West Jefferson County Pioneer Homes
Owen House The West Jefferson County Pioneer Homes in west Jefferson County, southwest of Birmingham, are a collection of three early-nineteenth century pioneer homes representing the great wave of migration from the east to Alabama in the wake of the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814. Maintained by the West Jefferson County Historical Society (WJCHS), these three homes include the Sadler Plantation Home (ca. 1820), the Owen Plantation Home (ca. 1833), and McAdory Plantation Home (ca. 1840). Starting out as simple dwellings, these homes capture the early nineteenth century shift from a wilderness to a prosperous agricultural state. Additionally, the people who constructed these homes as well as their descendants would become major contributors to the development of Alabama politics, education, medicine, agriculture, and more. The three homes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP) in the 1970s. They are located on Eastern Valley Road, also known as County Road 18, roughly east of the intersection between Interstates 20 and 459.
The Sadler Family Pioneer Home, at 5262 Eastern Valley Road in McCalla, is the oldest home in the area and was built by John Loveless, a settler from South Carolina. It is believed to have been originally constructed as a “single pen” log cabin (a square pen made of logs), between 1817 and 1820 upon a small parcel of land. After Loveless died sometime in the 1830s, his widow, Martha Daniel Loveless, sold the two-story clapboard home to Isaac Wellington and Martha Prude Sadler, who were from North Carolina. Soon thereafter, Sadler expanded the home into a substantial “I-house” residence with shed rooms to the sides of a dog trot, two stories covered in weatherboarding, and four chimneys, although only three remain. An influential planter who owned 2,800 acres of farmland and 43 enslaved persons, Sadler helped found the nearby Pleasant Hill Academy and the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church; he also built the first sawmill in the area. During the American Civil War, one of Isaac Sadler’s sons died fighting for the Confederate Army. When U.S. Army general James H. Wilson led a raid through Alabama and Georgia in 1865, the nearby Tannehill Ironworks was destroyed but the Sadler home was spared. The building remained in the Sadler family until the early 1970s, when one of the descendants donated it to the WJCHS.
Construction on the nearby Owen Plantation House, at 1740 Eastern Valley Road in Bessemer, began in 1833, when settler Thomas Hennington Owen built a two-room home for himself and his wife Malissa Rose Sadler, sister of Isaac Wellington Sadler. In 1838, Owen expanded the modest home into a two-story “dog-trot” style building made from hand-hewn logs and lumber gathered from the surrounding 1,000 acres of property. The home features a gabled roof and a porch with a half-hipped roof, supported by eight columns, that was originally covered by wooden shingles but were replaced with metal. A prosperous planter and merchant, Thomas H. Owen also co-owned the nearby Williams & Owen Forge at Tannehill, which was in operation from 1861 to 1866 when it was destroyed by a flood. When Wilson and his troops made their way through the area in 1865, Owen’s home was ransacked and his grain buildings burned to the ground. Owen served as county commissioner in the 1870s. After his death, the home remained in the Owen family until the 1970s, when they donated it to the WJCHS.
McAdory Plantation House The McAdory Plantation House, located at 214 Eastern Valley Road in Bessemer, was constructed in 1840 by Thomas A. McAdory Jr. on a plot of land that would eventually become a cotton plantation in excess of 2,000 acres in size. Originally, the home was representative of the “dog-trot” style of architecture and was built from hand-hewn logs and wooden pegs. The dog trot was enclosed with boarding at the time of the NRHP application in 1972 and has since been restored. The front features a porch supported by six solid pine columns. Each of the five rooms had a fireplace, but only three chimneys exist today. An exterior kitchen no longer exists either. The wooden shingle roof was covered with tin at the time of the NHRP application in 1972 and has been since reshingled. Descendants of Thomas A. McAdory Jr. include the first mayor of the city of Bessemer, Robert McAdory, and Thomas McAdory Owen, who founded the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the first state archives in the country. In the early 1970s, descendants of the McAdory family donated the home to the WJCHS. The nearby McAdory “Boys Cabin” was built for the family’s children in the nineteenth century and updated in the twentieth. It was donated to the historical society in the late 1990s by descendants of the McAdorys as well.
The maintenance of these three historic homes is managed by the WJCHS. Originally formed in 1973, the society raises money to maintain and restore the homes as well as educate the public about their architectural and historical significance through lectures, artistic and cultural demonstrations, and tours. Yearly events include the Annual Heritage Holiday Tour, the Rustically Regal Holiday Home Tour, and Ghost Storytelling. Adjacent to the McAdory Plantation House is the Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge, created to protect this endangered and endemic species. Also nearby are the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park to the south, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Oxmoor Valley to the north, and to the east, Oak Mountain State Park.