The Letters Keep Coming
ASHS Column for 08 11 05
Jerry Simmons

Margaret Collier and I, along with all the Society members,
feel our job is being done correctly when we provide
someone with a link to their past. Late in July we received
an email from Mr. Dura Gordon Nelson, Jr., that said,
"Yesterday I had the opportunity to read the Alger-Sullivan
Historical (Society's) article in the Tri Cities ledger for
March 17, 2005, which captioned a picture of my dad.

"You can't imagine how elated I was to read this article since
my dad died in Mobile, Alabama in 1932, I was 3 years old
and know relatively little about him. I can only assume he
worked at the Alger-Sullivan mill. I do know that he was in
the army during the 1st world war and worked at a paper mill
in Bogalusa, Louisiana before going to Mobile in the late 1920's. I was born in Mobile in 1929, graduated from Auburn
University in 1957 and retired from Gulf Power Co. in 1991. During my working career I had brief encounters at the mill and worked on numerous electrical substations in and around Century, but never realized my dad had also been in Century at one time. At this time my son, Dura G. Nelson III lives in Bratt, Florida and works for Exxon at the Jay plant. He is the one who showed me the article.

"Thank you again for the article and the picture.

"Dura Gordon Nelson Jr."
See what I mean? We have a lot of photographs with people we can't identify but many of you have responded with clarifications and information. So a big "Thank you" to Mr. Nelson for making us feel good.

A recent entry in the society's website guestbook came from Jessica (Roe) Huffman, now of Markleville, Indiana. Jessica wrote: "I lived at 411 E. Hecker Rd. until I was 9. The memories I have of Century are happy and some of the best of my life. I have learned so much of its history - thank you." Another entry was from Sehoya Jordan, who lived on Hecker Road across from the high school. She's been able to make some connections to her past and we are happy to have played a part.

One of our recent tour guests, Bob McGowan, of Pensacola, saw a photo of Old 100 working in the mill yard and said, "My dad took that picture!" Turns out his dad was a flight instructor from NAS and as he flew over Northwest Florida, he'd spy landmarks and dirt roads. Then on off days, he'd jump into his car, and take his family to check these sites out. One such excursion came in 1952 while they were in the mill yard looking at the steam engine "graveyard," when Old 100 came chuffing along the rails nearby. The elder McGowan pulled his camera out and shot the picture! It's on page 3 of the recently published book by the ASHS on Old 100.

There are many stories such as these. I like to toot our own horn occasionally - if not to prove something to you, then to make ourselves feel confident in what we're doing. Recently we had some folks in for a tour of the museums and park. One gentleman kept remarking about how a certain museum he'd been to had this and had that, telling us how much better that was than the way we had it. I can tell you - but I didn't comment to him - there are no other museums that have any more heart and soul poured into them than the ones at The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society. We may not do it like everyone else, but no one else tries any harder than we do.

We love what we are doing for you, for the town , for the ones who will come after us, and certainly for the honor of the ones here before us. They were hardworking, individualistic souls, who did their best to make their way through this life, just as you and I are doing today. There were scoundrels, of course, but the majority of those here were honest and good people.

A good example is Alonzo Harwell. He came to Century and The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company from Arkansas in the early 20th Century to live out his life and raise his family of fine, upstanding folks. His influence is still being felt today, not just by his descendants, but by his neighbors' children (me). These are lessons we all should learn: that in our lifetimes we have influence over more people than we could ever guess, and for far longer than we would ever think.
'Nuff preachin - there're better qualified men writing columns here, so I'll leave it to them. I said all that to say this: We need your help - and support. Your work in the Society can last for years to come. I'm not asking for money! I am asking that if you ever thought you might want to drop in on one of our meetings and perhaps join, there is no time like the present. Your input and help can have an influence on a young person years from now as they try to understand their past - remember Jessica Huffman above? You may contact one of our members to find out how, or call one of these numbers: 850-256-2029; 850-256-3983; or 850-256-2661. We will be happy to give you all the information you need.

Our next meeting is August 15 at 7 pm in The Leach House Museum. That's located in the J.H. Jones Historical Park on Jefferson Avenue in Century. The speaker at this meeting is Kevin McKinley, the writer of the column appearing in the Tri-City Ledger for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He's been given free reign over his choice of topics, and he said he will likely speak on the difference in economies before and after the War Between The States. Why don't you make this a priority for August 15? You'll find great refreshments afterward and a chance to socialize with your friends and neighbors a bit - maybe even make new friends and meet your neighbors!

Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company 750 horsepower Corliss steam engine. Does anyone recognize the people in this photo?

This page last modified on Monday, September 19, 2005