ST.LUKE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
CAHABA, 1854 -1878
MARTIN’S STATION 1878 2008
CAHABA (For Now)
I woke up this past Sunday morning with a pounding hangover. No, I didn’t fall off the wagon on Saturday night, but I did stay up and watch the entire MSU-USM football game, and I didn’t get to bed until 1:00 AM. That’s close to four hours past my normal bedtime. This ordeal, along with the ten hours spent earlier in the day watching other games, proved to be too much football.
The replay of the same four commercials during every game on every channel compounded my discontent. I hope to never see another Nissan skid on the salt flats, or see a bunch of old ball players kiss up on Bo’s butt, nor do I have any interest in Applebee’s new menu items, even if I now know them by heart.
Clista, whose sleep had been interrupted by my early morning bedtime, found it hard to be sympathetic, and made two announcements during my first cup of coffee. First, we were going to take a ride somewhere to see something, and she didn’t care where or what. Secondly, she didn’t intend to enter the kitchen until Monday morning. One of the secrets to maintaining a good relationship with your significant other, is to know when to say, “Yes Dear,” and I did.
I took the bull by the horns and agreed with her plan, and said that it would be a perfect day to drive across Alabama to visit the site of the State’s first capital, Old Cahaba. Burger Kings and KFCs would abound along the way. We set out just before noon, and stopped in Montgomery for a burger and a coke. I knew the way as far as Selma, but after we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I asked Clista to enter our destination into the Waze app on her cell phone to let GPS lead us on.
We finally came through the gate to Old Cahaba, but found St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on the left and a visitor’s center on the right. Old Cahaba has long been gone. The only thing left is a grid of empty streets and little informational signs describing what once was there. It was hardly worth a 140 mile drive. Disappointed, we returned to the visitor’s center to find it closed. All that was left was St Luke’s, and as it turns out, we were lucky that the church was still there. It seems to move about a bit.
St. Luke’s was built in 1854, during Cahaba’s heyday, as a commercial and political center for Alabama’s wealthy black belt farming region. The church was built in the classic Carpenter Gothic style, and it is an architectural treasure. So much so, that in 1878, with the decline of Cahaba after the War for Southern Independence, it was dismantled and moved eleven miles to Martin’s Station, a site on higher ground with a more vibrant planter population.
After re-assembly at its new location, St .Luke’s continued to serve the local Anglican community until the closing years of the nineteenth century, when it became the home of an African-American Baptist congregation. In 2008, as part of Auburn University’s rural project, it was once again taken apart and reassembled on a different, less flood prone site in Old Cahaba. At least for the present, the “Wandering Church” has come to rest.
Photo from the Wikipedia site on Cahaba