Days Gone By - stories from the past

There was no such thing as sending to the store to get a sack of flour in the early days of Alabama





(Written before 1886)

At the time I first went to Fayette the mill question was one of importance. Many people had to go as far as twenty miles to get their corn ground into meal. If the mill-boy had a turn of wheat to carry, it was understood that as soon as the grist was put up to grind he had to take his place at the crank of the Bolting Chest and bolt his flour. This was an extra toll the farmer had to pay to get his wheat ground, and this was the only way he or his children ever got a biscuit or pie or cake to eat. There was no such thing then as sending to the store and getting a sack of flour put up to suit the size of the purse. I think the two first mills put up in Fayette are still in existence. How often they have been repaired I cannot tell.

Several mills were built in Fayette County

Perhaps the first was built by David Thornton,—twelve or fourteen miles northeast of Fayette C. H. I do not know who owns the old mill now. The other was built by ‘old uncle Jonnie Jones,’ as every body called him. He was his own miller and attended to it until he was called to render his account before that trubunal to which we are all tending. Of course, I mean until he had to take his bed in his last sickness. I remember well when the old man died. His character for honesty was of the highest order. I have often heard it said by patrons of his mill, that if you could learn your horse to go to mill and back, it would be just as safe to lash your sack to your horse and send it that way as if you had gone with it yourself. The old man was a strict member of the Primitive Baptist Church, and was, no doubt, fully impressed with the idea that he was as near the only true line as it was possible for man to get in this world. He left a large family of children,—nearly all of whom has followed him to that bourne from whence no traveller returns. The other mill is six miles from the Court House, and is owned by a Mr. Shirley. It is considered pretty good property.

McCaleb-Hollingsworth Mill, Mill Creek, Fayette, Fayette County, AL, April 4, 1936 by photographer Alex Bush

Alex Bush, Photographer, April 4, 1936 EAST ELEVATION (FRONT) - McCaleb-Hollingsworth Mill, Mill Creek, Fayette, Fayette County, AL

Alex Bush, Photographer, April 4, 1936 - McCaleb-Hollingsworth Mill, Mill Creek, Fayette, Fayette County, AL

Some older houses still remained in 1886

There are several old primitive buildings in the county, and although they are of modest pretensions, still their antiquity entitles them to notice. One of these is the house in which Mrs. Downs now lives—thirteen miles south of the Court House, I think it is almost certain that it is the oldest frame building between the Warrior and Bigby Rivers.

It stands on the divide between the waters of these two rivers, and rain falling on one side of the road goes to the Bigby, and that falling on the other goes into the Warrior. The old house looked well weather beaten in 1831. It was built by Mr. James Richards, a man of considerable note in the early days of the county. There was a large family of the Richards, but most of them have passed away.

Old Fayette County Courthouse 1892old fayette county courthouse

I suppose the next two frame houses in point of age are in the town of Fayette. One is a part of what is now known as Phillips Hotel, and the other is part of what is Walters old store immediately west of the Court House. The first was built by Samuel B. Henry, and the second by Henry P. Leonard, each being built for store-houses. There is a cabin on the place known as the Aunt Polly Murray place which is deserving of notice. It is a hewd-log house, and was built somewhere in the high up twenties,—covered with shingles at the time, and it has the same roof to-day that was originally put on it, and I am told that it does not leak but little as yet. Passing through the country,” you will now and then find one of the original tenements, but they are very rare indeed. From Tuskaloosa to Fayette Court House there are but four to be seen: one on Mrs. Caraway’s place, six miles from North Port; one at Binion’s creek, sixteen miles from North Port; the next the Down’s place, already noticed, and last, the old Rob’t Nicholas place, three miles south of Fayette C. H.

There were two others until within this year, to-wit: the John Moore, or old Jenkins place, which was burned in the spring,—and the other the present residence of Captain Cowdon. The old house has given way to a very handsome country residence now in process of construction I know of no house now standing between the rivers running on either side of Fayette C. H. that was standing when I went to the county, except the cabin heretofore mentioned, on the Aunt Polly Murray place, and one two miles above the Court House,—known to the old settlers as the Bingham place, and the George Thompson place, about six miles from Fayette.—If there are others I am not “apprised of it. On the west side of Luxepelila there are but two that I am aware of.

One is the residence of Col. John W. Collins, which was built by ‘old uncle Joe Smith as we boys were wont to call him; the other by Henry Moore, I do not know who lives at the place now. There were two of the primitive settlers of that neighborhood. They were good neighbors,—but death has long since called them away. I might here mention a number of good citizens living in that neighborhood at that time,—few of them leaving even a representative of their families. There was Richard I. Murray, John McClure, John M. Moore—names that I will never forget. These, with ‘uncle Joe Smith’ and Henry Moore, and a great many others living there at the time, showed a kindness to my mother in her distressed condition at the death of my father, that has made an impression upon my mind that will last while memory asserts its prerogative.

Three of the families named are to day represented in the persons of Esquire R. Allen Smith, Judge John C. and Capt. James H. Moore, and Mr. B. F. McCane. I could notice many other of the old settlers, but it would spin out these sketches too long.

Some people were unsuccessful and moved away

Having noticed most of the successful aspirants for public place, it may not be amiss to call up some of the unsuccessful ones. There was Col. Jas. Wilson: he was Colonel of the Regiment of Militia that at that time embraced the entire county. He was regarded as a natural, military man. I don’t think I have ever seen a more martial-looking man in uniform on horse-back. His head was prematurely white. In 1833 he was a candidate for a seat in the Lower House, with fair prospects of success: but the young giant, William S. Taylor, heretofore noticed, bore off the prize. In a year or two, the Colonel moved to Mississippi and settled in Neshoba county. He lived to a great age. In 1877 I heard from him: he was still living, and was told he was then in his 98th year.

Thomas Thornton was several times an aspirant for the Legislature, but was never successful. He was rather more than ordinaryly (sic) popular, but somehow or other, he could not make it. I think it altogether safe to say that Mr. Thornton was the best-informed man in Fayette county. His general reading was very extensive. Well posted in general history. His political reading was rather of the partizan (sic) style. He was a Democrat of the purest water. The Washington Globe and then the Union were his political text-book, while he had great admiration for the ability and independence of the National Intelligencer. He yielded to no man in his adherence to and admiration of the principles of Gen. Jackson. Mr. Thornton still lives, in Fayette county. Is quite old. He has recently buried his fourth wife. He has the sympathy of all who know him,

George Longmire was for many years a candidate for one place or other in the county: several times for the Legislature. He was a little like they say of some race horses, ‘just fast enough to bet on, but not quite fast enough to win. He almost invariably made a pretty good run, but never got in before the flag dropped. His fellow candidates used to tell some amusing stories at his expense. He was six feet five inches in his socks,— and they used to tell it that in going around the canvass the good women, where he would stay would have to make down a pallet for him in the door of the cabin, so that he could extend his feet out of the door. His style of speech was unique;—incapable of being transferred. He was a wool-died Democrat, and thought the abomination spoken of by the prophet Daniel a very small thing when compared to South Carolina Nullification. He would open his speech on that subject after this sort: “Fellow citizens, —my name is OLD GEORGE LONGMIRE: when I was a boy, my father used to say to me GEORGE there was more tories in South Carolina in the time of the war than in all the other States, and fellow citizens, this Nullification is that same old root.”

In the forties somewhere, he moved to Mississippi, and I lost sight of him. Of course, he has long since gone to his final abode.

(The article above has been precisely transcribed with spelling and grammar mistakes from  FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA which was printed in the Tuscaloosa Gazette August 12, 1886)



VINEGAR OF THE FOUR THIEVES: Recipes & curious tips from the past

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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. John H. Allen

    Looks like a WWI-vintage jacket.

  2. Jon Dennis

    An interesting and good read.

  3. Jon Dennis

    An interesting and good read.

  4. Lynn Henry

    The mill Northeast of town he writes about, up toward Hubbertville, was still in use when I was a kid. Other than the stream that fed it, I doubt if much remains today.

  5. Very interesting. I enjoy the language used by the writer.

  6. Laura Roberson

    Good read of our shared past. I know onw of my 2nd ggdad’s had a grist mill and blacksmith shop where Sugarland Lake is now in Blount County.

  7. Tonye Petway

    The old mills are wonderful. It is unfortunate that more of them have not survived. My grandfather owned the mill in Kymulga for awhile. It is still there but not in good shape.

  8. Kim Poer

    My great grandfather Jason Whitson in front of McCalebs Mill. I have these photos and the accompanying newspaper story from years ago. Too COOL!

  9. i spent many days playing and swimming at the old water mill that grandaddy whitson used to run. He could make most anything in the blak smith shop he is standing in front of. In the fall he would make sorghum syrup on the creek bank just below the mill. Great memories

  10. So does anybody here know which McCalebs or Hollingworths owned that Mill? I have several of them in my family tree..

  11. Allison Whidby Harper

    Well, I do live between two communities that nobody has heard of and I am 30 miles from a grocery store! Lol …and I LOVE it! Maybe that’s one reason I am fascinated with pioneer days.

  12. Walter Denney

    Mr Fetner just down the road used to grind. All gone now.

  13. Kay Lee Leonard

    Daddy used to speak of going to the Grist mill. He later bought a sorghum mill. I don’t know what he did with it but it was great to hear the stories he told about using all these extinct items when he and the brothers were young. I miss that.

  14. Willette Frazier

    This will almost tell my age. I remember going with my granddad, in a BUGGY, to take corn to the mill, it had to be shelled before being milled. I WAS VERY YOUNG.

  15. […] There was no such thing as sending to the store to get a sack of flour in the early days of Alabama […]

  16. Scott Hadley

    The trees on the trail of tears is a great read.

  17. I’m the 3rd generation, (my son is the fourth), to live in southwest Alabama, and I just LOVE the stories of this area that come from the people who actually lived here. Thanks to all who lived, write, and post these treasures on the internet for everyone to cherish forever.

  18. Holly Jordan Croomes

    Pat Jordan Hanson, Barry Jordan this is an old article about Fayette

    1. Brenda Vanderbeck

      Holly I am in Millport Al by Fayette right now.

    2. Holly Jordan Croomes

      Brenda Vanderbeck my grandmother was from Fayette.

    3. Brenda Vanderbeck

      Holly Jordan Croomes my brother in law lived there. What is your grandmothers name?

    4. Holly Jordan Croomes

      Brenda she passed in 1998 and lived in mobile area since the 40s but her maiden name was Lois Estes

  19. Love the story! Our elders knew how to get by. The wording in the story is a close resemblance of Freemasonry. Interesting. Great job to the writer!

  20. Steve Mattson

    If you like history this is a pretty good read.

  21. Kay Fochtmann Mickel

    My grandmother grew up in Fayette county, born in 1909 to sharecroppers.

  22. Katie Allred

    The share bar on this post makes the page hard to read.

  23. Christy Daughtry Smith
  24. Pat Jordan Hanson

    I’ll certainly read this afternoon. Thanks. 🙂

  25. Kalanu Raven Sun

    My relatives lived in Alabama when it was known as the Mississippi Territory, 1801. Some others lived here when it was only Mvskoke Creeks and a few others. I might should mention that my family is Creek.

    1. Steve Mattson

      My whole family lived in Alabama. I’m not sure when they moved to Ga but my Grandmother told me interstate 20 was a dirt road lol. I still have family their.

    2. Kalanu Raven Sun

      That’s interesting! 431 has also been around a long time. It was originally known as “The Warpath” and was also a dirt road.

  26. Lisa Brubaker

    June Smith didn’t your mom & dad live in Fayette? I thought is was interesting. Have you ever been to any of these places?

    1. June Smith

      Lisa, My whole family family is from Fayette. I was born there. Mothers Mom and Dad worked in the Cotton Mill. I have been to Luxpilia.

    2. Lisa Brubaker

      June Smith I remember your mom & dad were there but wasn’t sure if you were originally from there or if they had moved back because of family! I bet those places are really interesting to see!

  27. Janice Whitley Drinkard

    My Daddy was born in Fayette County.

  28. Chad N Michelle Spurlin

    Interesting, I would like to read articles like this on Cleburne and the surrounding counties. If I ever took time to read….lol

  29. Arthur R. Smith

    Miss my grandmothers and aunts cornbread, they cooked it many times in a week!

  30. Mary Lynn Rodgers

    My family are from Geneva County. I love reading history.

  31. Danny Blackburn

    I remember a mill on clear creek I saw it when I was 4 years old it was where the spillway is at bays lake. Their were several more built on that creek. I wish I had a picture of the mill. It was built by George Cotton

  32. Suzie Lavender Sanders

    Henry Sanders, this might be useful in the classroom.

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