The History of Glen Mary: A Destroyed Ghost Town
Written by: Peter J. Gossett
Sources include The History of the Clear Creek Baptist Association by Jerry M. Burns; Winston County school, land, and post office records; and interviews with Darryal Jackson, Pete Mobley, Lacy Hicks, Wayne Dickinson, and Pete Parrish.
Glen Mary is located about three miles north of Natural Bridge in west Winston County with an elevation of 701 feet in the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section six, township eleven south, range ten west. If you wanted to go to Glen Mary today, all you would find would be a small handful of houses, a crossroads, and the railroad track. If traveling on Hwy. 13 heading toward Haleyville from Natural Bridge, turn left on County Road 3. The next turn will be the first paved road on the left (County Road 3508). Not far down this road, turn right on County Road 376, and when you reach the top of the hill, the railroad track will cross the road, and this is the "heart of Glen Mary." The hill is so steep "you'll be looking at heaven."
As long as Winston County has been a county, and well before that, there has always been a community at Glen Mary, although when it was named or why it was given this name remains unknown. When Jesse Livingston entered this county in the early 1800s, there was a community of white (or more than likely half-white) people living in this area. Jacob Pruet, who owned a stand in Haleyville in the early years, owned land near Glen Mary, before the county ever existed. When the Byler Road was completed in the 1820s, it went straight through what was to be called Glen Mary. It was a heavily traveled road, similar to how important an interstate is today. From land records, it seems that in or about the year 1895 is when people started entering land in Glen Mary.
The one thing that brought this community together to form a small town was in the art of mining. The town had a coal tipple, as well as a depot, a pumping tank, which gave some of the farmers part-time jobs, and boarding (section) houses. As several mining towns did, Glen Mary had "clacker money," which were small, octagonal-shaped, brass (some were aluminum) coins that could only be spent in a certain place, which would most likely have been the commissary. The money also had the name of the town printed on it.
From information gathered through interviews, Glen Mary was an "uncivilized" and drinking town, and a place where you could "get them ears pinned back any day." However, no saloon existed in Glen Mary. One time, someone was sitting at the end of the commissary, which was about six feet off the ground, and a fight started. The person sitting on the commissary started to open his mouth to argue when a bullet went into his mouth and exited his cheek. This startled the man and caused him to fall off the commissary, breaking his leg.
By December 20, 1902, Glen Mary already had a population of 160 people, and the town established the Glen Mary Post Office by early 1903; it was located about 150 yards from the Northern Alabama Railroad. In 1903, the mail route would supply mail to approximately 300 people. However, by 1923, the population had dwindled to 65. The first postmaster of Glen Mary was Walter Hand, and the last one was James H. Crane. The post office was discontinued on May 14, 1927, and the route was consolidated with Natural Bridge. Other postmasters included William Collins, Lynn Patton, Archibald Dupree, James R. Snow, and Josiah Bogue.
Seanie Burnett was the midwife in the area. Wayne Dickinson states that he was born in one of the section houses right by the railroad track. Wallace Callahan was born shortly before midnight on March 25, 1930, and Wayne was born right after midnight on March 26; Seanie delivered both babies, and there were six inches of snow on the ground at this time. Families that lived in Glen Mary included Hicks, Burnett, Dickinson, Gamble, Howell, Dodd, Dougherty, Callahan, Davis, Cagle, and Bates.
Glen Mary also had a church and a school in a two-story building that stood on the west side of the railroad. The school did not exist in 1906, but it did exist by 1909. Church was held on the first floor, while the school was held on the second floor. This situation was reversed when a certain incident happened. There happened to be a small hole cut in the floor of the top story, and when the preacher got "to goin'," someone "poured water" on him through the hole. Whether or not the church thrived through the booming years of Glen Mary, the Glen Mary Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1946 with Rev. W.M. McConnell, J.M. Burns, and Deacon Hess. The church built a comfortable one-room block building and had some good material in it. Glen Mary joined the Clear Creek Baptist Association on September 12, 1946, in Arley. W.J. Hicks and A.J. Byrd were the messengers with a membership of 21. Neal Radford was the first pastor in 1946 with Lillian Cummings as clerk. This present church and property are owned by Paul A. Posey, of Haleyville, who bought it from the estate of W.M. Burnett.
Sometime in the 1940s, the mining stopped; Glen Mary simply "dried up and blowed away." People scattered to the winds, leaving behind memories and a crossroads where a passerby would never know that there once existed the town of Glen Mary.
Present Church at Glen Mary
Clacker Money used at Glen Mary
The Heart of Glen Mary