Late in the decade of America’s roaring twenties, one of the world’s richest men returned to rural Alabama as the featured guest for the dedication of Alabama Power Company’s newest Dam. Ann Jordan Dam, and the lake it created, stretched luxuriously over Central Alabama pine forests. This land, with its small lakes for fishing, forests for hunting, and skies for dreaming of far-away places, were all familiar to the power company’s guest.
On March 17, 1862, in Dadeville, a few short miles from the new Dam and lake, Sidney Zollicoffer Mitchell, known simply as S.Z., was born to Dr. William Mandon Alexander Mitchell and his wife, Alice.
By 1933, six years after the dedication of the Dam and the lake, S.Z. Mitchell had purchased over 5,000 acres of land near his boyhood home. He also built the Ann Jordan Lodge, naming it for his grandmother, and spend the remaining 11 years of his life with friends and family. They enjoyed, as a new generation will today, a richly endowed hunting preserve for quail, deer, turkey, pheasant and chukkar.
An American success story had come home to the land of his youth, a land he had roamed on horseback with two friends, Lewis and Henry. Their abiding passion, like Mitchell’s was hunting, hounds, fishing and the joy of the outdoors.
In 1878 after spending six miserable months at Colonel Slade’s, a “cram” school in Columbus, Georgia, Mitchell sat for the U.S. Naval Academy examination. He passed with honors and graduated in 1883. The twenty-one year old Mitchell was then assigned to the USS Trenton and given the duty of installing the first electric lighting system on an American Navy vessel. The new generator worked, reported Mitchell, and the USS Trenton arrived at is destination, Gibraltar, “without burning up.”
Mitchell left the Navy in 1885, after two years of sea duty, and immediately made a call on Thomas Alva Edison, hoping to turn his experience on the USS Trenton into a successful career. Edison had received, in 1881, a franchise from New York to install a one-square mile underground electric distribution system.
Edison put young Mitchell to work installing the wire and building the generators. At night, he sent him to school to learn more about the electrifying new business. In a few short months, Mitchell had gained, Edison believed, enough day-time practice and night-time education to light up a city.
In late September 1885, Edison gave Mitchell exclusive agency for Edison Electric Light Co. and its affiliate the Edison Company in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and British Columbia. Mitchell persuaded his Naval Academy friend, Frederick H. Sparling to go west with him to take charge of this opportunity. For the next twenty years, the two lit up, just as Edison predicted, the Pacific Northwest.
Twenty years later, in 1905, Mitchell created the Electric Bond & Share Company to meet the challenge of financing small electrical plants all over the world. Mitchell had been very successful with these so called “Cats and Dogs” of the industry and served as president of Electric Bond & Share until 1933, the year after he completed construction of Ann Jordan Lodge.
The land that brought S.Z. Mitchell back to Alabama after nearly 50 years of bringing light and warmth all over the globe, is now Five Star Plantation. The land and lodge were given in 1944 by Mitchell’s heirs to the University of Alabama. It is just as beautiful today as it was when a young man, destined for greatness, and his two friends, hunted opossum and raccoon.
During 1994, the lodge was restored and renovated by William Ireland, Sr. Rarely used by hunters during the past 25 years, the land and forest are filled with wild game. Five Star Plantation members, men and women who share the passion of S.Z. , Lewis and Henry, can now enjoy the legacy of this extraordinary man’s life work.
Five Star Plantation operated a large number of specialized buildings for decades. Although many of the buildings were torn down as they fell into disrepair, a number of historic buildings and sites have been preserved, including a uniquely designed hay barn, grist mill, feed barn, artesian well, tenant cabin, water tower and two cemeteries. All these historic sites are an easy walk from the Five Star Lodge.
The plantation still has that Old South feel to it, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to walk through the fields and recall the old-timers riding in mule carts and swapping stories as the pointers swept back and forth across the field for coveys.
Today, Five Star is professionally managed for bobwhite quail, whitetail deer, wild turkey and trophy bass and bream. During the summer months, members and their guests fish on five different lakes, try their hand a sporting clay shooting, ride the plantation on horseback, or explore 25 miles of roads. During the cooler months, members and their guests hunt for upland birds, duck, deer and turkey.