BLTC Press Titles

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Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Bhagavad Gita


History of Conecuh County, Alabama

by Benjamin Franklin Riley


Shortly after Mr. Autrey's removal to Conecuh, there came from North Carolina three gentlemen whose names were Thomas Mendenhall, Eli Mendenhall, and Reuben Hart. The first of these established himself at the spot now known as the Old Savage Place, on the road running from Bellville to Evergreen. Mr. Hart located very near the present residence of Dr. J. L. Shaw. Early in 1817, the population of Bellville, which then boasted of the name of " The Ponds," from the lakes which existed near, was increased by the emigration of Joshua Hawthorne from Wilkinson county, Georgia, to South Alabama. He pitched his family tent in the virgin forests near the home of the late Henry Stanley, surrounded by no other elements of civilization than those already named.

As each emigrant would take up his abode in this land of teeming beauty, he would cast about him for the most favorable location, and one best suited to the interests of his future residence. In order to fix the title of what was then known as the Emigrant's Claim, the early pioneers would select the tract or district best suited to their tastes, and would proceed to indicate their title to permanent tenure by girding a few trees, with impressions cut in the bark, and by laying somewhere upon land desired, the first four logs of a building. This was a monument of possession, and was sacredly respected by the early settlers. The man who would dare disregard this asserted claim, was branded a rascal outright, and incurred the loss of public confidence and esteem.

Near the period above referred to, another batch of emigrants came to Conecuh from Chester District, South Carolina. They settled near Hampden Ridge. These were Chesley Crosby, Robert Savage, Mabry Thomas, anaf Alexander Donald—then quite a young man. These were accompanied by Robert Herrin and Jesse T. Odum—the former of whom continued on to Claiborne, where he located and resided many -years; while the latter removed to Buena Vista, in Monroe county, where he lived to be quite old. All of these flourished conspicuously in their adopted counties, for many years together.

Chapter III.

Early Privations and Struggles—Unparalleled Difficulties—Scarcity of Tools—Undaunted Heroism—Meagreness of Blacksmith's Facilities—Joshua Betts—A Barefooted Population—Paucity of Grist Mills—Georgia Currency, &e.

Notwithstanding the luxuriant abundance of natural elements, with which the early settlers found themselves surrounded, they were not exempt from the privations then universally incident to pioneer life. Vast forests had to be felled, and the fields to be cultivated, but most scanty was the supply of implements with which the formidable task had to be undertaken; and the few in hand were of the rudest character. A few axes and grubbing hoes, such as the daring emigrants had brought with them from their distant homes, were the only utensils that could be brought into practical requisition.

But with that heroism which had prompted them to penetrate these forest wilds, they energetically addressed themselves to the stupendous task. But at every step, they encountered new difficulties; one overcome, another was introduced. By dint of arduous and tedious toil, the forests were partially cleared away—but where were the implements of agriculture with which the soil was to be tilled? A few shovels, spades and grubbing hoes, of the rudest character, and an occasional scooter plow, were the only implements with which these primitive agriculturists were to raise their virgin crops. The only instrument used by many of the wealthiest farmers, for several years, was a sharply-flattened hickory pole, made somewhat in the shape of a crowbar, with which holes were made in the soil and the seed deposited. An embarrassing difficulty arose from the absence of smithy facilities among the early farmers, and hence many saw but little hope of subsequent relief from their perplexity. This embarrassment, however, was partially overcome in upper Conecuh by the possession of a few blacksmith tools by Joshua Betts. 'He was reinforced by his brother, Isaac—who had, by the aid of the enterprising settlers in that region, supplied himself with a complete outfit of blacksmith tools, for which he agreed to pay with work done in his shop. But one of the severest privations to which the pioneer families were subjected was a great scarcity of shoes. Many of the fathers and grandfathers of the influential families now resident in Conecuh, were, from necessity, barefoot laborers. The early soil was tilled, through heat and cold, by barefooted men. The game was chased over the hills by men wearing no shoes. Men and women taught school, and attended church, with feet totally unprotected. And to show that it was not incompatible with primitive dignity, one of the earliest aspirants to Legislative honors— Captain Cumming—actively canvassed the county of Conecuh, on horseback, with his feet clad only in their native nudeness. It is said to have been not an unfrequent occurrence to meet men, on horseback, with their naked feet armed with a pair of rude wooden spurs.

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