The old way

A railway near its crossing with Alabama 21 in Peterman.

Wednesday, July 30, 9:56 a.m. — PETERMAN — Up and down Alabama 21 are small towns, some built after the Civil War, others before. Nearly all of them owe part of their history to the railroad.

Peterman sits about 5 miles north of Monroeville, just off Alabama 21 down Old Peterman Road. Census data say 89 people live here — roughly the number of scholarship football players at Alabama or Auburn.

Peterman exists today because the trains existed here yesterday, the familiar Alabama story. Alabama didn't become a state until 1819, but the first settlers arrived in these parts  four years earlier. Families moved in, homes and stores were built, and business grew. A rail line came through at the turn of the century.

The name was chosen in honor of Addison Peterman, a popular rail agent.

Today, Peterman seems far less than what it was a century ago. There's a Methodist church, a post office, a (seemingly vacant) bank building, a water department office, and a small collection of ranch-style homes. In the distance you can hear the truck traffic of Alabama 21.

— Phillip Tutor

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