsden and throughout North Alabama. The clubroom was located upstairs in a two-story building that is now the east half of the Kress Building in the 300 block on Broad Street on downtown Gadsden.

The Vagabond may be contacted at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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