Saturday, August 18, 2018

Singleton writes of how Old Cahawba beat out Claiborne by one vote for state capital in early 1800s

The "Crocheron Columns" of Old Cahawba.

(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 “Old Cahawba: Where the ghosts of the past still roam” was originally published in the Aug. 1, 2002 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

A few days back I was in Selma. On my way back home, I decided to ride by and visit again the site of old Cahawba, our first state capital. Not a lot of activity is taking place around the old capital site at this time, other than those like myself who came to visit and travel the trails that takes one back in time.

Cahawba didn’t appear on the scene with the coming of the early settler. As early as 2,500 years ago, Indians occupied the area where the two rivers join. In the month of September 1540, the Spanish explorer DeSoto visited the large village located there between the two rivers. He was on his way south where he would cross what is now the Alabama River at the present site of the community of Claiborne, right here in our own Monroe County.

This area was quite important to the early Indian due to its location and that they were able to travel the two rivers in their canoes. It was a large trading center among the early inhabitants of the villages along the rivers and the higher ground to the north and west. The low bottom lands near the large streams were filled with wild game and the rivers flourished with fish. But the good life that the Indians enjoyed between the two rivers was soon to change.

In 1819, the state of Alabama would make its debut from out of the wilderness. From the territorial capital at St. Stephens, Cahawba was to become our first state capital. The area of that time was an undeveloped town site. The land where the capital was to be located was a gift from our then current president James Monroe. Due to the lack of building and living quarters at the new capital, the Alabama legislature was forced to find temporary accommodations in Huntsville until a statehouse could be built. By 1820, however, Cahawba had come into full swing. It was a fully functioning state capital.

But, Cahawba would never enjoy the full popularity of a state capital. The low areas along the rivers gave it a reputation of flooding and being mosquito infested. Those that opposed the selection of Cahawba as the new state capital used this reputation to force a vote in the state legislature that it be moved to another location. Tuscaloosa and the town of Claiborne were to be voted on for the new capital. The town of Claiborne, that rested along the high bluffs of the river, right here in our own county, missed being chosen the capital by only one vote in the legislature. The new capital was now the city of Tuscaloosa. After the moving of the capital in 1826, within weeks, the town of Cahawba was nearly abandoned.

The town was not ready to give up yet. The flooding and malaria had been greatly exaggerated by Cahawba’s opponents. The town would recover and reestablish itself as a social and commercial center. Cahawba became the major distribution point for cotton shipped down the Alabama River from the fertile “black belt” to the port of Mobile. Then the addition of a railroad line in 1859 triggered a building boom on the eve of the dreaded Civil War. Over 3,000 people were to call Cahawba home.

But, the glory days of Cahawba were again to be short lived. The dreaded Civil War was fast approaching on the horizon. The Confederate government would seize Cahawba’s railroad. They would tear up the iron rails and use them to extend another railroad nearby. The army of the Confederacy would locate a Union army prisoner of war camp on the old capital site. They would send over 3,000 Union prisoners of war here into the lice and mosquito infected prison. Many died from disease and hunger there in the prison.

More tragedies were yet to strike another death blow to the now dying town. In 1865, a flood would almost destroy the town of Cahawba. Because of the high waters, the county seat was moved to Selma. Businesses and families followed. Within 10 years, even the houses of Cahawba were being dismantled and moved to the new county seat.

The old abandoned courthouse became a meeting place during the Reconstruction period for freedmen seeking new political power. Cahawba became the “Mecca of the Radical Republican Party.” A new rural community of 70 former slave families replaced the old urban center. These families turned the vacant town blocks into two-acre fields. But Cahawba’s troubles were not over yet; this community of former slaves was to disappear also. By 1900, the town that was once the capital of Alabama had almost faded from the countryside. Most of the buildings had been dismantled or burned. Only local fishermen and hunters walked the abandoned streets of the old capital. Many of the artesian wells that were located within the capital city had disappeared from the area: today only one or two remain.

Not much remains of what was once the capital city. Today, nature has reclaimed much of the streets and open land of the old town between the rivers. As one walks the old abandoned streets and views the few remaining markers of certain important locations, a feeling of sadness comes over one. While visiting the lone “Crocheron Columns” or the site of “Castle Morgan,” which was the site of the Union prison camp, the ghosts of another time seem to call out from the shadows and beg to be remembered.

And those that sleep beneath the broken and fallen tombs in the old cemeteries seem to cry from the shadows; from their place in another time, they too wish to be remembered. The old slave cemetery, abandoned until recently, speaks too of hardships and misery. The old town of Cahawba is truly a ghost town of the past. A place where the ghosts of another era still walk the abandoned streets and drink from the ancient wells and wait for that time when the old capital will flourish again from the pages of history of the past. The words of a former resident, Anna Gayle Fry said that “The ghosts of Cahawba will never be still.”

(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 to Vincent William Singleton and Frances Cornelia Faile Singleton, during a late-night thunderstorm, on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School in 1946, served as a U.S. Marine paratrooper in the Korean War, worked as a riverboat deckhand, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County on June 28, 1964 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from June 28, 1964 to Dec. 14, 1987. He was promoted from the enlisted ranks to warrant officer in May 1972. For years, Singleton’s columns, titled “Monroe County history – Did you know?” and “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. It’s believed that his first column appeared in the March 25, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal. 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 Aug. 18, 2018

Aug. 18, 1587 – Virginia Dare, granddaughter of Governor John White of the Colony of Roanoke, became the first English child born in the Americas.

Aug. 18, 1590 - John White, the governor of the Roanoke Island colony in present-day North Carolina, returned from a supply-trip to England to find the settlement completely deserted. White and his men found no trace of the 100 or so colonists he left behind, and there was no sign of violence. To date, no one knows what became of the so-called “Lost Colony of Roanoke.”

Aug. 18, 1612 – The trial of the Pendle witches, one of England's most famous witch trials, began at Lancaster Assizes.

Aug. 18, 1634 – Urbain Grandier, accused and convicted of sorcery, was burned alive in Loudun, France.

Aug. 18, 1735 - The "Evening Post" of Boston, Mass. was published for the first time.

Aug. 18, 1750 – Italian-born Viennese composer Antonio Salieri was born in Legnago in the Republic of Venice.

Aug. 18, 1774 – American soldier, explorer, and co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis, was born in Charlottesville, Va.

Aug. 18, 1780 - Following the Continental Army’s disastrous loss two days earlier at the Battle of Camden, two bloody engagements left the Loyalist and Patriot forces each with one more victory in South Carolina’s brutal civil war. British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton defeated Brigadier General Thomas Sumter at Sumter's camp at Fishing Creek on the Wateree River. In South Carolina, at Musgrove's Mill, Patriot forces repelled a Loyalist attack.

Aug. 18, 1783 – A huge fireball meteor was seen across Great Britain as it passed over the east coast.

Aug. 18, 1817 - A special committee was established to collect evidence of the Gloucester Sea Serpent, which according to witnesses was between 80 to 100 feet long with "a head as broad as a horse."

Aug. 18, 1838 – The Wilkes Expedition, which would explore the Puget Sound and Antarctica, weighed anchor at Hampton Roads.

Aug. 18, 1842 – French explorer and navigator Louis de Freycinet died at the age of 62 at Château de Freycinet, near Saulce-sur-Rhône, Drôme.

Aug. 18, 1851 – Thomas Chalmers McCorvey was born in Monroe County, Ala. A teacher, poet and historian, he was an active officer and professor at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Aug. 18, 1853 - Cyrus Skinner, who would later be hanged by the Montana vigilantes, ended his first stay in the California state prison at San Quentin.

Aug. 18, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Pohick Church, Va.

Aug. 18, 1862 – William Wright Kilpatrick enlisted in Co. H of the 53rd Alabama Infantry, Mounted “Partisan Rangers,” at Elba, Ala. He received a $50 enlistment bonus, but had no horse. He served 180 days without a horse and was assigned as a teamster until the end of hostilities. Born in 1835 in Barbour County, he passed away in 1898 in Butler County and was buried in the New Home Primitive Baptist Cemetery in the Dottelle community in Monroe County.

Aug. 18, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at White Oak Ridge, Mo.; at Clark's Mountain and near Rapidan Station, Va.; and at Huttonsville, W.Va. Corpus Christi, Texas was bombarded by Federal Naval forces.

Aug. 18, 1863 – During the Civil War, General Thomas Ewing issued orders freeing slaves of Missourians actively involved with the Confederate Army.

Aug. 18, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Pueblo Colorado, Arizona; near Albany and Crab Orchard in Kentucky; at Payne's Plantation, near Grenada, Miss.; and at Bristoe Station, Va.

Aug. 18, 1864 - Union General Ulysses S. Grant attempted to cut Confederate lines into Petersburg, Va. at the Battle of Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern, Va. The battle lasted for five days, and a Confederate offensive regained control of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad on August 25.

Aug. 18, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred near Antioch Church, Ala.

Aug. 18, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought along Bailey's Creek, on the Charles City Road, Fussell's Mil, and at Opequon in Virginia; at Pine Bluff and near Benton, Ark.; at Camp Creek, Ga.; at Geiger's Lake, Ky.; near Pasquotank, N.C.; and at Point Isabel, Texas.

Aug. 18, 1864 – During the Civil War, Kilpatrick's cavalry raid in Georgia began and continued until August 22.

Aug. 18, 1868 - French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen spotted an unknown element in the spectrum of the sun, during a solar eclipse. The element is now known as helium.

Aug. 18, 1870 – Russian general and explorer Lavr Kornilov was born in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Russian Empire.

Aug. 18, 1879 – The Monroe Journal reported that a new post office had been established at Simpkinsville with Mr. J.J. Simpkins as postmaster. Simpkinsville was located just east of the Old Texas and Midway communities, in the northeastern corner of Monroe County, Ala.

Aug. 18, 1880 – John J. Watson was commissioned as Monroe County, Alabama’s Sheriff.

Aug. 18, 1887 – John A. Riley died on this morning at his residence at Chestnut, Ala. His wife proceeded him in death a few months before, leaving two “sweet little girls to battle with the world alone.”

Aug. 18, 1887 – The Monroe Journal reported that Miss Georgie Rawls, a most pleasant young lady of Repton, and formerly of Monroeville, was visiting Miss Emma Seymour and numerous other friends in Monroeville.

Aug. 18, 1887 – The Monroe Journal reported that the Rev. Jas. P. Miller, who was visiting his many friends at River Ridge and at Scotland, was scheduled to preach the following Tuesday night at early candle lighting.

Aug. 18, 1893 – National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Burleigh Grimes was born in Emerald, Wisc. During his career, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Brooklyn Robbins, the New York Giants, the Boston Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, and he also managed the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Aug. 18, 1896 – The Monroe Journal reported that the Masonic District Conference held at Perdue Hill the week before was reported “a most interesting and enjoyable occasion.” About 20 lodges were represented. The conference was held under the joint direction of A.M. Scott, Member of the Committee on Work of the Grand Lodge, and W.W. Daffin, lecturer for the first district.

Aug. 18, 1896 – The Monroe Journal reported that Messrs. Ivey and Martin were speedily erecting a gin house in Repton, “with the expectation of a liberal patronage from surrounding community; arrival of new machinery expected.”

Aug. 18, 1896 – The Monroe Journal reported that Prof. J.A. Liner, principal of the Southwest Alabama Agricultural School at Evergreen, made a tour of Monroe during the previous week “in the interest of his school and gave The Journal a pleasant call while in town. He hopes to open on Sept. 1 with at least 400 pupils enrolled.”

Aug. 18, 1902 – Margaret Murie was born in Seattle, Wash. Murie was instrumental in the formation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the passage of the Wilderness Act, each of which protected millions of acres of wilderness. She received the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Aug. 18, 1903 – German engineer Karl Jatho allegedly flew his self-made, motored gliding airplane four months before the first flight of the Wright brothers.

Aug. 18, 1910 - The Birmingham Barons inaugurated Rickwood Field by defeating the Montgomery Climbers in front of more than 10,000 fans. Rickwood Field is the nation's oldest operating ballpark and served as the home field of the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons for decades. Fittingly, for the center of steel and iron production in the South, Rickwood was the first minor-league ball field to be constructed of steel and concrete, in contrast to the wooden bleachers that were prevalent at the time. In 1936, lights were installed and Rickwood Field became one of the nation's first parks to host night baseball. Over the years, Rickwood has hosted its share of legends. More than 50 members of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame have entertained fans throughout its illustrious history.

Aug. 18, 1911 – The Monroe County (Ala.) Jail was condemned by Alabama State Prison Inspector W.H. Oates, who inspected the jail on July 22. In a letter to Monroe County’s I.B. Slaughter, Oates called the jail “one of the poorest jails in the state.”

Aug. 18, 1915 – Conecuh County Commissioner John F. Salter brought in the “first new bale” of cotton, which was bought for 10 cents.

Aug. 18, 1915 - Braves Field was inaugurated with Boston defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1.

Aug. 18, 1916 - Abraham Lincoln's birthplace was made into a national shrine.

Aug. 18, 1917 - The Italian army launched their 11th battle against Austro-Hungarian troops on the Isonzo River, near Italy’s border with Austria-Hungary.

Aug. 18, 1920 – The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.

Aug. 18, 1926 – The Evergreen Courant reported that, according to Prof. L.C. Kersh, principal of Conecuh County High School, his school expected to be a real contender in athletics in the South Alabama field that year. The school had been fortunate enough to secure Smoky Bill Hillman to direct athletics that season. With the splendid material in sight it was expected that under the tutelage of Hillman, strong teams could be put out in football, basketball and baseball. Hillman was a three-year letterman from Emory and Henry University in Virginia. He coached in 1925 at Tuscumbia High. His arrival in Castleberry was looked forward to with genuine interest by the sport lovers of that thriving community.

Aug. 18, 1926 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Prof. J.B. Murphy, who had been principal of the Conecuh County High School for the past four years, had accepted the principalship of the Flomaton Schools, and would leave about Sept. 1 to take up his duties there.

Aug. 18, 1926 – The Evergreen Courant reported that the piers had been set for an 80-foot steel lookout tower on what was known as Panther Creek Hill in Covington County, according to the State Commission of Forestry. The site was on the Florala and Kinston road in Section 21, Township 2 North, Range 18 East.

Aug. 18, 1934 – National Baseball Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente was born in Barrio San Antón, Carolina, Puerto Rico. He played his career for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Aug. 18, 1936 – Evergreen Boy Scout Troop 80 played a 10-inning baseball game against the Monroeville juniors on this Tuesday. Monroeville won the game, 7-6. Evergreen’s players included Dick Murphy, first base; Vaughn Fountain, second base; Charlie Northcutt, shortstop; Carl Wiggins, third base; Horace Jay, left field; Knud Nielsen, center field; James Tate, right field; Jim Lane, pitcher; and Bill Wiggins, catcher. Pullens pitched for Monroeville, and Latham did the catching.

Aug. 18, 1937 - The first FM radio construction permit was issued in Boston, Mass. The station went on the air two years later.

Aug. 18, 1943 – Congressman George Grant, who represented Alabama’s 2nd District in Washington, visited Evergreen, Ala.

Aug. 18, 1943 – Annie Lenora Stallings Wiggins, 82, passed away at her residence on Rural Street in Evergreen, Ala. One of Evergreen’s oldest and most admired citizens, she was born on Feb. 13, 1861 in the Oaky Streak community in Butler County. She married Willis Thomas Wiggins and they moved to Castleberry, where they lived a short time. They moved to Evergreen in 1890, and her husband died on March 10, 1927. She was buried in the Old Evergreen Cemetery.

Aug. 18, 1950 - W.W. Garrett of Uriah, Monroe County’s representative in the Alabama legislature, was to be the regular speaker at the weekly meeting of the Monroeville Kiwanis Club on this Friday at noon at the LaSalle Hotel. Garrett, who’d received appointment to a special Senate-House committee to study reapportionment during the recess of the legislature, was to speak on activities of the legislative body. Windell C. Owens was in charge of the program.

Aug. 18, 1955 – Major League Baseball catcher Bruce Benedict was born in Birmingham, Ala. He played his entire career, 1978-1989, for the Atlanta Braves.

Aug. 18, 1956 - The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Braves combined for a National League record of 10 home runs. The Reds won, 13-4. Bob Thurman of the Cincinnati Reds hit three of the home runs.

Aug. 18, 1958 – Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel “Lolita” was published in the United States.

Aug. 18, 1960 - Lew Burdette threw a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. The final score was 1-0.

Aug. 18, 1963 – James Meredith became the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi.

Aug. 18, 1965 – During the Vietnam War, Operation Starlite began as United States Marines destroyed a Viet Cong stronghold on the Van Tuong peninsula in the first major American ground battle of the war.

Aug. 18, 1965 - Condition of a 13-year-old girl was diagnosed as critical on this Wednesday afternoon after she was struck by lightning at her home in Franklin. Ceclestive Henderson, daughter of Mose Henderson, was hit by the bolt during an electrical storm that hit Franklin at approximately 2 p.m. She was receiving treatment at the Monroe County Hospital.

Aug. 18, 1966 – During the Vietnam War, the Battle of Long Tan ensue after a patrol from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment clashed with a Viet Cong force in Phước Tuy Province.

Aug. 18, 1966 – In Evergreen Junior Baseball League action, the Dodgers knocked the Yankees out of a first place tie in the National League, upsetting them in the final game of the season. The members of the Dodgers included Jerry Daw, Lester Daw, Mike Turner, David Jackson, Donald Jackson, Sammy Garrett, Johnny Andrews, Tommy Shipp, Shavon Halford, Donnie Griggers, Gary Gibson, Larry Tranum and Tony Weaver. Matthew Davis was the team’s manager, and Gene Shipp was assistant manager.

Aug. 18, 1968 – Marine PFC Douglas Sidney Scroggins, 21, of Wing in Covington County, Ala. was killed in action in Quang Nam, Vietnam. Born on April 24, 1947 to Alfred L. Scroggins and Bertha M. Scroggins of Wing, Scroggins enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on Oct. 26, 1967 in Montgomery. He arrived in Vietnam on Aug. 5, 1968, where he was assigned for duty and served with Co. G, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st MARDIV (Rein) FMF. During the month of August, the Battalion continued to participate on Operation MAMELUKE THRUST, with their Command Post at An Hoa, and provide security for Liberty Bridge with one Company positioned at Phu Lac 6 in Duy Xuyen District of Quang Nam Province. On Aug. 18, Co. G came into contact with the enemy on the north bank of the Son Thu Bon (River) in the near the Giao Thuy village complex. A heavy volume of small arms fire and rocket propelled fire greeted the advancing Marines, and as the men moved forward the gun fire intensified slowing the advance. Air strikes enabled the Marine to sweep though the enemy defenses, with a loss of seven men killed in the action and twenty wounded. One of the casualties was Scroggins, who was killed in action by hostile rocket fire. He was buried in Harmony Baptist Church Cemetery in Covington County.

Aug. 18, 1968 - The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched a limited offensive in the south with 19 separate attacks throughout South Vietnam.

Aug. 18, 1971 – During the Vietnam War, Australia and New Zealand decided to withdraw their troops from Vietnam.

Aug. 18, 1973 – Wilcox County native Hank Aaron set a Major League record with his 1,378th extra base.

Aug. 18, 1980 - George Brett of the Kansas City Royals had his batting average reach the .400 mark.

Aug. 18, 1981 - Herschel Walker of the University of Georgia took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London. The All-American was insured for one million dollars.

Aug. 18, 1981 – The Evergreen City Council approved a resolution in favor of providing a public defender for defendants in city court. An attorney was to be appointed to represent indigent defendants, according to the resolution.

Aug. 18, 1982 - The longest baseball game played at Wrigley Field in Chicago went 21 innings before the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cubs, 2-1.

Aug. 18, 1984 – An open ladies softball tournament was scheduled to be played in Atmore, Ala.

Aug. 18, 1987 - Earl Campbell announced his retirement from the National Football League.

Aug. 18, 1987 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby talked with constituents at the Conecuh County Courthouse in Evergreen, Ala.

Aug. 18, 1990 - The first shots were fired by the U.S. in the Persian Gulf Crisis when a U.S. frigate fired rounds across the bow of an Iraqi oil tanker.

Aug. 18, 1992 - Kurt Cobain of the band, Nirvana, and Courtney Love of Hole became parents to daughter Frances Bean.

Aug. 18, 1992 – Adventurer and hiker Christopher McCandless, made famous by Jon Krakauer in his 1996 book “Into the Wild,” died at the age of 24 in Stampede Trail, Alaska.

Aug. 18, 1994 – Ronnie Brogden was sworn in as Superintendent of Education for Conecuh County Schools by Probate Judge Rogene Booker. Brogden was selected to fill the unexpired term of former superintendent, Steve Coker.

Aug. 18, 1995 - Tom Henke of St. Louis became only the seventh Major League player to record 300 saves.

Aug. 18, 1996 - Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox became the fourth player to reach 100 RBIs in each of his first six seasons.

Aug. 18, 1996 - Wade Boggs became the 41st major league player to get 2,000 career singles.

Aug. 18, 2004 – Carlisle Hall, near Marion, Ala., was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Aug. 18, 2006 - Alabama’s first-ever regulated alligator hunting season was scheduled to begin in portions of Baldwin and Mobile counties. Fifty hunters were to be randomly chose by computer for an Alligator Possession Tag, and the season was scheduled to end on Aug. 24.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., Aug. 18, 2018

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.40 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  4.75 inches.

Summer to Date Rainfall: 11.35 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 36.95 inches.

Notes: Today is the 230th day of 2018 and the 59th day of Summer. There are 135 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, August 17, 2018

Today in History for Aug. 17, 2018

Aug. 17, 1560 – The Roman Catholic Church was overthrown and Protestantism was established as the national religion in Scotland.

Aug. 17, 1585 – A first group of colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh under the charge of Ralph Lane landed in the New World to create Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina.

Aug. 17, 1597 – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and Sir Walter Raleigh set sail on an expedition to the Azores.

Aug. 17, 1771 – Edinburgh botanist James Robertson made the first recorded ascent of Ben Nevis in Scotland

Aug. 17, 1785 - Jonathan Trumbull, governor of both the colony and state of Connecticut, died in Lebanon, Connecticut, where he was buried.

Aug. 17, 1786 – American soldier, politician and folk hero David “Davy” Crockett was born in Greene County, Tenn. He would be killed at the Alamo in 1836. Crockett was a participant in the Battle of Tallushatchee, which took place on November 3, 1813, in present-day Calhoun County, Ala. It was America's first military victory in the Creek War of 1813-14. Crockett was a member the Second Regiment of Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen under Brigadier General John Coffee.

Aug. 17, 1790 - The capital city of the United States moved to Philadelphia from New York City.

Aug. 17, 1798 – The Vietnamese Roman Catholics reported a Marian apparition in Quảng Trị, an event which is called Our Lady of La Vang.

Aug. 17, 1807 – Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat left New York City for Albany, New York, on the Hudson River, inaugurating the first commercial steamboat service in the world.

Aug. 17, 1814 – A Choctaw company of 53 warriors, commanded by Pushmataha, with Moshulitubbee as second in command, was mustered into the service of the United States. This company of Indian warriors formed part of the detachment under the command of Major Uriah Blue, and assisted in bringing the Creek War to a close. They were mustered out of service at Fort Stoddart on Jan. 27, 1815.

Aug. 17, 1829 - The conjoined twins, Chang & Eng, arrived in America from Siam to embark on their exhibition tour. Their condition was the source of the phrase "Siamese twins."

Aug. 17, 1833 – Charles D. McCall named postmaster at Burnt Corn, Ala., but he refused to accept the job, and J. Walker served as acting postmaster in his place.

Aug. 17, 1836 – David Moniac of Alabama, the first Native American graduate of West Point, was commissioned as a captain in the Second Seminole War.

Aug. 17, 1853 – Daniel McCool was commissioned for his third and final term as Monroe County, Alabama’s Circuit Court Clerk.

Aug. 17, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Palmyra, Hunnewell and at Brunswick, Mo.

Aug. 17, 1861 - George Thomas was appointed brigadier general of volunteers, Army of the Cumberland.

Aug. 17, 1862 – During the Civil War, Major General J.E.B. Stuart was assigned command of all the cavalry of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Aug. 17, 1862 – During the Civil War, Minnesota erupted in violence as desperate Dakota Indians attacked white settlements along the Minnesota River. Over 500 white settlers lost their lives along with about 150 Dakota warriors. The Dakota were eventually overwhelmed by the U.S. military six weeks later, and over 300 warriors were sentenced to death.

Aug. 17, 1862 - J. E. B. Stuart assumed command of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Aug. 17, 1862 - Corpus Christi, Texas was bombarded by Union forces.

Aug. 17, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at London, at Flat Lick and near Mammoth, Ky.

Aug. 17, 1862 – HILLIARD’S LEGION: During their 47-mile march from Knoxville to the Cumberland Gap, Hilliard’s Legion pulled out of camp at Mayardville, Tenn. early and marched to a point one mile north of Tazwell, Tenn. The legion remained in camp at this point until Aug. 22, awaiting orders.

Aug. 17, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Grand Prairie, Ark.; and at Grenada and near Panola, Miss.

Aug. 17, 1863 – During the Civil War, in an impressive display of firepower, Federal batteries began heavy shelling of Confederate positions ringing Charleston Harbor including Fort Sumter. Using Parrott rifled cannon including the 200-pound Swamp Angel, the artillery was deadly accurate and easily breached Sumter, but no assault was forthcoming. Although the initial attack was the heaviest, Federal artillery assaults continued off and on until September, 1864.

Aug. 17, 1864 – During the Civil War, at the Battle of Gainesville, Confederate forces defeated Union troops near Gainesville, Fla.

Aug. 17, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Gainesville, Fla.; at South Newport, Ga.; at White Oak Springs, Ky.; and at Winchester and at Gravel Hill in Virginia.

Aug. 17, 1864 – During the Civil War, General John Bankhead Magruder appointed commander of Confederate forces in Arkansas.

Aug. 17, 1870 - Spanish-American War hero Richmond Pearson Hobson was born in Greensboro, Ala. Hobson later represented Alabama in the U.S. Congress and was active in the prohibition movement. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1933 for heroism during the Spanish-American War and became a Rear Admiral in 1934. Hobson died in 1937.

Aug. 17, 1877 - Though only a teenager at the time, William Bonney, aka “Billy the Kid,” wounded an Arizona blacksmith named Frank “Windy” Cahill, who died the next day. He was the famous outlaw’s first victim.

Aug. 17, 1878 – Irish writer and wit Oliver St. John Gogarty was born in Dublin.

Aug. 17, 1886 - A “very refreshing shower of rain fell” on this Tuesday in Monroeville, “which was gladly welcomed by all,” according to The Monroe Journal.

Aug. 17, 1886 - A special term of the Commissioners court convened on this Tuesday in Monroeville.

Aug. 17, 1887 - Rev. Mr. Cowan closed a very successful revival meeting at Puryearville on this Wednesday night with 18 accessions to the church, according to The Monroe Journal.

Aug. 17, 1893 – Actress and playwright Mae West was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Aug. 17, 1894 - John Wadsworth of Louisville set a Major League Baseball record when he gave up 28 base hits in a single game.

Aug. 17, 1896 - Mrs. Margaret Hixon, the widow of the late Richard Hixon, died at her home near Steadham, Ala. on this Tuesday, aged about 63 years. Four sons and one daughter survived her.

Aug. 17, 1903 - Joseph Pulitzer donated a million dollars to Columbia University, which started the Pulitzer Prizes in his name.

Aug. 17, 1907 – Pike Place Market, a popular tourist destination and registered historic district in Seattle, Wash., opened.

Aug. 17, 1909 - With a unanimous vote by the legislature, Alabama became the first state to ratify the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When the amendment went into effect on Feb. 25, 1913, it gave Congress the power to collect income taxes.

Aug. 17, 1913 – Major League Baseball first baseman Rudy York was born in Ragland, Ala. He would go on to play for the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and the Philadelphia Athletics.

Aug. 17, 1914 – Boll weevils arrived in Montgomery County, Ala. as the State Department of Agriculture received a specimen from the plantation of W.V. Bell of Ada in the western part of the county.

Aug. 17, 1914 – During World War I, at the Battle of Stallupönen, the German army of General Hermann von François defeated the Russian force commanded by Paul von Rennenkampf near modern-day Nesterov, Russia.

Aug. 17, 1914 - The Russian 1st and 2nd Armies began their advance into East Prussia, fulfilling Russia’s promise to its ally, France, to attack Germany from the east as soon as possible so as to divert German resources and relieve pressure on France during the opening weeks of the First World War.

Aug. 17, 1916 – The Conecuh Record reported that a cavalry company was to be organized in Evergreen within the next 10 days. E.C. Barnes and J.A. Rumbley were the recruiting officers. At the time, there were only three states in the Union that had cavalry troops - Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania – and Alabama was to be the fourth. Elsewhere in that day’s paper it was reported that Capt. Duke Guice of Greenville was in Evergreen looking for recruits for a cavalry company that week.

Aug. 17, 1916 – The Monroe Journal reported that Mr. and Mrs. Walter Lee and a party of young folks from Evergreen were guests of Mr. and Mrs. L.W. Locklin on the occasion of the dance at the courthouse on this Thursday night.

Aug. 17, 1920 - Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Scott announced in this day’s edition of The Monroe Journal the engagement of their daughter, Miss Annie, to Mr. Ulmer E. Bradley of Blacksher, Ala., the wedding to take place at Eliska on Sept. 7.

Aug. 17, 1924 - Alabama author A. Cleveland Harrison was born in McRae, Ark.

Aug. 17, 1924 – Novelist, poet and short-story writer Evan S. Connell was born in Kansas City, Mo.

Aug. 17, 1930 – Poet Ted Hughes was born in West Riding, Yorkshire.

Aug. 17, 1933 - New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig played in his 1,308th consecutive game, breaking former Yankee Everett Scott’s record for consecutive games played. Gehrig would go on to play in 2,130 games in a row, setting a record that would stand for over half a century.

Aug. 17, 1935 - Drs. A.B. Coxwell and W.A. Stallworth were to leave Monroeville on this Saturday for Century, where they were to attend the Southeastern Surgical Congress to be held at the J.H. Turberville Hospital at that place.

Aug. 17, 1939 - The movie "Wizard of Oz" premiered in New York, two days after it premiered in Hollywood on August 15.

Aug. 17, 1941 - After a lingering illness of several months, 64-year-old F. Temp Thames, well known and beloved citizen of Burnt Corn, died at his home at 1 p.m. on this Sunday. Thames was born on Sept. 27, 1876 and had lived his entire life in the community where he died. He had served as member of the Conecuh County Jury Commission and was affiliated with the Masonic lodge at Burnt Corn. He was buried in the Ramah Baptist Church Cemetery in Pine Orchard.

Aug. 17, 1950 – The Monroe Journal reported that the coaching position at J.U. Blacksher High School in Uriah remained unfilled that week following a call to active duty for John Alexander Roney of Hartford, who originally was employed for the post. Roney had been employed earlier in the summer to replace Coach John Sawyer in the coaching spot. Sawyer had been elevated to principal of the school, succeeding W.M. Johnson, who resigned.

Aug. 17, 1959 – “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, the much acclaimed and highly influential best-selling jazz recording of all time, was released.

Aug. 17, 1965 – In an election in Mobile, Lambert C. Mims, a native of Monroe County, was one of the two top vote getters in a seven-man race for Place 3, Mobile City Commission. He was to face Henry R. Luscher Jr. in the runoff Sept. 7. A food broker, Mims was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jeff C. Mims of Uriah. He was a graduate of the J.U. Blacksher High School and lived in Uriah until he moved to Mobile several years before 1965.

Aug. 17, 1967 - Army Pvt. Curtis E. Harris, 25, son of Mr. and Mrs. William G. Harris of Uriah, completed eight weeks of training in air defense artillery at the Army Air Defense School, Ft. Bliss, Texas. He was trained in firing and maintaining air defense missiles. Instruction included tactics of air defense weapons systems, function of nuclear warheads, electronics and missile repair. Harris graduated from Troy State College in 1965 with a B.A. degree.

Aug. 17, 1968 – Mystery writer Steve Hockensmith was born in Louisville, Ky.

Aug. 17, 1968 - Defense Department figures put the number of combat missions flown over North Vietnam since February 1965 to 117,000, dropping over 2.5 million tons of bombs and rockets.

Aug. 17, 1969 – Category 5 Hurricane Camille hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, killing 256 and causing $1.42 billion in damage.

Aug. 17, 1971 - The Evergreen City Council heard a proposition on Cable Television for the city area, but took no action at its meeting on this Tuesday night. Calvin Sutliff of Arizona was present to discuss a Cable TV system with the council. If granted a franchise, he would move to Evergreen, Sutliff said. The council postponed any action until a later meeting.

Aug. 17, 1973 - The United States and Thailand agreed to begin negotiations on the reduction of the 49,000-man American presence in Thailand.

Aug. 17, 1980 – Azaria Chamberlain disappeared at Ayers Rock, Northern Territory, probably taken by a dingo, leading to what was then the most publicized trial in Australian history.

Aug. 17, 1982 – The first compact discs for commercial release were manufactured in Germany.

Aug. 17, 1986 - Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds was struck out for his last at bat by San Diego Padres relief pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage.

Aug. 17, 1987 – Evergreen, Ala. weather reporter Earl Windham reported 2.5 inches of rain on this day in Evergreen.

Aug. 17, 2004 - Kathleen “Kathy” Theresa Lutz of “Amityville Horror” fame passed away from emphysema at the age of 57.

Aug. 17, 2006 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Sparta Academy head coach Clint Floyd was preparing the Warriors for their first-ever Saturday night season-opener. Sparta was scheduled to play East Memorial Christian Academy Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. in Prattville. Floyd said the game would be played at Prattville High School’s stadium on artificial turf. Sparta’s April 10 scrimmage with Dixie Academy in Evergreen left Floyd feeling good about the defense and concerned about the offensive line play. Players on Sparta’s team that year included Gaston Bozeman, Chase Brown, Taylor Brown, D.J. Buckhault, Kyle Cinereski, Peyton Thompson, Myles Wiggins and J.R. Williams.

Aug. 17, 2006 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Conecuh County Sheriff Tracy Hawsey had found himself in the midst of a controversy over a television show he and WAKA CBS 8 reporter Mike Smith created called “Alabama 9-1-1.” Articles that appeared in the Mobile Press-Register that week allege that Hawsey had a conflict and could be in violation of ethics laws in the state. Sheriff Hawsey claimed that he had already discussed the matter with the Secretary of State’s office and they had no problems.

Aug. 17, 2006 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Bobby Balogun, President of W&B Trading, had appeared before the Conecuh County Commission to voice his displeasure with the progress in acquiring the land and other incentives promised him by the county and City of Evergreen to bring his biodiesel plant to Conecuh County. Balogun began by saying his company was happy to be in Conecuh County and felt like the county had welcomed him. He told the county there were several issues they were not happy with on the project. He stated that since the contract for the project was signed on June 8 too much time had passed without activity on items like the temporary industrial access road to the site.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Aug. 17, 2018

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 1.40 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  4.75 inches.

Summer to Date Rainfall: 11.35 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 36.95 inches.

Notes: Today is the 229th day of 2018 and the 58th day of Summer. There are 136 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, August 16, 2018

Attorney General was called in to get to the bottom of 'dumb bull' incident

Man pulling a string through a dumb bull.

One of my favorite magazines is “The Backwoodsman,” which comes out six times a year. Published out of Bandera, Texas, each issue is chock full of stories about woodslore, history, homesteading, muzzle loading, primitive living skills, self reliance and survival. My friend Bobby Drew put me on to this magazine several years ago, and I read one and haven’t missed an issue since.

In the latest issue, a reader from Indiana wrote a letter to the editor in which he mentioned a “bullroarer,” “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” Bigfoot and a “skunk ape.” He’d run across references to all of these things in back issues of the magazine and was wanting to know if the editor would elaborate on a Bigfoot experience he mentioned some time ago.

The editor, Charlie Richie Sr., responded by saying that the Bigfoot he encountered as a kid was the “Real McCoy,” but he isn’t sure if there are any skunk apes in Texas.

What caught my eye in all of this was the mention of a “bullroarer.” I don’t know if the letter-writer had another definition in mind, but a “bullroarer” is an ancient musical instrument that can be heard over long distances. Most of you reading this have seen them on television in shows about Australia, where native people swing them over their heads and make a loud whirring sound.

When I saw the word “bullroarer” it made me think about dumb bull, which is something the people used to make to create a racket that you could hear from a long way off. I’ve never seen one in person, but my understanding is that you get an open-ended barrel and cover one end with a tight cover. You then poke a small hole in the cover and draw a greased leather thong through the hole, which I’ve heard makes a loud, ungodly noise.

Years ago, I ran across a series of stories in old editions of The Courant where some boys, unbeknownst to the community, had made one of these dumb bulls and had folks so scared that they wouldn’t leave the house at night. These pranksters had everyone in the community scared that a lion or some such beast had escaped from the circus and was roaming the countryside at night. At the time, it was a big thing and was widely reported in the newspaper.

On one occasion these boys hid on the limb of a tree that hung out over a road not far from one of our local churches. Sure enough, when church let out, a young man was walking a young lady home and when they passed under the tree the devilish boys let loose with their dumb bull. The not-so-brave young man took off running, leaving the young lady behind to deal with the “monster,” which pretty much ruined his attempts at further romance.

Eventually, law enforcement got involved, and I ran across one story where the State Attorney General even came to Conecuh County to get to the bottom of the “monster” that was roaming the countryside. For the life of me, earlier this week, I couldn’t find the stories that detailed all of this, but I believe it all occurred in the 1930s. I do remember that when officers finally figured out what was going on and identified the culprits, their names were not published in the newspaper.

Years ago, not too long after reading about all of this for the first time, I got to talking about it with Butch at the newspaper, and I began to go on and on about how I was going to make a dumb bull. Butch, who is always full of good advice, finally told me that I was going to get my *** in trouble if I didn’t knock it off, and this reality check ended my plans to make a dumb bull. With that said, if anyone in the reading audience has one they’d like to demonstrate for me, let me know because I’d like to see it.

In the meantime, I’ll do a little digging to see if I can find those old dumb bull stories in the newspaper. It was an ongoing thing for weeks, and the stories were very entertaining to read.

My first girls travel softball tournament was an eye-opening experience

I got my first exposure to the world of girls travel softball on Saturday, and it was an eye-opening experience.

My daughter played in a 12U travel softball tournament on Saturday in Millbrook, and it was the first such tournament she’d ever played in. It was also the first such tournament that my wife and I had ever attended, so it was a new experience for all of us.

Over the years, “travel ball” for both baseball and softball has gotten bigger and bigger, and it’s supposed to benefit the child if they’re hoping to get better at the game. This makes sense to me because I’ve always been of the opinion that you’ve got to play in games if you really want to get better. This is why Major League Baseball has such a highly-developed minor league system, which provides what amounts to high-quality practice games for players they don’t have room for on their Major League rosters.

Also, most of these travel teams are invitation only-type teams, so most of the players are above average. No matter what game you’re playing, I don’t care if it’s checkers or horseshoes, players tend to rise to the level of their competition. In theory, win or lose, the typical travel ball player benefits from playing travel ball because they’re competing against good competition.

Saturday’s tournament was held at the impressive Mill Creek Sports Complex in Millbrook and when we arrived at the park around 11 a.m., there were already games underway on the six fields there. There were hundreds of people there already, not counting all of the players and coaches that were taking part in the festivities. The event not only included 12U teams like my daughter’s but also teams in other age groups, including older girls that looked high school age and younger girls in the early elementary school grades.

In my estimation, the crowd there at that time rivaled the largest crowd that Hillcrest drew for any of their football games last season. There’s no telling how much money this event raked in for the organizers. Not only did the concession stand stay busy all day, but you can imagine how much money was spent at gas stations and restaurants in and around Millbrook that day.

This being our “first rodeo,” my wife and I thought we were well-prepared for a long day of softball. We had our little wagon filled with camp chairs, snacks and drinks, but we’d forgotten one important thing – a canopy tent. Looking around, we were apparently the only folks in the park who hadn’t brought one because there were literally dozens and dozens of these tents set up all around each field.

More veteran softball parents had not only claimed the best spots, but they’d also set up camp for a long day of watching softball. These folks not only had the best artificial shade that money could buy, but some also had electric generators, grills and even hammocks. It reminded me a lot of what you’d see out of tailgaters at an Alabama or Auburn football game – only with a softball flavor to it.

It’s more than smart to make yourself comfortable for the long haul at these types of events, especially in hot weather like we had on Saturday. On more than one occasion, I felt like a bug under a magnifying glass as the hot sun beat down on my head. My daughter’s first game was at 12:30 p.m. and the last game wrapped up around 11:30 p.m., that is, about 11 hours later. We enjoyed ourselves (especially since my daughter’s team won their 10-team tournament), but it does pay to be prepared.

In the end, from a long-time sports observer’s point of view, it was fun to be introduced into the unique subculture of girls travel softball. It does make for a long day, but, for the most part, it’s good, clean fun. However, with that said, I will have me one of those fancy tents next time, and I may even throw in a hammock for good measure.