Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776

“A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776” by Nadia Dean is an excellent history of the Cherokee decline during the beginning of the American Revolutionary War; it shows how unrest with the white political divisions also created divisions among the native people.  This was definitely a crippling blow to the Cherokee people who had lived in harmony with the land from their aboriginal beginnings; traders had changed a lifestyle for these Indian people which could never return.   With rifles, the deerskin trade flourished a few years until deer got scarce; less animals meant Cherokee people had to depend upon their entire territory to take deerskins for trade.  Encroaching white settlers limited their hunting grounds which resulted in conflicts; with the white-Indian unrest, colonial armies moved in and devastated entire regions destroying Cherokee homes, crops, and taking untold numbers of human lives.

Andrew Williamson and Griffith Rutherford were colonial militia leaders that tried to annihilate the Middle, Valley, and Lower Towns of the Cherokee; in addition to killing as many Cherokee people as possible, they burned entire villages, destroyed crops, and killed all livestock that was not confiscated for their own purposes.  Later when William Christian’s colonial army moved through the Overhill Towns, several of the Cherokees homes and villages were allowed to remain intact; Christian’s humanitarian move through the heart of Cherokee country allowed for a somewhat peaceful resolution.  Many of the elder Cherokee leaders agreed to a new peace treaty with the colonial government; however, this 1776 war created a vast divide in the Cherokee people.  Dragging Canoe and his Chickamauga followers carried on the war until Doublehead signed the Treaty of Philadelphia with President George Washington in June 1794.

Nadia Dean gives us an intimate view and highly referenced narrative of the remarkable events in our Cherokee and colonial history in “A Demand of Blood!”  It is without hesitation that I highly recommend this book so everyone can have a better understanding of the bloodshed that built our Nation! 

You can go to this link to order the book:

Rickey Butch Walker, Author/Historian

December 17, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Celtic Indian Boy of Appalachia: A Scots Irish Cherokee Childhood

There have been many books written about the poor country hill people of the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the Indians of this historic place.  In Celtic Indian Boy of Appalachia: A Scots Irish Cherokee Childhood, Butch Walker tells his personal tale of two cultures that influenced the stories of his upbringing.  His roots are deeply planted in the mountains and valleys of the southern foothills of Appalachia; so springs forth this raw story of his life.  Nothing is hidden from the reader as you are taken from the cotton fields, to the creek bottoms, and backwoods in a tale of heartache and adventure.  People from all ages and backgrounds can appreciate stories from a Celtic Indian childhood that has not been forgotten.

In the age of our fast paced and technologically advanced society, when most do not know the meaning of hard work, it is nice to be reminded of a simple time that revolved around family and living off the land.  Celtic Indian Boy of Appalachia takes a personal approach to history, where memories become real; it takes you back to a time long forgotten in the hills and hollows of the Warrior Mountains.

You will feel his sting of a poverty driven area; you will cry at his heartaches; you will feel the pain of needs to be met; and you will laugh at the little joys that meant so much to him, but all these things would be considered minor in today’s world.  Butch Walker’s stories are true and full of life; his struggles and trials were real.

Some folks might call people like Butch Walker, hillbilly, redneck, or just plain country; to him, the old ways and ways of the wild were just life, as it is, not retouched.  Celtic Indian Boy of Appalachia is Butch Walker’s best work yet; because it is from his heart, it is personal, and it is not sugar coated.  I hope you find as much joy as I did while you laugh, cry, feel the triumph, and the pain of a Celtic Indian boy growing up in the southern foothills of the lower Appalachian Mountains.

Celeste Weller

Brandy Sutton

Appalachian Indian Trails of the Chickamauga: Lower Cherokee Settlements

“Appalachian Indian Trails of the Chickamauga: Lower Cherokee Settlements” is definitely a must read for anyone interested in the ancestral landscape, aboriginal trails, and historical American Indian settlements of the Southeast. It is obvious in reading this book that Rickey Butch Walker has researched many years to share this extensive and detailed Indian history with us in the south. This information is worthy to be shared with our children and grandchildren to keep them in touch with their deep southern roots; let us never forget from where we started and the trails that our mixed Celtic and Indian ancestors once walked.

By far, Rickey Butch Walker has written the most comprehensive historical document of the Chickamauga faction of the Lower Cherokees that occupied the Muscle Shoals, Big Bend of the Tennessee River, Warrior Mountains, and Coosa River Valley of northern Alabama. His book contains information on the Lower Cherokee settlements in North Alabama dating from 1750 to the Indian removal in 1838.  In addition to the Indian trails, villages, and pre-removal forts, Butch Walker discusses Indian removal in North Alabama over land, by water, and by railroad.

This is not just a book of a historical nature but also a book of Native pride.  Butch loves sharing his mixed Scots Irish Cherokee heritage with others and it shines through in this well written document. Once again, his writing is filled with emotion, knowledge, and historical data of a time and landscape that must never be forgotten.

Twila Godwin

Appalachian Indians of the Warrior Mountains

In “Appalachian Indians of the Warrior Mountains,” Rickey Butch Walker tells our Indian history with an underlying deep love for Native places; he paints a picture before your eyes of the life and times of Indian people. Listen to the passion of Walker’s voice as he tells about the struggles of removal of his ancestors to a distant land. Embark through time as you realize the importance of our Native people to this country. Other historians start American history with Columbus, the founding presidents, or the first Thanksgiving; the truth is our ancestral way of life started way before the first European explorers. Indian people struggled for survival thousands of years prior to the first white settlers. Walker does an excellent job keeping our Indian past alive for present and future generations; he gives this gift to our youth in order for them to have a record of their ancestors. Without these stories being told, our Indian heritage would slowly fade from the pages of history.  ISBN 978-1-934610-72-5

Monday, May 13, 2013


A Family’s Fight That Saved Eastern Wilderness

Many people fought to preserve wilderness areas in the eastern United States, but two people dedicated a large portion of their lives to protect an area they learned to love as mixed blood Cherokee children growing up with families that lived in the Sipsey River area of North Alabama.  Jim and Ruth Manasco were children of Indian families whose ancestors called the Sipsey area home; they survived in the upper hill country of the Warrior Mountains which are the highlands that drain into the Black Warrior River Basin.  The Manasco family, who struggled for the preservation and protection of their childhood stomping grounds, helped preserve thousands of acres of wilderness across the eastern portion of the United States.

Long before Jim and Ruth ever met, their mixed Cherokee families had instilled a love for the beautiful and serene canyons of Sipsey; these canyons were formed from a thousand waterfalls that create the eternal sounds of wilderness as they cascade from sandstone bluffs into the streams entering Sipsey River.  This was a land that Jim and Ruth knew as the Black Warrior Forest before it was changed to recognize a white politician known as William B. Bankhead.

In the 1960s, their precious forest as they knew as children was being attacked by the very people who supposed to be its protectors; the forest was being dismantled by the United States Forest Service in the form of clear cutting and conversion of old growth hardwood forests into commercial pine plantations.  Sipsey River along with feeder streams were being filled with silt from extreme timber harvesting and pine stand conversion activities; many rare and endangered plants and animals were being adversely impacted and affected by the actions of an out of control big government agency driven by politically powerful timber corporations.

Jim and Ruth Manasco started the biggest fight of their lives which culminated in the preservation of Sipsey Wilderness Area.  Other eastern wildernesses in United States were create by being piggy backed on the Sipsey Bill introduced by Senator John Sparkman.  Ruth said, “Wilderness is the most important thing I ever done except having children!”

Jim, Ruth, and their children sacrificed to protect the sacred grounds their ancestors had walked for thousands of years before the coming of white man. For years, the Manascos spent three days per week walking, photographing, writing, and trying to draw attention to the plight of the Sipsey River canyons; this was one family’s fight to save and protect the Sipsey area that they had been taught to love as children and knew as the Black Warrior.

Jim and Ruth wanted to honor their Native American ancestors by naming the SipseyRiver area they were struggling to protect and preserve the Black Warrior Wilderness.  From the early 1730’s, the French explorers, trappers, and traders had referred to this upper drainage area of the BlackWarrior River the by its Indian name Riverie de Tuscaloosa; in Muskogee language, tusca means warrior and loosa means black. Therefore, Jim and Ruth felt that it was fitting to call the Sipsey old growth forest they were trying to preserve the Black Warrior Wilderness.  In addition, the Manasco Family knew that the Creek Indian lands lay to the south of the High Town Path that followed along the Tennessee Divide; the divide also defined the northern boundary of the Sipsey River drainage basin.

After deciding on the name of Black Warrior for this new eastern wilderness they were seeking to preserve for future generations to enjoy, Jim and Ruth faced another dilemma; the Black Panther organization became a radical militant group and congressional approval may have been swayed by the close association in the names.  In order not to create a huge controversy in the United States Congress over the name, Jim reluctantly said, “Just call the area the Sipsey Wilderness;” thus, the name of the area came from the Creek Indian word meaning poplar or cotton wood tree and to this day is known as the Sipsey Wilderness Area.

Read more about the Sipey Wilderness in the future book that Jim Manasco and I will co-author, “HIKING SIPSEY: A Family’s Fight That Saved Eastern Wilderness!”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

McKernan Plantation, Tuscumbia Railway, Benjamin Sherrod

Huston early days

After school each day, Huston Cobb, Jr. would put on his work clothes and do his chores until dark.  The family had a dug well where they got their drinking water and wash water for the big cast iron pot; Houston had to draw water from the well to use for the household.  He also had to hoe weeds out of the family’s cotton fields.  His folks planted two to three acres peas which had to be picked and shelled; also, they planted peanuts some of which were carried to the market to sell.  Each year Huston’s Family made 150 gallon of molasses from two to three acres sugarcane that they planted.  Each spring, the family planted a big garden and raised most of the food they ate.

Huston had to help cut hay to feed the mules and cows; he also took care of the other farm animals.  The family had two pair of mules and they had to be fed each night; the mules were named Blue, Annie, and Nell; the mules were an important part of the farm work.  He milked two cows and gathered eggs from all kinds of chickens that the family owned.   His folks also had a couple of sows to raise a bunch of pigs; each year four to five head of hogs were fattened to be killed which provided meat throughout the winter; Huston turned the sausage grinder to process some of the pork for breakfast meat.   

Huston’s family had a big orchard with peaches, apples, cherries, pears and big grape harbor; all kinds of fruit were dried on top of the house porch roof during the summer and fall.  The family had some pecan trees that provided nuts to eat each fall; they also had a hand cranked ice cream freezer which made some of the best eating during the hot summer and fall months.

In late 1930, Huston’s family had a two row drill planter, a mowing machine for hay cutting, and a new mule drawn Webber wagon. Houston, Sr.’s step-granddad, William Henry Fuqua was a blacksmith and repaired the farming equipment.  Houston Cobb, Sr. plowed with a pair of mules most of his life.

Closest grocery store was about two miles east of the Cobb Home in northwest corner of Mt. Stanley Road and Second Street.  Not far west of their home was Austin’s Mill which was run by kerosene; Huston’s dad would take corn to grind into meal which was paid for by giving a portion of the meal for the grinding.  Austin’s Mill was west of Brick Hatton School about one quarter of a mile.

The Cobb Family consisted of the two parents and four children; the first house they lived in was only two rooms and was on a log foundation.  To get from one room to the other room, they had to go out on porch; the rooms were not connected by a door.  In order to keep his family warm in the winter time, Huston cut wood for the fireplace with an ax and crosscut saw.  From the little two room home, his family moved into Salley Cobb Griffin’s house after she died; they used kerosene lamps for light at night and early morning.

When Huston was a young boy, Foster’s Bridge and Buck Bridge were the only two crossings of Town Creek in the area.  Buck Bridge was named because of a buck deer being killed at the bridge while the bridge was being built; the buck was swimming down the creek.  The original Buck Bridge fell in with a load of cotton and was rebuilt.

Houston’s maternal grandparents used Buck Bridge going to the Town of Town Creek to trade; a man by the name of Streeter was furnishing Tracy Carter.  Carter lost his property to Streeter including 1928 Ford, mules, and wagon; the family lost everything they had during the Great Depression of the early 1930’s.

McKernan Plantation

Not far west of Huston’s boyhood home was the drainage area of McKernan Creek; Hutson Cobb’s mother-in-law, Mary Long, learned to swim in McKernan Creek.  The creek was named for the large plantation of  the slave owning McKernan Family which owned land all the way to the Tennessee River including McKernan’s Island.  McKernan Creek is about one mile west of the present-day crossroads of the River Road and County Line Road at Ford City, Colbert County, Alabama.

As we were touring the area of Huston’s ancestral stomping grounds, he pointed out where the McKernan Plantation House was located; the site is some fifty yards from the north side of the River Road and just west of present-day McKernan Creek Bridge.  The old hilltop home place still has a stand of the old red cedar trees that mark the location of original plantation house.  The old McKernan home site was just west of the creek and north of the River Road and few hundred yards from the bridge.  Today, I have a home on McKernan Creek of Wilson Lake about one mile northwest of the River Road.

The McKernan Family owned the land to the middle of the Tennessee River; McKernan’s Island was an important skirmish site between the Confederate and Union forces which was described by Norman Farrell of General Phillip Dale Roddy’s Cavalry; Farrell was a rebel soldier who wrote about the Civil War fight that occurred in May 1864 near McKernan’s Island.  The rebel forces became pinned down behind the cut out bank of a smaller island by the Union forces until dark. 

After sunset, some sixty Confederates made their escape by swimming their horses to McKernan’s Island in the middle of the Tennessee River; during their escape, Farrell’s group crossed the dry bed of the western end of the abandoned Big Muscle Shoals Canal which was completed in the 1830’s, but was not used because the lower Little Muscle Shoals and the upper Elk River Shoals were still impassable.  Beyond the dry canal bed, there were a series of smaller islands which were located just east of the mouth of Shoals Creek that were used to ford the river during low water levels; Shoals Creek enters the Tennessee River from the north and is directly across the river from the mouth of McKernan Creek on the south side of the river in present-day Colbert County.

The following account of the Civil War skirmish involving McKernan’s Island was recorded by a Confederate Soldier, Norman Farrell; the story is as he wrote about the fight after the Civil War, “When the noble Tennessee River reaches Lookout Mountain, it bends almost at a right angle toward the West, just south of the boundary of the State of Tennessee, and after a westwardly course of a hundred miles or more, its width becomes much greater and its surface is broken by many islands, some of them cleared and cultivated, as the soil is very rich; the width of the river is caused by the water flowing over a great ledge of limestone for many miles, and the depth of the current is so much less that steamboats cannot pass this obstruction, known as Muscle Shoals.

Many years before the Civil War, the National Government had dug a canal, for the use of keelboats, along the Northern shore; steamboats at that time had not come into use, but at the time of the war, the canal was not used, and its bed was dry.

One Saturday early in the month of May 1864, a company of Confederate cavalry, about 60 strong, crossed the river at the mouth of Shoal Creek, for the purpose of finding out what the Federal Cavalry at Athens, Alabama, was doing. After crossing, they took the main road East, and having ridden 15 or 20 miles, camped for the night, half a mile north of the river, and south of the road; and having put out a strong picket, and eaten a frugal meal, went to rest. As soon as day broke the camp was astir, and the men at once fed their horses, and made their ablutions, and having had breakfast of cold cornbread and broiled bacon, washed down with a drink of water, each man at once saddled his horse.

It was plain to see that these men were not holiday soldiers, loaded down with tents, camp stoves, and baggage; each man carried his rations in a small leather saddle-bag and had usually a change of underclothes. They were nearly all about 18 or 20 years of age, and almost all had served 3 years.

By this time, the sun was just above the horizon, and the men were standing around the fire, smoking their pipes, when a single report of a gun was heard in the still air of the morning, quickly followed by a dozen more. "Yankees" was the cry, and each soldier at once mounted his horse; there was no panic, for these men were veterans of many a fight. The Captain instantly formed the command in column of twos; told off a dozen men to assist the pickets, when they were driven in; and led the column at a sharp trot in the direction of the river. At this time, it occurred to the writer, then a lad of 19, that Company "K" was in a very bad position, with the river on the south, impassable, and a regiment of Yankees on the north.

After a rapid ride of a mile in a direction diagonal to the course of the river, we rode across the dry bed of the old canal, and came down to the water edge; just opposite to us, and about one hundred yards distant, was a small island probably eight hundred feet long, and rising from six to ten feet above the surface of the river. We at once rode across to it, through a narrow ford, the depth not being over four feet; we were then ordered to take our horses to the further side of the island, and to hitch them under the bank, so that they would be protected from the fire of the enemy; having done this, we took shelter behind trees or earthen banks, and waited for our rear-guard to be driven in, as we could hear the firing and yelling coming rapidly nearer. Nor did we have long to wait, for the Yankees were in force, and soon both parties came in sight through the trees; our rear-guard at a gallop, but stopping now and then to empty their carbines at the enemy. When they reached the ford, all crossed as quickly as they could, and fortunately without loss. The Yankees came down to the river's edge in hot pursuit; then we gave them volley after volley from the island until they fell back, leaving several dead horses and men lying at the ford.

We were all safe and protected from fire, but had not a single day's rations for either ourselves or horses. The Yankees could not come across to our island, but on the other hand we dare not cross to the north shore to escape; and it seemed to me that all they had to do was wait for us to starve out, which would not take long, as the Confederates never had a real square meal, and there was not a command of ours in fifty miles to come to our relief. I looked towards the South shore of the river and it was more than a mile and a half from us, but within half a mile was a large island called MacKernan's, and if we got there we would be safe. Between us and the island the water was shallow in some places, but in many it was deep; some few rocks and tow heads or sand bars, usually with cottonwood trees projected above the water, still it seemed unfordable, even to desperate men.

In the meantime all was still; our enemies had disappeared into the woods behind them; noon had come, and we were getting very hungry. Presently someone said, it was a great pity we could not get the saddles, guns, and over-coats of the dead Yankees, just 300 feet from us, across the ford. We needed them badly, as we were all ragged and badly clothed. Two men proposed to go over if I would, and I was rash enough to try it. If the enemy should see us, we would surely be captured or killed. Our chance was that they had gone back out of gunshot from the river. Leaving our carbines behind us as useless, and retaining only our pistols, we three rode into the ford and soon reached the other shore. Right at the water's edge was a dead horse, and lying with his head on the saddle was a fine looking boy of twenty years. A bullet had entered his head just above his left ear, and his brains had oozed out on his saddle and overcoat. But it was no time for sentiment. I quickly dismounted from my horse, and cut the saddle with the overcoat strapped behind, loose from the dead animal, threw them in front of my own saddle and jumped back on my horse. Every instant I was expecting to hear the cry of "Halt" and "Surrender" from some of the enemy, and I hurried my horse across the ford and made the trip back in safety as did the other men. After having that coat washed and dyed a fine butternut color, I wore it many a night the next winter, and was never kept awake by any dreams of its former owner who had baptized it with his blood. Looking back at this affair it seems to show what folly youth can be guilty of, to risk my life for a lot of things, whose entire value was not $15.00.

In a short time our friends, the enemy, appeared again and began a desultory fire at us, but doing no harm as we were well protected. Thus the day went by, and escape seemed hopeless. About sundown, our Captain ordered us to mount our horses very quietly, and detailing a rear guard of ten men to hold the ford led the rest of the company in column of twos into the water toward MacKernan's Island. We were going to try to ford or swim to it, provided we were not shot in the attempt. The stream in some places was only a foot or two deep, then without warning we would plunge into a hole, which would swim our horses, and the next moment have to climb up steep rocks, into another shallow place. It was very slow work crossing with such a rough bottom, but still we made some progress forward, and gradually after going 300 yards, we got from behind the trees which had sheltered us this far from the view of the Yankees, and then the trouble commenced. ''Bang" went a carbine and a bullet struck the water near us. Soon came another and then half a dozen. We could not fire in return, and we were going forward more slowly than a funeral procession; I crouched down on my horse's back and made myself as small as possible, but thought every moment that I would get a ball through my back. It is one thing to charge shooting and yelling, and full of enthusiasm; but another kind of courage is needed, when you feel you are being potted like a turkey, by a lot of men who are not in any fear of being fired at in return. Another volley came, one bullet struck the man beside me in the calf of his leg, and spattered the water in my face, he yelled loudly but clung to his horse; had he fallen off, he would surely have drowned. I thought my turn would come next, but by this time we had increased our distance, and the darkness became greater, so we suffered no further loss, and soon afterwards reached MacKernan's Island, wet, tired, and hungry, but safe. Our rear-guard followed without loss, as by this time, it became too dark for them to be seen by the enemy.

We found a pen of corn on the island and on the parched corn and a shoat which we killed, we made a hearty meal; and drying ourselves by the fire, we soon fell into a sound slumber, without even putting out a sentinel, conscious that the Yankees would not follow us across that dangerous passage. Next day at daybreak, we put our saddles and guns on an old flat boat we had found, and making our horses swim crossed the deep water to the southern side of the river

In one week more, our gallant Captain was killed in a skirmish, and the writer severely wounded, and the memory of our deep fording of the Tennessee River passed out of mind among the stirring scenes of the battles of Tishomingo Creek and Harrisburg.” 

Huston Cobb told a story that had been passed down through several generations of black folks in the area; he said, “Charlie McKernan punished one of his black slaves by putting a saddle on the man and riding him until he died.  Charlie McKernan also made some of his slaves eat watermelons rind and all because he thought they had stolen some of his melons.”

According to the 1870 census of South Florence Post Office, Alabama, Charles McKernan is listed as the head of the household which contains four blacks and one mulatto boy as follows:  54/54, McKernan, Charles, age 54, male, white, farmer, born in TN; Rebecca, age 40, female, white, keeping house, born in TN; Charles, age 21, male, white, clerk ??ton, born in AL; Mary, age14, female, white, at home, born in AL; Jacobsen, Mary, age 53, female, white, from Sweeden; Bailey, Parmelia, age 40, female, white, born in AL; Levi A., age 20, male, white, farm laborer, born in AL; John, age 17, male, white, AL; Patrek, Josephine, age 22, female, black, cook, born in AL; Stephen, age 2, male, black, born in AL; McKendan, Harriet, age 18, female, black, milk maid, born in AL; Laura, age 2, female, black, born in AL; Sambo, age 5/12, male, mulatto, born in AL; McKernan is Charles B. McKiernan.  In 1880 census, Levi A. Bailey is listed as head of household, with mother and sister.  Also according to the 1870 census of Colbert County, some 30 black and mulatto folks with the last name McKernan are listed as living in the area of South Florence Post Office.

Another McKernan Family member was Bernard McKernan who would rent his slaves out to other farmers for a small fee.  One of Bernard McKernan’s slaves escaped to the north by way of the Underground Railroad; in the north, he made enough money to pay a white man to get boat and come back to Colbert County to steal his family and bring them north.  The white man who was paid by the former McKernan slave got caught while traveling the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky.  He tried to escape by jumping to another boat and drowned.  Later, one of the white McKernan girls married a Dunnagan man from Huntsville; therefore, the area of McKernan Creek became known as Dunnagan Slough.

Tuscumbia to Decatur Railroad

As many other wealth slave holding plantation owners, Bernard McKernan owned stock in the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad which was originally called the Tuscumbia Railway that was chartered on January 16, 1830.  The first section of railway was about two miles in length and went from downtown Tuscumbia to Tuscumbia Landing at the mouth of Spring or Cold Water Creek on the Tennessee River; it was used to transport cotton from the town to the Tennessee River where it could be loaded on keel boats headed to New Orleans and other profitable markets. 

Tuscumbia Landing was near the site of the Chickamauga Indian village known as Oka Kapassa or Cold Water that was destroyed by General James Robertson about June 15, 1787.  An Indian trail known as the Coosa or Muscle Shoals Path circumvented the Muscle Shoals and ran south of the Tennessee River through the Moulton Valley connecting Ditto’s Landing south of Huntsville to Tuscumbia Landing near the Town of Tuscumbia.

Eventually, the railroad was extended some 42 miles east of Tuscumbia, and beyond the upstream end of Elk River Shoals to Decatur, Alabama.  Colonel Benjamin Sherrod, who was born in Halifax County, North Carolina, on January 16, 1777, and a nephew of Isaac Ricks, became the first president of the Tuscumbia Railway and later the Tuscumbia, Courtland, to Decatur Railroad.  Colonel Sherrod owned a total of four plantations, three of which were in Lawrence County, Alabama, which he left to his children and grandchildren when he died in 1847. 

According to the 1850 slave census of Lawrence County, the Sherrod Family owned some 320 black slaves on the three plantations.  These plantations included the following: the Cotton Garden Plantation was near Courtland, Alabama, and the home of Colonel Benjamin Sherrod; Pond Spring Plantation which became the Wheeler Plantation after Daniella Jones Sherrod married General Joseph Wheeler-Daniella Jones, who had inherited the place after her husband Benjamin Sherrod died, was the daughter of plantation owner Richard Jones, who owned 107 black slaves in 1860; and, Alamance Plantation which is named after Alamance Cotton Mill built in 1837 and produced the first dyed cloth south of the Potomac River in Alamance County, North Carolina.

The new railroad was incorporated on January 13, 1832, and was completed in June 1834.  Since the three upper shoals of the Muscle Shoals was impassable by boats transporting cotton, the railroad was a priority for the large slave holding plantation owners wanting to transport their cotton to the best markets; therefore, many of the wealthy white plantation aristocrats became stockholders in this first railroad west of the Appalachians.  The hard back breaking work of black slaves in the plantation cotton fields made many of these plantation owners’ railroad investments very productive and their extended families extremely wealthy.

In addition, the Tuscumbia to Decatur Railroad was used during Indian removal of the late 1830’s to transport Cherokee Indians around the Muscle Shoals to Tuscumbia Landing where they would board steamers bound to areas west of the Mississippi River.  Again, the greed of the wealthy plantation owners helped provide for the ethnic cleansing of the Tennessee Valley of Indian people; thus, making more lands available to men using black slave labor to become very wealthy.   

Huston’s Military Service

Huston Cobb was drafted in 1944; it was near the time he was to graduate from high school when he was drafted.  Huston was in the Navy when he graduated from high school; he was eventually stationed in Hawaii.  He was a naval stevedore; his main job was loading and unloading ships at Pearl Harbor from 1944 until April 1946. He spent two years in Hawaii and got back home exactly two years from the day he left.  Huston got three hundred dollars when he was discharged in April 1946 from the U. S. Navy.

When Huston Cobb got back from Pearl Harbor after two years of service in the United States Navy, he had to ride in the back of the bus, could not drink from the same water fountain, eat with white folks, or go in some white establishments.  By executive order in 1945, President Harry S. Truman desegregated blacks and whites in the military, but it was still segregation in civilian life. 

He rode back from Pearl Harbor with the white soldiers; however, all servicemen had to sleep on stretchers in the bottom of the ship.  It took five to six days on the ship to get from Pearl Harbor to the main land.

When Huston Cobb got back to California from Pearl Harbor and then went to Memphis, Tennessee,  he had to be aware of the color requirements for drinking and using the bathroom.  Blacks had to use certain facilities separate from the whites.  Even though President Truman tried to desegregate the blacks and whites serving in the United States military, it appeared to Huston that many of the white soldiers did all that they could to keep blacks and whites segregated.

After getting out of the Navy in 1946, Huston Cobb, Jr. gave George Eggleston $130.00 for a horse which George had mortgaged.  Huston stalled his vehicle and George charged him $5.00 to pull him out of the mud.  Later George’s brother told him that he could not sell a mortgaged horse; therefore, George told Huston that he wanted to buy the horse he had mortgaged.  Houston sold him the horse for $135.00; therefore, they broke even. 

Later after his service in the U. S. Navy, Huston bought a tractor which he and his brothers used for at least two years. Huston sold the first tractor and bought H-Farmall; he farmed with the Farmall for several years.

Huston’s Family

Hutson and Sadie Long Cobb had two sons and one daughter who are: Charles Darnell Cobb, Bruce Winford Cobb (deceased), and Cheryl Deresie Cobb.  The Huston Cobb family picture below was taken in front of their 1954 Plymouth at their home on Shaw Road near Huston’s present-day home.

This story will also be CONTINUED; stay in touch with my blog on the black, Indian, and plantation history in our area as it unfolds in my new book and on my blogs.  Mr. Houston Cobb, Jr.’s story will be included in my new book which will be called “Black Folk Tales of Appalachia: Slavery to Survival.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leighton, Bethel Colbert, Shaw Plantation

Sadie Long Cobb

Huston Cobb, Jr. and his wife, Sadie Long, were married for 50 years prior to her death on January 18, 1998.  Sadie’s mother was Mary Long; her father was Harry Long.  Sadie’s siblings were Mable, Mildred, Pearl, Dorothy, Bobbie Jean, Harry Jr., and John Lewis (Buddy) Long.

Sadie Long initially went to Ricks School at The Oaks which was held in the Mother Church; the black school finally closed in 1937.  After her school was closed, Sadie started to Leighton Training School.  Today, the picture below is all that is left of the black school in Leighton, Alabama.  Huston Cobb said that after desegregation, the Leighton Training School was abandoned because it was in a predominately black neighborhood in the Town of Leighton, Alabama.

Leighton or Jeffrey’s Cross Roads

The Town of Jeffrey’s Cross Roads was one of the early mixed settlements of Celtic Indian people established prior to 1808; this mixed Cherokee and Scots Irish settler town is one of many that were in North Alabama prior to the Indian removal from the area.  Many of the Jeffreys were mixed blood Celtic Indians of Scots Irish and Cherokee ancestry; today, many of the Jeffreys still reside in the area and are state recognized Indians; most Jeffreys that are tribal members belong to the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama.

The area of Jeffreys Crossroads was claimed by Doublehead’s Chickamauga faction of the Lower Cherokees by 1770; however, the area was actually recognized by the United States government as Chickasaw land by the Chickasaw Boundary Treaty of January 10, 1786.  The territory around Leighton remained Indian land until the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816; the treaty was ratified by congress in July 1817.  Shortly after the treaty, white settlers began buying up the land during the 1818 federal lands sales and the town became Leighton, Alabama. 

One early white settler that moved to Jeffreys Cross Roads was the family of William Leigh; therefore, the town became known as Leighton.  William Leigh came to Alabama from Amelia County, Virginia, about 1823 and purchased large tracts of land around the town.  Hershel Leigh from the Town of Leighton married Annie Frances Alexander a descendent of the Alexander Plantation just southeast of Moulton.

The first railroad west of the Appalachians came through the Town of Leighton; the rail line was known as the Decatur to Tuscumbia Railroad.  During the 1830’s, many Indian people that were being removed west rode the railroad from Decatur through Leighton to Tuscumbia Landing on the Tennessee River; the rail line was a route around the Elk River Shoals, Big Muscle Shoals, and Little Muscle Shoals which were barriers to navigation along the Tennessee River from Decatur to Tuscumbia.  The navigational water barriers along the Tennessee River at the shoals were created by vast layers of resistant chert (flint) rock; therefore the railroad was used to circumvent these natural obstacles to water travel through the Muscle Shoals.

On our tour through Leighton, Hutson Cobb pointed out the Westside Church of Christ he now attends; he pointed out houses that were owned by the Claude King.  The King Family came to the area with Abraham Ricks of The Oaks and some 30 other families.  Originally, the east half of Leighton was in Lawrence County and the west half was in Franklin County from 1816 until February 6, 1867; in 1867, the west half became Colbert County and in 1895 the east half was annexed from Lawrence County into Colbert County.

Bethel Colbert Baptist Church

When he was young, Huston Cobb, Jr. was a member of Bethel Colbert Baptist Church for 22 years; however, his family moved their membership to the Westside Church of Christ in Leighton, Alabama.  Huston has been a member of the Westside Church of Christ some 56 years, but he still has a copy of the deed for the Bethel Colbert Baptist Church where he attended church in his youth. 

The Bethel Colbert Church property was bought on May 2, 1911, for the black folks in the area and originally belonged to the slave owning white Shaw Family; Baldy Shaw, who was born about 1820, owned land from Sixth Street to Second Street in Colbert County.  The road that runs past the Shaw Farm and also Huston Cobb’s old home place is called Shaw Road.  J. C. Shaw deeded one and three quarter acres his property on Second Street to Huston Cobb, Jr.’s folks for the black church. 

The deed is as follows: “act of said corporation. Given under my hand this 2 day of May 1911. John E. Delony, Jr., Notary Public. State of Alabama)  I, Oscar G. Simpson, Judge of Probate in and for said State and County, Colbert County) Know all men by these presents, That I, J. C. Shaw, an unmarried man, for and in consideration of One Dollar to me in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby grant, bargain, sell, release, quit claim and convey unto Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, Ed Hill, Alex Stanley and Tom Carter as Trustees and Deacons of the Bethel Colbert Baptist Church (Colored) of Colbert County, Alabama, and their successors in office, the following described real estate lying and being in Colbert County, Alabama, and more particularly described as follows: Commencing at the N. W. corner of Section 35, thence running South 472-1/2 feet to a stake, thence East 139-1/2 feet; thence North 472-1/2 feet to a stake, thence West 139-1/2 to a stake in Section 35, Township 3, Range 9, in said Colbert County, Alabama containing 1.3/4 acres.  To have and hold unto the said Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, Ed Hill, Alex Stanley and Tom Carter as Trustees and Deacons of the said Bethel Church (Colored) and their successors in office forever.  Witness my hand and seal on this the 4th day of May, 1911.  J. C. Shaw (Seal)

State of Alabama) Colbert County) I, John R. Ayers, a Notary Public in and for said County in said state hereby certify that J. C. Shaw whose name is signed to the foregoing conveyance, who is known to me, acknowledged before me on this day that being informed of the contents of the conveyance, he executed the same voluntarily on the day the same bears name.  Given under my hand this the 4th day of May, 1911.  John R. Ayers, Notary Public.

State of Alabama) Colbert County) I, Oscar G. Simpson, Judge of Probate in and for said State and County, hereby certify that the foregoing conveyance was filed in this office for record on the 4th day of May, 1911, and recorded in Deed Record Vol. 15, page this 4th Day of May, 1911.  Oscar R. Simpson, Judge of Probate.

Tom Cobb, Cole Johnson, and Tom Carter were great uncles of Huston Cobb, Jr.  They helped build and organize the black church in the early 1900’s for the descendants of former slaves that remained in the area after the Civil War.  Across the road and just west of Bethel Colbert Baptist Church was a one room school that Huston Cobb, Jr. attended; the school was also on the south side of Second Street only a quarter mile east of where Huston lives today.  In 1938 at the age of 12, Huston Cobb, Jr. transferred from the one room school near Bethel Colbert Baptist Church and started to the all black Leighton Training School at Leighton, Alabama.     

Huston and Sadie

At Leighton Training School, Huston’s first teacher Carrie Pierce told the students to write Ms. Sadie Long a letter telling her they missed her at school.  Shortly after receiving the letters, Sadie started back to Leighton School.  At the time Huston wrote his letter to Sadie, she was living with her family in Wooten Field which was located approximately one and one half miles south of Second Street and about three miles southeast of present-day Wise Metal Company (Reynolds).  Sadie’s mother was Mary Mars Long and her father was Harry Long; they were buried in the black Pearsall Cemetery on Ford Road which connects Second Street and the River Road.  Ford Road is just southeast of Stinson Hollow on Wilson Lake in Colbert County, Alabama. 

When Huston wrote his letter, he did not know Sadie Long and had never met her.  When Sadie started coming to Leighton in the sixth grade, Huston Cobb claimed Sadie as his girlfriend after a class picnic in the spring of the year.  Finally, Huston Cobb, Jr. married his long time sweetheart Sadie on October 2, 1947.

Shaw Plantation

During his school days, Huston Cobb had to help on the family farm; as a young man, Huston could pick 300 pounds of cotton per day.  He plowed mules with a turning plow, scratcher, and Georgia stock.  His family planted cotton as the main cash crop and would make 12 to 15 bales of cotton per year which sold for twenty five to thirty cents per pound.  Houston, Sr. and his boys farmed the land where Huston, Jr. lives today near the corner of Second Street and Shaw Road; Shaw Road was named after the white Shaw Family.  After the Cobb Family gathered their cotton crops, Huston and his family would hire out to pick cotton on the old Baldy Shaw Farm; at the time, the Tidwell Family was renting and planting cotton on the former Shaw slave owner’s property.  Huston and his family picked cotton on the Shaw Plantation and would be paid fifty to seventy five cents per one hundred pounds of cotton they picked.

According to the 1850 Census of Lawrence County, Alabama, Bauldy Shaw is listed as being 30 years old from North Carolina, but according to his tombstone, he would have been 56 years old in 1850.  His tombstone record indicates he was born in 1794 and was 59 years old at his death.  In the 1830 Census, Baldy is listed as being between 30 to 40 years old and in 1840 census, Baldey Shaw is listed as being between 40 to 50 years old which is in line with his tombstone record.

According to the 1850 slave census, Baldy Shaw owned 15 black slaves; by 1860, he owned 24 black slaves that would be divided among two heirs.  In the 1850 census, his family is listed as Lemenda, age 43, from Kentucky; William H., age 19, Alabama; Martha F., age 17; Lemenda, age 15; Jessee C., age five; and Henry, age 48, from North Carolina.

Many of the Shaw Family are buried in the Shaw Cemetery which is on Sixth Street about one half mile west of where the Shaw Road dead ends on Sixth Street.  The Shaw Plantation home is between Second Street and Sixth Street and some two miles south from Second Street.  The north end of Shaw Road is Second Street and the south end is Sixth Street.
This story will also be CONTINUED; stay in touch with my blog on the black, Indian, and plantation history in our area as it unfolds in my new book and on my blogs.  Mr. Houston Cobb, Jr.’s story will be included in my new book which will be called “Black Folk Tales of Appalachia: Slavery to Survival.”