The Autauga County Heritage Association (ACHA) is headquartered in the Prattaugan Museum and Visitor Center, located in downtown Prattville, Autauga County. ACHA is dedicated to preserving the history of Autauga County, which was founded in 1818, and Prattville, founded in 1839 by Daniel Pratt, nineteenth-century entrepreneur and the first industrialist in Alabama. ACHA was born out of community concern about the loss of irreplaceable historic structures after Daniel Pratt's mansion was torn down in 1961. Having lost this historic home, in 1974 the Prattville Study Club, then a group of 50 women, established ACHA. In 1976, the organization's first president, Evelyn Striplin, was elected from among 309 charter members of the association.
Through its efforts to date, ACHA has saved three antebellum homes that are now being used as commercial properties. Buena Vista, a historic mansion built circa 1822 is an example of the early plantation homes that incorporated European styles and materials in the architecture. The McWilliams-Smith-Rice House, built in 1849, now houses the Prauttaugan Museum. It was the first meeting place of the cavalry unit that would be known as the Prattville Dragoons, which formed in 1861 when the Civil War broke out. The grounds include one of Prattville's many artesian wells, grapevines propagated from the Pratt vineyard, and a small house built by George Smith, who owned the Pratt House sometime in the 1860s; it now serves as a meeting place for community groups.
The museum's primary purpose is to educate and inform the public on the history of Autauga County and of the historic company town of Prattville. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts relating to Pratt and the Pratt Gin Manufacturing Company, the cotton industry, a foundry, the town, and the county. Also, a Civil War exhibit displays items pertaining to the local community and to the Prattville Dragoons, and a World War II exhibit provides a detailed history of the manufacture of bombs in the Gin Shop by local women, when the men were at war. A museum archives holds family histories, information on sites of Autauga churches and cemeteries, and an extensive twentieth-century newspaper collection.
The association is governed by a 14-member board of directors; day-to-day operations of the association and the museum are carried out by two staff members and volunteers. Volunteers conduct tours, set up displays in the museum, maintain the grounds and buildings, and perform research. ACHA continues to pursue preservation projects and to educate county citizens in the history of the area.
Published March 31, 2014
Last updated December 5, 2014