Ethel and Lillie Haley

Family Find for July

Ethel and Lillie Haley
The Haley sisters, Ethel (left) and Lillie, circa 1908


Ethel and Lillie Haley

In 1912, The Franklin County Times (Russellville, Alabama) called Ethel (1892-1959) and Lillie Haley (1894-1988) “two of Haleyville’s cultured and winsome young ladies.” More than 100 years later, qualities that inspired that comment are still evident in this recently discovered portrait.

Ethel, Lillie and their brother, Wallace G. Haley (1896-1966), were the children of Walker W. Haley (1866-1940) and Martelia Taylor Haley (1876-1961), pioneer residents of Haleyville, Alabama. Walker was a prominent businessman who established the Traders and Farmers Bank in 1906. Two years later, he built a spacious, two-story home that was a city landmark for many years.

Walker’s father (Ethel and Lillie’s grandfather), Green M. Haley (1820-1882), had been a preacher, farmer and mule trader in Kentucky. He came to Alabama in the 1840s and purchased a thousand acres on the Buttahatchee River. Years later, one of Green’s sons, Charles L. Haley, opened a mercantile business in neighboring Davis Cross Roads (later, Davis Crossing), near the railroad line. Walker and another son, John, served as clerks.

Stories vary, but, according to most accounts, Charles and Walker offered William “Bucky” Davis (1851-1919), a farmer and owner of Davis Crossing, a new suit of clothes in exchange for his permission to move the post office from that place to their store. Bucky agreed, happy to receive his suit (and, so one story goes, a couple of mules and a wagon). Charles, who later served as postmaster, was equally delighted to rename the town “Haleyville.” The city was incorporated in 1889, the same year that Bucky and Charles served on a board of inspectors to hold the first election for mayor and alderman.

Ethel Haley married her first husband, Chester Tubb (1887-1926), in 1915. He was a lawyer and city attorney, as well as a state representative from Winston County. As founder and secretary of the Winston County Fair Association, Chester worked to conserve and enlarge the Haleyville fairgrounds.

Sadly, Ethel and Chester’s first daughter died n 1918. Another baby, Martelia Sue Tubb (1919-2002), arrived the following year. Like her mother, she would also marry an attorney, Thomas Elwyn Dobbs, Sr. (1915-2003).

Almost ten years after Chester died, Ethel married Robert G. McAfee (1897-1983), a widower and former mayor of Haleyville. The couple had no children together. Ethel’s stepson, James T. McAfee (1928-1982), however, was an acclaimed poet, writer and professor of English at the University of Missouri.

Lillie Haley married a Kentuckian, Roy Goode Cooksey (1887-1949), in 1918. The couple settled in Bowling Green, where Roy was treasurer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and president of Bowling Green Bank and Trust Co. Lillie and Roy were active in community and school events. Their children were Martha Haley Cooksey Deemer (1922-1990) and Dr. Roy G. Cooksey, Jr. (1928-2016).

Time changes all things, and Ethel and Lillie would probably not recognize their city today. The lovely house their father built burned in 1971, and their uncle Charles’ store disappeared even earlier. Other buildings that would have been familiar to the sisters are gone or repurposed, and horses no longer whinny outside public buildings.

While modern residents and researchers may disagree on details regarding the naming of Haleyville, they appreciate that Bucky Davis built the first log house in the area. They can see that Walker Haley’s bank, located where Bucky’s house once stood, continues to grow and prosper.

They know that diligent, determined and diverse individuals worked side by side to make Haleyville what it is today, and that descendants of those people, along with newcomers and other caring folks, continue to build, improve and safeguard the old home place.

The cultured and winsome young ladies of old Haleyville would be proud.

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