Fall Pilgrimage to Sylacauga with the Alabama Historical Association


This past October, the Alabama Historical Association held its Fall pilgrimage in Sylacauga, Alabama. I am a big fan of Sylacauga, the Marble capital of Alabama. The residents are welcoming, and they wholeheartedly support their town.

Pursell Farms

Pursell Farms sign

I spent Thursday night in Pelham, so I would easily reach Pursell Farms for lunch and a presentation on Friday. Having heard of Pursell Farms, I was excited to see the property, and Pursell Farms did not disappoint. After a brief look around the hotel lobby and pub, we were treated to a tasty lunch. David Pursell presented the history of the farm, his family, and Sylacauga. If you can visit Pursell or play golf, do it. It is beautiful.


On the way to Sylacauga, I stopped by the Imerys-Gantts Quarry observation site. Here, I learned about the small town of Gantt’s Quarry that housed many workers.   

After stopping by the Blue Bell Creamery for a $1 scoop of the delicious treat, we were invited to tour the First Baptist Church. The stained glass in the church is magnificent. After the tour of the Church, I crossed the street to the Sylacauga Cemetery, where docents told stories of local family’s histories.

That evening, attendees gathered at the B. B. Comer Library to view the marble sculptures that decorate the library and to hear Dr. Wayne Flynt’s keynote speech. Dr. Flynt is a distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. He is the author of thirteen books on various topics of Alabama history. He knows Alabama’s history because he made some of it. His talk centered on storytelling and oral histories of ordinary people because everyone has a story.

Dr. Wayne Flynt
Dr. Flynt


Hickory Street Café, which serves the local hospital, catered a buffet dinner. Hickory Street is one of the best places to eat in Sylacauga. We enjoyed live jazz, conversation, and watching artist Frank Murphy work on a new painting. It was an exciting day of learning.

Frank Murphy painting portrait at the BB Commer Library
Frank Murphy painting portrait at the BB Commer Library

More Tours

On Saturday morning, Traci Thomas, Director of the B.B. Comer Library, presented the history of Sylacauga. We learned about marble, textiles, meteorites, and Jim Nabors. After lunch, we had self-guided tours of sites in town. I selected Craigger Browne’s sculpture demonstration. I have met Craigger several times and am a big fan of his work. As always, he was at work on a project. We chatted as more visitors arrived, and he showed us his ‘bible,’ a notebook with all his calculations for all the sculptures he has done.

Sylacauga Marble Festival

The Mable festival will be held on April 3-13 in Sylacauga at Blue Bell Park across the street from the Blue Bell Creamery on North Norton Ave. Make sure to stop by the festival. You will not be disappointed. You can see my previous posts on the festival here.

Future Events

The AHA Annual meeting will be held in Huntsville, Alabama April 10th to 12th. I look forward to attending and learning more about Alabama’s ‘Space City.’ The Fall pilgrimage will be held in Phoenix City, Alabama, from October 11th to 12th.  You can find all the information on the Alabama Historical Association website here.

You can also learn more about Alabama’s history at The Alabama History Podcast.

If you are interested in Alabama’s history, becoming a member of the Association opens up many opportunities to dive deep into the state’s history and meet many others wanting to keep history alive.

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