|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 “Ardella Betts, 103, probably oldest resident of Monroe” was originally published in the Nov. 9, 1972 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
I was told about Mrs. Ardella Betts not long ago by a close friend of mine. During the conversation, this friend suggested that I do some type of article about this elderly woman. So not many days back, I journeyed up between Peterman and Burnt Corn to try and gather more information about this woman who is thought by many to be the oldest living person in the surrounding area. Much to my sorry, I found her (Ardella) to be bedridden and seriously ill. I talked at length with one of her daughters and with one of the neighboring families and they all thought that something should be said or written in tribute to this 103-year-old citizen.
In the dark days following the end of the Civil War, Ardella Lett was born to former slave parents, James and Corene Lett. The day was the 10th of September 1869. The place was the vicinity of Peterman, Ala. Nothing is known as to the exact location where her parents were living at the time of her birth. She was the oldest of two children; the other, also a girl who passed away many years back. At an early age, Ardella married Bailey Betts, to whom was born 10 children. She has outlived her husband and many of her children. She has lived for the past 50 years at the present location, which is about four miles east of Peterman on the Burnt Corn road. Two of her daughters have taken care of Ardella for the past several years.
I asked her daughter, Mrs. Maggie Brown, if there was any type of picture of Ardella. She told me that there was only one. She brought me a Polaroid snapshot of her mother sitting in a huge rocking chair. The picture was badly faded and worn from much handling. I tried with little success to copy the picture by taking another snapshot of it.
I asked about some of the things that Ardella talked about before she became ill. I was told that she talked about her childhood years mostly. About how she used to carry water from the spring near the house where she lived. And how she used to work in the fields when she was growing up. She talked a lot about her parents and grandparents, stated her daughter. She would call their names and talk about some instance that she remembered about them. She would talk about the hard times and the cold winters when she was a child; she would talk about the hard work… she would talk a lot about Heaven.
As I left the small house that was nestled back away from the main traveled road, I too, thought of Heaven and its riches that waited beyond the sunset for this woman. A place where there would be no more sadness; no more hunger, and no more sickness. Where a thousand years would seem as a mid-summer’s evening. And where the streets of gold glittered in the Eternal morning.
And as I descended the hill overlooking the town of Peterman, I looked into the setting sun, and I became aware that I was singing the age old spiritual:
“I’m just a poor way-faring stranger traveling through this world of woe,
Where there’s no sickness nor toil or danger in that fair land to which I go.”
(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.)