Friday, October 31, 2014

Ten new locations make list of 'Spookiest Places in Monroe County'

The King Plantation House at Uriah, Ala.
Today is Halloween, and in the spirit of that ghostly holiday, I present you today my fifth annual list of the Spookiest Places in Monroe County, Alabama.

As with previous editions of this list, I compiled it after discussing the subject with a number of the county’s lifelong residents and individuals well versed in the county’s long history. Without further ado, here’s the list:

- Bailey’s Well: According to George Singleton’s classic book, “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” this well is located by an ironwood tree in a field at Franklin and is also known as the “Well That Won’t Stay Filled.” Curbed by old, handmade bricks, no one knows who originally dug the well, which has supposedly been abandoned since the early 1800s. Numerous attempts were made to fill it with rocks, track, junk and timber logs, but all of those items disappeared without a trace, leading some people to believe that the well connects with an underground river or that its bottom is filled with quicksand.

- Bradley Ridge: George Singleton, Monroe County’s preeminent paranormal investigator, had numerous experiences in this once “thriving community,” which was located off the Ridge Road north of Monroeville. The area is supposedly haunted by the ghost of an old man carrying a large sack who is always seen walking east near an old abandoned cemetery. Singleton also witnessed a phantom rooster and dog in the area, smelled cooking food, saw “several glowing balls” and heard disembodied voices, including the voices of “several small children, laughing and calling as though they were playing a game.”

- Butterfork Creek Bridge: Located on State Highway 59, a mile or so west of downtown Uriah, this bridge serves as a way for travelers to go between Uriah and the Palmers Crossroads community in south Monroe County. More than a few motorists over the years have repeatedly reported seeing a woman in dressed in white on the bridge. Most report seeing this ghostly woman on the east end of the bridge.

- Claiborne Masonic Lodge: Located now at Perdue Hill on U.S. Highway 84, this building, pictured above, is the oldest existing manmade structure in Monroe County. Built in 1819 at Claiborne, this building was used as a courtroom, town hall, church, school and one of the earliest Masonic lodges in the state. Visited by Revolutionary War hero, Marquis De Lafayette, in 1825, this building was moved a few miles east to Perdue Hill in 1884. Lafayette was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War at the time of his visit. This building was also used for Ku Klux Klan meetings at one time during its history.

- The C.L. Hybart House: Located on Hybart Drive in Monroeville, this restored 1920s house is one of Monroe County’s most distinctive buildings. Built in the manner of a Mediterranean Spanish villa, including stucco, tile and columns made with stones from Limestone Creek. Now owned by the Monroe County Heritage Museums and operated under the name of the “Hybart House Museum and Cultural Center,” this reputedly haunted residence was built by the late Charlie Hybart, a colorful local attorney who became known for holding lavish parties that were attended by VIPs and politicians from all over the state.

- Davis Ferry: Singleton reported spending the night at the base of a cliff near the ferry at the site of an old Indian camp on the east side of the Alabama River. Singleton awoke in the middle of the night to see what he called the “Night Walkers,” a number of ghosts that walked in a single-file line by his campsite. Each carried a bundle on his back and moved down the hill in a single-file line towards the river.

- The Devil’s Bowl: Located about three miles off of State Highway 21 in the vicinity of the Megargel and Goodway communities, this geological oddity is a pool that’s about 30 feet in diameter. Also called “The Devil’s Soup Bowl,” no surface stream feeds this freshwater pool of deep, dark water, which is said to be one of “Monroe County’s strangest sights.” Locals claim that this pool is bottomless. Possible explanations for its existence vary from an ancient meteor impact to the idea that it’s the shaft left behind by dead volcano.

- Dr. Watkins House: Located on the west side of County Road 5, about 1-1/2 miles north of Burnt Corn, this house was built in 1812 and was once the residence of Dr. John Watkins, the only doctor between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Watkins is said to have treated the wounded from the Fort Mims Massacre at the house in 1813, and some sources say Andrew Jackson spent the night there when he passed through the area on his way to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

The ghost of Watkins has reportedly been seen standing in the doorway to one of the home’s first floor bedrooms and the top of the front porch is painted with traditional “haint paint” to keep spirits from entering the home. Perhaps the most bizarre thing to occur in the house in recent memory took place in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when loggers fled the house after hearing a woman scream. Others who’ve stayed at the house have complained of the uneasy feelings they get from artwork inside the house, including an original painting of a woman carving a Jack o’ Lantern.

- Franklin: “Ghost lights” have been reported in this community north of Monroeville for years, and on May 6, 1971 Singleton reported seeing a “mysterious ball of fire” that was “in and around the area across Flat Creek on the right of Highway 41.” Singleton saw “almost at tree-top level” a “glowing ball of reddish blue flame, floating southward at a lazy pace.” It was about 12 inches in diameter and looked like a “clear, plastic balloon with some type of light inside.” Similar “ghost lights” have also been reported in the Finchburg community.

- Gin House Bottom: Located north of Monroeville, near the intersection of the Ridge Road and State Highway 41 (formerly called the Camden Highway), there were once a number of stores and family residences in this area, which took its name from a local cotton gin.

Also in this area, a tale sprung to life about a headless horseman that was seen by a number of county residences.

“On moonlit nights, when one could see, the headless rider could be seen riding the road along Gin Bottom Road,” George Singleton wrote in one of his Monroe Journal columns. “This was a common sight to the men who had to travel the road late at night after a hard day at the cotton gin. I have been told that on several occasions, the horse and rider would pass so close to a traveler that he could try to reach out and touch the headless rider.”

- King Plantation House: Featured on two episodes of the Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files,” this 9,000-square feet Greek Revival Style house was originally located at Packer’s Bend in the northwest corner of Monroe County. Built by the nephew of U.S. Vice President William Rufus King in the late 1850s and early 1860s, it was moved to Uriah by former state legislator Eugene Garrett in 1965.

Creepy tales abound about this house, where supposedly a number of the King family passed away within its walls from yellow fever that was brought home by a family member who served in the Civil War. In “The Dead Files” the house’s owner said she feared her life was in danger from being attacked by the evil spirit of a man who once lived in the house.

Located on State Highway 59, about half a mile from the intersection of Hwy. 59 and State Highway 21, it’s said that this house has the broadest façade of any plantation house in Alabama.

- Klepac’s Old Store: This old store was once located near the intersection of the “old Franklin road” and the Ridge Road, and also known as the “Oak & Ash” for a giant oak and an ash tree that grew side by side and was one of the better known landmarks in the area. The trees are gone now, but were so close together that a horse could barely be rode between them. In the early 1900s, a man was hung from the oak tree.

- Louisville and Nashville Railroad Train Tunnel at Tunnel Springs: This abandoned train tunnel is now home to hundreds of thumb-sized bats. Completed in 1899, this 840-foot-long tunnel was built by four crews of 15 men each working day and night using simple equipment. One crew is said to have worked from the north side while the other worked from the south. The story also goes that a number of workers died during the construction of this eerie tunnel.

- McConnico Cemetery: Large cemetery, located off Monroe County Road 1 at Perdue Hill, containing some of the count’s oldest graves. According to “Haunted Places: The National Directory” by Dennis William Hauck, this cemetery is the setting for the county’s best known ghost story.

“The phantoms of 12 Union horsemen have been seen riding near this old graveyard,” Hauck wrote. “Captain and Mrs. Charles Locklin witnessed the ghostly parade in autumn of 1865. The Locklins were in their carriage early one morning when two columns of six soldiers on gray horses passed by on each side of them.

“Each member of the eerie troop wore white gloves, with his hands crossed on the pommel of his saddle, and every one wore a white bandage wrapped tightly around his head. The two respected citizens were certain they had been victims of Confederate solider Lafayette Sigler, who ambushed Northern patrols, killed them and cut off their ears. Sigler’s collection of Yankee ears was said to have been quite impressive.”

This first encounter with the ghost soldiers is also said to have occurred on Mount Pleasant Road and sporadic sightings were reported over the hundred years.

- Midway Cave: Large limestone cave located near the Midway community in northeast Monroe County, located near the Midway Fire Tower, about 200 yards off the road. Singleton says that the cave is 50 feet across and 20 feet deep with a roof blackened by the smoke of a thousand cook fires.

- Monroe County Public Library: Located on Pineville Road in Monroeville, this building houses over 60,000 volumes and is located in the former LaSalle Hotel. The library has been in this location since 1984, but the building is located on one of the oldest parcels of land recognized for continuous usage in Monroe County. In the past, the property has been used as a stable, various homes, a Methodist parsonage and as the LaSalle Hotel. Its famous guests included actor, Gregory Peck, who visited Monroeville during the 1960s.

More than a few library patrons have claim to have had unusual experiences on the library’s second floor.

“Once you leave the bright, sunny ground floor and climb the stairs to the second floor, where many of the former rooms were located, you just get a creepy feeling all over. Like most hotels, this building probably saw its fair share of visitors from all over, and I think that a few of them just decided to stay.”

- Mt. Pisgah Cemetery: Located off Wildfork Road (Monroe County Road 18) between Frisco City and the Wildfork community, this cemetery serves as the final resting place of hundreds of former community residents. Variations of the story exist, but more than a few people have reported parking at this cemetery late at night and when conditions are just right a mysterious red ball of light will emerge from the tree line on the east side of the cemetery. The ball of light is most often described as “basketball-sized” and reportedly travels from the trees towards the parked vehicle.

- Mount Pleasant: Site of Monroe County’s only Civil War “skirmish” and said to be the site of a mass grave of 40 to 50 Confederate soldiers. The area is now supposedly haunted by the ghost of Mary Watkins, who roams the countryside with a lantern and shovel searching for the body of her husband, Cpl. Ezekiel Watkins. She’s also said to wear an old Rebel overcoat over her shoulders.

- Nancy Mountain at Haine’s Island: Located off Monroe County Road 17 at Franklin, this locale is the site of one of the county’s most enduring ghost stories, the story of “Crazy Nancy.”

Variations of this story exist, but the most common version says that the ghost of a woman, “Crazy Nancy” or “Aunt Nancy,” can be seen walking up and down the hill to Davis Ferry in hopes of meeting her son and husband who were claimed by the Civil War, never to return. Witnesses say that this female phantom is seen walking with a lantern (or long walking stick) in one hand and with a bucket of water in the other.

According to George B. Singleton’s book, “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” you’ll know this spirit by her long, gingham dress, her old bonnet and the long, white hair that hangs out the back of her bonnet and all the way down to her waist.

- Nettles Auditorium at Alabama Southern Community College: Located in Monroeville, this building seats almost 900 people and is often the preferred venue for large community events. Former students and workers at the college claim to have heard unusual sounds at odd times as well as the unexplained malfunction of lights and other electrical devices. Others claim to have heard an unseen “entity” walking down the aisles, making his (or her) presence known by the scraping of their feet along the carpet. Witnesses have also reported hearing the loud pop of a seat back being slapped by unseen hands as well as the unexplained unlocking of door locks that should have been secured.

- Old Claiborne Cemetery: Located off of U.S. Highway 84 at Claiborne, Singleton remarked that almost everyone buried there was under the age of 50 at the time of their death. Cemetery includes many yellow fever and small pox victims, including Emily N. Bagby, the wife of Alabama governor Arthur P. Bagby. She was 21 years old when she died of yellow fever during a visit to Claiborne in May 1825.

- Old Frisco City High School Building: Located on School Street in Frisco City, this building was constructed in the early 1920s and served the community for decades before closing in 2009. Some passersby claim to see lights on inside the building late at night when no one is there. Others claim to have heard strange noises coming from the tunnel that runs beneath the school’s main building.

- Old Monroe County Courthouse: Nicknamed “America’s Most Famous Courthouse,” this building was constructed in 1903 and is now one of the most often photographed buildings in the state. From 1903 to the construction of a new courthouse in 1963, this building housed most county offices and was the center of the county’s court system. It’s most famous for being the model of the courtroom seen in the trial scenes in the movie version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Now the home of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, frequent quests say that the upstairs part of the building can get very creepy on quiet nights. “Things blow in the breeze but there is no breeze,” one man said. “You hear sounds that don’t belong, and I have smelled pipe tobacco smoke when no one was smoking or even there to be smoking.”

- Pine Orchard: Located in northeast Monroe County, this community is the home of the “Mystery Stones.” These 12 circular stones found near Lone Star Church. Singleton theorizes that the site was a “huge, prehistoric Indian village” and that the stones may have been part of some ancient calendar.

- Rikard’s Mill: Located about five miles north of Beatrice, this fully restored 19th century grist mill is currently owned and operated by the Monroe County Heritage Museums. Constructed over Flat Creek, multiple witnesses have reported seeing “shadow figures” pass in front of the mill’s windows when the mill was completely empty and no one else was in the area. Other witnesses have reported the unexplained sighting of a woman floating down the creek in a pink coffin.

- The Robbins Hotel Site: Used for years as a hunting club, this historic former hotel located in downtown Beatrice, adjacent to town hall, burned down in October 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel was located just off the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and was operated for many years by Miss Minnie Robbins. The hotel’s patrons were largely made up of railroad travelers, and the hotel featured 14 rooms, each with a fireplace.

Before I close this think out, I want to make perfectly clear that more than a few of the places mentioned above are located on private property, so if you get the idea to visit any of these places (especially at night), you’d better get permission first or run the risk of trespassing. Also, if you plan to visit any of these places, especially cemeteries, respect your surroundings.

In the end, contact me if you know a good local ghost story or have information about a spooky location in Monroe County. You can reach me by calling 578-1492, by e-mail at courantsports@earthlink.net or by mail at The Evergreen Courant, ATTN: Lee Peacock, P.O. Box 440, Evergreen, AL 36401.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital audio recorders catch 'ghostly' voices in antebellum Uriah mansion

King Plantation House at Uriah, Alabama.
Three years ago, when producers at the Travel Channel began researching locations to investigate for their hit television show “The Dead Files,” their search took them to the King Plantation House, which is a supposed haunted antebellum mansion at Uriah, about 35 miles southwest of Evergreen.

In 2011, “The Dead Files” sent two investigators, psychic medium Amy Allen and former NYPD homicide detective Steve DiSchivai, to the house, which is located on State Highway 59. In an episode called “A Widow’s Rage,” their shocking findings were broadcast before a national television audience on June 22, 2012.

This past Friday night, as part of their annual Halloween investigation, The Evergreen Courant teamed up with Monroe Journal award-winning reporter and photographer Josh Dewberry, and John and Brandi Higginbotham, members of the Singleton Society of Paranormal Investigators, to conduct an investigation of their own.

Anna Jean Ikner, the daughter of the late Eugene Garrett, a former state legislator who moved the house to Uriah from its original location at Packer’s Bend in 1963, said she’d lived in the house for most of her life and had never experienced anything out of the ordinary, despite what investigators from “The Dead Files” said they found.

Ikner noted that while she didn’t think the house was haunted, she knew that it had seen its fair share of history over the years. Originally built in the 1850s by William “Dock” King, a nephew of U.S. Vice President William Rufus King, the house is said to have the broadest façade of any plantation home in Alabama. She also noted that wood from the old Blacksher-Coley School was used to replace flooring on the second floor of the house, which is now used for special events like weddings and receptions.

During Friday night’s investigation, which bled over into the predawn hours of Saturday morning, the group conducted a series of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) sessions in which they placed a digital audio recorder in the center of several rooms and investigators took turns asking a series of questions. Between each question, investigators paused 10 to 15 seconds and remained silent, listening for responses or any unusual noises. No sounds were heard during the live sessions, but when the recordings were replayed the results were shocking.

In all, the recorder captured at least eight different EVPs, that is, apparent responses that weren’t heard by human ears during the pauses between each question. In the home’s library, one investigator asked, “What year is it?” In response came a female voice that said “Ten.”

Later, in the parlor, an investigator asked “How old are you?” and another female voice, with somewhat of an impatient tone, replied “Ten.”

The parlor seemed to be the most active room in the house. There the recorder captured another small female voice that said “I’m cold,” while later the recorder captured what sounded like whispering followed by what clearly sounded like the words “Is it cheaper?”

In response to the question “Are you a slave?,” the recorder captured the words “Not tomorrow.” Later, when one of the investigators said “Play the piano,” the recorder captured the words “I don’t want to,” which were very faint, but audible.

In the home’s ballroom, investigators were inspecting a small room beneath a staircase when the recorder caught the words “What is it?” followed by “I don’t like it.” Later, while in the same area, the recorder captured the words “Help me.”

Are these recordings proof that the King Plantation House at Uriah is haunted? Do they back up the claims brought forth by investigators for “The Dead Files”? Is there a logical explanation for these unusual recordings other than disembodied voices from beyond the grave?

Maybe only time will tell, but one thing is for certain. I was present while these recordings were made, and I can truthfully testify to the fact that the voices caught on tape during the pauses between questions weren’t audible at the time they were made and weren’t made by any of the investigators present. With that said, it is my belief that the group did capture proof of paranormal activity inside the King Plantation House, which continues to live up to its reputation as one of the spookiest places in Alabama.

(Special thanks to Anna Jean Ikner and the Garrett family for giving us the run of the King Plantation House for the night and to Amy Bradford for helping us seek permission to spent the night in one of the finest old homes in Alabama.)

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Oct. 30, 2014

48 YEARS AGO
OCT. 27, 1966

“Aggies wallop Whippets 39-6 for homecoming: The Evergreen High Aggies saved up their finest offensive performance of recent years to blast Frisco City’s Whippets 39 to 6 here Friday night and send a homecoming crowd home happy.”
Outstanding Evergreen players in that game included Jimmy Bell, Glenn Bolton, Wayne Caylor, Homer Faulkner, Ronald Halford, Harold Hamiter, Bubba Mininger, Rusty Price, Forrest Simpson, George Stinson, Lavon Tolbert, Hollis Tranum, Elliott Quarles, Jack White and Larry Windham. Outstanding Frisco players included Jim Kelly, Wayne Ikner and Don Wiggins.

“Lyeffion High School will observe its annual homecoming on Sat., Nov. 5, under sponsorship of the P.T.A. Featured event of the day’s activities will be the football game at 7:30 that night with the Yellow Jackets meeting the powerful Uriah.”

“The Evergreen Jaycees today announced the outstanding players of the week for the past two games.
“George Stinson was named for the Evergreen-Lyeffion game. George is a junior and was cited for his play as a linebacker on defense and halfback on offense. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Stinson.
“Bubba Mininger was named outstanding player in the Evergreen-Frisco City game last week. The Aggies’ starting left guard, Bubba plays both offense and defense. He is a senior and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Darwin Mininger.”

63 YEARS AGO
OCT. 25, 1951

“Aggies Victims Of Greenville Homecoming, Handed Second Loss By Tigers Friday 18-12, Gillis Morgan Hurt Scoring Second TD: The Evergreen Aggies fell victim to an aroused band of Greenville Tigers who celebrated their annual homecoming by clipping the Green and White, 18-12.
“The Aggies suffered a heavier loss than the game when their star quarterback, Gillis (Red) Morgan was thrown into a light post after scoring the second touchdown. The post was only inches off the playing field and was unpadded. Morgan, thanks to the fine quality headgear he was wearing, escaped with a cracked collarbone although he smacked the post head-on.
“Morgan was a shining star for the Aggies and any faint hopes they might have had of coming from behind with only minutes left vanished with his injury. He went out in a blaze of glory though as he soloed with practically no blocking for 36 yards and the touchdown that put the Aggies back in the game.”
Other standout Evergreen players in that game included Ward Alexander Jr., Pace Bozeman, Lurton Chambers, Gwynn Daniels, Wayne Douglas, Shirley Frazier, Paul Hanks and Billy Lewis. Wendell Hart was Evergreen’s head coach.
Standout Greenville players included Claude Denham, Harold Herring, John McGowin, Otto Owens, Bobby Rainey and Orden Sexton. Luke Whetstone was Greenville’s head coach.

78 YEARS AGO
OCT. 29, 1936

“Two County Teams Play Scoreless Tie: Repton, Ala., Oct. 26 – Repton and Castleberry high school football teams played to a 0-0 tie here Friday afternoon.
“Neither team seriously threatened the goal line of the other. Repton getting to the 15-yard line and Castleberry to the 20-yard line.”

“Among those (from Castleberry) attending the football game in Repton were: Roy Lee, John Lee Carter, W.T. Carr, D.C. Cornett, Mrs. Curtis Sullivan, Janie Louise Carter, Fannie Mae Heaton, Dorothy Matthews, Mrs. Bradley Suddith, Annie Bell Buffington, Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Hatfield, Larada Baggett, Virginia Matthews, Virginia Garrett, Frances Neely and Frances Saren.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Tom Mills attended the Auburn-Georgia game in Columbus Saturday.”

“Evergreen people attending the Auburn-Georgia game in Columbus, Ga. Saturday included Messrs. C.C. Hagood, W.P. McMillan, Raymond Givhan and J.E. Jones.”

“PROGRAM – CONECUH COUNTY FAIR – FRIDAY, OCT. 30 – Football Game (Gantt Field) – 2:30 Evergreen vs. Repton.”

“IF YOU CAN CLIMB THE GREASED POLE THERE’S $5 IN GOLD FOR YOU: All of your life you have heard of climbing a greasy pole, but maybe you haven’t yet had the opportunity of trying your prowess at such a feat. Well, you will have such an opportunity if you attend the Conecuh County Fair in Evergreen on Thursday and Friday of this week. Out near the stand between the two main business sections you will see this pole. On the tip of it will be the prize for the one who successfully climbs up to the top. This prize is a $5 gold piece – something well worth your effort you will have to admit.”

93 YEARS AGO
OCT. 26, 1921

“Junior High Community Fair: Again it is ‘Fair Time’ in Conecuh and the patrons and friends of the Junior High are looking forward to Nov. 2 with much interest. That is the date for the community fair
“The following schools and communities will be here:
“Junior High School, J.M. Brooks, Chairman;
“Effie, D.S. Sanders, Chairman;
“Mt. Zion, W.E. Cook;
“Skinnerton, Lee Hardee;
“Holly Grove, Bob Morris;
“Stinson, Wm. Daniels;
“Fairfield, F. Yates;
“Beasley, Jack Brown;
“Brown School, Lee Hardee;
“These schools with their patrons and the general public, are cordially invited to come and take part in the exercises of the day.
“The athletics will include 400-yard relay races for boys and girls.
“Basketball games will be played also – Junior High vs. Brownville boys, Junior High vs. Brownville girls. Referees to be announced later.
“The Junior High School has a hearty welcome for every visitor all the time and especially so Nov. 2.”

108 YEARS AGO
OCT. 31, 1906

“Evergreen’s Greatest Store – THE RACKET STORE – Evergreen, Ala. – Here’s your ‘Standard’ 1906 Bicycle, At A Bargain, Price $16.46, Furnished in dark shade of green with maroon head, 24-inch frame, ‘Orinoco’ cactus proof single tube rubber tires, wheels are standard 28-inch with one-piece wooden rim and bell-shaped hubs. Has standard 81 gear, neat stitched leather seat, adjustable, also drop adjustable handlebars, nickel plated spokes and sprocket wheel and hanger, ball bearing and has case hardened cones. This is a good wheel and we recommend it. You can see these bicycles on display in our store. Price, complete with tool bag, $16.46 – The Racket Store – ‘THE BIG STORE’  - F.L. Riley, PROPRIETOR, Evergreen, Ala.”

Where exactly was "Gantt Field" in Evergreen, Alabama?

Today, October 30, marks the 78th anniversary of one of the more unusual football games in Conecuh County History.

On that day at 2:30 p.m., Evergreen High School played Repton High School on the second day of the Conecuh County Fair. The game was played at Gantt Field in Evergreen and the front page of the following week’s paper included a short story about the game under the headline “Evergreen Bulldogs Win From Repton 47 To 0.”

“The Evergreen Bulldogs clearly outclassed the Repton football team in every department last Friday afternoon on Gantt Field, winning by the score of 47 to 0. Touchdowns were made by Wendell Hart, Aubrey Barganier, Tom Rountree and James Lane.

“In the line, Jerome Weaver and Tom Rountree stood out with the other linemen playing the same class of ball. Wendell Hart put the old fullbacking back in style with James Lane’s and Aubrey Barganier’s running and passing assisting him. The blocking and tackling was good and plenty hard.”

The Conecuh County Fair was a huge event that was attended by “tremendous” crowds. In the newspaper printed after the fair, The Courant estimated that at least 15,000 people attended the fair on Friday, including about 4,000 school children.

I’ve always been interested in the history of Gantt Field, which is where football and baseball games were played in Evergreen prior to the construction of Brooks Memorial Stadium. In my years of working in Evergreen, I’ve never ran into anyone who knows exactly where this field was located. If anyone reading this column knows where Gantt Field was located, please give me a call at The Courant at 578-1492.

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The ninth week of our local ESPN College Football Pick ‘Em contest has come to an end, and the standings at the end of this week show that Glennis Curry remained in sole possession of first place for the fourth week in a row.

Steve Stacey went from third place to second place. Mark Peacock and Ricky Powell were tied for third place. Mark was in tenth place last week, and Powell was in fifth place last week.

Mike Dailey moved up to fifth place from eighth place. Sharon Peacock and Rod Sims were tied for sixth place. Last week, Sharon and Rod were tied for fifth place.

Ricky Taylor finished the week in eighth place, up from fourth place. Johnny Davis remained in ninth place for the second straight week, and Arthur Ingram III finished the week in tenth place.

If you’re playing this local contest and didn’t finish in the Top 10, don’t sweat it. This contest will run for five more weeks, and it’s a marathon not a sprint. You’ll find that the standings will change a lot over the next month or so.

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In the SEC this week, there are five head-to-head games between conference opponents on Saturday and two other games involving an SEC school.

Auburn will play Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., and Florida will play Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. Kentucky will play Missouri in Columbia, Mo. and Tennessee will play South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. Arkansas will travel to Starkville to face Mississippi State.

Texas A&M will play Louisiana-Monroe in College Station, and Vandy will play Old Dominion in Nashville. Alabama and LSU don’t play this week.

For what it’s worth, here’s how I see each of those games playing out. I like Ole Miss over Auburn, South Carolina over Tennessee, Texas A&M over Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State over Arkansas, Georgia over Florida, Missouri over Kentucky and Vandy over Old Dominion.


Last week: 5-1. So far this season: 60-16.

Today in History for Oct. 30, 2014

Union General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchell
Oct. 30, 1862 - Union General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchell, commander of the Department of the South, died from yellow fever at Beaufort, S.C. In 1862, Mitchell directed raids into northern Alabama and captured Huntsville, Ala. in April 1862.

Oct. 30, 1864 - Union forces recaptured Plymouth, N.C.

Oct. 30, 1864 – During the Civil War, a second day of skirmishing occurred in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals (or Raccoon Ford), near Florence, Ala.

Oct. 30, 1869 – Monroe County Probate Judge Murdock McCorvey Fountain was born at Tunnel Springs, Ala. He graduated from Perdue Hill High School in 1889 and was appointed Monroe County Sheriff in 1902 when Sheriff John S. Howington was killed while in office. He was elected Monroe County Probate Judge in 1916.

Oct. 30, 1919 - The professional baseball association ruled that spitballs and shineballs were illegal.

Oct. 30, 1930 – The Evergreen Courant published a special “Conecuh County Agricultural, Industrial and Historical Edition.” The front page of the 50-page edition was printed in green ink, it was the largest newspaper ever published in Conecuh County.


Oct. 30, 1936 – The first ever night football game in the history of Frisco City High School was played on this day. Frisco City faced Monroe County High School and lost, 13-12. It was FC’s only documented loss of the entire season.

Oct. 30, 1936 – In a game played at 2:30 p.m. during the Conecuh County Fair, Evergreen High School beat Repton High School, 47-0, at Gantt Field in Evergreen.

Oct. 30, 1938 - Martians invaded New Jersey! Well, at least that's what many radio listeners thought, when they tuned into Orson Welles' broadcast of “War of the Worlds” on CBS radio. As part of the realistic radio play, an announcer interrupted a dance orchestra to describe a crash in a farmer's field, and then later he warned of tentacled creatures inside giant attack machines. The public went into a panic--it's estimated that as many as one million people believed a real invasion was underway.

Oct. 30, 1942 – Lt. Tony Fasson, Able Seaman Colin Grazier and canteen assistant Tommy Brown from the HMS Petard boarded U-559, retrieving material which would lead to the decryption of the German Enigma code.

Oct. 30, 1945 – Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs signed a contract for the Brooklyn Dodgers to break the baseball color barrier.

Oct. 30, 1954 – In an incident attributed to the Bermuda Triangle, a U.S. Navy Super Constellation disappeared with 42 passengers and crew while flying in fair weather from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md. to the Azores.

Oct. 30, 1970 - Jim Morrison was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $500 for exposing himself in Miami, Fla.

Oct. 30, 1974 – Excel High School began a streak of 20 straight games without a loss (including ties) that ended on Nov. 6, 1975.

Oct. 30, 1974 – As a member of the California Angels, Major League Baseball player Nolan Ryan threw the fastest recorded pitch, at 100.9 MPH.

Oct. 30, 1979 - In a run-off, Richard Arrington was elected as the first black mayor of Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. Arrington served in that post for nearly 20 years, until his resignation in July 1999.

Oct. 30, 1988 - Kurt Cobain smashed his very first guitar.

Oct. 30, 1988 - The New York Jets beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time.

Oct. 30, 2001 - In New York City, U.S. President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at Game 3 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., Oct. 30, 2014

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.30 inches

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.30 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.60 inches

Fall to Date Rainfall: 3.00 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 53.45 inches

NOTES: Today is the 303rd day of 2014 and the 39th day of Fall. There are 62 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. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Historical marker describes small Wilcox County town with unique name

The 'Pine Apple Historic District' historical marker.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “PINE APPLE HISTORIC DISTRICT” marker in Wilcox County, Ala. This marker is located at the intersection of State Highway 10 and Ruthven Cutoff in Pine Apple, Ala.

This Alabama Historical Commission marker was erected by Pine Apple Promotions in 2005. There’s text on both sides of the marker, but both sides are the same. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“PINE APPLE HISTORIC DISTRICT: PINE APPLE, ALABAMA: Founded in 1825, the town of Pine Apple became a regional commercial center due to its strategic location as the end of the Selma to Pensacola Railroad line from 1871 to the 1890s. The progressive spirit of Pine Apple during the centennial period, 1850 to 1950, is reflected in its historic commercial, residential, civic, educational and religious architecture, namely the Bank of Pine Apple building, Pine Apple Water Tower and Waterworks building, Moore Academy, Matheson Community Library, Pine Apple Methodist Church and Friendship Baptist Church. Residential architecture ranges from 19th century cottages and early 20th century bungalows to more academic application of the Creek Revival, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles.

“In contrast to the surrounding relics of a sleepy antebellum plantation south, the historic buildings of Pine Apple spark images of a bustling Deep South mercantile and educational center at the turn of the 20th century.

“In all, the Pine Apple Historic District, entered into the National Register of Historic Places on Feb. 26, 1999, includes 73 properties from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.”

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As mentioned on the marker, the Pine Apple Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. This district encompasses 3,350 acres and 55 buildings and structures. The district is roughly bounded by Adams Drive, Banana Street, Broad Street, Wilcox County Road 59, County Road 7 and County Road 61.

Pine Apple has only one other listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Col. J.R. Hawthorne House, which was added to the register on March 7, 1985. Built in 1854 by Ezra Plumb for North Carolina native Joseph Richard Hawthorne, this house was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on Nov. 9, 1992. This house is located on the west side of Broad Street, about four-tenths of a mile north of Pine Apple Town Hall.

I’ve often wondered how Pine Apple got its name, and according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the origin of the town’s name is uncertain. A community called Friendship was located in the area as early as 1820, but when it came time to name the town’s new post office in 1851, they had to pick another name because there was already another town in Alabama called Friendship. Some think that residents picked the name Pine Apple because this fruit symbolizes friendship. However, others think they chose the name because of all the apple and pine trees in the area.


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.