“More than any other part of America, the South stands apart. Thousands of Northerners and foreigners have migrated to it…but Southerners they will not become. For this is still a place where you must have either been born or have ‘people’ there to feel it is your native ground. Natives…are conscious of…loyalty that transcends the usual ties of national patriotism and state pride. It is a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long. If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations.”
Tim Jacobson, Heritage of the South
Southerners understand the deep connections families make to the places they call home. Most of us have a ‘Home Place’, a house, neighborhood or town where we feel that special sense of belonging.
Many families have lived in 815 17th Avenue, but one family that shared that special connection to the house was the Murfees. Laura Owen was born in an upstairs bedroom on June 30, 1841 and married James T. Murfee in the front parlor on July 11, 1861. They endured a war, separation, and reconstruction in the house. Laura bore eight children, five sons and three daughters, and buried four of them in infancy.
They saw such extraordinary changes in their lifetimes. The rise and fall of the Cotton Kingdom, and the coming of a new century. In July of 1911 their family gathered at 815 17th Avenue to celebrate James. T. and Laura’s fiftieth anniversary. They look so proud at the center of a group of children and grandchildren.
James T. Murfee passed away in 1912. Laura moved to Marion, Alabama to live with her daughter Mary, and sold the old ‘Home Place’ in Tuscaloosa. Laura died on June 9, 1920, just a few days short of her eightieth birthday.