BUTLER COUNTY BEGINNINGS 200 Years of History

BY ANNIE CRENSHAW

 

We told readers last week about several Fort Dale Academy eighth-grade students who portrayed historical figures as the “Dynamic Women of Butler County” at our Bicentennial celebration on Nov. 2.

Who were the selected “Dynamic Women”? And, what young ladies participated in living history – real, here-and-now LIVING history – with those portrayals?

I hope you didn’t miss them – the “Dynamic Women” were excellent!

Arranged at stations around the center of Confederate Park, each girl told her character’s story when a visitor showed up to listen or “pressed the button,” like a museum’s audio-visual exhibit.

Kate Turner portrayed Ina Marie Porter Henry Ockenden, noted journalist and poet who was the first woman to become a member of the Alabama Press Association.

Ina Marie came to Greenville as a young woman with her family just before the Civil War. She edited The Southern News, was associate editor of The South Alabamian, and then became associate editor of The Greenville Advocate. We’ve written much about her in previous articles.

Anne Elise Shealy played the part of Mary Ogly, survivor of the 1818 Ogly-Stroud massacre in which nearly all the members of two pioneer Butler County families were killed.

Mary Ogly lost her husband, William, and all of her children except daughter Elizabeth, in one night of terror and its aftermath as Creek Warriors led by Savannah Jack attacked the Ogly cabin at Poplar Springs on the Federal Road.

Annah Parker Little portrayed Elizabeth Dunklin Parmer, wife of philanthropist Walter Oliver Parmer. Born just before the Civil War, Elizabeth was a granddaughter of one of Butler County’s earliest pioneer families: the Dunklins.

Elizabeth and her husband Walter were strongly interested in education.

In 1927, Walter O. Parmer donated funds to construct an elementary school that was given his name. He also established the Walter O. Parmer scholarship, which has provided a college education for students from Butler, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties since 1936.

Hayden Cowles played Ella Smith Herbert, wife of Colonel Hilary Abner Herbert, who was a U.S. senator and served as Secretary of War under President Grover Cleveland.

During her years in Washington, DC, with her husband, Ella met many distinguished people from different parts of the country. She was elected Vice-Regent for the state of Alabama in the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

Founded in 1853, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association is a non-profit organization that preserves and maintains the Mount Vernon estate originally owned by George Washington and family. Ella was successful in furnishing much of the house interior with period antiques from Washington’s day.

Blaire Reid portrayed beloved local educator, Miss Mittie Wright, the first principal of Greenville’s W. O. Parmer Elementary School.

Mittie’s long teaching career spanned three generations of Butler County children. She attended Florence Normal School for teachers, and taught several years at Greenville Elementary School. When this school burned in the 1920s, Miss Mittie was selected to be principal of the new elementary school named for the construction funds donor, Walter O. Parmer. She was a charter member of the Alpha Epsilon chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma teachers’ sorority.

Alli Butts portrayed Kate Parker Waller, a trained nurse who served eleven months overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, working in hospitals in France, Italy and Belgium.

After the war, Kate became the county nurse for Butler County, running a free clinic in Greenville with the help of the American Red Cross. She represented the Anti-Tuberculosis Association for the county and promoted health education and proper medical treatment for every resident.

Those of you who joined us for Butler County’s Bicentennial celebration on Nov. 2, 2019, experienced a wonderful part of local history with the “Dynamic Women of Butler County” portrayals.

The participating Fort Dale Academy students deserve our thanks and congratulations – and perhaps they’ll give their performances again in the near future.

Learn more about Butler County history with membership in The Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society, P. O. Box 561, Greenville, AL 36037. You can read more about Butler County’s beginnings here – https://www.rootsweb.com/~albchgs or http://sites.rootsweb.com/~albchgs/. And, visit us on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Butler-County-Historical-Genealogical-Society-101347011245720

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