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Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County
Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

Cozy Corner –
The Second Freedom Colony
in Fayette County
By Carolyn Heinsohn

The Cozy Corner community, located approximately five miles south of La Grange in the area around the intersection of FM Roads 155 and 3233, is one of two Freedom Colonies in Fayette County, the other being the Armstrong Colony, located in the western part of the county.
This autonomous unincorporated community was established in the 1870s by emancipated slaves and their descendants from the Mullins Prairie, Holman and Ammannsville areas that had been occupied by large landowners prior to the Civil War. One of these landowners was Dr. John P. Brown, who had a plantation that encompassed the Mullins Prairie area. These freedmen, many of whom were sharecroppers, tenant farmers and day laborers, wanted to own land and thrive in an area that was independent of an already developed white community.
The Cozy Corner community first had two designated areas with different names because of its topography. The lower area that is contiguous with Mullins Prairie was called “The Prayer,” a dialectal form of “The Prairie.” Much of that area has been excavated for sand and gravel in more recent times. The upper wooded area was called “Post Oak,” because of the abundance of trees of that genus. 
The name “Cozy Corner,” which eventually replaced the other two names, was derived from the name of a local café built by Floyd Homer in 1947. The café was located across the road from the Little Bethel Cemetery that is located at the “Y” of FM Road 3233 and George Road. One of Homer’s waitresses named the café. It burned in 1952.
Prior to the improvements made to the farm-to-market road going from La Grange to Weimar, the original road curved through the community on what is now a connecting small loop called Cozy Corner Road between FM Roads 3233 and 155 that now passes to the east. 
Before the establishment of this Freedom Colony, area Anglo landowners had built the Methodist Episcopal Church South with an adjacent cemetery on 15 acres of land in 1855. A slave cemetery was established on the northwest part of this property.
After the Civil War and emancipation, many of the Anglos moved elsewhere. Eventually, much of the wooded land in the upper section called Post Oak was sold in small parcels to some of the area European immigrant settlers for the wood that it could provide for building and heating, or to black sharecroppers who had saved enough money to buy a few acres. 
Because their faith had sustained them through their previous trials and tribulations, it was important for members of the community to establish their own church, so they purchased 14 of the 15 acres owned by the Methodist Episcopal Church South and created the Bethlehem African Methodist Episcopal Church, more commonly known as “Big Bethel.”  The other remaining one acre encompasses the white cemetery. Initially, their early burials were near the white cemetery, but eventually they established a new cemetery closer to their church, because a deep ravine prevented easy access; that cemetery now surrounds the present AME Church on three sides. The church and cemetery are located off FM 3233.
In  November 1923, the trustees for the Bethlehem Baptist Church of Mullins Prairie, L.S. Scott, Jake Steveson, Wash Scott and Sammie Sanderson, purchased one acre of land on the La Grange to Weimar Road from Frank J. Blaha and sons for $100. A church, more commonly known as Little Bethel, was built shortly thereafter. Through the years, the church building was renovated to include electricity and plumbing and eventually a new exterior surface. A much larger sanctuary was built near the old church in 2010. At that time the congregation chose a new name – New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
Education was considered a key to advancement, so four schools, the Lane Pool Colored School, Brown Colored School, Mullins Prairie Colored School and the Tin Top Colored School, were established for the children in the area, three as early as 1890.  More details about those schools will be addressed in a future story.
There were several businesses in the area, most of which provided some type of entertainment for the residents who needed a reprieve from their daily regime of hard work, mostly in the surrounding fields. Many did seasonal work for area white farmers, including cotton-picking up until the mid-to-late 1950s when cotton production declined in the area.
In addition to the Cozy Corner Café and later the Mahogany Club, there were two stores owned by Arthur Dobbins at two different locations. His first one, located on Munke Road, had kerosene, a small assortment of groceries, including Kasper’s sausage from Weimar, as well as candy, snacks and beverages. Dobbins also had a small building behind his first store where the area men played various games of chance.  Zachary’s Place was a beer joint that was a popular hang-out, especially on Juneteenth when a celebration with food and musical entertainment drew large crowds. Baseball games and a small rodeo were added attractions. The building that housed Zachary’s eventually burned after being vacant for many years.  Another more recent business was the Country Inn, a café owned and operated by Earline Johnson.
Fortunately, the late R.L. Homer, a native of Cozy Corner and well-known area historian, left a video account of his recollections of life in the community. Stories on the persons, places and events in the community will be extracted from that video and published in this column in the future.
Sources:
Fayette County Deed Records, Vol. 119; p. 319
Fayette County School Records; Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives
Homer, R.L., T.C. Filmore and Elnora East; Oral Histories
Houston, Bobbie. “Bethlehem African Methodist Episcopalian Church – An Historic Landmark”; Footprints of Fayette, Aug. 1, 2017

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