The City of Wetumpka will host the 61st annual Alabama Historical Association Fall Pilgrimage on Oct. 11-12. Created by the Wetumpka AL200 Celebration Committee, along with its partners – Main Street Wetumpka, the Elmore County Black Heritage Association, the Elmore County Commission and the City of Wetumpka – visitors and residents have the opportunity to embark on a cultural and educational journey through iconic sights in the area.
Fall pilgrimages began in 1958 at the City of Cahawba, Alabama’s first state capitol. These excursions focus on cities and towns across Alabama that hold sites of historical interest. The event involves tours of historic homes, churches and other noteworthy sites around the host cities. It is exciting to have the City of Natural Beauty make the list, giving us an opportunity to tour places that are not normally open to the public.
The Fall Pilgrimage to Wetumpka is a two-day event beginning Friday, Oct. 11, with a visit to the Elmore County Museum to see the Making Alabama: A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit. This exhibit has traveled around the state of Alabama for the past three years, stopping in schools, libraries and museums. The tribute to the state’s founding consists of eight panels representing different periods of Alabama history, beginning pre-1700s through 1990s. Accompanying each panel is a tablet with a touch screen, that allows visitors to read about the historical events happening during the period displayed on the panel.
An invitation to visit Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Park also is one of the items on the Friday afternoon schedule. While Hernando de Soto and his party were the first white men to see this area in 1540, it wasn’t until 1717 that any white men actually lived there. The French lived here when stationed at Fort Toulouse from 1717 until 1783. The fort and surrounding area were given to the British at that time, where it sat empty to deteriorate until 1814. Then, Andrew Jackson chose to make it his headquarters. It was there that the Creeks gave up their land in the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814 – the sale of the land became an opportunity for settlers to move into the area.
Friday evening, an opening reception is planned at Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum, and a tour of the historic Fitzpatrick Home on site also will be open for viewing.
The Saturday tours will begin at the Historic Elmore County Courthouse, where attendees will register for events and enjoy light refreshments while meeting with local authors and listening to presentations and special musical performances.
Haggarty Hall was the first building believed to have been used as the Elmore County Courthouse and stood where the current courthouse now stands. The bottom floor was used for local businesses, including a barbershop and a saloon. The current courthouse was built in 1932 with marble walls and stairs throughout.
Saturday’s schedule includes a tour of the Louisville & Nashville Depot on N. Broad Street. The railroad came to Wetumpka in 1878, though the current L&N depot is not the original. This building replaced the original in 1906 and was used as a passenger depot until the 1930s and a freight depot until 1973. It was later purchased by the First United Methodist Church and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 1, 1975.
The First Baptist Church, another stop for visitors, was organized in 1821. It was originally known as the Coosa River Baptist Church, as its organizers were Baptists from all along the Coosa River. The Storrs family moved to Wetumpka in 1845, joined the little Baptist Church and after a few years of membership, leased two lots of land to the church for a more permanent place for the building. The new, permanent church was finished in 1852 and re-modeled in 1909.
The history and education available is extensive, and additional sites on the tour include Fain Theater, the Elmore County Black History Museum, a number of historic churches, 1828 Plantation, 1903 Farmhouse, Lock 31 and more. The closing reception on Oct. 12 will be held at the newly renovated Tulotoma Snail Trail Alley Yard with refreshments.
Throughout the tour, red and white AHA signs will depict areas open for exploration.
For more information about this two-day celebration of Wetumpka’s history and a map of the locations, visit alabamahistory.net and read the Fall 2019 newsletter.
Tickets for the pilgrimage can be purchased online at eventbrite.com/e/aha-fall-pilgrimage-in-wetumpka-tickets-68138801991.