Houstonville and Tatumville were two black communities in the Fairhope area. Houstonville, established by the Houston family, including widowed mother Pauline Houston, who was born in 1910.
Tatumville also known as “Big Head Gully” was a historic Black community that bordered the shorelines of the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Tatumville was established by Mack Tatum who was born in Greene County, Mississippi in 1890.
One of the most prominent African American residents was Nancy Lewis. In 1895, she sold her homestead to the Fairhope Industrial Association. Her acreage was a part of two-hundred acres bought by the Fairhope Founders. Lewis, having paid taxes on her homestead for many years and proving ownership, became a contributor to the settlement of the Single Tax experiment on the Bluff. She used $4.58 of that payment to buy forty acres where Thomas Hospital stands today.
Free blacks settled in these areas before and after the Civil War and began paying property taxes on otherwise unoccupied land. The town of Fairhope did not exist yet exist and most whites in the area lived along the bay at Battles Wharf and Point Clear.
The Houston and Weeks families settled first. After the Emancipation of slaves in 1865, Houstonville and the surrounding communities grew with the influx of the Fagan, Lewis, Mitchell, Henry, McConico, Hankins, Sellers, Harris, Kirkman, Young, Bonner and Wilson families. Men found employment as turpentine hands, harvesting turpentine from a type of pine trees. Men and women worked on farms and picked up pecans. Most had family gardens and shared their bounty with the community.
Life centered around church and close-knit families. The community Brush-Arbor Church, named Zion Chapel, was founded in 1867. The name was later changed to Twin Beech AME Zion Church and it remains active today. The Twin Beech Cemetery, one mile southwest has served the community since its founding in 1817. Young, Sledge, and Nichols Streets honor early families with descendants still living nearby.
The Houstonville and Tatumville communities relied partly on a sweet potato farm where many resident children worked within a sharecropping system. Most African-American businesses of Fairhope’s downtown area were located at the intersection of Young and Middle Streets. They included Klummp Motor Co., Allen’s Fish Market, which also functioned as a night club, McGrue Gas and Starlight Club. There was also a laundromat and taxi cab company owned by Phillip Micher.
On the 1880-1890 census, the area was known as Tatumville. Also, earlier census records listed the area as Zundal, Battles Wharf, and Baldwin City. In 1894/1895, relocated Iowans renamed the area Fairhope. Some records list Tatumville as a small community on Mobile Bay.
Research efforts regarding African American life in the area continue through genealogy efforts of residents. Recent efforts to recognize and honor the history of the Houstonville and Tatumville communities include a historic marker erected at the site of the Anna T. Jeanes School on Twin Beach Road.