FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA
By HON. E. A. POWELL
To one who has spent more than half a century, as it were, in the same neighborhood, it may not be uninteresting to look back through the years that have gone by, and call up the recollections of many of the scenes and occurrences witnessed by him during that period, and not unfrequently (sic) will he feel a desire to talk them over, and as it were, live them all over again. Such has often been my desire, as I have allowed my mind to run back to my boy-hood days, in my early Alabama home.
Among my first recollections are closely associated the name of “Alabama.” And for years the ruling topic of conversation in the family, and around the hearth-stone, was the enthusiastic accounts that would, from time to time, be brought to our people from that, then, far-away Eldorado the land of ‘Here We Rest’.
Whether the beautiful name, ‘Alabama’ actually signifies ‘Here We Rest‘ or not, is a matter of small import at this time. That name and sentiment, have been too long closely interwoven within each other, in song and fancy, to now give place to the mere prose of history and be separated.
This Seal of Alabama from 1868 until 1939. “Here We Rest” served as the official state motto during that time
No, the sentiment, ‘Here We Rest’ will be celebrated in the songs and poems of Alabama, perhaps as long as the beautiful river, bearing that name, shall pour its limpid waters into the Gulf, and through that into the stormy Atlantic. But to return: In these fireside conversations, the exclamation was often made by father, and mother, 0, that we were all in “Alabama.” But how to get there,—that was the question. How could our large family make its way over the hills, and rivers, and worse than all, through the “Injin Nation,” (sic) which lay between us and the land of our hopes. And then the distance, it was nearly five hundred miles. All these difficulties were freely and often discussed, and the discussion as often ending without any solution of the troublesome problem.
I remember the tearful eyes of mother
But at length there came a solution of that question. For years my father had been struggling to extricate himself from the meshes of debts incurred on account of other people; but the struggle was an ineffectual one. The last feather had been laid on, and the Camel’s back gave way. Well do I remember the sad countenance and the tearful eyes of mother, as the Sheriff passed from room to room in the house selling off the little comforts of our home,—things that were really needed for the ordinary comforts of life. There was then no Exemption Law between debtor and creditor. Nor was there any Woman’s Law which protected the property of married women. No: all had to go. Land, negroes, household goods, stock, provisions and all did go.
A few weeks after these sad events found a large family, with what little plunder they had saved from the wreck, in a two-horse wagon, belonging to a friend who had kindly agreed to move us, then might have been seen wending their way slowly along the roads, bound for the long-talked-of land of Alabama. And after a journey of about six weeks over rough roads, through swamps, in sun-shine, in rain, snow and sleet, we finally called a halt about twenty miles North of Selma, where we remained one year. After which, we moved to the Western bank of the “Floating Terapin” (or Luxpelila.)
Fayette County was then (1831) a newly-settled country, but few of the settlers having lived there more than eight years. They were for the most part, an energetic people, suited to frontier life,—kind and neighborly. Many of them would occasionally get drunk and fight; but in few instances did the combatants leave the ground without ‘making friends,’ as the term was then used. But notwithstanding this peculiar characteristic of many of the people of that period, the reader must not suppose that there was no exception to the rule. The fact is, the characters named constituted the exception and not the rule. The churches were very well represented even at that day and time: the denominations being Primitive Baptist, Methodist, and the two branches of Presbyterian,—the Old Side and the Cumberland—at least that was the term then used to distinguish the two bodies. There may have been, now and then, a member of some other denomination in the county, but if so, the fact was not generally known.
The Baptists had one leading church, called Hopewell,— its membership was scattered over an area of from twenty to thirty miles. The church was supplied by Elder Luellen Moore, or as he was familiarly known as ‘Uncle Lewis’ or ‘Father Moore. He was a man without any education, yet his influence was very great with his people.—He raised a large family, all of whom were men and women of high respectability. Some few of his descendants remain in that county, but his only living children are West of the Mississippi River. The old church organization still exists, and they still hold to the old Primitive faith and practice.
Missionary Baptists had a number of churches
The Missionary Baptists have taken most of the territory in that county,—that is, so far as Baptist influence is concerned. They have a number of churches in the county, and have accomplished a great deal of good in spreading moral and religious influence. The Methodists had also penetrated that part of the country, and had established churches in many of the neighborhoods. The Circuit Rider as the people generally called the Pastor, was looked for at his periodical rounds; and whether on Sunday or week-day, they generally had fair congregations considering the strength of the settlement.
There was another practice, at that day, that has almost grew into disuetude, (sic)—whether for good or evil I will not say. It was this,—When the ‘Circuit Rider’ came round to his week-day appointments, he was always invited to the house of some brother to dine and spend the night. That invitation carried with it the request, if not the demand, that the preacher should pay for the entertainment given to him by preaching to the neighbors that night. This draft on the preacher was very rarely, if ever, dishonored, and the preaching sometime formed the nucleus around which a very respectable society would cluster, and very soon become one of the regular appointments on the Circuit, and would be returned on the plan for the next year’s work. Then would come the Quarterly Meeting, at which the Presiding Elder was expected, and it was always expected that he would give the people a good sermon; and in most cases they were not disappointed.
(The article above has been precisely transcribed with spelling and grammar mistakes from FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA which was printed in the Tuscaloosa Gazette August 12, 1886)
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