Saturday, June 24, 2017

Singleton recounts 33 years of exploring Monroe County's historic sites

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 “First 33 years recalled” was originally published in the June 26, 1997 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Saturday, the 28th day of June, will mark my 33rd anniversary in the county of Monroe. As I approach this coming date, I recall many events and happenings I have experienced during my stay here. I also remember several dear friends who have made my stay in the area much more enjoyable and interesting. Shortly after my arrival in the county, I was most fortunate to become friends with people like Mr. Raymond Fountain, Mr. Tom Snyder, Mr. Oscar Wiggins and Mrs. Louise “Lou” Cooper. Mrs. Cooper, now deceased, lived to be over 107 years old. Although she had lost her eyesight, she was ever alert and had an excellent memory.

Mrs. Cooper was hidden in a trunk when she and her parents returned to the town of Claiborne in 1863. Her parents had orders to leave her in Mobile because of the smallpox epidemic. So, not wanting to leave their only child, they hid her in a trunk and managed to come ashore at Claiborne Landing without the child being discovered. Fearing that their child might not be alive when they opened the trunk, the story goes that she was lying quietly, sucking her thumb after the trip upriver without any food. Many hours were spent talking to this dear lady and reliving her memories of the bygone days. These stories will live within my mind and hopefully I will be able to pass them onto others in times to come.

Much of the Indian history was passed on to me by my dear friend Uncle Tom Snyder. He knew all the locations of the discarded and forgotten burial grounds around the area. I asked my friend if he would go with me and spend one night in the Indian holy ground so we might witness the strange goings on that had been reported seen and heard there. His answer was “Heck no, Mr. Singleton. I’m getting too darn old to get scared out of my wits and run against a tree and hurt myself.” But, he showed me many historic places in the area that are unknown to most, but that I will always remember.

My authority for the area around Burnt Corn and the Pine Orchard area was Mr. Milford Champion. He knew every inch of that area and all that had taken place there since the area was settled. He, too, knew the locations of all the old burial grounds and the forgotten homeplaces. He knew the stories that took place there in the grown-up timbers and thickets where the old homes of the past once were located. He also had an excellent memory of early Indian history of that area. He proved to me beyond a shadow of doubt that the famed Indian town of Maubila was located in the area of Pine Orchard. All the evidence needed to prove this fact was later destroyed by a logging firm a few years back. Milford Champion was a great local historian; too bad his knowledge of local history wasn’t recorded.

Mr. Oscar Wiggins knew every rock and stump around the old Red Hills community. We spent many hours wandering here and there in the area, hearing each story, time and again of the old families and their ways of earning a living. Never did we go into the Red Hills area without a visit to the old cemetery where Mr. Oscar’s ancestors now sleep. Always, the story was of his ancestor who first settled there in the area. He took great pride of his ancestor who wore the uniform of the Confederacy. I never grew tired of his stories and of him showing me to locations of the old homesites of the past settlers. We would always try to go by the old Wiggins homeplace and sit and talk for a while. I remember one day we found an old handmade brick that had been a part of the ancient chimney of the family house. He wanted to break it in half and give me one half of it. I told him that I had rather he keep it all because of his ancestors. He wouldn’t have been any happier if he had found a nugget of gold. Each time I return to the Red Hills area, I think of my friend, Oscar Wiggins, and if time permits, I visit the old homesite and the graves of his ancestors.

My friend, Mr. Raymond Fountain, more than likely, had a greater knowledge of the whole county and surrounding area than anyone I have known since my stay in the area. Countless hours we would spend, roaming the area, both day and night, and visiting the locations where ghostly sightings and other happenings is said to have been witnessed there. We walked the road and crossed the bridge where the ghost of the Rebel solider is said to have camped under. The story of Nancy Mountain was first told to me by my dear friend. He also helped me investigate the mystery light in the Franklin area. The area of Bradley Ridge and the old cemeteries (now destroyed) were shown to me by my dear friend. He never seemed to grow tired of visiting again these locations and retelling the stories of the ghostly happenings that took place there. Next to fox hunting, I believe this was his second greatest pastime.

He knew the country; he, like myself couldn’t wait to return again to the old forgotten places; forgotten except for a very few who are fast departing this life. And, somewhere beyond the sunset, I’m sure Mr. Raymond is sitting on a hill, listening to his favorite foxhounds with names like Old Blue or Yellow Boy or the many others that he has known.

Yes, my stay in the area of Monroe County has been a very interesting and exciting one. I have come to know many good people of the area. I have gained many good friends here So, I end this article saying that I hope that the next 33 years will be as good as the last.

(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 on June 28, 1964 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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