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History of Anniston, Alabama

by Charlene Fuller-Gossett

Joseph Saks

Mr. Saks was German by birth and came to the United States as a youth. He moved to Anniston in the 1880’s and Owned “The Famous Store.” He later moved his business to 11th and Noble and the store was renamed, “Saks Clothing Co.” In 1920, he gave land, money and lumber for the farm family children to have a school on his 800 acre working farm. Andrew Saks who founded Saks Fifth Ave. was not related to Joseph. Mr. Saks was one of Anniston’s prominent Jewish businessmen along with Mr. Sterns and Mr. Ullman.

Anniston Museum of Natural History

In 1929, Mr. H., Severn Regar moved from Pennsylvania to Anniston with his family, his business and a gift to the city he was moving to. He owned the bird collection that began the Anniston Museum of Natural History. In autumn of 1929 Anniston raised $3,500 to transport the birds and cases to Anniston from PA. Later, a bond issue for $35,000 was approved for a 2 story addition to the Carnegie Library. The Regar Museum was opened August 31, 1930 and remained in the same location until 1965. The exhibits were then moved to 1407 Gurnee Ave. John B. LaGarde was a member of the museum board and offered to donate his collection of mounted African animals. It was at this time that there was a growing community interest in educational programs through the museum. In 1974, a major drive for funds began to develop, design and build a larger facility for the museum’s growing collections. Again, they citizens and the city rallied around the museum. The public raised $500,000 and the City of Anniston pledged $300,000. There was a federal surplus of land at Ft. McCellan that was made available to the city and special was granted special permission to build the museum on that property. The 185 acres was named “John B. LaGarde Interpretive Park. H. Shelby Dean and Richard Fox were the architects that designed the building. Construction began in January of 1976 and the collections were transferred in December of that year. The only pieces that had to be built on site were the Baobab Tree and the African Elephant due to their size.

In 1996, the Berman Museum of World History was opened, housing the collection of Anniston native and businessman, Farley Berman.

The collection of birds were gathered by William H. Werner who was born in Nazereth, Pa. in 1842. By the age of 15, he was able to identify most the calls of most any bird and at the age of 20, he was a capable taxidermist. Over a 45 year time span, (1865-1910), Mr Werner collected birds from 24 states and territories in North America, Mexico and the Bahamas. In the exhibit, there’s over 500 specimens, 140 species and 60 cased habitats. Mr. Werner had dreamed of one day housing the collection of birds in permeant displays in a museum. He passed away in 1912 and didn’t get to see his dream come true. it’s the hope of the Anniston Museum staff and many others who have see the bird exhibit that Mr. Werner would be pleased with his collection being on display.

Anniston’s Elvis Connection

George C. Nichopoulos was born October 29, 1927 in Pittsburgh, PA. During his infancy, his father, a Greek immigrant moved his family to Anniston and opened, “Gus’ Sanitary Cafe.” George played football and dated girls and everything that all Anniston teens do. He studied at the University of the South, Birmingham Southern College and the University of Alabama. He earned his MD at Vanderbilt University Medical School in 1959. He began treating Elvis Presley for saddle pain in 1967 and became his full time physician from 1970 until Elvis’ death in 1977.

Personal Note: My father, Charles Fuller and Godfather Lewis Snider played football with him at Anniston High School. Also, My Mom, Ilene Phillips Fuller and my Godmother, Ruth Taylor Snider both dated him at one time.

Ayers Family and Lottie Moon Connection

Dr. T. W. (Thomas Wilburn) Ayers was born in Franklin Co. Georgia and moved to Anniston in 1884. He had a successful Journalistic career as editor of the “Anniston Hot Blast.” It wasn’t until he had reached his middle age years that he chose to attend medical school and in 1900 he began his service on the mission field with the Souther Baptist Convention. He was the very first Medical Missionary to China. Mr Ayers felt the call to serve when he heard of the death of 2 children who died because there was no medical help. After Dr. Ayers and his family arrived in Hwangshein that the mission met and Miss Lottie Moon stayed in the Ayers home. Miss Moon loved the Ayers children. The mission voted to as the Foreign Mission Board for $7,000 to build a hospital for Dr. Ayers. It was the first in Southern Baptist Convention history. Dr. Ayers established the very first branch of the American Red Cross in North China, served as the head of the Ayers Memorial Hospital and the Warren Memorial Hospital in Hwangshein, in Shantung Provence. He retired to the United States in 1925 and settled in Atlanta, Georgia.

Harry Mell Ayers was born in Annisotn in 1886. He attended the public schools while living in Anniston and while his family was in China, He studied under private tutors in Hwanghein, China. While in China, Miss Lottie Moon was about to return to America on furlough and Dr. Ayers asked if the teenage Harry could accompany Miss Moon to America. Young Harry considered Miss Moon a true friend, a spiritual guide and an intellectual counselor. Harry was frequently found in her library and they would have great intellectual conversations. Miss Moon taught Harry Greek and Latin literature. She also taught him straight thinking and opened his mind up to a world view of things. Young Harry was intuitive enough to recognize her greatness and took every opportunity to soak up all Miss Moon had to share with him. It was during their travels on New Years Eve that Miss Moon, at the stroke of midnight, read Tennyson’s “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” His career as a journalist and the prominent publisher of the Anniston Star, Miss Lottie Moon’s influence was planted deep within him like a well planted Oak tree. Harry’s life was one of many that Miss Lottie touched during her lifetime. Harry once said of Miss Lottie, “To know her was not only a liberal education. It was a spiritual benediction.”

In 1903, Miss Moon was on furlough and among the speaking engagements, Miss Moon stopped in Anniston where a dentist in the Ayers family cared for some much needed work on her need for teeth.

Col. Ayers as he is now known, attended the State Teachers College in Jacksonville and taught English is China from 1900-01. He became city Editor of the Anniston Star from 1903 - 1911. It was in 1911 that he purchased the “Anniston Hot Blast” and he consolidated it with the Anniston Star and became not only an editor but publisher as well. He entered the Army and served as a captain during World War I. He married Edel Lenoir Ytterboe of Minnesota in 1921 and they had 2 children, Harry Brandt Ayers and Edel Elise Ayers Sanguinetti ( Mrs. Philip Sanguinetti).

General Daniel Tyler

Born: January 7, 1799 in Brooklyn, Connecticut
Died: November 30, 1882 New York
It was stipulated in his Will that he be buried in Anniston, the city he founded.

General Tyler was a West Point graduate and served in the U. S. Army until 1834. He resigned his commission so he could pursue his business interests. He was recommissioned a Brigadier General avert the Civil War broke out. It was during a visit with his son, Alfred Lee Tyler in Charleston, S.C. that he met Samuel Nobel and learned about the iron deposits in Oxford, AL.

Their meeting lead to the establishment of the Woodstock Iron Co. The start up capital for the business was $75,000 which included the purchase of 21,000 acres of the finest ore and timberland.

For the first few years, the city was known as Woodstock but due to another city in the state with the same name, it was changed to Annie’s Town in honor of Mr. Alfred L. Tyler’s wife, Annie. She was the daughter in law of General Tyler.

General Tyler is also the grandfather of Mrs Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (Martha Bulloch Roosevelt) , the mother of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Jr. Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was the paternal grandfather of first Lady of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Alfred Lee Tyler, Sr.

Eldest son of Gen. Daniel Tyler and was born in 1834

He married Ann Eliza Scott May 25, 1839

It was in his office at the South Carolina Rail Road where he was a Vice President that his father and Samuel Nobel had the first of many meetings.

Samuel Noble

Mr. Noble was born in England in 1834 and at the age of two, his family left England for the United States and settled in Redding, Pennsylvania. In 1855, He settled in Rome, Ga. In 1861, he married Matilda Christine Stoeckel. They came to Alabama in 1873 when he and Gen. Tyler founded Anniston. he was known as one of the South’s foremost iron makers. He suddenly died August 13, 1888 at the age of 54. He was so well liked that 5,000 people including delegations from surrounding cities and communities to attend.

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