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Book details
  • SubGenre:Historical
  • Language:English
  • Pages:118
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350932980

A Biography of Captain Wilson Parks Howell (1832-1912)

by Mark Fagan

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Wilson Parks Howell (WPH) was born in Gwinnett County, GA in 1832. WPH came at age 3 with his parents and siblings to Benton County (now Calhoun and Cleburne Counties) in Northeastern Alabama in 1835. There were no electrical services, water systems, mail services, stagecoach services, railroad services, telephone services, or incorporated areas in Benton County when WPH came.

In 1832, Benton County was chartered as one of nine counties formed from Creek Indian Territory and Drayton was founded from 320 acres purchased from Chief Ladiga. Drayton’s town square was developed with crude cabins around it, and it was selected as the first county seat in 1833. Drayton was renamed Jacksonville in 1834, and it was incorporated in 1836. 

In 1836, a road was built from Jacksonville to Rome, GA and another one built from Ladiga in Goshen Valley (five miles north of where Piedmont stands) to where White Plains, AL now stands. Mail service by horseback on two days per week was established in 1837 with stops at Ladiga and Hollow Stump (now Piedmont). Stagecoach service began in 1838 and Jacksonville got its first brick building on the square (The Old Tavern still stands). WPH’s father started the first school and church in the part of the county where they lived (Oak Level, AL) in 1838. 

Alabama had 49 counties in 1840 and Benton County had a population of 14,260. The name of Hollow Stump was changed to Cross Plains in 1848. By 1850, Cross Plains had three families, a blacksmith shop, and a general store and Dr. James Francis built an office for his medical practice in Jacksonville. Oxford was incorporated in 1852. Benton County was renamed Calhoun County in 1858. By 1860, the population in Calhoun County had increased to 21,539. The first railroad tracks connecting Talladega to Oxford were completed in 1861 and a depot was built in Oxford.

WPH's father started the first school near their home in 1838 and WPH attended school one month each year after crops were laid by. WPH acquired his "formal education" by attending the Academy at Tallapoosa, GA for 3 months in 1849. WPH married Harrietta Virginia Parker in 1850 and they had 10 children. 

At the onset of the Civil War, every able-bodied man within military age was forced into the army, hence many preferred to volunteer. WPH served in the Civil War (1861-1865) and became Captain of Company “I” of the 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment. WPH was in six battles with the Army of Tennessee and was wounded at the Battles of Chickamauga, Atlanta, King's Mountain, and Bentonville. At Bentonville, WPH’s leg was broken just above the ankle, and at the war’s end, he traveled back to Alabama on crutches, walking the last 60 miles to get home. WPH’s service to the Confederacy was a result of his desire to protect his way of life and his family and not to defend slavery. 

WPH served as a representative and Clerk in the House and Senate of the General Assembly of Alabama during the reconstruction years after the Civil War (1870-1901); 4 years as Clerk for the State Treasurer of Alabama; and as elected Delegate to the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901. In 1878, WPH served as chairman of a legislative committee to charter Anniston, AL. WPH also served 7 years as the county as Tax Assessor and Surveyor and as a Methodist minister from 1866 until his death in 1912.

WPH was named in legislative Act 252 as a founding board member for the State Normal School (SNS) at Jacksonville, AL (now Jacksonville State University). He was elected as the first temporary president of this board and he organize its first meeting into a quorum for transacting official business. The board elected permanent officers who selected the first president and faculty members for the SNS. WPH continued to serve on the board for its first 15 years. In 1883, the SNS acquired the existing Calhoun College’s 12 acres of land and two-story brick building (Atkins Hall valued at $16,000) near the current Jacksonville square. In the 1883-84 school year, there were 25 students in the SNS. Revenue for the SNS was $4,751.25 and the expenses were $5,006.60. The 1894-95 school year at the SNS had a president and six teachers. At the end of 1894-95 year, a total of 81 had graduated since the inception of the SNS. 


This book is a biography of my great great grandfather (Wilson Parks Howell) written by me in 2023. His granddaughter was my grandmother on my mother's side. The information came from his autobiography to 1860 (written in 1901), The History of the 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment of the C.S.A. (written by him in 1906), letters by him, documents from the Alabama Department of Archives and History, newspaper articles (by him and about him), and my research about his activities.

The first part of this book covers the formative years of Benton County as described by WPH. The second part covers details during the Civil War as described by WPH. WPH was requested by General George D. Johnston to write The History of the 25th Alabama Infantry Regiment. WPH hand wrote 153 pages and worked with Dr. Thomas Owen (founding director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History) to publish this history in 1906. 

It documents WPH's years of service to his county and state. WPH served in the House of the Alabama Assembly from 1870-1874 and 1886-1888 and in the Senate of the Alabama Assembly from 1876-1880. WPH served as Enrolling and Engrossing Clerk for the Senate of the Alabama Assembly from 1880-1884 and 1892-1894 and the Enrolling Clerk for the House of the Alabama Assembly from 1894-1898. WPH served as Clerk for the State Treasurer of Alabama from 1888-1892. In 1901, WPH served as an elected Delegate to the Alabama Constitutional Convention. 

WPH's contributions to his home area and the counties of Cleburne and Calhoun, in Alabama are inestimable. His contributions were significant to the State of Alabama through his many years in State government during the reconstruction years following the Civil War. 

This book is organized chronologically by year to show WPH's progression through life. It is a description of what life in Alabama was like from 1835-1912. Photos are added to enhance imagery for those years.

About the author

My name is Winston Mark Fagan. I was born in Gadsden, AL in 1952 and grew up in Piedmont, AL (Calhoun County), where I attended public school for 12 years. Following graduation from high school in 1970, I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in psychology and a minor in economics at Jacksonville State University (JSU). I received my Master's in Social Work (MSW) Degree with an emphasis on psychiatric social work practice in 1977 from the University of Alabama (UA). In 1981, I received my Doctor of Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy, Planning, and Administration and a doctoral minor in Human Resources Management in the School of Commerce and Business Administration at UA.

In 1981, I began employment at JSU as an Assistant Professor of Social Work in the Department of Sociology and Social Work. Dr. Rebecca Turner and I began developing the Baccalaureate in Social Work (BSW) degree (JSU only had a minor in social work). Between 1988 and December 2021, JSU produced some 2,000 graduates with BSW degrees.

I joined a multi-disciplinary team from JSU from 1985-1989 to produce individual reports (economic best-fit analyses) for 13 counties and municipalities in East Alabama. I was the contributor for retirement development as a strategy for economic development. I was released half-time from JSU from 1988 to 1992 to assist in the implementation of a state-government program to attract retirees to Alabama. I assisted in providing technical assistance to 94 local communities for attracting retirees.

The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) launched in 1990 a series of public golf complexes to attract tourists, attract retirees, and attract industry to Alabama. It was named The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail). My research has been credited as contributing to the justification for developing The Trail. I have assisted the RSA since 1992 with The Trail. This work includes negotiations for 3 sites; projected economic impact studies for 5 sites and access roads for 4 sites; booklets on RSA's 2 resort communities; 35 articles; 11 professional presentations; 17 topic encyclopedia entries; 24 news stories; 10 TV programs; and 4 radio programs.

I have been writing about economic impacts, economic history, and economic development for 38 years. Most of my 207 publications and technical writings since 1981 have focused on the economic impact of retirees, retirement places, and economic history. His publication categories are books-10; technical publications-48; newsletter/magazine articles-101; newspaper specials-8; technical white papers-6; agency publications-6; bound booklets-12; academic journals-4; websites/Facebook Series-4; topic encyclopedia entries-18; and book chapters-2.  I have coordinated 8 conferences on retirement, made 127 major presentations, 26 small conference presentations, and 74 presentations around Alabama and the nation about retirees, retirement, and academic topics.

I have been consulted by and quoted in the news media for stories on retirees and retirement including 45 TV programs, 4 radio programs, 178 periodicals, and 302 newspapers around the US. Some of the national media in which I appeared include The Golf Channel, CBS News, NBC News, CNN News, ABC News, "Good Morning America," National Public Radio, U.S. News and World Report, Governing, Time, The AARP Bulletin, New Choices for Retirement Living, Where to Retire, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Money, Business Week, Mature Outlook, Golf Digest, Smart Money, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and Stars and Stripes.

I was awarded tenure at JSU in 1986 and Professor in 1992. I retired from JSU with 32 years of service which included teaching 13 different courses, serving as Social Work Program Director and Department Head for Social Work and Sociology for 14 years, and serving as a Consultant to JSU's CED for 23 years. I assisted JSU with hosting the American Association of Retirement Communities for 5 years. I was awarded Professor/Department Head Emeritus at JSU in 2012.