Transportation and the Inauguration of Postal Routes- Navigation of the Conecuh River- Brooklyn- The First Post-Office- The Different Mail Lines Established.
Products seek a market as the rivers do the sea. The productive yield from the virgin soil of Conecuh naturally sought an outlet, especially when as inviting a market as was Pensacola in 1821, was within such easy reach. As has already been intimated, the navigation of the Conecuh and Sepulga rivers was undertaken in 1821. Mr. George Stoneham, having inaugurated the movement, was speedily followed by a host of others, prominent among whom were Edwin Robinson, James and John Jones, Starke and Harry Hunter, and Frank Boykin. These rude crafts were called keel-boats, and would carry a cargo of fifty or sixty bales of cotton. In capacity they were from sixty to seventy feet long, and from eight to ten feet wide. By common consent the following was fixed upon as a scale of prices for the transportation of freight : A bale of cotton weighing 300 pounds, $1.25 ; weighing 450 or 500 pounds, $1.50 ; corn in the shuck, 18f cents per bushel ; flour, per barrel, $1.25; sugar, per barrel, $1.25 ; salt and coffee, $1.25 per sack ; molasses and whiskey, $1.50 per barrel ; iron, 50 cents per hundred weight. Freight generally averaged about 87i cents per hundred weight. Farmers, furnishing their own blankets and provisions, were cordially invited to accompany these freight-laden crafts, so long as their capacity would warrant. No charges were made for the transportation of such self-sustaining passengers. These primitive boats were steered by means of a beam being fixed at each, the bow and stern, and two at either side. Ascending the stream, a far different method had to be adopted. An instrument, familiarly known among the early boatmen as the "hook and jam," was indispensable to moving these clumsy barges up stream. This instrument was a long smooth pole, of considerable strength, pointed with an iron spike, and with a hook curving its beak but a few inches from the point. The point was used for giving propulsion to the boat by being pressed against the nearest trees, or the banks of the stream. The hook was serviceable in being hitched in the overhanging boughs, which also aided in the propulsion of the craft. Such was the rapid increase of population, and the consequent increase of demand for transportation, that at one time there were seventeen boats, of various sizes, on the Conecuh river. These varied in capacity from five to two hundred bales of cotton. Competition has been ofttimes quoted as being "the life of trade;" but the rule has not bean without such exceptions as to prove that it may be the death of trade. Such was the ambition, among these early navigators, to control the transportation on the river, that freight was reduced to the minimum price of fifty cents per bale from Brooklyn to Pensacola, and up freight correspondingly low. The importance of Conecuh river as a commercial outlet may be estimated when the reader is told that, even as early as 1823, there were annually shipped from Brooklyn three thousand bales of cotton. The passage to and from Pensacola was usually made with comparative ease; and yet more or less peril was apprehended when the river had been cleared, and the barges floated out into the open sea. Gulfs Point, in Pensacola Bay, was an object of peculiar terror to these early boatmen. If this could be passed without encountering adverse winds, it became a subject of common congratulation among these primitive propellers of the oar.
The first mail route that penetrated any portion of Conecuh was along the Old Federal Road - which, for a considerable distance, divides the counties of Conecuh and Monroe. The first office was established at Burnt Corn. A branch route was subsequently established between this point and Sparta. This postal service was originally performed on horseback, and at a later period in stages along the principal routes. With the rapid growth of population, post-offices were eventually established at all the principal points in the county.
A Chapter of Biography - Rev. James King - Rev. Keidar Hawthorne, and Others.
REV. JAMES KING.
The writer was fortunate enough to find an autobiographical sketch of the life of this sainted preacher, in the hands of his daughter, Mrs. John Sampey. She very kindly surrendered it for publication, and it is herewith submitted :
December 10, 1856.
This day the Conference met at Tuskegee, being the day that closed my 74th year ; and being present with this large body of ministers, numbering about two hundred, it caused my mind to run back over the past scenes of my ministerial life, with deep and very solemn reflections. In contrasting the past with the present, I have thought proper to write down a brief sketch of ray ministerial life, with a few incidents connected with my history, which are as follows:
In 1800, I attached myself to the Methodist Church. The society which I joined was composed of six women and one free black man - he being the class-leader. In 1802, I married and took upon myself the responsibilities of a family. In 1803, I was appointed the leader of the class which I had joined. In 1805, I was licensed an exhorter. In 1806, I was licensed a local preacher. By this time the society had increased to the number of seventy. In 1816, I was ordained deacon, in Wilmington, by Bishop McKendree; that being the first ordination ever conferred in that place. Up to this date my family had increased to nine in number, beside myself and wife. I remained in North Carolina until 1818, making twelve years. During this time my ministerial labors were confined to six counties, to wit: Bladen, Brunswick, Hanover, Cumberland, Roberson, and Columbus, with some occasional visits to Horee District, South Carolina. In view of the charge upon my hands looking up to me for support, it will be easy to perceive that my labors were extended beyond the ordinary grounds of a local minister; and for all this service and labor I had no claim upon the church, nor did I receive one cent for my labors. On the 21st of April, 1819, I removed with my family to Alabama. I arrived at Alabama Town, where I met with some of my North Carolina friends, who prevailed upon me to stop there for the year. My ministerial labors during that year were as follows: One Sabbath at Alabama Town - the next at Philadelphia (now Montgomery.) I was the first licensed preacher that ever preached in that place. This was one of the years of great trial and privation to me, there being no regularly organized society, and I heard but one sermon preached during the time. In the winter of 1819, I removed to Conecuh river. There being but few settlements at that time, my labors were somewhat curtailed; but I had two appointments - one above and the other below the Florida line. In the winter of 1820, I moved higher up, into the Burnt Corn settlements, in the bounds of what was then called the Conecuh Circuit, belonging to the Mississippi Conference. This circuit, at that time, covered nearly all that part of Conecuh county that was then settled, and a considerable part of Monroe county. Here, a field was opened wide enough for my labors. In 1822, I was ordained Elder, at the Bellville Church, by Bishop George and others. This circumstance brought upon me a greater amount of labor. The Mississippi Conference, being weak, could not afford an ordained preacher for all the circuits. For four or five years there was no regularly ordained preacher sent to Conecuh Circuit, and consequently it devolved upon me to attend all the societies around the circuit to administer the ordinances of the church. Up to 1830, I continued to travel and labor in that section of the county. In 1830, I lost my wife, which was a severe trial to me. Having three daughters with me, I proposed to them to make their homes with three of their sisters, who were then married, and that I would join the Itinerancy. To this proposition they were opposed, preferring to remain at their own home. Consequently I consented to remain with them, and to do the best for them I could. In 1832, I married the second time. At this time one of my daughters had married, and the other two had gone to live with their sisters.
In the spring of 1834, myself and wife removed to Middle Tennessee, where we remained until the close of 1835. My labors during that time were confined to three counties, to wit : Weatherford, Bedford and Williamson, and I attended five campmeetings during my stay there. In the winter of 1835, I removed to Wilcox county, Alabama, and settled a short time afterwards. At the request of Bishop Andrew, I consented to confine my preaching for one year to the colored people, for the purpose of arranging a mission. For this service I received one hundred dollars from the Missionary Society ; all is told that I ever received for my ministerial labors. From that time up to 1850, 1 continued my labors in Wilcox and adjoining counties. In 1851, I lost my second wife. This circumstance changed my situation, and placed me under the necessity of breaking up for good. Since that time, being relieved of the cares of a family, I have devoted my time, as far as circumstances and feebleness would permit, in extending my labors to a wider field.
I have been three rounds with the Presiding Elders down on the west coast of Florida ; one round on the Lowndesboro District, and as far east in this as Dale and Pike counties ; from thence west across the State as far as Sumter, and the southern portions of Mississippi. I have visited the above named State three times, in its northwestern counties; and I have also made three visits to my native State - North Carolina. And in all my travels I have preached as often as circumstances would allow. And, in conclusion, what is in the future, is impossible for me to foresee ; but of one thing I am assured, that it is my settled purpose to devote the remainder of my life to the service of God and his church. W hereunto I subscribe my name.
[Signed] James King.
It will be seen from the above article that my labors have been scattered over seven States, to wit : North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.
[Signed] J. King.
Mr. King died in Wilcox county, on January 12th, 1870, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years.
REV. KEIDAR HAWTHORNE
was a native of North Carolina. He removed from Robinson county, in that State, to Conecuh county, Alabama, in 1817. Six months after his arrival in Alabama, he enlisted in the United States Army under General Jackson, and continued with him to the close of the Indian War, in Florida. After his return to Conecuh, he settled near Bellville, where he was married to Martha Baggett, in 1825. It was just subsequent to this time that both Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne became the subjects of renewing grace, and were baptized by Elder Travis. About two years afterward, Mr. Hawthorne was licensed to preach the gospel, and after serving as a licentiate a short time, he was ordained by Elders Travis and Ellis. A door of opportunity opened to him in the Forks Sepulga, and he forthwith directed his attention here as an inviting field for the exercise of his ministerial powers. A flourishing interest was established by him in this growing section.
Leaving this region, he removed to Mount Moriah, in Wilcox county. He founded the Baptist church at that place, known as the Fellowship Church. . Living at a period when there was quite a scarcity of ministers, his services were broadly demanded, and hence he became thoroughly identified with every denominational interest that sprang up in the counties of Wilcox, Monroe and Conecuh. He aided in the constitution of most of the churches in these counties. Perhaps the most remarkable period of his career was the service which he rendered in Eastern and Middle Florida, as a missionary. His labors here were peculiarly blessed. In 1856 Mr. Hawthorne removed to Mobile and established a book-store, at the same time serving with efficiency the Stone Street African Church - one of the largest in the South. Mr. Hawthorne reared quite a useful family, several of whom attained to marked distinction. One of his sons, Gen. Alexander Travis Hawthorne, was a chivalrous officer under General Price, in the Trans- Mississippi Department, during the late war. Another of his sons, Rev. Dr. J. Boardman Hawthorne, has a national reputation as a pulpit orator.
Like many others. Elder Hawthorne suffered the total loss of his estate by the war, but he was tenderly cared for by his children to the close of a long and useful life. He died in Greenville, Alabama, in 1877. Some estimate of his wonderful usefulness may be had when the fact is related that, during the years of his active ministry, he baptized more than 4,500 believers. His ministry extended over more than fifty years.
JOEL LEE, ESQ.
Among the first who set foot upon Conecuh's soil was the subject of this sketch. Joel Lee was born in Johnston county. North Carolina, January 4th, 1773. Forty-four years after this date he removed to Conecuh county, choosing for his home a spot about three miles from Burnt Corn. Here his usefulness was speedily recognized, and he became one of the most prominent citizens in this section. When Alabama became a State, and Conecuh was made a county, Mr. Lee became her first justice of the peace. He was appointed by Gov. William Bibb - Alabama's first Governor. In 1821 he became a member of the Old Bethany Baptist Church, and was baptized by William Jones, Sr. In his church relations his usefulness was as conspicuous as it was in the walks of public life. For many years he served his church efficiently as clerk and deacon. Under his wholesome influence there grew up a large and useful family. Three of his sons were eminent ministers of the gospel. One of them still remains a venerable monument of piety, and a sage counsellor in Israel. I refer to Rev. David Lee of Mount Willing, Lowndes county. Joel Lee died at his home, near Burnt Corn, on October 23rd, 1863.
CAPT. WILSON ASHLEY
was among the most useful of Conecuh's sons. He was a native of Barnwell District, South Carolina. His entrance into public life was quite early. When in 1814 the struggle with Great Britain was pending, Mr. Ashley, then a youth of eighteen, joined a volunteer rifle company, of which he became the first lieutenant. He afterwards became the captain of this company, and subsequently the captain of a cavalry company. He removed to Alabama in 1820, and located within a few hundred yards of where he spent the remainder of his life. In his new home his attention was directed altogether to husbandry. The results of his energy and skillful management soon showed themselves in a growing fortune. In 1832 he was called from his favorite pursuit and was made the sheriff of Conecuh county. Three years later he was chosen, without opposition, to represent his county in the General Assembly of the State. At the expiration of his term of service he peremptorily declined further honors at the hands of the people of the county, and returned to the quietude of his rural home. Here he remained until 1861, when the stirring scenes of that period drew him again from his seclusion. In the election of President and Vice-President, of what was designed to be the permanent government of the Confederacy, Capt. Wilson Ashley was honored by the people of his State with a position on the electoral ticket of Alabama. This closed his career with public life. Mr. Ashley was noted for his suavity of manner, his penetrating discrimination, and his clear judgment. Once convinced of the righteousness of the cause in which he was enlisted, and his zeal knew no bounds. He had all the elements necessary for a political leader of the people. In his home, he was proverbially hospitable. In his social relations, he was cheerful and generous. Full of years, well spent, and endeared to a host of friends and relatives, he closed his eyes in death in the 74th year of his age.
NICHOLAS STALLWORTH, SR
was one of the original settlers of Conecuh. Born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, on April 25th, 1777, he removed to Clarke county, Alabama, where he remained but one year. The hostilities of the Indians having subsided, in 1818 he, together with several others, removed to the east side of the Alabama river. He located his home four miles southeast of Evergreen, on what is now known as the Evergreen and Brooklyn public road, where he continued to reside until his death in 1836. Mr. Stallworth was constitutionally fitted to brave the perils of a pioneer country. With robust frame, determined will and unlimited energy, combined with business tact and shrewdness, he rapidly accumulated a handsome fortune, and became one of the wealthiest men in the county. He was the ancestor of quite a number of descendants, some of whom attained marked distinction.
JOHN SAMPEY, SR.
Among the best and most useful of Conecuh's earliest inhabitants was John Sampey, Sr. His birthplace was Belfast, Ireland, where he first beheld the light on April 20th,. 1801. In September, 1824, he sailed for America, and reached New York some time during the following month. His tastes having led him to the new regions of rapidly growing America, he came to the inviting State of Alabama, then just looming into prominence, and settled upon the soil of Conecuh. His attention was directed at once to stock raising, and he soon populated the grass grown districts of southern Conecuh with .herds of stock cattle. The energy with which he addressed himself to his chosen vocation soon became proverbial. The ancestors of Mr. Sampey (Sampler) were French. They were driven by religious persecution from France during the 16th century, and sought refuge in Ireland. The subject of this sketch was originally a devout member of the Church of England, in which he was reared; but upon removing to Conecuh he became a member of the Methodist Church, in which he spent a devoted life. Mr. Sampey was remarkably quiet and unostentatious. His career was one of even-flowing uniformity. He was scrupulously exact in all his transactions, was careful never to allow a note to mature without being promptly met. His eyes were closed in death at his old home, near Bellville, on July 8th, 1877.
WILLIAM RABB, SR.
Among those who have contributed to dignify the early annals of Conecuh county by an unobtrusive, yet virtuous life, may be classed the subject of the present memoir. William Rabb, Sr., was born in Fairfield District, South Carolina, on January 10th, 1775. His father was born in Ireland. Mr. Rabb's mental training was defective, because of the meagreness of educational advantages during his early life. During his youthful days he realized the fearful responsibilities of the present life, as connected with the life to come, and without delay gave his heart to God. At this time he joined a Presbyterian church, but in 1835 his church relations were changed by his union with the Old Beulah Church. In 1804 he was married in Edgefield District, South Carolina, to Miss Sarah McDonald, of Scotch parentage. With his family, he removed, in 1819, to Conecuh, and settled what was subsequently known as Rabbville, or Rabb's Store, five miles east of Evergreen. This was one of the first voting points established in the county. Here Mr. Rabb proceeded to merchandising and farming. His goods were hauled across the country, from Pensacola, by his own teams. Like most of the pioneer fathers, who had been attracted from their homes in distant States, Mr. Rabb was active and energetic, and shared largely in the fruits yielded by the virgin soil of Conecuh. He was noted for his liberality, and gave largely to the relief of suffering humanity. His days upon earth closed on September 20th, 1859. His family physician remarked that it was the first natural death he had ever witnessed. There was no disease, no expression of pain, but a placid sleep, ebbing out in death. He sank
"As sinks the morning star,
Which goes not down behind the darkened west,
Nor hides obscured amid the tempests of the sky,
But melts away in the light of heaven."
was the ancestor of the extensive relationship of that name still to be found in Conecuh and adjoining counties, and indeed in different States. He was born in Barnwell District, South Carolina, about 1772. He removed to Conecuh county in 1818. The struggles and perils of his youthful life thoroughly inured him to hardship, and fitted him for what he had to encounter in a wild region, such as was Conecuh when he removed thither. While he was quite a boy he endured some of the horrors of the Revolution. His father's home was located in that region which was so sorely infested by the Tories. Fearful lest her son might have to pay the penalty of his father's patriotism -for he was in the ranks of the regular army - the anxious mother would send her son, in company with a negro boy, to sleep, at night, in the woods.
Upon his removal to Conecuh Mr. McCreary selected, as the place of his future residence, the thrifty little community of Old Town. He was the first to improve the present home of Dr. Taliaferro. In disposition, Mr. McCreary was quiet and passive. His Christian deportment was almost without exception. Such was his veneration for the Scriptures that he drew therefrom the names of all his children. His views were exceedingly hyper- Calvinistic, and quite frequently, in the midst of calamity, he would seek relief in the assurance "that it was foreordained, and therefore right." On one occasion, a negro boy, belonging to him, made an inroad upon the smoke house of his Antinomian master, and when arraigned for the deed, took refuge in the favorite doctrine of his owner, saying, "Well, Massa, you see all dis was 'ranged fore hand. It was all fore'dained dat I should take dat meat I" Stung by the evident sarcasm, and exasperated by the complacent impudence of the thief, the master bound toward him and caught him in the collar, saying, "And it is foreordained that I give you a thorough thrashing, and I'll do it !" After a long and useful life, spent in Conecuh, he died at his home, in 1844, in the 72nd year of his age.
Conecuh from 1825 to 1836 - Current History Resumed - The Lull of Apprehension Among the Inhabitants - The Fruits of Peace - Tragedy- Rude Customs Still Prevailing- The Birth of Political Agitation, &c.
The current history of Conecuh was broken at the point where reference was had to the wide-spread sickness among the inhabitants of the county in 1824. Sufficient attention having been bestowed upon the events which gathered around that period - to the personages, too, who flourished at that time, giving so much character to the dawning history of the county - we resume at this point the continuation of the current record of events. The disease of the previous year had spent its force, and the citizens, having become acclimated, or else having removed with their families to higher and healthier locations, resumed with unabated vigor the work of development. The period, about which I now write, was one of very great tranquility. The circles of population were being enlarged in all directions, more extensive tracts of land were being annually cleared, and the prosperity of the county was settling down upon a solid basis. The oldest and most improved plantations were now exceedingly productive, and their owners were growing rich. As yet no political venom, with its attendant demoralization, had been injected into the social mass. Quietly every man attended to his own affairs at home, or else, acting in concert with his neighbors, would engage in the erection of churches and school houses. The martial spirit imbibed from their contests with the Indians and British, was still retained by the inhabitants, and places for general drilling were appointed in different parts of the county. This gathering gave occasion for having a gala day, and its recurrence was ever hailed with delight. To these different points the male population would repair, en masse each man carrying with him his fowling-piece; and after evoking all the delights that could be drawn from a straggling, dusty and irregular drill, they would gather about the place of trade, lounge in the shade, exchange rude jokes, recount perilous adventures, wrestle and box, and not unfrequently become contestants in a tumbling hand-to- hand fray. But, however much puffed the cheek may have been, or however much bunged the eye, or enlarged the nose, every one usually repaired, at the close of day, to his own home bearing no malice toward his neighbor. These pugilistic encounters, let it be said, were usually confined to the "lewd fellows of the baser sort," each of whom coveted the distinction of "bully." Refinement by degrees predominated and these barbarous practices were gradually abandoned.
Returning to the thought of the growth of development, let me say that but little attention was bestowed upon any occupation except that of farming. Indeed, "farmer" was quite a comprehensive term.
Many of the farmers combined merchandising with agriculture. A farmer was very frequently both a merchant and carpenter ; for there was not sufficient trade to engage the entire time of one man, and hence the store was made secondary to the farm. And again, in such a rude state of society, the only architectural knowledge required was that which enabled one to erect a rude cabin with cloven logs. Hence, farming was the chief vocation. For the most part, the inhabitants who first settled Conecuh had removed from wheat-producing regions; and this cereal they undertook to raise in Conecuh, and for the first few years, were remarkably successful. But, either because of the decline of the fertility of the soil, or because it was found to be so much easier and more profitable to produce corn and cotton, its production was gradually abandoned. Another consideration which led, perhaps, to its abandonment was that the harvesting of wheat conflicted sadly with the attention which was necessary to be given the cultivation of corn and cotton. And another consideration, still, was that the wheat was smitten with rust, which was discovered to increase with each advancing year.
As in all new regions of country, where Nature is munificent in her gifts, these are sadly abused ofttimes by the earliest recipients, so in this favored region the pioneer fathers manifested, in some respects, a most reckless prodigality in regard to their fertile lands. This, however, was, in part, due to their ignorance of the utility to which many elements could be applied, and partly to a lack of sagacity. For many years after the production of cotton had begun, the seed were regarded a nuisance after that they had been removed by ginning from the fabric. The idea of employing them as a fertilizer, to arrest the decay of lands, was not suggested to the thrifty fathers. Hence they were hauled away and thrown into abandoned heaps.
The wisdom of arresting the washing of lands, seems never to have been suggested to the primitive farmer. Of course, the best lands were the first to be improved, as they were quite frequently the first to be abandoned as having become useless through wear. As a consequence, many of the lands which were originally the best to be found in the county, were speedily surrendered to the sedge-grass and the needle-leaved pine, and are to-day regarded as barren wastes. With a more compact population - which our county is destined, at no distant day, to have - these wasted fields will be reclaimed from desolation, and again be made to "blossom as the rose."
A few years after the first settlement of the county another branch of business sprang into existence - that of stock raising. The luxuriant pasture lands that composed the southern portion of the county, reaching even down to the coast, were covered with vast herds of cattle. The largest among the herds was that of David Tate, a half-breed, whose cattle swarmed over the grassy districts stretching between the Big and Little Escambias. Higher north, a herd of four thousand was owned by John Sampey. This branch of trade has ever been one of profit, and is destined, in the history of the county, to become one of the most lucrative of her industries.
In 1825, a Land Office was established at Sparta, with Dr. Jonathan G. Shaw, of Massachusetts, as Receiver. He was appointed by President John Quincy Adams. Considerable excitement prevailed among the people of the county at this period in consequence of the spirit of speculation that existed in certain quarters. Keen-eyed speculators were industrious in seeking out the best lands in the county, the claims of whose occupants were not secure, and in putting an enormous estimate upon their value in order to realize, in their sale, considerable profit. This produced widespread dissatisfaction and demoralization. To avoid being dislodged from the place improved by himself, Rev. Alexander Travis purchased his land of these Shylocks at the exorbitant sum of $37.50 per acre. But so grave an imposition upon a quiet, industrious community, such as Conecuh had become, could not go unrebuked and unchecked. The grievances of the indignant masses reached the ears of Congress, and the Relief Bill was passed, causing the late sale to be cancelled and the lands to be re-purchased. Mr. Travis now secured his land, under this bill, for $1.25 per acre. And what was true of him was equally true of others. This brought a protracted period of tranquility and prosperity to the people of Conecuh.
The successful navigation of the Conecuh river, and the enormous revenue which the owners of the boats on that stream were realizing, led to an effort to navigate Murder creek.* Accordingly the services of Colonel Bowie were secured to clear the stream, and prepare it for the passage of boats. Several ineffectual efforts, however, convinced the inaugurators of the enterprise that it was by no means feasible, and the project was abandoned at once. While this attempt was a bootless one, it only served to show that the spirit of enterprise was abroad in the land. By every means the inhabitants sought to utilize the facilities with which nature had so prodigally supplied their adopted home. Continued advancement served to stimulate the energies of the thrifty population, and each recurring year witnessed a marked change in all portions of the rapidly growing county. Lands were being improved by a more thorough system of drainage, and the rude contrivances of the early colonists were being eventually displaced by substantial evidences of advancement.
*This beautiful stream derived its name, according to Colonel Pickett, in his History of Alabama, vol. II. , page 82, from a bloody tragedy enacted upon its banks in 1788.
In 1827, a tragedy occurred at Ellis's Mills that shocked the entire county. Captain Cumming, who had, for some years, been conspicuous in different ways in the county, was killed by a man whose name was Fuller. Naturally impulsive, and of a domineering disposition, Cumming attacked Fuller with a storm of abuse, to which no resistance was offered. Stung by this cool indifference, Cumming went away and carefully loaded his gun for the express purpose of killing Fuller. Fired with passion still, he returned to the place where Fuller was quietly at work hewing a log, and walking within a few feet of him, he levelled his gun at his breast, pulled trigger - and it missed fire. At this juncture Fuller sprang forward, with his broad- axe, and drove it into Cumming's skull. He quietly surrendered himself to the proper authorities, but was duly acquitted.
While the material interests of the county were being steadily advanced, regard was had to the moral enlightenment and spiritual improvement of the people. The ministry of this period were ardently devoted to the promulgation of the truths of the gospel, and their laborious exertions bore fruit in the form of thriving spiritual interests, which were being planted within convenient reach of the growing population. The consecration of Revs. Alexander Travis, Keidar Hawthorne, John Ellis, and William Jones, Sr., of the Baptist denomination; and of Revs. James King, Joshua Calloway, John A. Gotten, and Lewis Pipkin, of the Methodist Church, is sacredly enshrined in the memories of the oldest residents of the county. The recollections of these sainted pioneer preachers will never be embalmed in "the flower-crowned annals of song," but better, they will be transmitted with pathetic interest to the future generations of the county.
An event took place in the region of the Burnt Corn settlement, in 1828, that deserves special notice in the History of Conecuh, as indicating both the assiduity of Elder Travis and the generosity of John Greene, Sr. Ministerial laborers being bat few in the county, and Mr. Travis being anxious to have the gospel preached to as many as possible every Sabbath, conceived the plan of centralizing the interests in different portions of the county. In upper Conecuh there had been established, by himself and his colaborers, several points where preaching was had as often as a minister could, in turn, visit them. He determined upon a combination of these several interests, and appointed a committee to select a site for the erection of a house of worship sufficiently commodious to accommodate these congregations when formed into a single church. Finding the committee somewhat embarrassed by their inability to fix upon an eligible spol, Mr. Greene very generously offered them a tract of land, northwest of his dwelling, as a spot suited to the erection of a church edifice. The lot thus donated by himself was covered with a grove of beautiful oaks, from the midst of which flowed, perennially, the waters of a bold spring. The terms of the donation were, that the tenure of possession was to be commensurate with the occupation of the place as a point of worship. The generous offer was gratefully accepted, and the church became famous as a place of worship in this portion of the county. In after years the church was removed to Puryearville, in Monroe county, and became the Old Bethany Church.
Among the enterprises which were inaugurated in the county during the following year (1828) was one that sprang into existence as if by magic. This was a point of business of unusual interest, that was established just below Bellville, between the Fergurson Place and the residence of Thomas Simpson, Sr. This enterprise was established under the auspices of a young man, from Mobile, whose name was Hosefield. His place of business was contiguous to an old field, whose broad, level acres presented an inducement to the county militia-men as an admirable place for "mustering." So important did this point become, as a place of thriving trade, - and so notorious was it for rowdyism, - that the inhabitants named it "Little New York." After a few years' existence, it disappeared with the suddenness with which it originally began. A slightly cleared place is the only relic now remaining of one of the most notorious points that existed in the county of Conecuh.
The political questions of the period, which had already commenced their turbulent sway in the older States, had not as yet reached Alabama. The Carolinian element, which entered so largely into the early population of Conecuh, shared somewhat in the exciting Nullification movement, which stirred so deeply the public sentiment of South Carolina, in 1832. But it gave no shape or color to the politics of this region, as did no other question at this time. It was reserved for later years to witness all the bitterness and rancor that are born of heated political discussion. At this period of the history of the county, voters were not controlled in their preferences by the complexion worn by any political organization, but altogether by the reputation of the candidate. The contests in the realm of politics were based upon no pronounced issues. Sometimes there was but one candidate before the people - at other times there was quite a host. The most formidable opponent was he whose integrity was most unquestioned and unsuspicioned, and whose personal influence was such as to sway the masses. Long before this period - perhaps as early as 1820 or 1822 - election precincts had been established at the homes of William Brewer, William Blackshear, and David Hendricks, at Cumming's Mill; also at Zuber's Store, George Constantine's, Brooklyn, James Caldwell's, Rabb's Store, James Grace's, and John Bell's.
About 1833, a startling event occurred in the region of Fort Crawford. A woman, whose name was Mrs. Nancy Taylor, had gone to the home of a neighboring woman and had given her a severe drubbing. The violent assault evoked judicial interference, and Deputy Sheriff Dollyhide was sent by Sheriff Wilson Ashley to arrest the turbulent woman. When Mr. Dollyhide reached her house, she positively told him that she would not be taken. Walking coolly up to her side, he laid his hand upon her shoulder, and said: "Madam, you are my prisoner!" She instantly snatched from her bosom a sharp dagger, and drove it to the hilt into the heart of Deputy Dollyhide, and he fell dead at her feet. Dressing herself in the costume of a male, and in company with a kinsman, whose name was Fed Walker, she fled to Texas, leaving behind her husband. He remained in Conecuh for another year, when he, too, emigrated to Texas, and rejoined his fugitive wife.
The following is a list of the members of the General Assembly from the county up to the period of 1835 :
1819- John Herbert.
1821- John W. Devereux.
1825- William Jones.
1828- John Watkins.
1830- William Hemphill.
1833- William Hemphill.
1819- William Lee, Thomas Watts.
1820 - Samuel Cook, Thomas Armstrong.
1821 - Eldridge S. Greening, John E. Graham.
1822- Samuel W. Oliver, John S. Hunter, -----Taylor.
1823 - Samuel W. Oliver, John Fields, James Salter.
1824- Samuel W. Oliver, Nathan Cook, John Greene.
1825 - Samuel W. Oliver, Eldridge S. Greening.
1826- Samuel W. Oliver, Eldridge S. Greening.
1827- Samuel W. Oliver, Eldridge S. Greening.
1828 - Joseph P. Clough, James Salter.
1829 - John Greene, Henry E. Curtis.
1830 - Joseph P. Clough, Samuel Dubose.
1831- Samuel W. Oliver, John Watkins.
1832 - Samuel W. Oliver, Julian S. Devereux.
1833- Samuel W. Oliver, Watkins Salter.
1834- Samuel W. Oliver.
1835- Wilson Ashley.
Conecuh from 1835 to 1845 - Interesting Epoch - Birth of Political Issues - The Excitement Begins- Hot Contests - The Great Indian War - Democrats and Whigs - Hard and Soft Money - Educational Improvements, &c.
We now enter upon the history of one of the most interesting decades in the annals of the county. The political questions which had grown out of the existing state of the government, and which had crystallized into positive shape in the older States, had been transferred to the extreme South, and gradually shaped themselves into principles upon which the voters of Conecuh were divided. Just enough interest had been awakened by the exciting Nullification movement in South Carolina, to inspire a desire to read, and hence the leading political papers of the country were being eagerly subscribed for. This spirit received encouragement, too, from a combination of favorable circumstances, in which the people of the county were now placed at this advanced stage of their history. These circumstances were - the growth of population, which drew the masses more frequently together; the increased postal facilities of the county ; the more intelligent generation that was coming upon the stage of action ; and the greater leisure afforded by the advanced prosperity of most of the citizens of Conecuh. Notwithstanding the intense excitement produced by the Nullification struggle, it was destined to be followed, within a few years, by a discussion, the excitement of which, if it did not equal the intensity of the former, it exceeded it in general interest. This was the discussion of the great Bank question. A subject so important, and of such popular interest, touched all classes of persons alike. In the midst of the sternness displayed by President Jackson, which unpoised the financial system of the whole country, producing a serious crash in 1837, Thomas H. Benton, Senator from Missouri, urged the adoption of a gold and silver currency, as the true remedy for the embarrassments of the times. This financial question drew the line of demarcation very broadly and clearly between the two existing dominant parties - the Whigs and Democrats - the former of whom opposed the measure suggested and advocated with so much power by Mr. Benton, while the latter, with heartiness, adopted them. The two parties became very pronounced in the enunciation of their respective views. This period witnessed the first political contest, upon clearly defined party issues, that was ever had in the county of Conecuh. True, divergent views had been held by her people prior to this time, and minor differences had been expressed in a feeble way; but now excitement ran high, and the respective parties rallied and drilled their forces for a hot contest at the ballot-box. They selected their candidates for the Legislature, the Democratic nominee being J. Richard Hawthorne, and that of the Whig Party being Jephtha V, Perryman. Because of his enthusiastic advocacy of hard money principles, Mr. Hawthorne won from his opponents the sobriquet of "The Benton Mint Drop Boy." After a thorough and exciting canvass of the county, the election resulted in the choice of Mr. Ferryman by just seven votes. This election, for a time, put a quietus upon the county, the Whigs being exhilarant over their victory, while the Democrats were encouraged to renew the contest, by the fact that they came so near of success. At this period of the county's history, public attention was diverted to a more serious question than that which agitated the people at their homes - this was the outbreak of hostilities on the part of the Indians. The policy of the government of removing them from their old abodes, which was instituted in 1832, had met with resistance almost everywhere. Both along the Chattahoochee and in Florida, there were hostile demonstrations. A call was made for troops, and in response, Captain Bell, of Bellville, raised a company and went to Georgia. Of those who were members of that company, the names of none can be secured, except those of Absalom Autrey, Pinkney Straughn, and Madison Crosby.
Whatever of interest there was in the history of the county for several successive years following 1836, it gathers around the fierce contests which were waged in the political arena from year to year. For a number of elections together, the Whigs were the successful contestants. 1839 is famous in the annals of the county as being a year of remarkable prosperity. The oldest citizens still refer to it as an unusual year for the production of cotton. The following year, 1840, witnessed the establishment of an excellent literary institution at Evergreen, which has ever since been known as the Evergreen Academy. Suitable steps had been taken the year previous to locate the institution at the point where it now stands, but not until 1840 was it formally opened for the matriculation of students. Prior to this time little or no business was conducted in the now thrifty town of Evergreen, and it appears that up to this period the community boasted of no other name than that of Corsey's Old Field. When, however, such men as Rev. Alexander Travis, J. V. Ferryman, James Tomlinson, Garland Goode, Nicholas Stallworth, Churchill Jones, Nathan Godbold, Chesley Crosby, John Crosby, Blanton P. Box, and others, combined their energies and wisdom and determined to establish a literary institution of high merit at this point, the unclassical name of Corsey's Old Field was displaced by the more elegant designation of Evergreen. Mr. Ferryman having modestly declined having the place named "Perryville," in honor of himself, as was justly suggested by some one, Rev. Mr. Travis thought that a name might be derived from the verdant foliage that abounded, suggested that the place was forever green - meaning to refer, however, only to the foliage ! The uniqueness of the name struck those most interested in the enterprise, and hence the academy was called Evergreen. The resolutions originally adopted provided for the election of a President and Vice-President of a board of twelve trustees. Rev. Alexander Travis was chosen President, Hon. Churchill Jones, Vice-President, and the following were the original Board of Trustees of the Academy : John D. Travis, Nicholas Stall worth, Littleberry Chapman, James Tomlinson, C. H. Stallworth, Mabry Thomas, Chesley Crosby, John G. Smith, Wilson Ashley, Mason L. Mosely, Garland Goode and Nathan Godbold. An efficient Principal and Assistant were immediately chosen, and the doors of the new institution were thrown open for the reception of pupils. Rev. Horatio Smith became the first Principal, with Mrs. Smith as his Assistant. The success of the new enterprise more than equalled the most sanguine expectations of its founders, and it was soon discovered to be necessary to increase the force of instruction. Accordingly Professor Stroud was engaged, and later the Faculty was increased by the addition of Mr. A. S. Flowers, and Misses Armstrong and Hitchcock. The merits of the institution speedily became known, and students were matriculated, not only from Conecuh, but from the counties of Butler, Wilcox, Monroe, and Mobile, as well. The school numbered as many as 155 upon its roll at different times. For many years it continued in a thriving condition, the pulpit, the bar, the halls of national legislation, the ranks of the army, as well as many a radiant home in this and surrounding counties, having been contributed to by its classical halls. Eighteen hundred and forty-one is memorable as having been a year of remarkable excitement in the county. The chief issue, still, was the currency. Undismayed by past reverses, the Democratic Party renewed its efforts to secure the Representative to the Legislature in the session of 1841. Garland Goode was chosen as the advocate of the principles of Democracy, while Churchill Jones led the opposing Whigs. Public sentiment was stirred to its deepest depths, and the passion for success well nigh bordered on to frenzy. The county resounded from limit to limit with impassioned oratory. Every man was a politician, and the emphasis with which he announced his principles, left no doubt as to the political banner beneath which he served. The contest was again close- just enough so, to tantalize the Democratic hosts and to fire them with a determination to renew the conflict the next year. The Whigs bore off the palm, and Mr. Jones was sent to the Legislature. So acceptable a Representative did he prove, that he was returned for three successive terms. With unabated ardor, however, the Democrats entered the field afresh in 1844, under the leadership of A. W. Jones. The opposite party found a worthy champion in the person of Ransom L. Dean. The contest was again close, but this time the Democrats achieved a victory. This conflict between the two parties continued from year to year, as we shall see as we proceed.
In 1841, a tragedy occurred at Bellville, which, because of its boldness, and premeditated concoction, excited the profoundest indignation in all parts of the county. Two negro men, belonging to Mr. Sandy Puryear, of Monroe, had adroitly arranged to rob and destroy the store of Duncan McIntyre, who was then merchandising at Bellville. They succeeded in entering the house, and after ladening themselves with valuables, they quietly set the house on fire within, coolly mounted their horses, and rode toward home. Investigation and vigilant search for a single trace of the stolen goods seemed, for a time, fruitless - and, perhaps, the criminals would have escaped undetected, had not one of the villains undertaken to barter a fine gold watch for a gun. This furnished a clew to the mystery; the advantage was improved, and soon the guilt was fixed upon the scoundrels. After trial, they were duly executed by being hanged, at Monroeville, the following year.
In January, 1844, the first tannery ever established in Conecuh was built near Bellville, under the auspices of Messrs. J. E. Hawthorne and John H. Farnham. For a number of years it continued in a flourishing condition, as it furnished leather to Conecuh and to citizens in counties adjoining.
It was by no means an uncommon occurrence, at this period, to see slave speculators plying their trade as they would pass, here and there, into different parts of the country. The slaves were usually transported in wagons ; and these dealers would locate themselves, for several days together, at the different centres of population, - pitch their tents,- and exhibit their slaves to all desiring to purchase. It is a matter of public congratulation that the Slave Trade, so fraught with innumerable evils, belongs to the times of the far past.
The following is a list of the different county officers of Conecuh during the period embraced in the foregoing chapter :
COUNTY JUDGES. (Until 1850, the County Judges were elected by the Legislature, with term of service of four years. )
1835- J. V. Ferryman, - (Resigned the next year. )
1836- Henry F. Stearns.
1841 - Benjamin J. Goodloe.
1845- A. W. Jones - (Resigned before the expiration of his term.)
1837- William E. Ellis
1841 - David F. Henderson.
1844- William E. Ellis.
1837- Churchill Jones. (It was universally understood that this election was held in the interest of A. D. Cary, who, being Receiver at the Land Office, was legally disqualified to offer for the position, but who could do the work for another. )
1841- Wilson Ashley. - (For Mr. Cary.)
1845- Nicholas Stallworth. - (For Mr. Cary.)
The following is a list of the members of the General Assembly:
1836- Samuel W. Oliver.
1837 - Herndon Lee Henderson.
1839- Stephen S. Andrews.
1842- John Watkins.
1845 - John Morrisette.
1835- Wilson Ashley.
1836- Jephtha V. Ferryman.
1887- Jephtha Y. Ferryman.
1838- James M. Boiling.
1839- James M. Boiling.
1840- W. A. Bell.
1841- Churchill Jones.
1842- Churchill Jones.
1843 - Churchill Jones.
1844- A. W. Jones.
Chapter of Biography - Hon. J. S. Hunter - Richard Warren, etc.
JOHN STARKE HUNTER
was an attorney of some distinction, who came to Conecuh shortly after it became a county. He was a native of Camden, Kershaw District, S. C. His early literary training was of the first order, having graduated from the South Carolina College. He was admitted to the bar to practice law in 1816, and two or three years later turned his face westward toward Alabama, the fame of whose inviting territory had already reached the older States. He first located at Claiborne, in Monroe county, as the law partner of Hon. A. P. Bagby. Thence he removed to Sparta, and became the partner of Samuel W. Oliver. About the year 1829 he removed from Conecuh to Hayneville, Lowndes county, where he continued the practice of law. In 1834 he was promoted, by election, to the circuit judgeship to succeed Hon. John W. Paul, but remained upon the bench only a single year. In 1836 he was placed upon the electoral ticket for Martin Van Buren. In 1840 he was sent from the county of Lowndes to the Legislature, and after a single year's service in this branch of the General Assembly, he was elected Senator. Resigning his seat in the Senate in 1843, he removed to Dallas county. While residing in Cahaba, he combined planting with the practice of law. In 1849 he was again summoned to the arena of politics to join in a contest with Hon. S. W. Harris for Congressional honors. In this contest his opponent was successful. He removed from Dallas county to Kentucky in 1857, and there engaged in raising stock. After an absence of eight years, he returned to Dallas county, Alabama ; and during the latter part of 1865, he was elected to the Constitutional Convention. This closed his public career. During the year 1866 he died at Louisville, Kentucky, having completed "three score and ten years." Judge Hunter is described as having been an orator of more than ordinary ability. His manner was easy, his diction chaste, and his reasoning forceful. He was rather austere in his general bearing, which operated sadly against his popularity. In the counties of Dallas and Mobile many of his descendants are still residing.
Maj. Richard Warren removed from Burke county, Georgia, to Alabama in 1817. He first improved a home near Burnt Corn, during the most troublous period of the county's history. Ever careful for the rights and interests of others, he, with true chivalric spirit, erected a fort near Burnt Corn, as a refuge against the depredations of the Indians. After a sojourn of one year here, he removed southward, and was the first to venture across Murder creek, and to erect a home on the eastern side. He settled the place now owned by the Messrs. William and John Burgamy. Mr. Warren and his sons were the first white inhabitants who lived in the neighborhood of Sparta.
* The author regrets his inability to secure no fuller record of the life and services of this honored and useful citizen.
JOHN GREENE, SR.,
came to Conecuh county as early as 1816. At that time it was embraced within the broad limits of Monroe. He was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina, on March 8th, 1790. When he had attained to ten years of age, his father removed with his family to Jackson county, Georgia, where he resided till 1816. Coming to Conecuh at this period, Mr. Greene found it without the slightest trace of civilization. But, thoroughly prepared to grapple with the difficulties here encountered, he began to establish his home in the midst of the wild forests. Quite fortunate for upper Conecuh, and for its educational interests, one of its first citizens was a man whose attention had been largely directed to literary pursuits. Of course, at this period of the country's history, educational facilities were exceedingly meagre. According to Mr. Greene's own statement, he was indebted, for his acquirements, to a small public library in Jackson county, Georgia. Here, under the direction of a judicious friend, he was enabled to pursue a course of reading, and to improve his handwriting. Ambitious of future eminence, he prosecuted with zeal his studies to the utmost of his facilities, and finally decided to adopt the profession of teaching. He was the first to establish a school in Conecuh, and has trained for usefulness many of her best and honored citizens. . At different times, Mr. Greene has had accorded him, by his fellow-citizens, worthy honors. Twice has he been selected as her Representative in the General Assembly of the State - once in 1824 and again in 1828. Though a Union man, he was chosen to represent Conecuh in the Secession Convention in 1861; and in 1875, was sent as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Coming to Conecuh in early manhood, with no other resources at command than an honest heart, a courageous energy, and an unbending will, he has accumulated a fortune, reared a useful family, and by his sage counsel and public-spiritedness, has aided largely in advancing the interests of the county from its organization to the present. He is one of the very few persons now alive who has lived under the administration of every President, from Washington to Arthur. Venerable with age, Mr. Greene still lives in the midst of his fellow citizens, honored and revered by all who know him.
J. RICHARD HAWTHORNE
is a native of Robinson county. North Carolina, where he was born March 8th, 1805. Five years later, his father removed, with his family, to Wilkinson county, Georgia. Here the family resided until 1817, when they removed to Conecuh county. The first place of permanent residence was near the home of the late Henry Stanley, now in the beautiful little village of Bellville. Here was pitched the family tent when Richard was a bright boy of twelve summers. At the time of the settlement of this locality it was known as "The Ponds" - a name derived from the extensive lakes which lay to the east of the community. Highly gifted with native powers, mental and physical, Mr. Hawthorne's influence was felt as he advanced toward the period of manhood's perfect mould. He was equal to the hardships incident to a frontier section, and from straitened circumstances he rose to the possession of considerable wealth. In 1837 Mr. Hawthorne was the nominee of his (the Democratic) party, against a very formidable opponent, Jephtha V. Ferryman. And though he belonged to the minority party of the county, his popularity came well nigh securing for him the laurels of the contest. For when the ballots were counted he came within seven votes of victory. No man who has ever lived in Conecuh exerted a broader or more wholesome influence, than did J. Richard Hawthorne. His zeal in all matters relating to the public weal was proverbial. He occupied several positions of public trust before his removal to another section. In 1854 he removed to Pine Apple, Wilcox county. Here his influence was not inactive, and soon public appreciation summoned him to active usefulness. He was sent to represent the county in two terms of the Legislature, and has been frequently called upon to act in matters requiring calm and dispassionate consideration. He has reared a large and respectable family, and accumulated considerable property. He still lives to wield a godly influence in the promotion of the general good. Generous, hospitable as a prince, warm-hearted and public-spirited, and above all, a devout Christian gentleman, his usefulness is destined to be commensurate with his days.
JEPHTHA V. FERRYMAN,
to whom reference has been had several times in the progress of this history, was born in Twiggs county, Georgia, February 9th, 1798. Thence he removed to Henry county, and after his marriage to Miss Jones, he removed to Conecuh, and erected a home on the west side of Murder creek, opposite the present site of Evergreen. He was among the first judges of the county court, having occupied this position as early as 1835. After serving the county one year in the administration of justice, he resigned, and became the Whig candidate for the Legislature. He was the Representative of the county for two successive terms, during which time he was efficient in aiding 'the State to pass through the financial storm that was sweeping the country. This ended his activity in public life for a number of years. In 1858 or 1859 he was made the superintendent of education for the county. And again did he re-enlist, with all the ardor of his nature, in the promotion of public improvements. The projected railroad from Montgomery to Pensacola fired his enthusiasm and enlisted his activity to the utmost tension. Not only did he liberally contribute of his purse to the undertaking, but engaged as one of the contractors to build the road, and it is thought undue exposure, incidental to his work, produced sickness, and finally death, which took place at his home, on March 30th, 1861 - just a few days prior to the completion of the two ends of the road. Judge Ferryman was the embodiment of a positive nature. He lived in an atmosphere entirely above the reach of the petty arts with which politicians sometimes seek to woo the masses. If convinced of the correctness of a given course of conduct, the force of public opinion was as weak as the breath of the zephyr. He was firm, without being obstinate ; positive, without being stern. To him the town of Evergreen is largely indebted. His earnest spirit gave life to many of its first improvements. He was notably identified with the establishment of the academy in the town. The same ardency that fired his zeal whenever he addressed his energy to an undertaking, gave a glow to his patriotism at the sound of the tocsin of war. When Lincoln was declared elected. Judge Ferryman tendered, by telegraph, to Gov. A. B. Moore - then the Chief Executive of the State - his two sons and five thousand dollars. The beauty that invested his useful life was, that whatever he undertook, he did it -without ostentation. Duty was his pole-star, and not the opinions of his fellows. He is described as having been exceedingly liberal and hospitable. "No petty avarice, no sordid ambition, characterized a single act of his life, and whatever fault may have been imputed to him, no one thought him capable of a dishonorable act." In the bosom of his family, and surrounded by his friends, he died at home, and was interred on the Franklin Plantation - the burial ground of his father-in-law, William Jones, Sr. Within a short distance of his first home in Conecuh, his dust is slumbering to-day.
came to Conecuh and located at Hampden Ridge as early as 1820. His native State was Georgia, where he was born in the year 1777. Mr. Burnett was the possessor of such elements of character as made him conspicuous among his fellow citizens. Quite social in his disposition, jocular and hospitable, and withal, the possessor of considerable executive ability, he was remarkably popular. As a result, he had been a resident of the county only ten years, when he was chosen judge of the county court. In this honored capacity he served Conecuh for two successive terms. During the terms of service as county judge, he would go from his home, on Hampden Ridge, to the court house, at Sparta, every day and return. An anecdote is related of him, as connected with one of his trips from the court house to his home, and as illustrative of his confidence in his favorite steed, as well as of the exuberance of his humor, even under trying circumstances. According to his daily habit, he left his office, at Sparta, late one afternoon, in mid-winter, and though he knew the swollen condition of Murder creek, and that the waters had swept away the bridge, he resolved to cross the dangerous stream and reach Hampden Ridge before night. Some friends, after endeavoring to dissuade him from such a mad-cap purpose, followed closely after him as soon as his departure had been ascertained. To their dismay they found, on reaching the deep stream, that he had been swept from his horse, and had succeeded in clutching hold of the trunk of a magnolia that was projecting into the waters. Astride this, with his body of 225 pounds, avoirdupois, going upward and downward, with the see-saw motion of the huge log, he was first beheld by the anxious eyes of his friends. In response to the question, " What are you doing up there. Judge?" he replied, "Ah, gentlemen, I'm navigating!" In his business relations Judge Burnett is said to have been scrupulously exact, spurning the thought of indebtedness to any one, and positively forbidding any one to owe him. He was the parent of eight children, most of whom lived in Conecuh, and themselves reared families of influence. John D. Burnett, Esq., a young attorney, of Evergreen, and among the most promising young men of the county, is a grandson of Judge Samuel Burnett. The subject of this sketch died at his old home, on Hampden Ridge, in 1839.
HENRY FRANKLIN STEARNS.
About the year 1830 there came to Conecuh a young Canadian, of pleasant address, and with a liberal education. A stranger amid strangers, he is said to have spent a night at the home of Alexander Autrey, on Hampden Ridge. Mr. Autrey, having learned that he was a young man just beginning his rough encounters with the world, and having been pleased with the unusual promise coached in the elegant gentleman, and more with his pronounced principles of Universalism, gave him some substantial aid, and rendered him valuable service in securing his introduction into Conecuh. This young man was the subject of this sketch. Henry Franklin Stearns was born in the county of Stanstead, Dominion of Canada, province of Ontario, on March 21st, 1805. He was of English parentage. He was graduated from a college in New Brunswick. In 1830 he came to Conecuh, and found employment in teaching a school for some time near Bellville. Shortly after this he addressed himself to the study of the law, and was admitted to practice in 1834 or 1835. At that time ample scope was afforded him for the exercise of his legal powers, and he entered at once upon a successful practice. He had continued his practice but about two years, however, when he was appointed judge of the county court. Judge Stearns was noted for his invincible zeal. In him every cause which he espoused found an ardent advocate. By discreet management he accumulated a respectable property. The hospitable spirit, so characteristic of the well-to-do residents of Conecuh, was entirely congenial with Judge Stearns when he became a citizen of the county. At one time he was the candidate of his (the Whig) party for Representative in the General Assembly ; and though his party was in the majority in the county, he sustained defeat. This was due however, to the fact that he was of Northern birth. He was honored with being a delegate to the National Whig Convention which nominated Henry Clay for the Presidency. At the time of his death, Judge Stearns had in course of successful prosecution a plan for the establishment of a cotton factory at Fowler's Mills. His waning health forbade the execution of a work, which, had it been successful, would have conferred lasting benefits upon the county at large. In 1856 he went to Texas in the interest of a plantation in that State. Returning home during the following year, he was able to get no nearer than Claiborne, Monroe county, where he died, on February 3rd, 1857. Here, too, was the resting place of his remains.
came to Conecuh about 1819. He was an emigrant from Ireland. At the time of his removal to this county, Bellville, then called "The Ponds," was one of the most prominent settlements in Conecuh. He is said to have been quiet, unobtrusive and enterprising. The vast ponds which bound the community on the east, he determined to drain - and accordingly dug a ditch of great length and considerable depth, which crosses the road just below Bellville. In honor of John Bell the beautiful village was finally named. The time of his death is not known. He sleeps beneath the sod, under a wide-spreading tree, near the home of Mrs. Stanley.
Conecuh from 1845 to 1855 - Status of the County at this Period - Acrimonious Politics- Sad Tragedy- Steam Navigation of Conecuh- A Disaster and a Protracted Law Suit - Caterpillars- Mexican War - Sickness in the County, &c.
This period introduces us into the midst of stirring scenes. By its increased facilities the county was now brought into easy communication with the world beyond. A new generation of men had been reared upon her soil, and were corning rapidly to the front, to the assumption of the control of affairs, - men who were in sympathy with the over- reaching strides of advancement now being made in all departments.
The fertile lands of Conecuh, and their prodigious yield, had drawn industry and capital from various directions, until now the population of Conecuh had reached almost ten thousand. Business, in all its branches, was thriving, - and many of the citizens of the county were becoming immensely wealthy. The indications of prosperity were evident in the elegant homes, the extensive plantations - tilled now by numerous slaves - the comfortable " negro quarters," the neatly built churches and school houses, and the magnificent equipages of many of the wealthiest families. What a transformation had been produced in the county within a period of three and a half decades ! The hand of Industry had made the wilderness to blossom as the rose.
But that which was engrossing more and more public attention was, the political issues of the period. The alternating victories secured by both parties kept them constantly on the alert. The greatest care had to be taken to avoid the mistake of placing any other in the field than the most popular man. The standard bearer of the Democratic hosts in the county, in 1845, was James A. Stallworth; that of the Whigs was Mortimer Boulware. Mr. Stallworth was a young man, who was just now catching public attention by the brilliancy of his oratory, and by the readiness with which he grappled with the issues of his opponents. He found in Mr. Boulware a formidable opponent. The county was never more thoroughly canvassed and aroused. Everywhere the zealous candidates were met by vast crowds. In the election which followed, both parties strained their facilities to the utmost tension. Mr. Stallworth bore off the palm of victory, and thus commenced a brilliant political career, as will be seen in the future history of the county.
In March of this year, a sad tragedy occurred in the vicinity of Bellville, which, because of its connection with one of the most distinguished families of Conecuh, cast a gloom over the whole county. A freedman, who was popularly known as "Free Henry," in a encounter with Joshua and James Hawthorne - two sons of Col. J. E. Hawthorne - fatally stabbed the latter named young man. The freedman was arrested, lodged in jail, at Sparta, at the approaching term of court convicted of murder, and was publicly executed by hanging, in October of the same year.
The success which had constantly attended the navigation of the Conecuh by raft boats, excited a desire finally to launch upon her waters a more stately craft, and one in more apt keeping with modern advancement. Accordingly a meeting was called at Brooklyn, in August, 1845, to consider the feasibility of undertaking the navigation of the river by steam. It was called the Steam Navigation Meeting. It was the occasion of much interest, many of the wealthiest and most enterprising gentlemen of the county having responded to- the call. The advisability of such an enterprise was duly considered, and a stock company was formed. Subsequently the steamer "Shaw" was purchased, duly manned, and started on a trip up the river. Expectations became more sanguine still, when the steamer had reached Brooklyn landing without hindrance or disaster. The boat, unloaded of its cargo of supplies, which it had borne up the stream from Pensacola, was re-loaded with cotton, and, amid the most jubilant expectations, started southward. But, alas! when it had descended the stream but a short distance, it struck an unfriendly snag and was
sunk, and with it sank the hopes of the ardent instigators of the enterprise. The whole cargo was lost.
Mr. George Turk - the father of Laban Turk, of Monroe - was the principal loser, having on board most of the cotton. The result of this sad catastrophe was a protracted law suit between Mr. Turk and the stock company, which terminated in favor of the plaintiff. Thus ended all efforts to propel boats, by steam, upon the Conecuh river. This enhanced the value of Claiborne, Monroe county, for it was now the most accessible shipping and receiving point to the planters and merchants of Conecuh.
A sudden check was placed upon the prosperity of the county in 1846, by the destruction of the cotton by the caterpillar. So sudden and wide-spread were the ravages of the cotton worm, that the crop of that year came- well nigh proving a failure. During this year, too, there was an alarming prevalence of pneumonia in Conecuh. It spread with violence in all portions of the county, and did not cease its ravages for several years together. The year 1846 is memorable in the annals of the country as the beginning of hostilities between the United States and Mexico. During the latter part of this year several victories had been achieved by General Taylor. When the news of bloodshed, and his splendid successes, reached the States, crowds of volunteers demanded the acceptance of their services. Nor did the patriotism of the Conecuhians lie dormant, while others, from different sections, were rallying beneath the American banner. It is to be regretted that the names of but two of the brave patriots of Conecuh, who enlisted in this war, can be secured. These are William R King and Mark Travis. The former of these died in service in Mexico, and his remains were sent home and interred in the graveyard at Bellville. Mr. Travis survived the war, and returned to his home, bearing the mark of a wound received in the battle of Cherubusco.
The only interest which attaches to the history of the county for several years together, subsequent to the period already adverted to, is that which gathers around the political contests. The Democratic Party, having been led to victory in 1845, under the leadership of their young champion, James A. Stallworth, continued to hold the majority .of the popular vote until 1849. At this period the Whigs nominated William A. Ashley as their candidate for legislative honors. Through personal popularity, as an able advocate of the principles of the Whig Party, Mr. Ashley succeeded in securing triumph to his party, and marked distinction to himself. This was to him the beginning of a very long and popular career as a leader in Conecuh. Such was his acceptance during his term of service, that he was rewarded by his party with a second nomination and was again elected by the popular voice of the county. Political supremacy was held now by the Whigs until 1857. For after Mr. Ashley had been elected State Senator, Andrew Jay became the favored leader of the party, by which he was honored with two successive terms of office in the lower house of the General Assembly.
With 1854 came the first railroad excitement ever experienced by the people of Conecuh. Prodigious advantages were promised the people of the county if they would only aid in the construction of the Mobile and Girard Railroad. Eloquent agents depicted in glowing description, the advantages which must accrue to the county by the projected enterprise, and thus succeeded in booking handsome subscriptions from very many of the citizens. The total failure to reap any benefits from the road, bred dissatisfaction and gave rise to serious litigation, which resulted in the recovery of a portion of the funds contributed to the establishment of the enterprise. A comparative lull of several years followed this period.
The following is a list of county officers who served during the decade included between 1845 and 1855 :
1849 - P. D. Castillo. - (Appointed to fill an unexpired term. The following year the office was abolished. )
1850- A. D. Gary.
1847- John D. Travis - (Resigned the following year.)
1848- William M. Stallworth. - (Appointed.)
1851 - Stephen Richardson.
1854 - George Christian.
1849- Mark B. Travis.
1855- Mark B. Travis.
1837- 1841- Jordan B. Lewis. (This should have been embodied in the earlier list, but was overlooked,)
1841- 1845-John D. Gary.
1845- 1849- John D. Gary.
1849- 1850- Sherman G. Forbes, (Office universally abolished in 1850 throughout the State. )
1847 - John Morrisett.
1851 - William Perry Leslie.
1853- William A. Ashley.
1845 - James A. Stallworth.
1847- James A. Stallworth.
1849- William A. Ashley.
1851- William A. Ashley.
1853 - Andrew Jay.
1855 - Andrew Jay.