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AUTHOR SUNDAY – The old corduroy road still runs quietly through the woods of Alabama but is not recognized for what it is


The old home place stood among large oak trees at the top of a hill, more of a rise actually, in the black belt just east of Camp Creek. It was a good place for a ten-year-old boy to live.

It had a good well of water, and the old corduroy road upon which U. S. General James H. Wilson and his raiders marched east toward Montgomery after leaving Selma in flames in the spring of 1865 cut through the front yard.

Corduroy roads were made by laying logs side by side to make a roadcorduroy road sample

The Yankee army tore down the church at the site of the old home place and built a bridge over Camp Creek so that the wagons and cannon could more easily pass.

The story was that Wilson’s boys in blue were attacked by Confederate Home Guards near the hill, and two Yankees were left in shallow graves along the roadside. Whenever things were boring, a young fellow could always look for the Yankee graves. Once a hired man plowed up a rusty sword, and this was an inspiration to look harder.

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The plantation bell at Uncle Bowie’s farm calling the workers from the fields could be easily heard from the old home place, and it never rang longer or louder than the day he died. The little Baptist Church where several generations of neighbors and relatives were buried was near Uncle Bowie’s. The baptizing was done several miles away at Soapstone Creek where the water flowed over a short paved concrete area at the creek.

Plantation Bell at Thornhill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama (Library of Congress)

plantation bell at Thornhill Plantation, Greene county

Just upstream, a scoured out deep hole made a perfect baptismal pool for the new members dressed all in white to be immersed. Sometimes it was in question whether the baptizing “took,” but we must leave that to a higher power for final determination.

At the church, there were summer revivals with night services by the light of big brass kerosene chandeliers and daytime cemetery cleanings with dinner on the grounds. Brother Warren, the pastor served a field of four churches, so preaching was on every fourth Sunday. A member always had pastor Warren for lunch on preaching Sunday which was a special treat at our house with fried chicken plus dessert.

To the west about a mile lay the cross-roads and Crum Hawkins Store. He and Ulma had a son about my age, and in the summer if we were really good, Ulma would load up a group of us to go swimming at the baptizing hole at Soapstone Creek. The cross-roads was on the new paved road about a quarter mile from the old corduroy road. It was still possible to travel the old road but only by foot as the bridge had been destroyed and vehicles could not ford Camp Creek.

Example of dog-trot house in Alabama (Wikipedia)


Between the old home place and Crum Hawkins’ Store along the old road lay the Hooper’s house. It was an old log dog-trot house which faced the wrong way as it was built when the old road was in use, and now the new road ran behind the house. Mr. Hooper seemed ancient and was confined to a wheelchair due to rheumatism. It was terribly frightening for a small boy such as myself to visit as Mr. Hooper was lonely for company and always wanted you to come near so he could see you, talk to you and pat your arm. It must have been his advanced age and his disfigured hands that seemed so frightening.

The old Hooper house did not have electricity or plumbing. The old home place did not have these conveniences either, but the Hooper house had one thing that we did not – a spring house.

My first experience with air conditioning was at the Hooper’s spring house. It was small and old, made with rough sawn boards and battens with a wood shingle roof. The grey weathered boards were covered with green moss. Inside was a bubbling spring which drained off to the outside and eventually ran to Camp Creek.

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Typical Spring House (Wikipedia)


There was just room to stand and to store things on rough shelves with smoke-cured ham and bacon hanging from the rafters and the smoked meat smells were mouth watering. Mrs. Hooper, Miss. Minnie as she was called, also kept eggs, milk, butter and buttermilk in her spring house.

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I was sometimes sent on an errand by my mother to buy or barter for butter or milk from Miss. Minnie. I would cut through the woods along the old corduroy road with my little dog, Pete, and jump Camp Creek with its polliwogs and minnows, the polliwogs and minnows sometimes occupied a considerable part of the trip to the Hooper’s; also I remember a few rabbit chases slowing the trip down.

Once I had finally arrived and cleared the hurdle of Mr. Hooper with his trembling voice and seemingly clutching hands, it was out to the cool of the spring house. What a delight in August with temperatures in the upper 90’s and humidity the same.

The spring house maintained a nearly constant temperature, somewhat like a cave, so it was cool in summer and wonderfully warm in the winter. Extreme luck sometimes occurred when Miss. Minnie was churning and allowed her young visitor to run his finger beside the dasher and get a taste of the fine fresh butter.

It’s almost all gone now except the cross-roads, and the new road is now a busy coast to coast four-lane. The oak trees still stand at the old home place – they are much bigger now, and if you look hard, you can find the good well of water.corduroy road in woods

The old corduroy road still runs quietly through the woods but would not be recognized for what it is. There are still polliwogs and minnows in Camp Creek, and the Yankees still sleep undisturbed in their shallow graves beside the corduroy road. The spring house is long gone except in memory.

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  1. eould love to know how to access this corduroy road site. I am working on a photojournal of Wilson’s Raid and would like to include a photo of this.

    1. Matt contact me and we can talk. Regards. Art Green

  2. Does anybody know where this is? I would love to see it!

    1. Scott It doesn’t exist any more. But was east of Selma a ways;. Art G

  3. Loved this story…can see it all in my imagination.

  4. Does anyone know the route of this road?

  5. So many memories,some good and some not so good.

  6. I have, many walks years ago and its amazing

  7. They didn’t waste good, sawn boards on muddy roads (probably did not have access to sawn boards). Corduroy roads were small, round saplings laid adjacent to each other where the ground was subject to mud in wet weather.

  8. Looks more like a bridge made of RR ties.

    1. I fell through one of these in rural Arkansas in the late 70’s with a Subaru…took me over three hours to rebuild it so I could get back across…then it crashed as I got to the solid ground. Wonder if McGyver ever did that?

  9. Near dauphin island, at heron bay cutoff.there is a corduroy road sticking out of the bank of the new roadway

  10. There use to be a bridge in Delta alot like this…ewww..i was scared to i walked over it and almost stepped on a snake …around 8 months pregnant,,,;)

  11. My Father, Walter Popwell, and his older brother, Fate, built one from their village, Kincheon, to Clanton Ala. in the early 1900,s. they had a grist, lumber mill and needed to transport goods to town.

    1. Very Cool!

  12. Enjoyed reading this story, so much of our local history has died with our grandparents and great grandparents, how do we know where we are going unless we know where we have been!

  13. Love this story!! When I was about three years old, my family lived in a dog-trot house. Also had a spring house. It was always cool and I can still smell the unique fragrance it had.

  14. Lots of great history Alabama in

  15. This reminds me of my childhood in a small town in northwest Alabama.. The memories are forever with me.. I wish I could’ve them with more peoole. We didn’t have much money but we sure were rich..

  16. Your story made excellent reading! I loved reading it and could call up some wonderful pictures. Thank you for sharing it.

  17. been across this lots of times or one like it

  18. Hmm….a well written article that tells the reader nothing about Where this road exists.

    1. Yes it does, between Selma and Montgomery east of Camp Creek…

  19. If you go East from Selma, AL. on the 4 lane headed toward Montgomery several miles 6 or more you will run into several fields of cotton on both sides of the highway. On the left side of the highway by the road is a huge rock with a historical marker. I believe if you talk to some of the older people of that area about this story they could probably help you locate that old road in the woods. You should be close to the historical account or a few more miles down to another area. If you check with the older folks off the highway at Lownesboro, AL. somebody ought to know. Lownesboro itself is like stepping back into a genteel Antibellum time period of Civil War Days… “the truth is out there”

  20. What a great late afternoon read in the fall. Reminded me of so many different memories of my youth which can only be triggered by “Memory Dust” contained in a well written story…… Thank You……

  21. What a great late afternoon read in the fall. Reminded me of so many different memories of my youth which can only be triggered by “Memory Dust” contained in a well written story…… Thank You……OK

  22. Grannie never called it a Spring House, she always said “Go to the Root Cellar and get ……..”.

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