|City/Town: • Thomaston
|Location Class: • Community
|Built: • c. 1905-1925 | Abandoned: • N/A
|Historic Designation: • Historic District
|Status: • Abandoned
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit
Table of Contents
History of Thomaston
Thomaston was first settled in the late nineteenth century, and the first post office was opened in 1892. The settlement had no official name until 1901 when the Selma to Myrtlewood line of the L&N Railroad reached the town. It was named for one of its founders, Dr. Charles Brooks Thomas, an early settler in the area who promoted the town on the guiding principles of the “New South” philosophy.
The term was coined by its leading spokesman and Atlanta editor Henry Woodfin Grady in 1874. The New South campaign was championed by Southern elites often outside of the old planter class. Their hopes were to make a fresh “new” start, forming partnerships with Northern capitalists in order to modernize and speed up the economic development of the South. Advocates of the movement wanted southern economic regeneration, sectional reconciliation, and racial harmony, and believed in the gospel of work. The term has been used in recent times to refer to areas of the South that have become more diverse and cosmopolitan over the last several decades such as Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas.
In 1892, Dr. Thomas was appointed postmaster and the community was named Thomaston in his honor. The town of Thomaston was incorporated on November 15, 1901, with a population of 51 people and Thomas as the first Mayor. Not long after the railroad arrived, the town boasted churches, a bank, a school, cotton gins, and a brick factory.
In 1907, the Alabama State Legislature voted to set aside state funds to consolidate and establish a school in each county including Marengo County. Dr. Thomas already planned for this and in 1905, had donated land for the establishment of a county school. The town established a Board of Trustees which began to bid for the Marengo County High School and Thomaston was chosen as the location for the school in 1908. Construction began on what would be the Marengo County High School and was dedicated on June 24, 1909.
In 1910, the Thomaston Colored Institute, a private academy associated with the West Alabama Primitive Baptist Association, opened in the town. Although he did not support its establishment as he had done with the high school, such as donating land and funding, Thomas supported the concept as part of his “modern town.” Locally made bricks from the Thomaston Brick Works were used in the construction of both the Thomaston Colored Institute and Marengo County High School. The Planters Bank and Trust Company was soon established in 1914. Telephone service began in 1914 and electricity came in 1929.
Old Thomaston Calaboose
The old Thomaston Calaboose was built sometime between 1905 and 1925. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Thomaston Central Historic District on October 14, 2000. The National Register of Historic Places describes the building as a “One-story, single-pen, hip-roofed Calaboose/jail made of stacked 2x4s has one door in south side, openings cut into east and west sides. Door is nail-studded stacked boards, “windows” barred with iron.” The Calaboose was used as a holding cell, and Thomaston locals recall stories about how this old jail was used in the 1920s to lock up local drunks as most offenders were sent to the county jail in Linden.