This coming Monday, May 4, will mark the 187th anniversary of the strange death of Conecuh County politician Eldridge Swepson Greening.
Greening was born in Sumter, S.C. on March 3, 1800, and he went on to graduate from the University of North Carolina in 1817. A few years later, not long after Alabama became a state, he found himself in Sparta, where he was admitted to practice law in Alabama on Dec. 14, 1821. Greening also represented Conecuh County in the state legislature for four terms between 1821 and 1828.
He also served one term as county solicitor and as the registrar in the Sparta & Elba Land Office between Feb. 19, 1822 and Dec. 4, 1825. Greening was also the postmaster at Sparta from Sept. 30, 1823 to Sept. 30, 1827.
He was also one of the first Freemasons in Conecuh County, and was highly active in Masonic affairs (but more about that later).
Greening’s life was cut short when he was just 28 years old when he was killed in a surrey accident on May 4, 1828 while on his way from his home to Pensacola, Fla. on a business trip. Those of you familiar with wagons and horses will know that a “surrey” is a doorless, four-wheeled carriage that was drawn by horses. Most of them had two seats and many of them didn’t have covered tops.
Sources say that Greening, who was running unopposed for a seat in the U.S. Congress at the time, was killed instantly when his carriage ran against a roadside tree and threw him out of the wagon.
Greening was so well respected and popular, that two days after his death the citizens of Sparta and the surrounding countryside held a meeting to mourn his death and draft a long set of resolutions in his honor to be published in The Mobile Commercial Register. Citizens also agreed to wear the “usual badge of mourning” on their left arm for 30 days and agreed to have the Hon. S.W. Oliver deliver a special commemorative eulogy in Greening’s honor in the Town of Sparta on May 12, 1828.
Not only was Greening a promising young politician, but he was also one of the first Freemasons in Conecuh County and was active within early Freemasonry in Alabama. In 1825, he was elected Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Alabama.
Nearly 12 years after Greening’s death, a meeting was held on April 4, 1840 to organize a Masonic Lodge in Evergreen. During that meeting, those present agreed to name the lodge in Greening’s honor in recognition of his contributions to Masonry. This new lodge received its first official charter on Dec. 9, 1841 and has since been known as Greening Lodge No. 53 ever since.
For years, this Masonic Lodge was located in a two-story building that was located on the now vacant lot behind the Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library. In 1961, the lodge moved to a more modern building on Edwina Street and it still sits there today, just a stone’s throw from Evergreen Medical Center.
For the past four or five years, I’ve kept my eyes open for more details about Greening’s life, but I haven’t been able to find out much more about him. One big question I’ve tried to answer regards where he is buried. Things that I’ve read indicate that he was buried at Sparta, but I don’t know that for sure. If anyone out there knows where he is buried, please let me know. You can contact me at The Courant at 578-1492 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.