Saturday, November 19, 2016

Singleton explores the origins and history of Monroe County's "Coon Trail' road

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 “Coon Trail’s origin traced” was originally published in the Dec. 2, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

If you are over 60 years of age and have lived in the northern part of Monroe County most of your life, chances are you have traveled over the Coon Trail, a narrow unpaved road that runs north from Peterman, winding near Tunnel Springs and connecting with the Old Claiborne and Stage roads not far from the Pine Orchard community.

This road was the main route from the upper end of the county to the southern tip and to the County Seat.

During the past decade, the Coon Trail has been by passed as newer and wider asphalt-covered roads have been built to replace the old ones.

I talked with several citizens who remember the Coon Trail when it was the only road southward. It was a road when they were born.

No one knows for sure just how long this stretch of road has been in use. Some say it started out as an Indian trail many years ago. It was used to travel southward toward the coast.

As the years passed, the trail was widened as ox teams and wagon began to pass through the area, loaded with settlers, who were looking for a home site.

One elderly citizens says he remembers when the Coon Trail was nothing more than a shallow ditch, winding its way along the ridges and high places. Frank Stanton has lived along the trail almost all of his 75 years, and recalls many interesting tales about this road.

No one knows for sure just how the Coon Trail got its name. One of the tales is that it was named by the early settlers. They would meet along the road to begin a night of coon hunting in the thick woods bordering the road. Another story has it that an Indian boy tracked a large coon over the very same route that the trail now follows. As he traveled further and further from home he would blaze a tree every now and then so he could return without getting lost. The blazed trail was used more and more by the Indians, and with the passing years the Coon Trail became one of the main routes to the south.

I rode the Coon Trail from end to end, and as I rode I marveled at the changing colors as Mother Nature changed from her summer coat of green to her coat of brown and gold. And as I returned down the trail from the north, I was reminded once again that one would have to look far and wide to find a better place to live than Monroe County.

(Photo caption with article) Monroe County’s Coon Trail: It started as nothing more than a shallow ditch, but later became a vital link to local travelers. (Photo by George B. Singleton)

 (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.)

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