Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A favorite drive from the lake to town is through a small town called Belle Mina. On the south side of town is a grand house called Belle Manor. Located right beside the road it is easy to find but difficult to see. Belle Manor is privately owned and not open to the public. Clearly, the owners prefer their privacy so this photographer did not sashay up the front drive to get a better photo of the plantation home.
According to the historical marker Thomas Bibb built this grand house in 1826 and the Bibb family were its owners until 1940. The name means "beautiful home." Thomas Bibb served as the President of the Alabama Senate and ascended to the office of Governor when his brother William Wyatt Bibb, then holding that office was accidentally killed in a fall from his horse. William Wyatt Bibb had been Governor of Alabama Territory 1817-1819, and when statehood was granted he became the first Governor of the State of Alabama. (I recall none of his from my middle school Alabama history lessons, naturally....)
I learned from the marker that the local pronunciation of "Belle Manor" altered it to "Belle Mina, which is the small town's name just up the road a piece. The town of Belle Mina developed around a railroad station intended for the nearby town of Mooresville. However, the residents of Mooresville didn't want the railroad built too close to their homes and businesses so the railroad line was placed north through Belle Mina.
The Bibb plantation was one of many in this particular area. In 1818 a Federal land sale was held in Huntsville. Wealthy planters from Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia bought large tracts of land and established plantations here. The terrain and soil here is ideally suited for cotton, the crop that could create great wealth at that time.
The grand houses they built, with rows of slaves cabins, and cotton growing for miles around gave this area the look of "Plantation Alley." The Bibbs owned another plantation home just NE of this location across the fields but I couldn't see it from where I stood. It is called "Woodside," built in 1860-1861 by Thomas' son Porter Bibb as a wedding present for his daughter.
Much of southern history makes me sad, but it is what it is. As a child and student in school history classes seemed worthless. "I'll never need to know this - why do I have to learn it!" We've all said that. These days I stop at historical markers whenever I find them and wish I'd taken the time to soak up the stories about the beginnings of our country.