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Amazing letter of people & events in Calhoun County, Alabama – written in 1885 by one of the earliest settlers


Recollections of One of the Earliest Settlers of Calhoun county

Baldwin, Miss., May 11, 1885

“I was handed the Jacksonville Republican of April 11, 1885. I read it carefully and saw a few names of the first settlers of old Benton county, now Calhoun county. It called up old memories of the first days of white man’s rule in that country. I read the first issue of the Jacksonville Republican in 1837, Mr. Grant, editor. It gave the news of movements of U.S. Troops in the Everglades of Florida against Oceola (Harsaola) in the Indian pronunciation, meaning Sunrise). The Republican gave also Gen. Sam Houston’s victory at the battle of San Jacinto.

Mill with Water Wheel, Aderholdt's Mill Road, Anniston, Calhoun County, AL 1935 (Library of Congress)Mill with Water Wheel, Aderholdt’s Mill Road, Anniston, Calhoun County, AL 1935 (Library of Congress)

I saw Jacksonville in 1831, when Ladiga and family was the entire population of the town. Ladiga was an Indian Chief.  I saw the sedgegrass five feet high where the court house stands. I saw Calhoun county an unbroken forest, except an Indian patch occasionally.

Tallahatchee covered bridge near Alexandria in Calhoun County, Alabama ca. 1970Tallahatchee covered bridge near Alexandria in Calhoun County, Alabama ca. 1970

I saw Indian bones as thick as cornstalks on Tallasehatchie battle ground in 1831. I saw the road cut out from Greensport to Alexandria. I think that I saw the first furrow ever plowed by a white man in Calhoun county. It was done by the late Dr. A.G. Smythe, of Bethany, Miss., on the Gladden place, ten miles southwest of Jacksonville.

I was present at the election for the county names. The names of Benton and Anderson were the ones proposed. Benton was elected.

I saw the green corn dance(see note below) and the scalp dance, marriage dance and many other wild amusements performed by the noble red men.

The first office holders in Benton county, Ala., were Jas. Brown, Sheriff; Jas. Crow, Circuit Clerk; William Arnold, County Clerk; Daniel Smythe, Tax Collector; C. Green, County Judge. The first merchants were Christopher Green, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Wm. Arnold, Col. Thomas C. Hindman, Maj. Thos. M. Lacking and others. The first hotel keepers were John H. Pendleton, G. Weir. The first man shot in Jacksonville was Jesse Harris by Alfred George; first man killed was Mr. Nisbet by Wm. Arnold.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Alabama 1871 by A. C. Oxford - Q5475St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Alabama 1871 by A. C. Oxford – (Q5475 – Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The first man, and I hope the last, was whipped at the post in 1835. His name was Wilson Brazeal.

Wm. Bradford first settled Alexandria and Daniel Crow next. The first merchant in Alexandria was T.H. Pearson and the next were M.M. Houston and O.E Burt and others.

In 1836, Oceola (or Harsaola) became restless in the Everglades. Uncle Sam called on the boys to go down and quiet him. The Jacksonville boys responded handsomely. I have seen a thousand Regiments of men, but never did nor never will see as handsome one as left Jacksonville on the 9th of March 1836 to fight the Red man in the Florida swamps. The Regiment formed a circle in the Square, mounted on fine chargers and three hundred of the handsomest ladies that I ever saw entered the circle and marched around to the most inspiring martial music; then the Regiment formed two lines, marched south to the end of the street and fought a sham battle for 10 minutes.

Osceloa Billy Powell

Osceola (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

At the end of the battle, the Regiment turned their backs on the 300 weeping beauties, and marched away, many of them never to see the “gals they left behind them” and I among the rest. That was my last sight of Jacksonville or the 300 beauties. I have doubts whether their granddaughters look as well in their “banged” heads as their grandmother’s did without bangs. S.M. Smythe



  1.  THE JACKSONVILLE REPUBLICAN Newspaper Abstract Issue of Saturday, MAY 23, 1885



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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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  1. James Phillips

    Dr. A. G. Smythe of Bethany, Mississippii is mentioned in this letter. I have relatives who lived in Bethany, Mississippi in this time frame. Here is what they had to say about Dr. Smythe. Letter Number 1: Bethany, Miss., Dec. 20, 1888 – One of Rufe Whites boys got his nose knocked off the other day by a limb. He was chopping in the new ground and the limb was bent somehow and when he cut one end loose, the other flew up and struck him. Broke his nose and knocked the end up on top of his nose. Dr. Smythe said he had maid him a nicer nose than his maker had maid for him. Letter Number 2: Bethany, Miss., July 20, 1889 – There is not much sickness but Dr. Smythe is kept very busy as he is the only Dr. In the settlement.

  2. James Phillips

    This letter that I have may refer to the author of this letter, S. M. Smythe. Letter: Bethany, Mississippi, Dec. 12, 1891: The old man Sam Smythe comes to see us every week and inquires sometimes about you and the country out there. (This letter was written to a person in Calhoun County, Alabama.)

  3. Cheryl Bell Sanford

    This is the most inspiring article I have ever read. It makes me proud to be a Rebel. These men and women fought for what was right at the time and should NEVER be forgotten. God bless the South!

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