Built around 1870, the Bethune-Kennedy House in Abbeville, Henry County, was first owned by physician William Calvin Bethune. The Kennedy family purchased the home in 1885, and it remained in their family until 1974, when they sold it to the Henry County School District. It is currently owned by the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce.
The Bethune/Kennedy House is the most outstanding old home within the city limits of Abbeville. This old farm-town house is currently owned by the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce. Dr. William Calvin Bethune, M.D., who was wounded while serving in the Confederate Army, returned from the war to Abbeville and in 1870 built this home for his family at the intersection of Kirkland and College Streets in Abbeville. This house is today known as the William and Mollie Phipps Kennedy Home. It was originally a four-room dwelling with two rooms upstairs and as customary the kitchen was located in the rear and connected to the house by a wooden walk. It has a front veranda with two identical solid outside doors which open into the main house. The house rests upon native rock of different shapes which serve as pillars. Upon entering either front door, you will find twin large rooms with a small room located behind each of these. In the back hall of the house, the staircase is located which leads to what once was two upstairs bedrooms. This is the only difference in the two sides of the house which are reached by separate front doors. After Dr. Bethune it passed through several families until 1885 when Mrs. Mollie Kennedy acquired it. The early Kennedy families owned and farmed land in rural Henry County but instead of living in the country they chose to occupy this townhouse in the city of Abbeville. The house remained in the Kennedy family until 1974 when it was bought by the Henry County Board of Education. After restoration, it was placed on the National Registry in 1978. The Chamber of Commerce purchased the house in 1981 to be used as the chamber office. Today the front looks much the same as originally, but the rear of the house has been altered to accommodate modern needs.
DOCTOR WILLIAM CALVIN BETHUNE written by: Catherine Vickrey Killebrew (10-10-89)
Doctor William Calvin Bethune was born in Merriweather County, Georgia, September 20, 1833 to John G. Bethune and Patience Daniels. He attended school at Mosshill Academy. According to an obituary, he was an excellent student, excelling in mathematics. In 1852 he moved with his parents to Clopton, Dale County, Alabama. Upon completion of his studies under the Reverend J. W. Solomon, he attended the Medical Institute of Nashville, Tennessee (forerunner of the medical school at Vanderbilt University). Upon completion of his studies, he returned to Dale County and began his medical practice.
When the War Between the States broke out, he organized a cavalry unit and marched to Montgomery to offer his services. The authorities insisted the Headquarters appoint the unit officers. Dr. Bethune, the “Captain”, refused the stipulation. The unit disbanded and returned home. He was offered the position of a Corps Surgeon. He refused the offer. He then enlisted in the Infantry. It was not long before he was elected to a Captaincy in the 57th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He was subsequently promoted to Lt. Colonel. He was in command of the 57th Alabama Regiment at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta. There he was severely wounded and never fully recovered.
In the Battle of Peachtree Creek he was left on the field of battle when his regiment was ordered to retreat. When men of his old company learned of the fate of their former Captain, they defied the order of their superior officers and advanced to recover the wounded Bethune. They did and Lt. Colonel Bethune was cited for gallantry by General Clanton in special orders.
On November 7, 1866, Dr. Bethune Married Mary Eleanor Callaway. They had five children: Mamie Eleanor (married P. A. McDaniel, Jr.), Ola Melissa (married Mr. Stokes), Ida (married Jim Hutto), William Calvin Jr. (married Pet Howerton), and Pearl (married Mr. Lawrence).
After the war, Dr. Bethune resumed his practice of medicine in Abbeville where he built a reputation as an excellent physician and caring gentleman, respected by the community. He built a small Creole cottage on Kirkland Street that was restored in the 1970-80’s by the community and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He later moved closer to town and built a larger home. He died June 4, 1881 at 47 years of age leaving a 36 year-old widow and five children. Bethune is buried beside his wife in the Abbeville Pioneer Cemetery.
The Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development (WRC&D) Council serves the following Southeast Alabama counties: Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Pike and Russell.