Community History

Sand Rock -- Yesterday & Today

 
 

Sand Rock Community History

 Nesting atop Lookout Mountain is a pretty, progressive hilltop community. Compared to surrounding areas, the TOWN of Sand Rock is relatively young, becoming incorporated in 1988.  The Sand Rock COMMUNITY, however, has a rich history dating back to the early 1800s.

 Sand Rock doesn’t have a post office (but it does have a Zip Code!), nor does it have a supermarket, clothing shop, or hardware store.  It does have a fine school, which began as a log cabin and is now a beautiful modern multi-building complex.  Church buildings also stand as a testimony to the community’s strong faith, along with a friendliness that has stood since the day Sand Rock was named by Grandfather Brindley.

 Sand Rock began when two brothers were traveling the old Indian trail from the Carolinas to Mississippi.  One of the brothers was Euclid V. Brindley’s grandfather.  He liked the top of Lookout Mountain, on the trail between Leesburg and Collinsville, where the two brothers stopped to rest beside a spring.  One of the brothers moved on, but Grandfather Brindley stayed.

 The exact date the two brothers stopped on Lookout Mountain is not recorded.  But, according to local historians, the Brindley who stayed to rear a family here looked at the huge sand rocks, crumbled some between his fingers, and exclaimed, "Sand Rock."

 The man who was Grandfather Brindley had a son named P. K. Brindley, who became a circuit rider for the Methodist church and carried the message of God over the mountain.  The mountain was still a forest, beautiful in nature’s own glory.  P. K. Brindley’s son was Euclid V. Brindley, who lived in the picturesque ancestral storied home.  He owned a proud possession which was a land grant signed by President James K. Polk.

 Joseph Mitchell came from Franklin County, Tennessee, in 1835, and joined Brindley on the mountain.  Then other settlers came, among these the McGhees, Copelands, Conners and Sims, and the moutain settlement grew.  In 1895, Levi Jackson Pearson from Shelby County came to settle at the old George Sims homestead.

 It must have been in the 1840's when Levin Clifton organized the first Methodist church, perhaps 1840 or 1845; for Levin Clifton died in 1858 at the age of 82.  Levin Clifton was the father of two sons: W. L. and L. A., who became Methodist ministers.  W. L. Clifton was a Southern Methodist minister, and L. A. a Northern Methodist minister.  Each was a presiding elder of his respective church at the same time.

 As other settlers came to the mountain, there was a need for a school.  A one-room log cabin on the H. S. Stowe farm was the first school.  It was about a quarter of a mile from today’s Sand Rock School.  The heat came from an open fireplace.  The benches were slabs with legs placed in holes bored with an augur.

 Students walked to school in those days. There were no clubs or extracurricular activities then.  School commenced at 8 o’clock and dismissed at 4 o’clock.  There were no lunchrooms; pupils carried their lunches in a lunch-pail.  After school, there were the evening chores to do.  Studying was by the light of kerosene lanterns or candles.  Professor Toles Smith was the only teacher.

 As more settlers came, a need arose for a larger two-teacher school.  Around 1895, the school was moved to a more central location and became a two-room school.  Professor Smith continued to teach, and Preston Whitt became the principal.

 In about 1916, another room was added to the building and a third teacher employed.  J. H. Stephens (later a resident of Fort Payne), was added to the faculty.  Stephens taught here for a number of years.  At this time, the seats were double desks made of strips of wood with a flat top and a place for the students’ books.

 Tuition was paid by the parents cutting wood and hauling it to the school.  So many cords of wood per child was the fee.  For a water system, the boys carried water in large pails from a spring at the back of the school.  The teachers boarded in the neighborhood at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bob Stowe.

 Raymon Wills succeeded Mr. Smith.  Following Wills came Dr. George W. Brock, who became president of Livingston School.  Next came D. P. Livingston, a Mr. Bailey, Hap Collins, Robert Crane, Noah Jones, T. S. Selman, and Raymond Ringer.  While Mr. Ringer was principal, the three-room school building was torn down.  The first three grades went to school in the Methodist church, and the upper classes were held in the Baptist church.

 Through the efforts of the parents who volunteer labor and materials for a school building, a new structure was erected in 1922.  Much of the lumber was cut from farms of the parents and donated.  Among these were Tom Stowe, Henry Stowe, J. Z. Conner, Henry Farmer, John Mitchell, Will Mitchell, Wash Mitchell, Tom Stimpson, P. B. Lawosn, Wiley Stimpson, and Oscar Drake, who was the main carpenter.

 This new building had five rooms with an office and a small library.  A gym and lunchroom were added.  Later the lunchroom was moved across the road to the rock clubhouse.  Some of the principals included Milton Watts, Willis Glazner, and G. D. Broom.  While Mr. Broom was principal, the school became a junior high. In 1929-30, the sophomore class was added; in 1930-31, the junior class; and in 1931-32, the senior class was added.

 In 1932, the first graduating class included Irene Stowe (Glazner), who later became a teacher, Howard Oliver, Mabel Oliver, Verna Mae Stimpson (Martin).  Verna Mae had to quit school due to illness in the family and was a member of the next year’s graduating class.  Other graduating seniors in 1932 were Milton Conner, Lena King (Stimpson), Wilma Everette (Meadows), Fannie Mary Helms (Emmerson), Chester Studdards, Lamar Cleland, Louise Cleland, and perhaps others.  The 1932 graduating class had to take an entrance examination to be able to enter college.  The school later became accredited.

 Mr. Sparks became principal after Mr. Broom and following Sparks were Bob Thompson, Sam Bolding, Mr. Barfoot, H. S. Chaffin, Thomas Alexandra, Bufford Sewell, Curtis Rosser, and Waymon Wester. 

Most recent Sand Rock School Principals are:

  • L. D. Pearson (1966-1987)
  • Roland Hendon (1987-1995)
  • Charlotte Hooper (1996-2003)
  • Brian Johnson (2003-2004)
  • Ben East (2005-present)

 Sand Rock Community has grown. The school is now one of the county’s largest with an enrollment of almost 950 students, and faculty of fifty.

 Others came to the mountain community: the Elliotts, Clantons, Daniels, Appletons, Bomans, Richeys, Helms, Chitwoods, Johnsons, St.Clairs, Robinsons, Hoods, Hawthornes, Alfords, Baileys, Connells, Becks, Lawsons, Stimpsons, Pates, and Edges.

 In 1945, a cannery was built. Among those helping to organize the cannery were Mrs. Andy Mitchell, Tommie Webb, Mrs. W. D. Pearson, S. E. Pate, and Mrs. Jesse A. Boman.  Pate and Boman operated the cannery.  (Click here to read about Sand Rock's Cannery.)

 A memorable part of any excursion to Sand Rock is the scenery.  Cherokee Rock Village – affectionately known to locals as "Little Rock City" – is only a five-minute drive west of Alabgama 68.  The massive boulders which project from the mountain’s surface can be seen for miles.  Rock-climbing enthusiasts know Cherokee Rock Village as one of the most popular climbing spots in the country.

 From the brow of the mountain, the view is spectacular.  Visitors and residents note that on a clear day, one can see Rome to the east, Gadsden to the west, and Mt. Cheaha to the south – a distance of over 30 miles.

 Home construction has blossomed along the southern and eastern brows of Lookout Mountain.  Dozens of long-time and new residents are taking advantage of the scenic views of mountain rocks, beautiful foliage, and the ever-popular Weiss Lake – the Crappie Capital of the World.  Countless homeowners appreciate the privacy and quiet provided by the wooded mountain locations.

 As in many rural communities, the age of the average Sand Rock resident is increasing.  However, a loyalty to the community and to their families is noted among the younger citizens.  Many leave home for college or occupational training, but return to Sand Rock when studies are completed. In fact, many of the present Sand Rock School faculty attended the school as children.

 Several families report three generations currently living in Sand Rock.  A few even note four generations.

 Once primarily an area of working family farms (largely cotton farms), Sand Rock now counts many occupations among her residents.  Employment in Centre, Leesburg, Collinsville, Fort Payne, and Gadsden draw many Sand Rock citizens.

 Some citizens make their living as owners of retail businesses – including a florist, a service station and small grocery store, a pizza carry-out, an antique shop, and an "under-construction" restaurant.  For 10 years, a Centre bank maintained a branch office at Sand Rock. Coal mining experienced a surge during the late 1970s, but this, too, passed.

 Sand Rock residents take pride in their community – their schools, churches, recreational facilities, and volunteer fire department. Church activities are important to the people of Sand Rock.  Two of the town’s three churches – Sand Rock Baptist and Sand Rock Methodist – are both located just north of "downtown Sand Rock" (the 4-way stop at the intersection of Sand Rock Avenue and Friendship Avenue).  The third church, Sand Rock Church of Christ, is located on AL Hwy 68.

 There is a cooperative spirit among all of Sand Rock’s churches, sharing in community events, school events, and worship services.  Homecoming at the Sand Rock Cemetery (affectionately known as "Decoration Day") is held on the first Sunday in May.  Pastors from the churches rotate delivering the message at homecoming, baccalaureate, and other occasions.

 A popular site for genealogists is Sand Rock’s community cemetery, situated along Sand Rock Avenue and Cemetery Road just north of the school.  Many of the graves date to the mid-19th century.  The earliest graves are located in the middle of the cemetery.  There are no dates on the large stones which cover the oldest graves.

 The grave of Sarah Beck almost always gets the attention of the cemetery’s visitors.  According to her marker, Mrs. Beck was 108 when she died – having been born in 1774 and living until 1882.  (Some residents claim that their clean, crisp mountain air probably contributed to Mrs. Beck’s long life.)

 Gospel singings were once held at Sand Rock each second Sunday in July, and as high as 5,000 persons have attended these gospel singings.

 Sand Rock – an appropriate name for a community whose citizens exhibit a caring neighborliness, a strong faith, a support of joint ventures, a concern for family, and a strong work ethic.

 A frequent visitor and long-time observer describes it aptly: "The people there are solid as a rock!"

 

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~~Adapted from multiple reports and photos.  Credits to:

  • Basil Penny – The Anniston Star, Anniston, AL (1973)
  • Ken Elkins – The Anniston Star, Anniston, AL (1973)
  • Dixie C. Miller – Cherokee County Herald, Centre, AL (1975 & 1985)
  • J. E. Clayton – Cherokee County Herald, Centre, AL (1975)
  • Anne Shumaker – Cherokee County Herald, Centre, AL (1988)
  • Kerry Yencer – Cherokee County Herald, Centre, AL (1999)