Days Gone By - stories from the pastGenealogy Information

Early planters, large land owners of Greensboro and a practical joke

Early planters, large land owners a joke1

Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama was the home of many prominent planters and large land owners. Of the number may be mentioned: John Nelson, Allen C. Jones, Wm. R. Smaw, D. F. McCrary, J. W. McCrary, J. H. Y. Webb, John W. Walton, Gideon Nelson, Wiley Croom, Ivey F. Lewis, Robert W. Withers, Wm. B. Inge, Sr., Dr. Wm. Jones, Thomas M. Johnston, S. D. Owens, E. T. Pasteur, Reuben Seay, Henry Watson, R. H. McFadden, Sr., S. S. Latimer, W. W. Powers, Edward Bayol, John Erwin, Thos. Seay, Dr. Drake and others.

Main street of Greensboro, Alabama May 1941 by Jack Delano (Library of Congress)

A practical joke from early Greensboro, Alabama

Among the earliest watchmakers and jewelers of Greensboro was Thomas Rainey, an Irishman, fresh from the old country. He was always ready with his wit and also ready at all times for a drink. Contemporary with him, although in a different line of business, was William Scarff, the undertaker.

Rainey and Scarff were the best of friends, and spent many hours talking together.

One day Rainey, when about half drunk, told some friends that he wanted to play a joke on his friend Scarff, and asked them to come in and arrange him in his bed as a dead man. The friends complied and spread a sheet over Rainey, who told them to go tell Scarff that Rainey was dead, and to come up and take his measure for a coffin. (In those days the undertaker always took the measure of a corpse before bringing the casket.)

The friends went to Scarff and sadly told him of Rainey’s demise, and he expressed much sorrow over the news. He went at once to the room of the supposed dead man, and after again, with tears in his eyes, bemoaning the death of his old comrade, he began to remove the sheet.

A surprise for Scarff

When he had taken it from the body, and was in the act of removing his shoes, Rainey very gently said: “Be careful, friend Scarff, and don’t hurt my corns.” Scarff made the air blue for a while with his denunciations of the “low down trick” that had been played on him.

As stated above, Rainey was among the early jewelers of the town. He purchased, forty or more years ago, from Volney Boardman, whom he succeeded in the jeweler’s business, the big clock which is now in Dr. Jay’s drug store.

For more than half a century this clock regulated the time for the citizens of Greensboro and surrounding country. Charles Jones gave it to Dr. Jay when he went out of the jeweler’s business in 1895. The old clock is still ticking away, and keeps the time as accurately as it did when first installed.

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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