Petrey dedicates historical town marker

Published 12:33 am Friday, February 16, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith

The Town of Petrey dedicated a historical marker Jan. 27 at a ceremony held to commemorate the town’s establishment over 200 years ago.

The dedication featured recognition of the town’s current leaders, Mayor Bobby Beasley, Mayor Pro Tem Laura Elliot and Town Council members John Frank Wilkerson, Jef Wilkerson, Bobby Beasley, Jimmy Holladay and Faye Trotter.

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According to Town Clerk Sue Beasley, Elliot played a large part in organizing the effort and provided many of the artifacts on display in the community center where the dedication was held.

“Laura Elliot is the Mayor Pro Tem (tempore),” Beasley said. “Bobby [Beasley] welcomed everybody and introduced special guests, but Laura has lived in Petrey all her life. She did a history on Petrey and can tell you a lot about the history [of the town]. She supplied a lot of the items on display.”

Elliot described the town’s history, providing details of the first family, George and Martha Blackwelder Petrey, who left their Georgia hoe to settle near what is now Lapine in Crenshaw County around 1845 and five years later, in 1850, relocated to homestead three miles north of present-day Petrey.

“George Petrey and his wife, Martha Blackwelder Petrey, were the ones that the town was named after,” Elliot said. “George had 24 children, 12 with Martha and 12 with Cinderella Huss Petrey after Martha’s death. There were so many Petreys in Petrey, and I’m a Petrey. I’m the only direct descendent living here now plus my two daughters who live here with their families.”

According to Elliot, the town was originally named Forkland. The name was later changed to Petrey because so many members of the Petrey family lived there.

The town is located on the track where the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad once ran from Sellers Station, through Lapine, Bradleyton, Petrey and Patsburg with a final stop in Luverne. The railroad operated a station there on land donated by the Petrey family and later reclaimed once the railroad ceased operation.

By the early 1900s, Petrey boasted a nice sized farming community with a doctor, school, several store, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, grist mill and hotel. In 1909, Luke Petrey and his children opened a mercantile business which later became W.L. Petrey and Company.

On Feb. 1, 1915, the town incorporated, installing G.A. Clayton as mayor and appointing a town council. Today the town is one of the smallest incorporated towns in Alabama.

Elliot said the effort of organizing the marker dedication spanned over the course of 2023 and included improvements to the community center which once served as the town’s school.

“It took about a year,” Elliot explained. “The community center was the old schoolhouse in Petrey which went through junior high [grades]. We’ve been working on the center.

“I have a lot of the town’s history. My parents and grandparents, all my ancestors grew up here. In the process, we framed a good many of the articles about Petrey and placed some antique cabinets to put memorabilia in.”

The display contains the old Petrey family Bible, Elliot said, along with historic school books and pictures of the former school and basketball teams.

“A lot of that was my family stuff,” Elliot said. “A few other people have also donated.”

Elliot welcomes visitors to come and view the display of Petrey’s history. The newly dedicated marker stands outside the building and interested persons wishing to view the display inside can contact the Town of Petrey office at (334) 268-6724.