Freetown in Hale County, ALFriday, April 28, 2006
After we left the Sucarnochee Folk Life Festival last weekend in Livingston, we headed over to Faunsdale, where they were having their annual crawfish festival. On the way, we saw this pretty church with a historic marker in front - it's the Bethlehem Baptist Church:
The historic marker reads:
In 1867 a group of African American men and women laid the foundations for Freetown. William, John, Albert, George, Richard, and Peter Collins; Susan and Lawrence Moore; Thomas Jeffries; the children of John Jeffries; and Louisa Conway and her children received over six hundred acres of land in the will of John Collins, a local planter who had migrated from Virginia to Alabama in 1837. The early residents included former slaves and free people of color. Many of the men were skilled masons and carpenters, including Peter Lee and John Glascow who directed the construction of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Gallion. Freetown residents helped organize Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1867.
The other side continues:
Freetown became a vibrant community and residents achieved local prominence. The settlement reached its peak in the 1920s as part of Allenville. Brown's general store established around 1910 became the major commercial center and social hub. Women from the community were among the first teachers in the area's African American schools. Some Freetown children received primary and secondary education as boarding students at Selma University. The community’s population declined after World War II as African Americans migrated to northern and southern cities. Residents and their descendants over time became skilled workers, professionals, and active members of communities elsewhere, while maintaining strong ties to Freetown.