Our Alabama pioneers had to struggle to put a meal on the table in the early days.
(The following transcription is from History of Conecuh County, published in 1881, Rev. B. F. Riley)
Difficulty procuring corn
“The year 1816 was noted as being one of sore privation to the heroic families who had confronted the perils of these forest wilds, nerved alone by the hope of future reward, which itself was dependent upon their tedious exertion. To appreciate their struggles, with formidable difficulties, one has only to be told that during the year 1816 the settlers of Conecuh had to procure their corn from Claiborne”
No Grist Mills
The sacks were transported across the county and deep forests on horseback with the always present danger of being attacked by roving Indians. When they reached home with the corn, they still had difficulties since there were no grist mills to grind the corn so the planters had to use contrivances of their own manufacture called a ‘ sweep’ The sweep consisted of a pestle, fixed into a horizontal pole, that rested upon an upright forked beam. The beam was securely connected to the ground. Under this was placed a mortar that contained the corn. The perpendicular operation of the pestle gradually ground the corn into a mealy state. It was a slow process but it worked until a grist meal could be built.”
The first grist meal in Conecuh County, Alabama was built by Captain Cumming. Shortly after this, a similar enterprise sprang up on Mill creek, near Belleville. This was erected by Bartley Walker. The mill rocks were dug from the earth near Joseph Burt’s where an abundance of similar stones may still be found. These were the only mills that existed in Conecuh County for many years.
Mills became centers of influence
The mills quickly became centers of influence for a long time. They were the gathering point where pioneers would bring their sacks of corn on his horse or mule, always accompanied by his trusty rifle.
While the farmer waited for his corn to meal they would discuss adventures and news of other farmers.
The film below is of the grist mill at Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington in action
Consumed corn molded with age
In Conecuh County, they were compelled to use Georgia currency, which was below par.
Sometimes, during times of stress, the early inhabitants had to consume meal made of corn which had molded through age and exposure so even though the injured corn was conveyed from some distance, it cost from four to seven dollars per bushel.
In spite of all these difficulties, through their toils, and their physical and moral courage, the early settlers laid the foundations of wealth and transmitted it on to succeeding generations in Alabama.
The early settlers of Alabama found themselves surrounded but the dense forest had to be felled and the fields cultivated.”
Few implements to make task easier
From History of Conecuh County, Alabama 1881 by Rev. B. F. Riley, we learn that in Conecuh County, the farmers did not have the implements to make the task easier. They had a few axes, grubbing hoes, few shovels, spades and an occasional scooter plow that were “brought with them from their distant homes to conquer the vast forest land.
To cultivate the land, the only implement used by even the wealthiest farmers for several years was a sharply-flattened hickory pole, made somewhat in the shape of a crowbar to make holes for the seed to be planted. At first there was even an absence of a Blacksmith which greatly hindered the farmers. Finally in upper Conecuh County, Alabama, Joshua Betts was in possession of a few blacksmith tools and when his brother Isaac Betts joined him in Conecuh County with his complete set of blacksmith tools, they opened a Blacksmith shop.
- History of Conecuh County, Alabama 1881 by Rev. B. F. Riley
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1) is a collection of lost and forgotten stories about the people who discovered and initially settled in Alabama.
Some stories include:
- The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
- The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
- Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
- Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
- Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement