Pope Family Dogtrot House | Bullock County Alabama | c. 1800s
This home along a quiet road in rural Alabama is a unique example of a dogtrot-style home that was a popular design amongst farming families across the South.
What is a Dogtrot?
The name comes from the predominant central hallway that was typically created when a roof was placed on top of two individual cabins to accommodate a family that needed more space. The placement of the hall allowed for a cool breeze to circulate through the center of the home, offering cooling and ventilation to the home. On the hot days, the family dog could be found resting in the shade of the central hall which took its name from this.
Typically, one side of the home would be used for a sleeping area while the opposite cabin would be for cleaning, storage, or space for visitors who weren’t immediate family.
Pope Family History
This particular home was built sometime in the mid-1800s, and as its family grew, so grew the home. Expanding to accommodate and shelter its owners, its owners would go on to grow and shelter their surrounding community as well.
Its builder was James Pope, who was born in North Carolina in 1821. Around the young age of 22 in 1843, he would marry Mary Elizabeth Sheperd and they would soon give birth to twins, James and Anne, in Georgia where they resided at that time.
In the 1850s, James and Mary would take their young children to Pike County, Alabama where they settled as some of the earliest white settlers in the area. At that time, this region was part of the old Indian Creek Township before Bullock County was formed in 1866.
A farming family like this one would’ve been confronted with a variety of challenges that we could barely grasp today, and sadly, the Pope Family wasn’t immune to tragedy in their new home state of Alabama. Shortly after settling here, the twins would pass away in a cabin fire.
But James and Mary persevered and grew their family after this tragedy. Two of whom, George and Charles, would continue the farming traditions that their parents had laid for them. While they grew their own families, they worked to create a small but self-sustaining community for themselves. George in particular is remembered as an important member of the early community here.
He was a family man who raised seven children here with his wife, Martha, while running a community service as a large animal vet, blacksmith, and concocter of itch creams. He also traded agricultural products with locals and travelers on the nearby road.
Years later, the couple’s only daughter, Eula, would continue to live in this home and was known for her gracious hospitality and home cooking- which she shared often as this home frequently served as a voting precinct and community center.
Undeniably, the Pope Family were invaluable members of this small rural community during a time when you had to rely on your neighbors, however few they may be. In a place where the nearest transport lines were an 11-mile trek away, these families had to be cut from a certain kind of cloth to be able to survive in the face of the challenges they must’ve seen daily.
As I approached the sleepy crossroads where this home sits, I paused for a moment to make sure that I wasn’t seeing things. The buildings were so perfectly set against a beautifully crisp blue Alabama sky. The surrounding fields were astir as tractors re-tilled the freshly harvested land. A passer-by stopped to ask if I knew where Wiley’s BBQ was. Could this be a dream? Had I wandered onto a movie set?
For a few moments that day, I felt happily stationed in a snapshot from the past. I lost myself for a moment imagining that George’s view as he gazed across his fields might’ve been similar to the one I got that day.