Annual birthday celebration honoring Gen. Joe Wheeler set for Sept. 11

Organizers prepare for the annual Gen. Joe Wheeler birthday celebration at his historic Pond Spring home in Hillsboro this fall. The General’s birthday, Sept. 10, will be celebrated at Pond Spring on Saturday, Sept. 11, this year thanks to the efforts by the Alabama Historical Commission and Friends of the General Joe Wheeler Home Foundation. Pictured is Jerry Smith, a member of the Friends of JWHF.

The Alabama Historical Commission and Friends of the General Joe Wheeler Home Foundation are hosting the 2021 Joe Wheeler Birthday Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. on the grounds at Pond Spring—the historic Joe Wheeler home in Hillsboro.

Each September, the Alabama Historical Commission holds a celebration at Pond Spring in honor of General Wheeler’s birthday. With the help of Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home, the 2021 festivities are expected to be a hit for visitors of all ages, according to organizers. 

Those who attend the event on Saturday, Sept. 11, will step back in time as though it is 1899—the year Wheeler turned 63 years old, according to Leland Free, a member of the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home. 

More than 20 exhibits will be on display on the front lawn at Pond Spring, including a “Big Top” Chautauqua tent reminiscent of the 19th century social movement that brought cultural entertainment, live music and dramatizations to rural areas across the U.S. at the time.

“Under the Big Top,” a schedule including 30 events will begin around 10:45 a.m. that Saturday. Free said the events including live music by the string band Unreconstructed, historical storytelling, and a little comedy, should last until 4 p.m. 

The grounds to Pond Spring will open to vendors and exhibitors at 7:30 a.m. Gates will open to the public at 9:30 a.m. 

Admission to the event is $10 per vehicle. Free said proceeds from the event will go to the Friends of the Joe Wheeler Home Foundation to assist the Alabama Historical Commission in keeping Pond Spring open to the public.

Events, including musical entertainment and carriage rides are free to attendants.

“On the back porch, Kyote Creek will be playing in 45-minute sets,” Free said. He said the band covers country music and “oldies” hit music. 

The Winston County Grays—confederate reenactors—are among exhibitionists for the celebration. Free said the organization will fire a working Civil War cannon every hour, and with enough participants, the Winston County Grays will perform living history reenactments. 

Concessions vendors like the Pink Pig food truck will be set up on the grounds, he added. Pepsi will be available, as well as freshly fried pork rinds from the American Legion Post 25. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tours of the General Joe Wheeler Home will not be available this year, though visitors will have access to the grounds of the historic home.

Pond Spring is located at 12280 Alabama 20 in Hillsboro. 

Joseph Wheeler was promoted to major general in 1862 at the age of 26. He became the only Confederate corps commander to hold the same position in the U.S. Army after the Civil War when he became a general during the Spanish-American War as well. 

Born on Sept. 10, 1836 near Augusta, Georgia, Wheeler moved to his wife’s home, Pond Spring, in Lawrence County after the Civil War where they had seven children. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1880 and again in 1885. 

Pond Spring was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. In 1993, the home was donated to the Alabama Historical Commission by Wheeler’s relatives. 

The Museum now holds approximately 10,000 items such as furnishings and clothing that were associated with the family. 

For more information, call 256-637-8513, or visit the Pond Spring website at https://ahc.alabama.gov/properties/pondspring/pondspring.aspx. For more information about the 2021 Joe Wheeler Birthday Celebration, contact Leland Free at 256-606-1057. 

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