Now housing the Abstract Company, this downtown Florence building is full of historic ‘firsts’ for Florence. As seen in this late 1940’s picture, the Lamar Furniture store resided here and was the first to be fully air-conditioned and electrically heated in downtown Florence. During renovations in 1944, the Lamar family unearthed 16 fireplaces hidden behind walls, which lead to the discovery that this was the original Florence Hotel building and was built in 1887 by William Basil Wood. The Florence Hotel was the first in the area to introduce both electricity and the telephone in 1888. In 1910, the building served as the temporary home of Rogers Surprise Store after Rogers experienced a devastating fire to their retail building on Court Street.
Thomas McGough (1906-2001) purchased the Florence bakery from M.P. Curran in 1941 and 5 years later, phased out the baking side of the business when he incorporated the Southern Frigid-Dough company.
Operating as a licensee of American Frigid-Dough, they wholesaled a line of frozen and ready to bake meat pies & dinner rolls. The plant on the corner of Poplar & College streets in Florence was specially built & occupied 11,250 square feet. They used the tagline “World’s Largest Bakery Without An Oven”.
In the late 1950s, the Southern Frigid-Dough company produced 65,000 pies per day with 90 employees. In 1958, McGough undertook a $200,000 remodeling & expansion program that would increase the plant’s capacity to 172,000 pies per day.
McGough retired and went into the real estate business as a home builder and one of the developers of the English Village Shopping Center.
The accounts of the “Great Western Land Pirate”, John A. Murrell are enough to fill many, many pages. A story built out of legend and exaggeration from fact, here is the condensed story.
Murrell planned his own outlaw empire with New Orleans as his capital and himself as king. With a gang of followers labeled the Mystic Clan, Murrel and his gang were robbers, counterfeiters, horse-thieves, and slave stealers. When stealing slaves, Murrell would present them with a proposal: he would steal them from their current masters, sell them three or four times, and give them freedom in the North. But, once the scam became too well known, Murrell would instead murder them. The process Murrell and his clan used when disposing of evidence was gruesome. They ripped open their victim’s belly and took out the entrails, replacing them with rocks and sunk them in rivers & creeks.
Captured by a slave in Florence near Cypress Creek (and memorialized by a local historical marker), Murrell was sentenced to jail. Murrell died nine months after leaving prison, and parts of his body were said to have been dug up and stolen. His skull is still missing, but one of his thumbs is in the possession of the Tennessee State Museum.
As stated, there is much to this legend and most cannot be separated from what might be fact. Read a full account of John A. Murrell online here.
Read more about the Tennessee State Museum displaying John Murrell’s thumb.
This editorial cartoon was featured in the April 13, 1933 issue of the New York World-Telegram newspaper. It shows a well-dressed fat man (labeled “Power Trust”) weeping into his handkerchief, a rolled-up piece of paper labeled “Plans” at his side. Behind him looms a huge dam bearing an American flag and a sign reading “Government Operation of Wilson Dam, Muscle Shoals.” In April 1933, President Roosevelt reversed the policy of his Republican predecessors and asked Congress to approve, not only the government operation of the Muscle Shoals Dam (built by the government during World War I), but also the establishment of a Tennessee Valley Authority. Private power interests, who had hoped to acquire the dam for a nominal sum, were outraged.