Benevola Community History

Brief History of Benevola
A Small Community in Pickens County, AL

Back to Home Page

Benevola is a peaceful and beautiful community hidden away on the Sipsey River in Pickens County's southern section. It never became a big city or a bustling town, but it became a community in the true sense of the word. It was a farming community, mainly cotton, until recently. The name Benevola derives from the Latin word benevolent meaning well wishing. This word can be found in French, Spanish and Italian. A village in Italy is also named Benevola. The name suggest the first white settlers were kind, charitable and well wishing people. It is not known how the Sipsey River got it's name, but it is believed to be either from the cyprus trees found there or from the daughter of Chief Tuscaloosa. Both had similar names.
The first inhabitants were the Choctaw Indians. The area was a neutral hunting ground for many Indian tribes. There was a Choctaw Indian village located two miles from the Sipsey River in the area of Benevola. Occasional arrowheads plowed up in fields are reminders that this land was once hunting grounds.
In the 1880's, Benevola was thickly inhabited. Old Benevola began at the Crawford place which is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Maughan. It continued south beyond the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. Vivian Colson near the Bethany community. The road continued to Bethany and on to Vienna where they met the ships that came in to buy sugar and other supplies. Some families that lived in this area were the Maughans, Crafts, Peachs and Crawfords. Pleasant Grove was another farming community located to the north. The early mailing address was Route 1, Pleasant Grove.
For many years, a stage coach came through old Benevola from Greene County. The state coach road turned at the Crawford place and continued on to Carrollton and Columbus, MS. The old State Coach road can still be seen and is used at times by the present land owners.

Land grants were distributed beginning in 1825, and by 1835 most of the Indians were gone. Among the first settlers who enjoyed the land grants included Nelson Crawford, Thomas Thomas, Henry Thomas, the Herndon, Bailey and Peoples families. Others close by were James Criddle, William Gamel, J. Curry, J. Summy and Thomas McReynolds. From those first grants came churches, schools and growing families. The schools were actually built before the churches. They probably conducted their worship services in their homes or possibly in the school building.
By 1880, area residents began to move away for better job opportunity. Evenually, all of the territory to Pleasant Grove became known as Benevola.
The first Benevola post office was established in 1835 near the first Upchurch home, about two miles from the Crawford Place. Although this site was described as near Benevola, it was called the Benevola Post Office. Oliver Bennett served as postmaster. By 1842 the post office closed. In 1885, it reopened in the Upchurch home and later in the Upchurch store after being closed for 43 years. Jack Upchurch served as postmaster. This one existed for 22 years, closing in 1907. In those days mail was carried on horseback and they had circuit riders to cover the many miles they had to travel.
Benevola was a thriving agricultural community. It had three cotton gins. grist mills, saw mills, black smith shop, several stores and an old tannery. The old tannery, owned and operated by the Bridges family, was located behind where the Lofton-Going-Craft house now stands.
Benevola was not exempt from the War-Between-the-States. After burning the courthouse in Carrollton, Croxton's men came through Benevola, holding men captive in Pleasant Grove at King's Store and Saloon overnight, killing A.B. Cotton. The next day they marched by the Lofton House and had a small battle where the Community Center now stands. There were no casualties, the Confederates leaving after realizing they were greatly outnumbered. From there they went to Lanier Mills, a three story brick building that stood on the Sipsey River. Mr. Thomas Lanier and his overseer, John Craft, had left for the war. They stole the ham, sugar and whatever they needed and burned the mill to the ground. John Craft died with penumonia on his way from the War. When Lanier returned and saw his mill burned, he left never to return.
Dairy farming began in the community in the late 1940's. Among the dairy farmers were Thomas Winston, Bud Pratt, Curtis Eatman, Boyd Powell and Bracy Craft. The last dairly closed in the 1950's. Today's farming consists of chicken, hog and catfish farming and timber.
Forest Baptist Church is the only original church that still has services. The Bethesda Church is used by another denomination.

Betty Craft Banks