By Toni Stauffer
The Phenix City Board of Education has requested that the Fort Gilmer property they deeded to the Russell County Historical Society be returned.
“Fort Gilmer was given by the school board back in the mid-80s with the understanding that the historical society would restore the site, or deed it back to the school system,” Cheryl Tally, administrative assistant to Superintendent Randy Wilkes, explained. “The school system requested the property be deeded back for possible future development.”
Local historians and quite a few residents probably know of the location of a much-forgotten Civil War earthen fortification Fort No. 5., also known as Fort Gilmer. The 12-acre site for the fort was chosen and engineered in 1863 by Confederate Brigadier General Jeremy Gilmer. The growth of the city and Hwy 280 hasn’t left much of the fort, which exists on a hill top behind the Taco Bell on 280, and in front of Central High School.
In the late twentieth century, a mortgage banker and historian by the name of E.D. Murphy tried to get Alabama and the city to preserve the site by presenting plans for an interpretative complex and welcome center; however, neither the state or the city would take on the project. As to what the school board wants to do with the property, Tally said “We are not far enough along to make any statements as to development plans.”