William Basil Wood

William Basil Wood

“The Father of Florence”Florence Times, August 1, 1890

WILLIAM BASIL WOOD – A leading citizen of the Early day of Florence. Born Oct 20, 1820 in Nashville. Died April 3, 1891 in Florence. A quote from the Florence Times upon his death: “A full and faithful biography of him would, in large measure, constitute the history of Florence for the past fifty years”.

William Wood was born on October 31, 1820 to Alexander H. of Virginia and Mary (Evans) of England. Williams paternal grandfather was secretary to Alexander Hamilton and had commanded troops in the Colonial army. His father was an officer in the war of 1812. Wood was educated at LaGrange College and and was admitted to the bar in Florence in 1843. That same year, he married Sarah B. Leftwich and began practicing law. In 1844, William was elected judge of Lauderdale county.

William Wood served in the army at various capacities during the Civil War. As a colonel, he was in several battles including Shiloh and all the battles of the army of Tennessee. After the war, Wood got into the steamboat business until 1876 building several boats including the “Florence Lee”.

Wood had a very active interest in public improvements. His efforts in Florence were persistent and effective directly putting Florence in the lead of the growing cities of the South. Wood’s first effective work in this direction was the organization of the Land, Mining and Manufacturing Company, whose work gave Florence a commanding position before the county and accomplished great things for the city. Also, in connection with others, Wood organized (and became president of) the Railroad & Improvement Company.

Wood originated the idea and raised the subscription for the Florence Wesleyan University (State Normal College); gave liberally to it himself and was president of its board of trustees for several years. The college’s endowment being exhausted at the end of the war, Wood succeeded in having it sold to the state, and it was converted into the State Normal School.

Edward A. O’Neal Home

Edward A. O'Neal Home historical marker
Marker located on the Northbound side of Court Street across from Coby Hall

Home of the Father-Son Governors

Built in the 1840’s, acquired by Edward Asbury O’Neal. Occupied various times during the Civil War by Federals and Confederates. Edward A. O’Neal (1818-1890) attended LaGrange College; lawyer, Colonel of the 26th Alabama Regiment, C.S.A.; appointed brigadier general. Governor, 1882-1886. Emmet O’Neal (1853-1922), lawyer; Governor, 1911-1915; lived in nearby Courtview.

Sannoner Medical Arts Building

Sannoner Historic District Medical Arts Building historical Marker
Marker located on the southbound side of N. Court Street at Hermitage Drive intersection

Built in 1926 in the Spanish Revival architectural style, this is the first structure in Florence erected with a steel skeleton supporting the floors, walls, and roof. The framework is strong enough to support two more stories than were actually built. This building was individually listed in The National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Sannoner Historic District Medical Arts Building historical marker
Sannoner Historic District Medical Arts Building circa 2010.

Florence Synodical Female College

Florence Synodical Female College - Florence, Alabama

For the last half of the 19th Century, the Florence Synodical Female College was one of the leading seminaries in the South. Situated in a town whose people are noted for culture, refinement and hospitality it was destined for success.

Founded in 1855, by the Presbyterian Synod of Nashville, the college sent out hundreds of cultivated Christian women to “refine and adorn the land” and regarded woman not as a mere ornament to society, but as an equal factor with man in the life and progress of the age.

The campus (which sat on the site of the current Florence Post Office) consisted of two substantial brick buildings (a dormitory and an academic building) that took up the entire city block. The campus offered easy access to downtown stores and churches.

Florence Synodical Female College closed its doors in 1893.