Saturday, January 21, 2017

Singleton remembers the good days spent with his childhood friend, 'Uncle Tony'

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Uncle Tony remembered” was originally published in the Dec. 18, 2003 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Uncle Tony was an old man who didn’t have a family to look after him in his old age. So my father, who had known him for many years, took the old man under his wing, so to speak, and looked out for his well-being.

A small house was built nearby, and Uncle Tony took up housekeeping. The food that he ate came from our table. There was always plenty prepared, so there wasn’t any bother when two or three extra were around at mealtime. There was a small table out on the back porch for the unexpected guests.

My darling mother was an outstanding cook and supervisor of the kitchen. When mealtime came around, there were almost always an extra guest or two. Many wanderers and vagabonds who came that way knew this and when they were in the area, they always showed up around mealtime. My dear mother never turned anyone away hungry.

Uncle Tony was born a child of slave parents. As close as anyone could calculate, he was born around 1850, give or take a year or so. He was in excellent physical condition despite his advanced age.

He could walk with the best of them. Ten or 12 miles at one time didn’t phase Uncle Tony. He had a special church that he liked to attend. The church was around four miles one way from where we lived.

He didn’t think anything about walking to this church each Sunday and return. My father insisted that the old man ride one of the horses that we had there on the farm. He refused, because he said that he didn’t want to be bothered with the animal.

One year for Christmas, Uncle Tony became the proud owner of a new blue serge suit. This suit came complete with a white shirt, necktie and a new pair of shoes. Giving him the new shoes was thought to be a waste of money by all who knew him. No one ever saw the old man ever wearing shoes.

Winter or summer, the old man would walk around barefoot; ice or snow didn’t phase Uncle Tony. So he would dress up in his new suit, complete with necktie, and to walk barefoot the distance to the church he enjoyed going to.

To please my father, who had raised a considerable amount of heck because the old man wouldn’t wear his new shoes he had bought him, Uncle Tony would put on his new shoes and wear them a short distance from the house. Here, he would pull them off and hide the shoes until his return trip home that afternoon. He would put them on and come walking proudly up the road as though he had worn them all day long.

This went on for several weeks until my father got wind of what the old man was doing. My father proceeded to follow Uncle Tony to the place where he would always hide his shoes. My father took the shoes and hid them in the barn for several weeks. Uncle Tony searched far and wide for his lost Sunday shoes, only to find out later that my father had them all the time.

During the time he had the shoes hidden, my father would question the old man about how his shoes were wearing. The answer was always: “They wear so good. I hardly know I got them on.”

As a small boy of five years of age, I learned much from this gentle old man. I tasted my first tobacco in a corncob pipe the old man had secretly made for me. Each time I smoked the crude pipe, my dear friend would tell me that I should swallow the smoke.

I would get terribly sick, and I suppose this is why I never cultivated the habit of smoking. Looking back, I believe the old man knew what he was doing; he stopped the habit before it started.

I would spend many hours in the evenings after the work day was completed and after the supper meal had been eaten with the old man. I would sit and listen to the many tall tales that Uncle Tony retrieved from his outstanding memory.

As a younger man, he had worked for the Ringling Bros. Circus as a laborer. During this time, he had picked up several small magic tricks that he would entertain me with for hours on end. Always, he would tell me that one day when I grew older; he was going to teach these tricks to me. The magic tricks and the many tall tales from his circus experience kept a small farm boy spellbound and wide-eyed for hours on end.

My father, out of necessity, was a self-trained blacksmith. He did all the work that he had to do to keep the farm equipment going in a small shed out near the barn. Many times, during the cold days of the winter months, he would sharpen his plows and repair his farm equipment and that of the neighbors, for spring planting and the farm year ahead.

On one of these old winter days, everyone was huddled around the small fire in the blacksmith forge to try and keep warm, all the while keeping a good bull session going also. Uncle Tony was there, barefoot as usual. My father had just heated a piece of iron to be used in the repair of a plow point. He had heated the iron red hot and had cut a small piece off the larger piece. The small piece of the red hot iron had fallen to the dirt floor of the shop almost unnoticed.

Everyone there began to notice the burning odor of what appeared to be skin or leather burning. To everyone’s amazement, Uncle Tony had stepped backward on the piece of red hot iron. The burning odor was from the burning skin of the old man’s foot. Uncle Tony’s foot was so tough that he hadn’t really noticed that his foot was on the red hot piece of iron.

This tale was told and retold many times by those present that cold day there in the small blacksmith shop. During the remaining years of the old man’s life, hardly a day passed that Uncle Tony wasn’t reminded and kidded about him standing on the red hot piece of iron.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

Today in History for Jan. 21, 2017

James Adams Stallworth
Jan. 21, 1527 – Spanish explorer Juan de Grijalva died in Nicaragua.

Jan. 21, 1738 - Ethan Allen, future Revolutionary War hero and key founder of the Republic of Vermont, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Jan. 21, 1789 – The first American novel, “The Power of Sympathy” or the “Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth,” was printed in Boston.

Jan. 21, 1793 – France’s King Louis XVI was beheaded for treason in Paris, one of tens of thousands of victims of the French Revolution.

Jan. 21, 1795 – English navigator and explorer Samuel Wallis was born near Camelford, Cornwall.

Jan. 21, 1812-ca. – Joseph Tarpley Peacock, the first son of Levi and Martha Peacock and the father of Lewis Lavon Peacock, was born in Wilkinson County, Ga.

Jan. 21, 1813 – General, explorer and politician John C. Frémont was born in Savannah, Ga.

Jan. 21, 1815 - Alabama author Joseph Glover Baldwin was born in Friendly Grove Factory, Va.

Jan. 21, 1824 – Civil War general Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Va.

Jan. 21, 1846 – Confederate veteran Robert Baxter Platt Jr. was born in Evergreen, Ala. During the Civil War, he served in Co. H of the 1st Mississippi Cavalry and was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor. After the war, he was a Methodist minister and a cotton broker. He passed away on March 29, 1934 and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tenn.

Jan. 21, 1846 – The Alabama legislature selected Montgomery as the state’s new capital and later began its first session there on Dec. 6, 1847.

Jan. 21, 1846 - The first issue of the "Daily News," edited by Charles Dickens, was published.

Jan. 21, 1861 – James Adams Stallworth of Evergreen, Ala., who began serving in the U.S. Congress in March 1857, withdrew with the rest of the Alabama delegation when Alabama seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War.

Jan. 21, 1861 – Former U.S. Secretary of War and the future president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, bid farewell in a speech in the U.S. Congressional Chambers and resigned from the U.S. Senate. Four other Southerners also resigned, including Clement C. Clay Jr. and Benjamin Fitzpatrick of Alabama and Stephen R. Mallory and David L Yulee of Florida.

Jan. 21, 1862 – During the Civil War, Union Brig. Gen John Alexander McClernand returned to his base of operations at Columbus, Ky.

Jan. 21, 1863 - Rebels recaptured Sabine Pass, Texas, and opened an important port for the Confederacy. Two Confederate ships, the Bell and Uncle Ben, drove away two Union ships, the Morning Light and Velocity. The event is known as the First Battle of Sabine Pass.

Jan. 21, 1863 – A skirmish was fought in the vicinity of Columbia, Mo. and on the Shelbyville Pike, Tenn. A three-day Federal reconnaissance began between Murfreesborough and Cainsville, Tenn. Union Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter was officially cashiered from the Union Army by order of President Lincoln. This order would be revoked in 1879 after a military review, and Porter would be reinstated as a Colonel in the Regular Army in 1886 without any back pay.

Jan. 21, 1864 – During the Civil war, a five-day Federal operation began between Waldron and Baker’s ‘Springs, Ark., and a two-day Federal operation began between Rossville and Dalton, Ga. A Federal reconnaissance was conducted from Chattanooga to Ooltewah, Tenn., and skirmishes were fought at Strawberry Plaines and Armstrong’s Ferry, Tenn. A five-day Federal reconnaissance began on the Matagorda Peninsula, Texas.

Jan. 21, 1865 - A two-day Federal operation began from Brashear City to Bayou Sorrel, La.

Jan. 21, 1869 – Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin was born in Pokrovskoye, Siberia.

Jan. 21, 1884 – Roger Nash Baldwin, one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union, was born in Wellesley, Mass.

Jan. 21, 1885 – Italian engineer and explorer Umberto Nobile was born in Lauro, in the southern Italian province of Avellino.

Jan. 21, 1895 – A man and a woman were killed by lightning near Suggsville, Ala. on this Monday. They were among 10 people who had “taken shelter from the rain in a small house, and it was said that “electricity came down the chimney and passed out at the door knocking” all of them down and killing two.

Jan. 21, 1905 – Fashion designer Christian Dior was born in Granville, France.

Jan. 21, 1915 – The Monroe Journal carried a story about Judge T.L. Sowell’s gold watch, which the judge’s father bought in New York City in 1847. During Wilson’s raid through Alabama in 1865, Judge Sowell’s father hid the watch in a glass jar with other valuables and buried them in the woods near his home in Monroe County, where they remained safe for three months. Judge Sowell received the watch, which was made in Liverpool, England, for his 21st birthday.

Jan. 21, 1918 - “The Eyes of Mystery,” a movie version of Alabama author Octavus Roy Cohen's book “The House in the Mist,” was released.

Jan. 21, 1924 - In Moscow on this evening, shock and near-hysterical grief greeted the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Jan. 21, 1925 – Austrian-born English novelist Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, Austria.

Jan. 21, 1936 - The pouring of the concrete on the Monroeville, Ala. square paving project started on this Tuesday afternoon. Although the gaps to be filled were prepared for the concrete several weeks before, work had been held up because of the weather and also the lack of some of the necessary materials.

Jan. 21, 1936 - Work began on this Tuesday on the foundation of the new Eastern Star Hall to be erected in the southern part of Monroeville, Ala. It was hoped to be ready for use within 60 days.

Jan. 21, 1937 – The Monroe Journal reported that Judge F.W. Hare had presided over Circuit Court in Mobile, Ala. during the past week. He was spending the week of Jan. 21 in Brewton where he was holding a non-jury term of court in Escambia County.

Jan. 21, 1937 – The Monroe Journal reported that at a regular annual meeting of the stockholders of the Peoples Bank of Frisco City, held the previous week, the following officers and directors were elected for 1937: President, J.B. Barnett; vice-president, J.J. McWilliams; cashier, W.A. Giddens; assistant cashier, J.A. Hayles; directors, J.B. Barnett, J.J. McWilliams, O. McNeil, W.M. Williams, John T. Lee, C.A. Florey, W.A. Giddens and Q. Salter.

Jan. 21, 1938 - Alabama author Julia Fields was born in Perry County, Ala.

Jan. 21, 1940 – The Gloria Colita (Colite?), a 125-foot schooner, sailed from Mobile on this day, loaded with a cargo of lumber bound for Guantanamo, Cuba. On Sun., Feb. 4, 1940, the Coast Guard cutter Cartigan found the Gloria Colita “adrift, crippled and unmanned” with everything in order about 150 to 200 miles south of Mobile in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jan. 21, 1952 – William Shawn took up the reins of The New Yorker, after the death of his predecessor and the magazine's founder, Harold Ross.

Jan. 21, 1952 – Pulitzer Prize-winning American critic, scholar and essayist Louis Menand was born in Syracuse, N.Y.

Jan. 21, 1954 - The first nuclear-powered submarine, USS NAUTILUS, was launched by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, who broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the ship's bow.

Jan. 21, 1965 – The Evergreen Courant reported that The Birmingham News had named Repton High School as the 1964 Division 1-A football champions after the Bulldogs finished the season with a 5-1-3 overall record. Repton’s head coach during the 1964 season was Gene Madison, and players on that game included Capt. Jimmy Bradley, Nicky Thompson, Robert Lowery, Dwight Jerkins and Glenn Baggett. The results of Repton’s games in 1964 included, Baker (Fla.), won, 7-0; Excel, won, 14-6; Lyeffion, 0-0; Coffeeville, 0-0; Red Level, 12-12; McKenzie, lost, 13-6; Dozier, won, 31-0; Coffee Springs, won, 49-0; and Zion Chapel, won, 49-0.

Jan. 21, 1965 – Conecuh County’s 1965 Junior Miss, Sally Oswald, was to participate in the State Junior Miss Finals in Birmingham, Ala. on this Thursday.

Jan. 21, 1968 – The Battle of Khe Sanh, one of the most publicized and controversial battles of the Vietnam War, began, 14 miles below the DMZ and six miles from the Laotian border. Luther Upton was there with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Jan. 21, 1973 - The AFC beat the NFC, 35-31, in the NFL Pro Bowl in Dallas. The game had been played in Los Angeles since 1942.

Jan. 21, 1976 – Singer-songwriter and actress Emma Bunton of the Spice Girls was born in Finchley, London, England.

Jan. 21, 1976 – Olympic baseball player Patrick de Lange was born in Amsterdam.

Jan. 21, 1977 – United States President Jimmy Carter pardoned nearly all American Vietnam War draft evaders, some of whom had emigrated to Canada.

Jan. 21, 1979 - The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys, 35-31, in Super Bowl XIII. The Steelers became the first team to win three Super Bowls.

Jan. 21, 1983 - In his second D.B. Cooper copycat incident, Glenn K. Tripp, while still on probation, hijacked Northwest Flight 608 en route and demanded to be flown to Afghanistan. When the plane landed in Portland he was shot and killed by FBI agents.

Jan. 21, 1983 – The Evergreen Chamber of Commerce held its annual “Promotion Banquet” at 7 p.m. at the Old L&N Depot in Evergreen. Escambia County native Dr. Stanley Wilson, Vice President for Agriculture, Home Economics and Veterinary Science at Auburn University, was the guest speaker.

Jan. 21-22, 1983 – Missy Price, Conecuh County’s Junior Miss, represented Conecuh County in the 1983 Alabama Junior Miss Pageant at Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala.

Jan. 21, 1986 - Former Major League player, Randy Bass, became the highest-paid baseball player in Japanese history. Bass signed a three-year contract for $3.25 million. He played for the Hanshin Tigers.

Jan. 21, 1993 – National Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer died at the age of 89 in Bloomfield Hill, Mich. He played his entire career for the Detroit Tigers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949.

Jan. 21, 1994 – Episode No. 14 of “The X-Files” – entitled “Gender Bender” – aired for the first time.

Jan. 21, 1994 – The New Evergreen (Ala.) Commercial Historic District was placed on National Register of Historic Places.

Jan. 21, 1994 – Sparta Academy’s varsity boys basketball team beat Catherine Academy, 72-69, in Evergreen. Britt Ward, a senior, led Sparta with 27 points, and James Johnson followed with 16 points.

Jan. 21, 1997 - Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees officially announced his retirement.

Jan. 21, 1998 – Betty Lou Dougherty, 57, of Asheville, N.C. was last seen after visiting Montgomery, Gulf Shores, Tuscaloosa and Hamilton. Her rental car was found in the Range, Ala. community in February 1998, and her family hired a private investigator to find the woman in March 1998.

Jan. 21, 2010 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Reid State Technical College in Evergreen, Ala. was to be featured in a segment of “On the Job,” a Montgomery-produced television program airing weekly on Alabama Public Television and WSFA-TV 12.2.

Jan. 21, 2012 - The 1964 Miller-Meteor Cadillac hearse that carried President Kennedy’s body from Parkland Memorial Hospital to Love Field for the flight to Washington, D.C. was sold at auction. Stephen Tebo paid $176,000 at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in Scottsdale, AZ.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., Jan. 21, 2017

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): Trace.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.70

Month to Date Rainfall:  12.30 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 12.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.30 inches

Notes: Today is the 21st day of 2017 and the 31st day of Winter. There are 344 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834N Lon 87.30131W. Elevation 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Friday, January 20, 2017

'WALK TO MORDOR' UPDATE: 1,086 miles down and 713 miles to go

Aragorn, paddling his boat down the river.
I continued my (virtual) “Walk to Mordor” during the past week by logging 10 more miles since my last update. I walked/jogged five miles on Saturday and five more miles today (Friday). So far, I’ve logged 1,086 total miles on this virtual trip to Mount Doom, and I’ve got 713 more miles to go before I reach Mordor. All in all, I’ve completed about 60.4 percent of the total trip.


In relation to Frodo’s journey, I’m on the fifth day of the trip past Lothlorien, which is Feb. 20 on the Middle Earth calendar. I left off my last update on Mile 1076, which one mile past where, just at dusk on Feb. 19, Sam spots Gollum on a log. Eight miles later, at Mile 1084, Frodo’s group, the Fellowship of the Ring, camped on a small eyot near the river’s western shore. Sam and Frodo pulled watch duty, and Gollum appeared during Frodo’s watch. Aragorn woke and watched until the morning.


The group broke camp early the next morning, Feb. 20, and left while the morning was still young. They paddled for long periods of time, and the weather was still overcast with winds out of the east. I’ve traveled three miles from the start of the day, to Mile 1086, and the next significant milestone comes four miles later at Mile 1090, where the river curves east with wolds on both sides.


For those of you reading this for the first time, I began this “Walk to Mordor” fitness challenge on Jan. 1, 2015. Using a book called “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” by Karen Wynn Fonstad, fans of “The Lord of the Rings” created this challenge by mapping out Frodo’s fictional trek to Mordor, calculating the total distance at 1,799 miles. They also used the original "Lord of the Rings" text to outline the journey, so you can follow their route by keeping up with your total mileage.


The folks who worked out the nuts and bolts of this virtual journey have divided it into four parts. It’s 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 462 miles from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien, 389 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls and 470 miles from Rauros to Mount Doom. (Those locations should sound very familiar to “Lord of the Rings” fans.) The hobbits averaged 18 miles a day, but if you walk (or jog, as I sometimes do) five miles a day, it’s possible to cover 1,799 miles in a year.


If you’re interested in learning more about the “Walk to Mordor Challenge,” I suggest you check out two Web sites, and Both of these sites provide a ton of details about the challenge, including how to get started.


In the end, check back next Friday for another update and to see how much closer I am to Mordor. I hope to knock out at least nine more miles next week, and I’ll include all that in my update next week.

Today in History for Jan. 20, 2017

'Mystery Stone' grave of Fred David McClammy
Jan. 20, 1692 – In connection with the Salem witchcraft trials, 11-year-old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris begin behaving much as the Goodwin children of Boston acted three years earlier. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem girls begin acting similarly.

Jan. 20, 1702 - French colonists, led by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, established Fort Louis de la Mobile on a bluff 27 miles up the Mobile River from Mobile Bay. The settlement, soon known simply as "Mobile," moved to its permanent site at the mouth of the Mobile River in 1711. It served as the capital of the colony of Louisiana from its founding to 1718.

Jan. 20, 1777 - Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson led 400 raw men from the New Jersey militia and 50 Pennsylvania riflemen under Captain Robert Durkee in an attack against a group of 500 British soldiers foraging for food led by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby near Van Nest’s Mills in Millstone, New Jersey.

Jan. 20, 1783 – The Kingdom of Great Britain signed a peace treaty with France and Spain, officially ending hostilities in the American Revolutionary War.

Jan. 20, 1785 – Invading Siamese forces attempted to exploit the political chaos in Vietnam, but were ambushed and annihilated at the Mekong river by the Tây Sơn in the Battle of Rạch Gầm-Xoài Mút.

Jan. 20, 1788 – The third and main part of First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay. Arthur Phillip decided that Botany Bay was unsuitable for the location of a penal colony and decided to move to Port Jackson.

Jan. 20, 1818 – The City of Mobile, Ala. was officially incorporated as a municipality.

Jan. 20, 1820 – John Dudley Cary was born in Sumter District, S.C. He would eventually move to Conecuh County, where he served as Conecuh County Clerk and as a state legislator.

Jan. 20, 1825 – During his tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette left Baltimore on a steamboat bound for Norfolk, on his way to visit the legislature of Virginia at Richmond.

Jan. 20, 1830 - Lowndes County was established by an act of the Alabama General Assembly. The county was named in honor of William Lowndes, a U.S. congressman from South Carolina. The earliest settlers came to the area from Georgia and Tennessee.

Jan. 20, 1841 – Danish adventurer Jørgen Jørgensen died at the age of 60 in the Colonial Hospital in Hobart, Van Diemen's Land.

Jan. 20, 1841 – Vietnamese emperor Minh Mạng died at the age of 49 in Phú Xuân, Đại Nam.

Jan. 20, 1858 - On this night, the USCS Robert J. Walker was at Pensacola, Fla. when a major fire broke out at Fort Pickens. The ship's men and boats, along with the hydrographic party of the U.S. Coast Survey steamboat USCS Varina, rallied to fight the fire. The next day, the commanding officer of the Robert J. Walker received a communication from Captain John Newton of the Army Corps of Engineers, who commanded the harbor of Pensacola, acknowledging the important firefighting service rendered by the Robert J. Walker.

Jan. 20, 1861 – During the Civil War, the unfinished Fort Twiggs, later named Fort Massachusetts, on Ship Island, off the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was seized by Mississippi State troops.

Jan. 20, 1862 – During the Civil War, Federal operations began in the vicinity of Atchison, Kansas. Also on that day, a second stone barricade was put in place at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, S.C. by the Federals in an attempt to prevent Confederate blockade runners from entering.

Jan. 20, 1863 – During the Civil War, Patterson, Mo. was captured by Confederate Brig. Gen. John Marmaduke. A skirmish was also fought out from Jacksonville, N.C.

Jan. 20, 1863 - Union General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac began an offensive, now known as the “Mud March,” against General Robert E. Lee. The operation quickly bogs down as several days of heavy rain turn the roads of Virginia into a muddy quagmire. The campaign was abandoned three days later, and the campaign was considered so disastrous that Burnside was removed as commander of the army on January 25.

Jan. 20, 1864 – During the Civil War, naval reconnaissance began of Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan, at the mouth of Mobile Bay in Mobile, Ala. Skirmishes were also fought at Island Number 76 on the Mississippi River and a Tracy City, Tenn. An eight-day Federal operation also began in the District of North Carolina.

Jan. 20, 1865 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Point of Rocks and Ft. Larned, Kansas. A Federal operation was also conducted between Pocotaligo to the Salkehatchie River, S.C.

Jan. 20, 1874 – Hugh T. Fountain was named postmaster at Burnt Corn, Ala.

Jan. 20, 1885 – Monroe Journal editor Horace Hood left Monroeville, Ala. for Montgomery to be present at the opening of the state legislature on Jan. 21.

Jan. 20, 1889 – Musician Huddie William Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, was born on or near this day in Mooringsport, La.

Jan. 20, 1891 - In Italy, a luminous object or meteor was seen, accompanied by a fall of stones from the sky and an earthquake.

Jan. 20, 1896 - Capt. W.B. Kemp, State Senator from the 21st District, was in Monroeville, Ala. on this Monday and reported to The Journal that “everything (was) quiet in political circles in his neighborhood.”

Jan. 20, 1896 – Actor and comedian George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City.

Jan. 20, 1906 – J.W. Wilkinson of Manistee, Ala. attended the Masonic lodge at Blacksher on this Saturday, according to The Monroe Journal.

Jan. 20, 1911 – Around 6 p.m., the Dunn Hardware Co. garage and warehouse in Evergreen, Ala. was totally destroyed by fire. Caused by an oil explosion, the fire resulted in a “mass of flames” and several employees barely escaped. The next door building, which belonged to Jas. F. Jones, was almost totally destroyed and several other buildings were threatened.

Jan. 20, 1915 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Capt. J.C. Cheney had made a donation of “several volumes of very valuable reference books” to the Evergreen City School Library.

Jan. 20, 1915 - Author John Craig Stewart was born in Selma, Ala.

Jan. 20, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported that Monroeville, Ala. had “experienced this week the first real breath of winter during the season. Following the rain on Sunday, the temperature dropped with marked suddenness and sleet and ice were in evidence for three days.”

Jan. 20, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported that The Peoples Bank of Roy (present-day Frisco City, Ala.) had held its annual meeting of stockholders a few days before and had elected the following officers and directors: W.M. Newton, President; J.F. Busey, Vice President; D.M. Maxwell, Cashier; W.H. Tucker, W.H. Pearce, C.P. Deming, W.R. Blackwell, W.M. Newton, J.F. Busey and D.M. Maxwell.

Jan. 20, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported that thermometers in Evergreen, Ala. dipped down to 20 degrees during a recent cold snap.

Jan. 20, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported that an inmate died a “few nights ago” in the county jail.

Jan. 20, 1918 - On this morning during World War I, British and German forces clashed in the Aegean Sea when the German battleships Goeben and Breslau attempted a surprise raid on Allied forces off the Dardanelle Straits.

Jan. 20, 1920 – Italian film director Federico Fellini, who became famous for his 1960 film “La Dolce Vita,” was born in Rimini, Italy.

Jan. 20, 1937 - L.W. Locklin, the second son of Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Locklin of Monroeville, Ala., and the grandson of the late L.W. Locklin, whose name he bore, passed away shortly after 5 a.m. on this Wednesday morning in a Mobile hospital. He was stricken on Jan. 13 and was rushed to Mobile for an operation for appendicitis. Complications followed and throughout his illness his condition was critical. “Monroeville was stunned… at the news of the death of this popular child,” The Monroe Journal reported.

Jan. 20, 1938 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Deputy Sheriff J. Greely Moore, who was also a former county sheriff, had qualified as a candidate for Sheriff in the upcoming primary election.

Jan. 20, 1942 – During World War II, at the Wannsee Conference held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, senior Nazi German officials discussed the implementation of the "Final Solution to the Jewish question.”

Jan. 20, 1945 – Pulitzer Prize-winning Novelist and short-story writer Robert Olen Butler was born in Granite City, Ill.

Jan. 20, 1946 – Novelist Susan Vreeland was born in Racine, Wisc.

Jan. 20, 1947 – James “Big Jim” Folsom began his first term as Alabama governor on this date after being elected in 1946. His first term ended on Jan. 22, 1951 when he was succeeded by Gordon Persons.

Jan. 20, 1947 – Lloyd G. Hart began his term as Conecuh County (Ala.) Probate Judge. Roy L. Moorer was his chief clerk. Assisting clerks included Mrs. Robbye A. Hart and Miss Perry Mae Darby.

Jan. 20, 1947 – National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson died at the age of 35 in Pittsburgh, Pa. He played his entire career in the old Negro Leagues. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Jan. 20, 1948 – Millry, Ala. was officially incorporated as a municipality.

Jan. 20, 1949 - Free substitution was adopted for one year in the National Football League.

Jan. 20, 1949 - J. Edgar Hoover gave Shirley Temple a tear gas fountain pen.

Jan. 20, 1950 – Poet and author Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago, Ill.

Jan. 20, 1952 - The second annual Camellia Show in Monroeville, Ala., sponsored by the Monroe Men’s Camellia Club, was scheduled to be held at the local regional livestock coliseum on this Sunday, when camellia blooms were to be on display from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. This was to be the second show of this kind to be staged by the local group which was organized approximately three years before.

Jan. 20, 1956 – Evergreen High School’s varsity boys basketball team beat McGill of Mobile, 63-44, in Evergreen, Ala. Randy White led Evergreen with 32 points. Other standout Evergreen players in that game included Kelly, King, Pugh, Boykin, Carrier and Joyner.

Jan. 20, 1959 – Greenville High School’s varsity boys basketball team beat Evergreen High School, 74-35, in Greenville. Billy Melton led Evergreen with 11 points.

Jan. 20, 1959 – Alabama Recording Secretary Mabel Amos of Conecuh County, Ala. administered the oaths of office to the cabinet of new, incoming Alabama governor, John Malcolm Patterson.

Jan. 20, 1959 – Alabama Gov. John Patterson, who took office the day before, announced that Mabel Amos of Brooklyn, Ala. would remain in the governor’s office during the new administration. Amos, who had served in the office for 20 years, began work there in 1939 under Gov. Frank M. Dixon. She went on to serve under governors Chauncey Sparks, Jim Folsom and Gordon Persons.

Jan. 20, 1959 – Novelist Tami Hoag was born Tami Mikkelson in Cresco, Iowa.

Jan. 20, 1961 - The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States was held on this Friday at the eastern portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This 44th presidential inauguration marked the commencement of the term of John F. Kennedy as President and Lyndon B. Johnson as Vice President. According to the Jan. 12, 1961 edition of The Monroe Journal, Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Garrett of Uriah planned to be included in the delegation of Alabamians to attend the inauguration.

Jan. 20, 1961 – Eighty-seven-year old poet Robert Frost recited his poem "The Gift Outright" at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

Jan. 20, 1965 - The period of unemployment for former Conecuh County (Ala.) Probate Judge Lloyd G. Hart was very brief. The veteran judge of probate of Conecuh County ended his 18th year in office at midnight on Mon., Jan. 18, and he went to work in a position with the Alabama Public Service Commission at eight o’clock on this Wednesday morning.

Jan. 20, 1969 – During the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon was inaugurated as president of the United States and said, “After a period of confrontation [in Vietnam], we are entering an era of negotiation.”

Jan. 20, 1972 – During the Vietnam War, in continued efforts to disrupt an anticipated communist offensive, a contingent of more than 10,000 South Vietnamese troops began a sweep 45 miles northwest of Saigon to find and destroy enemy forces.

Jan. 20, 1973 – Army Sgt. Spencer E. Taylor, a 1964 graduate of Marshall High School in Evergreen, Ala., was among a group of handpicked soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg to provide a cordon along Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon.

Jan. 20, 1973 – Fred David McClammy of “Mystery Stone” fame passed away at the age of 33. He is buried in the Lone Star Cemetery at Pine Orchard.

Jan. 20, 1974 – Weather reporter Earl Windham reported. 4.6 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala.

Jan. 20, 1974 – Around 4:25 p.m. on this Sunday afternoon, Evergreen (Ala.) Assistant Police Chief Talmadge Hampton (Tal) Smith, age 65, was killed in the line of duty when he was struck by a car while crossing U.S. Highway 31 South on foot. Smith, an eight-year veteran of the police force, had just checked the doors of Taylor Auto parts and was returning to his patrol car, which was parked in front of Barlow’s Paint & Body. The car that struck Smith was driven by R.C. Trawick of Flomaton, and witnesses said the accident was unavoidable.

Jan. 20, 1979 – Weather reporter Earl Windham reported 1.87 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala.

Jan. 20, 1979 – John Coburn, 71, of Evergreen, Ala. passed away after a long illness. Coburn was a retired contractor who was associated with the group that built the houses in the first subdivision in Evergreen. He was also the contractor for many other homes, churches and buildings in Evergreen and the surrounding area.

Jan. 20, 1979 – Monroe Academy’s varsity boys basketball team remained undefeated by beating Sparta Academy, 62-44, in the Sparta Academy Invitational Tournament championship game in Evergreen, Ala. Terry Peacock led Sparta with 15 points. Peacock and Bobby Padgett were named to the all-tournament team.

Jan. 20, 1982 - Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off of a bat in Des Moines, Iowa and was hospitalized to undertake a series of rabies shots.

Jan. 20, 1985 - The most-watched Super Bowl game in history was seen by an estimated 115.9 million people. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Miami Dolphins, 38-16. Super Bowl XIX marked the first time that TV commercials sold for a million dollars a minute. Joe Montana was awarded his third MVP award.

Jan. 20, 1986 - New footage of the 1931 movie "Frankenstein" was found. The footage was originally deleted because it was considered to be too shocking.

Jan. 20-21, 1995 - Heather Watson, Conecuh County’s Junior Miss, participated in the Alabama State Junior Miss Finals in Montgomery.

Jan. 20, 2007 – A three-man team, using only skis and kites, completed a 1,093-mile trek to reach the southern pole of inaccessibility for the first time since 1958 and for the first time ever without mechanical assistance.

Jan. 20-21, 2009 – Weather reporter Harry Ellis reported low temperatures of 19 degrees in Evergreen, Ala.

Jan. 20, 2009 – Sparta Academy’s varsity girls basketball team, ranked No. 2 in the state, beat Warrior Academy, 57-17, in Eutaw, Ala.

Jan. 20, 2009 – Montgomery attorney James H. Anderson, who was representing Pete Wolff III in the ongoing lawsuit over Evergreen, Alabama’s disputed mayoral election, filed a brief in Conecuh County Circuit Court, giving his position on a number of legal points in the case. Anderson’s brief, a six-page document, made the argument that the outcome of past lawsuits and state law support Wolff’s side of the case. Wolff ran for mayor against incumbent Larry Fluker only to lose by two votes in the Oct. 7 runoff election.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Jan. 20, 2017

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.70

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.70

Month to Date Rainfall:  12.30 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 12.80 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.30 inches

Notes: Today is the 20th day of 2017 and the 30th day of Winter. There are 345 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line and south of U.S. Highway 84, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834N Lon 87.30131W. Elevation 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

'Killing Bigfoot' researchers say there are 'monsters' in Pine Orchard, Alabama

Donald McDonald speaks to Evergreen crowd Saturday.
There’s definitely “monsters” in the woods in and around Conecuh County, according to Bigfoot researchers who visited the county last week.

Donald McDonald and Michael Humphreys from the TV show “Killing Bigfoot” arrived in Conecuh County on Friday morning to investigate recent reports of Bigfoot in our area and to put on a program about Bigfoot at Saturday’s Collard Green Festival.

McDonald, who lives in Mississippi, and Humphreys, who lives in Oklahoma, teamed up on Friday afternoon with one of the biggest Bigfoot enthusiasts in our part of the state, Ashley McPhaul of Excel. They let me tag along as they investigated some of the local Bigfoot hotspots. Also in our group were the wives of McDonald and Humphreys, Vanessa and Kathy, who said they enjoy hunting for signs of Bigfoot almost as much as their husbands.

After fueling up with a big lunch out at Exit 96, we traveled the Loree Road to Bermuda and then cut north through Burnt Corn and on into the community of Pine Orchard, which sits on the Conecuh-Monroe county line. In the parking lot of the Pine Orchard Fire Station, we met an older gentleman who’d reported suspected Bigfoot activity to McPhaul several weeks ago.

McPhaul owns hunting property in the Pine Orchard community and firmly believes that Bigfoot-like creatures inhabit that area. It should be noted that McPhaul’s property is very close to the former home of the three Acreman brothers – Wesley, Virgil and Roman - who reported multiple encounters with a Bigfoot-like creature a couple of years ago.

On Friday we followed the older man to his house, got out and began to look around for tracks and any other signs of Bigfoot. As things turned out, we didn’t come up empty handed.

We entered the thick woods behind the man’s house and soon came upon unusual scratch marks on the trunks of trees. At first, we considered whether the marks had been made by a large cat or bear, and we noted that the marks started way off the ground, some as high as nine feet off the ground. We also found broken branches that had been inexplicably snapped off as high as 12 feet off the ground, as if something large and snapped it on his way by.

Large claw mark found at Pine Orchard.
We were all somewhat stunned when a few minutes later we came upon a large tree on the side of a steep slope that led down into a rocky bottom behind the old man’s house. Starting an estimated six to seven feet off the ground was a large claw mark that had ripped away the dark green moss growing on the tree’s trunk. The digits of this claw were widely spaced, and I could see where the creature’s claws had actually dug into the trunk of the tree.

Humphreys, who is an expert tracker, and McDonald both agreed that this claw mark wasn’t made by a bear or a cat simply because bears and cats don’t grow that large in our part of the world. Humphreys said that if it was a bear it’d have to be the size of a polar bear. He and McDonald both agreed that it was clear evidence of a Bigfoot-like “monster” in our area.

Many in the reading audience will wonder if this is some sort of hoax or if the claw mark was faked, and we all considered this as well when we found it in the woods. I took a good, long look at this claw mark, and in my opinion, it’s the real deal. I think that if it had been faked, we would have been able to see where the hoaxer made several starts and stops to make the deep grooves in the tree.

Later, we found a pile of leafy branches piled up beneath a tree at the top of a hill that overlooked this wooded bottom. We couldn’t tell if anything had been laying on the large pile, but it was odd to find such fresh branches all piled in one place out in the middle of the deep woods. The old man told us that he often hears the creature howling in the woods, and we noted that if something were to emit a loud howl from the top of this hill, it would carry for a long way, perhaps miles.

The old man eventually led us back to his house, where he showed us his large pit bull named “Max.” The man said that the Bigfoot-like creatures near his home often howl so loud that it makes this ferocious dog cower in fear and hide indoors. To be honest, I didn’t want to get within 10 feet of this mean-looking dog, so if it’s scared of whatever’s in those woods, there’s probably a good reason.

As we stood there, Ashley mentioned another recent incident that happened in Pine Orchard that involved a coyote that was found dead 10 feet up a pear tree. To our surprise, the old man said he’d heard about that, and that it actually happened about 100 yards from where we were standing, just on the other side of a stand of pines we could see from his yard. He said the best way to get there was to go back to the road that runs down beside a house that was heavily decorated with all sorts of lawn ornaments and African-themed wall hangings.

McDonald said he had noticed the house with all of the decorations out front earlier and asked the old man about the home’s owner. The old man shrugged his shoulders and said that the older lady who lives there told him once that she put all the decorations up to ward off the “wild man.” We all just kind of looked at each other as the Bigfoot evidence seemed to build.

After checking out the site where the coyote was found in the pear tree, I split off from the group and called it a day as the “Killing Bigfoot” crew proceeded on to McPhaul’s hunting property, where he’s had all sorts of experiences attributed to Bigfoot.

On Saturday, I found myself among the large crowd who showed up to hear McDonald’s Bigfoot presentation inside the airport’s Big Red Hangar during the Collard Green Festival. McDonald gave an outstanding presentation and showed the crowd several examples of Bigfoot tracks that had been found over the years.
Peacock, Humphreys, McPhaul and McDonald.

McDonald, who is an expert land surveyor when he’s not hunting Bigfoot, also produced a detailed topographical map of the Conecuh County area and showed the crowd where he’d plotted all of the area’s reported Bigfoot sightings. Interestingly, the map showed that most of those reports have occurred in clusters near the Burnt Corn Creek and Sepulga River watersheds. At the end of the presentation, he encouraged members of the crowd to see him afterwards to report any additional reports on his map.

In the end, anyone interested in learning morning about Bigfoot is invited to attend the next meeting of the Southwest Alabama Bigfoot Hunters, which is scheduled to be held on Mon., Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. at the Old L&N Depot in downtown Evergreen. For more information about this meeting, please contact organizer Wesley Acreman at 251-227-2843.