Dogtrot Home in Alabama Sits Empty

Pope Family Dogtrot House | Bullock County Alabama | c. 1800s

The years have not been kind to this old home in south Alabama. In the mid-1800s when it was built, it sat at the center of a small but connected community of farmers who passed their lives here together. Until their quiet corner of the state became so disconnected from the larger markets that it couldn’t subsist any longer.

Farmers had a hard time getting by and then the local store closed. The younger generation moved away for better opportunities, leaving houses like this old dogtrot behind in favor of newer, more modern homes.

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.

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Pope Family History

This particular home is thought to have been built sometime between 1850-1860, and as its family grew, so grew the home. The Pope Family was instrumental in establishing the community and their home served as a central meeting place on many occasions for formal and informal gatherings.

Its builder was James Pope, who was born in North Carolina in 1821. Around the young age of 22 in 1843, he married Mary Elizabeth Sheperd and they relocated to Georgia where they gave birth to a daughter, Anne, and 2 years later, a son named James.

In the late 1840s, James and Mary would take their young children to Pike County, Alabama where they arrived 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, James set up a rustic but temporary cabin for his family home while a more proper home could be built. One night while the family slept, the small cabin caught fire with the two young Pope children inside. Sadly, neither James nor Anne survived and both were buried at the site of the cabin.

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But James and Mary persevered and continued to establish roots here after this tragedy, going on to raise more Pope children in the larger home that James had completed. 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 build a small but self-sustaining community that came to be known by a peculiar name: Smut Eye. George Pope 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.

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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 able to survive in the face of the many 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. 

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17 thoughts on “Dogtrot Home in Alabama Sits Empty”

  1. Loved the old dogtrot houses. There’s one near me here in northern lower Michigan,, but sadly they closed the dogtrot in.

  2. I just love old houses and take pictures as we drive throughout Georgia mountains. You’d love some of the ones I see. I sure love yours

  3. My mother was born in Fulton, AL, which is west of Bulluck county. She moved to Selma with my grandmother when she was around five years old after her father died.. I really enjoy your photographs and the stories that accompany them.

  4. So Much enjoy reading about these Families who helped build the South. Thanks you for sharing. Your adventures sound absolutely Wonderful!
    Faye Driggers

  5. The dog trot house was interesting. There is one here in Perry GA that is quiet beautiful. A friend of mine moved up here from Pennsacola FL to a job at Robin’s AFB. I had an opportunity to see her home and it was beautiful. The house is located near the Perry airport. It has been 12 years since I retired from the base and I have lost touch with her. I am sure she is retired but I don’t know if she is still in the srea.

  6. This is the family home of a good friend, Jim Pope who lived in Phenix City, Alabama. Unfortunately, Jim passed away last July. I, so, wish he were still living to read your article and to share family stories with you. I, too, grew up in south Alabama with my families coming from Clio and Texasville. Like my ancestral family homes, so many of the the structures collapse and are forgotten. Thank you for sharing this story from Smiteye!

  7. Geraldine Valosik

    My maternal grandparents lived in a dog trot home where they raised my mother and her 4 siblings. I remember going there as a small child and I loved it.

  8. My mom was born in Cherokee, Alabama. She & her 2 sisters & brother were raised in a dogtrot house.

    I wish the house was still there, but it’s not. I would LOVE to have seen it!

    Thanks for this amazingly interesting story!

  9. I grew up less than 10 miles from this house. Have passed it many times. It is in Bullock County now. It is a shame that it hasn’t been cared for. My husband has always said if we built a house he would want it to be a dog trot house.

  10. I have just moved into an historically restored dogtrot in Calhoun County.. Built in 1867. Am not interested in publishing any photos but would be happy to connect interested folks with the gentleman who restored this.. I will also send him an invitation to join your group.

  11. I own a small house like this. It is on property where a bigger liveable house that I own is located. In NC.

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