|Lower Peach Tree United Methodist Church|
Lower Peach Tree is one of the most historic communities in all of Wilcox County. Located in the southwestern corner of the county, not far from the Clarke and Monroe County lines, Lower Peach Tree appears on maps dating way back to the early days of Alabama history. In fact, Indians lived there centuries before European settlers ever arrived on the scene.
According to “Place Names in Alabama” by Virginia O. Foscue, Lower Peach Tree was given the same name as one of two Indian villages once in this area. Benjamin Hawkins, the famous Creek Indian agent, introduced peaches to the Indians around 1800. During the Creek Indian War of 1813-14, soldiers found peaches at these two abandoned Indian villages and called the southernmost village Lower Peach Tree and the other Upper Peach Tree.
On Friday, which happened to be Wilcox County’s 200th birthday, I found myself passing through Lower Peach Tree on my way along the Old Line Road. Friday was a chilly and dreary day, and damp patches of misty fog made it necessary for me to keep my windshield wipers on. When I arrived at the main crossroads at Lower Peach Tree, I realized that I had not passed through this old community in several years, so despite the less than perfect weather, I decided to scout around and see the historic sites that I had not seen in many a moon.
First, I eased down the road leading to Ohio Bar on the Alabama River and eventually pulled over for a few minutes in front of the old William S. Irby Sr. House. This stately old home was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage in 1992, and one can only guess at all this old house has seen in its many years. On Friday, as the house sat heavy and grim beneath the steel gray sky, I could not help but wonder if there are any ghost stories associated with this old house.
From there, I returned to “downtown” Lower Peach Tree and pulled into the parking lot at the post office, which is housed in a block building that once served as a small gas station. Lower Peach Tree’s first post office was established way back in 1823, but today’s post office, while small, is very modern. I looked inside, but no one was around, so I hopped back in my truck and set off down County Road 1.
A short distance down the road, I turned onto St. Thomas Church Road, which took me down to St. Thomas A.ME. Church and a pair of adjoining cemeteries. There, I spent a few minutes exploring the older of the two cemeteries and noted many old graves and headstones. I was reminded that Lower Peach Tree was nearly wiped off the map by a devasting tornado in 1913, and I wondered how many people killed in that deadly storm were buried in this cemetery.
On the way back to the main crossroads, I pulled over for a closer look at the Lower Peach Tree United Methodist Church. This beautiful old church, which was established in 1846, has also seen its share of history. In fact, I’ve been told that this church was used as a makeshift hospital during the 1913 tornado, and it has no doubt witnessed scores of homecomings, weddings, funerals and other important events.
Before heading home, I stopped at Overton Grocery, which is the busiest place in present-day Lower Peach Tree. My growling stomach reminded me that it had been many hours since breakfast, so I went inside, and for two dollars even, I bought a bottle of Coke and a bag of salted peanuts, what my long-dead grandfather called the “poor man’s lunchbox.” Back in my truck, I poured the peanuts into the Coke bottle and set my sights for the Clarke County line.
On my way out of Lower Peach Tree, I pondered all that I’d seen and all that I hadn’t seen. No doubt, there are old Indian village sites and Indian mounds in Lower Peach Tree’s outlying woods and as well as many old homeplaces that have been abandoned for years. If anyone in the reading audience knows of any such places, shoot me an e-mail and let me know because I think it’s important that we document these sites for the generations that will follow us in the distant years to come.