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Old Southern Depot

Joshua Shiver, Auburn University
Old Southern Depot
The Old Southern Depot in Maplesville, Chilton County, is a historic former railroad depot that serves as the home of the Maplesville Senior Center and the Maplesville Historical Society. The current structure stands on the site of two former railroad depots that were destroyed by fire in 1865 and 1911. The building was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1976 and is the centerpiece of the Maplesville Railroad Historic District established in 2003. In 2010, the Old Southern Depot became the home of the Maplesville Historical Society, which also installed a small pictorial museum in the depot to provide a visual representation of the town's history.
Maplesville is the oldest community in Chilton County and was established sometime before 1820 as the town of "Mulberry" for nearby Mulberry Creek. The first recorded white settler was Daniel Williams, who built a series of mills in the area. Williams's son-in-law Stephen W. Maples built a store in the area and became Mulberry's first postmaster after he opened a post office in his store in 1823. Thereafter, the town was renamed "Maplesville" in his honor. Over time, a series of inns and taverns sprang up in the area owing to the town's location along two major trade routes and stagecoach lines. The Fort Jackson Road ran from that fort at Wetumpka, Elmore County, to Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, and the Elyton Road ran from Birmingham, Jefferson County, to Selma, Dallas County.
Located in a mixed agricultural and manufacturing region, Maplesville was an important center of cotton production in the area. In 1853, the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad (A&TR) received land three miles west of Maplesville in an area known as "Cuba" from Maplesville landowner Turner M. Goodwin. This line of the A&TR Railroad stretched southward from Montevallo, Shelby County, to Selma and was built to transport locally produced cotton and other goods to various markets cheaply and efficiently. In 1853, a railroad depot was constructed in Cuba that was curiously called the "Maplesville Station" by the rail company. Reflecting the broader national trend away from horse-and-buggy transportation to more economical and efficient rail transportation, businesses and then citizens from Maplesville began moving closer to the rail line in Cuba. By 1856, the Maplesville Post Office was relocated to Cuba and the town was itself renamed "Maplesville." By 1900, the old town of Maplesville had been virtually abandoned.
The Maplesville Station was set ablaze by Union forces under the command of Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson in 1865 as part of his raid through Alabama and Georgia. Two years later, the depot was rebuilt and in 1894 the rail line through Maplesville was purchased by the Southern Railway Company. (It eventually merged with the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1982 to form the Norfolk Southern Corporation.) In 1911, a fire swept through Maplesville and destroyed many buildings including the depot. The following year, a new depot was constructed with a wood frame structure, hipped tile roof, and wooden platform that ran along the entire north side and part of the east side of the building. The interior of the building consisted of three separate public rooms with three separate entrances including the ticket agent's office, waiting room, and a baggage office. It also included a large freight room that became important for the burgeoning timber industry, which over the next several decades would supplant cotton production in the area.
Sometime before the 1970s, the Old Southern Depot was abandoned by the Southern Railway, and the town of Maplesville took over the building. In preparation for the upcoming national Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, the depot was converted into a community center for senior citizens. In 1976, the Alabama Historical Commission added it to their Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage and in 2003 it became the centerpiece of the recently created Maplesville Railroad Historic District. In 2009, the Maplesville Historical Society was formed and set about creating a small pictorial museum reflecting the area's visual history in the Old Southern Depot, which debuted on April 10, 2010. The remainder of the depot serves as the Maplesville Senior Center, owned and operated by the town of Maplesville.
The depot is located at 9499 Main Street/Alabama Route 22. A bit east of Maplesville is the Walker-Klinner Farm (ca. 1890) added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The property is noted for its twin-gabled and steeply pitched roof and High Victorian influences. Researchers found a circa 1820 grist mill dam, reportedly constructed by early settler Daniel Williams.

Additional Resources

Singleton, Billy J. Chilton County. Images of America series. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2017.
Published:  March 10, 2020   |   Last updated:  March 10, 2020