Saturday, March 2, 2013

Preuit Family Farm


Preuit Family Farm

Charlie Pointer’s father and older brothers were the black farm hands on the Lamar Cartwright place on the West Fork of Flint Creek near Five Points Community; in the late 1920’s, Jackson moved his family to the Clebe Preuit farm when Charlie was about six years old.  The Preuit Family originally came to America from Scotland in 1687 and first settled in Virginia.  The Preuits were connected through intermarriage to the Cartwright Family; two of Clebe Preuit’s sisters married two Cartwright boys.  The black Pointer Family moved from the Cartwright place to a little frame house on located in the northeast corner of Lawrence County Highway 212 and Lawrence County Highway 211 on the old Preuit Farm. 

The little plank home that the Jackson Pointer Family moved in was located on an old Indian trail known as the Coosa Path or Muscle Shoals Path.  The Indian path came from Chickasaw Island just east of Ditto’s Landing south of Huntsville, Alabama.  The route passed through Hartselle, then Danville, to Oakville, then Moulton, and to Tuscumbia Landing in Colbert County circumventing the rough and rugged rapids of the Tennessee River.  The Indian path passed south of the Elk River Shoals, Big Muscle Shoals, and Little Muscle Shoals; this particular section of the Tennessee River was very dangerous and treacherous to boat travel. Today, the portion of the Indian trail that passes the Prueit home place is Lawrence County Highway 211.

When Charlie was a little boy, his father Jackson Pointer and his brothers started doing farm work for Patrick Cleburn (Clebe) Preuit.  The parents of Clebe were John William Preuit who was born on August 8, 1834, and died August 19, 1923, and Martha E. McDaniel Preuit who was born on August 13, 1839, and died September 20, 1907.  Martha was the daughter of P. A. McDaniel and Ann Leeper; according to the 1860 slave census of Lawrence County, Alabama, P. A McDaniel owned 67 slaves.  Many of the black folks in Lawrence County, Alabama, by the name of McDaniel are probably the descendants of the slaves of the white McDaniel Family.

John William and Martha McDaniel Preuit had ten children born in Lawrence County, Alabama: Cora Ann Preuit, born January 29, 1859, and married Peter Edward Cartwright on January 1, 1879; Travis Lamar Preuit, born September 14, 1860, and died single on December 29, 1892; Vashti A. A. Preuit, born May 11, 1862, and died on October 26, 1867; Thelma Blanche Preuit, born January 10, 1865, and married Dr. Oscar Bradley Cartwright; Sallie Octavia Preuit, born September 15, 1868, and married first to R. T. Burleson and second time to S. R. Martin; John William Preuit, Jr. died in infancy; Patrick Cleburn (Clebe) Preuit, born January 20, 1871; Brent Elmo Preuit, born January 30, 1873, and married first Maud Bracking and second time to Elizabeth Brown; Jacob Jackson Preuit, born December 6, 1875; and Minnie Preuit, born October 11, 1878, and married Thomas Durrett Simms.

John William Preuit was listed in the 1850 census slave schedules as having 22 black slaves and his wife Martha Preuit was listed as having 43 black slaves.  Today, my home is on the original site of the John William and Martha Preuit home; John and Martha are buried in the little Preuit Cemetery which is on my property and located behind my house on Highway 211.

John William Preuit inherited the place from his parents William Madison Preuit and Martha Looney who purchased the property from the Robert Price Family in 1825.  William Madison and Martha Looney Preuit lived in the original house that was built prior to 1815 which was before the Indian lands were taken by the Turkey Town Treaty of September 1816.  In all probability, the log cabin built on Cherokee Indian land was the dwelling place of Cherokees who occupied the area until the treaty was ratified by congress in 1817; nearby Oakville was a Cherokee trading village and hosted a number of Indian people in the surrounding area.  Some speculate that Robert Price may have built the house on Cherokee land. 

The original house was a two room log cabin separated by a dogtrot.  After William Madison Preuit and Martha Looney Preuit moved from Madison County to the place in1825, four additional rooms were added to the house which included two upstairs and two behind the original cabin.  In addition, the logs were covered on the outside with plank board siding and ceiling were added to the log rooms. 

Since the Preuits owned some 65 slaves, most of the home construction and remodeling was done by the black servants and farm hands.  The bricks were made by the black slaves owned by the family; brick chimneys were built on both sides of the house.  Brick fireplaces provided heat to the upstairs and downstairs rooms; the fireplace mantles were hand carved by the grandfather of Finis and Walter Bass.  The front yard of the house was also covered with slave made bricks and a picket fence was built around the yard.

During the Civil War on April 29, 1863, Union Colonel Able Streight and some 1,500 Yankee cavalrymen passed by the Preuit place; Streight was chased by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest with his command of some 500 cavalry soldiers.  This particular Union action through the area was referred to as Streight’s Raid.  Three Union soldiers died on the Preuit Farm during the Civil War, and one is buried in the cemetery behind my house; the Union soldier buried on my property has a marker that reads unknown.  The other two Union soldiers are buried on the Preuit place just west of Highway 212 near the present-day home of Willie Hood; supposedly the Preuit slaves buried the Union soldiers.  Several Rebel and Yankee troops passed along the road that ran by the house, but none of the soldiers harmed the old home.

During the occupation of the home by the Preuit Family, some 35 members of the Preuits were born in the house.  Several generations were born in the house from John William Preuit, the son of William Madison Preuit; Patrick Cleburn Preuit, the son of John William Preuit; John Hodges Preuit, the son of John William Preuit; and Ward Preuit, the son of John Hodges Preuit, was the last member of the family to be born in the house.

In February 1959, the original plank covered log house was torn down after standing about 145 years to make room for a new house which was built on the same location.  John H. Preuit built a new brick house in the early 1960’s; he also built a detached garage made from the slave bricks.  I purchased the home in September 2003.  The John Preuit House that I bought from Ward Preuit’s son, Johnny, was destroyed by a tornado on February 6, 2008.  I rebuilt another house on the same foundation and completed the new home on March 11, 2009; I give most of the slave brick to my sister Diane Thrasher.

Charlie said a mule was one of the primary reasons his family left the Cartwright place and moved to the Preuit Farm.  Jack Pointer, Charlie’s dad, agreed to buy a mule from Billy Jacobs for six dollars; at the time, Jack was making ten cents per hour.  Uncle Mack McDaniel was renting Jack fifteen acres for him to farm with the mule he had purchased from Jacobs.   Uncle Mack had also loaned Jack the gear and plow to make a crop; however, Jack was only able to come up with four dollars to pay on the mule, and Billy Jacobs came to take the mule. 

Clebe Preuit found out that Jacobs was going to take the mule away from Jack.  Clebe told Jacobs not to take the mule; Clebe would not rent Billy Jacobs the farm field which contained some 400 acres if he repossessed the mule.  After some negotiations, Clebe paid the remaining two dollars so that Jack could keep his mule.  Clebe knew that Jack was a hard worker and wanted his help on the Preuit Farm.  Jack Pointer agreed to move to the Preuit place but needed a house for his family.  Clebe Preuit told Jack to look at the house where his family could live and use as their own, but the house was too small and had only two rooms.  Therefore, Clebe got Grady Moody to help Jack Pointer cut timber to saw into boards to make an additional room on the house.  With everything worked out agreeable to all parties, Jack, Lucy, and the Pointer children moved to the Clebe Preuit Farm.
 
Charlie Pointer, who is now 89 years old, said, “I also worked for Clebe Preuit and later his son John Preuit.  Clebe told me one day to get in his car that we were going to Moulton.  Mr. Preuit bought me my first pair of shoes and two pair of overalls from Howard Delashaw’s store in Moulton.  Before that day, I went barefooted and wore clothes made from flour or guano (fertilizer) sacks.  The day I went to the store with Mr. Clebe, I was wearing a long sack dress or shirt and did not have any shoes.”

When Charlie was a small boy, he would hear Doctor Price Irwin coming down the road in his horse and buggy to see the sick folks.  Charlie would run open the gates for Doctor Price; Doctor Price would flip Charlie a nickel every time he opened a gate for him.  The nickels that Doctor Price would give Charlie made a lasting memory that he cherishes to this day.  Charlie thought that Doctor Price was one of the best and kindest men he had ever known.  The gesture of kindness to a poor, black, country boy will never be forgotten by Charlie Pointer. 

Clebe Preuit would give Charlie’s daddy Jack and the other farm hands tickets that were good at the four stores at Wren.  Jack Pointer would get in the wagon pulled by a pair of mules and go to Wren and swap the tickets for lard, meal, flour, and other food items.  The ticket that Jackson carried to the store was a piece of metal about the size of a dollar bill; Wren store owners, like Will Willis would stamp the metal ticket.  Jack Pointer would sometimes buy two sides of hog meat to eat; he would also get enough corn and cotton seed to make the next crop on the Clebe Prueit Farm.  Jackson and his sons made the crops for the Preuit Family each year; after Jackson got too old to make the crop, Charlie continued making a crop for the Preuit Family.

Clebe Preuit was born on January 20, 1871, and died on June 7, 1932, and his wife Sallie Hodges was born on April 9, 1875, and died on May 7, 1911.  Sallie was a member of the Hodges Family of Oakville Community; her father was Doctor John Hodges.  According to the 1820 Census of Lawrence County, Alabama, Fleming Hodges, Sr. of Oakville owned 26 black slaves.  The Hodges Family was some of the wealthy slave owning white folks of the Oakville area; Fleming Hodges Family members are buried in large stone crypts on top of the Copena Indian burial mound at the Oakville Indian Mounds Park.  William Hodges, who is buried on the mound, married Sarah Walker.  I believe that William Hodges was the son of Fleming Hodges, Sr. and brother to Fleming Hodges, Jr.  According to the 1850 Census of Lawrence County, Alabama, Fleming Hodges, Jr. was 34 years and born in Alabama; his wife Margaret, age 28; William, age 10; Thomas P., age 7; James F., age 5; Alis, female, age 3; and, Margaret, age 1.

When Charlie was only eight years old Mr. Clebe Preuit died.  As long a Charlie is alive and has a good mind, he will never forget the first store bought clothes that Mr. Clebe Preuit bought for him.  After Clebe’s death, Charlie and his family worked for his son John Hodges Preuit

Charlie told me that he grew to manhood on the Preuit Farm. For many years, Charlie made a crop for John H. Prueit until he died.  Charlie said, “If John Preuit told you something, he would do it; it was as good as money in the bank.  I was at their home when both Mr. Clebe and Mr. John Preuit died.”  Charlie said, “I wound up living on the Preuit Farm and making crops for John Preuit for some 50 years.”

In the driest time of each year, Charlie said, “They would let me down with ropes about 50 feet into the dug well to clean it out.  Every time I went into that well, I had to kill snakes that lived in there before I could start work.   After we started cleaning out the well, muddy water would run out of a spring some 200 yards west of the John Prueit House.  We would put something in the well and it would come out in that spring.”  Today, the old Preuit Family well that Charlie Pointer cleaned out each year is still in my back yard some 20 feet from my back porch.  The spring that Charlie referred to is about 20 yards from my west property line.

Each year, John Preuit would go to Florida where he owned 160 acres and bring back a truck load of apples, oranges, and pecans every Christmas; he would give the Jackson Pointer family all the fruit and pecans that they wanted.  Ward Prueit, the son of John Prueit, eventually sold the farm in Florida.

After Mr. John Preuit died, Charlie Pointer began doing farm work for Tass Jacobs; after Mr. Jacobs died, Charlie worked for Ms. Willie Jacobs for ten years.  Ms. Willie gave Charlie cash money to pay for his one acre of land where he now lives.  Charlie worked for Ms. Willie Jacobs for fifty cents per day tending the cows and taking care of the farm work; initially, Ms. Willie told Charlie that he had to pay her a dime before she would let him work for her.  Ms. Willie Jacobs told Charlie that the dime was a paid contract that he would not be late for work and would do the work that she wanted completed.  Charlie said that Ms. Willie kept that dime for many years; occasionally, Willie showed Charlie the dime as a reminder of their work agreement.

Charlie would get off work on Saturday and Sunday; on Saturday morning, he would work in his garden and do the things around his house.  On Saturday afternoon, Charlie would sometimes take his kids fishing to the Beaver Pond just north of Highway 36 or to the Oakville Pond. Charlie also planted and worked the garden for Ms. Willie; he had nothing but praise for his former employer, Ms. Willie Jacobs.

Be sure to follow my blog and learn about the plantation owners, slaves, and the survivors of slavery.  This part of Charlie life and other stories will be a part of my book, “Black Folk Tales of Appalachia: Slavery to Survival!”  

3 comments:

  1. Butch,

    This is some great history. Thank you for bringing all of this information to us.

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  2. I have a Betsy Ann Pruitt B: 6-7-1820 D: 6-30-1854 That may have married Thomas McDaniel B: 1816 D: 1896 married on 1-17-1837. Does this fall in with these Pruitts?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is some great info on my ancestry!

    ReplyDelete