Presented by Bettye Lessley
EARLY DAYS OF SYLACAUGA
Some Historic Reminiscences of General Interest to the People of Talladega County.
Away back in the early thirties, yes, in 1833, when my father came to TalladegaCounty and bought the old man Hayes place, at what was then called upper Syllacogga (as spelled then), there were some merchants there and their customers were almost all of them Indians. The names of the merchants were Ivan Raglan and W. T. Stubblefield was one firm, Cage Casey, Thacker and Obe Mahan the other. The nearby citizens were Jesse Foreman Soloman Dunn and Joe Moore and old Johnny Bulger. Old Jimmy Win soon came from Georgia and lived very near the place where Harrison Rippetoe lived, they, too boarding at my father’s. But the country began to fill up with other good citizens, many of whom it is pleasant to remember, two of whom were from Scotland, Dick Miller and George Herd, who were the first to begin working the marble that is destined to make this region more famous than any surrounding country.
On Saturday the citizens from the surrounding country came into town and they would have a jolly time; some of them were Joel D. Pendergrass, Joel Jones, and Joe Lindsey and old man Neal from Four Mile, and the Scotsman who had been recruited by Sandy and David Heard and Cornelius Miller and others from the country not leaving out Wash Butts, and oh: so many Indians, amounting to the hundreds, who, after imbibing freely of fire water, would get up a general fight among themselves, but the Squaws would take their knives from them and let them fight satisfied, get on their ponies, bring the Indian yell and as fast as their ponies could, run one after another for home, till the next Saturday a repetition of the same would occur. They all had new saddles and bridles, as many had sold their lands and had the money which the merchants were after, and to accommodate them had long pine posts conveniently placed, and many times I have seen my father take the bridal off the pony and put the reins in running-noose around the pole of the rack, then put bridle back on the pony and as the reins were sewed together, they thought the pony must have jumped through, so when they could not make them jump back they’d cut the reins off and away they went without any reins. Let that suffice for Mr. Indian.
And now it becomes necessary to notice that a great change was brought about; those of Upper Syllacogga (sp.) moved to Lower Syllacogga (sp.), reinforcing those already there, most of whom were as follows: A. J. Sims, the first Tavern Keeper, in a commodious frame building located where Mr. Lee Smith’s house now stands; opposite that was one occupied by Martin Rhian, and where James Sanford, Esq. lives now, Charlie Cottingham lived a long time; then Wm. Stringfellow was where Maj. Crumpler now resides; next, then comes old Uncle Dent Lindsey, the long time hotel proprietor, in the house now occupied by Mr. Wilson, who was a character who was not to be overlooked for his genial and social qualities; close by where now Jeff Thompson is living Robert Wilson father of Dave and Bob: a little south of him was old Mr. Wyn and James Pasqual and Raglan, his son-in-law; near where Dr. Keller built his residence lived old Mr.Gaskel, the old gentleman’s friends were numbered by all who knew him; then south a little Dr. J. T. Reece who attended all the sick in all the country; the one who occupied before him the same place was George W. Stone, our chief Justice, whose daughter, Martha, was among my first sweethearts, afterward married John Mickel. But, it would not do to start off on this line, as to mention all of the sweet girls of those times would require, yet it sure is tempting, for I know, there is not, nor has been, a sweeter, nicer more lovable lot of young girls in any age of the world than filled the churches and the old academy of that glorious day.
The Academy was located on the red hill to the right of the railroad above the Wilkes’ place, filled with the youth of the times under the control of the following teachers: James Sawyer and wife, Mrs. Nunon, Lee Hall, Milton Graham, Denis Finn and others.
Now opposite Judge Stone, on the west where Mr. Phillips now is, was old Mr. Graham before he moved to the Sims hotel place where he lived until he died; then near his first place was erected a hall for the Sons of Temperance,which was kept up a long time. Has the town with its more recent inhabitants such a hall now? To the south again, where J. M. Lanning now lives, was another Dr. Owel Burt and brother, who soon went to Mississippi, and soon after the beginning of the war between the states he came out Colonel of the 18th Mississippi Regiment and was killed at Leesburg, Va.
In the immediate vicinity of Lanning’s place was a host of Rayfields-Daniel, John, Molton, James, Thomas, Adam, Charles and the father, Thomas Rayfield. Over near the Lindsey Spring was a very clever citizen, Mr. Halmark. I think the mention of Joel Jones, who lived where the old Baptist church is, about covers the number back in the thirties.
Now, to mention the stores: Not far from John Hightower’s front began a building and extending to Fort Williams street, called the “Long House,” making room for several stores occupied in part by by Cottingham and Rhian; then a saloon, and the end of Ft. Williams reaching back two rooms, for some used by T. L. Hudgins as a wood shop and store combined, afterward by Womble, with a large stock of goods. The opposite of the street was filled (?) by Henry Cokes’ wagon shop., a saloon by John Harshaw; then the stables for the stage horses. The site of the old Masonic Hall was a large storehouse occupied by McIntire, McKensie, Dent & Co., Suttzbacker Bros., and various others. The next house, original still standing, used as a store by Hudgins. Opposite the KcKensie store was at first the Syllacogga Court house, afterwards made into Lanning store. South, on the same side, was Mr. Graham’s black-smith shop, run by two very efficient smiths, Dred and Ed; then Bob McGowen’s cabinet shop, afterward Dr. Burt’s office, which remains there yet.
The first school I ever attended, the house stood where the water tank now is and a portion of the cemetery. In that house was taught a school once that I never heard of, anywhere else, that was “Singing Geography.” And I am not inclined to condemn altogether as I can now go a long way over the world by just calling to mind’ the tune, thewords supplying themselves, readily fixing the location.
Now, I would not go farther in recalling recollections of the past without noticing the fact that our Scotch friends were recruited by the arrival soon after they first came by Esq. Yeoman, a noble, clever old man, and one of the most attractive creatures we ever had because of some facts. Soon after he arrived, George Heard sent back and secured, ’twas contended, the original bagpipes played at the battle of Waterloo. On every occasion of any considerable gathering he made the welkin ring with the sound of “Kilakranky” on those old bagpipes with all the boys following as far as he walked and those of more matured age well entertained by the thrilling, stirring music produced by Donald.
Very many laughable recollections connected with an acquaintance with him are brought back to memory whenever he is thought of; for instance, on one occasion old Uncle Dent Lindsey sent for him and his pipes for music and sent by the boy a lead mule for Donald to ride. In passing my father’s, a special friend, he handed the reins to the boy and said he must give Uncle Josh a tune in passing; the first squeeze he gave the mule changed ends with Donald, for the time stopping the music: Ah, many are the pleasant memories clustering of Donald Masterson.
The first postmaster was Jesse Parker, a very small man, but a great ladies’ man. He married Miss Sallie Gaskel, a large young lady. After the marriage sometime several of the ladies came into the office and Miss Mallory, an acquaintance, said: “Mr. Parker, I don’t think you are looking so well as before you married.” Well, he remarked: “Ladies, this thing marrying is not what it is cracked to be.”
Then another one I had almost forgotten lived near Uncle Dent’s was Billy Overman, a hair-lipped man. One occasion his daughter let his horse out of the lot, and he exclaimed, “Now, Martha, you have let my horse out.” and as he could not whistle, did the best he could by saying, “Cope, cope, phew, phew.” Well, he was the one who had the old store house south of the old Masonic Hall which is there yet.
Now, in recalling the above individuals, places and reminiscences, together with the fact that in the first of my schooldays the house covered the very spot where my second wife was buried and all of a large family of my father’s, with two exceptions, who are buried in Atlanta, Texas, and two only still living, are close by. In the same cemetery, also one sweet baby, our own little one. Is it any wonder that I say so often “Sylacauga is not more than four inches from the center of the world.
A long-time friend of the place and people.
EXPLANATION OF THIS ARTICLE: The name of the newspaper was not on the two
pages that I found. It was obviously a Talladega publication. There are two dates on one
of the two pages which I had found or been given. One is a notice by J. E. CAMP,
JUDGE of PROBATE and it was dated the 29th day of___ . The second one was an ad
concerning a mortgage & it was MILLER & SONS, and it was dated February 26, 1906.
The writer was most likely one of the Oden men, because several of them wrote articles
for Talladega newspapers. He names his father, Josh, in this article. These Odens were
obviously very well educated. I bought old books many times and found treasures in some of them.
Also, Vern Scott, who lived in Talladega, often sent me articles about Sylacauga. I can’t
remember where I found this one, but I have had it for a long time. It is the best early
history of Sylacauga that I have ever read.