“Railroad Bill” was one of the most mysterious and violent criminals in the history of Southwest Alabama, and his death on Ashley Street in Atmore was just as violent as some of his crimes. I’ve been to Atmore many times over the years, but I couldn’t honestly say that I’d ever been down Ashley Street, which is why I put it on my “bucket list” a few years ago after reading about "Railroad Bill." Early on Sunday morning, I finally took the time to visit the entire length of Ashley Street in Atmore and officially scratched it off my list of places I wanted to see with my own two eyes.
For those of you unfamiliar with “Railroad Bill,” whose real name was Morris Slater, his story begins on March 6, 1895 when Louisville & Nashville Railroad detectives attempted to restrain him when they found him sleeping on a water tank along the tracks. Bill fired shots at detectives, hijacked a train car before jumping from a boxcar and disappearing into the woods. A manhunt ensued and a posse of about 20 men tracked Bill to Bay Minette, Ala., where a gunfight resulted in the death of Baldwin County deputy sheriff James Stewart. Bill, who some say was a shapeshifter, escaped.
On July 3, 1895, Escambia County, Ala. Sheriff E.S. McMillan formed another posse to capture Railroad Bill and later the following night at Bluff Springs an immense gun battle ensued. McMillan was shot in the chest and died while Bill escaped once again. Railroad Bill’s story came to an end on March 7, 1896 when he was shot to death by Constable J.L. McGowin near the Tidmore & Ward Store on Ashley Street in Atmore.
|Atmore, Ala. VFW Post on Ashley Street.|
I’ve tried to read as much as I could find about Railroad Bill over the years, and despite my best efforts, I’ve been unable to find out exactly where Tidmore & Ward’s Store was located on Ashley Street. By my way of thinking, if I traveled along its entire length, I will be sure to have passed the old building where it was located or the spot where the store was once located. (If anyone out there in the reading audience knows where it was located, please contact me to let me know.)
On Sunday, I had to take my wife to the airport in Pensacola, and on my way home, I took a few minutes to drive the entire length of Ashley Street, which runs west to east from the railroad tracks at Williams Street to Martin Luther King Avenue on the other side of town. According to Google Maps, this street is 1.1 miles long, and you can walk the entire length in about 20 minutes.
|Railroad tracks at the west end of Ashley Street.|
My personal feeling is that the old Tidmore & Ward Store was located near the west end of Ashley Street, near the railroad tracks. I also think it’s a strong possibility that the old Tidmore & Ward Store was located in an old store building near the present-day intersection of North Trammell Street and Ashley Street. That building is obviously an old store building, and it’s currently occupied by the Atmore Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
In the end, I enjoyed finally getting to see this somewhat historic location for myself. How many of you have ever visited Ashley Street in Atmore? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.