|George Buster Singleton|
(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 “1800s homestead is among worthy landmarks” was originally published in the Aug. 8, 1991 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
As I travel the back roads and the forgotten trails of our great county, I am always amazed at the many places and events that cry out to be remembered. Nowhere in the county can one go without coming across an old landmark or homeplace that dates back into the early 1800s.
And the family members who lived at these places during this period of our history usually are buried in a forgotten, unkept cemetery somewhere nearby.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to visit one such place. The old home place that was built in the 1840s stands as a silent reminder of what was yesterday. The giant oak tree that stood guard over the yard and provided a cool shade for the laughing children who played nearby has fallen victim to the ravages of man and nature. Only the old rotted stump remains.
You can stand and look across the nearby fields, imagining the many days of hard work, sweat and determination as a living was being sought from the tilled soil. It takes very little imagination to picture in the mind the maturing corn waving to and fro in the hot August afternoon.
If one should stand quietly and listen to the wind in the large magnolia tree near the house, the sound of a blowing horn would probably be heard, calling the field hands and the family to dinner. Listen ever so closely and you might hear the sounds of laughter at a family get-together, as the delicious smell of cooking meat at a Saturday afternoon barbecue rides the evening air.
Listen for the sounds of a rattling harness as company for Sunday dinner pulls up into the yard in a horse and buggy. See a tall, well-dressed man dismount from the buggy and offer his arm for support to a beautiful young lady in a long, white dress, with traces of golden-red hair glowing from under the rim of her ribboned bonnet.
And listen for the sounds of the impatient fox hounds, wanting to be set free from their pen to seek out the crafty red fox that has been seen in a corner of the nearby field.
Walk around the north side of the old house and look for a moment at a small building that is falling in decay. Listen ever so closely, for the sounds of the blacksmith hammer as the farm plows are sharpened on the huge, much-used anvil.
Watch for the smoke from the blacksmith’s forge as the bellows are pumped up and down to keep the fires hot so the metals can be worked by the sweating blacksmith. And picture in your mind the laughter and joking as a couple of barefoot boys seek to retrieve roasted pecans from the red-hot coals of the blacksmith’s fire.
Look once again toward the back of the house and see the remains of the old wooden pegs that still hold the old structure together. See the tall, door-sized windows, covered by faded green wooden shutters. See the well-carved handiwork of the old banisters that surround the old porch. Then look into the double doors that lead to the long hallway with the tall, high ceilings. Envision in your mind children laughing in the old hallway, chasing back and forth until firm orders to be quiet are heard from the kitchen.
Then turn, if you will, and slowly walk across the small patch of high grass and down a short row of soybeans, toward the two large magnolia trees that stand on the edge of the nearby field. Notice how the branches of the magnolias almost touch the ground as if trying to hide or protect something beneath them.
Move ever so closely, and look down at the old wrought-iron fence, almost hidden in the tall weeds. See the huge granite monument that marks the final resting places of family members who lived and died in the old house nearby. Try to picture in your mind those who sleep in the 18 graves to be found in the tall grass and high weeds inside the wrought-iron fence.
Names and dates look out at you from the old burial ground. The dates 1812-1877 seem to call out to be noticed from the huge granite marker. A closer look and the dates 1786-1873 can be found higher up the huge marker. Smaller grave markers with only one date seemed to note children who lived less than a year.
One could not help but notice the stillness of the large magnolia trees that seemed to stand guard over the small burial plot. It seemed as though the huge leaves from the great magnolias kept the August heat at a distance, as if a cool, shaded umbrella was held by an unseen hand over the faded, moss-covered markers.
A quick backward glance at the huge granite marker reminded one that under the protective branches of the large magnolias, a page of history lies unnoticed. The growing fields nearby will soon turn brown for harvest. And the huge green leaves of the giant magnolias will also fall to the ground to form a protective brown blanket for those who sleep beneath. The words of the poet, Longfellow, might do well in ending:
“This is the place, stand still my steed, and let me review the scene and summon from the shadowy past, the forms that might have been.”
(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 on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. 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.)