State & Local
Records News
Vol. 8, No. 1 Published by the ADAH Government Records Division May 2003

Chambers County discovers historical artifacts in 1899 courthouse cornerstone


Chambers County's original (1836) courthouse

    Sometimes, history reveals itself in unexpected ways. For the recent dedication of their brand-new courthouse annex, Chambers County officials decided to open a "time capsule" left in the cornerstone of the 1899 courthouse building, which is still in use. Inside the capsule, they found many "treasures" of Chambers County history, including the only known photograph of the original courthouse, constructed in 1836.

   Other "treasures" (as reported by The LaFayette Sun on April 9, 2003) included old newspapers, Confederate money, a Bible, membership lists of Masonic lodges, a history of the first courthouse, a cedar bough, and photographs (in remarkable condition) of Senator Thomas Heflin and local dignitaries. In a handwritten message on the back of his photograph, Senator Heflin

  expressed the hope that Chambers County's new courthouse would be "purely and simply a temple of justice" for her citizens.

   ADAH conservation officer Linda Overman visited LaFayette on April 8 and met with members of the Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society to advise on the preservation of the artifacts. According to Probate Judge John Crowder, time capsule items will be displayed in the courthouse annex for a public viewing.

   Modern-day Chambers County "artifacts" will be sealed into a new time capsule, which will be placed into the cornerstone of the new courthouse annex. Presumably, it will be opened in another hundred years.

   For information on preparing and caring for time capsule materials, see the February 2003 issue of State and Local Records News.

Photographs of U.S. Sen. Thomas Heflin (l) and Probate Judge A. J. Driver, Jr. (r), found in the time capsule

2 State and Local Records News May 2003


Records commissions approve RDAs and procedural leaflet

    Meeting on April 18, 2003, the State Records Commission approved the following records disposition authorities (RDAs):

  • Board of Dental Scholarship Awards
  • Board of Medical Scholarship Awards
  • Board of Optometric Scholarship Awards
  • Alabama Liquified Petroleum Gas Board

    The commission also heard RDA implementation reports from 28 state agencies.

    Also meeting on April 18, the Local Government Records Commission approved the following revised RDAs:

  • County Board of Registrars
  • County Probate Offices
  • Local Law Enforcement Agencies

    The commission also approved a revised leaflet on "Procedures for Implementing a Local Government Records Deposit Agreement."

    The commissions' next meetings will take place on Tuesday, July 22, 2003. The State meets at 10:00 a.m. and Local Government Records Commission meets at 1:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the Milo B. Howard Auditorium at ADAH.

Records advisory board bill progress in legislature

    During the current legislative session, bills to reestablish Alabama's Historical Records Advisory Board (HRAB) have passed through committees in both houses. The House version (HB216) is sponsored by Rep. Charles Newton, and the Senate version (SB198) by Sen. Quinton Ross.


    HRAB's primary purpose is to enable state and local government agencies in Alabama to apply for records preservation grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Besides making decisions on awards, the board will provide a fourm for historical records issues. Under its proposed organization, it will include representatives from 12 statewide associations of local government officials, historians, educators, and the press.

    For more information about HRAB, contact the Government Records Division at (334)242-4452 or

Jackson County volunteers find rare Lincoln signature
    Volunteers in Jackson County's new loose records project had hardly begun work when they discovered a fascinating historical document: a voucher signed by Abraham Lincoln. It was part of hte estate file of Williamson Robert Winfield Cobb, whom Lincoln appointed provisional governor of Alabama in 1863 (when some northern counties were in Union hands). Apparently, Cobb never served in the office or redeemed the $5,000 voucher for his pay.

    According to a 1975 Alabama Review article by Dr. Leah Atkins, Cobb--a staunch Unionist elected to Congress in 1847--was the last of Alabama's legislative delegation to leave Washington in 1861. Although elected to the Confederate House of Representatives in 1863, he was considered suspect, and the House unanimously voted to expel him. Cobb died the next year while mending a fence on his plantation, after his pistol unexpectedly discharged.

    Curators at ADAH have determined that the Lincoln signature is almost certainly genuine. Having placed Cobb's file in the probate vault for safekeeping, Jackson County's volunteers returned to their loose records work, excited about other discoveries that may lay ahead.

3 State and Local Records News May 2003


Local records workshop to be held at League of Municipalities

    For the first time in several years, ADAH is offering centralized records management instruction for all local government agencies in the conference room of the Ala. League of Municipalities, 535 Adams Avenue, across the street from the Archives' new wing). A special, one-day workship, "Basic Records Management" will be held on Wednesday, August 20, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

    This workship is intended primarily for agencies that would like to start, or have just started, records management programs. Elected officials and support staff who administer records programs, or work with records on a daily basis, are invited to attend. Updated information will be provided on a variety of topics:

    There is no charge for the workshop, but attendees must be responsible for their own travel costs. To register, please return the form on the back page of this newsletter by Friday, August 15.

Ask the Archivist

    Question: How should agencies document the loss of records that are irretrievably damaged or destroyed by fires, floods, and other disasters?


    As the result of accident, theft, poor storage conditions, or natural disaster, records are occasionally lost, damaged, or destroyed before their legal retention period expires. It is wise, in such an event, to admit and document the records' loss, particularly if they are appraised as permanent or have not been audited. Reporting the premature loss of records involves only a slight variation in normal records destruction procedures.

    The agency should first prepare a complete inventory of the damaged or destroyed records, after consulting its approved records disposition authority (RDA).

    Local government agencies should fill out a Local Government Records Destruction Notice (included in the RDA booklet), list the RDA number of each record series, the series title, and the date span(s) of the lost records. Send the destruction notice to the ADAH Government Records Division, along with a letter that explains when, where, and how the records were damaged or destroyed. It should be clearly stated that there is no possibility of salvaging damaged records, and--in cases of active mold or insect damage--that retaining them would be dangerous to other records in the agency's collection.

    Because state agencies do not fill out destruction notices, they need only send a letter of explanation to the Government Records Division, as outlined above. State records archivists will acknowledge the letter and report the records' loss to the State Records Commission at its next quarterly meeting.

    Although ADAH will permanently retain the agency's destruction notice and/or letter of explanation, the agency's legal staff should also maintain copies to document the records' loss. All irretrievably damaged records should be photocopied before destruction, as documentation for insurance claims.

    For assistance with this or other records management concerns, contact ADAH Government Records Division at (334)242-4452 or

Alabama Department of Archives and Hitory
August 20, 2003

Please reserve ______ places at the records management workshop for:

_______________________________________________________________________________ (City/county agency)

The persons who will be attending are:

____________________________________ (Name)

____________________________________ (Title)
____________________________________ (Name)

____________________________________ (Title)
____________________________________ (Name)

____________________________________ (Title)
____________________________________ (Name)

____________________________________ (Title)
Name/telephone number/e-mail address
of agency contact person