|Talladega County, Alabama Genealogy Trails|
PIONEER TALLADEGA: ITS MINUTES AND MEMORIES
Source: The Alabama Historical Quarterly; State Department of Archives and History; Vol.16, Spring Issued (1954); transcribed by Vicki Bryan
This issue of the Alabama Historical Quarterly consists of the first half of the History of Talladega by the late Wellington Vandiver. The next issue of the Quarterly will be comprised of the second half of the history.
This history is being published at the request of the Sylacauga Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution and other patriotic individuals. The Quarterly has previously published a history of a number of cities and counties in the State and will continue the practice in future issues.
JEDU WELLINGTON VANDIVER
(From Volume 4, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, by Thomas M. Owen.)
Lawyer, editor, lecturer, Mr. Vandiver was born September 17, 1850, at Alexandria, Calhoun County; son of John Harrington and Mary Eliza Emma (McAfee) Vandiver, the former who was born in Spartanburg
District, S. C., practiced medicine, was selected as electoral messenger for the state of South Carolina in 1848, engaged in the drug business, removed from South Carolina to Alabama, settled in Alexandria, and in 1857 settled in Talladega; grandson of John and Winnie (Cannon) Vandiver, who lived in Spartanburg District, S. C., and of Judge Green Taliaferro and Charlsie Ann (Hall) McAfee; great-grandson of John and Elizabeth (Llemastre) Vandiver, who removed from Pennsylvania to Surrey County, N. C., and in 1791, to Spartanburg, S. C.; great-great-grandson of John Vandiver; Great-great-great-grandson of William Van Der Wer, who was the ancestor of the South Carolina and West Virginia Vandivers. The immediate ancestors of the Van der Veers, or Van de Wers, the name later being changed to Vandiver, came from the north Netherlands, and reached New York in 1653. Some settled in the Mohawk valley, others went down the Delaware, and in 1655 Jacob Van de Wer, the progenitor of the family in America, served as sergeant in the army of Peter Stuyvesant, and assisted in the capture of Fort Christina, Wilmington, Del. Adam Vandiver, of Tallulah Falls, Ga., was a veteran of the Indian battle of Talladega. Mr. Vandiver received his education in the schools of Talladega, was a member of a boy company named the Invincibles in 1863, and served as water carrier for a short time; studied law in the offices of Bradford and Martin of Talladega, in 1872 was admitted to the bar, and in 1868 was clerk of the senate judiciary committee. In 1873 he removed to Galesville, Tex., where he edited the Sun; returned to Alabama, and was county solicitor for St. Clair County, 1875; was elected circuit solicitor of the tenth circuit, 1876; was register in chancery for Talladega County, 1886-1910; was president of the Alabama Chautauqua, 1889-1910. He returned to Texas, where he founded The Gadsden News, which was afterwards consolidated with The Times, under the name of the Times-News, where he remained from 1881-82; was mayor of Talladega, 1901-07; mayor and president of the city board of Commissioners, 1913-20, He has written many articles for the Montgomery Advertiser, and for the Age Herald, notable among which are "Sunshine in Alabama," and "Yarns of the Court House Gang." He has also written short articles for Puck, Judge, Life, and the Black Cat magazine. He is a Democrat, Methodist, and Knight of Pythias. Married: June 4, 1878, at Gadsden, to Florence Alveretta Cunningham, daughter of Joseph L. and Elizabeth (Wharton) Cunningham, who lived at Gadsden, the former who was state senator from Cherokee, St. Clair, and Etowah Counties, in 1878-79, was a lawyer, served first as captain and later as major on the staff of Gen. Tracey, Wheeler's cavalry, C. S. Army, the latter who was a member of the Wharton family of Etowah County. Children: 1) Almuth Cunningham, who graduated B.S., in 1898, from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and B. L., from the New York University, 1904, served as district attorney under William Travers Jerome, 1906-08, was law partner of Gov. Whitman of New York, 1909-10, and of U. S. Senator O'Gorman, of New York, 1914-19, was judge advocate under Gen. Crowder with rank of major, 1918-19, m. Eleanor Williams, residence, New York, N. Y.; 2) Annabel, m. Howard L. Smith, who is assistant attorney for the "Katy" railroad system, for the state of Oklahoma, residence, Muskogee, Okla.; 30 William Reeves, manager of the storage warehouse, New York, m. Elaine Casey, resident, New York. Residence: Talladega.
PIONEER TALLADEGA, ITS MINUTES AND MEMORIES
By Wellington Vandiver
Chapter I -
The beginning of the year eighteen hundred found Alabama an Indian country. Here and there were a few white settlements containing hardy pioneers from everywhere, and wherever there was an Indian town there could be found the hardy white trader. The beginning years or this century were employed by the white people in alternately fighting the red men, and gobbling up their land by treaties. Consent had to be asked of the lordly savage even to run a horse path from the Chattahoochee to the Alabama, and much eloquence and consumption of smoking tobacco was necessary in separating Lo from his land.
In 1805 the United States purchased a strip three miles wide by 25 miles in length to lands north of the Tennessee River, and the Cherokees gave a quitclaim deed to the same lands. The same year the Choctaws sold us five million acres lying partly in Mississippi and partly in Alabama and these purchases were but the beginning of solemn swindles that the white men called "treaties"; but we did not really finish robbing the aborigines until the transaction called the "Treaty of March 24, 1832," when and where we divested the Indian in Alabama of the princely domain his forefathers inhabited.
By the provisions of this treaty the United States allowed ninety principal chiefs of the Creek tribe to select one section (640 acres) of land each, and every head of a Creek family was privileged one-half section each to select, which tracts should be reserved from government sale for their use for five years unless sooner disposed of by them. Any Indian could sell his selection of land and make the purchaser a fee - simple title, but the contract of sale had to be approved, and certified in this section, by Leonard Tarrant, U. S. certifying agent, at Mardisville (Indian name, Jumper's Spring), five miles southwest of present city of Talladega. This enrichment of the guileless savage with salable land made him an easy mark for the unscrupulous trader of that time. From every point of the compass low-browed con men, bunco-speculators, land sharks, avaricious liars, greedy perjurers, swindlers of every variety, kind and character came like vultures to feed upon the carcass of the conquered red men. Corruption, collusion and fraud ruled the hour. The simple Indian was as a child in the hand of the glib, unscrupulous land-hunting shark, and often the domain of a kingdom was purchased for a bauble. The chiefs and head men of the Creeks wrote to John Gayle, of Greene County, who was then governor of Alabama, imploring him to protect them from the greed of the land grabber, but his excellency announced that he could not prevent the tricks of dishonest men.
The final deal by which the United States acquired ownership in the last remaining acres of the Creek Indians was arranged at Cusseta, but it was signed at Washington March 24, 1832, by Lewis Cass, secretary of war, and on the part of the Indians by Opothle Oholo, and by six other chiefs. Many of the leading men of the Indians were opposed to ceding their lands, refused to attend the councils, declined to sign treaties, and killed those who did sign them, and thus there were two parties among the red men, divided upon the question of parting with their homes. By the terms of the treaty the Indians swapped the Alabama land for lands in the West, but there were distinct and solemn provisions in the contract that any Indian who saw fit might remain on his Alabama land, that he should not be obligated to go West, unless he so desired, and that the white people already on these lands should be removed as soon as the crops were gathered; and no more white people should be permitted to come into the country until a survey was made and the Indians had picked out their lands. None of these latter clauses of the treaty were enforced; the Indians protested at the violations of the provisions, permitting more white men to enter; the United States tried to remove some of the white settlers with troops, and in doing so one of the settlers, Hardeman Owens, was killed; and immediately the state authorities got mad, a long correspondence ensued between Governor Gayle of Alabama and the secretary of war, and the upshot of the whole matter was that more settlers poured in, and the wholesale robbery of the Indian went on.
The Tennessee valley and the Tensaw and Tombigbee country were open to immigrants during the first years of the century, and St. Stephens and Huntsville were considerable towns all the while that eastern Alabama remained the hunting ground of the red men, traversed only by Indian trails and bridle paths. Civil war ensued among the Creek Indians over the question of ceding their lands to the United States, and whether or not they should offer armed resistance to the white people. The power of the hostiles was broken after several butcheries, at the battle of the horseshoe on Tallapoosa River, March 27, 1814. Our partial historians call the engagements with the Indians "battles" even enumerating in this list the inglorious massacre of sixty Indians who were suing for peace in the Hillabee Town by General Cocke. It was hardly a battle when one side with improved firearms was fighting an equal or less number of foemen armed with bows and arrows and tomahawks.
Alabama remained a territory but two years. People had poured in from Scotland, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia until in 24 months there were enough people to entitle the territory to admission as a state. On December 18, 1832, the legislature divided the remaining territory of the Indians into nine counties, naming them Coosa, Benton (Calhoun), Talladega, Tallapoosa, Russell, Randolph, Chambers, Macon and Barbour.
The bill to define the boundaries of Talladega and to create it a county was introduced by a member from St. Glair, Hon. Green Taliaferro McAfee. The capitol of the state was then at Tuscaloosa. Human liberty began to arouse itself; the Catholic relief bill had just been passed in England, Salique law was abolished in Spain, Dom Pedro of Brazil had abdicated, the dynasty at Algiers had been overthrown by France, the Zollvereen of the German States had been formed, Poland had been crushed out of existence, and Andrew Jackson was president of the United States. Nowhere in all this new land with its wide stretches of forest and savannas was there a church organ, an oil lamp, a sewing machine, a revolver, a bar of manufactured soap, a box of matches, a bath tub, or any other appliance considered necessary for our civilization at this time. Far away stretched mountain and plain when the brave record of Talladega began, curtained about by the magic mists of poetry and romance, and here in this valley commenced the lives of those who afterward with their achievements inspired the voice of eloquence and filled the page of the historian.
Talladega, the border town, was so named from the upper stretches of a stream, Talladega Creek, which divided the territory of the Ullabee (written Hillabee by the whites) Indians from the land allotted to the Natchez Indians.
After the battle of Fort Rosalie, and after tribal wars which broke their strength, the Natchez Indians migrated in a body to the southwest, and on coming to the hunting grounds of their clan-brethren, the Ullabees, who claimed the same totem, and belonged to the same lodge, so to speak, the Ullabees gave to them the region between Talladega Creek and Coosa River for homes, making the Talladega Creek the boundary line, so that for years after the country was settled the lower stretch of this creek, from Mardisville down to two miles below Alpine, was called by the Indians, and so marked on the ancient maps, Nautchee (Natchez) Creek, although the same stream above this was called Talladega and below this, bore the name of Kiamulga. The present name of the town of Talladega was not given to it officially until after the admission of this territory on the map as a county, which was in 1832. Previous to this it was known first as Big Spring, Village Spring, and The Battle Ground. The creek could not have been a border for anything else, is it does not border or separate mountain from valley, as is most usually the case, but cuts its way among hills, and is several hundred feet above the valley in which the city is situated. The older settlers asserted that Talk meant a town, and Dega a fringe or border, in the Muscogee language. The Ullabees themselves had a large town on the south side of Talladega creek, among the low foothills surrounding Terry's Mill, three miles south of the city of Talladega. There never was an Indian town, or any semblance of one, on the present site of the city of Talladega. The Natchez town was in the beautiful valley fringing the road to Turner's Mill, near the McClellan place and between there and Jemison's Mill place, from four to six miles northwest of Talladega. The white traders located the present Talladega for the reason that there was a big spring here, and it was convenient for trading with both the Natchez and Ullabees, being located on the Mclntosh trail. In 1835, both Mardisville, five miles southwest of Talladega, and Middle Town, the old Hardie homestead at the ford of Talladega creek three miles southwest of Talladega, had a much larger population than the Big Spring Village or Battle Ground, now city of Talladega. The minutes of the county court, vol. A, page I, kept by Jacob D. Shelley, Hon. G. T. McAfee, judge presiding, show that a court was held on the third Monday in March, 1833, at "The Talladega Battle Ground," The Circuit Court minutes, June 10, 1833, recite that the court was held at "the
temporary seat of justice, the Talladega Battle Ground." A writ of habeas corpus is shown by Vol. A, page 34, of county court record to have been made returnable before "Hon. G. T. McAfee, judge of the county court of Talladega, situated at Talladega Spring Village," on September 16, 1833. Jumpers Spring; so called from an Indian named Jumper, who, once lived there, but later named Mardisville, because it was the actual and official residence of Hon. Samuel W, Mardis, the certifying land agent of the United States, situated five miles west of the present site of Talladega, contained the land office and a number of stores in 1833, and it was then really the capitol of the county. Its situation, however, was not an ideal one, being located on a low, rocky, narrow hill, under-laid with jagged limestone rocks and surrounded with a deep red soil that was as tenacious in muddy weather as Aunt Jemimy's plaster, which "the more you tried to pull it off, the more it stuck the faster."
Chapter II -
Much history is entombed in court house records. After these official legal records of a century are completed and placed in the proper fireproof vault it is never consulted except by some anxious one whose supposed rights are considered in danger. In a little while facts and faces become blurred and distorted; a notable trial whose facts are in fading ink on musty records is invested with a thousand imaginary fictions, which, after awhile, grow into accepted truths. It is a kind act, then, and one helpful to the living, to dig up from the dust of years the hidden truths of court house records, so that we may see what our fathers wrought and what the matter of circumstances amid which they lived. In every county some unselfish soul should attempt to put in immortal type the history of his home county, so that after awhile we could aggregate a state history interesting beyond the usual compilations; and if these county histories are written aided by the recorded volumes on file in the courts, they would have the force of unquestioned authority.
The following notes are the results of idle musings over the crabbed pages of Talladega's early records, and they are offered merely to perpetuate some facts which otherwise might be buried in oblivion.
Seven days before Christmas, in 1832, the legislature of Alabama, then in session at Tuscaloosa, wiped out the last remaining vestige of the kingdom of the Muscogees by dividing the pitiful remnant of their domain into nine counties, one of them being named Talladega. The justice and good faith both of the United States and of Alabama toward the Indian cannot here be discussed, but the matter can be dismissed with the broad statement that the course of both governments was characterized by broken treaties, unkept promises and rank robbery. As carved out by the original act, the county of Talladega contained over one thousand square miles, its southern portion being then called "Hillabee" (the home of the Ullabee sub-tribe of Indians), this territory now being a part of Clay County. It is quite likely that we have the term "hillbilly" - a reuben, a yokel, a green, awkward lout of the hills - from this derivation.
When the new county was created there was the usual hegira of office seekers, land speculators, men of broken fortunes seeking to better their condition, and real home makers, actual settlers, preachers, gamblers and restless spirits, school teachers, and town-lot boomers to the new El Dorado. The Indian was, as yet, the actual owner and occupier of the soil, but this fact was most attractive to the trader and speculator, and the simplicity and gullibility of the savage made of him an easy mark for the unprincipled white man. The Indian was no longer warlike. His power had been broken eighteen years before the birth of the county. Jackson had whipped the tribes into submission, and the liquor and civilization of the pale-face had made useful citizens of them - useful to the whites.
Many of the early settlers of Talladega County came from the older county of St. Clair, as Coosa River was then, as now, the boundary line between the two. The bill to establish Talladega County was introduced by a representative from St. Clair, Hon. Green T. McAfee. Jumpers Spring, afterward Mardisville, in honor of Hon. Samuel W. Mardis, once a member of Congress, was the principal point in the county at its organization, containing the land office and several stores, and a Methodist Church. The Methodist Church records show that on April 25, 1835, this Mardisville church contributed two dollars and fifty cents for the support of the ministry. While this was a small sum, yet it was sufficient to buy at least forty acres of land from Lo, the poor Indian; but it may be said in justification of the early settlers of Mardisville, that they preferred to spend their money for fiddling rather than preaching. Other points in the new county contained several families and occasionally a trading place.
Kiamulgy, on the east bank of the Coosa River, was one of these. The mouth of Cedar Creek, on the site of Old Fort Williams, was another. The Big Springs, or the Battle Ground, now Talladega, was another. Middleton, the former Hardie homestead, on the west bank of Talladega Creek, three miles southwest of Talladega, was another. Immediately after the county was established by law there arose the inevitable fight over the location of a county seat. Three places were in nomination, Mardisville, Middleton and the Battle Ground. It would be interesting to know the history of the contest, to learn accurately who led the canvas for the winning town and the amount of liquor and argument it required to finally land the majority for Talladega, once the Big Spring Village, then Battle Ground and when she put on her municipal robes, Talladega, border town. Talladega was probably the only town site in the world that in 1832 was owned by a negro. On deed record, Volume A, page 97, there is written down in black and white the fact that by article six of the treaty of March 4, 1832, between the United States and the Creek Indians there was granted to Joseph Bruner, a 'colored man' a half section of land for his services as interpreter, and that he had selected the 'south half of section 27, township 18, range 5,' containing 318 acres, and had sold the same to Jesse Duren and others, who in turn convey it to Talladega County. The city of Talladega is located upon the land here described. Slavery existed at that early day. The negroes of the South were not permitted to hold land, and this transaction is a remarkable exception to the laws and customs of the beginning of the century. The patent to Joseph Bruner is signed by Andrew Jackson, president of the United States, and countersigned by Donaldson, the secretary. Another notable fact in the early history of the county is that DeSoto sojourned on her soil for 25 days at the capital of the kingdom of Coosa, on the eastern bank of the Coosa River, at the confluence of the Tallasahatchie and the Talladega creeks, and when he struck his camp and departed for his tragic ending in the waters of the Mississippi, he left on Talladega's soil a few hogs and cows, one Scotchman, and a "negro who claimed to be a Christian." The Indian town of Coosa is near Childersburg, and is known to be the spot visited by DeSoto from the minute description given of the place by the two men who chronicled the DeSoto expedition, being a beautiful plateau where two rivers a half league apart empty into another large river, forming a barrier to an enemy on three sides, and the fourth side is defended by a ravine, and also from the further fact that it was a populous Indian village, or city, during and after the close of the Revolutionary War. Medals of bronze with "George King of Great Britain" around the rims have been plowed upon the site of this Indian capital within the last five years, one of them being in the possession of the writer.
The White men who came to this country in the early years of 1800 found a large village at Coosa Town, and evidence that in times past the place had been far more populous, and the aged Indians assured them that in the dim past it had been the chief seat of a great Indian kingdom, and had once been visited by a god from a far country. Bones, pottery, arrow heads and other evidences of a crowded Indian town have from time to time been unearthed by the plow at the site of the former capital of the kingdom of the Coosa.
Chapter III -
Seventy-six years since Law came to the wilderness, and the county started merrily on a career of courts and lawyers, litigation and legal cap paper, costs and cursing. Circuit Judge Hon. Horatio Perry presided at a circuit court held on "The Talladega Battle Ground" the third Monday in March 1833. The court house was a log structure located within a stone's throw of the big spring. Water, in those days, had to be abundant and convenient, as a majority of the attendants upon the courts rode horses or mules to the court ground, and it was highly important that these beasts should have water at least once during the day. The owners of these thirsty animals displayed a mighty contempt for "this fluid, except as a providential aid to raising a crop. A Prohibitionist lecturer would have been horribly lonely in the society of our early settlers. The week of court was a time for gossip, recreation, social amenities, and horse swapping. Preparations were made for it many days in advance. It was the one real large event in the history of the town and county, and the pioneer made of it a frolic and a relaxation. Whisky was worth from ten cents to twenty-five cents per gallon. Apple and peach orchards planted by the Indians yielded a fiery and efficient brandy at the rate of two bushels of peaches for one gallon of brandy. Fist fights, boxing with the bare knuckles in sheer good humor in order to ascertain who was the better man physically, wrestling, jumping, marble playing, Indian ball games and pitching horse shoes were the outdoor recreations. Crack-loo, that is, throwing up dollars, and the one falling nearest the crack in the floor being the winner; old sledge, or seven-up, a card game, and faro bank, another card game, were the indoor amusements, the whole being crowned and capped off at the end of the court with a horse race.
The first court house officials were Hon. Green T. McAfee, county judge; James H. Beavers, sheriff; Jacob D. Shelley, clerk of the circuit court; Hugh G. Barclay, clerk of the county court; William Beasley, assessor and tax collector. Hon. Green T. McAfee solemnly mounted the stand, cleared his throat and opened his court on the 10th day of June, 1833, at eight o'clock in the morning, and commenced grinding out equal and exact justice with a docket containing just three cases. The minutes recite that the court was "holden" at the "temporary seat of justice" Talladega Spring Village. The following "gentlemen" composed the jury in the county court on this occasion: William Mullaney, Aaron Hackney, Samuel C. Box, James A. Givens, David Austin, James Hayes, Cunningham Wilson, Benjamin Cannon, Green B. Tankersley and Benj. Smith.
The plaintiff in the two first cases brought to the county court of Talladega was a widow, Martha B. Hayes. She had obtained a judgment against Pharo Hill and John M ah an, respectively, in justice court, and the defendants appealed. Judgment was rendered in the county court against Pharo Hill and in favor of the widow for $4.78. It is the observation of the seasoned historian that the average widow is never backward about asserting her rights, and the average man is more than ready to give her all she may ask. At this term of the county court Paschal Satterwhite fancied that a case in a justice court which he had lost would be won if brought up to the county court, and so he sued out a "certiorari," and when the case was docketed on the county court trial docket Paschal underwent a sudden change of mind and confessed judgment in favor of James Fife for the costs. This James Fife was the Indian whom legend asserts was the messenger from the beleaguered fort at Talladega to Gen. Jackson. Dressed in a hog skin he slipped through the investing line of Indians at the fort, helped by the friendly evening shadows, and after passing safely through the hostiles he sped to the white soldiers camped on the Coosa, 30 miles away, and notified Jackson of the imminent peril of the friendly Indians cooped up in the Lashley stockade at Talladega, surrounded by a thousand howling red men. Jackson cut his way through the wilderness to the relief of the fort, making a road through the untrodden wilderness as the crow flies, which is known to this day as "Jackson's Trace." Some historians, notably Gen. Woodward, deny the fact that a hog skin was used as a disguise to get past the investing Creeks, but the fact remains that a messenger did slip through the lines and bring Jackson, and Jackson trounced the hostiles soundly, killing about six hundred of them very dead. When old Hickory started in to perform a job of this sort he was very thorough and usually stayed there until it was completed.
November 13, 1833, in the county court, before Hon. G. T. McAfee, judge, the minutes assert that "Messrs. G. R. Rice and J. H. Martin, Esquires, were this day sworn in as practicing attorneys at this court." Later on appear the names of Martin & Humphries, Nicks & Freeman, Thomas A, Walker, Francis Bugbee, Chapman & Wyche, A. A. Starrett, Goldthwaitt & Campbell as having cases on the docket. The last mentioned firm brought the first suit in the circuit court, representing David Rippetoe, as plaintiff, who sued four Indians on their joint note for $500. The names of these Indians were, Otia Hadjo, Checcholo Hadjo, Wacche Aholate Illissa, Aholate Ochea Hadjo. Judgment was obtained against them for $500 and costs. The next case on the circuit court docket was an indictment against Reece Howell, after whom Howell's cove, four miles north of Talladega, was named, signed by Peter Martin, attorney general; endorsed by Anderson Helloss, foreman of the grand jury, charging that "Reece Howell, not having the
fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, with force and arms did assault and beat James R. Bagwell." Reece Howell appeared and pleaded guilty, and the court as a fit punishment for this terribly charged offense imposed a fine of one cent. Evidently the judge thought that "Jim" Bagwell needed a good beating, or it may be that Howell assaulted Bagwell, but the latter may have battered his opponent. In any event, our jovial forefathers didn't consider a fist fight as anything to make much ado about.
This occurred a long time ago, in October 1832, in fact, and the parties have had time since then to get in a good humor. At the spring term, 1833, Hugh W. Harriss was indicted for betting on a certain gaming table called a "faro bank." Jno. Bass signs the accusation as foreman of the grand jury (John Bass). The trial jury, composed of David Lewis, Nathan Bagly, Samuel F. McGhee, Richard R. Jones, Wiley Mattison, E. W. Thomas, William Box, James Truss, Thomas H. Cameron, John Erwin, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Mackey and Bartley M, Pace, found the defendant guilty and imposed a fine of ten dollars. This must have been a narrow and puritanical jury, as the early settler was naturally a sport, and he considered it one of his constitutional rights to "buck the tiger" or go against the faro bank on all occasions, looking upon it, after all, as rather a tame proceeding, no more exciting than a modem game of croquet, or a game of "old maid." It is very likely that there were circumstances surrounding the game not revealed by the record, especially in view of the fact that it requires two to play this game, and but one man is here indicated.
Under the date line of January 29, 1834, Judge McAfee, of the county court, makes the following order on minute book A, page 10: "It is ordered by the judge of the county court that Milton T, McGuire, Hubbard H. Wyche, James McCann, James A. Givens and William W. Morriss be, and they are, hereby appointed commissioners for the county of Talladega, by the authority of an act entitled, 'An act to permanently locate the seat of justice in the county of Talladega, approved December the 18th, 1833.' The above commissioners in 'propria personnae' came into court and took and subscribed the oath in said act prescribed, this 31st January, 1834, which are filed."
May 24, 1834, William Morriss resigned and William Lovel was appointed in his place. James McCann also resigned on May 23, 1834, but it was "ordered by the court that he be reappointed." On September 5, 1834, Milton L. McGuire resigned and George W. Thompson was selected to fill the vacancy. The heading of the minutes at the next term of court triumphantly recites that "on June 9, 1834, the court met in the town of Talladega, the seat of justice of said county."
Chapter IV -
The first volume of the minutes of the commissioners' court, Talladega County, is a small book, eight by 12 inches, without index or numbered pages, and it recites that the acts therein recorded began on the "sixth day of May, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and thirty-three" at a court which "met at the temporary seat of justice." Present, Hon. Green T. McAfee, judge of the county court, and John Lawler, William L. Walker, Jessee Hill and James Drennon, commissioners. The first act of the court was to allow Hugh G. Barclay, clerk of the court, $110.25 for furnishing books and stationery for the use of the clerk's office. Included in this account is 500 quills (for pens), at $1.50 per 100, $7.50; one sandbox and sand, 50¢. Seventy dollars was voted, also, as compensation to Jacob D. Shelley, clerk of the circuit court, for the books and stationery furnished by him to his office, and on his account recurred an item of 500 yellow quills and the sandbox and sand, and two reams of cap paper at four dollars per ream. Next, it is "ordered by the court that thirty-three and one-third percent, be levied on the state tax to defray county expenses for the present year." William Easley was this day appointed census taker for the county of "Taladega" (the early spellers only put one T in the county's name) and the said William Easley enters into bond with Benjamin Easley, John Slaton, and Jessee Hill as his securities." The court proceeds to the election of county surveyor. Ansel Sawyer, Henry Funderburg, Bennett Ware and John W, Martin were put in nomination, The vote stood three for Ansel Sawyer, and for John W. Martin only 2; and, "Ansel Sawyer, having received a majority of the votes, he was declared duly and constitutionally elected." On the same day William W. Morriss was appointed county treasurer by the commissioners' court, and John Box received the appointment of coroner.
The next session of the court, feeling the necessity of good roads, devotes .much of its time to legislating on that subject. This meeting was on the 2nd day of September, 1833, at the "temporary seat of justice." A jury of review, consisting of John Driskell, William Nance, Henry Creswell, J. W. Bishop and G. B. Tankersley, was appointed to mark out a road, the nearest and best way from Talladega Springs to the county line, where the old Jackson trace crosses the same, leading torpid Fort Strother. The next road marked out by the order of the court was one leading from McAdams Ferry on by Jumpers Spring, to Kelley's Springs. The "markers" appointed to attend to this duty were John Ellis, John Scott, Chas. Murch, Isaac Runyan, Elijah Sparks, David Mitchell and Wm. E. Sawyer. The third road officially established in the county ran from Frederick Lee's Ferry, on Coosa River, to the court house in said county. The persons who marked out the highway were William Mahurg, Paterson M. Rhea, John Hill, Benj. Hubbard, Jas. Calvert, E. W. Thomas and David Griffin.
The road leading north from the city to Riverside, running through Howell's cove, is known to this day as "The Robinson's Ferry Road." The jury appointed to review it on the 2nd day of September, 1833, consisted of Jacob Hoyl, Reese Howell, Joseph Hall, Samuel Cunningham, Thos. Rowland, Wm. Wills, and M. T. Cotton. The jury were ordered to "mark out a road, the nearest and best route from Robinson's ferry, on Coosa River, to Taladega Springs, so as to cross Chockoloco at Hoyls." Jas. Hall, Rowlin Box, Solomon Bynum, Miles Bass, Thomas Goodwin, Benj. Smith and Benj. Easley marked out the road "from Isaac Alvid's to Riddle & Walker's store, thence to the court house in Taladega county." The nearest and best way from "the court house in said county to intersect the turnpike road at or near Cleveland's store" was reviewed and marked out by J. B. Cleaveland, Wm. McGehee, Phillip Archer, John Slaton, Ansel Sawyer, Wiley Madison and Cunningham Wilson. From "Barnett Clonch's ferry, on Coosa River, to the seat of justice in said county" was selected by Jacob Freeze, Joseph Taul, Jas. R. Bagwell, James Hancock, James A. Givens, John W. Moore, and Andrew G, Bain.
Evidently the first court was held in a house that belonged to Thomas Rowland, as one of the orders made by the commissioners' court on September 2, 1833, is an allowance of ten dollars in favor of Thomas Rowland for use of house used as a court. The last order made at this session was one appointing Nathan Bagly, Thomas Little, John Wills, James Prater, Harvey Goodwin, John Greenwood and Andrew Creswell a jury of review to mark out a road from "Taladega court house to meet the road recently reviewed from Coffeeville, in Benton County, to the Taladega county line." In ink that is yet black and fresh looking, the caption of the minutes for the 2nd day of December, 1833, recite that the court was "opened and held at the Taladega Battle Ground, the temporary seat of justice thereof" and that John Bass was appointed commissioner and a member of the court in place of William C. Walker, who had removed. James A. Givens was appointed road overseer from the Battle Ground to the 6th mile post on Clonche's ferry road. This appointment was made after the court had received the report of the viewers, and by formal order had established the first legal road of the county, running from the Battle Ground to Clonche's ferry, and appointed Jacob Freeze, James Hancock and Joseph Turnbo apportioners. The road running from McAdams' ferry had for its first overseers Abraham Rhineheart, who supervised from Jumper's Spring to Charles Murfey's; James Barnes, from Murray's to Ellison's, and John Ellison, from that place to the ferry. A first grade road was established from "Cyllacogga" on this date leading to Talladega, John Malone, Pharo Hill and Benj. Madison being the apportioners; the overseers being Josiah Terry from Taladega Battle Ground to Jumper's Spring; Walker Reynolds, from Jumper's Spring to Weoky; Robt. Taylor, from Weoky to Tallasahatchy, and James Lindsay from "Tallasahatchy to Cleaveland's store to intersect Turnpike."
James H. Beavers, sheriff, files an account before the commissioners' court for expenses in conveying Ruffin Curtis to the Montgomery jail. The first item on the account is "For cash paid out in carrying prisoner to Montgomery jail, $55.62. Carrying him to and from three times, $37,50." The entire bill, including price paid for six guards, amounts to $124, which the court allows. Turning to the circuit court records to ascertain something of the charge against Ruffin Curtis, it is found that on June 6, 1833, he killed John Kibbler by striking him with a broad axe on the right side of the head, near the right temple. The indictment is signed by Peter Martin, attorney general; Anderson H. Moss, foreman of the grand jury, by J. W. Smith, deputy clerk of the grand jury, October 7, 1833. The original panel of the jury selected to try the case was exhausted, and 12 additional jurors were summoned to complete it. The jury who tried the case were James Wilson, Wm. Mulalley, John Bishop, J. W. Crowson, John Malone, Charles Nabors, H. Jackson, Reese Howell, J. Blankenship, Wm. Robinson and James Hayes, who brought in a verdict of "guilty of manslaughter," and sentenced him to nine months imprisonment. Thereupon the record reads that "It appearing to the satisfaction of the court that there is no good and sufficient jail in this county, the said Ruffin Curtis will be carried to the common jail of Montgomery county, being the nearest sufficient jail."
The first county treasurer's report consists of but five items of debit and six items of credit, and covers a period from October 1833, to May 1834. $212.24 was the total of the county's revenue during that time, $10.56 was the total compensation that the treasurer received. $195.35 was the amount of county tax received for 1833. The treasurer reports that he had received a jury certificate, No. 52, from Jas. H. Thomas, amounting to 33 cents, for his tax.
Chapter V -
The place where court should be held was rather a problem for some years after Taladega took upon herself the burden of dispensing justice. The caption of the minutes, for a number of years, recited that it was held at the "temporary seat of justice." In 1833, this "seat" was in a building rented to the county by Thomas Rowland, for which Rowland is paid $10. May 5, 1834, it was ordered that "John F. Jones be allowed the sum of $20 for furnishing a house to hold the last circuit court in." April term, 1835, there is an allowance "to Jones & Taylor for fitting and reserving a house for circuit court, $10." In August 1835, another entry reads, "To Charles Miller, for the use and occupation of the building now the Presbyterian Church. In the town of Taladega, but at that time the property of Miller, for the holding of the April term of the circuit court of said county, $25." February 1, 1836, it was "ordered by the court that in pursuance to an act of the legislature there shall be levied as a special tax for the purpose of building a court house for the county of Taladega: white males over 21, and under 45 years, 25 cents; slaves, under 10, 15 cents; free male persons of color, under sixty, 56 ¼ cents; twenty cents on every hundred dollars worth of merchandise; twenty cents on every hundred dollars worth of pleasure carriages; race, saddle or carriage horse, 50¢; race track kept for use, $10; stud horse and jack, the amount for which they stand per season; for every pack of playing cards, sold, loaned, given away, or otherwise disposed of, $1," etc. Further on, the minutes of February 5, 1837, contain a reference to an act of the general assembly, approved January 4, 1836, to "provide for the building of a court house for the county of Taladega," and the commissioners' court then proceeds to levy a tax of one hundred per cent of the state tax, as a special county tax for the purpose of building, etc, and also one hundred per cent on all amounts of licenses (except marriage licenses). May 1, 1837, twenty-five dollars was voted to the trustees of the Methodist Church for the use of the same in holding circuit court for the spring term, 1837. At the same term, fifty dollars is allowed James Lawson, for holding one term of the circuit court and two terms of the county court in 1836. For the year 1840, an ad valorem tax of two and one-half cents on each one hundred dollars of the value of lands was levied ''for the completion of the public buildings in said county." Again, in 1841, a special tax of two and one-half cents on the hundred dollars was levied for the "completion of the court house of Taladega." An entry in 1843, recites that the special tax of 1842 is hereby again levied, which in the opinion of the court, will not exceed one thousand dollars, "for the completion of public buildings in said county of Taladega." Just below this entry is another appointing assessors in each beat to assess the state and county taxes for 1843, which is interesting as showing the names and numbers of the beats, and the residences of the persons in that early day:
1st. Hatchet Creek beat, Mordecai Chandler.
2nd. Hillabee, No. 1, George W. Wilson.
3rd. Hillabee, No. 2, Wm. A. Dickinson.
4th. Taladega, James Lawson.
5th. Leverett's, Abraham Leverett.
6th. Flat Rock, Moses Hearn.
7th. Mardisville, Isaac Estill.
8th. Kymulga, William Easley.
9th. Cahatchie, Wiley B. Boaz.
10th. Syllacogga, Harrison Rippertoe.
llth. Kelley's Springs, Weldon Dye.
12th. Hendricks, Wiley W. Mattison.
13th. Weewoka, John Wallis.
14th. Harmons, Achilles Critz.
15th. Blue Eye, Isaac Dial.
16th. Cedar Creek, John Wood.
17th. Walker's Mill, Jordan Williams.
18th. Pond Springs, Wm. C. Brown.
19th, Beat No. 3, Peter J, Walker.
Nothing more appears in the record as to a court house tax, so that it is fair to presume that the "temple of justice" of Taladega County was completed between 1840 and 1844, especially as at the May 5, 1845, term of the commissioners' court William Easley, sheriff, reported to the court that the court house "stands in need of certain repairs to secure the same from leaks" and the sheriff was "empowered to do all that in his judgment was required to be done to prevent the leaking."
For awhile it was necessary to send prisoners to the jail at Montgomery, because there was no "bastille" in the new town of Taladega, but this was evidently found to be costly and awkward, causing long delays. On 5th March, 1834, "it being suggested to the court by the sheriff of said county that a certain hewed log house situated at the Battle Ground is suitable as a temporary jail (16 feet square), that the public good, as well as sound policy calls for such building, it is ordered by the court that said house be secured as a temporary jail until further provision is made for a permanent jail." The county yet claims lot number one in the plan of the city of Taladega, and therefore it is supposed that the first jail was located on this numbered lot.
On Saturday, August 30, 1845, the commissioners met for the purpose of establishing a poor house. Present, H. W. W. Rice, judge, and Commissioners Simon Morriss, Andrew Cunningham and John H. Townsend. "The court having met for the purpose of establishing a poor house for said county according to an act of the legislature, approved the 10th January, 1845, and after mature deliberation upon the subject, the said commissioners, acting for the county aforesaid, have contracted with the said John H. Townsend for 120 acres of land lying about three miles north of the town of Taladega. Said tract of land known as the one on which James B. Watson formerly lived, and on which the Methodist camp ground is situated (said Townsend reserving out of said tract of land six acres for said camp ground), for which tract of land said commissioners agree, and order that the sum of $350 shall be paid out of the funds of the county treasury in the year 1846, which sum has precedence out of the taxes to be raised for said county in said year 1846." This location, in 1909, is yet the poor house of this county, a most charming spot, naturally, located at the foot of a lofty mountain, by the side of a cool bubbling spring.
The foregoing facts, of record, disposes of the history of the county public buildings and leaves us free to return to the people and doings of the individuals in the early thirties.
On the first Monday in September 1834, it is "ordered by the court that the streets in the boundaries of the town of Taladega, as designated in the plan of said town be established as public roads, and that they be cut out the same width as roads of the first grade." The law at that time provided that a "first grade road" should be thirty feet wide (Aiken's Digest, p. 359). It is further ordered by the court that Henry A. Rathbone be appointed overseer of Battle street; John A. Rooker overseer of South street; John D. Shelley, overseer of North street; William Driver, overseer of Coffee street; Charles Miller, overseer of East street; James W. Talmadge overseer of Court street; Abner Howard, overseer of Spring street, and William McLane, overseer of West street. This entry settles the contention as to the original width and names of the first streets of the city. On the same day that these streets were made "publick" roads the court refused Eli M. Driver, William H. Moore and William Hogan the privilege of establishing a ferry at Kymulga, because it would be within two miles by water of Tulane's ferry, already established by Shelby county.
John N. Martin was duly elected a notary public for the county of Taladega on this date. Only two notaries were allowed for a county, and it is likely that John N. Martin was the earliest notary east of the Coosa River. His jurisdiction was merely that of a commercial notary, with no function of a justice of the peace.
Chapter VI -
John Box was appointed the first coroner of the county on Monday, May 6, 1833. James H. Beavers was duly elected auctioneer for the county on May 5, 1834. Bennett Ware was appointed county surveyor in February 1835, in place of Ansel Sawyer, resigned. John Box never held an inquest, and in 1835, he removed from the county, and on the second day of February 1835, Levi R. Lawler was appointed coroner in his stead. On the third Monday in August 1835, James H. Beavers, who was both sheriff and auctioneer, filed a claim of $18 with the commissioners' court, "For carrying a negro woman, Milly, who was accused of murdering negro John, the property of Isaac Stone, to Mardisville, three times, summoning court and jury and attending said trial;" and on the next page Levie R. Lawler files his account as coroner, "For holding an inquest over the body of a negro man by the name of John, belonging to Isaac Stone, $10." There is no record of the conviction of "Milly" and the supposition is that she was discharged by the justice of the peace at Mardisville; although she was in jail at Taladega, as is shown by an account filed by R. J. Harrison, jailer, showing the total amount up to date spent by Talladega County in jail furnishings and fittings and incidental expenses about the jail, as follows: Six padlocks $3; one stock $2.25; two pair trace chains, $1.50; three blankets, $7.50; repairing one lock, 75¢; two pair hand-cuffs, $3; to summoning and keeping two guards for I. Stone's negro woman committed for murder, 16 days, $32; one padlock and steeples, 75¢; five days service W. P. Smith as guard hunting Indian who broke jail, $5; expenses on said trip, $3.50." The total footing up to $50.25.
The law in reference to slaves seems cruel to us as we look back through the softening shadows of time. If a slave went upon the plantation of any other than his master, he was liable to receive by law, ten lashes on his bare back, unless the slave carried a written permit to so visit from his owner. He could not own, or carry, any gun or weapon. Nothing could be bought from a slave without the master's written permission. He could not keep a dog, or a horse or a mule. It was a fine of not less than $250 for any person to teach a slave to spell, read or write. Fifty lashes on the bare back was the penalty for one slave writing a pass for another.
Only in criminal cases could a negro be a witness, and the penalty for false testimony by a slave was to "have one ear nailed to a pillory and there stand for the space of one hour, and then the said ear to be cut off, and thereafter the other nailed in like manner and cut off at the expiration of another hour, and moreover to receive thirty lashes on his, or her bare back, well laid on, at the public whipping post, or such other punishment as the court shall think proper, not extending to life or limb." (Aiken's Digest, p 113 et seq)
Each county was required by law to have a "strong and efficient jail for the reception and confinement of debtors and criminals, and also a pillory, whipping posts, and as many stocks as may be convenient for the punishment of offenders" (Aikens' Digest, p 98, §1). Evidently Talladega county considered "one stock" sufficiently "convenient for the punishment of offenders," as the jailer's report shows that he had expended $2.25 for one stock, although the jail with twice as many padlocks as blankets, its hewed logs, Its sixteen feet square of space, its two pair of trace chains and two pairs of hand-cuffs, could not possibly have been a popular place of assemblage for our early settlers. Steam heat, electricity, sanitation have made our modern jails as desirable as the average summer resort to the negro hobo.
There is a grim tragedy lurking behind the simple items of account filed by the sheriff, August 19, 1835: "To expenses in carrying Indian to Montgomery jail, name (of Indian) not recollected, that killed Bull", $37.50, followed by an order later on in the minutes, reading: "Ordered by the court that William Blythe be allowed the sum of $7 for furnishing coffin, clothing and digging grave for Allum Hadjo (Hargo) an Indian executed for murder." Bull was a young and prominent citizen living in Hillabee beat of this county, now a part of Clay county. He was road apportioner and school commissioner, but in some way he had aroused the animosity of an Indian. One day while at work on his farm he was murdered. There was no eye witness. Suspicion settled upon Allum Hargo, an Indian who lived not far away from Bull's place. Excitement ran high. The feeling between the whites and Indians was never very good, and the prominence of Bull made the prejudice against the Indian more bitter. October 10, 1835, an indictment for murder was found against Allum Hargo, Benjamin Mattison being foreman of the grand jury. Tuesday morning October 13, 1835, he was put on trial with Constant Dodson as foreman of the petit jury, and promptly convicted of murder. The court granted a new trail and at the April term, 1836, he was again tried, Wm. Hall being foreman of the petit jury, and again found guilty, and on the 30th of April, 1836, he was sentenced to death on June 3, 1836.
An Indian named Stimasegee, otherwise called Powesee Emarthler, alias Davy, was tried on October 10, 1834, on an indictment found in Coosa county, charging him with the murder of Henry Bell, by striking Bell on top of the head with an iron wedge and breaking his skull. It is supposed that the venue was changed from Coosa county on account, probably, of feeling against the Indian in that county. Henry Click, as foreman of the jury, reports a verdict of guilty. The Hon. Ptolemy Harris, judge of the circuit, writes, "It is therefore considered by the court that the said Stimasegee, alias Powesee Emarthler, otherwise called (Davy), be carried from hence to the common jail of Montgomery county (it appearing satisfactorily to the court that it is the nearest sufficient jail) there to be confined, and that on Friday, the fifth day of December, next, 1834, between the hours of ten o'clock in the forenoon and four o'clock in the afternoon, the sheriff of this county will take the said person to some convenient place of execution near the seat of justice for the said county of Talladega, and there hang him by the neck until he is dead, dead." The word "dead" is twice repeated.
The fact that Allum Harjo, and Davy, two Indians, were both found guilty of murder and both hung has caused the old people to confuse the two cases, but the record shows that Davy was hung December 5, 1834, while Allum Hargo, or Had jo, was sentenced to be hung and the day of his execution fixed as June 3, 1836. Sheriff James H. Beavers hung Davy, as an allowed account at the February, 1838, term of the commissioners' court in his favor shows: "Ordered by the court that the following account, allowed James H. Beavers, former sheriff of Talladega county at the February term, 1835, be allowed, to wit: For money laid out in carrying Indian Davy from Montgomery to Talladega, $26.00. Clothing to hang prisoner, $5.00. To hanging prisoner, $10.00."
Term 1839 also allowed to former Sheriff Jas. H. Beavers twenty dollars for, "Expenses Allum Hargo, Indian prisoner, Montgomery to Talladega, court expenses." William Blythe was the sheriff in 1839.
The execution of Indian Davy was probably the first legal hanging in the former territory of the Creeks east of the Coosa river, and it was the first hanging by law in Talladega county. His body was interred south of the east terminus of Battle street, almost opposite the Highlands, and for a long time after the first settling of the town the small boys were afraid to venture eastward of Battle street for fear of meeting the ghost of Indian Davy.
The gallows were erected on the hill on the north side of North street, where the Lyman and McMillan property is now situated. Executions were public in those days, so that a lesson could be taught by the punishment. A hill was always selected as" the site for the gallows, and the old settlers say that people came fifty miles to witness the hanging. A strong guard of armed men was placed about the Scaffold to prevent a rescue by the Indians, who witnessed the affair in great numbers. Conversations with old citizens cause the conclusion that the Indian who killed Bull had no personal enmity against him, but from often reflecting on the wrongs of his race, and the many Indians killed by white men, as well as the additional fact that their lands were to be taken from them later, this particular Indian determined to be revenged on white men in general, and he therefore slew Bull on general principles, to avenge the aggregate wrongs suffered at the hands of white men. It was not at all a difficult task to convict an Indian of a crime, as white men constituted the juries; the Indians were not eligible to jury service, nor were they permitted by law to serve on juries even when one of their race was on trial; the Indian was not accustomed to employ a lawyer, and in most instances he could not speak or understand the English language, and in addition to all this there was at that time a bitter prejudice and a fear among the white men existing as to the Indian.
The life of a negro was far more valuable, because a negro was property, often worth twelve hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, and of course his death would be a loss to his master and his master's relations.
It is stated by those who are now living, who know of the transaction, that Milly, the property of Isaac Stone, who was charged with murder, was never tried by a court having jurisdiction to acquit, or convict her, but that she was spirited away to the west, and the bondsmen paid up the forfeited bond, leaving Milly to live and grow to a good old age in the boundless reaches of the West. When a valuable slave was on trial, the master spent money and time in his defense, employing the best legal talent in the country, and the juries who constituted the triers of the case were always slaveholders themselves, who, of course, sympathized with the master in the probable loss of such valuable personal property, not knowing when they, themselves, might be overtaken by the same stress of circumstances.
A surprising number of living citizens of this county remember the circumstances surrounding the trial of "OhLoom Harjo," as they invariably pronounce Allum Hadjo, as those circumstances have been detailed to them by their fathers, or other old men, and they all unite in saying that he met his death with the most stoical Indian indifference, not betraying on the scaffold that he felt the least interest in the proceedings, and that the moment the drop fell, his countrymen and relatives set up the Indian "death Song a wail, which, from the description given of it, must have been a most funeral, blood curdling and lugubrious dirge.
The night of the day of the hanging, and for many nights thereafter, the people "forted," that is, gathered together in some stronghold, the larger number in the cellar of the store at the corner of Spring street and Battle street, then the store of Hon. G. T. McAfee, where the women and children slept a fitful, uneasy sleep, guarded by their husbands, brothers and men, heavily armed, fearing an Indian uprising, or outbreak, in retaliation for the execution of the Indian murderer.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
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