Woodside in Belle Mina destroyed in fire

Nov. 23—A weekend fire destroyed a historic Limestone County home that had survived the Civil War, but memories of the house known as Woodside remained vivid Tuesday and provided comfort to those who had lived and visited there.

Sam Frazier, 78, had been living in the home in the Belle Mina community since purchasing it in 2002. He'd spent his childhood visiting the antebellum home, attending parties thrown by classmates. It was owned at least part of that time by former major league baseball player Ray Pepper and his wife Mary. Their daughter Adeline was Frazier's contemporary.

"I spent a good bit of my youth there," Frazier said. "There were Christmas parties there, with cotton farmers and the whole community. We'd spend weekends and lots of time there."

The house was built about 1860-61 by Porter Bibb as a wedding present for his daughter, according to a Limestone County Historical Society marker, although Limestone Archivist Rebekah Davis said the home could've been built as early as the 1830s. Bibb was the nephew of Alabama's first governor and son of the state's second leader, Thomas Bibb.

Frazier was in the library at Woodside with his dog, Annie Laurie, when he was alerted to the fire Friday night by two ladies driving by who "banged" on his door to let him know they could see fire from the roadway.

"They were kindness itself," he said.

Frazier went to college in Virginia and then spent four years in England with the U.S. Army, where he was given an honorary commission saber from the British Army for his work with its troops.

The saber was one of the few items rescued from the fire.

"I think if I were 10 years younger, I'd be more depressed," he said.

Frazier has strong ties to Limestone County. As trustee of the Mitchell-Frazier Trust, he has been involved in recent years with potential developments in Decatur-annexed Limestone County because of the trust's property west of Interstate 65 and south of Alabama 20 that will be accessed by an overpass that's under construction.

Segers Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dusty Tucker said his department, East Limestone Fire Department, Tanner Volunteer Fire Department and Huntsville Fire Department worked from 8 p.m. Friday to about 5 p.m. Saturday stopping the blaze.

He said he believed the fire started from the chimney, but the older wood from the house combined with a new tin roof made the fire hard to contain.

"As that old wood was burning, the tin roof fell on the flames, so we couldn't get any water under the roof," he said.

Tucker said the home's burning was a tragedy.

"It's very sad, and it's very heartbreaking. It was a beautiful home," he said.

Rush Mitchell, 47, a resident of nearby Mooresville and part of a longtime Limestone family as the granddaughter of Rush Peebles, said the fire has gutted the community.

"We're just all heartbroken. It was more than just a house," she said through tears.

Just like Frazier, she grew up attending parties at Woodside. The last party she'd attended, one guest had birds.

The man released the doves at the party — and in retrospect it seems almost a sendoff to the home.

"You have to shed tears for it," she said. "All of (the community) feel like our grandmother's or grandfather's house burnt down."

She said she remembers the home as a larger-than-life place.

"It was gracious and beautiful and welcoming," she said. "It was so lovely, with old trees, big boxwoods, a big lawn. It was a very special place." or 256-340-2437. Twitter @DD_EDaniel