The Face in the Courthouse Window
On a stormy night in January 1878, an angry mob of citizens gathered in Carrollton, Alabama with one purpose in mind. Even though the wind blew hard and thunder roared, their eyes were locked on a single window in the courthouse and their cries for justice kept them from hearing the coming storm. They were there to get revenge from the man who had burned the symbol of their recovery from Yankee defeat (Windham and Fish 64). A suspect had been arrested on circumstantial evidence and was being held in the attic. Henry Wells, the accused, watched the crowd grow from the window upstairs. He was terrified that his life might end before the night was over. What happened next assured him that at least his story would survive. A sudden flash of lightning captured the image of his face in the garret window of the Pickens County courthouse. Many believe it is a visual reminder of the threat Wells shouted from the attic, “If y’all come up here and kill me, I’ll haunt you for the rest of your lives. I swear” (Johnson)! The legend of the face in the courthouse window is about a community who reacts to similar disasters with determination, exaggerated expectations and superstition instead of logic. The Face in the Courthouse Window has become one of the most interesting mysteries in Alabama and is the most famous thing about Carrollton, Alabama.
Carrollton became the county seat of Pickens County in 1830. The first courthouse was burned by Union soldiers in 1865. Citizens united together to rebuild the courthouse shortly after the war even though money, material and labor were hard to find. They had to sacrifice to rebuild the courthouse (Windham and Fish 64). At a cost of twenty thousand dollars, it was a s...
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