Winston County students learn of days gone by at Houston jail
by James Phillips
Oct 20, 2012 | 2207 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fourth grade students from Winston County Schools took part in a Living History Day at the Houston Jail Friday. The event was sponsored by the Houston Historical Society and the Winston County Sheriff’s Office. Above, Michael McGuire of Haleyville portrays Sheriff Willis Farris, who was the appointed first sheriff of Hancock County, which later became Winston County. Photo by: James Phillips
Fourth grade students from Winston County Schools took part in a Living History Day at the Houston Jail Friday. The event was sponsored by the Houston Historical Society and the Winston County Sheriff’s Office. Above, Michael McGuire of Haleyville portrays Sheriff Willis Farris, who was the appointed first sheriff of Hancock County, which later became Winston County. Photo by: James Phillips
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HOUSTON — Fourth-graders from Winston County Schools stepped back in time Friday with a visit to the Houston Jail.

The students participated in Living History Day at the 144-year-old jail. The fifth annual event was sponsored by the Houston Historical Society and the Winston County Sheriff’s Office.

Winston County Sheriff Rick Harris, who is also a member of the Houston Historical Society, said the event is something he looks forward to each year.

“It’s so good to see these students out here learning and having a bunch of fun,” he said. “We are happy to be able to participate in this project.”

Students toured the jail along with Michael McGuire, who portrayed Sheriff Willis Farris, the first appointed sheriff of Hancock County, which later became Winston County.

Along with touring the jail, students visited several stations set up on the property surrounding the jail.

At those stations, students learned about:

•How early residents of Winston County would have washed clothes through a demonstration by representatives of Simple Life Farms in Arley.

•John Anthony Winston, the first native-born governor of Alabama and namesake of Winston County from Jasper residents Howard and Nora Estill.

•Alabama’s flags and military firearms from the Civil War era from members of the Winston County Grays, a branch of the Sons of the Confederacy.

•Snakes from the area by David Kelly.

•Aunt Jenny Johnson through the dramatic presentation of Carla Waldrep.

•Uncle Dick Payne, the man who coined the phrase, “The Free State of Winston,” through the acting of Haleyville resident Steve Turner.

•Native American tribes who lived in Winston County.

•Folk songs of the late 1800s with Anthony Baugh Pennington.

Betty Denton, secretary treasurer of the Houston Historical Society, said this year’s event featured several new volunteers.

“Each of the stations are made up of volunteers, and we couldn’t do this without them,” she said. “I think this year’s group was really good. The children seem to be very engaged with what they are teaching.”

Nora Estill, a member of the historical society who played Mrs. Gov. John Wilson, said speaking with the children is a joy.

“One of the kids told me today that this was the highlight of her year so far,” she said. “They really seem to love coming here every year. I think this is the most important thing that our historical society does every year.”

Diona Kimbrell, a fourthgrade teacher at Meek Elementary School, said Living History Day is a great event.

“We just love it,” she said. “It’s something special for our county. Our students are learning Alabama history, and this is a way of bringing those lessons to life.”