Thursday, July 2, 2015

100-year-old news highlights from July 1915 issues of The Evergreen Courant

Clara Kimball Young in 1916
It’s that time of the month again, time to take a trip down memory lane and review all of the interesting things that took place in Conecuh County 100 years ago, way back in July 1915.

The big news in the July 7, 1915 edition of The Evergreen Courant involved details about one of the most notorious crimes in the history of Conecuh County. Under the headline, “MURDERERS GIVEN DEATH PENALTY,” Courant editor and owner George W. Salter Jr. reported that “John Salter and Robert Watkins must hang by the neck until they are dead for the murder of Mrs. Martha Lassiter, which occurred just two weeks ago. Such was the verdict of the jury in the trial yesterday and the sentence of the court was that the two should be executed on Fri., Aug. 6, just 30 days, the earliest that the law will permit. The crime for which these men were convicted was committed on the night of June 23, just two weeks ago, a detailed account of which was printed in The Courant last week.

“Court convened yesterday morning shortly after 10 o’clock, and after the jury was organized a recess was taken until one o’clock, when the trial proceeded. The taking of testimony and arguments by counsel for the state and the defense were completed at 2:55 and at 3:20 the jury returned the verdict.

“Never before in the history of Conecuh County was there such a crowd in the court room as on this occasion, and the court room could not hold much over half the crowd.

“The people did not attempt to use the seats, but the immense crowd stood throughout, packed like sardines in a can, enduring the intense heat from the beginning of the trial until the last words fell from the lips of the presiding judge pronouncing the death sentence upon the condemned criminals.

“The main witness and the one about whose testimony the greatest interest centered was Wiley House, whose miraculous escape from death has been the wonder of everybody.”

In the July 14 edition of The Courant, it was reported that “Sheriff Williams is making ready for the execution of the two men condemned to die on Aug. 6. He is having the rope stretched which is to be used on this occasion. The two condemned men were seen in their cell yesterday. Salter was laying on his couch reading a Bible while Watkins sat on a stool trying to write. The former showed little signs of worry while the latter was visibly troubled over his approaching doom. Their cells are directly opposite the gallows, where at some time during the day of Aug. 6 they will be executed.”

Elsewhere in that week’s paper, it was reported that “Wiley House returned home Monday after spending several days with his sister, Mrs. C.A. Sinquefield. He has fully recovered from wounds inflicted with pistol and knife by Salter and Watkins, who attempted to take his life.”

Readers that week also learned that “Mrs. J.G. Barrow is suffering from a broken collarbone as a result of an automobile accident on Thursday, evening last. She was in the car with her daughter, Mrs. Buford Powell, going up the steep incline on Cary Street, when the brakes refused to work and the car with its human freight went down the embankment turning completely over.”

That week’s paper also included the following advertisement – “Mon., July 19, at ARCADE THEATRE the World Film Corporation Presents Clara Kimball Young in ‘Lola’ by Own Davis – a Shubert Feature in five acts – Open 5:45 p.m. – Admission, 10 cents and 20 cents.”

Salter closed out that week with the following, sports-related announcement – “PICNIC: In the grove at A.S. Benetts Sat., July 17. Come spend a pleasant day and watch the Mt. Olive team cross bats with Bowles team. Refreshments served throughout the day.”

In the July 21, 1915 edition of the newspaper, under the headline “J.E. Johnson Dies of Wounds,” readers learned that “J.E. Johnson died on Saturday night in a hospital in Mobile from the effects of a pistol shot wound inflicted by his wife on Friday afternoon. Mrs. Johnson was given a preliminary trial on Monday morning before Justice Northcutt, when she was discharged, the evidence showing justifiable homicide.”

Also that week, Salter reported that “Mayor Ivey with his family left this morning for Marion to spend some time with relatives. They made the trip in Mr. Ivey’s touring car.”

Elsewhere in the paper, it was reported that “Mayor J.M. Thomas of Castleberry was in the city a while on Saturday last,” and that “the teacher’s examination at the courthouse has brought quite a number of teachers.”

Readers that week also learned that “H.S. Gentry of Auburn is prescription clerk at the Peoples Drug store for a while, coming to relieve J.M. Northcutt, who, with his family, will take a needed rest. In September, Mr. Gentry will return to Auburn where he is assistant professor in Chemistry.”

Salter also let readers know that “Bob Simmons passed through Evergreen this morning with his threshing machine drawn by a traction engine en route to the Brooklyn community to thresh oats for farmers in that section.”

Salter wrapped up the week with a report that “B.G. McCalman of the Troy Herald was here Monday and paid The Courant office a fraternal call” and that “H.A. Stewart, T.J. Thomas and J.T. Gray of Tuscaloosa County are prospecting in this county for a few days with a view to purchasing farms.”

In the July 28, 1915 edition of the paper, the big news was about the upcoming county fair. Under the headline, “Agricultural and Livestock Show Will Be Held On Oct. 13,14 and 15,” readers saw the following announcement – “We are pleased to announce to the public that we have perfected plans by which we can have an agricultural and livestock show in Evergreen this fall. Realizing the importance of a movement of this kind to the agricultural growth of this section, a number of businessmen got together and organized his association. We are now ready to announce that Oct. 13-14-15 we will hold a show of this kind in Evergreen.”

In news from the Brooklyn community, it was reported that the “new brick store belonging to J.F. Williams is nearing completion and will soon be thrown open to the public. The new store will be under the management of J.F. Mitchell.”

Elsewhere in the paper, the news correspondent from the China community let readers know that “Our new school building is nearing completion. It is a very roomy structure, conveniently arranged and together with our ‘old’ school building gives us one of the most desirable and valuable school properties in the county.”

Readers also learned that week that “the first open boll of cotton was brought in by one of our best farmers, Ben Quates of Old Town.” Elsewhere in the paper, Salter reported that “Alma and Byron Martin have returned to their home in Castleberry after spending several weeks here,” and that “W.L. Stallworth’s many friends are glad to see him out again after sustaining painful injuries several days ago in attempting to stop a runaway horse.”

Salter closed out the month of July 1915 by encouraging readers to “See Charles Chaplin, the funniest comedian on the screen, at Arcade Theatre Monday night, five cents and 15 cents.”

Well, I guess that’s all that space will allow for this month. Next month, I plan to take a look at the events of August 1915 in Conecuh County. Until then, if you get the urge to research the county’s past yourself, take advantage of the Evergreen-Conecuh County Public Library’s excellent selection of old newspapers on microfilm and other resources. The library’s friendly and courteous staff will be more than happy to get you started.

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