TOWN OF DUTTON
by Jewell D. Tigue Smalley
The earliest account of any settlements in and around present day Dutton, Alabama, is sometime between 1500 and 1542 when the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSota crossed Alabama. There were a few scattered Indian villages in the area. Some 200 years later in the mid-to-late 1700's, the area was known to be claimed and occupied by the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Chickasaw.
From all indications, the Dutton area was still in its infancy around the turn of the century. Although there were some settlers in the vicinity at the time, Dutton centurion, E. E. LaBarre, said that when he first crossed Sand Mountain in 1907 traveling through the Dutton area, there were only about half a dozen houses from Fern Cliff to Pisgah.
With the removal of Indians to reservations in Oklahoma - Trail of Tears - around 1838, many of the Indians hid out in caves and well-hidden terrain until the drive was over and remained in the area of their birth. Legend has it that one such Indian, "Black Horse" is known to have escaped the move and hid out in the Pisgah Gorge, remaining there until his death many years later.
The first town of Dutton was founded in 1888 and was named in honor of Marion M. Dutton, the first postmaster of the town. The first post office was located in Mr. Dutton's store. However, Joseph Smalley was a postmaster in 1890 at what was then Index (present Pleasant View community). He was succeeded as postmaster there by Andrew J. Allen, followed by Asberry O. Wright. Mail service of Index as a post office was discontinued in 1905 when the mail was sent to Henagar, Alabama.
Some of Dutton's early settlers are listed as Wiginton, Gilbert, Dutton, Holland, Smalley, White, Nichols, Sartin, Ryan, Chaney, Green, Headrick, Hope, Hughes, Powell, Gant, Cowan, Tatum, Griffin, Golden, McGriff, and Williams.
The first documented land transaction at Dutton was entered on September 2, 1851. This land was acquired by one E. (Elbert?) Sartin and was entered by "Military Bounty Land Warrant" under the Military Act of 1850. (Submitted by Carlus Page, Jackson County Honorary Historian/Geologist).
Some of the early businesses in Dutton were Wiginton's Tanning and Leather (said to be the first business to locate in the town), Coffee's Blacksmith Shop, Franklin's Store and Boarding House, Dutton's Store, Genis White's General Merchandise, LaBarre's Garage, McGriff's General Merchandise, Thomas Drug Store, and Jones Cafe.
Briar Patch School, built in 1886, has been identified by oldsters as the first school at Dutton. It was so named because it was completely surrounded by briars and woods. The 30'x50' building had split log benches, an open fireplace, one window and two doors, and was located about a mile southeast of the present Dutton school.
Bluff School at Fern Cliff was the first school known to be located in the Hodge area. Dawson School was located near New Canaan Church; New Shady Grove School was built near Ray's Mill, as was Coffey School; Callahan School's location is uncertain but some believe it was somewhere in the area of Pleasant View/Pleasant Hill communities.
What is generally not known about early schools at Dutton is the fact that near the site of the present Dutton School stood the two-story Sand Mountain Institute. The date the Institute was built is not certain, but when Virgil Bouldin was in the Legislature (date unknown), he executed the passage of an Act which secured ten acres of land in Section 16, Township 10, Range 7, for a site on which to erect the school. In addition to classrooms, the two-story building had a dormitory to house students. What is known is that the building burned in 1923. In 1924, a new seven-room school was built on the site. That school burned in 1957.
The first church at Dutton was a Missionary Baptist Church, organized in 1885. The Northern Methodist built the second church, which is present day Chaney's Chapel. Soon afterwards, the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church was built.
(Editor's note) - What is interesting to think about on this date, one-hundred years later, is to note that the membership rolls of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in 1914 listed the 37 female members names on a separate roll from male members. (Membership roll furnished by Louise Deerman).
Prior to 1896, the present town of Dutton was called by several names: Press, Barnes, Callahan, and Fern Cliff to name a few. Traditionally, when a new postmaster was named he would change the name of the town to the location of the post office, which was usually the postmaster's home or place of business. However, the post office could only be moved for a distance of one mile from its former location. But in 1896, the Post Office Department ruled that the post office in the Dutton vicinity was required to have a permanent name.
The Town of Dutton was incorporated in 1963. The first Town Hall and Fire Department building was purchased from the Church of the Nazarene in 1965.
Soon after the town's incorporation, Dutton received water and telephone service. The main purpose of incorporating the town was to make it eligible for grants and loans to bring improvements to the town.
The first Council meeting of the Town of Dutton was held on February 7, 1963, in Dub Dilbeck's store. E. B. Thomas served as the town's first mayor. First Council members were R. W. Deerman, W. L. Dilbeck, Dean Germany, John B. Ryan, and Whitman Johnson. First town clerk was I. J. Williams.
Since neither the mayor nor the council had received oaths of office, no business was conducted at the first Town Council meeting. Following adjournment, they all traveled to Section, Alabama, and were administered oaths of office by Homer Stringer.
(This Overview was taken from "Town of Dutton", a 259-page text and pictorial history of Dutton, its beginnings and its people, published in 1998 by Jewell D. Tigue Smalley. Copies are available for $15.95, including handling charges.)
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