Wednesday, July 15, 2015

'Prairie Mission' historical marker located near ghost town of Prairie Bluff

'Prairie Mission' historical marker in Wilcox County, Ala. 
This week’s featured historical marker is the “PRAIRIE MISSION” marker in Wilcox County, Ala. This marker is located in the Prairie community, between Catherine and Millers Ferry, just south of the intersection of State Highway 28 and McCall Road.

This Alabama Historical Commission marker looks relatively new, that is, 10 to 15 years old. However, unlike most historical markers of this type, it gives no indication of exactly when it was erected. There’s text on both sides of the marker, but both sides are the same. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“PRAIRIE MISSION: A United Presbyterian Mission, 1894-1968: Prairie Mission was established in 1894 by the Freedmen’s Board of the United Presbyterian Church of North America to educate the children of ex-slaves. The Mission consisted of a church, school building, dormitories for male and female students, a teachers’ home and a cemetery. The school, also known as Prairie Institute during its history, was discontinued in the late 1960s. The church still maintains an active congregation. Prairie Mission was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.”

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I encountered this historical marker some time ago while on the way home from a quick field trip to Old Cahaba in Dallas County. This marker is in somewhat of a remote location, and if you’re traveling south, you’ll find it on the left hand side of the road, just south of the McCall Road intersection. On some maps, McCall Road is called Prairie Mission Road.

As mentioned, the Prairie Mission was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 29, 2001. This came a decade after it was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on July 22, 1991. At one time, according to information on file with the National Register of Historic Places, there were five other Presbyterian mission schools in Wilcox County, but the Prairie Mission school is the only of these buildings that has survived.

This marker is located just off of State Highway 28, and while I didn’t bother to venture any farther down McCall Road, I read later that the old school campus is located about three-tenths of a mile down McCall Road.

This marker is also located a short drive from an old ghost town that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, Prairie Bluff. Built on a high bluff over the Alabama River, Prairie Bluff was located on an old road about halfway between the old Alabama town’s of Cahaba and St. Stephens. The War Between the States and the rise of railroads in America spelled doom for Prairie Bluff, which declined rapidly after the 1860s. I’ve been told that all that’s left of the town now is an old cemetery full of old graves from Prairie Bluff’s heyday.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below. 

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