Penmanship matters – or the lack thereof in the case of Daviston.
John O. Davis was filing paperwork for the post office in a community in northeastern Tallapoosa County. Instead of being “Davis Town,” the community became known as Daviston. Davis established the post office in Daviston as the first postmaster in 1853 and the first land deeds in the area date back to 1836 as settlers made their way on the Chapman Road between West Point, Georgia, and the Coosa River into Indian Lands opened in 1832.
Being in the middle is old hat to families in Daviston.
“We are 25 miles from everywhere,” Ted Cotney said. “We are 25 miles to Alexander City, 25 miles to Dadeville, 25 miles to Ashland, 25 miles to Lineville, 25 miles to Roanoke. We are in the middle.”
The Cotney family might be one of the first families to Daviston.
“My forefathers came from Lancaster, South Carolina, following lands of the 1820s and 1830s,” Cotney said. “Daniel Moses Cotney, my great-great grandfather, settled in Daviston. He left the Carolinas with his mother and three brothers. One brother settled in Chambers County, another in Randolph County.”
Ray Dunn is a relative of that first postmaster.
“(John O. Davis’) sister was Ray’s great-great grandmother,” said Elaine Dunn, Ray’s wife.
And that is not the only connection of the Dunn’s to the post office in Daviston.
“Ray’s grandmother was the first postmistress in 1908 and 1909,” Elaine said. “She was a Dunn.”
Ray said, “It was my daddy’s side.”
Elaine said the road was the reason for people to start settling in the area as they traded with the Native Americans.
“This area had a lot of Indian communities; a lot were friendly but some were not,” Elaine said. “There were people here and they wanted to go (where people were) to trade.”
The Dunns have opened the Daviston Historical Museum.
“This used to be an old Pan-Am Station,’ Elaine said as she walked across the glossy finished floor original to the building. “Right here used to be the grease rack. Over there is where they stored the batteries, acid ate away part of the floor.”
Elaine is a self-admitted history buff.
“Daviston used to be a booming town,” Elaine said. “It had a buggy shop. At one time it had a federal distillery because the area had such clear and good water – that is where they put the distilleries. It brought in some people.”
Daviston had saw mills, a blacksmith’s shop, a coffin shop, a public well, six saloons, a pharmacy and doctors.
The Dunns believe Daviston could have been bigger.
“In 1901, they were going to put a railroad in real close by,” Elaine said. “Some people had an issue with selling their land, so they moved it to Wadley.”
Ray said, “That is when Wadley started to grow and we started to decline. Along that time they ran a rail spur down to a turpentine mill here.”
Ray grew up in Daviston and despite the railroad being 10 miles away, remembers the hustle and bustle of the town as his father owned a general mercantile.
“When I was a kid, there would be lots of people, especially on Saturday,” Ray said. “People would come in their wagons to get their corn ground. We had two grist mills, three stores and even a picture show when I was a kid.”
Ray played basketball at the Daviston School traveling to away games on a school bus that unloaded and loaded at the old covered bridge at the now Horseshoe Bend National Military Park. He can’t believe no children lost their lives on those bridge crossings 50 years ago.
“We would pull up to the bridge, stop and get off, everybody but the driver,” Ray said. “It is a wonder one of us hadn’t fallen through one of the holes on the side. See all the kids would run to see who could get to the other side first.The old buses, the lights wouldn’t shine all the way to the other side of the bridge.”
Cotney didn’t go far to further his education. First, he attended Southern Union in Wadley before finishing at Troy University. He found work in LaGrange, Georgia. After living in LaGrange, Cotney returned to Daviston.
“I came back after two or three years,” Cotney said. “I didn’t like living in a subdivision. I like my country living.”
Cotney burned many a gallon of gas on the Chapman Road, which is now Highway 22.
“I commuted for 30 something years to Lagrange,” Cotney said.
One of the reasons for Daviston’s success is bringing in new blood.
“The men here have done a good job of bringing in great wives to the community,” Cotney said. “I found mine in Wadley.”
Elaine is from Eagle Creek.
If a person is a Davis, Cotney, Drake, Thompson, Jones, McDaniel or Bishop and has a family connection to Tallapoosa County, he or she likely has some kinfolk from Daviston.
“Those are some of the family names from around here,” Elaine said. “They have been here for generations.”
Ray and Elaine don’t plan on going anywhere. Ray is a former mayor of Daviston who helped bring the water system to town in the 1970s. He has been pastor of the Davistion Independent Methodist Church for 31 years and still owns an insurance business in Alexander City.
Some who grew up in Daviston have moved away to be closer to the hustle and bustle of a larger town. Some think about life in the country. While Cotney loves it, he offers a bit of advice before someone goes all in in a small town.
“I have a daughter, Molly, who lives in Auburn,” Cotney said. “She wants to move back because it’s quiet. My son-in-law loves coming to visit. We’ve had a lot of people move here and stay, but I have to say it’s not for everyone. I would suggest if you are thinking about moving to the country, to rent a place for a year or two before making the huge commitment.”
“Know what your doing before you do it. You either love it or you don’t.”
Cotney said he knows people who moved to town from Florida.
“They’re good people, great friends,” Cotney said.
Cotney said he used to think Daviston had the market cornered on friendly people.
“We have some great people in Daviston,” Cotney said. “Daviston has been good to me. I have no regrets coming back to live here. I used to think Daviston had the patent on hospitality until 1994 and the death of a brother in Roanoke. The people there treated us so well. I realized no matter where you go, you are going to find good people.”