Thursday, November 22, 2012

Huntsville-Guntersville Indian Villages

Huntsville-Guntersville Chickamauga Settlements

If you want to read more about the Chickamauga trails and villages across north Alabama, you can purchase the book "Appalachian Indian Trails of the Chickamauga!"  Lamar Marshall and I are trying to complete the book by the spring of 2013; below is a brief description of some Chickamauga towns in the Huntsville-Guntersville area; many other villages are found throughout the Tennessee Valley and very little information has been published on these Chickamauga paths and towns.

George Fields Village-Fields Village was located in Morgan County, Alabama just north of present-day Lacey Springs Community.  George Fields was wounded at the Battle of Talladega fighting with General Andrew Jackson during the Creek Indian War.

Camp Coffee-Camp Coffee was located on the south side of the Tennessee River about two miles east of Whitesburg Bridge south of present-day Huntsville, Alabama.  The outpost of General Andrew Jackson was named for John Coffee who was stationed at Camp Coffee during the Creek Indian War; Coffee was ordered by Jackson to destroy Black Warrior Town while stationed at Camp Coffee.

Flint River Settlements-These Chickamauga Indian settlements were along the Flint River east of the present-day City of Huntsville, Alabama.  Two of Doublehead’s daughters had reservations on Flint River near the Hurricane Fork in Madison County, Alabama: Peggy Doublehead that married William Wilson and Alice Doublehead that married Giles McNulty settled on reservations that were adjacent to the original Madison County line.

Browns Village-Near the present-day Community of Red Hill on the west bank of Browns Creek was a Lower Cherokee town; the village was occupied by the Cherokee Indians by 1790.  Browns Village was named for the head man of the town Colonel Richard Brown, who was the son of Captain John Brown that lived at present-day town of Attalla.  Colonel Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Captain John D. Chisholm who married Patsy Brown, fought with General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Talladega and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend; his people received Jackson's praise for their military aid during the Creek Indian War.  

Browns Village was situated on two important Indian trails:  The Black Warrior Road leading from Ditto’s Landing south of present-day Huntsville, Alabama to Black Warrior Town at the fork of the Sipsey and Mulberry Rivers in Cullman County, Alabama near the Community of Sipsey; and the High Town Path leading from Old Charles Town, South Carolina, to present-day Rome, Georgia (High Town), then to Turkey Town, through Browns Village, then to Chickasaw Bluffs at present-day Memphis, Tennessee.

Cherokee Bluff-There was a Cherokee fort on Beards Bluff overlooking the Tennessee River near Guntersville, Alabama.  The site was known as Cherokee Bluff and was the scene of a battle between the Cherokees and the Creeks in the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Corn Silk Village-Corn Silk Village was one and one-half miles southeast of Warrenton on the Corn Silk farm of the Street plantation.  This Cherokee town was a small Indian village on the banks of Corn Silk Pond; the village was named for the head man who was known as Corn Silk.

Creek Path-Cherokees settled along the Creek Path and the Tennessee River as early as 1784 inhabiting the Guntersville area.  Creek Path Town or Kusanunnahi was located on the east bank of Brown Creek some six miles southeast of Guntersville; this Cherokee village got its name from being situated on the Creek Path which extended from Talladega Creek to the Tombigbee River. The town was a very important having about four or five hundred inhabitants and was one of the larger Cherokee villages in Alabama at that time.  The Creek Path was part of the route that was used by General Andrew Jackson during his war against the Creeks in 1813-14.

In 1820, Creek Path Mission School was one of the earliest mission schools was established here for the Cherokees.  Catherine Brown was the daughter of half blood Cherokee Captain John Brown Sr., a famous Cherokee Indian; Catherine and her sister and Anna established the Creek Path Mission School just six miles south of present-day Guntersville, Alabama.  Catherine died on July 18, 1823, of tuberculosis at Trianna in Limestone County, Alabama; she was buried at Creek Path Mission.  

You need to read more about Catherine Brown, a beautiful Christian Cherokee young woman who devoted her short life to her Chickamauga Cherokee people in the service of Jesus Christ; this story will bring tears to you eyes of her faith and accomplishments; on her death bed she was still praising God!

Prior to establishing the Creek Path Mission, Catherine, a three-quarter blood Cherokee, attended Brainerd Mission and at age seventeen was the first convert; she was baptized and joined the church at Brainerd in January 1818.  The Brainerd Mission had been organized by Reverend Gideon Blackburn east of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Originally Brainerd Mission had sixty pupils, among them several members of the powerful Cherokee Lowrey family. At age sixteen, Lydia Lowrey, a daughter of Major George Lowrey who was later the assistant chief of the Cherokee Nation, joined the church and was baptized January 31, 1818.  Lydia soon after married Milo Hoyt, son of Doctor Hoyt; she died in the Indian Territory July 10, 1862.

Coosada-Coosada Island Town was located in the middle of the Tennessee River approximately 10 miles above the present-day City of Guntersville; the village was an old Indian town established in the early 1700s.  In 1714, a battle between the Creeks and Cherokees was fought on Coosada Island.  Four major Indian trails from the east converged at the Coosada Island where three crossed the Tennessee River at the Indian village site and the South River Road ran the east bank of the river; this ford in the river was called the Upper Creek Crossing and was located at the shoals on the upstream or the north end of the island.  An early site at the upstream end of Coosada Island was called the Larkin Landing where flatboats and keel boats would stop for supplies as they were moving up and down the Tennessee River; it is believed the Sauty was a shortened version of Coosada.  Coosada Island later became known as Pine Island and is now under the backwaters of Guntersville Lake.

Gunter’s Landing-Another Cherokee Indian town in Marshall County, Alabama was Gunter's Village; the town derived its name from the head man John Gunter.  Gunter’s settlement was on the old Creek Path that extended from the Coosa Old Town at the mouth of Talladega Creek, to Ten Islands on the Coosa River, thence toward the mouth of Big Wills Creek at present-day Attala, where it followed Line Creek through Sheffield Gap to the top of Sand Mountain through modern Boaz and Albertville, and crossed the Tennessee River downstream from Gunter’s Landing at the mouth of Brown’s Creek.

John Gunter was a Celtic trader of Welch or Scots Irish lineage; most historians agree that John Gunter was Welsh.  He was born in North Carolina, went to South Carolina as a child and migrated into north Alabama around 1785 at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  John Gunter was one of the first white persons to settle in what is now Marshall County, Alabama; the City of Guntersville got its name from this early white settler.  Gunter came to the great bend of the Tennessee River where he was fortunate to find a salt deposit. He decided to settle near the river and trade with the Indians, the majority of which were Cherokees.  Gunter opened a trading post on Creek Path (kusanunnahi), where it intersected the Tennessee River.  Beginning in 1814, Gunter operated a powder mill in Chickamauga country; about 1820, Gunter began operating a ferry across the Tennessee River known as Gunter’s Landing.

John Gunter married a Cherokee woman named Ghigoneli Bushyhead who had been brought to the area by her father Bushyhead in order to trade for salt; Bushyhead and Gunter signed a treaty stating "as long as the grass grows and the waters flow the Indians can have salt."  John Gunter called his young fifteen year old Indian wife Katherine; they had seven Celtic and Cherokee mixed blood children.  Their three sons were Samuel, Edward, and John Gunter, Jr; their four daughters were Aky, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Martha.  John Gunter owned some forty black slaves that he willed at his death to his wife and children.  The Gunter home was located at the foot of the hill just west of the present-day George Houston Bridge; the large "L" shaped two story house had a "dog trot" hall between the two main sides with a large smokehouse located at the end of the "L" portion of the house.

John Gunter and his family were living at Gunter's landing in October 1813 when General Andrew Jackson and his army came through on their way to fight the Creeks.  Jackson’s Army crossed the Tennessee River at Ditto's Landing near present-day Whitesburg Bridge, marched across Brindley Mountain to Brown's Valley and camped for two days near present-day Warrenton.  Lower Cherokees from Gunter’s Village gave General Jackson important military aid during the Creek Indian War.

John Gunter later rose to a leadership position with the Lower Cherokees; he was adopted into the tribe that was the major member of the Chickamauga Confederacy.  In the 1830’s during the Indian removal, many Creeks and Cherokees passed by Gunter’s Landing on the way west to Indian Territory.  Doctor Billy Morgan was the doctor assigned by the government to take care of the Creek Indian people arriving at Gunter’s Village; today, Billy Morgan’s house on present-day highway 227 is in bad disrepair and should be restored as an important historic site since the house is actually on the John Benge Detachment removal route.

Meltonsville-Charles Melton’s village was at the site of the present old village ford on Town Creek prior to running into the Tennessee River.  Charles Melton was the head man of the town and was originally from Melton’s Bluff in Lawrence County, Alabama; he operated a store at Melton’s Bluff in Lawrence County and sold goods to John Coffee while he was doing the surveys for the Turkey Town Treaty in February and March of 1816.  Charles was the son of Irishman John Melton and Doublehead’s youngest sister Ocuma; after the Turkey Town Treaty of September 1816, he moved east and established Meltonsville in Marshall County, Alabama.  Meltonsville was a Lower Cherokee town that was founded after the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816 took all the land from the Cherokees in Lawrence, Morgan and Franklin Counties.

Massas-In Brown Valley, near the present line between Blount and Marshall Counties, there was a Creek and Cherokee village, situated on two trails, both leading to Ditto’s Landing on the Tennessee River, one through Brown’s Valley and the other in a course opening further to west.  The name of the town was Massas, near Rock Landing on the Tennessee River.

Fort Deposit-Fort Deposit was built by General Andrew Jackson forces in October 1813 on the south bank of the Tennessee River near the mouth of Thompson’s Creek on its east bank; the fort was about eight miles northwest of the present-day Town of Guntersville, Alabama, and was strongly fortified as a depositary of military supplies and equipment.  The ferry at Fort Deposit was used to transportation of troops and supplies across the Tennessee River during the Creek Indian War; a series of caves was used storing of ammunition and powder.

Parches Cove-In the early1800’s, Parched Corn or Parched Corn Flour, a Lower Cherokee Indian, established under his leadership a Cherokee settlement in a cove on the south side of the Tennessee River in the beautiful rich bottomland that teemed with wildlife; therefore, the cove which is just west of present day Guntersville Dam and southeast of Huntsville became known as Parches Cove.  In a letter dated August 9, 1805, Doublehead requested the cooperation of Principal Chief Black Fox and others including Parched Corn Flour in order to get more provisions from the U.S. Government.  The Lower Cherokee Indian village at Parches Cove was at the confluence of the Tennessee River and Pigeon Roost Creek.

George Wilson, the grandson of Doublehead, was the son of Peggy Doublehead and William Wilson; he was born about 1832 and was named after his grandfather George Wilson that married Ruth Springston, a half sister of Nannie Drumgoole who was a wife of Doublehead.  George settled in a cove a short distance below present day Guntersville Dam; his mother and father had a land grant in Madison County, Alabama, with reservation number 128 near Hurricane Fork of the Flint River just east of present day Huntsville, Alabama.  Some of George Wilson’s family hid out in Parches Cove and avoided removal to the west; some of his descendants still call north Alabama home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chickamauga Towns

North Alabama Chickamauga Towns

Today, very little remains of the Chickamauga Indian towns of north Alabama; the physical evidence of these towns is practically nonexistence except for old maps and historical records.  Very few historic markers are available to the public identifying these important historic Chickamauga Indian sites; the Chickamauga people consisted of the Lower Cherokee, Chickasaw, Upper Creek, Shawnee, Yuchi, Delaware, and many mixed bloods who fought to save their sacred hunting grounds on the Cumberland River and to prevent white encroachment in their homelands.

Especially in northern Alabama, historical evidence is practically nonexistent; a few historical markers were placed over the last few years identifying the Trail of Tears; the local historical organizations of north Alabama seemed to have neglected some very important cultural and heritage sites of the Chickamauga people.

Some of the northern Alabama Chickamauga Indian towns are in vicinity of the present-day cities of Florence-Decatur, Huntsville-Guntersville, Scottsboro-Bridgeport, Gadsden-Centre, and Fort Payne.  Some of the north Alabama Chickamauga Indian towns include:  Florence-Decatur-Colbert’s Ferry, Doublehead’s Village, Cold Water, Shoal Town, Gourd’s Settlement, Cuttyatoy’s Village, Doublehead’s Reserve, Fort Hampton, Oakville, Melton’s Bluff, Foxes Stand, Doublehead’s Town, Mouse Town or Monee Town; Huntsville-Guntersville Area George Fields Village, Camp Coffee, Flint River Settlements, Gunter’s Landing, Brown’s Village, Meltonsville, Cherokee Bluff, Corn Silk Village, Creek Path, Coosada, Massas, Fort Deposit, Parches Cove; Scottsboro-Bridgeport Area-Area-North Sauty; Crow Town, Lookout Mountain Town, Long Island, Nickajack, Raccoon Town, Running Water; Gadsden-Centre Area-Broom Town, Otali, Turkey Town, Ball Play, Spring Creek Village, Polecat Town, Little Hogs Town, Hillibulga Village, Chattuga, Wolf Creek Village; Ft. Payne Area-Bootsville, Broom Town, Watts Town, Wills Town.

All the Chickamauga towns were connected together by Indian trails and paths in the area of north Alabama; the towns of Doublehead’s stronghold along the Muscle Shoals in northwestern Alabama were linked by Indian routes such as the High Town Path, Coosa Path or Muscle Shoals Path, the South River Road along the south bank of the Tennessee River, and the North River Road along the north bank of the Tennessee River.  All the northern Alabama Chickamauga Indian communities were tied together by numerous secondary Indian paths that forged the Chickamauga and Cherokee Indian settlements to each other across the north portion of Alabama.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Descendant of Cochise and Victorio

Descendant of Cochise and Victorio

On November 10, 2012, I met Jesse DeLuna II at a book signing in South Haven, Mississippi; Jesse is a Chiricahua Apache who is descended from Cochise and Victorio, both of which were great Chiricahua Apache war leaders.  In the area of southeastern Arizona, Jesse descends from these great Chiricahua leaders through his mother and his grandmother; his people were from the Chiricahua Mountains in southern New Mexico and Arizona and fought to the 1880’s to maintain their freedom from the United States reservation system.

Jesse’s last name DeLuna came from Spanish missionaries; his salt and pepper colored hair distinguishes him as an older Chiricahua Apache who has faced the frost of cold winters for 56 years of life.  Jesse was born on January 6, 1956, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonia, Texas.  His father Jesse DeLuna I was a career military man with the United States Air Force; Jesse II also joined and served in the Air Force until he was wounded in the invasion of Grenada.  Today, Jesse still has the look of a Chiricahua Apache warrior and practices the medicine of the old ways of his tribal elders; his great grandparents were born in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona, but his ancestral people ranged through the Chiricahua Mountains all the way into Mexico. 

Cochise-One of Jesse’s great, great, great grandfathers was Cochise, which means “Strength of the Oak;” Cochise was one of the more famous Chiricahua Apache leaders to resist encroachment into the homelands of the Chiricahua by American settlers during the middle of the 1800’s.  Cochise was considered a large Apache warrior about five feet ten inches tall and 175 pounds with a muscular frame; Jesse is not that tall but has the muscular frame of his Apache ancestors.

Cochise was thought to be born about 1812 in either Arizona or New Mexico; in addition, his tribe lived in the Chiricahua Mountain Range which extends into northern Mexico.  The Chiricahua had moved about in this mountainous area along the United States border long before the arrivals of white settlers who were taking their lands as they had done in the eastern portion of this country some 100 to 200 years earlier.  As did many eastern Indian leaders, Cochise and his people fought the encroachment of their homelands by these new American settlers whose ancestors had taken all the eastern Indian Territory. 
Cochise and his Chiricahua people moved throughout their southwestern territory as did many plains Indians; they migrated to follow the seasons for their hunting and farming. The constant relocating of the tribe within their home range made it almost impossible to know exactly where the Chiricahua people were located at any specific time; therefore, finding the Chiricahua was difficult and fighting these Indian people who wanted their freedom was similar to hide and seek for the United States military who were trying to put them on a reservation.

In order to defeat the Chiricahua Apaches, American and Native American mercenaries, along with Mexican forces south of the border, began to killing these native people indiscriminately; it is ironic that other American Indian people were paid to take the scalps of their fellow race.  The paying of bounties for Apache scalps was not uncommon; after his father was killed and scalped for a bounty, Cochise sought vengeance.  In addition his brother and two of his nephews were taken prisoner and executed during peace negotiations by Lieutenant George Bascom which served to further enrage Cochise, who managed to escape by cutting through the tent.  Even though Mexican authorities captured Cochise in 1848, he was exchanged for a dozen Mexican prisoners; Jesse told me there are bands of Chiricahua still living in the mountainous regions of Mexico and his ancestral people still have run-ins with the Mexican Federales.

In 1863, Cochise became the new Apache war chief after the death of the Chiricahua Chief Mangas Coloradas; he was murdered after being deceived by the Army military which convinced him into a conference under a flag of truce.  Cochise became revered by his people and led them in guerrilla warfare against the American settlers and United States Army.  In order to evade capture, Cochise led his people into very remote, difficult, and treacherous regions of the Dragoon Range of the Chiricahua Mountains of the southeastern Arizona.  It was not an easy move for his Apache people to survive but Cochise knew it would be more difficult for the military that was trying to force the Chiricahua on to reservations; the United States Army hunted them down like animals before finally capturing Cochise in 1871.

As the Army was preparing to transfer the Chiricahua Apache to a reservation located several hundred miles away, Cochise and several of his warriors escaped again and restarted their guerrilla war on the Army and settlers.  Finally, a new treaty was negotiated which allowed the Chiricahua Apache to remain in their homeland.  After the new treaty went into effect, Cochise surrendered, ceased hostilities, and died peacefully on the new reservation; he was buried in the rocks above one of his favorite camps in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona; the site is known today as “Cochise Stronghold.”  Cochise's descendants are said to currently reside at the Mescalero Apache Reservation, near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Victorio-Another one of Jesse DeLuna’s great, great, great grandfathers was Victorio, also known as “Apache Wolf;” he was a member of the Chihenne Band of the Chiricahua Apache.  At the age of 28 in 1853 when he signed a government document, Victorio was considered a chief by the United States Army; he rode with Geronimo and other Apache leaders fighting settlers invading his homelands and against the United States Army.  By the 1870’s, Victorio and his band were placed on reservations despite their request to live on traditional ancestral lands.  Victorio and his fellow warriors left the reservation twice before leaving permanently in late August 1879 which started Victorio's War.

By September 10, 1879, nine American settlers had been killed by Victorio’s warriors and 46 to 68 army horses and mules were also taken by Victorio; his victories caused other Apache bands to leave the reservations and begin fighting.  The United States Army had dispatched thousands of soldiers and scouts to search for Victorio; in addition, American militias were also formed in Arizona and New Mexico to find and kill their Chiricahua enemy.

Even though Victorio and his followers numbered only about 200 men, women, and children, he was successful at raiding and evading capture by the United States Army.  While traveling down theAnimas River, Victorio’s band encountered a militia made up of miners in between Kingston andSilver City, New Mexico; ten of the militia was killed and some fifty horses were taken.  After the skirmish with the militia, Victorio continued south into Las Animas Canyon, in the Black Range, where he showed his brilliance as a military leader of his people; he positioned his warriors in decisive positions around the high ground.

On September 18, 1879, Victorio's forces, which numbered some 60 warriors, were positioned along the top of a ridge overlooking Las Animas Canyon and the adjacent Massacre Canyon.  Two companies of Army cavalry were lured into the canyon by a few Apache warriors who fired on the troops and fled to the canyon.  Once the cavalry was inside the canyon, Victorio’s warriors opened fire with their rifles and bows; the soldiers dismounted and took cover behind boulders.  Two other companies from the 9th cavalry were in the area and proceeded to the battlefield.  When the reinforcements entered the canyon, the Apache warriors ceased firing until the American soldiers began a flanking maneuver towards the ridge then opened fire again.  This was a decisive victory for Victorio; he had defeated the American forces in numerous battles.  Victorio was proven to be one of the best guerilla fighters ever known and one of the finest the United States Army had ever met in the field of battle.  With only some 50 to 60 fighting warriors, he reigned terror in the hearts of those who entered his domain and those he fought in battle.

In April, 1880, Victorio led the Alma Massacre which was a series of raids on the ranches and homes of the white settlers around Alma, New Mexico.  In October 1880, while moving along the Rio Grande River in northern Mexico, Victorio and his band were surrounded and killed by soldiers of the Mexican Army.  Some of the women and children of Victorio’s band escaped but were later sent with Geronimo to Florida and Alabama, then later transferred to Oklahoma; some of Victorio’s people were incarcerated for a while in Alabama.

Geronimo-Even though Geronimo was not directly related to Jesse DeLuna, Jesse’s ancestors rode and fought with this greatest Apache leader.  Normally, the Apache fighting tactics involved guerrilla warfare but the Battle of Apache Pass was the heaviest contested that the Apaches fought against the United States Army.  Later in his autobiography, the most celebrated Chiricahua-Mescalero Apache warrior Geronimo said, “My people were winning the fight until you fired your wagons at us;" Geronimo was referring to the howitzer cannons used by the Army.  I feel fortunate to have stood a few years ago with my daughter Celeste at the monument erected at the site where the great Apache Geronimo surrendered in southern Arizona.

In 1886 Geronimo surrendered to U.S. authorities after a lengthy fight and pursuit; he was imprisoned in Alabama before being transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  As a prisoner of war in his old age, Geronimo became a celebrity and appeared at various events, fairs, and activities but was never allowed to return to the Chiricahua homeland of his birth.  He later regretted that he had surrendered and claimed the conditions of his surrender were lies and were totally ignored.  Geronimo said just before his death, "I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive."  He was buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery; he died in 1909 from complications of pneumonia at Fort Sill.  He had been thrown from his horse and lay on the cold ground all night before being found by a friend.

Jesse roots are deep in the Chiricahua Apache traditions; he related to me that his Chiricahua Apache folks managed to escape during a dust storm in Waco, Texas; his people had been herded like cattle from the Chiricahua Mountains toward Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  At Waco, his ancestors were going to be loaded on a train that would transport them to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, but the huge dust storm created enough diversion for his people to escape.  After his people avoided the force removal, Jesse said they assimilated with the Mexicans living in the Waco, Texas area in order to avoid being placed on an Indian reservation.  His folks hid out from the military in Texas and managed to avoid the reservation hundreds of miles from their native homelands; they lived their lives for years in denial of their true Apache lineage by living among people of Mexican heritage people who lived in Texas.  His folks eventually settled out in the San Antonia and Houston, Texas.

Jesse DeLuna and Helen Trevino were the parents of Jesse DeLuna II; he grew up in a one bedroom house in Texas with three brothers and three sisters.  Jesse’s father served in the United States Air Force for 25 years; Jesse senior was a technical sergeant when he retired from the military.  Jesse senior was a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War; Jesse II also served 15 years in the United States Air Force.  When Jesse went into the military he had his hair cut for the first time; his sister still has his long black hair of his youth. Today, Jesse’s parents are still alive; his father lives in Houston, Texas, and his mother moved back to the land of her ancestors and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Jesse’s life has been full circle; he now practices the old medicine of his ancestors.  Jesse has three children that he hopes will carry on the old traditional ways of his Chiricahua Apache people:  His children are Jesse DeLuna III, who also has a son named Jesse DeLuna IV, is 32; Anthony Robert DeLuna is 28; and, Natasha DeLuna is 17.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Arthur meets Dr. George Washington Carver

Arthur Graves Story Continued

Arthur Graves was born in his parents’ two story frame home in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on February 7, 1927; the house had indoor toilets and four bedrooms and Arthur still lives at the same site today.  One day when Arthur was a small boy, he noticed a large crowd gathered at Mr. Percy Ricks, who was his next door neighbor at 802 East Eighth Street in Tuscumbia; Arthur went over to the Ricks home and saw Walter Jackson, C. E. Lesley, and a large group of people surrounding one of the most famous black men of his time, Dr. George Washington Carver.

As Arthur tried to get closer to Dr. Carver, he bumped into a small evergreen bush that contained a large wasp nest; the wasps became stirred up and one stung Arthur.  Everyone scattered except Dr. Carver who came to the rescue of Arthur; he grabbed leaves from three different trees and twisted them together and rubbed the leaves on Arthur’s wasp sting.  Arthur said immediately the pain of the sting left and he did not have any swelling.  Later that evening, Arthur went to Sheffield High School to listen to Dr. George Washing Carver speak; he sat in the balcony because black folks were not allowed to set with the white folks.

Arthur also related that most of the wealthy white folks used black wet nurses to breast feed their infants; the white folks would not allow a white wet nurse to breast feed their babies because they felt the baby would become attached to a white wet nurse.  Wet nurses would also chew the food prior to feeding it to the baby; the nurses would take small portions of beef, pork, mutton, fruit, or vegetables to chew until soft before feeding it to the babies.  The black wet nurses also had to set in the balcony of the churches because it was warmer in the winter time due to the rising heat.

When Arthur Graves was a young boy, he had to lead the cow and mule to the pasture and walk past the big home that had been built by George Lawrence.  When he was small, Arthur played with Lawrence’s daughters Susie Bitting Lawrence and Martha Frances Lawrence; while in high school, he worked for George Lawrence’s car business.  Mr. Lawrence agreed to sell Arthur a car for one dollar per week; Arthur was real excited to buy a car but decided that he should first talk to his father before bringing the car home.  Even though he was happy to get a car, Arthur knew that he had to discuss the deal with his father Frank Graves.  Arthur was surprised when his father asked him, “Where are you going to park this car?”  Arthur said, “Since you do not have a car, I will park it in the driveway.”  Frank replied, “You do not have a driveway!  My advice to you is do not buy anything until you have a place to put it; therefore you cannot put that car in my driveway.”

After the discussion with his father, Arthur Graves decided the best thing for him to do was to go to college; since his brothers were at Tuskegee, Arthur enrolled in school where his brothers were attending.  After some time in college, Arthur decided to come home in November and go back to work for Mr. Lawrence who eventually sold the dealership in 1946 or 1947; one night in March, Arthur came in at three in the morning and his father was up waiting on him to get home.  His dad Frank told him, “Arthur you have been home since returning from Tuskegee and I expected you to start paying rent since you are working and coming home at all hours.  If you stay here, you will pay me room and board of ten dollars per week.”  Immediately, Arthur went upstairs and packed his bags; at five that morning, Arthur took his suitcases and left home that March morning.  He headed back to Tuskegee to complete his college degree.  At Tuskegee, Arthur got in a work study program, washed cars, and worked odd jobs to earn money for his school expenses.

Arthur stayed at Tuskegee until he was drafted in May 1946, and was sent to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas; he made a drill instructor and was a clerk in the orderly room.  Since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and the war ended shortly thereafter, Arthur served only eight months and 29 days before returning to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he re-enrolled in college.  Arthur graduated from Tuskegee University in 1948.  At his graduation ceremony, Arthur’s brother drove his father Frank and mother Alice to the see their son get his degree; from Tuskegee, his parents and brother drove to Washington, D.C. to see his baby sister Gloria Graves graduate from college.  Eventually all of the Graves children graduated from college.

In 1949, Arthur Graves got a job teaching public school in Decatur, Alabama; while in the Decatur public schools, he got called back to active duty during the Korean War.  Even though Arthur did not have to go to Korea, he served on active duty for a total of 20 years in the armed forces; initially, he was a drill instructor of black troops.  At the time Arthur served as a drill instructor, the military had just began to use black instructors; President Truman had desegregated all the services around 1948, but the order did not desegregate the people.

While on active duty, Arthur Graves acquired the rank of Colonel.  Even though the military services were officially integrated, black troops still had to endure the racial overtones of other white military leaders; Colonel Arthur Graves referred to these people as ring knockers because of their West Point rings.  Graves said, “From the time of the baseball great Jackie Roberson and General B.O. Davis with the Tuskegee Airmen, one thing that sustained the black troops was the attitude to be successful.  The old attitudes had problems with life itself and were hard to change, but at first most military people were not willing to accept change; blacks in the military still run into segregation issues.”

Arthur Graves stayed sick during his flight training in the air corps; he was later diagnosed with sever anxiety because of the fear of flying.  Arthur said he did not have a problem while in the air but before a flight he always got sick; he was in advanced training for flying B-25’s in the Old Army Air Corps.  After serving 26 years, Arthur Graves retired from the United States military; he begin teaching at the University of North Alabama on December 31, 1974, and taught for 14 years before retiring as a college professor in 1988.

Arthur Graves eventually became the executor of the estate of his deceased uncle who had inherited about 400 acres of his grandfather’s estate; his uncle had also purchased additional property when many farmers went under during the depression.  Arthur’s uncle had a bright red headed son who became an alcoholic and wrote many bad checks for which he was incarcerated in the local jail; Judge Vanderhoff stated that the boy was his own worst enemy and placed Arthur Graves over his estate to manage.  Arthur sold off some of the land to pay off the bad checks and to provide for his cousin and keep him out of jail.  Arthur eventually sold all the land around Hillsboro, Alabama, that belonged to his Reynolds uncle.

Arthur Graves married Jean Long on November 22, 1958, and they have been married for 53 years; Arthur and Jean had three children:  Lisa Graves Minor graduated from Vanderbilt University; Kenneth Graves graduated from Cumberland Law School; and, Sherry Graves Smith graduated University of Alabama and Cumberland Law School.  Jean Long Graves’ father was William Mansel Long who was from Lane Springs in northwest Colbert County; her mother was Otelia Mullins who was from the Ricks Community near “The Oaks Plantation” which is also in Colbert County.  Arthur had two children from a previous marriage; Arthur B. Graves is a retired educator and Frank Graves is a retired dentist.

In 1982, Arthur Graves bought and paid for a funeral home from Ms. Eloise Thompson that he still operates today.  Graves said, “I have had a radio program for 25 years; the radio program costs me $800.00 per month and I am on the air on Sunday starting at 9:15 am to promote my funeral home business.  I go to the Methodist Church and the rest of my family goes to the Church of Christ.  I believe one of our greatest rights is the freedom to vote; I am a member of the 47% and draw three retirements!  I will work as long as God blesses me and my good health.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Black Folk Tales of Appalachia

Colonel Arthur Graves Story

Captain William C. Gorgas, who worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, moved from Lake Charles, Louisiana; Gorgas accepted an assignment near Brown’s Ferry in Lawrence County, Alabama.  Bridges across the Tennessee River were not in existence and work on the Muscle Shoals Canal had begun under the leadership of George Washington Goethals; therefore, Captain Gorgas was put in charge of controlling outbreaks yellow fever and malaria.  Browns Ferry was located at the head of the Muscle Shoals Canal to insure that people were able to cross the river throughout the year.  Captain Gorgas’ man servant, Edward Doctor Reynolds, followed his boss to the north Alabama area and brought his Creole wife.  Reynolds was a red headed Irishman who had married a black Creole from Lake Charles, Louisiana; but when Captain Gorgas was assigned duty at the Panama Canal, Reynolds stayed at Hillsboro and ran his store.

William Crawford Gorgas and George Washington Goethals were assigned duty near the Muscle Shoals Canal in Lawrence County, Alabama; Gorgas, who early in life had contracted yellow fever that was carried by mosquitoes, had the medical knowledge to eradicate breeding areas of mosquitoes to control yellow fever and malaria; and, George Washington Goethals had the engineering knowledge to build and complete the canal through the Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River.  Both these great men were later assigned to the Panama Canal; their combined efforts were successful in the completion of the canal at Panama.

When Gorgas was assigned to Panama, Edward D. Reynolds and his wife stayed in Lawrence County, Alabama, and received from the Civil War Reconstruction a temporary deed for 40 acres and two mules which he used to cultivate the land and plant crops.  Reynolds and his wife had to farm the land for two years before he could receive title to the property.  After a few years, Reynolds opened a general store where the old Hillsboro Road crossed the Southern Railroad; he maintained accurate records on credit that he had given to the local farmers in order to make a crop.  During the tough economic times and bad crops, a lot of farmers were unable to pay their bills owed to Edward D. Reynolds; Reynolds foreclosed on the farmers and took their land because of delinquent credit.  During the tough farming years, many of the land owners that owed Reynolds money for their failed crops left the area; Reynolds wound up acquiring their property which eventually accumulated to some 2,600 acres of land in the area of Hillsboro, Alabama.

Not only did Reynolds maintain a store, but he also built a cotton gin which operated until the 1930’s; he also had a grist mill, and the first Coke A Cola Bottling Company at Hillsboro which was the first of its kind in north Alabama.  Edward D. Reynolds was a dedicated owner and worker in his general store; he stayed in the store building 24 hours a day for six days.  Reynolds would go home on Saturday afternoon and would return to his store on Sunday evening; he stayed in the store to protect his financial interests.  The Reynolds owned a huge two storied house which had indoor toilets and electricity powered by a two cylinder engine was just one block from his store, Reynolds and his wife had seven girls and six boys who were half Irish and half black Creole; all their children married black people.

The Reynolds children had complete access to the store and could come and go as they pleased; the children were not allowed to spend the night away from home.  The Reynolds children were sent to some of the best schools in the area; Edward Reynolds sent his children to Huntsville, Atlanta, or Nashville to get the best schooling that he could find for his children.  After Edward Doctor Reynolds died, some 2600 acres of land and his possessions was split between his thirteen children; Reynolds had moved from a poor man servant of the young Captain William C. Gorgas to become one of the wealthiest men in the Hillsboro, Alabama region.

The oldest child of Edward D. Reynolds was Alice who was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Alice Reynolds assisted her dad in the store and kept up with running the business for her father.  After completing high school, Alice was sent to Alabama A &M University where she received a college education; after graduating from college, Alice taught public school for a short period in Moulton, Alabama in 1898.  Alice Reynolds became one of the first registered black female voters in 1921; her son Arthur Graves still cherishes her voter registration certificate.

Alice Reynolds married Frank Graves, a black fireman who supplied coal to the boiler on the steam engine of the Southern Railroad train engine; Frank worked for the Southern Railroad all his working career.  Frank Graves was a native of Tyler, Texas, and hoboed from Texas to Memphis, Tennessee.  The train would leave Memphis and had stops in Tuscumbia and Sheffield; the train engine turned around in Sheffield and another engine would work from Sheffield to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Since Frank was working for the railroad during the depression, the Graves family did not suffer due to the difficult times.

During the Great Depression, every vacant lot around the Graves home in Tuscumbia was planted by the family.  They raised hogs and chickens; the family also had a large garden of vegetables such as beans, corn, sweet potatoes, greens, and other vegetables; and they had sugar cane which was processed by Mr. Leo Merritt for a share of the molasses.  In other words, during the Great Depression, the Graves family was not rich but they did not go hungry and had plenty of food that they would sometimes share with strangers whether they were black or white.  Arthur Graves said, “I really do not know about the depression because I always had a roof over my head, two mules in the barn, pens of chickens, and killed hogs for meat.”

Even though Frank never owned a car, he could tell you how fast an automobile was traveling by counting the telephone posts; he had been so accustomed to counting the posts along the rail lines, knowing the speed of a vehicle was very simple matter of the intervals between the power poles.  He could not write but Frank was far from being ignorant and was a very intelligent man. 

After Frank and Alice married they moved to Tuscumbia, Alabama; today at the very location where he was born, their son Arthur Graves still lives in a fine brick home.  Frank and Alice Reynolds Graves had seven children all of which graduated from college; their children were Patsy, Frank, Alice, Isaac, John, Arthur, and Gloria.  Frank required his children to set at the table with the whole family to have dinner.  Frank and Alice were very family oriented; they required that the children are seated and present at the table during the family meals.  Both Frank and Alice had very high expectations for their children and pushed their children to be successful people in society; they passed away in the late 1980’s.