As a lifelong Democrat, Ed Townsend is crystal clear in his views. ‘Donald Trump is a snake-oil salesman. He is in way over his head,’ he says of the new president.

‘But he’ll be found out,’ the former sheriff added. ‘The Republicans don’t want him. He’ll be impeached. He’ll be out of office within a year.’

Ed Townsend’s contempt for Trump is strong and unwavering — but his verdict holds little sway in his neighborhood.

To say he is in a minority in rural Winston County, Alabama, would be a vast understatement.

As he looks out from the porch of his farm outside the county seat of Double Springs, he knows that nearly everyone for miles around reveres Trump and is confident the nation’s 45th president will right just about everything that is wrong in America.

Retired Winston County Sheriff Ed Townsend, 67, is one of the few residents of Winston County to vote democrat in the Presidential Election.

Winston County Circuit Clerk J.D. Snoddy, 58, speaks with Daily Mail in his chambers in Double Springs, Alabama. Snoddy has been the elected clerk for 16 years.

Retired Winston County Sheriff Ed Townsend (left) is one of the few residents of Winston County to vote Democrat and considers Donald Trump a snake-oil salesman. But County Circuit Clerk J.D. Snoddy (right) is with the majority and sings the president’s praises

Winston County considered to seceding from Alabama.  It never quite took the step but the idea of the Free State of Winston lives on — and its story was the basis for last year’s movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey

Winston County considered to seceding from Alabama.  It never quite took the step but the idea of the Free State of Winston lives on — and its story was the basis for last year’s movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey

Take retirees Robert and Pam Masdon, for instance. ‘I’m ecstatic that he was elected,’ said Robert as the couple sat down for lunch in the Dixie Den in Haleyville, Winston County’s largest town.

‘We were tired of the same old political shenanigans,’ added his wife. ‘He will change things if they will just give him a chance.’

Or listen to Pastor Benny Knight. ‘I honestly believe God chose President Trump to lead our country,’ he told DailyMail.com in the sanctuary of his Haleyville church.

Or hear out J.D. Snoddy, the county’s circuit clerk. ‘Donald Trump will be an exceptional president,’ he said. ‘I know he is not your prototypical Republican. Even so, people here are convinced they voted for the right guy.’

Winston County voted as heavily as any place in the country for Trump. It sits in Alabama’s sprawling 4th Congressional District which was Trump’s strongest district in any of the 50 states. And with a vote of 89.4 percent for the property mogul-turned-TV-star-turned-Commander-in-Chief, Winston was his strongest county within that district.

Of the 10,383 people who voted in a county where two-thirds of the land is national forest, 9,228 opted for Trump compared to only 872 for Hillary Clinton.

 Perhaps as many as 300,000 Southerners served in the Union Army. Winston County mostly sided with the north providing 239 Union soldiers and just 112 who fought for the Confederacy

 Perhaps as many as 300,000 Southerners served in the Union Army. Winston County mostly sided with the north providing 239 Union soldiers and just 112 who fought for the Confederacy

Robert Parrish, 73, and friend Jane Tesney, 73, at the Dixie Den in Haleyville. 'I voted for Trump — that’s a given,’ said Tesney. I am in favor of the wall and the Muslim travel ban and a huge majority here agree with me'

Robert Parrish, 73, and friend Jane Tesney, 73, at the Dixie Den in Haleyville. ‘I voted for Trump — that’s a given,’ said Tesney. I am in favor of the wall and the Muslim travel ban and a huge majority here agree with me’

That’s hardly surprising when you look at history. Winston is far from your typical Alabama county. Its poor soil meant it never had the plantations that dotted the south. ‘We’re hills and hollows here,’ said Snoddy, 58.

No plantations meant few slaves — even today its African American population stands at just 0.5 percent. That in turn led its people to resist calls to join the rest of the south in the Civil War. Indeed, more people from Winston County fought for the Union than for the Confederacy.

It even tried to leave Alabama, arguing that if the state could secede from the Union, a county should be able to secede from the state. It never quite took the step but the idea of the Free State of Winston lives on — and its story was the basis for last year’s movie The Free State of Jones starring Matthew McConaughey.

After the war the county remained stubbornly Republican even as Alabama and the region turned solid Democrat. Now more than a century and a half after the conflict that pitted Winston against the rest of the south and a generation after Dixie turned red, Winston is more Republican than ever.

‘People here are pro the First Amendment, they believe in the separation of church and state,’ Snoddy assured DailyMail.com in his office in the Winston County Courthouse in Double Springs.

‘They believe in the Second Amendment. They support a strong military — folks here have fought wars and served and volunteered for their country and they think a strong national defense is very important.

‘The message President Trump has sent Iran is one that the people here support.

Winston County is in  the northwestern part of Alabama

Winston County is in  the northwestern part of Alabama

The Free State Barn,  located on highway 195 between Double Springs and Ashridge, Alabama. is a memorial to when the county wanted to secede from the State of Alabama

The Free State Barn,  located on highway 195 between Double Springs and Ashridge, Alabama. is a memorial to when the county wanted to secede from the State of Alabama

‘And as for the wall on the southern border, people here generally agree,’ he added. ‘I particularly like President Trump’s stand on abortion, I’m 100 percent pro-life.

‘I know he doesn’t have a lot in common with me and my constituents but he appears to have something,’ added Snoddy.

‘He talks about people getting jobs and building the economy and one thing important to me is that he wants to improve the infrastructure. In a small rural county like this that is important. We have potholes that need filling, bridges that need fixing and school buses that need replacing and that is what he wants to help us with.’

And any place you go in Winston County it is clear that J.D. Snoddy has his finger on the pulse of his people.

‘Trump is for the common working folk and they understand what he is trying to do and the way he is trying to do it,’ said Mike McClellan who works at a mattress manufacturer in Haleyville.

‘He is for the American people and for this country 100 percent. He has our interests at heart.

‘I am just happy he is keeping his promises. He is trying to do what he said he is going to do.’

Most concur. ‘I voted for Trump — that’s a given,’ said Jane Tesney, 73. ‘I am in favor of the wall and the Muslim travel ban and a huge majority here agree with me.

‘I was for him from the start even when there were 17 Republican candidates. The rest did nothing for me,’ she added. ‘We had to have someone who is very vocal and we needed someone who was strong.

‘I like him and I like the way he is running the country.’

Retirees Robert Masdon, 71, and wife Pamela, 71, are with Trump all the way. ‘I’m ecstatic that he was elected,’ said Robert as the couple sat down for lunch in the Dixie Den in Haleyville, Winston County’s largest town

Retirees Robert Masdon, 71, and wife Pamela, 71, are with Trump all the way. ‘I’m ecstatic that he was elected,’ said Robert as the couple sat down for lunch in the Dixie Den in Haleyville, Winston County’s largest town

‘He promised Make America Great Again — and people here swallowed it like a fish on a treble hook,’ fire chief Rick Moody, 60, told DailyMail.com as he polished and repolished his fire engine outside the station. 

‘He promised Make America Great Again — and people here swallowed it like a fish on a treble hook,’ fire chief Rick Moody, 60, told DailyMail.com as he polished and repolished his fire engine outside the station. 

In all of Winston County, it was those who voted at the Central Fire Department in tiny Houston who went most heavily for Trump. A total of 170 people turned up to vote. Five of them supported Clinton. Four electors chose write-in candidates. The other 161 — 94.7 percent — opted for Trump.

‘He promised Make America Great Again — and people here swallowed it like a fish on a treble hook,’ fire chief Rick Moody, 60, told DailyMail.com as he polished and repolished his fire engine outside the station.

‘They were given this promise that we would be put back to the natural state, the way America was set up. They liked what they heard — and that’s why they voted that way,’ added Moody who would not divulge how he marked his ballot.

But if Moody left some room for doubt that he may be among Winston County’s tiny minority, most others don’t care who knows that they voted for Trump.

‘We need a businessman to carry us in a different direction,’ said Robert Masdon, ‘Everything he has done is the things he said he would do. He is definitely trying to do the right thing.’

It’s not that Masdon and his wife, a former schoolteacher, think the president is perfect — at least not quite.

‘Yes, sometimes he has spoken before he thinks and the people behind the scenes have had to do damage control,’ said Pam Masdon. ‘But wouldn’t you be frustrated if everything you tried to do was blocked because people are pouting because their candidate didn’t win?

‘It’s going to take him time to learn when to speak and when to be quiet,’ she added. ‘And one other thing, all those people who said they were going to move to Canada if Trump won — go, pack your bags now. That’s how strongly I feel.’

Some like Pastor Knight weren’t so sure initially. ‘I liked Ted Cruz,’ he said. ‘But I really believe Donald Trump was God’s pick.

‘We have accepted too many things in this country that have devalued our morals,’ added Knight, 63.

‘It is like the fall of Rome – that is where we were heading. President Obama was leading us in that direction. The result of his leadership was division.

Lucas Logan, an energetic 34-year-old who owns Kel’s Steakhouse right next door to Knight’s 200-strong non-denominational Solid Rock Church in Haleyville, believes, like many in Winston County, that Obamacare has been a disaster

Lucas Logan, an energetic 34-year-old who owns Kel’s Steakhouse right next door to Knight’s 200-strong non-denominational Solid Rock Church in Haleyville, believes, like many in Winston County, that Obamacare has been a disaster

Pastor Benny Knight, 63, of The Solid Rock Church  says ‘I honestly believe God chose President Trump to lead our country'

Pastor Benny Knight, 63, of The Solid Rock Church  says ‘I honestly believe God chose President Trump to lead our country’

‘He had his own agenda and did not listen to wise counsel, he took a lot of steps on his own. The Bible says seek wise counsel and the counsel of many, but it doesn’t seem that he did.

‘I am very happy with Trump’s appointments, especially Betsy DeVos at Education,’ added Knight. ‘I love that she is going to change our school system and bring a lot of the moral teachings back into the classroom from a Christian perspective.

‘And of course our own Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general. I don’t believe our Founding Fathers meant the separation of church and state to be how it has been perverted today. Christianity was the foundation of everything in this country.’

So how does a man of God react to Trump’s boast of grabbing women’s genitals or the fact he has been divorced twice as many times as all the other men who have occupied the Oval Office combined?

‘Everybody has made mistakes,’ Knight said. ‘But we are in the Bible Belt, people here are quick to forgive — and we will see the fruit of that.’

Lucas Logan, an energetic 34-year-old who owns Kel’s Steakhouse right next door to Knight’s 200-strong non-denominational Solid Rock Church in Haleyville, believes, like many in Winston County, that Obamacare has been a disaster.

‘We were paying $600 a month for my wife and me. Now it’s gone up to $1,400. I can’t afford that, so I am not sorry it is being abolished.’

‘It was a good idea but it needs tweaking and altering. We need good healthcare. If you have an accident here in Haleyville, you get taken to the hospital. You can’t look at the prices and work out whether you would be better going to a hospital in Huntsville or Birmingham or Jasper, you go where you’re taken and have to pay for that.’

‘Trump comes from a workers’ background,’ added Logan, who employs 15 mostly part-time staff at the restaurant. ‘He is not a good ol’ country boy but he has that mentality and that’s why people voted for him.’

Logan said he was excited to vote for Trump because he had never voted before. But when he got to the polling station he found the line was too long and he eventually never made it. ‘I was really disappointed that I didn’t,’ he said.

Natural Bridge Town Hall features a memorial plaque dedicated to the Confederate Soldiers of Winston County.

Natural Bridge Town Hall features a memorial plaque dedicated to the Confederate Soldiers of Winston County.

So does all that mean someone like Ed Townsend, the Democrat former sheriff whose parents moved him to Winston County when he was three weeks old, has no allies?

‘I’ve got plenty of friends, he said. ‘I’m more conservative than a lot of Republicans here. I’ve voted for Republicans before, but this time I voted straight down the Democratic ticket.

‘I just don’t like Trump,’ he added. ‘He tells people what they want to hear. They want Mexicans out. They want Muslims out. And Trump won every rural county in America because he talked to the bubbas and told them that’s what he would do.’

And Townsend, an imposing man, well over 6 ft. who stands ramrod straight and says he has grown ‘the ugliest whiskers in Winston County’ out of spite, said there are still Democrats around.

‘There’s Gary White, the county chairman, and there’s Claden Knight of Knight Lumber and Jack Bostick the attorney in Winfield, and um…’ He then named another couple of party members.

‘We have meetings,’ he added. ‘The last one was about two years ago.’

 

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