Written by Peter J. Gossett
First published in the September 2013 "Trail Tracker" newsletter.
Written by Peter J. Gossett
Natural Bridge is located in southwestern Winston County, Alabama, and is a popular landmark for tourists all over the country. The town is named for the "bridge," which is made out of sandstone and iron ore, is sixty feet high, and one hundred forty-eight feet across. The park in which the natural bridge is located is also the site of the headwaters of New River.
Hidden from sight about 3300 feet southwest of the natural bridge, in the same bluff line, and about 1000 feet from what once was the Byler Road, is another natural wonder called Bald Rock. It is an outcropping of rock nearly six hundred feet in length. While there are other bluffs in the area, the most unusual is located directly beneath the exposed rock. A trail runs around and down the side of the rock, the only way down, and when at the bottom, there is a cave open at both ends and known as the Rock House, which is perhaps the most historically significant place in Winston County. The opening at one end is about thirteen feet high, while the other end is only about six feet high.
Although someone carved a date of March 21, 1891 on the inside of the Rock House, it was used prior during the Civil War by Union sympathizers as a hideout to avoid conscription or draft into the Confederate army. Buck West who lived nearby told John Phillips about the place to hide in 1863. Here are excerpts from John’s autobiography:
"So we concluded to leave the neighborhood [east Marion County], for a while at least, took to the woods and went to Buck West’s, on the [Byler] Road, in Winston Co., where Natural Bridge now is. Buck was a sort of a Secesh [Confederate sympathizer], had two boys, Lucien and Buddy, in the Rebel army. Buddy was at home on a furlough at that time. Buck was a good friend of mine and had sent me word if I got in a tight to come to his house and he would care for me and keep me out of danger. I went up to Buck’s house and had a talk with him and he told me to go down on the creek above his field, and I would find a rock house under a bluff and he and Buddy would come that night to us…and we went on to the place that Buck had told us to. About night Bill Dodd came in. He had been keeping out of the army on the forty-year limit, but orders had been received to take up and include the men forty years old. So Dodd had heard all of this and had got him a supply of quilts and blankets, and a lot of light bread and meat and come to us. He had killed a deer on his way and had it on his back. He had his blankets tied on him in a saddle blanket form and he got down on his all fours like a horse and put his blankets across his back and went about the camp in that style, saying that he had come to stay with us. He said that he was going to stay until the grass grew on his back a foot long [a "mossback"]. He seemed in high spirits. About night Buck and Buddy came with a load of provisions, and by this time others had come in and we had a jolly time. We also had enough on hand to eat and do us a month."
"We kept on sending word among our sort and letting them know our meeting place, until as well as I remember there were three or four hundred of us got together at a big bluff down below Natural Bridge on the head waters of New River. Some four or five counties were represented and we finally agreed that we make three propositions and let each one walk out and join the side that he wanted to take. ‘First, all that want to join the Rebel Army step out.’ Not a man stepped out. ‘All that want to go to the North and join the Union Army, step out.’ There were over a hundred men stepped out. Number three were left to decide for themselves. We then began to make arrangements and set a day when we would start. Some of the number lived in Randolph Co., Fayette, Winston, Marion, Franklin, Jefferson and some were from Mississippi."
More than one hundred men made the trip to join the Union Army in Glendale, Mississippi. They arrived there on September 20, 1863. These men were assigned to and made up Company L of the First Alabama Cavalry and were enlisted on September 25, 1863.
Another Bald Rock in Winston County is located at the north end of the Rocky Plains. Although shaped like the one in Natural Bridge, the Rocky Plains Bald Rock is not as big nor is there a cave beneath it.
There are some stories of Henry Tucker being brutally murdered by the Confederate Home Guard on Bald Rock. This seems highly unlikely due to the fact that it was a hideout for the "tories." Likely, it would have been inaccessible to a raid, and those hiding out there would have been armed, preventing a murder of one of their own by the home guard.
As of this writing, no other documentation can be found concerning Bald Rock or the Rock House.