Town Once Named Pea Ridge:
Waverly Is Situated on Lee-Chambers Line
by Virginia Smith
Sixty years ago, in 1910, the Chambers County town of Waverly was incorporated. But this date was not the beginning of the village located in the corner of Chambers and Lee Counties. About 1835, the settlement was called "Pea Ridge," an unlovely name the old timers say resulted from the fact that the land "was too poor to sprout peas."
B.B. Patrick is believed to have been the first white settler who moved to the area to open a store. Martin Adcock, Newell and Battle Ross also came to open a tavern. Pea Ridge was so small that it did not even have a post office but was served by a mail carrier from Cusseta. The route, according to Marjorie Webb, local historian, included Cusseta, Oak Bowery, New Harmony, Pea Ridge, and Notasulga. Forney Renfroe of Opelika was the mail carrier on the route before the Civil War. Pea Ridge grew slowly from 1835 to 1861, and even this stopped during the Civil War.
After the war was over, this section of east Alabama, like other parts of the South was in for an era of depression and turmoil but slowly things did change for the better.First of all, a new county was formed. Lee County, named for General Robert E. Lee was organized in 1866, taking slices from Chambers, Russell and Tallapoosa Counties. And the town decided to also change its name, choosing "Waverly," believed to have been due to an admirer of Sir Walter Scott who lived in the community.
One leading citizen by the name of Doolittle, a man of wealth and influence had completed a new house and insisted that his residence be in the new Lee County. Today, the unusual and beautifully landscaped Doolittle house, with massive English boxwoods, is owned by Mrs. W.M. Mayberry.
The present modern Waverly post office is located in Lee County and the Waverly City Hall is located in Chambers County. The county line crosses the narrow strip of land between the two buildings and divides the store buildings on the village main street, which is also a part of U.S. 280.
The best way to find out the real background of any place is to ask someone who grew up with the community. In Waverly, the man to ask is O.L. Carlisle, 83 years old, who has seen many of the changes in his home town. Carlisle operates a store in one of the few stores still open on the main street. The others are either empty or in a state of bad repair. The Carlisle store, like the others on the block, was built in 1910 and is built of native stone, put together with a mortar made of lime and sand. The walls are a foot and a half thick.
Carlisle recalls the days when Waverly had two banks in operation, as well as many stores, industry [sic], hotels and boarding houses. He remembers the Waverly Gin Company with eight gin stands and the Waverly cotton warehouse, a brick building still standing on Main Street. He recalls the A.H. Greene flour and grist mill on the old Camp Hill road, the J.H. Minter water mill, grist mill and sawmill. Waverly in the 1920s, the period of the greatest growth and prosperity, had many large farmers' supply stores on the main street as well as two drug stores, restaurants, even a garage.
During out talk with Carlisle, the man who opened the first Waverly garage, Pat Shealy, drove up. Shealy stood in the door of his former business and recalled the days of the first automobiles in Waverly and the brisk business in the sale of gasoline, oil, and repair.
Carlisle says that the present City Hall originally was built by Conway Harris for a drug store. The store at the end of the block, with the roof fallen in, was at one time the site of the O.S. Moreman General Mercantile store. His name is cut into the cement sidewalk in front of the store. The building's first occupant was a man's clothing store which did a good business, selling name brand merchandise in men's suits, shirts, shoes, and accessories.
The site of the present post office was at one time the location of the W. H. James Restaurant. The building was torn down when the new post office was built.
In 1924, the Charles Mayberry Hotel was known as the best place to eat on the Central of Georgia railway. This was due to the culinary skills of Mrs. Mayberry [Carrie Patrick], who "set a splendid table." The hotel is now an attractive residence, owned by Lois Mayberry of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, who still spends her summers in the house.
An unusual empty building with small paned doors and windows next to the Waverly post office was moved from Oak Bowery and was used as a combination post office and store building in the early days of the town.
Carlisle says Waverly has no old church buildings today, as these early churches were the victims of fires, storms, tornadoes and the movement of church members. The first church in the area was Soul's Chapel [sic], a Methodist mission, organized in 1858. It is no longer standing but was located near the town cemetery.
The changing of the tracks of the Central of Georgia Railroad in 1922 produced a lot of commotion and excitement. The tracks were changed to reduce mileage and take out curves. Today, the old train depot is gone, but Carlisle can see the spot where it once stood from the front steps of his store.
Waverly has always been an unusual place and it remains the same today. In the past, one of the town's most famous citizens was Walter Hoffman, who started his career as a poor chicken peddler with a blind mule and a broken down wagon. He became one of the most successful business men of the area, a large land owner and one of the largest scrap iron dealers in the state. Paul Hoffman was a leading and pioneer nurseryman who grew and sold fruit trees and ornamental shrubbery. At one time he had more than 8,000 fruit trees on land in and around Waverly.
Dr. Will and Dr. L.W. Spratling, noted physicians; W.O. Walton, attorney; Dr. Max Moreman, West Point[Georgia] dentist; Lean Hoffman, nurseryman; and Dr. Homer Bruce are some of the people who were born and grew up in Waverly. The Mayberry, Graves, and Dawson families were long time leaders in the town and many of the families live here today.
Carlisle said his first job was with the central of Georgia Railroad as a telegraph operator. This was before World War I. Carlisle volunteered for duty at the age of 29 and was sent to old Fort Oglethorpe near Chattanooga. This was General Hospital 14 and was, at that time, the headquarters of the old 10th cavalry. In fact, Carlisle and his fellow soldiers slept in the old stables.
He is married to the former Eura Merle Moreman and they are the parents of two children, Mrs. Jimmy Nichols of Lafayette and Otis Carlisle Jr. of Opelika. They have four grandchildren.
Waverly's claim to fame today rests in the fact that it is a town run by women, and even the men admit they are doing a good job. Mrs. J.L. Slocumb is mayor of Waverly; Mrs. Lucy Askew Robinson is postmaster; Mrs. Emory Combs, who is a daughter of the mayor, is post office clerk; Mrs. W.H. Brawner is principal of the Waverly School.
Waverly has another claim to fame, also. It is the site of east Alabama's newest agricultural crop, apples. The beautiful apple orchards give promise of a bountiful crop later this summer, refuting the old saying that Pea Ridge was too poor to grow peas and reviving the memories of the Hoffman nurseries.
Maybe it's true that there is nothing new under the sun. And perhaps it is possible for a place to change and stay the same. Visit Waverly and see for yourself.
The above was transcribed by Stanlye Carmichael and proof read by R.T. Carmichael from the following source:
Smith, Virginia. "Town Once Named Pea Ridge: Waverly Is Situated on Lee-Chambers Line."
Ledger Enquirer East Alabama 22-23 Nov 1970, Today section: pg 10-11.