Saturday, June 11, 2016

Singleton offers his road map for Monroe County history driving tour

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 “Take time to view yesterday’s history in early morning” was originally published in the June 17, 1993 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Pick a beautiful Saturday morning, as was June 12, and set your alarm clock at around 4:30 a.m. After getting dressed as quickly as possible, head out toward Peterman for a morning to remember.

In selecting your transportation for this early dawn excursion, a motorcycle is preferred. If this is not possible, try to select an open-air jeep or a convertible vehicle.

Before the trip is over, you will understand the reason for this choice. Before you have gone only a short distance, you will realize the value of the unrestricted view.

As you turn eastward at Peterman and cross the railroad tracks on the road toward the Burnt Corn community, picture in your mind a time in our history in the early 1800s when the area was being settled.

Push from your mind all the so-called modern inventions that you might confront just before the morning breaks across the rolling hills. After crossing the creek and you start climbing the winding hills to the east, remember that this road goes way back into the early pages of our local history.

Great valleys

As you travel eastward, give close attention that the road follows the high ridges. To both the north and south of the road, you will witness the great valleys as the blue morning mists slowly begin to fade in the wake of the rising sun.

Try and picture in your mind several wagons of early settlers slowly making their way southwestward after breaking camp and starting another day’s journey. Think about the unknown hardships that awaited them as they traveled and searched for a new home.

Picture in your mind over seven cemeteries within throwing distance from this old road from Peterman to Burnt Corn where the many who perished from the hardships of travel and sickness were laid to rest.

Enter the community of Burnt Corn and view the early churches of yesteryear. Review the early history of this early settlement in your mind as you slowly pass across the faded pages of time and head out the Old Federal Road. Think as you travel along this very old road, that Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) and his rag tag army moved southward in 1814.

Beauty of old homes

Absorb the beauty of the old homes that still stand along the old trail. Slow down and view the Watkins House on the left, where the only doctor between Nashville and Pensacola practiced his profession. Just beyond the old house, watch for men and horses as the ghosts of Old Hickory and his army break camp at sunrise for another hard day’s march as they continue their journey to the south.

Slow down as you pass the Salter monument. Here, one of Jackson’s army returned after the war to homestead land and begin a new life beside the old trail that he had traveled earlier. Beyond the large marker, you can see the lone tombstone of this Revolutionary War soldier who was laid to rest in the corner of what once was the corner of the front yard of the old homestead.

While making your way up the Old Federal Road, remember that you are traveling through time; the road that you are on was once an early Indian trail that dates back in time before the arrival of DeSoto in 1540. As you move northward, try to visualize the several large Indian villages that were located along the ancient pathway.

Approaching the community of Pine Orchard at the old Tatum homestead, remember that here, too, was one of the oldest dwellings in this area. Here, the routes of the early stagecoaches divided; one went south and another turned westward toward the early town of Claiborne. As we travel with the rising of the morning sun, we, too will turn west as did the early stages. As you travel along the early stage road, remember, too, that the road continues to follow the high ground.

Through the community of Tunnel Springs and on to Old Ridge Road we continue on the trails of our past history. To our right is a road that leads to Old Scotland; but that’s another story. We will continue this time along the Ridge Road.

Old, abandoned cemeteries

Passing by the large water tower, as you look south across the large low lands, the bluish morning haze is slowly fading. Another old road to the right leads out to what once was the settlement of Bradley Ridge. Here, too, can be found several old, abandoned cemeteries where those who perished from the early hardships were laid to rest. If time permitted, we could spend a whole day searching the area, but we must move onward.

As the morning shadows give way to the rising sun, look down the road for an old stagecoach as it moves on toward Claiborne. Perhaps it had stopped up the road aways to water the horses and allow the travelers a brief rest stop before moving on down the road that follows the high ground.

Feel the quietness and enjoy the cool morning breezes that sway back and forth across the old road near the Busey place. Watch the cattle as they begin their morning feeding on the tall grass in the pastures along the road. The community that was once known as Axle and the old Ridge Cemetery that was started in the early 1800s can be seen down the road aways.

Old home places can be seen along the Ridge where many of the early families pulled up and moved to greener pastures – to the railroad and early industry to the south. Many of the old shade trees still stand as though waiting for the families to return to that earlier life there on the ridge.

As you look closely along the old road, several small burial grounds can be seen in the underbrush near and around these old house places.

As I look off to my right across the vast valleys to the north, I know that soon my sunrise trip will come to a close. The morning haze has lifted now; a new day has dawned, and the ride through yesterday is fast fading into memory.

As I turn left on Highway 41, and the large glowing white dome of the new water tank in Hub City looms in the distance, a certain sadness flashes across the handlebars. Beyond the huge valley to the south lies modern civilization and the present. Then I remember that it is said that time awaits for no man.

But you shouldn’t be blamed for trying to slow it down and relive the past, if only for a little while.

 (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, 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. 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.)

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