It Came from the Archives: A.A. Wiley and the founding of Troy University

In this edition of his column, Dr. Marty Olliff delves into the history of one of the men who helped TROY come into existence.

In this edition of his column, Dr. Marty Olliff delves into the history of one of the men who helped TROY come into existence.

Feb. 26, 2021, marks the 134th anniversary of Troy University’s original predecessor, the State Normal School at Troy.  This didn’t happen with a simple petition, as Troy’s former president Edward Shackelford notes in his 1937 history, The First Fifty Years of the State Teachers College at Troy, Alabama, but with lobbying committees and an enabling act passed by the Alabama legislature.  Pike County representative S. J. McLeod introduced House Bill 166 on Nov. 15, 1886, and Gov. Thomas Seay signed it into law on Feb. 26, 1887.

Ariosto Appling Wiley, formerly a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from Montgomery, appears to have helped Rep. McLeod write H.B. 166.  The bill authorized the founding of Troy Normal School and provided a $3,000 annual appropriation for salaries.  The city was obliged to furnish a building, which it did at the cost of $10,000.  The cornerstone was laid on Aug. 24, 1887.

Troy Normal School
Courtesy Troy University

The Wiregrass Archives is proud to hold a small collection of A. A. Wiley materials donated to the University by his family in Montgomery and Washington DC.

Born in Clayton in Barbour County in 1848, Wiley moved with his family to Troy before 1851 and attended school there. He graduated from Emory & Henry College in 1870, was admitted to the Alabama bar in 1871, and practiced law in Clayton before moving to Montgomery later that year.  He established a thriving practice in partnership with Thomas Goode Jones, governor of Alabama, 1890-1894, and Alabama Chief Justice Samuel Rice.  Wiley was the Atlantic Coast Line railroad’s corporate lawyer from its founding in 1900 until his death in 1908.

A.A. Wiley ca. 1887.
A.A. Wiley ca. 1887.

Wiley was politically active from the start.  He served on the Montgomery City Council for 15 years, in the Alabama House (1884, 1885, 1888, 1889, 1896, and 1897) and in the Alabama Senate (1890-1893, 1898, and 1899).  Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1900, he represented Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District from 1901 until his death.

Like other politically ambitious young men, Wiley became an officer in the Alabama state militia. He was a captain of cavalry, then transferred to the 2nd Alabama Infantry as a lieutenant colonel.  On June 9, 1898, President McKinley appointed him lieutenant colonel of the 5th U.S. Volunteer Infantry raised to fight in the Spanish-American War.  This worked out better for him than if he had remained in the militia.  Wiley deployed to Santiago, Cuba, in August 1898, while the 2nd Alabama was sent to improve the Miami Beach lands of tycoon Henry Flagler.

Wiley as Lt. Col. 5th USVI, 1898
Wiley as Lt. Col. 5th USVI, 1898

Wiley’s unit remained in Santiago for 11 months as part of the U.S. occupation of Cuba.  Recognized as an able lawyer, he served as council and chief of staff to Gen. Henry W. Lawton, then as Assistant Judge Advocate and Assistant Governor of Santiago under Gen. Leonard Wood to establish civil government in Cuba’s eastern province.

Elected to congress in 1900, Wiley helped draft the Dick Act of 1903 that began to convert state militias into the National Guard.  He also secured relief for poor homesteaders on lands of the Mobile, Coosa and Tennessee Railroad, expansion of the customs house at Montgomery, full funding for Alabama River navigational improvements, more than 50 new Rural Free Delivery routes in his district, and a host of solutions to technical legal problems plaguing his district.

Wiley married Mary Ann Freeman Noble (1855-1935), of a distinguished Montgomery family, in 1877. They had one child, Noble James Wiley (1878-1957) who retired as a colonel from the US Army in 1948.

Mary Ann Freeman Noble

Wiley’s brother, Oliver Cicero Wiley (1851-1917) of Troy, was elected to fill the remaining few months of AA Wiley’s congressional term (November 1908 – March 1909).  O.C. Wiley was president of the Alabama Midland Railway (1887-1892), president of the board of trustees of Troy Normal College, a director of the Farmers & Merchants National Bank of Troy, and an officer of Standard Chemical & Oil Company of Troy.

For more about the collection, visit https://www.troy.edu/about-us/dothan-campus/wiregrass-archives/inventories/224.html.

It Came from the Archives is an ongoing series spotlighting the fascinating collections at the Wiregrass Archives. To find out more, visit online at https://www.troy.edu/wiregrassarchives or in person in Everett Hall on the Dothan Campus.

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