William Station’s Day takes place on Pensacola Avenue in Atmore, Alabama, in early October. Half of the street closes, and vendors bring their best goods to display. You might think that this is another one of those festivals where if you’ve been once, you’ve seen it all. I used to think that, but when I began taking a folk-lorish lens, I discovered the unique history and array of art that this small town has to offer.
Here is a bit of the history behind the founding and the naming of the town from http://www.cityofatmore.com:
Long before settlers came to the area that is now Atmore, The Creek Indians inhabited the virgin forests of longleaf pines settling along the creeks and rivers. The development of this area began in the 1860’s following the Civil War as the Mobile and Great Northern railroad extended its line south to the Tensaw River near Mobile.
Workers who moved through the area laying track for the railroad were drawn by the rich farmland and abundance of timber. Agriculture and timber are still major factors in Atmore’s economy.
The first structure in what is Atmore was a small shed built along the railroad at which supplies were left for William Larkin Williams who had a logging operation ten miles down in Florida. In 1866 the site was first called Williams Station, just a supply stop along the railroad.
By the 1870’s there were several buildings; a railroad station, a store containing the post office, and one dwelling. Late in 1870 the first sawmill was put into operation. However, it was the sawmill built by William Marshall Carney in 1876 that sparked the growth of the community. Recognizing the potential of this area which abounded in cypress ponds and virgin forests, legend says Carney hitched a mule to a boat and set claim to most of the area. Because of his many contributions to the growth of the community Mr. Carney is often called “the father of Atmore”.
Many people often overlook the importance of Atmore’s agricultural economy as part of its foundation, but those “virgin forests” are possibly the only reason the town succeeded. Descendants of the sap-collectors have held on to some of the equipment, and they proudly display it at William Station’s Day. Below are some pictures of their display.
In addition to the agricultural history, storyteller and historian Robert Thrower tells great tales of Indian folklore. He also brings artifacts that he has collected to demonstrate the history of the natives of Atmore and the surrounding area.
Soaking in all of the history is fun, but discovering the art of various vendors can be intriguing as well. I was fortunate in meeting Ikna Smith, creator of these unique pieces of jewelry. I asked her what inspires her, and she answered, “Life inspires me. I like to work with metal and discover all the different ways to shape it. And, I like to play with fire!”
The Gulf Coast Authors also take the stage with their display of their published works ranging from historical fiction to collections of stories originating in the Gulf Coast.
Atmore resident Lloyd Albritton displays his publication, Baby Blue.
Many vendors have a theme that appeals to Southerners and Rednecks, which are in abundance here!
A friend of mine and his wife make these awesome jewelry hangers and pieces that have an artsy flare:
Some vendors even send their proceeds to benefit different causes!
Sometimes we take the small stuff for granted. I often hear people complain that there is nothing to do in this small town, but these vendors prove that wrong. This town is full of creativity and a rich history: it just takes a different perspective to find it.