House that almost changed history

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Photo by Robert Noles -- Sam and Becky Bailey live in the Bailey family home, built in 1868, which was moved to its present location during discussions over where to locate East Alabama Medical Center in the early 1950s.
Photo by Robert Noles -- Sam and Becky Bailey live in the Bailey family home, built in 1868, which was moved to its present location during discussions over where to locate East Alabama Medical Center in the early 1950s.
Photo by Robert Noles

Sam and Becky Bailey live in the Bailey family home, built in 1868, which was moved to its present location during discussions over where to locate East Alabama Medical Center in the early 1950s.

Sam Bailey Sr.’s house plays into story of EAMC location

By Donna Williamson
Opelika Observer

Sam Bailey Sr.’s Opelika heritage dates back to 1867 when J. J. Green, his great-grandfather, moved to Opelika after the Civil War. “We are told my great-grandfather and his family moved here from Florida,” Bailey said. “They arrived right after Lee County was formed. J. J. Green became Lee County’s second tax collector.”
After arriving in Opelika, Green bought some land (at that time 10 acres) and built a house, which he moved into in 1868. The house, now located at 1701 Waverly Parkway, is where Bailey lives and where his family has lived since it was built. Rooms have been added, and indoor plumbing was added in 1947. Most of the furniture is original to Bailey’s great-grandparents and grandparents.
“When my great-grandfather bought the land, there was a little one-room country store on it. I don’t know if the store was operational at the time. The kitchen is now where the little country store was,” Bailey explained.
However, had it not been for an old wooden bridge on Priester Road, EAMC would be where Bailey’s house was sitting in 1947.
“In 1946 the cities of Opelika and Auburn and Lee County approached my grandfather and wanted to buy his house and 10 acres to build Lee County Hospital, which later became EAMC,” Bailey said. “At that time this house was across the road on the north side of Waverly Parkway. As part of the deal, the house was moved across the street to its present location, which had five acres.”
Before the house was moved but after Bailey’s father was given his money, Auburn backed out of the deal.
“The Auburn group determined that the only access to the hospital from Auburn, an old wooden bridge on Priester Road, was inadequate for transporting patients. Once Auburn backed out, Opelika and Lee County wanted to cancel the whole thing,” Bailey said. “But my grandfather was very ill and had already used the money to pay his medical bills.”
According to Bailey, the Opelika, Auburn, and Lee County group eventually sold the 10 acres as a package. “EAMC was later built on land given by Pepperell Manufacturing Company,” he said.
Bailey and his wife Beth, who is now deceased, were married for 42 years and raised their children in his house. Two of his children, Dorothy Mary and Glenn, live in Texas, while Kathy, Rose and Sam Jr., live in Lee County.
He remained single for 18 years.
“Then,” he said, “my little darlin’ came into my life.” He and Becky, who works at the Board of Registrars at the Lee County Courthouse, were married last December in the same house and same room as his grandparents in 1880. Bailey’s longtime friend and Lee County Probate Judge Bill English performed the ceremony.
In fact, it is indirectly because of his friend that he and Becky met. “Bill was running for re-election, and I was in charge of campaign sign distribution,” Bailey explained. “One day a nice-looking lady drove into my driveway and asked for a sign. She and I started talking (for about an hour). I told her that I was a diabetic and had to get something to eat and invited her to go with me. We went to eat and we have been together ever since.”
They took a cruise on their honeymoon. “I had never been on a cruise before. I fell deeper in love with her and with cruises,” Bailey said. The couple took another cruise in May and have two more planned before Christmas. “We travel; we’re active; we enjoy ourselves,” he added.
Bailey served in the Army Signal Corps and was in Korea for two years. He worked as an electronics’ supervisor at Ft. Benning, Georgia for 34½ years before retiring in1987. He also owned a part time burglar alarm business in Opelika.
Bailey converted his barn into a shop to accommodate his woodworking hobby.
“I make sawdust,” he said. Sam Jr. shares his interest in woodworking, and Bailey admitted that his son spends more time in the shop now than he does.
Working with computers is also something Bailey enjoys. “I did ‘Jack-Leg’ computer maintenance at First United Methodist Church for 25 years,” Bailey said. “I just quit in January.”
Bailey is content in knowing that the rich history of the family home will be preserved by his son. He explained, “Sam Jr. will inherit the house. He was raised here and it is my understanding that he will move here.”
Bailey does, however, plan to take many cruises with Becky and enjoy life to the fullest before that day arrives.

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