Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Today in History for July 23, 2014

July 23, 1862 - Gen Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army was moving from Tupelo, Miss., in route to Chattanooga, Tenn., via railroad, which would take his forces through Meridian, Miss. to Mobile, Ala. They crossed the Mobile Bay Delta, proceeded by rail to Montgomery, Ala., then proceed to Atlanta, Ga. and then north to Chattanooga, Tenn.

July 23, 1862 - General Henry W. Halleck assumed the role of general-in-chief of all Union forces in an effort to better coordinate the overall Union war effort, which was floundering.

July 23, 1885 - Civil War hero and former President Ulysses S. Grant died of throat cancer.

July 23, 1888 – Detective novelist Raymond Chandler, creator of fictional detective Philip Marlowe, was born in Chicago.

July 23, 1903 – Ford Motor Co. sold its first car, a two-cylinder Model A, to a Chicago dentist named Ernst Pfenning for $850.

July 23, 1967 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, who portrayed Truman Capote in 2005’s “Capote,” was born in Fairport, N.Y. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Capote in the film.

July 23, 1977 – Local weather reporter Earl Windham reported a high temperature of 101 degrees in Evergreen, Ala. He recorded a high of 100 degrees the day before in Evergreen.

July 23, 2009 – The Gulf State Park Pier, the largest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, opened in Gulf Shores.

Historical marker tells of bloody massacre at Fort Mims in 1813

Historical marker at entrance to Fort Mims Historic Site.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “FORT MIMS AND THE CREEK INDIAN WAR, 1813-14” marker at the Fort Mims State Historic Site at Tensaw in Baldwin County, Alabama. This marker is located at the entrance to the historic site on Fort Mims Road, which is off Boatyard Road (County Road 80).

I’m not sure when this marker was erected, but it appears relatively new. In the space on the sign where they erection year is indicated, it reads “This site is owned and operated by the Alabama Historical Commission and the Fort Mims Restoration Association.”

There’s text on both sides of this marker, and both sides are different. What follows is the complete text from the marker.

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“FORT MIMS AND THE CREEK INDIAN WAR, 1813-14: In 1813, people on the United States’ southwestern frontier were fearful. The Redstick faction of the Creek Indian Nation opposed growing American influence in the area and had voted for war. However, Creeks living in the Tensaw area had intermarried with the European and American settlers and were close allies.
“Early in the summer, local American militia and allied Creeks attacked a group of Redsticks at Burn Corn Creek. Tensions grew and many families along the Tensaw, Alabama and Tombigbee rivers took refuge in quickly fortified sites.
“On this site they built a stockade around Samuel Mims’ plantation. Later, volunteer troops from Mississippi helped enlarge it. But as weeks passed without an attack, the people of Fort Mims grew complacent. (Continued on other side).”

“FORT MIMS AND THE CREEK INDIAN WAR, 1813-14 (Continued from other side): At midday, August 30, about 700 Redstick warriors attacked the fort. They entered through an open gate and fired into the fort through poorly designed gunports. The commander, Major Daniel Beasely, died in the first wave, but part-Creek Dixon Bailey rallied the defenders. The attack continued for five hours and ended with more than 500 attackers and defenders dead, including most of the women and children at the fort.
“News spread quickly throughout the South. Troops from surrounding states and territories joined to crush the ‘Creek War’ by the following summer. On Aug. 9, 1814, the defeated Creek leaders met at Fort Jackson near Wetumpka and ceded 23 million acres of their land to the United States.”

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One of the highlights of the calendar each year at Fort Mims is the annual reenactment of the Battle of Fort Mims. This year’s event will mark the 201st anniversary of the battle and will be held on Aug. 30-31, starting at 9 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. each day. Reenactments of the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek will begin at 11 a.m. and reenactments of the Battle of Fort Mims will begin at 2 p.m.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Wed., July 23, 2014

Temp: 72.5 degrees.

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies; birds audible; small mushrooms and spider webs visible in the grass.

Barometric Pressure: 29.57 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.45 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.10 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 2.30 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.65  inches

NOTES: Today is the 204th day of 2014 and the 33rd day of Summer. There are 161 days left in the year.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today in History for July 22, 2014

William Bartram
July 22, 1788 – Early Conecuh County pioneer Chesley Crosby was born in Chester District, S.C. He came to Conecuh County in 1818 and settled at Hampden Ridge. He was “Coroner and Ranger” of Conecuh County in 1818 and “Justice of the Quorum” of Conecuh County in 1819. A longtime supporter of the Belleville Baptist Church, he also helped found one of the county’s first schools, Evergreen Academy, in 1840. One of the school’s original trustees, he passed away at his home between Belleville and Sparta on May 22, 1864.

July 22, 1823 – William Bartram, one of America’s first professional botanists, passed away at the age of 84 while working in his garden in Kingsessing, Pa. Between 1773 and 1777, he went on a botanical and anthropological expedition through the Southeast, including Alabama, passing through Baldwin, Butler, Conecuh, Escambia and Monroe counties. He published the famous book, Bartram’s “Travels” in 1791.

July 22, 1864 – The Battle of Atlanta continued as Confederate General John Bell Hood continued to try to drive General William T. Sherman from the outskirts of Atlanta when he attacked the Yankees on Bald Hill. The attack failed, and Sherman tightened his hold on Atlanta.

July 22, 1914 – Alabama State Highway Engineer William Simpson Keller (Helen Keller’s half-brother) passed down the Old Stage Road in Conecuh and Monroe counties as part of a scouting party that included about 25 automobiles, surveying proposed trunk highway from Mobile to Montgomery.

July 22, 1918 – Army PFC John Henry Privett of Lower Peachtree was killed in action in World War I. 

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 164: Read “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry

“Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1985, and it’s a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago and finally finished reading it on Sunday.

For those of you unfamiliar with “Lonesome Dove,” it’s about a pair of former Texas Rangers, who have decided to drive a large herd of cattle from South Texas to Montana. After hearing all about Montana’s great qualities from a friend they haven’t seen in almost a decade, they hope to become the first cattle ranchers in Montana and make a fortune. Things don’t go smoothly though as a number of their friends die along the way, and they have to deal with such dangers as grizzly bears and hostile Indians.

Many people are familiar with “Lonesome Dove” thanks to the popular TV mini-series adaptation of the novel. The TV series included four episodes that originally aired on CBS in February 1989. This mini-series got great ratings, and its cast included Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane and Anjelica Huston.

As you might have imagined, the book (and the mini-series) appears on a number of “best-of” lists. The book was included on The Art of Manliness’ “Fiction for Men” reading list and Esquire magazine’s list of “75 Books Every Man Should Read.” The Art of Manliness also ranked it No. 89 on a 2011 list called “100 Must Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library.” It’s also a past winner of the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Novel.

While reading “Lonesome Dove,” I learned that McMurtry had written three other books in what’s called his “Lonesome Dove Series.” In order of publication, the complete series includes “Lonesome Dove” (1985), “Streets of Laredo” (1993), “Dead Man’s Walk” (1995) and “Comanche Moon” (1997). Oddly, these novels aren’t in chronological order. If you want to read them in chronological order, start with “Dead Man’s Walk,” then read “Comanche Moon.” “Lonesome Dove” comes next, and “Streets of Laredo” is last.

From the outset, I wondered where the title, “Lonesome Dove,” came from. While reading the book, you quickly learn that it’s the name of the town in South Texas, where the two main characters have owned and operated a small livery operation since their retirement from the Texas Rangers. The novel begins and ends in this desolate frontier town.

Of course, this made me wonder if "Lonesome Dove" was a real place you could visit, but as it turns out, it’s a fictional place. McMurtry has said in interviews that he came up with the name while eating in an Oklahoma restaurant. While there, he saw a van owned by Lonesome Dove Baptist Church in Southlake, Texas, and the rest is literary history.

In the end, I really enjoyed reading "Lonesome Dove" and highly recommend it to anyone out there who enjoys a good book, especially Westerns. How many of you have read “Lonesome Dove”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Tues., July 22, 2014

Temp: Not recorded (battery dead in outdoor thermometer).

Rainfall (past 24 hours): Trace.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast skies and foggy, visibility about half a mile; birds audible and visible; small mushrooms and spider webs visible in the grass.

Barometric Pressure: 29.55 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.45 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.10 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 2.30 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.65  inches

NOTES: Today is the 203rd day of 2014 and the 32nd day of Summer. There are 162 days left in the year.

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 163: Visit the old Searcy Hospital in Mount Vernon

Superintendent Drive entrance to Searcy Hospital.
Searcy Hospital is an old mental hospital that I first remember hearing about when I was in high school. During the past few years, the Mobile Press-Register has published a number of stories about this sprawling, state-owned hospital, which closed permanently on Oct. 31, 2012. It dawned on me about a year ago that I’d never seen this place with my own eyes, which is why I put in on my “bucket list” last year.

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Mount Vernon with plans to check out the old Fort Stoddert site. While on U.S. Highway 43, I couldn’t miss seeing the large sign pointing west toward Searcy Hospital, which you can’t see from the main highway. Looking to scratch another item off my bucket list, we turned west onto County Road 96, which takes you right by the old hospital.

As we approached the hospital, we spotted a historical marker at the intersection of CR 96 and Superintendent Drive. We pulled off onto Superintendent Drive and before getting out, we noticed the large signs warning sightseers about how close they could legally get to the property. We stayed well away from the hospital grounds, and I would advise you to do the same if you ever “visit” the hospital like we did. Honestly, the place is so large that you can see a lot just from road.

We did take a few minutes to check out the historical marker, which is two-sided and describes the old hospital as well as the Mount Vernon Arsenal and Barracks. The “Searcy Hospital” side says, “Mt. Vernon Hospital established 1900 by State of Alabama. Served as mental hospital for care of Black citizens. Name changed 1919 to Searcy Hospital honoring first superintendent, Dr. J.T. Searcy. Treatment for all citizens began 1969. Nine of structures dating from 1830s still in use, including Superintendent’s House, Tower Building, Pharmacy and Library. Enclosing wall dates from 1830s.”

The “Mt. Vernon Arsenal and Barracks” side of the marker says, “Established 1828 by Congress to store arms and munitions for U.S. Army. Original structures completed 1830s. Arsenal appropriated by Confederacy 1861; equipment moved to Selma facilities. After Civil War used as U.S. Army barracks; from 1887-1894 served as holding ground for Apache Indian prisoners. Deeded to State of Alabama 1895. Josiah Gorgas, later Chief of Ordnance of Confederacy, stationed here 1850s; Dr. Walter Reed, conqueror of yellow fever, served as post surgeon 1880s; Apache chieftain, Geronimo, prisoner here 1887-1894.”

I was most surprised by the size of this hospital complex. You can get a good idea of its size just by riding by and seeing all of the buildings. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, pull it up on Google Maps and check it out. It’s huge. It probably take a week to thoroughly explore every building on the property. 

In the end, how many of you have ever been to Searcy Hospital? What did you think about it? Do you know of any similar places worth going to check out? Let us know in the comments section below.