OUR VIEW: Not just Chambers County’s oldest community

Published 1:00 pm Friday, October 18, 2019

Chambers County’s oldest community, Fredonia, has a history that goes back to 1832. It’s fitting that it would have the two oldest school buildings in the county.

Both the Fredonia School and the New Hope Rosenwald School hosted their first classes in 1919 — 100 years ago. It’s amazing that both buildings are still standing, in good condition and hosting visitors. The Fredonia School closed in 1948 but gained new life as a community clubhouse in 1951.

Many local people have been there throughout the years for such events as the annual Fredonia barbecue, which is always held on the first Saturday following Easter, and Heritage Day, always on the first Saturday in November.

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The New Hope School closed in 1958 and like the Fredonia School, was consolidated with a school in Five Points. It’s been undergoing a restoration and looks great. A group of volunteers led by George Barrow have been doing a fantastic job in getting the classic building back (as much as they can) to its original 1919 look.

This past Sunday, the Fredonia Heritage Association and the Fredonia Community Club joined forces to host a program to celebrate 100 years for the old school house. Former students of the school got together to tell stories of when they went to school in the 1940s. Appropriately enough, the day was capped off with an ice cream social.

The New Hope School will have a special program at 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 26.

It’s open to the public and will be an ideal opportunity to see the quality of the restoration work that’s been going on. To get there from the Valley, drive up County Road 289 to the Fredonia crossroads, take a left and head several miles back toward LaFayette.

The New Hope School is easy to find. It sits right next to the still-active New Hope church.

Fredonia Heritage Day is coming up pretty soon as well. It will take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT. It’s one of the better arts and crafts festivals in east Alabama and annually draws huge crowds. In the sprawling yard in front of the Community House, there will be dozens of vendors, lots of good food and live performances all day long.

The music will range from gospel to country to Southern rock. Inside the Clubhouse will be history presentations and displays, old tools, machines, artifacts and old maps.

It’s easy to see Fredonia residents have a strong sense of community among them and are proud to be residents of Chambers County’s oldest community. The first permanent settler to the Fredonia area was a man named Alexander McDonald.

“This community is hard working and dedicated to each other,” Fredonia Heritage Association President J.J. Frickert said at Sunday’s centennial celebration. “The rich tradition of rolling up your sleeves and using every muscle for a just cause has been tested over time, tried and found true. It’s never been just one person. It’s always been community.”

Fredonia is not just Chambers County’s oldest community. It’s also a special place because of the kind of people who are living there.