CHEROKEE COUNTY, ALABAMA
REMINISCENCES OF ITS EARLY SETTLEMENT
A clipping from the Gadsden Times
(Transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 08, No. 03, Fall Issue 1946)
On our arrival in “the nation” we found no law in existence among the whites, except what was known as the “Slick Law”. This law was enacted by an organized company of men scattered over an area of country which extended from the Tennessee river on the north to the line of the Creek nation on the south, and reaching east far back into the State of Georgia, and how far west I could never learn. Many good men had gone into this company for the noble purpose of protecting themselves in their rights in life and property; but there were many other, and doubtless by far the greater portion, who had joined for no other purpose than to be protected in their own rascality.
Many a poor Indian lost his pony, his cows, and hogs, by the base villains, who screened themselves behind the specious show of “slick law.” Any newcomer among the whites, who chose not to cast his lot with these ruffians, was sure to bring down their ire upon his unfortunate head. Prominent among “the slicks,” as an old man of small dimensions, in every sense of the term, except, it might be truthfully said, that he far excelled all mankind in indescribable ugliness.
He always impressed me as being the personification of the connecting link between the ape and the noble animal designated by the term man, the former element largely predominating—This sui generis was known and recognized, afortiori, as “Captain Whips.” He lived alone in a little cabin on the south bank of Coosa about one mile below the mouth of Mud Creek. He rode a fine black horse, and always carried when riding on horseback a medium sized wagon whip in his hand, which I suppose was the insignia of the exalted position he held as “Captain of a company of Slicks.”
Ruins of a house in the historic area of Gaylesville, Cherokee Co, Alabama (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Shortly after our arrival these sticklers for law and order “slicked” an old man by the name of Hendricks, i.e. they gave him about two hundred lashes on his naked back. They then determined to “slick” his son Joab, who lived near where Porterville in DeKalb county now stands. They took both the Hendricks across the Georgia line to “slick” them. The work was done near the residence of a Mr. Dempsey. Whether Dempsey or Whips did the “slicking,” or whether they divided the job between them, I never knew.
Some years after, while Dempsey was sitting quietly in his house, some one gave him the contents of a double barrel shot-gun. He was thus made a cripple for life. I never learned who Dempsey accused with furnishing him with that supper of Blue plums. Every one else attributed it to the hospitality of the Hendricks’, and regarded it as the last note in the funeral dirge of Alabama “slick law.”
I think, left for parts unknown; I know most of his stripe left the nation on the extension of civil law. I do not know what became of old Moody Hendricks and his son Joab. I will in my next give an account of the death of the “slick law” and the first legal court held in the county of Cherokee, etc.
“DEATH OF “SLICK LAW”
Everything earthly has to come to an end. This pioneer monster or corruption, “Slick law”, was no exception to this inexorable law.— After having been for some years a terrible instrument of cruelty in the hands of bad men, it came to its death in the following manner. The tide of immigration kept pouring in. Good citizens, coming in from the other States, where law and order prevailed, were not prepared to take part with men of the character borne by. most of the “slicks”.
The better class of their number, as soon as civil law was proclaimed, refused to cooperate with them. The demands of the law were sustained by all good citizens. The first circuit court was appointed to be held at the residence of Singleton Hughes, on what then was called Cowan’s creek. I suppose this location to be about eight miles southeast of the present town of Centre.
The “slicks” determined that the Hendricks should not appear in court. Those who loved the right and were in favor of law determined that young Hendricks should confront his enemies in open court. The “slicks”, armed themselves to the teeth, and swore vengeance upon Hendricks and his friends who dared to protect him in his legal rights.
On the other hand, the better class of citizens of the country resolved to defend Hendricks and see that he had a fair trial, if it even required the shedding of blood. My father belonged to this latter class. So, on the day set by the court for the trial of criminals a company of sixty or seventy mounted men, well armed and equipped, made their appearance at the court ground, and Joab Hendricks was in their midst. They rode up to the door of the little log grocery which was being used as a court house, handed Hendricks in, and then formed a living wall around the house, arms in hand.—The determined attitude assumed by these lovers of law had the desired effect. The “slicks” skulked away and sought refuge in more savage climes. The law then declared its supremacy, peace and quiet were restored, and the “slick law” was numbered with things that had been.
Read more about the Slick Law in Alabama in ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories includes lost & forgotten stories of Alabama pioneers experiences such as:
- The Birth of Twickenham
- Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
- Vine & Olive Company
- The Death of Stooka
- President Monroe’s Surprise Visit To Huntsville