Marking the past: Daviston Mayor Tim East, right, addresses druing the historic marker dedication ceremony while Eddie Joe Burton looks on. | Albert C. Bulls IV

Archived Story

155 years and counting…

Published 9:27pm Monday, November 15, 2010

Daviston dedicates new historic marker  Saturday during town celebration

Today marks 155 years since the town of Daviston adopted its name from its first postmaster, John O. Davis. With a current population of 250, the town, which is nestled in the far northeast corner of Tallapoosa County, was once a busy crossroads that had, among other businesses, mills, shops, distilleries and a saloon.

On Saturday at the Daviston Community Center, the 23rd annual Daviston School Reunion drew dozens of attendees. The town also held a dedication ceremony that included the presentation and installation of a state historical marker.

Bobbie Dean Black, a member of the school reunion committee since its inception, enjoyed the time to reminisce with old friends and to cultivate new ones.

“(It’s great) getting to see everybody I went to school with and don’t get to see very often,” said Black, who graduated in 1954 with two other girls and two boys. “Also getting to meet some of the people before me. We enjoyed our school – it was small, but we enjoyed it. Most of us went to college. I think we’ve done good.

“I appreciate everybody that comes to the reunions. It’s a blessing and it’s good fellowship.”

The newly dedicated sign, which is on Hwy. 22 East, preserves the history of the town on one side and the school on the other.

The opportunity to receive the marker occurred about two years ago when, according to Mayor Tim East, the Alabama Bureau of Tourism started a “Coming Home Alabama” campaign where a town could receive the commemorative sign under two conditions.

“(They) said, ‘We”ll furnish you a Historic Marker if you”ll have an event and give us the information to put on it,” said East, who is originally from New Site but has called Daviston home for the past 29 years. “It was a real simple thing. (They)mailed out a brochure and application, and basically all you had to give them was, ‘Yes, I”ll do it and this is the date we’re going to have an activity.’ And then later they wanted to know the information, they had a deadline to give the information to go on it.

“So we elected to do that through the Town Council. Then we talked to the High School Reunion Committee and said, ‘This is what we have to offer. Do y’all want to do it at the same time and do you want to do this?’ So, that’s how this came about today with both of them – the history of the town and the school.”

During a part of the dedication, after the mayor voiced a collective “appreciation of the sacrifices of the people before that are responsible for making the town,” the veterans from each branch of the military were asked to stand in turn. One of them was retired Marine Corps Sgt. Bill Stephens, 89, who graduated in 1940 in a class of nine, making him the Daviston School’s oldest alumnus. Stephens said that the only other classmate still around is Annie Hardy Tidwell.

He remembers a schoolroom “heated by a big pot belly stove” and riding a homemade school bus – a truck chassis fitted with a wooden frame. The bus had windows and room for about 40 kids, but no air conditioning or heat. The route back in the late 1930s included many miles of dirt roads. When it rained the streets turned to mud and the bus got stuck more than once.

“We used to have to unload it and help push,” said Stephens, who spent his first eight grades at the Everglade School off Germany’s Ferry Road.

Stephens thought but a moment before stating with sharp conviction why his memories of the school are fond.

“I guess it was the classmates,” he said. “It had some good teachers and a good basketball coach – Hoyt Welsh.”

Stephens was the center on the team at a time when “new lace-ups cost 40 cents.”

The preservation and importance of a town goes well beyond, but starts with, a sign.