Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BLOUNT : Home of #8!

Here are some 1976 reminiscences of Blount Springs by Charles Henry Hamilton:

After Ex-Mayor Drennon and Mr. Sloss of the Sloss Furnace bought the hotel property, they would charge people who would come to Blount Springs, $1.00 a week for the sulfur water they drank from the springs. He did not charge the people who stayed at the hotel, but others that would come to Blount and stay elsewhere. He had a gate put up going to the spring yard to keep people out.

Miss Mary found out about his gate and went to Mr. Drennon and Mr. Sloss and said to them, "The very idea of charging people to drink of this water! God put it there. The water is for human beings." Mr. Jim Hood was the constable in Blount County. Mr. Drennon and Mr. Sloss had hired him to guard the gate at the spring yard. One day Miss Mary went to the springs and Mr. Hood told her his orders were not to let anyone in that did not have a receipt showing they had paid for the water for that week. Jim Hood was a crippled man. Miss Mary took his walking stick away from him and opened the gate, turned to Hood and said, "Jim don't you ever lock that gate again or close it to the people that come here for water. That is God given water. He put it here. You or no man have the right to keep people out or to sell this water. I never want to hear or see this gate closed again!" So far, as I know, the gate was never closed again and I have been there many, many times.

One spring was so strong (with sulfur) you could smell it for a half mile ways. If you dropped a silver coin into the water, it would turn black minutes, it was so strong. My great uncle, Isaac McPherson, who was my great grandmother's brother, said he smelled the spring before he found what it was. Jane McPherson Hamilton, my great grandmother used to tell us children about clearing around the spring and finding other springs there, also. One spring was hot, the others cold. The seven springs was within one acre and a half of ground. I have played there as a boy many, many times.

In later years, this become a beautiful place. The people of Blount Springs built a white lattice Gazebo near the spring yard. The gazebo had steps going into it from four sides, with benches around to sit on. On a Sunday afternoon, you would find a band there, sometimes a string band. And people just walking around on a pleasant day would stop and listen to the band and often join in singing. There was always a crowd around on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, in the summertime; even Spring and Fall. Often times at night a string band would play and people would dance and sing. There being several large hotels, with room of 100 or more and some small hotels along with boarding houses; there were many people who enjoyed Blount Springs, most of them from Birmingham and vicinity.



Easley Bridge (1927) is the oldest of the three remaining covered bridges in Blount County, all of which are still in use. Located in the Rosa community, the bridge spans the Dub Branch. Members of the Tidwell family built all of the Blount County bridges.

Horton Mill Bridge (1935) towers over a deep gorge cut by the Warrior River in Blount County and is the highest covered bridge built over water in the US. Talmedge Horton, a descendant of the family that founded the gristmill for which the bridge is named, helped construct the bridge. He says that it took "fifteen men working from sunup to sundown for a year and a half" to build it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bibb County:home of the #7 Alabama license plates

Bibb County was originally created as Cahawba County by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on 1818 Feb. 7. Alterations were made to the boundaries in 1818, 1819, 1820, 1821 and 1868. The county name was changed to Bibb on 1820 Dec. 4, in honor of Alabama's first governor, William Wyatt Bibb.
The county is located near the center of the state and is drained by the Cahaba River. The terrain is very hilly and there are significant mineral deposits in the northern part of the county. Bibb County encompasses 625 square miles. The county seat is located at Centreville, the site of the falls in the Cahaba River. Other towns include Blocton, West Blocton, Brent, Six Mile and Ashby.

Centreville, the county seat, was laid out in city blocks in 1822 making its city blocks some of the oldest in Alabama.

A superb place to begin exploring Bibb County's heritage is the following chapter of Bibb County history entitled MRS. CHOTARD'S RIVER TOWN by Rhoda Coleman Ellison. Mrs. Sarah Chotard, the original owner of Centreville and the woman who had its city blocks laid out in 1822, had a daughter named Eliza who married William Proctor Gould who inherited John McKee's estate in Boligee.This plantation, Hill of Howth, was originally constructed using Indian labor and until its demolition in the Sixties , was the oldest home in all of West Alabama. I have collected numerous bottles from the artesian spring which still flows at the foot of the hill.

Colonel McKee opened the Land Office in Tuscaloosa and was Tuscaloosa's first representative to Congress. He was a strong supporter of the establishment of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and he assisted many Tuscaloosa residents in getting their War of 1812 veteren's benefits.

By 1822, a year before this unfavorable verdict, Mrs. Chotard had located as another part of her grant the quarter section in Bibb County already cleared and occupied by the straggling little village of Centreville.9 She must have seen several advantages in this location. According to tradition, she expected that its position near the center of the state might recommend it as the future site of the capital. In the previous year, when the usual flooding of the town of Cahaba by the Alabama River was more serious than in the past, speculation had begun that the capital would need to be relocated.

Yet an even more significant reason for Mrs. Chotard's choice of the location at the Falls of Cahaba must have been that it was at the head of navigation on the Cahaba River. From the moment that the first U.S. government surveyor saw this site in the spring of 1817, he expected that here, as also at the Falls of Black Warrior, an important commercial town "would spring up at no distant day."10 Mrs. Chotard, residing with her daughter in the booming little river town of Tuscaloosa, saw the prediction beginning to be fulfilled there. She must also have heard of the budding traffic in flatboats during certain seasons between Centreville and Mobile. These conveyances typically forty feet long and twelve feet wide, built with a covered section in which the oarsmen (more accurately called polemen) slept and cooked, could carry from fifty to a hundred bales of cotton to market.11

By the end of the decade, Bibb farmers were depending on a fleet of these heavy barges. John Logan, a colorful character who had migrated from North Carolina by way of Tennessee to Centreville by 182812, came to be called "captain" of the , flatboats. Besides these vessels, it was hoped that steamboats from Mobile would soon travel up to Centreville, especially after the first one reached Montgomery in 1821. Snags and sandbars in the Cahaba, however, were especially hazardous when the river was low. For that reason, plans to improve the channel must have been under discussion in the early1820s, though the act to incorporate the Cahaba Navigation Company was not approved by the state legislature until January 10, 1827. 13

One further attraction in this location may have been its recent acquisition of mail service, a further promise of communication for the prospective commercial city. The first post office in the county was established at Centreville in 182 1, the first local postmark bearing the date of February 1, 1821. Only half a year earlier, in the summer of 1820, William Ely had complained to his wife in Hartford, Connecticut: "I wrote you a few lines from the Falls of the Cahawba River about 10 days ago, and sent it 40 miles to a Post Office, by a private Conveyance, to be forwarded thence by Mail, but whether it will ever reach you or not is quite uncertain."14 A map of postal routes in Alabama in the early 1820s shows the Falls of Cahaba in a strategic position at the crossroads of the two chief lines: the east-west road from Augusta, Georgia, to Tuscaloosa and thence by a spur to Columbus, Mississippi and the north-south road from Washington, Tennessee, to Cahaba and St. Stephens. 15 Bibb's mail service, only by horseback before the first stagecoaches in 1830, was irregular and painfully slow, but Centreville's location on the route was advantageous.

Because of government red tape or her dilatoriness, Mrs. Chotard's patent to this land was not issued until October 10, 1823, but by the fall of 1822 the intrepid widow had apparently come to Centreville and employed Thomas Crawford as her surveyor. The squatters had probably built their shops on the riverbanks where they could be accessible to the flatboat traffic, sometimes using them also as residences, and erecting public buildings and other residences to the rear on the west side of the river. It is impossible to locate the sites of either shops or residences before Mrs. Chotard introduced lot ownership. Only on rare occasions is a privately owned house mentioned in the records, as when the county court minute of April 1820 note a temporary move of the sessions to "the east bank occupied by Henry Moody," and those of July 1820 record the payment of house rent to Stephen Potts for a similar use. The original village had undoubtedly grown up in its first few years without any preconceived plan, but now Mrs. Chotard, through the labors of Crawford, set about putting it in order, apparently without regard to any of the log cabin claims already staked out. He signed the plot of her town on Christmas Day 1822.16 In one margin he wrote two names, "Centerville" and "Williamsburg," as if she might be planning to choose between them.

Evidently some problems had arisen in completing the survey, however, for only a week later, on New Year's Day 1823, Mrs. Chotard was appealing for assistance to none other than the popular hero, General Andrew Jackson, at his home in Tennessee. It is not known how she had become acquainted with him, but he was obviously on friendly terms with both her and her daughter, Eliza Chotard McGee, with whom she was then living in Tuscaloosa. Mrs. Chotard must have been around fifty years old at this time, and her request of the general in her New Year's Day letter reveals that she was still exercising the aggressiveness and tenacity that had kept her land claim alive for three decades.

According to Jackson's reply of March 3, she had urged him to instruct General John Coffee, director of the U.S. Public Land Surveys in northern Alabama, to run a line midway across her quarter section. Jackson stoutly refused to do this, assuring her that Coffee lacked authority for such a line from Congress or from the commissioners of the land office at Washington.

Here's some more information about Mrs. Chotard's daughter, Eliza Chotard Gould.http://home.earthlink.net/~jimsturges/mia/mckee.html

Sunday, December 04, 2005

BARBOUR COUNTY - Home of the #6 Alabama License Plates

March 24, 1832: In Washington, D.C., representatives of the Creek Indians sign a treaty ceding "to the United States all their land, East of the Mississippi," which included large portions of east Alabama. Known as the Treaty of Cusseta, it was negotiated in the wake of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Approximately 20,000 Creeks were removed to the Oklahoma Indian Territory by 1840, although some remained, including the ancestors of the Poarch Band of Creeks, who are concentrated near Atmore, Alabama.

The above date is really important to my ancestors who made Barbour County their home. Nine months later on December 18, 1832, portions of existing Alabama Counties along with newly acquired Indian territory were formed into Barbour County, named for Governor James Barbour of Virginia http://www.palladiorestaurant.com/private_parties.php .

I have a few facts and family traditions concerning my Barbour County ancestors. My Great-Great Grandfather Timothy Lee [born 1826?] came to Alabama from the Darlington, South Carolina area in 1833. He was probably about 7 years old. He settled down south of the Indian Treaty Boundary Line[1832] at White Pond below Baker Hill in the southern part of the county near the Henry County line. In 1836 at the age of 10, Timothy witnessed the Second Creek War of 1836.

He married Nancy Beth Parmer[1829-1884?] on November 14, 1845. He and Nancy had 5 sons and 4 daughters. My Great Grandfather Leamon D. Lee[1849-1936] was their oldest boy. Great Grandpa Lee married Margie Jimmerson on December 22, 1870. They had 4 boys and 4 girls. My Grandma, Ludie Lee[ 1883-1973], was their next to oldest daughter. My Great Grandparents are buried at Belcher Bethel Cemetery south of Baker Hill.

Ludie along with my Grandpa Joe Belcher[1886-1965] are also buried near Baker Hill at the County Line Primitive Baptist Cemetery on U.S. Highway 431 on the Henry County Line. My Great Grandparents, John [1865-1954] and Hettie [1866-1934] Belcher are buried nearby.

My mother, Lucy Kate Belcher[1918-1985], was delivered by Dr. Wallace, Gov. Wallace's Grandfather, on October 7, 1918 near Baker Hill . Less than a year later Dr. Wallace's grandson, GEORGE C., was born in nearby Clio.

I haven't tracked down all of the Barbour County information that I want to collect. There are lots of old houses and historic sites I need to post. Some of my most vivid memories of childhood come from reminiscences of visiting Barbour County farm houses and barns being moved before the backwater from the Chattahoochee River formed Lake Eufaula in the early Sixties.

Interesting and exotic Barbour County place names:

Adkinson Head, Baker Hill, Big Eddy, Black Gum Corners, Boot Hill, Bush, Coal Springs, Cowikee, Fort Barbour, Galilee Corner, Hoboken, Kiwikaki, Lime Sink, Lingo, New Topia, Okitiyakni, Pea River Battleground, Roaches Mill, Tabernacle, Tipping Store, Texasville, Wylaunee, Yufala, Zorn's Mill.

Here's an interesting fact from Barbour County history. In the late 1850s Jefferson Buford from Barbour County led 250 Alabamians to Kansas in order to support the pro-slavery forces being attacked by John Brown and his ilk.
Jefferson Buford, 1807 - 1861
Materials relating to Jefferson Buford
Jefferson Buford, leader of the famous “Buford Expedition” to Kansas Territory, was born on August 17, 1807, in Chester County, South Carolina. After studying law he became a lawyer in Eufaula, Barbour County, Alabama, and during the Creek Indian War of 1836 he served in the Alabama, earning the rank of major for his efforts.

Following the war he returned to Alabama where he owned and operated a slave plantation on the Chattahoochee River.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 left the slavery question undecided in the newly established territories. The act's proviso allowed the people of the territory to determine the slavery question at the time they ratified their state constitution for admission into the Union of states. As a result, the settlement of the territory of Kansas with actual proslavery voters became a crucial issue, if slavery were to be successfully approved at the ballot box and then incorporated into the written laws adopted under the new, proslavery state constitution.
By late 1855 the border ruffians from Missouri were finding it difficult to maintain a majority voting presence in Kansas because of the large influx of free-state men emigrating from the northern states. The Missourians responded with an open appeal to the other slave holding states to send men to Kansas in order to secure the “peculiar institution” as the predominate socio-economic system in place within the territory.

On November 11, 1855, Buford heeded the call. He enlisted fellow southerners in a colonization effort that would locate in Kansas and make sure the territory entered the Union as a slave state. “Buford's Expedition,” as it became commonly known, encompassed some 400 men gathered mostly from the states of Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. These men all agreed to settle in Kansas in return for free transportation there, a year's guaranteed means of support while there, and a homestead of 40 acres of first rate land upon arrival. On April 5, 1856, this group of proslavery men finally left by steamboat from Montgomery, Alabama, for Kansas and they arrived in the territory on May 2.

The newly arrived proslavery group was immediately enrolled into the Kansas territorial militia to help arrest several free-state men in Lawrence, who had been indicted by a Douglas County grand jury. The posse, as it became known, was under the leadership of U.S. Marshal Israel B. Donalson. It entered Lawrence and made a few arrests of free-state men. After disbanding, the posse was once more reconstituted under the leadership of Douglas County Sheriff Samuel J. Jones to assist in serving some writs. What soon followed was the sacking and burning of several buildings known to be free-state businesses. After the looting and burning had ended, Buford disclaimed he had come purposely to Kansas to destroy property and condemned the course of action that had occurred in Lawrence.

In June Buford left Kansas for the South and then Washington, D.C., where he attempted to muster greater support among proslavery men for relocating as colonists to Kansas. Late in 1857 he finally returned to Kansas only to find the company of proslavery men he had originally raised in 1855 had disbanded with many returning south to their respective homes. Upon learning of the course of events, Buford also elected to leave Kansas for Alabama. He journeyed to Clayton, Alabama, where on August 28, 1861, he died of heart disease.
Blackmar, Frank W. Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History . Chicago, IL: Standard Publishing Co., 1912.
Fleming, Walter L. “The Buford Expedition to Kansas.” American Historical Review 6 (October 1900): 38-48.
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography . Chicago, IL: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1921.

Martha Reeves was born in Eufaula but moved to Detroit before her first birthday