Locomotive is symbol of area's logging history

Published 4:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

By Staff
Recently I read in the Pensacola News-Journal of a speech at the University of West Florida commencement by Ms. Susan Story, president of Gulf Power Company. The article mentions those who should desire to become "history-makers." She spoke of "vision, passion and mission."
The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society in Century has a vision: to preserve a part of Northwest Florida and South Alabama heritage and history. Our mission is acquiring an artifact: a 1919 Baldwin 2-6-2-steam locomotive for restoration and static display in the Historic District in Century, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Century's name, of course, is derived from the fact it was founded by The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company near the turn of the 20th century.
We have a passion for this project, too, a lot like the people who came here before us. Most of us were born and reared in this area and know about them. They worked long hours for little pay to eke out a living during difficult times by devoting themselves to hard work for their families.
A seed donation is currently in the bank and set aside for the purpose of acquiring the engine, "Old 100." However, we estimate we need as much as $80,000 more to obtain the engine, transport it here, and properly restore it for a static display. We have commitments of support from our State legislative delegation, from local civic clubs (Lions, Rotary), the Town of Century, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller. Many, many citizens have promised assistance, too. Two of the gentlemen who purchased the engine in the 70s have committed their help in rebuilding the engine for a static display, so we are hardly lacking in competent administrative, physical, and technical help. Financial assistance is our largest hurdle.
We are appealing to corporate sponsors and individuals who have a sense of the importance of a project like this. We need you to help us obtain funding in a timely and expedient manner to obtain this artifact. The businesses in Atmore, Brewton, Flomaton, Jay, and Century - and all outlying areas - should take the initiative in helping with this worthwhile project. We'll soon have decals available to put on your door to let your customers know you actively support education, history, and pride in community.
Besides the existing displays at our three museums, we are working to create more interpretive displays showing the roles of all races contributing their hearts and souls to this region and of early logging operations. We know there are many community-minded persons and groups here who have sponsored civic causes in the past, and we are hoping you will think about helping us. The people of Escambia County, Alabama played a huge part, if not a larger part than Florida, in making the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company what it was.
The Historic District of Century is a living example of a late 19th and early 20th sawmill town, and the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society is committed to preserving memories of the people whose lives were spent there and in the logging woods..
Some background: During the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, logging was an honorable yet difficult occupation, even profitable, since the forests of rural northwest Florida and south Alabama were rich in longleaf pine.
The history of this little corner of the world hinges around the work and accomplishments of common men, be the color of their skin white, black or red. A fitting tribute, a monument, if you will, is due those men and women so the young may ask questions and learn from a bigger-than-life artifact.
The engine, the only one left of some 29 steam locomotives operated by the now defunct Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company for over a half century, is at present owned by a railroad museum in Connersville, Ind. Used from 1923 until 1937 as a logging engine by the ASLC, it was seen every day as the mill's yard switching engine from 1937 until 1954. Then it was on prominent display almost another 20 years on Front Street in the town, next to the mill. In 1974 it was sold to a group of aficionados near Mobile who restored it to run on a private railroad; then in 1976 they sold it to the Whitewater Valley Railroad in Indiana, where it is now.
The WVRR used it about 15 years pulling a passenger excursion train on a scenic route in southeast Indiana halfway between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, Ohio. It is currently retired from duty and sits in their yard. They have offered to sell the engine to us. We hope to purchase the engine before Whitewater Valley Railroad gives up on us.
The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society has published a book that gives a brief rundown on the history of "Old 100." It's available by mail and may be seen at our website's bookstore (www.algersullivan.org/bookstore.html) We think you will be pleasantly surprised when you look at our web site at http://www.algersullivan.org/.
I speak for the members of The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society's "Bring Back Old 100" committee and the membership of the ASHS when I say please accept our gratitude for anything you will do to assist us.
Don't be like me: I am one of those who waited until my later years to develop that desire to be a "history-maker." This is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Jerry Simmons
P.O. Box 367
Century, FL 32535
The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society's mailing address is P.O. Box 1002, Century, FL 32535

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