Days Gone By - stories from the past

They rode him on a rail down the main street of Greensboro, Alabama because he . . .

Back in the early days, when Greensboro, Alabama was going through the formative period, there were quite a number of the rough and lawless element within its borders. Occasionally one of these would act so very badly that the better class of citizens would become outraged, and take the matter of punishment of the offender into their own hands.

Downtown Main Street Greensboro, Alabama 2010 by photographer Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)

Whipped wife severely

In a log house located near where the residence of W. W. Overstreet now stands on Main street, there resided a man who frequently whipped his wife severely. He would be fined for the offence by the justice of the peace, but this did not seem to have the effect of stopping him. One night he gave his wife an unusually severe whipping. The matter became generally known the next day, and some of the citizens—of the number Capt. John Cocke, Col. Scott, William Hopper and Richard Hatter—decided that they would endeavor to cure the offender of his wicked doings, so they got a good stout rail and placed it where it could be gotten hold of handily, and waited for the wife beater to come up town.

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

Watched for a favorable opportunity

In an hour or two, he made his appearance and seated himself in front of a little store where Northup & Hanna now do business. Capt. Cocke crossed over the street and engaged him in conversation, totally foreign to the subject of wife-beating. The culprit was whittling with a large, ugly-looking knife, and the Captain watched for a favorable opportunity to knock it out of his hand, but the man seemed to suspect something and kept close watch on him. Seeing the dilemma, Col. Scott crossed over to where the two men were talking, and soon caught the man off his guard. He picked his chance, and with a vigorous kick, landed the knife in the middle of the street. Cocke and Scott grabbed their victim and held him until the rail was brought by Hopper and Hatter. Other citizens joined in, and placed the man on the rail and held him on it, while others put the ends on their shoulders and paraded up and down Main street, singing at the top of their voices: “Here’s the man what whips his wife!”

Never struck his wife again

After punishing him in this manner for some time, the fellow was given his liberty, with the injunction that if the citizens ever heard of his striking his wife they would take him out and wear the hide from him with Switches. The admonition was heeded, and this sort of conduct on the part of the fellow was never heard of again.


Excerpt transcribed from HISTORY OF GREENSBORO, ALABAMA From Its Earliest Settlement by William Edward Wadsworth Yerby, Montgomery, Alabama, 1908 

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History of Greensboro, Alabama from Its Earliest Settlement – Primary Source Edition (Paperback)

By (author):  Yerby, William Edward Wadsworth

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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. What that ole’ saying? Oh yeah, “what goes around will come around”… People like the man beating his wife was fine for him because he didn’t have the love of Christ in him, but rather the spirit of satan was in him. Bible says “love your wife as Christ loved the church” and I don’t think severely beating her is correct. But notice, when the man got an old fashion “ass woopin” on him, that took care of that foul spirit that was in him??? Wonder how that would do today in 2017 ??? Oh yeah, a thought to ponder… (:

  2. Hi Bill its been a life time. How are you?, Gardy James is Greg Singley on facebook. If you want to get in touch with what happened to the majority of starters on the Black Belt League Greensboro baseball team pre war and then deployment to New Guinea where they played Ted Williams, get on Amazon and look up my novel THE JUNGLE LEAGUE.

  3. Sure do need to get back to these ways.

  4. History pretends that public lynchings in the South were only in the black community, but in actuality, in the days when local law enforcement was either weak or corrupt, community vigilante groups punished blacks and whites alike. In the 20’s, one of my distant relatives … a white man … was strapped to the town cannon on the square and bullwhipped for public drunkeness.

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