Maplesville: Proud of small town status

Published 9:31 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

When Gov. Bob Riley suggested a statewide celebration of small towns in Alabama, Maplesville locked in on the opportunity.

Filled with a rich history dating back to the early 19th century, the town looks to promote its past on April 10 by shedding light on the many changes it’s seen over nearly 200 years.

Main Street and other parts of downtown will close, as vendors set up and tours are directed by citizens and town officials to inform current and former residents on several things they might have never known about their hometown.

Maplesville Historical Guild president Joel Atchison said the town is often regarded as one of Alabama’s “Mayberry” towns. While some might chuckle at that thought, Atchison said he and other residents see it as a term of endearment.

“People don’t understand that we sort of like the idea of being RFD Maplesville,” Atchison said. “We like the small town atmosphere.”

A proud history junkie, Atchison developed a keen passion for his own genealogy, researching his family, which led him to discover a horde of facts about other citizens’ many generations of relatives.

Along with several other residents and members of the historical society, Atchison said it’s their plan to open a pictorial museum in town to highlight it and the surrounding communities. He’s had several conversations with the mayor and town council members about where they might place the museum, but it seems the Southern Railroad Depot looks like the safe bet.

The intention behind the Small Towns Alabama event is to provide a homecoming opportunity for former residents interested in revisiting their hometowns.

Town clerk Sheila Haigler introduced the event brochure to the community members who took the bait and began planning.

Formerly known as Cuba, Maplesville used to spread into parts of Bibb County and housed a major railroad line during the 19th century.

“There is a lot of interesting history and are a lot of prominent families here, and we want to celebrate all of that and tell the town’s story with this event,” Atchison said.

The town recently renovated the train depot, allowing them to take Gov. Riley’s suggestion to all small towns to hold a dedication ceremony to a recently completed city project. The town will provide guided tours of the depot as well as other businesses and homes.

Atchison said his daughter-in-law is helping him develop a DVD offering a pictorial history on the town they hope to show either at the event or on future occasions.

“Hopefully we’ll have a few people willing to give a presentation on local history,” he said. “We’re still finalizing everything.”

He said he may be a little more sensitive to people poking fun at Maplesville’s modest size only because of how proud he is of the sixth and seventh generation of families still living in town.

“My ancestors came here in the 1820s,” he said. “My grandfathers are buried within five miles of here. Our post office was established in 1823. I’ve got a lot of pride in things like that.”

The event will be free to the public. The town hopes to see a large crowd and turn it into an annual event.

Atchison said the event would also highlight areas such as Isabella, Lawley, Randolph, Stanton and others where settlers originally landed in the vicinity.

“I understand a lot of young people aren’t interested in dead people and pictures and things,” he said. “But I learned that as people age, their perspectives on life and what’s truly important changes. I started studying history and learned a lot of things I didn’t know.

“I worked out of town for AT&T most of my life, commuting to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, but my main thing was to come home to Maplesville. I’ve just always felt comfortable here.”