Lee township, originally a part of Alexander, was separately organized in November, 1819. Among the earliest settlers here were Capt. John Martin, a revolutionary soldier, Philip Smith, Henry Cassel, Ziba McVey, Daniel Knowlton, George Canny, John Holdren, William Brown, William Graham, Jacob Lentner, James McGonnegal, Francis Thomas, Samuel Luckey, Hiram Howlett, and John Doughty.
The population of the township in 1820 was 342; in 1830 it was 458; in 1840 it was 848; in 1850 it was 961; in 1860 it was 1,301. The inhabitants of Lee are principally engaged in agriculture, and her farmers rank among the best. Latterly they have given especial attention to the growing of fine stock.
The center of population in the township is Albany, a neat village and handsomely located. No community in the county has attended more earnestly to the cause of education than the citizens of Albany, and they have several excellent local schools. The “Atwood institute,” originally founded, and for a few years conducted, as a “manual labor school,” is now controlled by the Free-will Baptists, and, under the management of the Rev. Mr. Chase, is proving a successful and useful school. It has at present three teachers two male and one female-and about eighty scholars. All the branches usually taught in academies of this class are taught here. The colored people have a good school in Albany, conducted by capable teachers, and attended by young colored persons of both sexes from distant parts of the state. They have a handsome school building, conspicuously located, which has been built mainly by the contributions of colored people, and the good management and complete success, thus far, of their enterprise, are highly creditable. The “district school,” divided into an upper and lower department-the former superintended by Mr. J. C. Woodyard, and the latter by Miss Mary L. Kerr-is also a well-managed and useful school. And, finally, there is a good public school for colored children.
Albany also possesses an excellent public library, called the “Wells library.” It was founded by Mr. Henry Wells, who, dying in 1860, bequeathed one thousand dollars for that purpose as a perpetual fund, the interest to be expended in books, and the further sum of two hundred and fifty dollars for an immediate purchase. The money was securely invested in 1861, by Mr. E. H. Moore, of Athens, whom Mr. Wells made his trustee for this purpose, and about seven hundred dollars worth of books have already been purchased by Mr. Leonard Brown, the purchasing committee. For some time the library was kept in a room gratuitously furnished by the Free Masons of Albany, but in March, 1868, Mrs. Mary Weethee, mother of the founder of the library, bequeathed a frame building to be used as a library room, provided the town should keep it in repair and pay the taxes. The library, consisting now of about four hundred volumes, is a settled and very creditable institution. By the rules of the library any family, living within the corporation, may, for one dollar a year, draw out two volumes at a time for not more than four weeks, and the library is open two hours every Thursday for members. An interesting instance is thus afforded, of the great and perpetual good that may be accomplished by a very small sum well directed. Possibly the excellent example will incite others to similar action, and so its usefulness be indefinitely multiplied. Mr. Wells was a grandson of Hiram Howlett, one of the early settlers of Lee.
The village of Albany is located on sections two and three, and was laid out into lots by William Graham, in 1832 or 1833. The first house in the village was built by Lucius R. Beckley, on the ground now owned by Atkins & Stanly, and known as the old Brown store. In 1840 John Brown purchased this property and commenced selling goods here. Albany has a population of about six hundred, with the usual complement of business men and mechanics. The Free Masons and Sons of Temperance have each a hall in the village. No liquor is sold within the corporation.
The town was incorporated in 1844. At the first election for town officers John V. Brown was chosen mayor, and J. M. Gorsline recorder. For a number of years afterward there was no election, but since 1855 they have been held regularly.
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