Friday, May 31, 2019

Eli McMorn & the Strange Case of the Missing Professor - Part V

Thick fog moved in off the Alabama River about half an hour after the mysterious stranger left me in the protective circle I’d made with salt. The fog was so thick that I couldn’t see more than 10 feet from the spot where I stood, but the dark woods began to lighten a little with the rising sun. Oddly, the sounds of the birds and insects returned almost the instant the man passed over the top of the slope.

My wristwatch chimed the hour of 6 a.m. and even though I couldn’t see the sun, I knew it had risen a bit over the horizon. Emboldened by the new light and the feel of the loaded Beretta in my hand, I took one last look around and stepped out of the circle of salt. The fog had thinned, but visibility was still limited. I looked around for what felt like a long time, shouldered my backpack and retraced the stranger’s path.

I walked up the hill as quiet as I could manage, but it was difficult because of the thick leaves under foot. I saw no sign of the stranger’s passage but had a general idea of which way he’d gone. A couple of minutes later, I reached the top of the hill and surveyed the area.

The woods stretch off into the distance, and even though I couldn’t see it, I knew that my truck sat beside the road about a quarter-mile to the southeast of where I stood. The fog was thinner here, and I couldn’t help but feel that something was a little off. I felt certain that I was being watched, and I scanned the woods for several minutes in search of anything out of the ordinary.

Suddenly and without warning, a riverboat let loose with a long low blast from its foghorn and sent a jolt of uneasy surprise down my spine. It was in that moment that I glanced over my shoulder to the left, and something in the distance caught my eye. Whatever it was, it was about 50 yards away and obscured by the fog.

The object that caught my eye was at the base of a large oak tree. Even when I walked right up to it, it took me a few seconds to wrap my mind around what was before me. Propped against the tree’s trunk was an old walking stick. Its handle was made from a brownish-white deer antler, and the tip of the cane also appeared to be made from animal bone.

On the ground at the base of the tree were a pair of eyeglasses, some clothes, a single boot and a billfold. The clothes consisted of what looked like a clean pair of pants and a shirt, and they were neatly folded at the base of the tree. I picked up the billfold, saw that it didn’t contain any cash and fished out the owner’s driver’s license. Even though I should have suspected it, I was surprised to read that the wallet belonged to Dr. Albert Gruner, the biology professor who’d gone missing over a week ago.

As I thought about the $10,000 reward his wife had issued for information about his disappearance, another item that I hadn’t immediately noticed caught my eye. I squatted, picked the object up with a small stick and dropped it back to the ground when I realized that it was someone’s dentures. They were shiny clean.

I stood, threw the stick aside and brushed off my hands. An instant later, I jumped with a start when my ears were met by the sound of a cocking revolver and a deep voice behind me in the fog that ordered me to drop my Beretta. “Claiborne police. Make one wrong move and I’ll blow your head off,” the voice said.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., May 31, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

William Hugh Means King was one of Evergreen's most colorful residents

This past Tuesday – May 28 – marked the 187th birthday of one of Evergreen’s most colorful residents, William Hugh Means King.

King was born in the town of Madison in Morgan County, Ga. on May 28, 1832. He went on to graduate from Emory University in Druid Hills, Ga. and later graduated first in his class from the University of Georgia (then called the State University of Georgia) in Athens in 1853. Prior to the Civil War, he worked as a lawyer and planter in Columbus, Hamilton and Bainbridge, Ga. and even served as mayor of Bainbridge from 1860 to 1861.

At the beginning of the Civil War, King joined the Confederate Army on May 11, 1861 and served as a captain in Co. H of the 5th Georgia Infantry Regiment, a unit also known as the Hardee Rifles. He served as an aide to General Richard Anderson at Pensacola, Fla. in 1861 and was promoted to the rank of major and brigade quartermaster on April 24, 1862. During this time, he was cited for gallantry at Santa Rosa Island, Fla.

Interestingly, he resigned that position on Nov. 7, 1862 only to be appointed to the position of colonel of cavalry in February 1863 by General Braxton Bragg.

Bragg ordered King to collect unattached cavalry companies and form them into a regiment under King’s command. However, King was unable to form a regiment and went on to serve on General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler’s staff for the rest of the war. He was wounded in action on Feb. 26, 1864.

After the war, King bounced around until he settled in Conecuh County. Not long after the war, he moved to Muscogee County, Ga., then to Tuskegee and finally to Evergreen. Described as a “elegant-looking man, tall and always well dressed,” King wore a number of hats during his time in Evergreen. In addition to working as a lawyer, he also served as the principal of the Evergreen Academy and as Mayor of Evergreen.

He passed away in Evergreen at the age of 82 on June 5, 1914, and news of his death was widely reported. Courant editor George W. Salter Jr. reported in the June 10, 1914 edition of The Courant that King’s funeral was held at King’s family home on Main Street in Evergreen on the afternoon of Sat., June 6. Salter reported that “the obsequies” were performed by members of the local Masonic lodge “of which deceased was a devoted and consistent member.”

Salter also noted that King gave up teaching around 1889, about 25 years before his death, and “thereafter devoted his talents to the practice of law and to literary pursuits for which latter especially he was peculiarly fitted by learning and inclination.”

King was buried in the Old Evergreen Cemetery, and those of you who have been to his grave will know that his grave is marked by an impressive white marker that indicates that he was also a prominent Freemason. His grave marker also bears the inscription, “He never turned his back on friend or foe.”

King appears to have been married twice, once to a Jane Varner and later to an Elizabeth Gordon. Elizabeth Gordon King outlived her husband by eight years, passing away at the age of 84 on Oct. 1922. She is also buried in the Old Evergreen Cemetery. I was unable to find any information about Jane Varner King, but I presume she passed away at some point before King’s marriage to Elizabeth Gordon King.

In the end, if you’re interested in reading more about King, I recommend that you check out “Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register” by Bruce S. Allardice and “Staff Officers in Grey” by Robert E.L. Krick. Also, if anyone out there in the reading audience has any additional information about King’s life, please let me know.

Who would you pick for the Conecuh County Sports Hall of Fame?

Evergreen's Chris Hines

This week marks 56 years since Donnie Jones became the first person ever selected for inclusion in the Evergreen High School Baseball Hall of Fame. Jones, the son of Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Jones, was a senior during the 1963 season, and he was selected for the honor based on a vote by his teammates.

The best that I can remember, this is the only reference to Evergreen High School’s Baseball Hall of Fame that I’ve seen, and I’m not sure how many years it existed or how many players were named to this hall of fame. Henry Allmon was the school’s head baseball coach 1963, and this hall of fame may have ceased to be when he left that position.

Speaking of halls of fame, I think it would be cool to have a Conecuh County Sports Hall of Fame, and I think you could fill it up pretty quick with well-known sports figures from the county’s past. Maybe one day when the Conecuh County Cultural Center gets on its feet, the administrators of that institution might consider starting a full-fledged local sports hall of fame like those that already exist in other counties in the state.

As far as who would be suitable for inclusion in a Conecuh County Sports Hall of Fame, it’s easy to come up with a lengthy list. If you started with coaches, I think you would have to include the likes of Clinton Smith, Wendell Hart, Richard Brown, Tommy Dukes, Mike Bledsoe, Russ Brown, Charles Branum, Hugh Wilson, H.L. Watson, M.C. Thomasson, Oran Frazier and Mike Cheatham. I’m probably leaving a few out, but you get my drift.

From the world of football, I can think of an even longer list of local names. Suitable candidates would have to include Wayne Frazier, Deatrich Wise, Bob Meeks, Drew Davis, Justin Nared, Ted Watson, Chris Dukes, Homer Faulkner, Ronnie McKenzie, Buddy Monroe, Michael Pate, John Greel Ralls, Jeff Moorer, Lee Goodwin, Doug Williams, Marvin Williams, Jimmy Hart, Buck Quarles, Hollis Tranum, Dewayne McQueen, Jeff Brock, John Law Robinson, Gillis Morgan, Tony Rogers, Dickey Bozeman, Shirley Frazier, Homer Chavers, Billy Melton, Sam Cope and Donald Lee.

When it comes to basketball, I’d start out with Tommy Dukes, Chris Hines, David Thomas, Ronnie Jackson, Wavie Ausbey, Randy White, Ronald Fantroy, Michael Campbell, Nicky Jones, Erica Palmer, Andrea Ward, Kelvin Davis, Adrian Woods, Wayne Pope and Bill Dukes.

From the world of baseball, I’d include Ottis Johnson, Edsel Johnson, Skin Hyde, Warren Bolton, Jerry Peacock, Lee Wild, Sid Lambert, Hugh Ellington and Steven Gall.

A few others that I would nominate would be Sparta super-booster Byron Warren Jr., World Turkey Calling champion Eddie Salter, outdoorsman Ken Tucker, Olympic boxer Clint Jackson, track star Mathew Likely, Evergreen native Keith Pugh, public address announcer Willie Crutchfield, tennis player Philip Harold Jr. and golfers Jason West, Bill Ivey and Johnny Brown.

Many of the people mentioned above were great all-around athletes and would likely qualify for inclusion in multiple sports. I think Tommy Dukes is a good example of this. Not only did he lead Hillcrest to a state basketball title as a head coach, but he was also one of the greatest high school basketball players to ever come out of Conecuh County. In addition to this, he was also a dominate football player, earning all-state honors as a defensive lineman during his playing days at Repton High School.

Those are about all of the names I can come up with off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many, many other outstanding athletes deserving of inclusion in a local sports hall of fame. I’d like to hear from you if you can think of a name that needs to be added to the list. Please e-mail me at if you’ve got a name you’d like to throw in the hat and provide the reasons why you think they should be included in a local sports hall of fame.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., May 30, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wilcox County's Estelle community was once a prominent railroad stop

The Estelle community was once a thriving railroad stop east of Camden, but little remains today to remind us that thousands of travelers once passed through this community during the heyday of the old rail lines.

I became interested in learning more about the Estelle community a while back when I saw it listed on a historical map produced by the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama. According to that map, Estelle was located between what is now State Highway 10 and Pursley Creek, not far from the intersection of Wilcox County Road 65. Sources say that Estelle was an important rail station that first began appearing on maps around 1910.

According to “Place Names in Alabama” by Virginia O. Foscue, the Estelle community was named after a person, but that person’s exact identity is unknown. Naming rail stops after individuals was a common practice during the early days of the railroads. For example, the Town of Beatrice in Monroe County was named after Beatrice Seymour, the granddaughter of a Col. Seymour of Nashville, who was the general superintendent of construction while the Selma to Pensacola branch of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad was being built.

On Friday morning, my young son and I set off for the Estelle community to see it for ourselves. We scouted around the community for the better part of half an hour and saw no readily visible sign of the old railroad. Today, if you go to “downtown” Estelle you’ll see that the most prominent landmarks are the Meadowbrook neighborhood, the Last Chance Church and a couple of old block buildings covered in overgrowth at the intersection of Highway 10 and County Road 65.

Perhaps the most visible reminder of the old Estelle community is a street sign just off Highway 10 that reads “Estelle Circle.” I hopped out of my truck to take a picture of this sign on Friday just about the same time that the mail lady passed down the lane on her appointed rounds. She threw me a big, friendly wave as she continued on down the road, and I was caused to wonder if perhaps this community had its own post office at one time.

Dulaney AME Church in Wilcox County, Alabama.
While in the area, my son and I rode a little farther east and visited the historic Dulaney AME Church and cemetery, which are located just off Highway 10, between Estelle and the Rosebud community. The Dulaney Cemetery was added to the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register on May 29, 2003 and the church building itself was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage on April 18, 2007. We took a few minutes to walk through the cemetery and noted that while most of it is located on the west side of the church, many graves can also be found amid the tall wildflowers growing far behind the church.

My son asked how old the church was, and I had no good answer for him at first. However, a few minutes later, we found a cornerstone near the church’s entrance that said the building was erected in March 1914 when the Rev. G.W. Harris was pastor. A.L. Thompson was the building contractor and members of the building committee included H.C. Cook, A.A. Hicks, A. Hines, W.D. Daniel and M. Cook.

My son, who is only 10 years old, was especially fascinated by an old outhouse he spotted in the woods just east of the church. As we eased toward Jackson’s Fried Chicken in Camden for lunch, we had a long talk about the miracle of modern indoor plumbing and about how old-fashioned privies actually worked. To say that all of this made a big impression on him would be an understatement.

In the end, I’d like to hear from anyone with more information about the old Estelle community. Who was it named after? Is there anything left of the old rail bed and where was the old depot located? Did Estelle once have a post office, and, if so, where was it located? Please let me know and I’ll be sure to pass this information on to readers at a later date.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Wed., May 29, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Evergreen Courant's News Flashback for May 28, 2019

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby

MAY 27, 1999

Evergreen weather reporter Harry Ellis reported .56 inches on May 18 and .04 inches on May 23. He also reported a high of 91 degrees on May 21 and a low of 53 degrees on May 19.

Trus Joist MacMillan holds grand opening: The facilities at Trus Joist MacMillan, which began production late last Fall, were dedicated last Thursday morning at 10 a.m.
Opening the ceremonies was plant manager Randy Isacson. Isacson welcomed the large crowd on hand to the grand opening and dedication and introduced Trus Joist Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Operations Pat Smith.

Local valedictorians to be honored by WSFA TV-12: Drew Skipper, valedictorian of Sparta Academy, and Will Lanier, valedictorian of Hillcrest High School, are being saluted by WSFA TV this summer in the annual Best of the Class program. This series of television announcements identified those students from south and central Alabama who had the highest grade point average in their graduating class.
Videotaping of the announcements took place recently at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts during a brunch honoring the students and their parents.

U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) will address residents of Conecuh County at a county meeting on Wed., June 2, 1999 at 12 noon at the City Hall Council Chambers, 210 East Front St., Evergreen.

MAY 23, 1974

Evergreen received 1.0 inches of rain on May 15 and 0.5 inches of rain on May 18. Highs reached 91 degrees on May 13 and a low of 58 degrees on May 12 and May 13.

Sue Bell has been named valedictorian of the 1974 Sparta Academy senior class. Sue’s poem “A New Awakening” won first prize in the state competition sponsored by the Alabama Private School Association. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Otis Bell and plans to attend Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky. and major in biology.
Rachel Ellis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Ellis, is the Sparta Academy salutatorian. Rachel plans to attend Troy State University and major in math.

FBI, local police arrest fugitive: Delores Wright, age 23, from Battle Creek, Mich. was arrested May 20 by FBI agents in cooperation with local police in Evergreen, on an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant.
Philip A. McNiff, Special Agent in Charge of the Mobile Office of the FBI, advised that a warrant had been issued by U.S. Magistrate, Grand Rapids, Mich. on May 14, charging Wright with the unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in connection with the use of firearms during an assault on another female in Battle Creek. The dispute allegedly arose over a boyfriend common to Wright and the other female.
Wright was taken before U.S. Magistrate Allan R. Cameron, Mobile, and placed in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office in lieu of $7,500 security corporate bond.

MAY 26, 1949

Highway Patrol Building Will Be Dedicated Monday: The new building housing the office of the Evergreen Division of the Alabama Highway Patrol will be dedicated Mon., May 30, according to Capt. O.T. McDuff. The patrol will hold open house at the new building south of Evergreen on Highway 31 between the hours of two and six Monday afternoon. The public is cordially invited to inspect the building and equipment during this time.

Evergreen Kiwanis Club Receives Charter Monday: The Evergreen Kiwanis Club was formally recognized as a member of Kiwanis International when Gov. D. Lawrence Busbee presented the club’s charter to President A. Hansen here Monday night. Busbee also made the key address on the Charter Presentation Program which was held in beautiful Memorial Gymnasium at Evergreen High School.
Around 150 Kiwanians, their ladies and other guests enjoyed a barbecue and camp stew plate served by the ladies of the Presbyterian Church and Home Economics students at Evergreen High.

Friday Graduation Night At County High Schools: Friday night is the “big night” for 88 seniors in the four county high schools who are scheduled to receive diplomas. The exercises will begin at eight o’clock at all four schools. Repton, Lyeffion and Castleberry will award diplomas in the school auditoriums, while at Evergreen High School the ceremony will take place in Memorial Gymnasium.

MAY 28, 1924

CELEBRATION OF ST. JOHN’S DAY: Masonic Lodges of Conecuh County to Come to Evergreen on June 24th in Annual Convocation: The citizens of Evergreen are cooperating in every way with the local Masonic bodies to make Tuesday, the 24th day of June, a red-letter day in the history and life of this section of Alabama. All differences are obliterated and our people are of one mind and purpose to make the day the success that the occasion deserves.
As stated in the columns of The Courant heretofore, every Masonic lodge of Conecuh County has been invited to come to Evergreen on that day and bring their officers who have been elected for the ensuing year to be publicly installed and the Masons of the county are to be guests of the citizens of Evergreen and immediate communities who will serve a basket picnic.
The ladies of Evergreen and communities will prepare and send or bring these baskets, and it is safe to say that this part of the program will be in full keeping with the meaning which is that each family contribute liberally to a common table. The large auditorium of the new city school has been secured in which to hold the installation services which will be in charge of Lawrence H. Lee and Gen. H. Thigpen of Montgomery, who will also deliver an address each on the fundamental principles of this ancient and honorable fraternity. The brass band composed of the boys from the Alabama Masonic Home have been secured, and it is planned that all stores and offices of Evergreen be closed and business generally suspended in order that everybody may join in the celebration.

MAY 22, 1880

Armor Lodge No. 31, Evergreen, Knights of Pythias is increasing in numbers. Several members of Greenville Lodge were here on Tuesday.

Mr. G.F. Mertins has kindly offered a suitable lot to the Knights of Pythias, upon which to build a Lodge. This is quite generous upon the part of Mr. Mertins.

The Cemetery is being placed in good condition by the town authorities.

We are authorized to announce T.H. Coker as a candidate for Sheriff of Conecuh County, election in August 1880.

Mr. and Mrs. M. Weis of Pollard have been visiting Evergreen.

Two persons were baptized Sabbath last by Rev. Mr. Crumpton.

Belleville Male and Female Academy: The exercises of this Institution will begin on Monday, the 12th of April, under the care and supervision of the undersigned. Rates of tuition per month: Primary Classes, $2; Intermediate Classes, $2.50; Practical Studies, $3. Latin, Algebra and other advanced studies, $4. Payments monthly if convenient. Good Order Will Be Maintained. – C.D. Snead.

MT. UNION SEMINARY: Terms of Tuition: first grade, $1 per month; second grade, $1.25 per month. No pupil taken for less than three months, commencing first day of attendance. One month’s pay constantly in advance. Satisfaction Guaranteed. Our school is in a very flourishing condition, and offers the easiest terms of any school in the county. Boarding at cheap rates. – J.C. Green, Principal.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Tues., May 28, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for May 27, 2019

Indiana Minnow

MAY 27, 1999

Drew Skipper was the recipient of the coveted Jerry Peacock Memorial Trophy at Sparta Academy’s sports banquet held May 1, 1999 in the school gym. The Peacock Trophy is given each year to the best all-around senior athlete who participates in football, basketball and baseball. It is named for the late Jerry Peacock, who was a standout athlete in Sparta Academy’s Class of 1977. The trophy was presented by Tim Johnson, a classmate of Jerry, and Lynn P. Weaver, Jerry’s sister. Drew is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Andy Skipper of Evergreen.

Franklin Williams of Hillcrest High School has received a basketball scholarship to Alabama Southern Community College in Monroeville. Franklin is being congratulated by Keith Nettles, assistant principal at HHS. Franklin is the son of Evelyn Williams.

Applications now being taken for Wendell Hart Scholarship: The Evergreen Rotary Club, administrators of the Wendell Hart Scholarship Fund, announces that applications for the $2,500 scholarship are now available.
Applications may be picked up at the Evergreen Courant or by calling Robert Bozeman. The deadline for submitting applications is July 1, 1999.
The scholarship is dedicated to the memory of the late Coach Wendell Hart, who deeply cared for his students and desired that all deserving young men and women be able to advance their education.

MAY 23, 1974

Keith Pugh is winner Tri-State track meet: Keith Pugh, a junior at Monroe Academy, placed first in the 440-yard dash at the Southeastern Invitational Track Meet held Saturday in Selma. Keith’s time was 50.8 seconds. He placed second in the board jump and second in the triple jump.
The meet was sponsored by the Alabama Private School Athletic Association. Schools from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi participated.
Keith became eligible for the tri-state contest by winning five events in the state track meet held May 11 in Greenville.
Janice Pugh, a ninth-grader at Monroe Academy, also participated in the track meet. She placed second in the high jump and hurdles.
Keith and Janice are the children of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Pugh of Evergreen.

Evergreen’s Don Owens helped lead the Saints of Lurleen B. Wallace Jr. College to the 1974 Southern Division Championship. A freshman majoring in physical education, Owens is a graduate of Sparta Academy. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Owens.

New Quarterback Club President Eldon Scott presents an award of appreciation to outgoing President Bill Johnson at Sparta Academy’s Athletic Awards Banquet.

Bob Davis, head basketball coach at Auburn University, had his audience laughing and then gave them some things to think about as he delivered the featured address at Sparta Academy’s Athletic Awards Banquet. Headmaster Richard Brown was responsible for getting Brown to speak.

MAY 26, 1949

ATTENTION FISHERMEN! No more digging and hunting for worms to fish with. Drive by and pick up a handy carton of ENGLISH RED WORMS – Packed 100 to carton, $1 per carton – INDIANA MINNOWS – Live Bait for White Perch and Trout - $5 and up per 100 – Bell Seed & Supply Co. – Across Street From Courthouse – EVERGREEN, ALABAMA – Phone 667.

From “This Week’s Wash” by Bob Bozeman – I may be saved yet. I have been told that there is still some hope for me. Some have said I have to start fishing, some said I have to hunt, and Henry Witherington said I would have to go fox hunting. Well, Saturday I went fishing, and if I live long enough I’m going to hunt some quail and go listen to the hounds with Mr. Henry some night.
Bruce Johnson and I went out to Brooklyn Saturday morning and John Greel Ralls took us on a lengthy fishing trip up Bottle Creek. We got in the creek above the bridge in Brooklyn and fished back to the Ralls home about two miles (by road and hundreds by the creek) this side of Brooklyn.
The three of us had a lot of fun wading up the creek. It is slippery and the footing anything but secure but none of us took a complete fall although Bruce did give his wrist watch several baths. We caught eight trout and didn’t fish too hard. I was using John Greel’s rod and reel and the one he was using broke or no doubt we would have caught more.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Mon., May 27, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Old newspaper excerpts from The Monroe Journal newspaper of Monroe County, Alabama

MAY 27, 1999

Journal wins General Excellence in APA competition: The Monroe Journal has been named the leading weekly newspaper of its size in Alabama.
The Journal won the award for General Excellence in the 1999 Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
Seventy-four newspapers submitted 2,702 entries which were judged by the Kentucky Press Association. The Journal last won General Excellence in 1992.
“This award confirms what I have always said,” said Bo Bolton, Journal owner and publisher. “The Monroe Journal has the best weekly newspaper staff in the state.”

Excel’s Jordan tosses no-hitter in South Monroe Babe Ruth: South Monroe Babe Ruth League play Saturday at Julius Lambert Field in Frisco City saw Excel Black stun Uriah, 10-0, in five innings.
Neal Jordan picked up the win and recorded the league’s first no-hitter of the season. He struck out 10 and did not issue a walk.
(Other top Excel players in that game included Nic Ikner and Nick Parden. Top players for Uriah included J.B. Wilkins, who pitched for Uriah, striking out five.)

Policemen recognized: During Police Memorial Week, the Monroeville Police Department treated its officers to breakfast at Southside Baptist Church. Officers Charlie Steen, 21 years, Robert Champion, 23 years, Dewitt Everette, 32 years, and Danny Ikner, 23 years, were recognized for their long service to the department with a certificate and a mockingbird watch. Officers also remembered those killed in the line of duty: Raymond Chandler, 1996; Ed Brown, 1972; and Robert Lee, 1972.

MAY 23, 1974

Lee honored: John T. Lee III of Monroeville is congratulated by Capt. Max P. Bailey Jr., U.S. Navy Ret., at Marion Institute’s awards parade last Friday. Lee, as White Knight Commander, received the award for being the Best Drillmaster at the 132-year-old military school. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Lee Jr. of Monroeville.

Tigers are 3A champs: The Monroe County High School Tiger baseball team became the Alabama High School Athletic Association 3A state champion Saturday, downing Sheffield High, 5-0, in the final game of a best-two-out-of-three series.
MCHS ended probably its best season ever in baseball with a 16-1 record and the state baseball crown.
Sophomore pitcher Terry Coleman got both championship wins, pitching a four-hitter Friday and returning Saturday in the final game of the series to pitch a shutout, allowing only three hits.
(Others players on MCHS’s team that season included Johnny Bartlett, Buddy Black, Chris Black, James Brown, Randal Brown, Ronald Brown, Al Carr, Joe Davis, Tom Dunning, Pat Higginbotham, Scott Higginbotham, James McCants, Reid Nettles, Tim Pullen, James Smith and Tony Wearren. Ronnie Dees was MCHS’s head baseball coach.)

Funeral services for Paul Lindsey, lockmaster at Claiborne Lock & Dam, will be conducted at 11 a.m. today (Thursday) from Eureka Baptist Church by the Rev. Gerald Craft. Burial will be in Memorial Garden Park in Tuscaloosa.
Mr. Lindsey, 51, of Finchburg died Monday. Honorary pallbearers will be members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

MAY 26, 1949

Stevens New Police Chief; Others Are Named To Positions: Alex Stevens, night marshal of Monroeville for the past several months, was named local chief of police by the town council at its regular bi-weekly meeting Tuesday night.
Windell C. Owens, Monroeville attorney, was chosen for the part-time position of town clerk, while Melvin Andrews, also of Monroeville, was chosen as night marshal.
A vacancy in the jobs of clerk and police chief occurred about 10 days ago when B.L. Hendrix, who had served in the double capacity, resigned.

Two MCHS Baseball Players Will Graduate: In commenting on this year’s baseball team at Monroe County High, Coach Levaughn Hanks said that the boys played good ball for a first year club.
Only Jack Simpson and Al Ryland from this year’s club will graduate.
(Hanks) said that plans are now underway to encourage other county schools to field a team next year. Monroe County High was the only county team participating in this sport this year.

Frisco City Water Board Head Not Yet Selected: No successor to Elliott Hendrix as head of the Frisco City Water Board has yet been chosen, O.O. McGinty, mayor, said Wednesday.
Mr. Hendrix, who resigned Monday night, had served as head of the board since its creation some three months ago.
W.G. Sims and Howard McWilliams, board members, will select a successor to Mr. Hendrix, the mayor said.

Mrs. Lucian Jones and Mrs. George Thomas Jones recently spent several days in Opelika.

MAY 22, 1924

Mr. J.C. Faulkenberry, the veteran postmaster at Tunnel Springs, took a day’s vacation Friday to enjoy a fish fry with friends at Claiborne, stopping by on his return merely to tell us of his enjoyment of the occasion.

The concert given by the Monroeville Orchestra last Wednesday evening was attended by a record crowd. The music was exceptionally good and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present. The orchestra is under the direction of Miss Ferrol Mae Baggett, a musician of exceptional ability, and we look forward to another musical treat. The feature of the concert of Wednesday evening was a piano solo by Miss Baggett which has been praised in the highest terms.

Three residences in the southern part of the city are nearing completion and will be ready for occupancy within 30 days. We refer to the residences of E.A. Thompson, J.A. York and W.M. Lindsey.

Election to Incorporate the Town of Excel, Monroe County, Alabama: Notice is hereby given that a petition has been filed in the office of the Probate Judge of Monroe County, Ala., signed by more than 25 qualified electors of said county and residents of the community therein described, stating that it is desired to incorporate the following described territory or community under the name of EXCEL, ALABAMA.

MAY 28, 1878

FINAL SETTLEMENT – Maj. Joseph F. Boyles, our old tax collector, was the first tax collector in the state, again, as usual, to make a final settlement with the state for the county. Old Monroe stands first on the list of honest tax-paying counties in the state at Montgomery, and to untiring energy of our tax collector, is much credit due for this fact.

Medical Association – The medical society of this county, recently elected the following named gentlemen for its officers: J.M. Lindsey, President; S.S. Gaillard, vice president; F.S. Dailey, treasurer; J.T. Packer, secretary; and J.T. Russell, chairman. W.W. Boroughs and S.S. Gaillard, compose the board of censors.

A VISITOR – Dr. J.M. Wiggins, who lives at Midway, paid Monroeville and his old friends a visit a few days ago.

CLAIBORNE – Mr. E.H. Killam, an old and esteemed citizen of Monroe, died, near Claiborne, some time since.

Perdue Hill – The new saloon on the Hill is handsomely fixed up, and looks neat, cozy and enticing. The liquors and cigars are the best brands, the wines are the best the market affords, and the best of beer is always kept on tap.

Messrs. E.H. Bixler and Walter Forwood took their fine trotters – Billie and Sidney – to the Mobile Fair, the latter of which acquitted himself with great credit and did the prettiest trotting on the track, and but for unfriendly jockeying, would have been winner of several races. Mr. Bixler’s horse became excited and unmanageable, though a very fast trotter.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sun., May 26, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Singleton tells of ghostly happenings at old, abandoned farm house

'Several huge mimosa trees in full bloom shaded the old house...' 

(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 “Strange events center around Wilcox Count house” was originally published in the May 26, 1994 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

This past week, I received a telephone message from our neighboring county of Wilcox. The message stated that if I was interested in a good story about the supernatural, I was to follow the directions given to me.

The message went on to say that before the day was over, I would have witnessed something that would make my hair stand up on end. It said I would remember this excursion for a long, long time.

I was to call a certain telephone number in the town of Camden and leave a message, stating the date and time that I would arrive at a certain crossroads. I would be met by someone who would guide me to the location and give me the details as to what I might expect to hear or see at this old house place.

I could hardly wait to get started on this venture, since I am very interested in researching the supernatural and that this was supposed to take place in broad open daylight.

Clear and beautiful

The weather was clear and beautiful as I mounted my motorcycle and headed in a northwestwardly direction. The crisp morning air caused my cheeks to tingle as I sped up the highway. I couldn’t wait to see what was ahead as I left the highway and turned westward on a blacktop country road and headed in the direction of the river.

As I neared a certain crossroad, I saw a pickup truck parked beside the crossing. As I approached, the pickup pulled out in the road ahead of me; a motion from the driver directed me to follow.

About two miles down the road, the blacktop gave way to red clay and gravel. Another mile was covered before the truck ahead of me slowed almost to a stop. Then turning directly to the left into a lane that led up to an old house, the drier pulled over and stopped. As we talked, my new friend requested that he and the location of the old house remain anonymous due to various ones who might come this way and pillage and destroy the abandoned farm house.

Informing me that he had been called to come in to work, due to sickness of one of his fellow workers, he would be unable to stay with me. My newfound friend gave me instructions as where to go. He told me to go to the back steps and side down on the old passageway, or dog trot as it was called, that leads to the kitchen. He told me to stay as long as I liked; he requested that I call him that night and relay to him what I had heard or seen.

Parking my motorcycle near the ragged and decaying old yard fence, I made my way around the ancient farm house. Several huge mimosa trees in full bloom shaded the old house and the kitchen as though a huge colorful blanket had been spread over the house and yard. You could tell that many years had passed since this place had heard the sounds of laughter from within the walls and around the two huge fireplaces at each end of the large old log house.

Making my way through the tall weeds and grass, I opened the ancient yard gate and entered the back yard. The sound of the old gate opening reminded me that it had been many moons since the old gate had been used. Not realizing just what I was doing, I closed the ancient yard gate as though expecting it might keep an unseen child from leaving the yard or perhaps keep an animal from entering.

After walking through the old house to reassure myself that there wasn’t anyone else there, I began to look for a place to wait. Sitting down on the old kitchen porch, I leaned against an ancient post that supported the roof that covered the porch. I sat facing the dog trot that led to the sagging old door where one entered the house when returning from the kitchen.

Facing the house, I knew I could see or hear almost anything within the old house. Making myself as comfortable as possible, I began the wait for something that I didn’t know for what I was waiting.

As I looked through the back door of the old house, I became aware that the sagging old front door had closed. The sound of the closing door echoed around and around the large room where one of the ancient fireplaces was located. I looked across the large room again to find the old sagging door was now open. This was strange because the top door hinge was not connected to the door facing; the old door hung at a crazy angle with its bottom resting on the ancient boards of the decaying front porch. I assured myself that I was just imagining this; the old door would have had to be lifted up, even to move it.

Before I had solved the mystery of the closing front door, from within the large room off to my left, the sound of footsteps could be heard on the old plank floor. They seemed to be coming toward the rear of the house. I wasn’t sitting on the old porch anymore. I was now standing, getting ready to make a dash for the old yard gate. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the sounds of the heavy footsteps ceased. Silence settled once again across the floors of the old house.

Deciding that I would wait a few more minutes, I sat down again against the old post. As I was sitting down, I became aware of an unusual odor that seemed to come from the old kitchen. I knew it wasn’t the odor of the full blooms on the large mimosa trees around the old house; this smelled like food cooking on a wood-burning stove. The strong smell of wood burning mixed with the odor of cooking food filled the air there on the back porch of the old kitchen.

Stone chimney

Making my way off the old kitchen porch, I looked up at the top of the old stone chimney that stood above the roof of the aged kitchen. I almost expected to see the smoke from the morning cooking fire making its way up through the high mimosa branches. The delicious odor of cooking food now filled the back yard.

As I made my way back through the tall weeds and high grass, I reached the ancient yard gate. After stepping through the creaking old gate, I turned to close it as I had before. To my total amazement, the door to the old kitchen, that opened out on the sagging kitchen porch, was now tightly closed. The delicious odor of the cooking food had disappeared from the morning air, just as though it had never been there. The sweet smell of burning wood had faded also.

Making my way around the old yard fence to my waiting transportation, I felt as if I was being watched by someone or something. Fastening the strap to my riding helmet, I looked one last time at the front of the ancient farm house.

Across the opened front door, a shadow stepped – stepping away from the opening as though it had been standing there, watching me make ready to leave from the corner of the old yard. Slowly, I made my way down the old abandoned lane that led to the gravel road.

(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 to Vincent William Singleton and Frances Cornelia Faile Singleton, during a late-night thunderstorm, on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School in 1946, served as a U.S. Marine paratrooper in the Korean War, worked as a riverboat deckhand, 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 June 28, 1964 to Dec. 14, 1987. He was promoted from the enlisted ranks to warrant officer in May 1972. For years, Singleton’s columns, titled “Monroe County history – Did you know?” and “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. It’s believed that his first column appeared in the March 25, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal. 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.)

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Sat., May 25, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Eli McMorn & the Strange Case of the Missing Professor - Part IV

The eerie orb of light continued to float toward me as I stood within the rough, protective circle of salt at my feet. As the strange light moved up the slope of the riverbank, it dimmed, as if the effort of the climb had sapped power from it. I tossed aside the empty canister of salt, knelt in the circle and searched my backpack for the Beretta’s extra magazine.

My hand fell on the familiar shape of the magazine deep within the bag. I slammed it into the grip of the handgun and chambered a fresh round. All the while, the orb drew closer.

An instant later, I stood and looked towards the orb only to have my eyes met with an even stranger sight. Gone was the cannonball-shaped source of light. In its place was an old-fashioned lantern that floated disembodied a few feet off the ground. In the next moment, the lantern dimmed again, and my eyes perceived the shape of a man, who had stopped a few feet from the edge of my protective circle of salt.

At the same moment, this mysterious man seemed to notice me for the first time as we looked eye to eye across the small patch of dim woods that separated us. His clothes were old-fashioned, all black and covered here and there with what looked like strands of old spiderwebs. A stovepipe hat that had seen better days sat at a rakish angle atop his dark, coarse hair.

The man raised his lantern and examined me closely for several seconds. His eyes were yellowed by the lantern light, and his mouth was set in a disturbing half-grin. Only half of his face seemed to work, like someone who’d suffered a severe stroke.

With his free hand, he reached towards my face. Faint blue light danced from his filthy fingertips as they brushed slowly against the invisible barrier created by the protective circle of salt. I fought the urge to raise my handgun, afraid that I would accidentally pierce the boundary between me and this unexpected apparition. His fingers couldn’t penetrate the protective circle. I knew he was undead or something not of this world.

He lowered his arm and looked back towards the Alabama River and the lights of Claiborne’s west bank beyond. He then turned back, sucked his teeth loudly and watched me closely. He leaned in so close that his smell filled my nose. He reeked of the grave.

“Is you real?” he asked. His voice was coarse and carried a heavy accent that I couldn’t identify. He squinted, eyed me closely, as if to determine if I was flesh and blood.

His question caught me off guard. “Of course, I’m real,” I answered. “Who the devil are you?”

“Oh, you know who I am,” he said, his eyes shining. His grin widened, and I caught a glimpse of what looked like an unnaturally sharp canine tooth. “I’m de ol’ bogeyman.”

Gooseflesh broke out on my arms. I took a deep breath to steady myself. “What do you want?” I asked as my hand went clammy around the grip of my Beretta. I remained still, careful not to stray out of the protective circle.

The man threw his head back and inhaled deeply. His nostrils flared as he looked into the treetops. I’m certain now that he was gauging how much time remained until daylight. He studied the sky and said, “Oh, what I want, I cain’t have.” He sucked at his teeth again and adjusted his black hat.

We stood there for what seemed like a long time as the dark pressed in around us. He looked me in the eye and then said, “Well, sir, it’s time to move on.”

I watched as he shuffled off through the leaves. About 20 feet away, I began to lose sight of him, but I could still see the dim light from his lantern as it went up the slope, over the edge and out of sight.

I stood there for a long time, not daring to step out of the circle. Sunrise was coming, and I clung to the idea that I’d be safe after sunrise. Then and only then would I follow the man’s path up the hill. Looking back, there was no way that I could predict what I would find there, just a short distance over the hill.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., May 24, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 438: Spent the night at the (haunted!) Hotel Provincial in New Orleans

Hotel Provincial in New Orleans.

Some time ago, one of my wife’s friends told her about a place in New Orleans called Café Du Monde, which is an old, open-air coffee shop famous for its beignets and café au lait. She made up her mind that she wanted to go, so we decided to go check it out on Saturday. She put me in charge of driving, and she made all of the hotel arrangements.

I later learned that she’d booked us a room at the Hotel Provincial, which is located on Chartres Street in the French Quarter, a short walk from Café Du Monde. When she told me that she’d booked a room there, I sort of just filed it away and went on about my business. However, as the days rocked on, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard about this old hotel somewhere before.

Last Thursday, after we’d gotten the paper out for the week, I finally took the time to Google “Hotel Provincial” and discovered why I’d heard of it before. According to more than a few sources online, the Hotel Provincial has the reputation for being one of the most haunted hotels in the world.

According to a 2015 story published in USA Today, under the headline “The 13 most haunted hotels in the world,” the Hotel Provincial, “like many New Orleans properties… claims to be a popular paranormal activity hub. Like other area hotels, the property acted as a medical facility for wounded Confederate soldiers and is said to still possess their spirits. From distressed soldiers and operating doctors to pools of blood, guests have reported it all.”

The portion of the hotel where our room was located was originally built in the 1830s and served as a Creole-style business store with living quarters on the second floor. The building served as a commercial property for many years, including time as a hardware store. The building was restored in 1964 and became part of the Hotel Provincial at that time.

To be perfectly honest, my wife and I didn’t spend a lot of time in the hotel room. We were too busy eating beignets and exploring the French Quarter on foot. When we finally got ready to call it a day, we returned to our room well after dark with an eye toward getting an early start on Sunday morning.

That is not to say that nothing out of the ordinary happened during our stay at the Hotel Provincial. Around 3 a.m., I awoke from a dead sleep to what sounded like a loud scratching at the window. Our room was on the second floor and the windows were well off the ground, overlooking a back street below.

The scratching sound was loud and sounded metallic. My first thought was that it sounded like someone scratching on the window with a garden tool or maybe a large cat scratching on the glass. I was about half asleep when all of this took place, and it took me a second to come fully awake.

I went to the window, which was actually a locked door-height opening that let out onto a balcony fire escape. The area was well illuminated by street lamps, and I didn’t see anything unusual outside. The stairs to the fire escape were drawn up into the balcony and all I could figure was that the sound that I’d heard was the sound of the metal fire escape grinding against the floor of the balcony.

I stood there for what seemed like a long time listening. It was around 3 a.m. in the French Quarter, so I could hear the sounds of music and revelry in the distance, but other than that everything seemed fairly quiet. Eventually, I went back to bed.

In the end, my wife and I enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Provincial, and we’ll probably stay there again the next time we get a craving for beignets. In the meantime, if you’re interested in reading more about this hotel’s haunted history, I encourage you to do a little research online. Some of the stories about this property are pretty wild, but I suspect that most of them have a logical explanation.

HHS's Andray Pope is a punishing runner, a big load to bring down

Andray Pope (4) picks up yards against Thomasville. 

Those of you who didn’t make it out to Hillcrest’s spring football game on Friday night missed a real treat.

Most spring games are really just glorified practices, but Friday night’s spring game turned out to be one of the most competitive that I can remember watching. Hillcrest hung on to win the back-and-forth affair, 19-17, but it could have gone either way right up to the end. No doubt those in the stands got their money’s worth.

The way it was explained to me, the first two quarters of the game were played by the true varsity teams from each school. The third quarter included a few starters, but was mostly played by second and third-stringers. The fourth quarter featured mostly junior varsity players.

In the first half, I was especially impressed by Hillcrest’s running game. Hillcrest running back Andray Pope had a big night. He had several big runs and was a load for the Thomasville defense to try to bring down. To say that he’s a punishing runner would be putting it mildly.

Thomasville also brought a pretty good team to the game. One of their assistant coaches told me earlier in the week that they were rebuilding, looking to replace 20 graduating seniors from last year’s team. Also, they’re having to replace their entire offensive line. With that in mind, they still looked very good and presented Hillcrest with a good challenge on Friday night.

Someone asked me earlier this week about the crowd on Friday night. I’m terrible at estimating that sort of thing, but I’d say that there were maybe a couple of hundred fans on the home side of the bleachers. Just eyeballing it, there were a lot of empty seats.

More than likely, there are several reasons for the size of the crowd. This time of year, there’s a lot going on, especially on a Friday night. You’ve got youth baseball and softball being played and there’s a lot of graduation and end-of-school events going on in and around Conecuh County.

Detroit Webb and Brandon Bush were also broadcasting the game live over the radio, so I’m sure that some folks were listening to the game at home. I spent most of the fourth quarter in the press box with them, and they bring a lot of youthful energy to the broadcast. They are both looking forward to next season, and they’re both predicting that Hillcrest will have another big year on the gridiron.

Perhaps the best thing about spring games is that they give coaches a better idea of what they need to work on as they prepare for the start of the fall football season. I’m sure that Hillcrest’s coaches saw some things they’d like to improve on in the offseason and they now have plenty of time to correct the mistakes they saw. On the other side of the coin, I’m sure they saw some things the team did well. Sometimes identifying your strengths is as useful as addressing a weakness.

Daily Rainfall Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., May 23, 2019

Rainfall (Past 24 Hours): 0.00 inches.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches.

Month to Date Rainfall:  3.40 inches.

Spring to Date Rainfall: 8.80 inches.

Year to Date Rainfall: 22.30 inches.

Readings taken at 0700 hours Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily in Monroe County, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.405783N Lon -87.479861W. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-6, Station Name: Frisco City 5.0 WSW.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Old newspaper article describes the rise and decline of Old Claiborne

Claiborne in the 1850s.

From the May 27, 1920 edition of The Monroe Journal newspaper:


Famous Old Town Once the Cotton Mart for Southern Half of State

Without undertaking to assert or deny the truth or fabulous origin of the story relative to the connection of certain alleged sinister predictions in the long ago with the subsequent decadence of the ancient city of Claiborne, it may be remarked that similar legends have been handed down concerning many once prosperous and populous towns that have faded into mere memories. Old St. Stephens and Cahaba, both of which once possessed the distinction of being the seat of the state government are instances.

Curious stories, some of them evidently pure fiction, have been transmitted to the present generation. Some of these old wives tales have doubtless been revamped and applied to old towns like Blakely, Sparta and Claiborne.

Legendary Fact or Fiction

A story in point relates to Old St. Stephens. It has been printed on several occasions, not as a historical fact, of course, but simply as an instance of the curious legend with which sentimental people love to invest a past age.

The story goes that Old St. Stephens, settled and long occupied by the Spaniards, was in the latter part of the 18th century a “wide open” town in the sense that all kinds of revelry was tolerated. Dominated by fanatical Romanists, Protestants were unwelcome guests and received scant hospitality within its gates. It chanced on one occasion that an eccentric evangelist passing on one of his periodic visits to the widely scattered frontier settlements, sought lodging in the town for the night. On learning his character, this was either denied or his sojourn so harassed that, shaking the dust of the city from his feet the next morning he is said to have pronounced anathema upon the town, condemning its halls of sinful revelry to become “the habitation of bats and owls.”

Pot Calling Kettle Black

Whether there is basis of fact for the story, or whether it is wholly fanciful, we do not undertake to say. But even if true it would be impossible to establish connection between the indigent outburst of a minister whose religious sensibilities were outraged by prevalent impiety and the subsequent disappearance of the old town of St. Stephens. Many natural as well as artificial causes contribute to the rise and fall of cities and towns. It may be that more of less of godlessness has prevailed in all those that have fallen into decay, whether assuming the form of Sabbath desecration or some other and more venal type. If so, they differed little from towns and cities of our own day boasting a prideful past and striving for a more glorious future.

Every town doubtless has had forms of diversion peculiar to the social makeup of the community. Often in the intoxicating pursuit of pleasure the sanctity of the Sabbath is forgot. Our own and others tolerate practices no whit better than the fishing and hunting recreations which a self-righteous spirit prompts us to condemn in others. These practices have been often condemned from the pulpit and by good people in the pew, and it may be that in a time to come, when the pride of our own community shall have perished with the changeful years there will be those to point a connection.

A Pioneer Town

The rise of Claiborne was due to its strategic situation on a navigable river and under the protection of a military garrison at a period when the Indian uprisings were a constant menace. By reason of this situation, the town became the distributing point for the thousands of immigrants who flocked to the newly opened Mississippi Territory from the older states, attracted by the glowing stories of fertile soil and abounding game – a land flowing with milk and honey. Little was said of the “giants” that inhabited the land or of the hardships that must be endured in the process of subjugation. From every state of the original colonies, from Maine to Georgia, they came, and even from the continent of Europe, as monuments in the old cemeteries bear mute testimony.

Immense Cotton Trade

The population of Claiborne was cosmopolitan in character, numbering among her citizens men and women of culture and wealth and conspicuous ability, men whose names are writ high up in the roster of builders in the formative period of the state’s history. Claiborne early became an important commercial center, dominating the cotton trade of a wide area and maintained this position for many years. The writer remembers hearing a pioneer settler describe long trains of wagons loaded with the fleecy staple, many coming from Pike and other counties of Southeast Alabama, concentrated on the roadside and extending in continuous line from the foot of Perdue Hill down Main Street to the cotton yard on the river bluff. Each had to await its turn, and it often required several days for late comers to discharge cargo, effect sale, purchase supplies and start on the homeward journey.

Although Claiborne boasted its weekly newspaper as early as the second decade of the 19th century, and at various times as recent as the 70s, scant written record has come down to use concerning its former greatness. Here and there we may glean a fact or incident relating to the old town as we peruse the pages of contemporaneous political history, but from these no connected narrative can be constructed.

Cause of Decline

Claiborne’s decadence began as a natural and gradual process as other towns sprang up and developed active competition for the trade Claiborne had long enjoyed as a practical monopoly. The construction of the railroad from Mobile to Montgomery in the late 50s inflicted a crushing blow, while the War Between the States, following soon after with its disastrous results proved the climax of the civic tragedy.

It may not be generally known, to the generation no growing up, at least, that Monroe County once embraced an area comprising one-third of the present state of Alabama, that the county was established more than three years before the state was admitted into the Union, and that Claiborne was the seat of county government for all the territory from which more than a dozen counties were subsequently formed.

Snow Hill native Bill Lee is known far and wide for his many talents

Snow Hill native Bill Lee.

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of an old paperback book called, “Alabama Trivia,” compiled by Ernie and Jill Couch. Published in 1987 by Rutledge Hill Press, this 191-page book contains hundreds of Alabama-related trivia questions and answers. It’s a quick, fun read, and I also found it very educational.

Of all the questions and answers found between the covers of this book, one question in particular jumped off the page at me: What Snow Hill-born musician has written five folk-jazz operas, including the children’s opera, “Little Johnny”?

Answer: William James Edward (Bill) Lee.

I will admit that I did not know much about this famous Wilcox County musician, so I set out to learn more about him. As it turns out, there is much more to Bill Lee’s story than the tiny blurb he gets in “Alabama Trivia.” In fact, he’s the father of Hollywood legend, Spike Lee.

Sources say that Bill Lee was born in Snow Hill on July 23, 1928 to Arnold and Alberta Lee. His father was a musician, and his mother was an accomplished pianist, so I guess you can say that he was born to be a musician. As of this writing, he is 90 years old and has made a big name for himself as a musician, composer and actor.

Spike Lee, who’s real name is Shelton Jackson Lee, was born in 1957 to Bill Lee and his late wife, Jackie, and in the ensuing years Bill Lee would contribute much to his son’s famous films. According to the Internet Movie Database (, Bill Lee composed original music for such movies as “School Daze” (1988), “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “Jungle Fever” (1991). Other sources say that he also composed music for “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986) and “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990).

I was also surprised to learn that Bill Lee played the bass guitar during Aretha Franklin’s first four recording sessions for Columbia Records. Franklin’s time with Columbia Records ran from 1961 through 1966, when she was in her late teens and early twenties. Her first four Columbia albums include such studio albums as “Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo” (1961), “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin” (1962), “Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin” (1962) and “Laughing on the Outside” (1963).

Bill Lee also played bass guitar on Bob Dylan’s famous 1963 album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” one of the most famous albums of all time. In fact, in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked this album No. 97 on its prestigious list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” That album includes Dylan’s famous song, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and a number of other Dylan hits.

Believe me when I say that Bill Lee has led a very interesting and eventful life, and the above is just the tip of the iceberg. He was also a classmate of Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and he has also acted in at least three movies, including “Mo’ Better Blues” and “She’s Gotta Have It.” In addition to Franklin and Dylan, Bill Lee has also worked closely with such famous musicians as Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Arlo Guthrie, John Lee Hooker, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel and many others.

In the end, it’s safe to say that Bill Lee has come a long way from his humble roots in Snow Hill, and he has obviously lived a full life. He is arguably the most famous musical talent that Wilcox County has ever produced, and his career is something that all Wilcox County residents can be proud of. No doubt people from all walks of life have enjoyed his music throughout the years, and it’s nice to know that someone from our neck of the woods has had such a positive impact on so many music lovers.