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Free State of Winston

Winston County is located in northwest Alabama at the very southeastern end of the Appalachian Mountains. The county is bounded on the north by Franklin and Lawrence counties, and on the south by Walker, on the east by Cullman, and on the west by Marion. Winston had only 14 slave holders with 122 slaves in 1860. Less than 5 percent were slave owners. During the Civil War, Winston County tried to secede from the state of Alabama, hoping to remain neutral. These loyalists, descendents of Andrew Jackson's troops who settled in the northern hills of Alabama, strove to preserve their independence and their Union after Alabama seceded in 1861. With a Confederate draft imminent and Federal troops threatening an invasion of north Alabama, on July 4, 1861 the leaders of Winston County called a meeting at Looney's Tavern, near present-day Addison. More than 2,500 people from Winston and surrounding counties attended and announced their neutrality. A remark about "The Free State of Winston" spread quickly around the state. As a wanted man, Bill Looney's escapes from Confederate forces created legends about Alabama's "Ol' Bill," the "Ol' Black Fox." In April 1862 the Confederacy passed the Conscript Act. Confederate raiders from the adjoining counties came into Winston County nearly every week to arrest men under the Conscript Act to fight for the Confederacy. The hill people of northwest Alabama gained a reputation as traitors, and Winston County became a sanctuary for those whose enthusiasm for the war effort had waned. Many men from the county served in the Union army and many for the Confederacy.



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