In my last post, I began exploring the theory that eminent domain may have had something to do with the Nances’ relocation from Haw Ridge to Enterprise sometime in the 1930s.
First things first: eminent domain is the right of governments to seize private land if it serves a greater public good. Ideally, the government pays landowners for this land. Sometimes, it’s taken by force.
With the United States’ entry into World War II, the government needed places to train the millions of men and women drafted to serve. One of those places was the Alabama military base then called Camp Rucker, which would be built in the area known as Haw Ridge. But there was a problem– the few hundred homeowners who lived there. My hunch was that my great-great-grandmother Annie Nance was among them. She and her husband had lived in Haw Ridge since at least 1900, but after 1940, the Nances are living in Enterprise (Annie’s husband– and my great-great-grandfather– Henry Nance died in 1926, more than a decade before his home would be ceded to the government).
Following a hunch
Knowing that Haw Ridge was in Dale or Coffee counties, I first contacted the probate court in each county. Both directed me to the Alabama Department of History and Archives, which has long been an excellent resource for my research.Here’s what I wrote:
My name is Rahkia Nance and I’m hoping you’ll be able to point me in the right direction of some resources I’m looking for. I’m looking for records pertaining to the government purchase of the land that is now Fort Rucker. I am doing some genealogical research and I suspect my family’s move from Haw Ridge to Enterprise in the late 1930s/early 1940s may have had something to do with this. Do you know if eminent domain was involved? I’m curious if a list of affected homeowners is available. Would records pertaining to this be at the county level, state level or both? Any help you can give is much appreciated.
I was excited to receive this response from the research archivist:
The series of Governors’ Administration of State Lands Records in our collections includes voluminous correspondence and other material in the ‘Camp Rucker’ folder. Included ia a list of 231 property owners and their parcels from whom the federal government acquired land for the camp.I can photocopy that list and send to you if you will forward the standard reference request.
I was giddy with excitement! A few keystrokes and a click of a mouse would get me closer to the answers I was so eager to find.
In Part III, I’ll reveal the contents of the letter. Stay tuned!