67-County Alabama Garden Party: Barbour County

The Alabama honeysuckle border was inspired by an 18th century, Southern applique quilt. (left) Barbour County Berry Cooler (right)

The Cullman Tribune is celebrating the Alabama Bicentennial (1819-2019) with statewide field reporting by Alabama Master Gardener/Botanical Artist Ben Johnson South. This year-long feature, “The 67-County Alabama Garden Party,” will spotlight different counties each week. Each county will get its own “quilt block,” along with a historical profile, and we’ll share a recipe specific to the area. At the end of the year, all 67 counties will be put in a book to commemorate the Bicentennial.

Barbour County

The gifted fashion designer, Ann Cole Lowe, who created Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress was from Clayton in Barbour County, Alabama. The garden party wedding reception of the beautiful Miss Bouvier to handsome Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy on Sept. 23, 1953 was covered by The New York Times, which described the gown in detail.

Beauty abounds in Barbour County. It’s a place where the beautiful, natural creations of God meet beautiful, human-made creations like treasured architecture, gardens and exquisite needlework.

The rich diversity of heritage is one reason the people of Barbour County are known for their creativity. Ideas and innovations have come from an array of cultures. Barbour was established by white settlers in 1831 from land which once belonged to the Creek Nation. Large numbers of African slaves were brought to this part of Alabama to work the vast, cotton plantations.

A significant number of Jewish people settled in Barbour County in the mid-19th century. Archival records indicate the first burial in the local Jewish cemetery was in 1845.

Ann Cole Lowe, the Barbour County-born, New York City designer for Jacqueline Bouvier’s half-sister, Janet Auchincloss, as well as for the Rockefellers, DuPonts and Biddles, was a descendent of an African slave great-grandmother and a white Alabama plantation owner. Ms. Lowe was the first African-American to become a noted fashion designer.

Ann Cole learned to sew from her mother and grandmother who became seamstresses for the prominent families of Montgomery. The two older women also quilted using Barbour County cotton for batting.

Here’s how the design of Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown was described: “Fifty yards of ivory silk taffeta with intricately interwoven bands of tucking which formed the bodice and similar circular designs swept around a full skirt.” The dress cost $500 (approximately $5,000 today). Ann Cole Lowe from Clayton, Alabama has designs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The famous wedding dress she conjured into reality is on permanent display at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts.

Eufaula, where one of Barbour County’s two courthouses stands, the other being in Clayton, is a gardener’s paradise, particularly in spring which is the time of the hugely popular annual pilgrimage. Antebellum and Victorian homes and gardens are open to the public for tours. Eufaula is for Alabama what Natchez is for Mississippi, a haven for historic preservationists and devotees of Southern architecture, ornamental horticulture and the decorative arts.

Pilgrims always comment on the hand-carved rosettes and sheaves of grain and other echoes of nature blurring the gardens of Eufaula homes with the interiors. Barbour County is in southeastern Alabama where tall ceilings and carefully designed windows and French doors were positioned to capture even the smallest breeze.

Giant, old Magnolia grandiflora and oak trees are cherished in Barbour County not just for their deep, emerald beauty, but also for the cooling respite of their shade. It’s easy to imagine an elegant garden party here with women from a variety of cultures, each wearing a one-of-kind design by a local lady who soared to the highest pinnacle of haute couture to become the “Dean of American Designers,” Ann Cole Lowe.

Come to a welcoming veranda and plan to explore these other pleasurable and positive ways PLANTS + PEOPLE come together in Barbour County:

*BIRTHPLACE OF THE SOUTH’S FAMOUS LANE CAKE- Not only did fashion designer, Ann Cole Lowe, come from the Clayton community, so did the cake designer, Emma Rylander Lane. Her bourbon-laced confection known as “Lane Cake” or “Alabama Lane Cake” or “Prize Cake” celebrated Barbour County pecans and won Mrs. Lane top prize at the county fair in neighboring Columbus, Georgia. It is a highlight of Mrs. Lane’s cherished, self-published, 1898 cookbook, “A Few Good Things to Eat,” and is known worldwide via another popular book written by an Alabamian, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” where Scout the narrator says, “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.”

*BARBOUR COUNTY FARMERS’ MARKETS- City of Clayton Farmers’ Market, Friday mornings; Clio Market, next door to the senior citizens building, Wednesdays 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., opens in June; Cottage House Youth Market (Clio), Saturdays 8-11 a.m.; Eufaula Farmers’ Market, South Orange Street, Thursdays 3-6 p.m., May 24-August

*BARBOUR COUNTY BUTTER BEANS and PEAS- Miller Milling Company, 1791 High. 131, Eufaula, AL 36027, 334-687-3949

*BARBOUR COUNTY STRAWBERRIES, BLUEBERRIES and PEACHES- Backyard Orchards (in season only); check the orchard’s Facebook page for details.

*HEALTHY BUSHEL FARMS- 271 Hagler Mill Road, Louisville, AL 36048; These Barbour County folks are “redefining domestic, organic grow” in their greenhouses; Google for their impressive video tour.

*PARADISE PUMPKIN PATCH- 910 County Road 79 South, Eufaula, AL 36027; opens Sept. 28, 2019

*EUFAULA HOME and GARDEN PILGRIMAGE- Each April; available for year-round tours are: Shorter Mansion, Fendall Hall and Octagon House.

*LAKE EUFAULA- This 45,000-acre lake is known as “The Bass Fishing Capital of the World,” the lake’s glistening blue waters are surrounded by green forested woodlands.

*LAKEPOINT STATE PARK- On the banks of Lake Eufaula; Songbirds and birds of prey make this a key point of Alabama’s Wiregrass Birding Trail. Visitors rave about the hiking trails and affordable cabins.

*BLUE SPRINGS STATE PARK- (Clio) I’m writing this in August and here in south Alabama when it’s HOT, HOT, HOT, this 103-acre state park is the place to cool off as a natural, underground spring pumps 3,600 gallons of cool, clear blue water into two swimming pools.

*PLANTING AN IDEA- How about combining Barbour County fashion design, cake design and the romantic architecture and gardens of Eufaula? This could be a perfect place for an annual “Alabama mass wedding” garden party.

Y’ALL COME to Barbour County on your 67-County Alabama Garden Party tour. We’ll meet you on a veranda with a refreshing cooler, or as my friends from Eufaula drawl it, a “coolah.”

Many thanks to Allie Corcoran, coordinator of the Barbour County office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, for her suggestions of delightful things to see and experience. And, thank you to Wren Manners for her “berry coolah” recipe.

Barbour County Berry Cooler (6 servings)

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot Alabama summer day than an ice-cold drink or slushie.  Use the season’s bounty of fresh berries to blend up this tasty and easy cooler.


  • 4 cups of cold fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 4 cups of purified water OR 3 cups of water and 1 cup of preferred wine
  • 2 tbsp. of honey for sweetness
  • 1 tbsp. of lemon juice
  • ~ 6 cups of shaved ice (See instructions below.)
  • Lemon, thyme and fresh fruit for garnish



If you don’t have a source for shaved ice, use your blender to crush it and place into glasses in the refrigerator or freezer while you process the berries.  Combine all the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over shaved ice and garnish with lemon, thyme and fresh fruit.


Also, check out Alabama Bicentennial: 200 ways to save Alabama for the next 200 years.

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Ben South