Written by Peter J. Gossett
Delmar, Alabama is a small, rural community in west-central Winston County that is located 6 miles north of Natural Bridge, 3 miles south of Haleyville, and 15 miles west of Double Springs, the county seat of Winston County. Delmar has an elevation of 881 feet above sea level.
Anyone reading up on the history of old Winston has probably come across the probable stories of how the town of Delmar got its name. We all have heard that it was once called Frog Level (presumably because of the swampy area that existed around the community at that time), but in the newspaper, even in 1938, the story of the Spanish racehorse was circulating. Here is the paragraph from the first volume heritage book: "The exact origin of the name "Delmar" is not known. But a popular belief has it that Delmar got its name from a famous racehorse…During the construction of the railroad through Delmar during the 1800s, there was a construction engineer who owned a retired racehorse by the name of ‘Del Mar’ or ‘Delmar,’ [which means ‘from the sea.’] The horse was well-known and loved by the community. When the construction work was completed and the engineer and the horse left, the people renamed their community after the horse." Other suggestions are going around that it was spelled backward to "Ramled" because of the wild rams in the area at that time.
That’s all a bit spicy, now. However, I have come across four clues that when put together, one can not help but see how the name of Delmar came about. Those four clues are: pronunciation, dialect, an old act from the Acts of Alabama, and an old cemetery near Arley.
Clue #1 – Pronunciation: Found on Wikipedia, there is a section on the history of Delmar that seems odd. It says that the people of the town pronounce it "Del-mer" rather than "Del-mar," which is exactly how we say it. The correct pronunciation of "Delmar" is like just like it sounds and in that movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Since working at the post office in Delmar, I have spoken with other post offices out of this district but still in Alabama that pronounce it as Del-mar. While all of this is true and correct, our town is actually and truly spoken as DELMER. And there is a reason for this!
Clue #2 – Dialect: Perhaps this happens elsewhere in the south, but around here, years ago, our ancestors spoke with a certain dialect that seems to have faded along with them. A name that had an "a" on the end was spoken "er." For an example, I will use two of my relatives’ names. There is Dena. What was she called? Deaner. Then there is Alma. Everyone called her Almer. The same was true for Delmar!
Clue #3 – Acts of Alabama: There is an old act from the Alabama legislature concerning the sale of "spirits" within a certain distance of the Methodist church in the community of DELMA! There is no ‘R’ on the end of it. It’s number 207 house bill 163. "To prohibit the sale, giving away, bartering, exchanging, or otherwise disposing of alcoholic, vinous or malt liquors, or intoxicating bitters, beverages, or fruits preserved in alcoholic liquors, approved December 12, 1888 (Ala. Acts, 1888-89, p. 258)." Combine this clue with the two clues above, and you have the current name of the town.
Clue #4 – Cemetery: Delma is a man’s name, though if there was an actual person living in the area with this name is not known. Delma is also a genus of lizards in the family Pygopodidae (leg-less lizards). Then there is a Delma, Alabama, down in Pickens County. Over near Arley lived a man by the name of Delma Baird who was the caretaker of the Baird Cemetery. I wonder if by chance he was ever called Delmer?
Delmar Quick Facts:
From the Advertiser-Journal, July 21, 1938:
Legend has it that this community was named for a famous race horse owned by the then constructing engineer of the N.A. Railroad. Delmar was the southern terminus of the N.A. Railroad many years before Haleyville was born and with its four saloons was as riotous as any gold-dust town in the pioneer days of the Golden West. Delmar was a coal-boom town, and its growth stopped when the black-diamond mines were about exhausted. Many years later it underwent a small revival with the advent of lumber exploitation as thousands of feet were shipped northward. Eventually this industry petered out, and Delmar began to build its community on a more firm and lasting economic foundation – agriculture. Today, this is one of our most progressive and peaceful communities. Two church buildings, a modern school building, and two stores and also a post office are here. Families of Mr. Will Gamble, Mr. Opie Gamble, and Mr. Robert McNutt of our town once lived and operated extensive businesses at Delmar. The Gambles still own much property there and ship great quantities of tile clay from the pits north of Delmar. The fine citizenship of Delmar is composed of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Seay, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Aderholt, local merchants. Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Crane, Mrs. Crane being the local post mistress. Mrs. Alonzo Barnett, Mr. and Mrs. Will Crane, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd and Roy Weaver, sons of the late beloved Uncle Tom Weaver, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hicks, Aunt Sarah Henson, Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Watts, Mr. and Mrs. Austin Crane, Mr. and Mrs. Huey Watts, Mr. and Mrs. Odum Crane, Mr. and Mrs. Marion Pearce, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Cummings, Mr. and Mrs. Alec Stephens, Mr. and Mrs. Ira Garrison. Mr. Garrison is a minister and for many years carried the rural mail from the local office, Mr. and Mrs. Mige Hicks, and others. The Benton McNutts and the Aderholts have played an important part in the development of Delmar but will be mentioned in a later review of the Bethel community. There are many legends of the early days of Delmar, but the nature of these reviews forbids mention of them now. The people of Delmar are deeply interested in the welfare of Haleyville for they do all their marketing here and their many fine boys and girls attend our local high school. The highway from Haleyville to Delmar is in a fairly good condition and is to be improved soon. Here’s good luck to Delmar, for any prosperity that comes your way will also benefit Haleyville. [Note: Delmar School was begun before 1906 and consolidated, or closed, July 30, 1968.]