Clinic Stories

Free State of Winston

My travels took me several times to Haleyville, AL, population 4,100. Haleyville is located in Winston County in the northwest corner of the state. Not much happens in Winston County but it secured its place in history years ago. When the South seceded from the Union during the Civil War, Winston County seceded from the South forming the Free State of Winston. It was no longer a county, it was a country. Winston is a rural county of small farms in land not suited for plantations and had only a few thousand residents during the Civil War. The independent white settlers wanted neither slaves nor a fight to free them. A small museum in Haleyville gives a history of those few years of independence along with some pictures and memorabilia, including their own script.

Winston County remains rural and poor and nearly all white. While visiting farms in the area, Clyde, a lifetime resident told me that blacks used to travel to the county as day laborers and return home by dark. During the Civil Rights activities of the 1960's some of those black workers did not return and were never found, putting an end to that source of labor. When I expressed horror Clyde assured me that there hadn't been a local lynching since the early 70's, clearly another source of community pride.

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