Saturday, December 31, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 311: Build the kids a tree house

When I was a kid, I can remember having a couple of tree houses, one at my grandparents’ house and another just a short walk from the back of my parents’ house. I have fond memories of playing in those tree houses and vividly remember reading for hours in the tree house at my grandparents. With that in mind, I’ve been telling myself for years that I’d build my kids a tree house once they got big enough to safely enjoy it.

I didn’t want to go to any great expense to build this tree house, so I bided my time until I could find an old wooden pallet that someone was about to throw away. A month or so ago, I found just what I was looking for, discarded on the sidewalk outside the newspaper office in downtown Evergreen. After getting permission to take the pallet home, I loaded it up on the back of my truck and drove it to the house. I’d say this pallet was maybe four feet square and made of rough wood.

At my house, we have many trees, but really only one suitable for a tree house, a relatively young water oak with its main branches starting about six feet off the ground. My son and I used a claw-toothed hammer to knock a few boards loose, just enough to wedge the pallet into the trees around the main trunk. This made the pallet the “floor” of the tree house, and we shored it into place, but nailing the boards we’d removed back onto the pallet, but snuggly against the tree to keep it from tilting and rocking.

The “floor” of the tree house still wasn’t as stable as I’d like, so we added a ladder to one side. We also used a couple of rubber tie-downs to secure it to branches further up the trunk. In all, I feel like it’s generally stable and safe.

Even though we did build a small, basic, but functional, tree house, my son and I have been discussing ways to improve it. Top of the list is a short “rail” at least along two sides. This will not only improve the looks of the tree house, but it’ll also make it a little safer. We’ve put this part of the project on hold until I can find another discarded pallet.

Another interesting aspect of this little project was that it provided me with an opportunity to explain the “three points of contact” safety rule to my son. Before I would let him climb the ladder the first time, I made sure that he understood that he’d always be pretty safe in the tree house as long as he maintained three points of contact. I don’t think I’d even heard of this safety guideline until I was in my twenties, so my son’s a little ahead of the game on this one.

In the end, how many of you have ever built a tree house? What did you make it out of? How much time did it take? How big was it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Singleton recounts the tale of westward walking Confederate ghost soldier

CSA grave in Red Hills Cemetery.
(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 “Traveling through the county’s hill country” was originally published in the Jan. 4, 2001 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Since my dear wife couldn’t find anything for me to do, on Friday after Christmas, I decided to slip away for a few hours of wandering aimlessly around the hill country of Monroe County.

I cranked up my vehicle and headed toward the hill country of the Old Scotland area. I never get tired of traveling the winding dirt roads of this area of our county. I have traveled these roads and trails many times, and always something appears that I have seemed to miss on other previous trips. The only problem of this trip was that there was so many hunters in the woods it was hard to get around without running into them.

My first stop was the old Cunningham cemetery, located only a short distance from the pavement known as the Ridge Road. As I had noticed earlier, the wrought-iron fence around the small family cemetery had been repaired and painted. Much work had been done on the fence and the cleaning of the grave markers of the members of the Cunningham family buried here.

It’s refreshing to know that there are those who yet see to it that the final resting places of their ancestors are kept clean and in good repair.

Down the road aways, I stopped in front of the beautiful and scenic Old Scotland Church. Almost expecting to hear the sounds of the Scottish bagpipes from the nearby wooded area, I viewed the historic old church and the well-kept cemetery nearby.

Noticing again the burial site of a grand old lady who had passed away almost two years back, I remembered the day that this gracious and dear lady called me and wanted me to escort her to her old family home place, down the road aways from the church and cemetery.

When we reached the old homesite, this dear lady sat down and cried, stating that it had been over 65 years since her last visit there. Along the edges of the grown-up yard, she pointed out some blooming jonquils that struggled to survive there among the tall weeds and brush.

With tears streaming from her eyes, she told me that she had planted these jonquils many years ago when she was a small young girl and had lived here.

Returning to the churchyard, she pointed out to me the graves of her family and her ancestors. She also pointed out the place where she was to be buried. This beautiful and darling old lady had gotten her wish. She now sleeps among those she loved so dearly there in the beautiful old cemetery of Old Scotland Church.

Making my way slowly down the narrow dirt road, I stopped for a moment at the old Davison burial ground. There under the fallen leaves from the trees that grow in the old cemetery, those who sleep here were also a part of the then-active community of Old Scotland.

Making my way slowly down the winding hill that leads to the creek, I stopped for a few minutes on the wooden bridge that spans the creek. I remembered being told the story of the wounded Confederate soldier by my dear friend, now deceased, Raymond Fountain. The story goes that this wounded Rebel had camped for several months under an earlier bridge that had spanned the creek here at this same location.

The wounded and sick Confederate had camped here for a period of about four or five months. He survived on the wild berries that grew nearby and the fish he caught out of the large creek. Those who passed this way said he could be seen during the early morning hours and the hours of the late evenings, walking along the narrow road near the bridge.

The stories state that the wounded Rebel, dressed in a torn and dirty Confederate uniform, would always be seen walking toward the west. Never was he seen walking eastward, back toward the bridge where he camped.

The stories go on to say that one day the wounded Rebel soldier disappeared, never to be seen again. No one knows what happened to the wounded and sick Rebel.

My friend stated that those who traveled this narrow road during the years after the terrible war had seen the ghost of the unknown Rebel, walking the road and across the wooden bridge. As always, he was seen walking to the west.

I have visited this location many times, searching for the ghost of the unknown Rebel. But that’s another story.

Slowly making my way across the low flat bottom lands, I thought of the many times that I had journeyed this way. As I started the climb up the steep hill known as Locke Hill, I thought of the many stories that had been told to me by my friends, Raymond Fountain and Oscar Wiggins.

Many times, we would come this way and they would tell and tell again the stories of the area. Both of these dear friends had a thorough knowledge of the early history of this area.

The ancestors of my friend, Oscar Wiggins, had settled up the narrow road aways in the old community known as the Red Hills community.

A stop for a few moments atop Locke Hill was breathtaking. Looking back across the vast bottoms to the east seemed almost as being in another world. I remembered being told the story by my friends of the family who had settled nearby, thus giving the tall hill its name.

Many stories of good times and heartaches had taken place there on Locke Hill.

Stopping at the old Red Hills cemetery, I visited the final resting place of my friend’s ancestors. He, too had fought for the Southern cause and had been laid to rest in the red clay of the Red Hills cemetery.

During the bitter fighting of the war, he received a serious wound. Slowly, he made his way back to Red Hills, taking almost a year to walk from the state of Tennessee, where he had been wounded.

Walking through the old burial grounds, the many stories told to me crowded my mind. Many of the old grave markers and crumbling burial crypts brought to mind the stories of their lives and good times related to me by my dear friends.

Then, too, many of those who slept here had suffered many hardships as the dreadful Civil War took its toll on the community nestled here in the hill country.

As I got into my vehicle and headed westward toward the Franklin community and Highway 41, I knew that I had made the right choice by coming this way. I felt as I had on all the other excursions through this area; I had done the right thing by coming this way.

Perhaps, somewhere beyond the sunset, those who sleep in the old cemeteries and burial grounds along the way know that they are not forgotten; they are remembered. I was glad that I had come, if only for a short time.

(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, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “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. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” 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 Dec. 31, 2016

King Kelly
Dec. 31, 870 – During the Battle of Englefield, the Vikings clashed with ealdorman Æthelwulf of Berkshire, and the invaders were driven back to Reading (East Anglia), many Danes were killed.

Dec. 31, 1225 – The Lý dynasty of Vietnam ended after 216 years by the enthronement of the boy emperor Trần Thái Tông, husband of the last Lý monarch, Lý Chiêu Hoàng, starting the Trần dynasty.

Dec. 31, 1491 – French navigator and explorer Jacques Cartier was born in St. Malo, Duchy of Brittany.

Dec. 31, 1759 – Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease at 45 pounds per year and started brewing Guinness.

Dec. 31, 1775 – During the American Revolutionary War, at the Battle of Quebec, British forces repulsed an attack by Continental Army General Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold under cover of darkness and snowfall. Montgomery was killed and Arnold was seriously injured in a failed attack on Quebec City. Of the 900 Americans who participated in the siege, 60 were killed or wounded and more than 400 were captured.

Dec. 31, 1781 - The British released Henry Laurens from prison in exchange for American-held prisoner General Charles Lord Cornwallis. Laurens had been in the Tower of London for 15 months after being captured off the coast of New Foundland.

Dec. 31, 1841 – The Burnt Corn Male Academy was incorporated by the Alabama legislature.

Dec. 31, 1841 – Alabama became the first state to license dental surgeons by enacting the first dental legislation in the United States.

Dec. 31, 1857 – National Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder, catcher and manager King Kelly was born in Troy, N.Y. He went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Stockings, the Boston Beaneaters, the Boston Reds, the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers and the New York Giants, and he also managed the Beaneaters, the Boston Reds and the Killers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945.

Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed an act that admitted West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.

Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, the Battle of Stones River began near Murfreesboro in central Tennessee. The battle ended on Jan. 2, 1863 as a victory for Union General William Rosecrans over Confederate Braxton Bragg.

Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Battle of Parker’s Crossroads, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest narrowly escaped capture during a raid in western Tennessee. Despite the close call, the raid was instrumental in forcing Union General Ulysses S. Grant to abandon his first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Dec. 31, 1862 – During the Civil War, a two-day Confederate operation into Missouri began. Skirmishes were also fought at Plaquemine, La.; at Muldraugh’s Hill, in the vicinity of New Marker, Ky.; and at Overall’s Creek, Tenn.

Dec. 31, 1863 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought in Searcy County, Ark.; and the shelling of Charleston, S.C. began.

Dec. 31, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Paint Rock Bridge and Russellville, Ala.

Dec. 31, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Sharpsburg, Ky.

Dec. 31, 1869 – Painter Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau, France.

Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrated his first incandescent light bulb when he hung strings of lights inside his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and switched them on and off repeatedly, to the awe and delight of his 3,000 spectators.

Dec. 31, 1885 - A boy, Harry Thomas, secreted himself in M.V. Middleton’s store at Beuna Vista on this Thursday night, and while the clerk was at supper, he took $7.50 from the cash drawer and made his escape through a window. He was arrested the next day, confessed the theft, was tried before Justice Burns, who fined him $17 and costs. He was hired by Mr. Burns and very unceremoniously took his departure that night and at last accounts had not been heard from, according to the Jan. 9, 1886 edition of The Monroe Journal.

Dec. 31, 1891 - New York's new Immigration Depot was opened at Ellis Island to provide improved facilities for the massive numbers of arrivals.

Dec. 31, 1894 - Prof. Marsh reopened the Monroeville Academy after the holiday recess “with an increased attendance.”

Dec. 31, 1897 – Dr. W.A. Locke of Axle in Monroe County, Ala. passed away.

Dec. 31, 1898 – English ethnographer Sir John Thompson was born in London.

Dec. 31, 1905 – British-American songwriter Jule Styne was born.

Dec. 31, 1907 – The first New Year's Eve celebration was held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in New York, New York.

Dec. 31, 1909 – Manhattan Bridge opened.

Dec. 31, 1910 – The Manistee & Repton Railroad was officially incorporated. (Some sources say this happened on Dec. 29.)

Dec. 31, 1917 - A movie version of Alabama author Octavus Roy Cohen's book, “The Strong Way,” was released.

Dec. 31, 1930 – Odetta Holmes Felious, the woman Martin Luther King Jr. called "The Queen of American Folk Music," was born in Birmingham, Ala. Her albums include “My Eyes Have Seen” (1959), “Sometimes I Feel Like Crying” (1962), and “Movin' It On” (1987).

Dec. 31, 1935 – Charles Darrow, an unemployed engineer in Germantown, Pa., patented the board game, Monopoly.

Dec. 31, 1944 – During World War II, Hungary declared war on Nazi Germany.

Dec. 31, 1946 - U.S. President Harry Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.

Dec. 31, 1954 - The last episode of the radio show "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" aired.

Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that the need for a remedy to the parking and traffic situation in downtown Monroeville, Ala. was clearly in evidence during the past week as Christmas shoppers sought parking places or sought access to stores and places of business. During the previous week when a lot of persons were in Monroeville, traffic “jams” persisted throughout the business hours.

Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that Alice Lee and Nell Harper Lee visited during the Christmas holidays Eufaula, Ala. where they were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Herschel Conner and family.

Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that new officers had been named by the Monroe County (Ala.) Medical Society, and they were to assume office on Jan. 1. Named president was Dr. Jack Whetstone of Monroeville; Dr. R.A. Smith Sr. of Monroeville, vice president; and Dr. R.A. Smith Jr. of Monroeville, secretary and treasurer. Named as delegates to the state convention were Dr. Whetstone and Dr. Smith Jr.

Dec. 31, 1964 – The Monroe Journal reported that Miss Joanna Ivey, senior at Monroe County High School, had been named Miss Good Citizen at MCHS. She was go to Montgomery, Ala. on Feb. 13, 1965 to compete for the statewide Miss Good Citizen. It was sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Dec. 31, 1965 – Novelist Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha, Neb.

Dec. 31, 1967 - The Green Bay Packers won the National Football League championship game by defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17. The game is known as the Ice Bowl since it was played in a wind chill of 40 degrees below zero.

Dec. 31, 1968 – Dominican-American fiction writer Junot Diaz was born in Santo Domingo.

Dec. 31, 1968 - The bloodiest year of the Vietnam War came to an end. At year’s end, 536,040 American servicemen were stationed in Vietnam, an increase of over 50,000 from 1967.

Dec. 31, 1971 - The gradual U.S. withdrawal from the conflict in Southeast Asia was reflected in reduced annual casualty figures. The number of Americans killed in action dropped to 1,386 from the previous year total of 4,204. After 10 years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, a total of 45,627 American soldiers had been killed.

Dec. 31, 1972 – National Baseball Hall of Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, age 38, was killed in a plane crash near Puerto Rico while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. He played his entire career, 1955-1972, for the Pirates, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Dec. 31, 1972 - With the end of Linebacker II, the most intense U.S. bombing operation of the Vietnam War, U.S. and communist negotiators prepared to return to the secret Paris peace talks scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 2.

Dec. 31, 1973 – No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, coached by Ara Parseghian, beat Bear Bryant’s No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, 24-23, in the Sugar Bowl at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Dec. 31, 1974 – Fort Sinquefield in Clarke County, Ala. was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Dec. 31, 1975 – Bear Bryant’s No. 3-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide beat Joe Paterno’s No. 7-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, 13-6, in the Sugar Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Dec. 31, 1977 – Evergreen, Ala. weather reporter Earl Windham reported 55.12 inches of rain in 1977 as compared to 56.29 inches of rain in 1976. Approximately 111 inches fell in 1975.

Dec. 31, 1981 – NFL quarterback Jason Campbell was born in Laurel, Miss. He went on to play for Taylorsville (Miss.) High School, Auburn, the Washington Redskins, the Oakland Raiders, the Chicago Bears, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Dec. 31, 1984 - ESPN debuted in Hawaii, making it available in all 50 states.

Dec. 31, 1988 – Mark Childress’ second novel, “V for Victor,” was released by Knopf.

Dec. 31, 1988 – The first winter ascent of Lhotse (8,516m) was achieved by Krzysztof Wielicki (solo).

Dec. 31, 1990 – Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George Allen died at the age of 72 in Palos Verdes Estates, California. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Dec. 31, 1991 – Weather reporter Harry Ellis reported 3.24 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala. during the month of December 1991. Total rainfall for 1991 amounted to 60.38 inches.

Dec. 31, 1992 – Weather reporter Harry Ellis reported 5.08 inches of rain in Evergreen, Ala. during the month of December 1992. Total rainfall for 1992 was 70.08 inches.

Dec. 31, 1999 – The United States Government handed control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.

Dec. 31, 1999 - The world braced for the “Y2K” chaos as computer systems switched over to the year 2000.

Dec. 31, 2006 – Major League Baseball second baseman Marv Breeding passed away at the age of 72 in Decatur, Ala. He played for the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Senators and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dec. 31, 2014 – Total rainfall during the month of December in Excel, Ala. amounted to 8.10 inches. Total rainfall during 2014 in Excel amounted to 63.60 inches.

Dec. 31, 2015 – 0.65 inches of rain was recorded in Excel, Ala. 

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., Dec. 31, 2016

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): Trace amount.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Month to Date Rainfall:  6.45 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 48.45 inches

Notes: Today in the 366th day of 2016 and the 11th day of Winter. Today in the last day of 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, December 30, 2016

'WALK TO MORDOR' UPDATE: 1,070 miles down and 729 miles to go

I continued my (virtual) “Walk to Mordor” during the past week by logging 24 more miles since my last update. I walked/jogged five miles Saturday, five miles on Sunday, five miles on Monday, three miles on Wednesday and six more miles today (Friday). So far, I’ve logged 1,070 total miles on this virtual trip to Mount Doom, and I’ve got 729 more miles to go before I reach Mordor. All in all, I’ve completed about 59.5 percent of the total trip.


In relation to Frodo’s journey, I’m on the fourth day of the trip past Lothlorien, which is Feb. 19 on the Middle Earth calendar. I left off my last update on Mile 1,046, which was six miles from where Frodo’s group, the Fellowship of the Ring, sees the River Anduin broaden. Seventeen miles later, at Mile 1,063, the group reaches the North Undeep with stony beaches on the east and gravel shoals in the water. The group proceeds carefully through this area.


Seven miles later, at Mile 1,070, the River Limlight enters the River Anduin on the west. The next significant milestone, Mile 1,072, comes two miles later when the group reaches the high wolds of the Brown Lands on the east. From here, they can see downs to the west.


For those of you reading this for the first time, I began this “Walk to Mordor” fitness challenge on Jan. 1, 2015. Using a book called “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” by Karen Wynn Fonstad, fans of “The Lord of the Rings” created this challenge by mapping out Frodo’s fictional trek to Mordor, calculating the total distance at 1,799 miles. They also used the original "Lord of the Rings" text to outline the journey, so you can follow their route by keeping up with your total mileage.


The folks who worked out the nuts and bolts of this virtual journey have divided it into four parts. It’s 458 miles from Hobbiton to Rivendell, 462 miles from Rivendell through Moria to Lothlorien, 389 miles from Lothlorien down the Anduin to Rauros Falls and 470 miles from Rauros to Mount Doom. (Those locations should sound very familiar to “Lord of the Rings” fans.) The hobbits averaged 18 miles a day, but if you walk (or jog, as I sometimes do) five miles a day, it’s possible to cover 1,799 miles in a year.


If you’re interested in learning more about the “Walk to Mordor Challenge,” I suggest you check out two Web sites, and Both of these sites provide a ton of details about the challenge, including how to get started.


In the end, check back next Friday for another update and to see how much closer I am to Mordor. I hope to knock out at least nine more miles next week, and I’ll include all that in my update next week.

Today in History for Dec. 30, 2016

William Parish Chilton Sr.
Dec. 30, 1803 - Francis Lewis, signer of the Declaration of Independence, died in New York City, at the age of 90.

Dec. 30, 1813 – During the War of 1812, British soldiers burned Buffalo, New York.

Dec. 30, 1816 – Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin were married.

Dec. 30, 1821 – James Hayes became the postmaster at Burnt Corn Spring, Ala.

Dec. 30, 1841 – Camden, Ala. was officially incorporated as a municipality.

Dec. 30, 1853 - The United States bought about 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico in a deal known as the Gadsden Purchase to facilitate railroad building in the Southwest.

Dec. 30, 1861 – During the Civil War, Confederate Commissioners James Mason and John Slidell were released to the British Minister, Lord Lyons. Their release effectively ended the Trent International Incident.

Dec. 30, 1861 – During the Civil War, the United States Government, as well as independent banks in several cities, suspended “specie payment.” This refered to the fact that at this time paper money was viewed with suspicion unless it could be readily converted into the equivalent amount of gold or silver. The suspension of specie frequently led to drastic inflation as the value of paper currency declined, sometimes to zero if the bank issuing it failed. The matter of a stable and uniform currency for the entire country was not yet settled and would not be for some time.

Dec. 30, 1862 – During the Civil War, the U.S.S. Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C., and 16 sailors were unable to be rescued. Just nine months earlier, the ship had been part of a revolution in naval warfare when the ironclad dueled to a standstill with the C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack) off Hampton Roads, Virginia, in one of the most famous naval battles in American history – the first time two ironclads faced each other in a naval engagement.

Dec. 30, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at New Haven and Springfield, Ky.; and at Blountsville, Carter’s Depot and the Watauga Railroad Bridge, Clarksburg, Huntingdon, Jefferson, La Vergne, Nolensville, Rock Springs and Union, Tenn. A two-day Federal operation between Falmouth and Warrenton, Va. began, and a two-day Federal operation between Potomac Creek and Ellis’ Ford, Va. began.

Dec. 30, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Waldron, Ark.; in the vicinity of Greenville, N.C.; and in the vicinity of Saint Augustine, Fla.

Dec. 30, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred at Leighton in Colbert County, Ala.

Dec. 30, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought in the vicinity of Cartuthersville, Mo.

Dec. 30, 1865 – Short-story writer, poet, novelist and prominent Freemason Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India. He would go on to publish his best known book, “The Jungle Book,” in 1894.

Dec. 30, 1868 – Baker County, Ala. (present-day Chilton County) was established and named in honor of Alfred Baker with its county seat at Grantville. Residents of the county petitioned the Alabama legislature for the renaming of their county and on Dec. 17, 1874, the petitioners accepted the suggestion of Chilton County, in honor of William Parish Chilton Sr. (1810–1871). Chilton was a lawyer who became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and later represented Montgomery County in the Congress of the Confederate States of America.

Dec. 30, 1868 – Chilton County, Ala. was created by act of the state legislature from part of Bibb County. Bounded on the north by Shelby County, on the east by Coosa County and Elmore County, on the south by Autauga County and Dallas County, and on the west by Perry County and Bibb County. First named Baker County for Alfred Baker, a promiment local citizen who owned the land where the county seat was located. Renamed Chilton County on Dec. 17, 1874 for William Parrish Chilton (1810-1871), a member of the Confederate Congress and a chief justice of the state supreme court. Clanton is the county seat.

Dec. 30, 1895 - A “light fall” of snow was witnessed in Monroeville, Ala. on this Monday.

Dec. 30, 1895 - After a week’s vacation, the Monroeville Academy resumed operations on this Monday with an increased enrollment.

Dec. 30, 1895 - D.W. Powell, the postmaster and a merchant at Excel, visited The Monroe Journal office on this Monday and reported “a quiet but pleasant Christmas in the Fork.”

Dec. 30, 1899 – Norwegian explorer, lawyer and politician Helge Ingstad was born in Meråker.

Dec. 30 1903 – The Iroquois Theatre fire took place in Chicago with a death toll of 500 that made it the worst single-structure fire in American history.

Dec. 30, 1910 – Novelist, composer and poet Paul Bowles was born in New York City. He is best known for his 1949 novel, “The Sheltering Sky.”

Dec. 30, 1915 – The Monroe Journal reported that “Christmas in Monroeville was unusually quiet and uneventful. All business houses were closed throughout the day and a Sabbath stillness pervaded. It (was) gratifying to note that not the slightest indication of intoxication was observable on the streets.”

Dec. 30, 1916 – Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, a 47-year-old self-fashioned holy man, was murdered in Petrograd by Russian nobles eager to end his sway over the royal family. In the early hours of this day, a group of nobles lured Rasputin to Yusupovsky Palace, where they attempted to poison him. Seemingly unaffected by the large doses of poison placed in his wine and food, he was finally shot at close range and collapsed. A minute later he rose, beat one of his assailants, and attempted to escape from the palace grounds, where he was shot again. Rasputin, still alive, was then bound and tossed into a freezing river.

Dec. 30, 1924 - Pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the existence of other galaxies.

Dec. 30, 1926 - The Chicago Tribune broke a story that the Detroit Tigers threw a four-game series to the Chicago White Sox in 1917.

Dec. 30, 1935 – National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He would play his entire career (1955-1966) for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Dec. 30, 1939 - Joseph J. Jernigan, 73, one of the early settlers of the Tunnel Springs community, died at his home on this Saturday about 3 p.m., following a long period of ill health. For many years he was closely identified with the business and industrial development of Monroe County. For about 20 years he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Monroe County Bank, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Excel Bank, from the organization until the institution was liquidated.

Dec. 30, 1940 – California opened its first freeway, “The 110,” connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles.

Dec. 30, 1941 – Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Renfro was born in Houston, Texas. He went on to play for Oregon and the Dallas Cowboys. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

Dec. 30, 1949 - Alabama author Dara Wier was born in New Orleans, La.

Dec. 30, 1953 - The first color TV sets went on sale for about $1,175.

Dec. 30, 1954 - Alabama author Truman Capote's only musical, “House of Flowers,” opened at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway, where it ran for 165 performances. The musical was based on Capote’s short story, “House of Flowers,” which was first published in his 1958 book, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” where the story was included as one of three extra pieces besides the novella, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Dec. 30, 1954 - Boy Scout Troop 24 and the Explorer Scout Post staged a combination Court of Honor and Family Night at the Monroeville Community House on this Thursday night at which time 28 merit badges and 29 advancements in rank, including an Eagle Award, were presented. Receiving the Eagle Award was Cecil Murphy, 15, with the presentation being made by Morton McMillan, leader of the Explorer Post.  Other advancement awards were made with Bill Owens being presented the Life Scout Award by Ed Michaels.

Dec. 30, 1954 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Conecuh County Sheriff John Brock was recovering from “severe injuries” he sustained Saturday night, Dec. 25, when his car struck a cow on State Highway 83, about seven miles north of Evergreen, Ala. “He was answering an urgent call from the Skinnerton community when the wreck occurred,” The Courant reported. “According to reports of the accident given The Courant, the cow suddenly leaped in the highway directly in front of the Sheriff’s automobile. After hitting the cow, the car turned over several times.” Brock was rushed to the Conecuh County Hospital where examination by doctors revealed he had fractures of the pelvis bones and a vertebra. He was carried to Mobile Infirmary later that night where he was as of Dec. 30. Reports indicated he was rapidly recovering and would be able to return to Evergreen sometime the following week.

Dec. 30, 1958 - A holiday basketball double header was planned to be held at the gymnasium at Frisco City High School in Frisco City, Ala. on this Tuesday afternoon with four leading teams in the area scheduled to compete. Three Monroe County teams were to be included in the group - Frisco City High School as hosts, Excel High School and J.U. Blacksher. Atmore, from neighboring Escambia County, was to be the fourth team. Frisco City was to play Excel at 2 p.m. while Atmore was to take on Uriah at 3:15 p.m. The winning teams and losing teams were to meet each other later that night.

Dec. 30, 1959 – Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, who were the subjects of Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood,” were identified as suspects in the November 1959 Clutter family murders, and were arrested in Las Vegas.

Dec. 30, 1964 – Wreckage from a June 17, 1961 Cessna 182 crash that killed John O. Leu, 22, of Nashville, Tenn. and Gene McGill, 18, of Mobile was discovered 12 miles northwest of Uriah, near Jeddo, by Edmond Jerkins of Stapleton.

Dec. 30, 1970 - The South Vietnamese Navy received 125 U.S. vessels in a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. Navy’s four-year role in inland waterway combat.

Dec. 30, 1972 – During the Vietnam War, the United States halted heavy bombing of North Vietnam.

Dec. 30, 1972 - Officials in Washington, D.C., announced that the peace talks in Paris between National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho would resume on Jan. 2.

Dec. 30, 1976 – Major League Baseball catcher A. J. Pierzynski was born in Bridgehampton, New York. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 9, 1998 with the Minnesota Twins and went on to play for the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago White Sox, the Texas Rangers, the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves.

Dec. 30, 1976 – NFL defensive end Patrick Kerney was born in Yardley, Pennsylvania. He went on to play for the University of Viginia and 11 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks.

Dec. 30, 1977 – For the second time, Ted Bundy escaped from his cell in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Dec. 30, 1978 - Ohio State University fired football coach Woody Hayes one day after Hayes punched Clemson University player Charlie Bauman during the Gator Bowl. Bauman had intercepted an Ohio State pass.

Dec. 30, 1981 – The Old LaSalle Hotel and Restaurant in Monroeville was sold to Monroe County Library Board by Dwight Harrington, who bought the building in 1979.

Dec. 30, 1996 - Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers became only the second player to win consecutive NFL MVP Awards.

Dec. 30, 1999 – The Evergreen Courant reported that banks in Conecuh County were prepared for the Y2K computer bug and had been working on the problem for over a year. Pat Bolton, Vice President of Information Systems at the Bank of Evergreen, said she began working on the Y2K problem in September of 1998.

Dec. 30, 1999 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Conecuh County Sheriff’s Deputy Allison Blackmon had recently attended a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) course taught at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla. Blackmon was certified as a RAD instructor. She had to take a minimum of 30 hours, but her particular class took 35 hours of instruction.

Dec. 30, 2006 – Former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging at Camp Justice, an Iraqi army base in Kadhimiya, a neighborhood of northeast Baghdad, Iraq.

Dec. 30, 2010 – This was the final day Kodachrome film was developed by Dwayne's Photo, the last remaining Kodachrome processor, concluding the iconic film's 74-year run.
Dec. 30, 2015 – A trace of rain was recorded in Excel, Ala.

Dec. 30, 2015 – Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins died at the age of 85 in Knoxville, Tenn. During his career, he played for Tennessee, the Cleveland Browns, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Dec. 30, 2016

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.10 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Month to Date Rainfall:  6.45 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 0.50 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 48.45 inches

Notes: Today in the 365th day of 2016 and the tenth day of Winter. There is one day 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, December 29, 2016

Was Brewton, Alabama's late 1870s 'wild man' really a misidentified Bigfoot?

Much has been made in recent months about reported “Bigfoot” sightings in our neck of the woods, and many of you in the reading audience will remember reading about the “Jackson County Giant” several weeks ago in The Courant. As things go, these types of events are nothing new and were not unheard of in our part of the world even more than a century ago.

For those of you who missed it, the “Jackson County Giant” was first reported in a North Alabama newspaper in the 1890s. According to that story, a giant was spotted near Scottsboro and a group of over 300 men teamed up to capture the giant, which was said to be 21 feet tall. This giant eventually broke out of its bonds and escaped, but not before getting a write-up in the local newspaper.

As it turns out, strange encounters with unusual things in the woods also happened around here more than a century ago. Vince Lauria, a Bigfoot investigator who attended the organizational meeting of the Southwest Alabama Bigfoot Hunters on Dec. 15 in Evergreen, sent me an interesting story last week about a “wild man” who was capture in the woods not far from Evergreen.

The story that Vince sent me was a copy of a short news item from the 1870s that was reprinted in a book about Escambia County history. What follows is the portion of the story about the reported “wild man” in the 1870s:

“Most towns have a tradition of some very unusual happening, and Brewton is no exception. In the late 1870s, it was rumored that an ape or wild man had been sighted in Hell Hundred, an impenetrable jungle swamp located on the east side of the railroad at the northeast end of town. Numerous sightings were reported, causing uneasiness to grip the town.

“Some suggested that perhaps it was an ape that had escaped from a show. Search parties were sent out, but the creature had a keen instinct that helped him to elude the posse; however, he was finally surrounded and captured. He had a ‘pitiable and grotesque human image,’ could utter no intelligible sound and acted like a wild beast, with seizures so violent that he had to be secured with chains.

“The black man or wild man was hopelessly insane. Legal records and searching inquiring resulted in no identification, and it was decided that he must have been a runaway slave. There was no explanation as to how he had survived the intervening years.

“Seldon Burke published the incident in ‘The Scrap Book.’ There was a similar incident of a ‘Wild Dutchman’ who was killed near Atmore, but he was classed as a desperado, rather than a wild man.”

Some who have read this story think that perhaps this “wild man” wasn’t a man at all, but possibly a “Bigfoot.” One thing about the story that jumps out at Bigfoot enthusiasts is the part about how “the creature had a keen instinct that helped him to elude the posse,” which sounds like a characteristic often attributed to Bigfoot. Also, the part about how it “could utter no intelligible sound and acted like a wild beast” sounds just like something you’d perhaps read about Bigfoot.

In the end, I’d be interested to hear from anyone out there in the reading audience with more information about the incident described above. Also, if anyone out there knows of other similar incidents, please let me know. You can reach me by e-mail at 

Who do you think will win this week's upcoming slate of college football bowl games?

As of today (Thursday), the college bowl season is well over half way over, and we’ve got 14 more bowl games to go between today and Monday, not to mention the National Championship Game on Mon., Jan. 9.

There are three bowl games on tap for later today. South Carolina and South Florida will play at 1 p.m. in the Birmingham Bowl (ESPN), and Arkansas will play Virginia Tech at 4:30 p.m. in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. (ESPN). Oklahoma State and Colorado will face off at 8 p.m. in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas (ESPN) to wrap up the day.

I look for Virginia Tech and Colorado to win their bowls in what could be very close games, but I expect South Carolina to beat South Florida by double digits.

Tomorrow (Friday) we’ll have five pretty good bowls to look forward to. At 11 a.m., Georgia will play TCU in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. (ESPN), and North Carolina will play Stanford at 1 p.m. in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas (CBS). At 2:30 p.m., Tennessee will play Nebraska in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. (ESPN), and South Alabama will play Air Force at 4:30 p.m. in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. The day’s games will wrap up with Michigan and Florida State at 7 p.m. in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. (ESPN).

I look for all of these games to be close except for the Arizona Bowl. No offense to the South Alabama grads out there, but Air Force should win this one by a couple of touchdowns. I look for Georgia, Stanford, Tennessee and Michigan to win the other games tomorrow.

Saturday’s slate of games is arguably the best four of the entire bowl season. At 10 a.m., Kentucky will play Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. (ESPN). Also starting at 10 a.m., LSU will play Louisville in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (ABC). At 2 p.m., Alabama will play Washington in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta (ESPN), and Clemson will play Ohio State at 6 p.m. in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Az. (ESPN).

I predict that LSU, Georgia Tech and Ohio State will win their respective bowl games, but like most fans my attention will be mostly on the Alabama-Washington game.

As of Monday morning, Alabama was a 14.5-point favorite over Washington, but I predict that this game will be a lot closer than some people think. I think Alabama will win, but I think they might have their hands full with Washington.

Washington’s got a good team, and it’s been a long time since they’ve been in the limelight with the likes of teams like Alabama and Ohio State. Washington will enter this game with their back against the wall, and I suspect they’ll be ready to lay it all on the line against the Crimson Tide. I don’t think this is a classic David v. Goliath match-up, but Alabama could be in for a long day if they suffer from turnovers and costly mistakes.

There are four bowl games set for Mon., Jan. 2. Auburn will play Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN), and Western Michigan will play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas at 12 p.m. (ESPN). Florida will play Iowa in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. at 12 p.m. (ABC), and Southern Cal will play Penn State in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. at 4 p.m. I look for Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Florida and USC to win those four games.

Today in History for Dec. 29, 2016

Andrew Johnson
Dec. 29, 1427 – The Ming army began its withdrawal from Hanoi, ending the Chinese domination of Đại Việt.

Dec. 29, 1778 - British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell and his force of between 2,500 and 3,600 troops, which included the 71st Highland regiment, New York Loyalists, and Hessian mercenaries, launched a surprise attack on American forces defending Savannah, Georgia, causing American Major General Robert Howe and his paltry force of between 650 and 900 men to evacuate the city.

Dec. 29, 1808 – Future U.S. President Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, N.C.

Dec. 29, 1809 – Prominent freemason Albert Pike was born in Boston, Mass. He would go on to become an attorney, a Confederate officer and a writer. He passed away at the age of 81 on April 2, 1891 in Washington, D.C.

Dec. 29, 1835 - The Cherokee Indian Treaty Party signed the Treaty of New Echota, ceding their lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government. The Cherokees were to receive five million dollars and land in the western Indian Territory. Alabama created the new counties of Cherokee, DeKalb and Marshall from the ceded land and the Cherokees began their infamous “trail of tears.”

Dec. 29, 1841 – Coffee County, Ala. was created by act of the state general assembly, formed from the western part of Dale County. Bounded on the north by Pike County, on the east by Dale County, on the south by Geneva County and on the west by Covington and Crenshaw County. It was named after John R. Coffee (1772-1833), a hero and general in the War of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-14 and later a surveyor for the state. Its seat of justice was at Wellborn until 1852 when it was moved to Elba.

Dec. 29, 1845 - U.S. President James Polk and signed the “Joint Resolution for the Admission of the State of Texas into the Union,” making Texas the 28th state of the United States.

Dec. 29, 1847 – Choctaw County, Ala. was created by act of the state general assembly from portions of Washington County and Sumter County. Bordered on the north by Sumter County, on the east by Marengo County and Clarke County, on the south by Washington County and on the west by Mississippi. Name is that of the Indian tribe who lived in southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. It is derived from the Choctaw term chahta, whose meaning is unknown. Buter is the county seat.

Dec. 29, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought near Hopoeithleyohola in the Indian Territory.

Dec. 29, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Commerce and an attack was carried out on the steamboat “City of Alton” in Missouri.

Dec. 29, 1861 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Braxton Courthouse, Clay, and Webster in West Virginia.

Dec. 29, 1862 – During the Civil War, at the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, Union General William T. Sherman was thwarted in his attempt to capture Vicksburg, Miss., the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, when he ordered a frontal assault on entrenched Rebels. Union loses totaled some 1,770 men while the Confederates lost around 200. The attack was a mistake by Sherman, who should have never tried to go up against fortified Rebels across open ground.

Dec. 29, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Boston, Johnson’s Ferry and Rolling Fork, Ky.; and at Huntingdon, Lizzard, near Murfreesborough, Wilkinson Crossroads and Moccasin Gap, Tenn.

Dec. 29, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Waldron, Ark.; at Coldwater, Miss.; and at Cleveland, La Vergne, Mossy Creek and Talbott’s Station, Tenn.

Dec. 29, 1864 – During the Civil War, skirmishes occurred at Hillsborough and Pond Springs, Ala.

Dec. 29, 1878 - The first game was played between two teams of the first professional baseball league in Cuba, later known as the Cuban League. Representing the city of Havana, the Habana club faced off against their greatest rivals, a club from the neighboring suburb of Almendares. Habana, coached by Esteban Bellán, the first Cuban to play professional baseball in the United States, won that inaugural game 21-20.

Dec. 29, 1890 – The Wounded Knee Massacre on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation occurred as 300 Lakota were killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.

Dec. 29, 1910 – The Manistee & Repton Railway was officially incorporated.

Dec. 29, 1910 – The Conecuh Record reported that P.M. Skinner’s cotton gin in Castleberry, Ala. burned and was a total loss.

Dec. 29, 1914 – P.D. Jackson “killed a monster catamount” in Conecuh County’s Sandy Creek Swamp. Jackson had to shoot the large cat six times before killing it.

Dec. 29, 1914 - George H. Oswald was seriously injured when he fell from the roof of a two-story building he was working on in Evergreen, Ala. He later died from his injuries.

Dec. 29, 1915 – The Rev. C.A. Williams, the new pastor of the Monroeville, Ala. circuit, arrived on this Wednesday evening with his family and settled into the parsonage.

Dec. 29, 1916 – James Joyce published his first novel, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”

Dec. 29, 1937 – Babe Ruth returned to baseball as the new manager of the Class D De Land Reds of the Florida State League. Ruth had retired from baseball in 1935.

Dec. 29, 1939 – The first flight of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator took place.

Dec. 29, 1939 – Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Nitschke was born in Elmwood Park, Ill. He would go on to play for Illinois and the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

Dec. 29, 1940 - On this evening during World War II, on the 114th straight night of “The Blitz,” German forces began firebombing the city of London with such intensity that the fires that erupted became known as "The Second Great Fire of London."

Dec. 29, 1947 – The Loretto Saints handed Evergreen High School’s boys basketball team their first loss of the season, beating them 26-24 in Montgomery. Benton Carpenter led Evergreen with 10 points, and Bill Carr led Loretto with 10 points.

Dec. 29, 1949 – The Monroe Journal reported that a $250 reward had been posted by Rep. W.W. Garrett of Uriah for information leading to the conviction of the automobile driver responsible for the hit and run killing of 14-year-old Vivian Murphy in Uriah on the night of Dec. 20. The Murphy girl was struck down about 6:20 p.m. as she walked to a play rehearsal with two girl companions who leaped clear of the speeding automobile. A victim of infantile paralysis, Murphy had only recently undergone an operation which enabled her to remove one of the two braces she had worn since infancy.

Dec. 29, 1949 – The Monroe Journal reported that the five Monroe County high schools, following a two-week Christmas vacation, were scheduled to return to “hardwood warfare in earnest” the next week with all schools except Uriah scheduled to play two games. To date, Monroe County High had the best record of any county school – having racked up three victories against one defeat. The Tigers held wins over Beatrice, Excel and Greenville, and dropped their lone decision to T.R. Miller High in Brewton, 39-33.

Dec. 29, 1949 – The Monroe Journal reported that “improvement of recreational facilities at Little River State Park near Uriah” was on the agenda of the state Department of Conservation in 1950, according to Department Director Bert Thomas. “Pointing out that facilities at the park are used by various clubs and civic organizations for camping and recreational purposes and that facilities there are also used by Forestry students at Auburn, Mr. Thomas said that tables would be added, picnic space increased and various other improvements made during 1950.”

Dec. 29, 1953 - The “Beast of Bladenboro” case began on this night when a woman in Clarkton, N.C. chased away what appeared to be an abnormally large feline from her neighbor’s property. Next, on New Year’s Eve, Roy Fores, the Bladenboro police chief, was called to an area farm where two dogs had recently been killed.

Dec. 29, 1962 - Saigon announced that 4,077 strategic hamlets had been completed out of a projected total of 11,182.

Dec. 29, 1965 - CBS acquired the rights to the NFL regular-season games in 1966 and 1967, with an option for 1968, for $18.8 million per year.

Dec. 29, 1966 - Assistant Secretary of Defense Arthur Sylvester admited that the North Vietnamese city of Nam Dinh had been hit by U.S. planes 64 times since mid-1965, and that the air strikes were directed only against military targets: railroad yards, a warehouse, petroleum storage depots, and a thermal power plant.

Dec. 29, 1966 - Student-body presidents from 100 U.S. colleges and universities signed an open letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson expressing anxiety and doubt over U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Dec. 29, 1970 - The Old St. Stephen Site at St. Stephens in Washington County, Ala. was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Dec. 29, 1972 – Eastern Airlines Flight 401 (a Lockheed L-1011) “disintegrated” over land within a short distance of the Miami airport with a loss of over 100 passengers and crew.

Dec. 29, 1976 – American actor, producer, and screenwriter Danny McBride was born in Statesboro, Ga.

Dec. 29, 1978 – The site of the H.L. Hunley submarine sinking was placed on National Register of Historic Places.

Dec. 29, 1980 - Three Texans suffered severe burns when they encountered a fire blasting diamond-shaped UFO. One of the victims in the Cash-Landrum Incident had injuries so severe, a doctor described it as comparable to being "3 to 5 miles from the epicenter of Hiroshima."

Dec. 29-30, 1980 – Monroe Academy’s boys basketball team won Sparta Academy’s Holiday Tournament in Evergreen, and Fort Dale Academy’s girls won the girls division. In the opening round, Sparta’s boys defeated Wilcox Academy’s Wildcats handily, 76-64, as Jeff Johnson scored 30 points and Vince Watts scored 20. Joe McInvale had eight; Ed Carrier and Terry Shipp, seven each; Scotty Grace, three; and Andy Hammonds, one. Monroe’s Vols outshot the Warriors, 75-60, in the championship game in spite of Terry Shipp hitting for 19 points and Jeff Johnson 17. Joe McInvale added eight; Vince Watts, six; Andy Hammonds, four; Wes Brown, three; and Ed Carrier, two. Cathy Cope was the only Warrior girl in double figures as she meshed 10 points in a game won by Fort Dale, 39-29, in the championship tilt. Karen Brown had seven points; Cheri Johnson, six; Julie Saunders, four; and Missy Price, two. Julie Saunders, Karen Brown and Jeff Johnson were named to the All Tournament teams.

Dec. 29, 1982 - Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant ended his football coaching career at Alabama with 323 wins.

Dec. 29, 1982 – The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad merged with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad to form the Seaboard System Railroad.

Dec. 29, 1986 - The televison program “Seasons of Belief,” teleplay by Alabama author Robert McDowell, was broadcast as part of the “Tales from the Darkside” series.

Dec. 29, 2000 – E. Elias Merhige’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” which was released on this day, tantalized audiences with the unsettling suggestion that the monstrous Nosferatu (Willem Dafoe), who assumed the title role in the classic film by F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich), was, in reality, actually portrayed by a real vampire, rather than an actor.

Dec. 29, 2000 - Alabama author Bill Easterling died in Huntsville, Ala.

Dec. 29, 2007 – Sparta Academy’s varsity boys and varsity girls basketball teams captured first place trophies in the South Choctaw Holiday Tournament in Toxey.

Dec. 29, 2007 – Hillcrest High School’s varsity boys basketball team beat Alabama Christian Academy, 67-59, during the Capital City Conference Christmas Basketball Tournament at Trinity Presbyterian School in Montgomery.

Dec. 29, 2007 - The New England Patriots became the first NFL team in 35 years to finish the regular season undefeated (16-0) when they beat the New York Giants 38-35.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., Dec. 29, 2016

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.40 inches

Month to Date Rainfall:  6.35 inches

Winter to Date Rainfall: 0.40 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 48.35 inches

Notes: Today in the 364th day of 2016 and the ninth day of Winter. There are two 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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Eleven of Alabama's largest trees are located in Wilcox County

There are 907 square miles of land within the confines of Wilcox County’s borders and most of that land is covered by thick forests. Those woods are filled with thousands of trees, and out of all those trees, there are 11 that are truly remarkable.

The Alabama Forestry Commission launched its Champion Tree program in 1970, and since that time, 11 special trees in Wilcox County have been designated as Champion Trees and two of those trees have been named National Champion Trees. A Champion Tree is the largest of its species recorded in Alabama as determined by a formula used by the forestry commission. A tree’s total size is determined by its circumference, its height and its average crown spread.

The two National Champion Trees in Wilcox County are a Durand Oak on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property and a Southern Shagbark Hickory owned by Tommy and Jeanell Lawler. When measured by the forestry commission, the Lawlers’ Southern Shagbark Hickory was 136 feet tall, 94 inches around and had a crown spread of 69 feet. Wilcox’s giant Durand Oak is 107 feet tall, 162 inches around and has a spread of 62 feet. Those two trees aren’t just the largest of their species in Alabama, but also in the entire United States.

According to the forestry commission, the Lawlers own five other Champion Trees, including the state’s largest Two-winged Silverbell, White Ash, Bigleaf Magnolia, Pyramid Magnolia and Chalk Maple. Their White Ash is 105 feet tall, 115 inches around and has a spread of 58 feet, and their Pyramid Magnolia is 92 feet tall, 41 inches around and has a spread of 24 feet.

The Lawlers’ Two-winged Silverbell is 72 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 27 feet. Their Bigleaf Magnolia is 58 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 37 feet, and their Chalk Maple is 44 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 35 feet.

Other Champion Trees in Wilcox County include a Winged Elm owned by Kinley Bell, a Crape Myrtle owned by Malcolm Smith, an Eastern Red Cedar owned by John and Lou Harmon, and a Green Ash owned by the Allyrae Wallace Educational Trust.

The Green Ash belonging to the Educational Trust is 88 feet tall, 177 inches around and has a spread of 84 feet. Bell’s Winged Elm is 85 feet tall, 142 inches around and has a spread of 74 feet. The Eastern Red Cedar belonging to the Harmons is 52 feet tall, is 179 inches around and has a spread of 27 feet. Smith’s Crape Myrtle is 43 feet tall, 78 inches around and has a spread of 33 feet.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that Wilcox County has more Champion Trees than any other county in Alabama with the exception of Baldwin County and Madison County. Baldwin County, said to be the largest county geographically east of the Mississippi River, has 17 Champion Trees and two National Champions. Madison County has 12 Champion Trees but no National Champions.

In the end, if you’re interested in learning more about the Alabama Forestry Commission’s Champion Tree Program, visit the commission’s Web site at Anyone can nominate a tree for Champion Tree status, so if you think you know of a tree that might be in the running for this honor, fill out the online nomination form on the commission’s Web site. Once you’ve completed the form, the commission will dispatch a forester to the tree’s location, where he’ll take the tree’s official measurements.

Today in History for Dec. 28, 2016

Jeremiah Clemens
Dec. 28, 1065 – London’s Westminster Abbey was consecrated.

Dec. 28, 1732 - "The Pennsylvania Gazette," owned by Benjamin Franklin, ran an ad for the first issue of "Poor Richard’s Almanack."

Dec. 28, 1781 - British troops commanded by Major James Henry Craig were posted at John’s Island, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

Dec. 28, 1793 - Thomas Paine was arrested in France for treason.

Dec. 28, 1814 - Alabama author Jeremiah Clemens was born in Huntsville, Ala.

Dec. 28, 1817 – Glorvina Johnston Rush was born. In 1860, she and her husband donated the land where Andrews Chapel was built in McIntosh, Ala.

Dec. 28, 1822 – In response to a petition submitted to the Alabama state legislature from the residents of Butler County’s county seat, Buttsville, the town’s name was officially changed to Greenville.

Dec. 28, 1822 - Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro was born in Gloucester County, Va. Taliaferro would go on to serve under General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during the first part of the Civil War, and he spent the second half preparing coastal defenses in the lower South.

Dec. 28, 1835 – Osceola led his Seminole warriors in Florida into the Second Seminole War against the United States Army.

Dec. 28, 1843 - Alabama author Prentiss Ingraham was born in Adams County, Miss.

Dec. 28, 1846 - Iowa became the 29th state to be admitted into the Union.

Dec. 28, 1849 - Dry-cleaning was accidentally discovered when M. Jolly-Bellin, a tailor, knocked over a lamp containing turpentine and oil. Some spilled on his clothes and he noticed it had a cleaning effect.

Dec. 28, 1856 - Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S. President, was born in Stauton, Va.

Dec. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, day one of a four-day Federal operation between Camp Beauregard and Viola, Ky. began.

Dec. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Sacramento, Ky.

Dec. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Mount Zion, Mo.

Dec. 28, 1861 – During the Civil War, Raleigh Courthouse, N.C. was occupied by Federal forces.

Dec. 28, 1862 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Dripping Springs, Ark.; at Muldraugh’s Hill, Ky. (near present day Fort Knox); and in the vicinity of Suffolk and Providence Church, Va. A second day of skirmishing also occurred north of Vicksburg, Miss. as Union Major General William T. Sherman got in position to attack at Chickasaw Bluff. Ban Buren, Ark. was also captured by Federal forces.

Dec. 28, 1863 – During the Civil War, skirmishes were fought at Mount Pleasant, Miss.; on John’s Island, S.C.; and at Moorefield, West Va. An eight-day Federal operation between Nashville, Tenn. and Creelsborough, Ky. began, and a four-day Federal operation began between Vienna and White Plains, Va.

Dec. 28, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred in the vicinity of Decatur, Ala. and at Egypt, Miss.

Dec. 28, 1865 – Just a few months after the end of the Civil War, Confederate veteran Joseph R. Bass left his hometown of Evergreen, Ala. for Texas and arrived in Jefferson, Texas in January 1866. He lived near there for about 18 years before moving to Caddo Mills, Texas, where he is buried.

Dec. 28, 1889 - Alabama author Kittrell J. Warren died in Atlanta, Ga.

Dec. 28, 1893 – Desperadoes John Hipp and Charles Kelley, murderers of Butler County, Ala. Tax Collector C.J. Armstrong, were taken by a mob of 100 armed, masked men and lynched on the Butler County Courthouse lawn.

Dec. 28-29, 1895 – The fifth Sunday meeting was held at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church at Manistee on this Saturday and Sunday. The Rev. Mr. Riffe preached two excellent sermons, according to The Monroe Journal.

Dec. 28, 1895 – Auguste and Louis Lumiere had the first commercial movie screening at the Grand Café in Paris.

Dec. 28, 1900 – Portuguese soldier and explorer Alexandre de Serpa Pinto died at the age of 54 in Lisbon.

Dec. 28, 1902 – The Syracuse Athletic Club defeated the New York Philadelphians, 5–0, in the first indoor professional football game, which was held at Madison Square Garden.

Dec. 28, 1911 – Humorist Sam Levenson was born in New York City.

Dec. 28, 1912 – The first municipally owned streetcars took to the streets in San Francisco.

Dec. 28, 1917 - The New York Evening Mail published a facetious essay by H.L. Mencken on the history of bathtubs in America.

Dec. 28, 1920 – Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback Steve Van Buren was born in La Ceiba, Honduras. He went on to play for LSU and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965.

Dec. 28, 1922 – Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York City. He would go on to help create Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, Dr. Strange and the X-Men.

Dec. 28, 1927 – Novelist Simon Raven was born in London.

Dec. 28, 1928 - Alabama author Jesse Hill Ford was born in Troy, Ala.

Dec. 28, 1933 – Novelist Charles Portis was born in El Dorado, Ark.

Dec. 28, 1937 - Alabama author Milford W. Howard died in California.

Dec. 28, 1939 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Naomi Rabb Winston, a native of Evergreen, Ala. who was at that time living in Washington, D.C., was “being acclaimed now as one of the leading artists of the country, according to reports which have recently reached her friends here.” Winston had recently completed a portrait of Senator Lister Hill, which friends and admirers of Hill desired to place in the “Hall of Fame” at the State Capitol in Montgomery. She had also been engaged by the wife Hugo Black to paint a portrait of Justice Hugo Black in his judicial robes, the work to begin as soon as she has completed the painting of Mrs. (T.D.) Samford (of Opelika). Winston and her family had been living in Washington for the previous eight years where she had studied constantly at the Corcoran Art Gallery, giving special attention to portrait work. It is said that Winston designed the Great Seal of Alabama. Winston was, before her marriage, Naomi Rabb, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C.S. Rabb of Evergreen.

Dec. 28, 1939 – The Evergreen Courant reported that “about 250 Christmas boxes containing fruit, candy, toys, clothing and food items were distributed last week to needy families in this county, according to a report made this week by Mrs. J.C. Hamilton, general chairman in charge of the work.”

Dec. 28, 1941 – During World War II’s Operation Anthropoid, the plot to assassinate high-ranking Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich, commenced.

Dec. 28, 1947 – Major League Baseball third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez was born in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. He would go on to play for the California Angels, the Washington Senators, the Detroit Tigers, the San Diego Padres, the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.

Dec. 28, 1948 – In an incident attributed to the Bermuda Triangle, a chartered DC-3 airliner NC16002, en route from San Juan to Miami, disappeared 50 miles south of Miami with 36 passengers and crew. No probable cause for the loss was determined by the official investigation and it remains unsolved.

Dec. 28, 1949 - Alabama author Harry Middleton was born in Frankfort, Germany.

Dec. 28, 1958 – In what’s known as the "Greatest Game Ever Played,” the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Champiosnhip Game defeated the New York Giants, 23-17, in the first ever National Football League sudden death overtime game at New York's Yankee Stadium.

Dec. 28, 1961 – Evergreen High School and Auburn University football star Wayne Frazier was drafted in the 16th round (216th overall) in the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.

Dec. 28, 1964 - South Vietnamese troops retook the village Binh Gia, 40 miles southeast of Saigon, in a costly eight-hour battle.

Dec. 28, 1965 - Pfc. Calvin S. Johnson, whose wife, Shirley, lived at Rt. 2, Box 79, Evergreen, Ala., was awarded the Army’s Combat Infantryman’s Badge for serving in combat with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. Johnson, a machine gunner with the division’s 12th Cavalry, had been with the division since its arrival in South Vietnam’s central highlands in September 1965. The 19-year-old soldier completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Johnson, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Johnson of Range, was a 1964 graduate of Repton High School.

Dec. 28, 1972 - After 11 days of round-the-clock bombing (with the exception of a 36-hour break for Christmas), North Vietnamese officials agreed to return to the peace negotiations in Paris.

Dec. 28, 1973 – In Lovecraftian fiction, Dr. Ambrose Dexter, a renowned physician of Providence, R.I. who maintained an interest in the occult, was killed by British Intelligence agents somewhere in the South Pacific. He first appeared in “The Haunter of the Dark” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Dec. 28, 1973 – Alexander Solzhenitsyn published “The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956,” a searing account of the Soviet Union's notorious "gulags," or forced labor camps.

Dec. 28, 1975 - The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings with a Hail Mary pass with only 24 seconds left.

Dec. 28, 1976 – American actor, stuntman, and producer Joe Manganiello was born in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Dec. 28, 1978 – The Evergreen Courant reported that a new Crispy Chick restaurant was under construction in Evergreen. Based in Mobile, Crispy Chick had 22 restaurants open at that time in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, including in Mobile, Fairhope, Grand Bay, Monroeville, Butler, Livingston, Linden and Stevenson; Gulfport, Miss.; and Cantonment and Pensacola in Florida.

Dec. 28, 1978 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Ronald Fantroy, former Evergreen High School and Alabama Christian College basketball star, was more than “carrying his weight” in his first year with the University of Montevallo Falcons, according to Coach Bill Elder. Fantroy, a six-foot-five forward, had 14 rebounds in a recent game against Talladega College and was averaging 3.1 rebounds per game, fifth best for the team although he was only playing about 10 minutes of the Falcons’ 40-minute games.

Dec. 28, 1978 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Sparta Academy’s girls basketball team improved to 3-3 on the season by splitting a pair of games in the Greenville Academy Christmas Tournament. In the opening round of the tourney, Sparta beat Escambia Academy, 31-25, but in the second round, Sparta lost to Wilcox Academy, 32-15. Sparta’s Cathy Cope was named to the all-tournament team, and other players on Sparta’s team included Angie Driver, Mary Claire Robinson, Missy Thacker and Cathy Johnson.

Dec. 28, 1981 - Elizabeth Jordan Carr, America's first test tube baby, was born.

Dec. 28, 1991 – Alabama (10-1) beat Colorado (8-2-1), 30-25, in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alabama wide receiver David Palmer was named the game’s MVP.

Dec. 28, 2000 – The Evergreen Courant reported that Conecuh County school board member Willene Whatley had been appointed to the Board of Trustees of Alabama Risk Management for Schools.

Dec. 28, 2000 - U.S. District Court Judge Matsch held a hearing to ensure that confessed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh understood that he was dropping his appeals. McVeigh said that he wanted an execution date, set but wanted to reserve the right to seek presidential clemency.

Dec. 28, 2002 - Alabama author Hilary H. Milton died in Birmingham, Ala.

Dec. 28, 2003 - New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was released from the hospital. The previous day he had fainted at a memorial service.

Dec. 28, 2003 - Jamal Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens became the fifth NFL player to run for 2,000 yards in a season. He ended the season with 2,029 yards.

Dec. 28, 2003 - Mike Vanderjagt of the Indianapolis Colts set a new NFL record when he kicked his 41st consecutive field goal.

Dec. 28, 2003 - James Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs set an NFL record with his 27th touchdown of the season.

Dec. 28, 2004 – Vredenburgh native Mike Stewart’s fourth novel, “A Perfect Life,” was released.

Dec. 28, 2007 - The movie “Honeydripper,” which starred Danny Glover, was released in the United States. Significant portions of this film were shot in Greenville, Georgiana and Forest Home in Butler County.