Pickens County, Alabama

HISTORY
 

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I.  ABORIGINES  - THE HEROIC PERIOD OF PICKENS COUNTY ALABAMA

History of Pickens County Alabama: From Its First Settlement in 1817 to 1856,

by Nelson F. Smith, Carrollton, Alabama, Printed at the “Pickens Republican” Office, 1856 -

Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

 “YOUNG Man of Northwestern Alabama and Northeastern Mississippi! Remember that the bravest race that ever lived, once occupied the country which you now inhabit —once fished in your streams, and chased the elk over your vast plains! Remember, that whenever that soil, which you now tread, was pressed by the feet of foes, it was not only bravely defended, but drenched with the blood of the invaders. Will you ever disgrace that soil, and the memory of its first occupants, by submitting to injustice and oppression, and finally to invasion? We unhesitatingly give the answer for you – No – No – never!”

 

This is a patriotic appeal to us, as tenants of the soil of Pickens, for our location nearly answers to the above. It is a just tribute to the brave Chickasaws, a tribe of Indians which once dwelt upon our Northwestern border. It is the eloquent closing passage of a Chapter of Mr. Prickett’s History of Alabama, entitled “The French Battles upon the Tombigbee.” 119 years ago, this “good Bienville” passed through the now County of Pickens, at the head of over 500 soldiers, French and Indians, to attack the Chickasaws, on their own soil. He had to pass along up our winding river, the Bigbee, through nearly the whole length of this County, which he did in rude boats up as far as Cotton Gin, in the State of Mississippi. After several terrible contests with that invincible race, he was defeated in “the battle of Ackia, which lasted three hours, and resulted in glory to the Chickasaws, and disgrace to the French.” 120 years ago, this wonderful man, who had for 30 years led a life of Indian strife in the Territory now embraced by Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, betook himself to his boats in his retreat from his first defeat and last battle, and passed silently down by the sites of the now flourishing towns of Pickensville, Memphis, Fairfield, and Vienna, in this County, back to “Fort Tombecbee,” (Jones’ Bluff,) whence he descended to Mobile, and thence soon after, returned to Paris.-— Bienville, “the good and wise,” as Mr. PICKETT styles him, was another of the extraordinary men, such as France and Spain have produced their. full quota of men and heroes—such as the more fabulous days of Old Greece would have delighted to deify.

 

“Yes,” exclaims the Alabama Historian, in another place--“Yes, citizens of the Counties of Montgomery, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Macon, and Russell, reflect that 137 years ago, (dating from 1851,) the French Governor of Louisiana, “ the great and good Bienville,” walked over your soil, and instituted friendly relations with its rude inhabitants, among whom not a solitary white man had then a permanent abode, and established a small colony upon the east bank of the Coosa.”

 

As 22 years later, the same man “ walked ” upon the soil of Pickens, let us also “reflect.” Let us “reflect,” since such is the Historical fact, that another very remarkable character once “walked” upon our soil, a greater, though not better, than Bienville—none other than Hernando De Soto himself. According to authentic accounts, that wonderful adventurer, more than 311 years ago, crossed from the Big Black Warrior, in Greene' County, diagonally through the whole breadth of Pickens, to the Little Tombecbee, somewhere in Lowndes County, Mississippi, leading his bold hand of Knights, Cavaliers, Desperadoes, and Adventurers, “young, valiant, and of the best blood in Spain,”—the bravest, and the most desperate of men, to the number of over 1000! This was in 1540, or about one year before his discovery of the Mississippi, and about two years before De Soto’s death. Is it not worth a “ reflection,” that he was wending his way towards that great discovery, when “ walking ” over our soil? He passed north westerly through the Chickasaw country, the possessors of which, he tried in vain to conquer—fighting with them like his successor, Bienville, 150 years later, his last battle, the battle of Alabama. Of this tribe, Mr. PICKENS says :“ The Chickasaws have never been conquered. They could not be defeated by De Soto, with his Spanish army in 1541; by Bienville, with his French army and Southern Indians, in 1736; by D’ Artaquette, with his French and Northern Indians; by the Marquis De Vandreuil, with his French troops and Choctaws; nor by the Creeks, Cherokees, Kicapoos, Shawnees, and Choctaws, who continually waged war against them. No! They were the bravest of the brave! And even when they had emigrated to the Territory of Arkansas, not many years ago, they soon subdued some tribes who attacked them in that quarter."

 

Another great Warrior-hero was undoubtedly once within our borders. Not as there is record or living witness to attest it, but there is the well known fact, that the renowned Indian Chief, Tecumseh, visited almost, or quite, every aboriginal tribe in this State, upon his great Southward sojourn in 1812, breathing vengeance and extermination against the pale faces. He visited both the Chickasaws and Choctaws, the latter being proprietors of a part of the soil of Pickens. His most natural course from the Ohio to Florida, was to keep down the “ Beckbee ” and the Alabama Rivers, if he preferred the water route, or to strike across the country to the eastward if he retained his horses, so that he must have passed through our borders. If he made a “talk” to the Choctaws, it was as apt to have been on the rich prairies of Pickens, west of the Bigbee, as any where, that portion of the County being purchased of the Choctaws. Unsuccessful with the latter, he pushed on down to the more hostile Seminoles, and had better success. Returning through East Alabama, he crossed over this way, and is said to have visited the present site of Tuscaloosa, then a Creek village, and it is easy to believe this was his most convenient route back to Detroit.*

 

We have not been accustomed, as does Mr. PICKETT, to consider Tecumseh only as a mere British emissary, but rather a true patriot. He loved his country and his race, and had the sagacity to foresee the fate which awaited the latter, if the “white man” was allowed to possess and cultivate the former. He hated the Anglo-Americans with a savage intensity, and no man, not even a De Soto, or a Bienville, ever used such super-human efforts to compass vast and lofty designs. “Reflect,” therefore, reader, upon these proofs, that this noble Chief once “ walked ” over the soil of Pickens! What present inhabitant of this region would not pay a handsome sum for such a sight as this famous Warrior then presented? Five brothers and his sister, Tecumspease, a remarkable woman, accompanied him. At the head of ‘a body guard of 30 Ohio braves, seated on horses, entirely naked except their flaps and ornaments, their faces painted black, their heads adorned with eagle plumes, buffalo tails fastened by bands around their waists streaming out behind, and buffalo tails also fastened to their arms by means of bands, such a sight would now be a novel one to stride across our hills and plains So too, would be the spectre of De Soto with his 1000 Spaniards, or of Bienville with his 500 French and Indians.

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*The well known Choctaw Chief, Pushmataha, in said to have thus addressed his people :

“You know Tecumseh. He is a bad man. He came through our nation, but we did not turn our heads. He went among the Muscogees, and got many of them to join him. You know the Tensaw people. They were our friends. They played ball with us. They sheltered and fed us, whenever we went to Pensacola. Where are they now ? Their bodies rot at Sam Mimm’s place. The people of St. Stephen, are also our friends. The Muscogees intend to kill them too. They want soldiers to defend them. (He here draws out his sword, and flourishing it, added :) You can all do as you please. You are all freemen. Indicate to none of you. But I shall join the St. Stephen people. If you have a mind to follow me, I will lead you to glory and victory ! ” A warrior rose up, slapping his hand upon his breast. and said: “ I am a man! I am a man ! I will follow you.” All of them now slapping their breasts, a general shout went up, and GAINS, (General Gains,) was filled with joy at the result.

 

II.  ORGANIZATION OF PICKENS COUNTY ALABAMA

History of Pickens County Alabama: From Its First Settlement in 1817 to 1856,

by Nelson F. Smith, Carrollton, Alabama, Printed at the “Pickens Republican” Office, 1856 -

Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

 

Alabama was admitted into the Union, by Act of Congress March 2d, 1819.  The county of Pickens, while Alabama was a Territory and before the organization of this County was connected with Tuscaloosa, a civil and political division, and, up to 1820, the Courts of that County had jurisdiction over all the Alabama Territory on the west of her. After Alabama’s admission into the Union, at the 2d session of the Legislature, which met at Cahaba, on the 1st Monday in November, 1820, an Act was passed the 19th of December, following, creating the County of Pickens, and defining its boundaries. At that session, George W. Owen was Speaker of the House, Gabriel Moore, President of the Senate, and Thomas Bibb, acting Governor, William W. Bibb having died before the expiration of his term, but as ISRAEL PICKENS was elected Governor the next year, our County was indebted to him for its name. The Act above referred to, designates a “temporary site for holding the Courts at the house of Jacob Dansby,” and establishes three Election Precincts, one “ at Mullen’s, on the road from Columbus to the Falls of the Warrior, one at James Heflin’s, and one at the residence of Ezekiel Nash.” Respecting the last named Precinct, it was not in this County or State, but the Elections for Pickens, were held at that place in the State of Mississippi, for several years. “The house of Jacob Dansby ” is not now extant. It was situated some half mile north of the present residence of Mr. A. T. Henley, near the now flourishing town of Pickensville. Heflin’s, (spelt in the Act, Heplin’s,) is now known as the Garden, and Mullen’s, as Mitchell’s. Of the 52 counties of Alabama, Pickens was the 30th, organized December 19th, 1820, consequently, on the 19th day of December, ultimo, she was 35 years, or over one third of a century old.

 

The records of public proceedings, appear to have been very well kept in those early times, so far as they can be found, especially from the election of Levi W. Parker, Esq., Clerk of the County Court, at the first Election after the organization of the County. Upon a fly leaf of the oldest book of Records now extant, is found the following: “Mobile, Apr. 20, 1822, L. W. Parker: His Register for the County Court of Pickens County, Alabama State.”

 

Into this seems to have been transcribed minutes of the May term, 1821. The County Court at that time was called the “Inferior Court,” and consisted of five Justices, elected by the Legislature, with power to choose one of their number Chief Justice. It was under that regime that the first Pickens County Court Record thus runs:

“State of Alabama, Pickens County. May term, 1821—Court present; Solomon Marshall, Thomas Shannon, James Newman, and Jacob Dansby. Solomon Marshall being nominated, was duly elected Chairman of the County Court of Pickens.”

 

The Court then went on to dispatch a large amount of business, for there were then. no Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, as now. They elected various officers, ordered many new roads, and besides held Court for civil, and litigated law business. It will not be amiss to quote the names of those persons found upon this old Record, as among the leading characters of our County at that time. In different capacities we find those of James Cox, Robert Cox, Jonathan York, Elijah Willbanks, Robert Prophet, Frances Flournoy, Isaac Taylor, James Heflin, Joshua Stockstill, Herbert Beckman, Samuel and Joel Hundly, Thomas Lancaster, Malachiah Williams, Thos. T. Gore, Matthew Clannahan, Thomas Clemans, Peter Kilpatrick, John G. Ring, Joe Tilly, the last two litigants.

Owen Shannon – Auctioneer

Henry Anderson – Treasurer

John Barksdale – Coroner

William E. Willis – Surveyor

Adeno Griffin – Sheriff

Levi W. Parker – C. C. C. P. C

 

The next record is a year later when May term 1822 Sheriff Griffin certified tot eh election of Solomon Marshall, John Barksdale, Robert Cox, and James Heflin, as Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, the old Court having been abolished by the Legislature the previous June, at the extra session of that year, and an election having intervened under the new law. Solomon Marshall continued to be Judge nearly ten years, or till 1830, under both organizations of the County Court. It will be seen that Levi W. Parker, Esq., who is now living near Franconia, in this County, and enjoying a green old age, was, 34 _years ago, the first Clerk of the County Court of Pickens. He and Mr. Isaac Taylor, are the only persons above named, now (January 18th, 1856;‘)residing in this County, and but one or two of the rest survive.

 

The boundaries of this County are defined in the Act of December 19th, 1820, viz: A line shall commence at a point where the State line cuts the Tombeckbee River, running down the same, to the Greene County line, thence east on the said county line to the line dividing Ranges one and two, east of the meridian of St. Stephens; north of said line to its intersection with the Sipsey water of the Beckbee River; thence pursuing the meanders of that stream, to that point where the line dividing Ranges 12 and 13, west of the meridian of Huntsville, touches the same, north on said line to the Marion, south boundary line, west to the State line; thence on the said line to :the place of beginning, which shall form one County, to be known and distinguished by the name of Pickens County. There have been several alterations of these limits. In 1823, a small slice was ceded to Tuscaloosa on the north east, and, in 1832, that portion of our present Territory, which is south of the Sipsey River, was ceded to us from Greene. At the next session, in 1832, the rectangular shape of the County was perfected by a further cession to us of “all that Territory west of the first sectional line, at or below the junction of the Sipsey and Tombeckbee Rivers, running due west to the Mississippi line,” where, established, namely, at the house of G. B. Mobly, in that portion of the Territory purchased from the Choctaw tribe of Indians, and west of the Tombeckbee River, which has recently been added to the County of Pickens.

 

With these boundaries, the area of the County is about 980 square miles, its dimensions being about 25 and a half miles on the North, 30 on the South, and 36 from North to South, or an average of about 28 wide, to 30 long, including 20 complete and 11 incomplete Townships, containing about 627,200 acres. The present Court-House is very near the exact centre of the county.

 

The first election precinct established after the creation of the county, was at the extra session of June 21st, “at the house of Cox, near Coldfire creek.” At the regular session of the same year, it was “further enacted, that there be an additional election precinct in the county of Pickens, at the house of Charles M. Holland.”-— As the county became more populous, other precincts were established, to meet the convenience of voters; one at the house of Jesse Clements, in 1822, one at Robert Bridges, in 1823, one at John Davidson’s, in 1824, two in 1825, at the house of William Sanders and Stephen Bennett, two in 1827, at Wright Roundtree’s and Richard Jones, one at Solomon Bennett’s, on Sipsey, in 1828, and three in 1830, at James Ferguson’s, George S. Bagsdale’s, and George Trantham’s, and in 1831, at Carrollton. These ten precincts, (7 of the 17 having been discontinued,) may be taken to indicate the more populous neighborhoods, at that period, the names of which will readily suggest their localities. We present below all the precincts at the General Election, in 1831, with a list of the Managers.

 

TRANTHAM’s.—George M. Trantham, Samuel Wilder, Robert Ellis.

 

BENNETT’S, on Sipsey.-Wm. N. Morrow, Benjamin Love, Charles M. Holland.

 

MYERS - William Harris, Archelaus Taylor, Andrew Loftin. .

 

MYERHOOF’S.—William Hamiter, Felix Ellis, William P. Gillespie.

 

PICKENS Town.-—E1ijah Willbanks, David Dorherty, Ambrose J. Rose.

 

CARROLLTON.-—Norris Hendon, James D. Stanton, William Castles.

 

RAGSDALE STORE-—Thomas Spruill, Robert Henry, Henry Story. _

 

MARTIN & DAVIS’ STORE.—O1iver Clark, Benjamin Godfrey, James T. Burdine.

 

SANDERS.—Buel Sanders, Thomas Deloach, William Kilpatrick.

 

FERGUSON’S.—Wm. D. Hargrove, James Ferguson, Daniel J. Hargrove.

 

Up to this time, (1831,) several now flourishing villages do not appear to have been known by their present designations. We might name Yorkville, Bridgeville, Franconia, Vienna, Memphis, Fairfield, Reform, Gordo, and other central points of business. The number of election precincts are now more than double. Among the managers of the Presidential election of 1832, General JACKSON being then a candidate for his second term, we recognize several persons, still residents of Pickens, (some lately deceased,) viz: William Lang, Elihu Cox, James Garnett, L. W. Parker, Thomas Bradford, Jacob Colvin, Henry O. Love, James Gunter, Daniel Hargrove, Ezekiel Sanders, James T. Burdine, and David Woods.

III.  THE EARLIEST SETTLERS

 History of Pickens County Alabama: From Its First Settlement in 1817 to 1856,

by Nelson F. Smith, Carrollton, Alabama, Printed at the “Pickens Republican” Office, 1856 -

Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

 

Those persons who transacted the business of the county at this early period of its history, are easily ascertained from the public records, and it may be interesting to name them in this place.

 

Elizabeth Proffet and Henry Anderson, took out letters on the estate of Robert Proffet, October 21st, 1822, with James Bayly and William Billington, as securities. Daniel J. Hargrove took letters testamentary to execute the noncupative will of Dudly Hargrove, in November 7th, 1823, Benjamin Williams,. Peter Williams, and James D. Lowe, being witnesses to said will. On December 1st, 1823, letters were granted to William P. Gillespie and Lemuel E. Singleton, upon the estate of Thomas B. Singleton, and to W. Miller, upon the estate of Mary Miller, the same month and year, making only four estates administered upon prior to the above last named date.

 

In the lists of apportioners, overseers, election managers, juries to review and mark out roads, and in whatever capacity acting, as appear upon the records of the Commissioners Court, in 1824, are found the following names:

 

“George H. Flournoy, Wm. Hargrove, Thos. Homes, Stephen Jenkins, Randall Sherrod, Caleb and Joseph Barnes, John H. Scott, Edmond Parkinson, Allen, Daniel, and Wm. Cox, Linsey Shoemake, David Bradford, Wm. Davidson, C. M. Holland, Thomas Brashiear, Samuel Wier, Burwell and Parks Ball, Thos. G. Sims, William Spraggins, Henry. Robertson, Wm. Fowler, John Crunbull, Richard Jones, John Williams, Thos. C. Stean, Joseph Morehead, Alex. Martin, Underhill and. Robert Ellis, James Peterson, Silas. Forrester, James Smith, Hugh Harrison, Sterret Dobson, George Wilkins, John Billington, John Morfet, Wm. White, John G. Ring, Lewis Ellison, Silas and Charles Dobbs, Loderwick Robertson, Wm. and Joseph Jackson, Patrick Scott,Thos. Harris, Aaron Phillips, William Wilson, John Petete, Andrew Porter, Thos. Woods, and Joe. Ellis.”

 

On looking into the records of the Circuit Court, the dockets exhibit other names, which will be recognized as among the pioneers of this region. They are:

 

“Solomon Marshall, John Ward, Wm. Neighbors, Wm. W. and Wm. Carroll, Jno. W. Gilbry, Jno. McKinley, Flemming Thomason, Geo. Williams, Wm. Addington, Robt. Bridges, Stephen Doss, Andrew McCrary, Wm. McGehee, Saml. Alden, Alex. Merrell, Elijah Weaver, Gilbert and Gordon Saltonstall, John Gordon, Andrew Scott, James Lacy, John Stean, Ephraim Robertson, Chas. Teas, John Oxford, Abram Byler, Neely Dobson, Owen, Thomas, and Moses Shannon, Johnathan Ellison, Nat. Brown, James Powell, Wm. D. Denton, Stephen, George, William, Henry, and Bayley Johnson, Ellis Gore, Obadiah Mayfield, Simon Watson, Saml. Porter, Wm. Grant, Henry W. and John C. Ballard, Robt. Howard, Chas. Cox, J. B. Austin, Wm. and Sterrett Dobson, Lewis, Theopholus, and Daniel Clark, John P. Hill, Thos. Townsend, Archabald Shaw, Mathew Parhem, Henry Hawkins, Jesse Stogsdell, James Lyles, Wm. Ricks, Sloan Sprigs, Loan Mullins, John O. Cary, Richard Harrison, James Williams, Saml. Watson, James Rily, J. A. Ivy, Wm. T. Aycock, Saml. Bell, Wm. Granimell, Wm. McCombs, John Denty, Wm. Ring, James Silas, Hallaway Nall, George Wiggington, Robt. Clannahan, John Morehead, John McGlammery, John and Obediah Hooper, Thomas and William Adair, Hardy and Jesse Jones, Silas Forrester, James Templeton, and Joseph Scarborough.”

 

Of the 187 persons who were among the fathers of the present generation, 34 years since, above named, we now recognize less than 20 survivors, residents of Pickens. Add to 187, 33 other persons, present as purchasers at certain public sales held prior to January, 1824, but of whom only four or five now live in this county, and it leaves us about 25 survivors out of 220. This is nearly correct, but it is not pretended that all the population, or the men, of the county, are embraced in this estimate.

 

The first settlement in Pickens county, was made by one Josiah Tilly, who located himself in the year 1817, near the well known Bluff of that name, upon the Tombeckbee, some half at mile above Pickensville, the same now owned by Mr. Zack Pulliam. Tilly came directly from Tuscaloosa, was a native of Tennessee or North Carolina, had lived a year or two in Tuscaloosa county, and had married there the daughter of one Patrick Scott. He was better calculated for border life, having a far more decided taste for the customs of a backwoodsman, than for the refinements of civilization. He had a good deal to do with the Choctaws, was often their agent in little matters, understood their language, and was very popular with them. On one occasion he received from them the sum of $25, to take company of Choctaws over to Tuscaloosa to a (tibba,) or ball-playing.* (Tibba – to fight, to decide)

 

Tilly is represented as a kind-hearted and benevolent man. An instance of his good nature is handed down in connection with a law suit he had with the Choctaw Chief, Mashulatubba. Always preferring a life among the Indians, to remaining with his own family, he went to Mashulaville, Mississippi, and worked upon a house of the above named Chief, for which the latter refused to pay him. Tilly attached the negro slaves of the Indian Chief, (whom some said he decoyed to this side the line,) and this brought over to Pickensville Court, their master, Mashulatubba. The latter got drunk, and being in a condition to be insulted and imposed upon, the plaintiff, Tilly, took home with him to his house, his rival litigant, and took care of him, remarking to the Chief who was rather boisterous, that although they were lawing one another in Court, yet they had been friends, and he would not see him abused. A bystander, whose name need not be mentioned, remarked, at the time, “that, Tilly, is a Christian spirit, to render good deeds to our enemies.” Tilly was an ordinary sized man, dark complexion, black eyes, and jet black hair, and a very heavy black beard. Altogether, he is said to have borne as much resemblance to the aboriginal race as to his own. He finally, about 1830, left this region, following off, or going with, a small tribe of Mississippi Choctaws, to Texas, with whom he was still living in 1855, having married an Indian woman since the loss of his first wife, and at the present time, at the age of about 70, his head of long black hair turned as white as snow, he is surrounded by a family of young half-breeds.

 

The next settler, was Jonathan York, another son-in-law of Scott’s, who came with his family from Tuscaloosa, the next year, (1818.) He was, originally, from South Carolina, and was said to have built the first board shanty, ever erected in the county of Tuscaloosa. He settled near his brother-in-law, Tilly, on the road which now loads from Pickensville, to Columbus. He is said to have been connected with an influential South Carolina family, and to have been proved of that connection. General Daniel Wright, of Columbus, a lawyer, and a man of influence at that time, in Mississippi, is stated to have testified on a trial in the Circuit Court, at Pickensville, in a suit arising out of a horse-race, between York and Augustus B. Wooldridge, that Jonathan York was his elder brother. Of course, he could be only his half-brother. An unsuccessful effort had been made, to impeach the evidence of York’s father and mother-in-law, (the Scott’s,) in “the horse-race lawsuit.”

 

Robert Proffet, settled at Pickensville, the same year, and also, John Barksdale, settled near that place, about the same time. The Ringold’s, (Robert and William,) located below Pickensville, about this date, and gave name to the Bluff on the Bigbee, still called Ringold’s Bluff.  Of others who settled' in the same neighborhood as early as 1818, Elihu Cox, Wm. D. Barksdale, and S. P. Doss, alone remain; the two first named, were boys. Burwell Ball came out from Abberville District, in time to make a crop of corn, in 1819. The first crop was made in 1818. The Coxes, James, Robert, and Daniel, planted and raised corn on their little new openings, as early as 1819. Others could be named, who were cotemporary pioneers in the first settlement of Pickens county, among those, James Newman, Elijah Wilbanks, and John G. Ring. The last named, married a third daughter of Patrick Scott, in Tuscaloosa county. He was a Kentuckian, and the other two South Carolinians.

 

The earliest settlers of several interior counties of Alabama, are known to have been persons originally from South Carolina, who first migrated to Tennessee, and thence down the Tennessee river, into North Alabama, thence down the central routes of travel, along the old Indian trails and Military roads, cut out by United States troops in the Indian wars, under Gen’ls Jackson, Coffee, and others, passing into Madison, Limestone, Morgan, Blount, Tuscaloosa, and Pickens. It was most convenient for them to follow this course as a channel of travel indicated by the natural conformation of the country—freer from the obstructions of hostile savages and rugged mountains, both which impediments were in their way, in crossing directly westward to the State of Georgia. Judge A. B, Meek, states in his address of last year, (1855,) before the Alabama Historical Society, that Tuscaloosa remained abandoned, (the Greeks having been nearly annihilated there,) until after the war (of 1812—’15,) when in 1816, the first settlers, Emanuel York, and John Barton, from Tennessee, pitched their tents, and raised their crops of corn on the beautiful upland plain where now stands the city of Tuscaloosa. Mr. George Powell, in his sketch of Blount county, states that in 1815, several worthy citizens left the upper Districts of South Carolina, and removed to the State of Tennessee, and early in 1817, migrated to Blount. There being the positive evidence of some of the present oldest inhabitants of Pickens, that Jonathan was a native of South Carolina, that he came here from Tuscaloosa, and there from Tennessee, he was probably some kin to Emanuel York, the first settler of Tuscaloosa, whom Judge Meek says was from Tennessee. It appears that Pickens was settled only one year later than Tuscaloosa, though it must be borne in mind, that the latter at first included Pickens.

 

It has already been stated, that after a few years this county filled up rapidly with new-comers.  The emigrants poured down in swarms from the upper counties of Alabama. Morgan, Madison, Blount, and Jefferson, each contributing to the stream of migration, until, as has been said, those already here, grew uneasy at the prospect of a too dense population. A large part of the influx came either directly from South Carolina, or were natives of that State. Of the latter, might be named Levi W. Parker, Henry Y. White, and the late F. W. Bostick, who, all tarried for a while in the county of Madison. It was natural for the pioneers to write back to their relatives and acquaintances in the old States, and influence them to come out. Young men went back and married - sons brought out their parents, and whole families followed the migration of a single member. *

 

*If it were necessary to confirm the statements contained in this Chapter, that are derived from the oldest living persons in Pickens, reference may be had to a sketch of Blount county, referred to in the text.

 

From 1816, the emigration was surprisingly rapid. The emigrants came from Madison, and in great numbers from Tennessee. They advanced along the old Indian trace, that led from Dilto’s Landing, to Mud Town, on the Cahawha. Every fertile spot near this road was settled in 1817. Great numbers of emigrants came down the Tennessee river. * * * In 1815, several worthy citizens left the upper Districts of South Carolina, and removed to the State of Tennessee, and early in 1817 emigrated to Blount and located in Murphree’s Valley. They founded a prosperous and moral settlement. The members of this little settlement wrote numerous letters to their friends who lived -in South Carolina, and induced many of them to emigrate early to Blount county and it is singular, that from so small a. beginning, the Carolinians and their decendants should now form the most numerous portion of Blount, although the Tennesseeans had nearly two years the start and had choice of locations. * * * The South Carolinians settled very thick in the lower part of Blount, (now Jefferson,) and next to the Tennesseeans, were the most numerous.

 

The importance of this statement, to a correct understanding of the origin of the first settlers of Pickens county, as also, for a knowledge of their characters, will be seen when it is remembered that from 1822 to 1827, there was a great influx of population from the lower part of Blount, or Jefferson, to Pickens.

 

IV.  MORE SETTLERS 

History of Pickens County Alabama: From Its First Settlement in 1817 to 1856,

by Nelson F. Smith, Carrollton, Alabama, Printed at the “Pickens Republican” Office, 1856 -

Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

The first white child born in this county, or before it was a county, or even bore the name of Pickens, was the daughter of Jonathan York, named Catherine, born in 1818. The first male white child was Edward L Doss, son of Stephen P. Doss. The second white male was N. G. Barksdale, son of John Barksdale. The second birth among the emigrants, was that of a slave, the property of John Barksdale. The first few pioneers into the forests, west of Tuscaloosa, had to pack their corn on horses from east of the Warrior river, but in a year or two, the material for bread became plentiful enough, and never at any time, was there anything like a scarcity of provisions among the early settlers. The wilderness abounded with game, such as deer and wild-turkey, and so soon as cattle could be raised, they found the most ample ranges. A good cow, however, at first was worth $50. The emigrants never had the least difficulty with the Indians, of’ whom this section had its full share. Indeed, the Territory of land between the Warrior and the Tombeckbee, was a reserved neutral hunting ground, of both the Creeks and Choctaws, for many years, and the sole property of neither of those tribes. Pushmattaha, the famous Chief of the latter, sometimes visited Pickensville. Mashulatubba was often there, and like- his last named compeer, always the reliable friend of the white settlers

.

       A majority of the earliest emigrants were South Carolinians, as before stated, from the upper Districts of York, Fairfield, Abbeville, and a few other Northern Districts, especially those who settled near Pickensville and Yorkville, and also Bridgeville. But before the year 1820, there were a plentiful sprinkle of new comers from Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and even Virginia. Unlike some other counties, there never were any parties and feuds between the emigrants from different States, but on the contrary, quiet, peace, and concord prevailed in an eminent degree. The first settlers are said to have sprung mostly from respectable families in the olden States, induced by a spirit of enterprise, to seek new homes and possessions, in these then far western wilds, many of them bringing eastern notions of comfort and competency, with means in their hands, and often as companied by several slaves. With such a population, three or four years was time enough to acquire comfortable domestic possessions. The settlement of Pickens proceeded slowly at the beginning, insomuch that though the first adventurers are said to have been rather gratified at the prospect of having enough “ elbow room,” ranges for their stock, and cheap land for a long time to come, yet this was mingled with the apprehension that the sparseness of the population would materially hinder the establishment of schools for the education of their children. They are represented as moral and religious people, possessing strong inclinations for the blessings and enjoyments of good neighborhood and good society. Of course, there were exceptions, among an adventurous people, exposed to all the temptations of unrestrained border life. But in five or six years, emigration became very rapid. Facilities for travelling were greater from the old States, and there were other causes which operated to settle up this county, with a fresh tide of emigration. The best lands, or what were then so considered, were soon taken up. One of these causes, was the abandonment of the public lands in the eastern and upper counties, at the time they were brought into market. The poorer class, and many who were possessors of some property, were not rich enough to compete with the land speculators at these sales, and had to give up their little improvements and seek The first white settlers upon the soil of Pickens, as of all this region, were necessarily squatters. The lands were not brought into market until five years after Tilly located on the Bigbee, or in 1822. The interference of speculators at these sales, was also felt severely by the hardy pioneers of Pickens, and some of them lost their lands. They could have paid the minimum price of $2 per acre, in the four usual annual installments, had they been let alone, but were not able to compete against the gangs of sharpers who appeared at the public vendues ready to out bid them, thoroughly posted up with all necessary information as to the numbers, location, and quality of each sett1er’s lot. Although our State Legislature had passed stringent laws against the speculators, before the sales of the Pickens county lands, yet all the evil was not obviated. The snake was only scotched, not killed. Most of the first purchasers were obliged to make terms with their adroit rivals, in the land market. They generally found it best to effect “compromises” with the speculators, at 100 per cent on the government price, or as best they could with the different companies of speculators, before they were allowed to bid off their own lots at the minimum value, Mr. William Spraggins states that he purchased a portion of his land on those terms, but had to pay more for the balance, on account of two rival speculators bidding against each other. How easy was it for those two rivals to have had an understanding, all the while, and to have divided the spoils with one another!

 

But one of the anecdotes told of Judge Marshall, who was generally called “ Old Sol,” shows that these speculators found, now and then, their full match. It runs that on their appearance, as usual, before the sales, the first Judge of the County Court of Pickens, was exceedingly happy to make their acquaintance. He told them, he was glad to see them, that he was in a condition to need their help, that he owed a good deal of money, had a large tract of good land, much more than he could purchase and pay for, if it was run, but that with their assistance, he might be able to retain it all. The speculators appeared very attentive to the polite Judge, and were all smiles and accommodation. They were willing to aid him upon almost any conditions, and proceeded to state their terms. They would bid off his land and let him have it at the usual advance rates of 100 per cent. “Old Sol” seemed equally pleased, save in one respect. He said it would never do to let a “speculator” bid for it, because his neighbors wanted his good land, and would bid against the speculators, but would not bid for it against him, on account of his popularity with them. “O no, says he; let me bid off my land myself, and we can easily arrange the 100 per cent, and the other terms.” It must be stated that these speculators did not exact the price agreed to be paid them by the settlers, ($4 per acre,) in ready cash, but gave them time to pay by annual installments, upon giving security. Such was the arrangement here meant. The result of these negotiations was, that Judge Marshall was allowed to bid off his lots, (the well known Gillespie place, near Bridgeville,) at the minimum price, ($2,) without the least interference from either his friendly neighbors, or the “land sharks.” At the last rap of the Auctioneer’s mallet, the affable Judge addressed the crowd thus: “Gentlemen, I thank you for your kindness. Owing to the forbearance of my good neighbors, and the favor of these gentlemen, (casting a smile upon the speculators) I have been able to purchase my land so low, that I find I shall have money enough to pay for it myself, without any assistance!” Judge Marshall had lost a large landed property in North Alabama, before he removed to this county, and had no idea of being ousted from possessions which he had improved, and rendered valuable, by a set of men whose business it was to profit by the toil and industry of others.

V.  PIONEER LIFE

History of Pickens County Alabama: From Its First Settlement in 1817 to 1856,

by Nelson F. Smith, Carrollton, Alabama, Printed at the “Pickens Republican” Office, 1856 -

Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

If Tilly raised a little crop of corn in the year 1817, then that was the first crop ever planted by -a white man on Pickens soil, but if he settled here in the latter part of that year, he could not have raised any crop before the summer of 1818. The Coxes, Robert and Daniel, claim to have planted corn in the latter named year. They are mistaken. They could not have raised corn prior to the harvest of 1819, and so it must be recorded in these chronicles. The Coxes are among the very first pioneers of this county. Elihu Cox is about the last of the original emigrants remaining, and Dr. Silas H. Cox, is at this time, the oldest survivor among us, of white children born in Pickens county.

 

The early settlers had necessarily, to suffer the usual privations of emigrants to a new country, rude and rough houses,. little or no shelter for horses, mules, and stock, and entire destitution of society privileges. When they had grown their corn, they had no mills to grind it, and had to resort to the pestle and mortar, in preparing it for food. Wheat, which now grows so abundantly with us, was useless for bread, because there were no flowing mills. One may hear the early emigrants talk of this primitive mode of beating out hominy in large wooden mortars, with a pestle suspended to an elastic pole, and of bolting off the hulls in deer-skin sitters. It is said that an ingenius Scotchman, David Chalmers, contrived a water power pestle, which at one period, pounded out most of the meal for the Pickensville settlers. It was simply a log having a trough dug in one end to hold water, poised on a pivot, to act as-a see-saw. A little stream of water being let into the trough, filled it, and brought down that end, and raised the other end of the log, or pole, to which a pestle was attached. This poured the water out of the trough and lightened that end, and let the pestle down upon the corn in the mortar. They tell an anecdote of one Daniel Johnson and wife, called “Rambler” Johnson, on account of his being so much in the woods, and loving his gun and a roving life, better than labor and domestic habits. His better half, was one day unusually busy, about her household cares, and needed help. She therefore took the maul and beat upon a log to call in her absent spouse, and when he came, told him, that as she was very busy with her washing, she had called him home to beat the hommony for dinner. Daniel replied, that he had heard her beating, and thought the hoe-cake was ready

 

But it must have been as early as 1819 or ’20, that Henry Anderson built a corn mill near Pickensville, upon Boguechitta, (Big-Creek,) a “tubmill,” as its class were, and still are called, and that is said to have been the first mill in Pickens county. The public records in 1821, mention “Anderson’s mill,” and also, “ Parker’s old mill,” in the same record, which indicates that the former had very little priority over the latter. The latter was on one of the branches of Bear Creek, near Corr’s, or Mitchell’s. Other mills were erected, nearly cotemporary, namely, Dorrah’s, Donahoo’s, and Gardner’s, (built by one Walker;) also, Easterwood’s, on ,Coldfire. Bonner’s mill was built by Abner Cotton, and in a year or two, sold to Henry J. Townsend, who added a bolter, and ground the first wheat for Pickens county. It is said that the Coxes raised the first wheat as early as 1822 or ’23, and carried it to a mill in Lowndes county, Mississippi, to be ground. But little wheat was raised in this county before 1830, on account of there being no good flouring mills.—Most of the wheat flour was brought up the river from Mobile, and, indeed, it is only since 1840 that the planters began to calculate upon a crop of wheat. Cochran’s mills were built by Judge Solomon Marshall, now a fine flouring establishment. Other projectors of mill in the county, were Elijah Coons, Henry Townsend, Robert Jemison, William Lampkin, William Castles, and William Owen.

 

In a few years, nearly all the many streams of our well watered region were made tributary to the uses of man in a labor-saving capacity. ColdFire, Sipsey, Lubbub, Blubber, Magby’s, Big and Bear Creeks, and even Kelley’s Creek, were thus appropriated. The best evidence that most of ‘them were erected with good judgement, is, their having been, in most cases, improved and kept up to the present time. It is true that some of these enterprises have turned out ruinously expensive, and others proved entire failures, owing to the great difficulty of constructing permanent dams upon the marshy bottoms.

 

The antiquarian reader must needs be informed that one of the first set of Pickens mill stones, is yet extant, and may be seen to this day. After the death of Henry Anderson, which took place in 1825, on the 5th 'day of July, in that year, these stones were appraised at $5 00. Burwell Ball, Daniel Cox, Archibald Shaw, and Hezekiah Jones, were the appraisers of that state, names familiar to us. How they afterward:-fell into the possession of Pruitt McGowen, cannot be stated, but the same stones were removed to his residence, (3% miles south of Carrollton and used by him, for grinding peaches in the manufacture of peach brandy, and the upper stone still lies at the old distillery near the road side

 

The staple food for man and beast, with American backwoodsmen, Indian Corn, grew abundant and cheap in a very few years. At the sale of the Dudley Hargrove estate, in 1823, corn brought only 25 cents a bushel o11 twelve months credit. The same year, in and near Pickensville, corn sold at public sales for 40 cents, and oats at 50 to 75 cents a bushel. At the sales of several estates during the years 1823 to 1826, inclusive, the value of personal property varied little from present prices, as is shown upon the returns. Corn, oats, fodder, cattle, hogs, mules and horses, and everything except slaves, appear to have been estimated about the same as such property has been for ten years past.  Cotton was raised from the very beginning by the Pickens planters, then as now, as the easiest means of supplying ready cash for the payment of debts, and for procuring the necessaries or luxuries of life. They had a good river to depend upon to take off their surplus to a good market. Boats found their way up the Bigbee at an early period, with but little more difficulty than at present. If there are fewer snags now than then, there is generally a lower stage of water. The settlement of this county, which began in 1817, as heretofore stated, may be considered as complete by or before 1823. It has been shown that prior to that date election precincts were established all over the county, mills were erected, and society was being built up in neighborhoods and small villages. The nucleolus was already formed for Pickensville, Bridgeville, Yorkville, Lowe’s settlement, King’s Store, and there was, besides, a scattering population over the county. There is no census of the inhabitants of that period within the knowledge of the writer. Of whites and slaves, five thousand may be set down as not very wide of the mark.
 

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