South Alabama museum of Rebel surrender may close

KUSHLA, Ala. — The Magee Farm and Museum, located near the intersection of U.S. 45 and Ala. 158 in Kushla, may soon have to close its doors.

It was the site, according to its sponsor and part owner, Saraland veterinarian Ben George, where on April 29, 1865, Confederate Lt. General Richard Taylor — the son of President Zachary Taylor — surrendered the last organized rebel forces east of the Mississippi River.

George said the “one of a kind” museum has fallen on hard times and its hopes of staying open will depend on the continued support of patrons and contributors.

A recent $5,000 contribution by the Mobile County Commission will allow the farm to stay open at least through January, George said, but after that, he was not sure of the facility’s future.

From the split-rail fences and grape arbors, to the wide front porch lined with rocking chairs, the farm’s atmosphere is relaxed and steeped in history.

The house, built in 1848 by Jacob Magee, stands two stories, with a parlor, a kitchen and a display room downstairs, and two bedrooms upstairs that look as though they are still being slept in.

Hundreds of Civil War-era relics can be seen throughout the rooms.

Much of the material can be touched, lifted, studied, handled and in the case of a Civil War-era cap-and-ball rifle, picked up and aimed at an imaginary target.

In the parlor, a library was stocked with books by Victor Hugo and Washington Irving. There is a biography of Abraham Lincoln, a three-volume set of Mommsen’s “History of Rome”; “Robinson Crusoe” and “King Lear” among dozens of books with 19th Century copyright dates.

In the kitchen, a table is laid out in elegant silver and china, as if a family is about to sit down to dinner.

A cat — one of a half-dozen feline denizens of the farm — was curled up in a kitchen chair on a recent morning, not far from the sputtering fire in the kitchen fireplace.

Earlier, one of its cohorts pranced in from a field, a mouse dangling from its mouth, and dropped the tiny carcass on the front porch for a handful of visitors there that day, who were swaying back and forth in the rocking chairs.

One room downstairs is devoted to wall-to-wall displays of Civil War-era relics, from guns to swords to complete uniforms and documents and photos. Nearly every square foot contains something from that time.

The farm has hosted numerous Civil War re-enactments and has for years been the destination of school tours and other groups interested in seeing relics of a time long past.

But in recent times, only a few visitors — “optimistically, maybe a half-dozen” — show up on any given day, George said.

“It would be a really sad footnote to allow this treasure, this piece of wonderful history, to be gone with the wind,” George said.

Gary McElroy/Press-Register