Monday, October 10, 2016


Florida & Alabama
   No evidence indicates that anything was done about the boundary dispute between Tallahassee Meridian and the southern boundary of Covington County until Florida became a State on March 3, 1845.  After The first sales between the Alabama & Florida border were held in 1826 and 1827, there was a strip of country between them that had never been surveyed over which neither state exercised jurisdiction, designated neutral ground. It appears this land was held off the market when the other land was put up for auction in 1829 & 1830.
  On January 26, 1846 the Alabama General Assembly passed a resolution to settle the dispute with Florida. The Gov. of Alabama appointed James M. Calhoun as the Alabama Commissioner and the Gov. of Florida appointed James T. Archer, Florida's Secretary of State as their commissioner.
   The boundary was supposed to follow the 31st degree North latitude between the Perido and Chattahoochee rivers.
Calhoun and Archer thought  they knew the boundary between Al. and Fl.  Together they logically concluded and selected
the Ellicott line as the Official Alabama/Florida boundary. The commissioners apparently had no way of knowing that the Elliott line drifted South (east of the Conecuh River) for over one-half mile before returning to the 31st parallel near the Chattahoochee River,  so on that decision gave Alabama over 30,000 acres of Florida land. On Feb. 12, 1848 the Alabama General Assembly passed an act stating the Elliott line "shall be forever deemed and taken by the State of Alabama as the line on the thirty-first parallel of north latitude, and as the fixed and permanent line of boundary between the states last aforesaid."
    A resurveying to establish the exact location of Elliott's line fell upon the office of Surveyor General of Florida because the office of Surveyor General for Alabama was abolished in 1851. Thus, John Wescott, who on Oct. 22, 1853, contracted with Benjamin F. Whitner, Jr. to retrace Elliott's line.  He began on Nov. 7, 1853 and finished his survey at the Chattahoochee River on January 20, 1854. It was concluded that Calhoun & Archer's surveying was definitely incorrect.  It can also be concluded that survey's of Clements and Exum of 1826 were also inaccurate for no apparent reason.  In the end this had given Covington County over 10,000 acres, even though the land actually lies south of the 31st parallel, However at this time the Alabama & Florida boundary and the land dispute between Alabama & Florida was settled. Covington County started selling this land in March, 1858."

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Labor Day Weekend has always been the "END OF SUMMER" around my household so I couldn't allow the SUMMER OF '16 to end without a post concerning a summer that occurred 50 years ago: THE SUMMER OF '66.

For old ROBERTOREG, it was a pretty awe inspiring summer. I was 16, got my driver's license and finished my first summer on the staff of THE BOY SCOUT RESERVATION near New Brockton. Camp gave me an opportunity to stay away from Dothan for about six or seven weeks which was probably the greatest education a young, dumb and full of come teenager could get. I used my time there to get in good with the camp ranger. Daddy donated some tires for Mose Ramage's panel truck which his son, Gene, had donated to the camp and Daddy also got the old truck tuned up for the camp ranger. I'll never forget how that brought my status up with the camp ranger. From then on, I had FULL ACCESS to all the camp facilities and it stayed that way until 1969 when all hell broke loose after the chief Scout executive pocketed all the money the camp gained after it cut the timber for the new reservoir which the U.S. Army at Ft. Rucker had helped construct.(the story I heard was that the camp ranger punched the chief Scout executive out after the ranger found out about the theft so the summer of '69 was the end of ROBERTOREG at camp).

The music on the radio that summer was unbelievably superb and hearing those songs today instantly triggers memories: SUMMER IN THE CITY, GOOD LOVIN', WILD THING, DIRTY WATER, 634-5789, LAND OF A THOUSAND DANCES but one song stands out above all others. That song was DOUBLE SHOT OF MY BABY'S LOVE. The lyrics were a little naughty at the time and it got banned on some radio stations but that was the first song ever played on the radio that ROBERTOREG could totally identify with because a member of one of the bands that released it in the spring of '66 sat in front of me in 6th period study hall during the school year of '65-'66 at Dothan High. This guy was Glenn Griffin. He played keyboards for the K-Otics and he had a helluva time surviving Dothan High during his senior year because Brad Stephens, our principal, had it in for him because of his hair plus Glenn had a tough time staying awake in class on Mondays due to the exhausting schedule that the K-Otics booked each weekend.

 Jeff Lemlich of Limestone Records found where "Double Shot" by the K-Otics reached # 5 on Miami's WFUN chart on 4-22-66 and it reached # 8 on Miami's WQAM on 4-30-66.

Here are some links that tell the amazing story of DOUBLE SHOT.

From the article I wrote about THE OLD DUTCH published in PANAMA CITY LIVING back in 2013:

During the summer of ’65, a beach music classic was born on the dance floor of The Old Dutch. A band from South Alabama called the K-Otics were playing one week and during their breaks they visited the nearby Old Hickory where the Swingin’ Medallions were performing. The K-Otics loved “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” and asked the Medallions if they planned to record it. The Medallions said, ”No,” so the K-Otics laid plans to cut the record. Later in the fall, the Medallions had a change of heart and recorded “Double Shot”. Both the Swingin’ Medallions and the K-Otics released their versions in the spring of ’66. The K-Otics had a regional hit and the Medallions’ record went national and the rest is history. Bruce Springsteen called “Double Shot”, “the greatest fraternity rock song of all time.” Columnist Bob Greene called it “the ultimate get-drunk-and-throw-up song. You heard it in every juke box in every bar in the world.” In 1993, Louis Grizzard wrote, ”Even today, when I hear ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love’, it makes me want to stand outside in the hot sun with a milkshake cup full of beer in one hand and a slightly drenched coed in the other.”

A brief history of the founding of the Swingin' Medallions and the Pieces of Eight by Greg Haynes:
" The band was founded by John McElrath and Joe Morris
and the first SIX members were John, Joe, Carroll Bledsoe, Steve
Caldwell, Brent Fortson, and Cubby Culbertson
. Cubby was the first to leave
the Original Six and was replaced by Perrin Gleaton at guitar. The
Medallions then expanded to EIGHT with the addition of two more horn players
bringing the number of horns in the Eight man group to FIVE. Those
added horn players were Fred Pugh (Sax) and Rick Godwin(Trumpet)In 1965,
Gleaton, Pugh, and Godwin
left and were replaced by Charlie Webber, Jimbo
Doares, and Jimmy Perkins.
It was these EIGHT ( McElarth, Morris,
Bledsoe, Fortson, Caldwell, Perkins, Doares,& Webber
)who recorded Double Shot and are considered the original band. In 1967, Fortson and Caldwell
left and joined with a group from Raleigh, N.C. called The Tassles.
These talented performers consisting on Carlie Barbour (Guitar), Jim
Baumgartner (Bass) Mark Wrenn (Sax)Irvin Hicks (Drums) Wally Woods
(Keyboards) and Ken Helser (Trumpet and lead Vocalist)along with Fortson and
Caldwell were the Original Pieces of Eight.
It was very simple math:Two Medallions plus Six Tassles equal the
Pieces of Eight.
Meanwhile; the remaining Six Original Swingin' Medallions
got two more great saxophonists, Hack Bartley and Johnny Cox, and kept
right on SYWITUP
(Screaming, Yelling, and Whooping it Up)."

(back row left to right) *Charlie Webber-trumpet, vocals *Steve Caldwell-saxophone, vocals *Jimmy Perkins-saxophone, bass guitar, vocals *John McElrath-keyboards, vocals *Carroll Bledsoe-trumpet,vocals *Jim Doares-guitar, vocals (front row) *Brent Fortson-saxophone, flute, vocals *Joe Morris-drums, vocals

When Steve Caldwell and Brent Fortson formed the Pieces of Eight in 1967, they were replaced by Hack Bartley and Johnny Cox. Grainger (Brother) Hines was added to the band in late 1967, when Michael Huey became the Drummer

Lewis Grizzard wrote in a 1993 article that, "Even today, when I hear the Swingin' Medallions sing "Double Shot of My Baby's Love", , it makes me want to stand outside in the hot sun with a milkshake cup full of beer in one hand and a slightly-drenched nineteen-year-old coed in the other."

Monday, August 29, 2016

My G-Great Grandfather, J.Y. Register's death in August of 1872 is noted in the 1872 PROCEEDINGS OF THE MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND LODGE OF ALABAMA. His Masonic Lodge was Geneva.
In the 1859 proceedings of the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church, John Y. Register is listed as a local preacher who was an elected and ordained elder.
1857-'58 MAIL ROUTES OF MY G-GREAT GRANDPA REGISTER ROUTE No. 7231. From Newton to Geneva, 30 miles, and back, once a week. Bidden*' names, Sum per annum. Stephen F. Gafford $594. Benjamin F. Price 425. W. H. Roberts 300. John F. Adams 219, schedule changed ; no guaranty. John Y. Register 170. °°°. Contract made with John Y. Register, April 25, 1857, to commence July 1, 1857, to expire June 30, 1858, at $170.00, per annum. Leave Newton Friday at 7 a, m. ; arrive at Geneva by 5 p. m. Leave Geneva Tuesday at 7 a. m. ; arrive at Newton by 5 p. m. (According to 1858 records, Grandpa Register was fined $9.78 for missing three round-trips- $1.63 per half-trip.)
In 1859, John Y. Register was fined on many of his routes: Route 7157~ Greenville to Andalusia ($375 annual contract) fined $1 on May 21 for WET MAIL Route 7184~ Daleville to Andalusia ($1500 annual contract) fined $22.04 for 12 instances of INFERIOR   SERVICE "ON ROUTE" in June
                   ~ fined $56.29 for 13 instances of  INFERIOR SERVICE "ON ROUTE" in July
Route 7215~ Elba to Greenville ($395 annual contract) fined 50 cents for "FAILED TO SUPPLY" Millville, Alabama on May 27
                      ~Fined $3.80 on March 1 when he failed to arrive at Greenville
                       ~Fined $3.80 on March 3 when he failed to arrive in Elba
Route 7188~ Abbeville to Big Creek ($248 annual contract) fined $2.38 for failing to arrive on October 27 Route 7192~ Troy to Newton ($650 annual contract) fined $7.86 for failing to arrive in Newton on October11, 18 and on November 12.
                  ~ fined $5.24 for failing to arrive in Troy on October 5 and 8
Route 7184

Suspended service that John Y. Register bid on for 1860-'61
ROUTE No. 7221. From Elba to Wardville, Florida, 75 miles, and back, one a week. Bidders' names. Sum per annum. John B. Edwards $1,298. 00. Stephen F. Gafford 980.00. Charles Stone 829. 00. John Y. Register 500. 00. (Suspended. )
ROUTE No. 7228. From Indigo Head to Buzbeeville, 10 miles, and back, once a week. Bidders' names. Sum per annum. John Y. Register $125. N.G.Powell 119. 00. (Not let. Unnecessary.)
ROUTE No. 7161. From Monticello to J. Y. Register not specified. Once a week ; mode not $432

In 1861, John Y. Register is listed as a FLORIDA MAIL CONTRACTOR who had a $238 contract but had been paid only $130 for ROUTE No. 6568

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Johnny Mack Brown: From Gridiron Hero to Hollywood Hero

"Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams." ~ Aunt May in Spiderman II

"In Hollywood - in Hollywood, you're as good as your last picture." ~ Erich Von Stroheim

 Fight on, fight on, fight on men!
Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then.
Go, roll to victory, Hit your stride,
You're Dixie's football pride,
Crimson Tide!

 Before every BAMA game and after every BAMA score, we hear the tune of YEA, ALABAMA and most of us sing along. The lyrics, often sung by heart by even toddlers, refer to the day BAMA won its first national championship: January 1, 1926. Almost 90 years have passed since the heroics of Alabama's first championship team in the Rose Bowl established BAMA as a national power so memories of the 1925 squad are slowly fading from popular culture. As the 2013 BAMA team attempts to make college football history once more by winning three national championships in a row, it might be appropriate to remind THE CRIMSON NATION of how "Dixie's Football Pride" was able to first find it's way into the center of the national spotlight.

BAMA's football fortunes turned on a single immortal play that Friday afternoon so long ago when the Tide went ahead of Washington 14-12 on a third quarter Grant Gillis’ touchdown pass that was caught by Johnny Mack Brown. Up to that point in time, Gillis' 59-yard pass was the longest in Rose Bowl history and one of the longest in the entire history of American football- college or pro. In his souvenir book of the 1926 Rose Bowl, THE WILL TO WIN, Champ Pickens called the Gillis pass "the longest ever thrown." After the 20-19 BAMA victory, Johnny Mack, who had caught two touchdown passes and made a game winning tackle on the last play of the game, was declared the game's Most Valuable Player and the wheels of progress began to turn for this gridiron hero, rolling him along a path in life that would see him become a Hollywood hero.

So how does a little barefooted boy who grew up playing in the dusty streets of Dothan get himself out of the Piney Woods of the Wiregrass and up on Hollywood's silver screen? It's an amazing story and without the help of some loyal Crimson Tide fans, it never would have happened.
When Johnny Mack Brown graduated from Dothan High in 1922, Southeast Alabama football had about as much status in the Gulf South as CRIMSON TIDE football had on the national scene. It was completely irrelevant. Southeast Alabama football was just as irrelevant in our region as BAMA football was irrelevant to the entire nation.

Johnny Mack Brown was one of the first Southeast Alabama players to ever be named to the All-State team much less get a football scholarship to BAMA.  In these first thirty years of its existence, the BAMA team had never won a single championship in any league and only one player in its entire history had made All American: Bully Van de Graaff in 1915.  Johnny Mack Brown would have a tremendous impact upon changing not only the regional perception of Southeast Alabama football but also the national perception of BAMA football.

In February of 1926 a reporter for the DOTHAN EAGLE wrote that Johnny Mack Brown "is credited with doing more to advertise Dothan than any other individual." The same could be said about Brown's impact upon the nation's recognition of University of Alabama football. When the 22-man BAMA squad arrived at its hotel in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, the chairman of the selection committee greeted Coach Wade and told him that until Alabama Governor Brandon sent them a telegram urging them to consider Alabama they'd "never heard of your team." Johnny Mack explained the importance of the game years later when he said, "We were the first Southern team ever invited to participate. We were supposed to be kind of lazy down South- full of hookworm and all. Nevertheless, we came out here and beat one of the finest teams in the country, making it a kind of historic event for Southern football. We didn't play for Alabama, but for the whole South."

After Bama's victory, Ed Danforth of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION wrote, "The South will outdo itself in welcoming Mack Brown home. It should. He has written DIXIE all over California."
A Chinese philosopher once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For Johnny Mack Brown, it may be said that his personal journey to California began on Saturday, November 7, 1925, at Rickwood Field in Birmingham when he met actor George Fawcett who had been allowed to sit on the BAMA bench during the Kentucky game along with other Hollywood actors who were in town to make a film called MEN OF STEEL.  Fawcett told Brown, ”You ought to come to Hollywood, son, and have a try at pictures.”
Johnny Mack and the Alabama team got a step closer to California the next Friday night at the Exchange Hotel in Montgomery. It was the evening before Saturday’s game with Florida in Cramton Bowl. Coach Wallace Wade was in his hotel room when Champ Pickens came in for a visit. Champ had no official title but in 1925 this sports agent, promoter and advertising man acted as the Tide’s one-man athletic director, recruiting coordinator and sports information officer. Champ said, “Wallace, let’s go to the Rose Bowl.”
Wade’s reply was two words: “Let’s do.”
Champ described what happened next in his 1956 autobiography, A REBEL IN SPORTS:
“I knew he thought I was joking, but I grabbed ahold of the old phone hanging on the wall, and put in a call to Governor Brandon, an old friend. (ed. Note: Champ had been elected Alabama State Representative from Sumter County in 1922 after promising Budweiser’s August Busch that he would get elected so he could change Alabama’s Prohibition laws so Bud could sell their “near-beer” Bevo. Champ failed to get the law changed.)
‘Bill,’ I said, when I finally reached him, ‘I want to send a wire and sign your name to it.’
Without even asking for an explanation, he said, ‘Go right ahead, Champ.’
‘Don’t you want to know what it’s all about?’ I asked.
The governor only chuckled.
‘Forget the details,’ he said, ‘and lots of luck.’
I phoned Western Union that night and dictated the following message: ‘Speaking unofficially and without knowledge of the University of Alabama authorities, I want to call your attention to the Crimson Tide’s great football record this year. Alabama plays Florida tomorrow for the championship. Please watch for score. If you are interested in a real opponent for your West Coast team, then give Alabama serious consideration.’
It was signed W.W. Brandon, Governor of Alabama, and addressed to the chairman of the Tournament of Roses Committee, Pasadena, California.
Champ could not have had better timing. November of 1925 was the turning point for college football as well as for professional football in America. Suddenly, with Red Grange playing his last college game at Illinois and going pro, the word football was being spelled with the letters M-O-N-E-Y. College presidents and editors across the country were spilling all the ink they could get writing opinion pieces about how the commercialization of the sport threatened “Mom, Apple Pie and The American Way.” The cultural phenomena of “Red Grange” had made an invitation to the Rose Bowl “politically incorrect” but there was a big crowd of Crimson Tide supporters around Tuscaloosa ready to take advantage of this new opportunity brought on by the self- righteous academic attacks on college football coming from the Ivy League campuses.
BAMA had drawn a winning hand and all they had to do was take care of Florida and Georgia. Florida fell 34-0 in Cramton Bowl on November 14 and Thanksgiving Day saw Georgia collapse 27-0 in Rickwood Field. As the train returning the team to Tuscaloosa pulled out of Birmingham Terminal Station that evening, everything was coming up ROSES for the Crimson Tide but when the professional football contracts promising thousands emerged on the ride back to T-town, the celebration by the new Southern League champs with hopes of a Rose Bowl bid was replaced by the somber tones of a serious business discussion inside Coach Wade’s rail car.
Years later, in 1929, an enterprising sports writer intent upon helping Johnny Mack’s movie career wrote a wire service article using the headline, GRIDDER, LOYAL TO ALMA MATER, GETS MOVIE JOB. The article, which also ran with the headline GRID STAR TURNED DOWN $5000 BUT PICKED UP JOB IN MOVIES, went on to describe how Johnny Mack Brown’s loyalty to BAMA caused him to refuse to sign a pro contract on the train coming back from Birmingham that night after BAMA’s 1925 Thankgiving victory over Georgia. In the story, Johnny Mack turned down a contract to play five games for $5000 for a team of barn-stormers selected to play against a Red Grange led professional team. The story has a Hollywood ending with Johnny Mack sacrificing the money in order to play in the Rose Bowl and returns home to spend the summer selling insurance, not knowing that soon his name would be up in lights and he’d have a successful career on the screen. This story is probably apocryphal, however, there’s no doubt that big money was being promised on the train that night from none other than Champagne-Urbana, Illinois, theater owner C.C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle, owner of Red Grange’s All-Stars.
A far more accurate picture comes from Champ Pickens’ autobiography:
“No matter where I was or what I was doing, I kept an eagle eye on the football fortunes at Tuscaloosa. One season, right in the midst of a successful campaign, a big-time sports promoter, Charlie Pyle, hit the Alabama campus with a bundle of greenbacks and tried to lure Pooley Hubert away to join Red Grange’s All Stars. When I heard of this attempted piracy, I got ahold of Pyle and promised him a compromise. We arranged a meeting in a New York hotel room.
‘Charlie,’ I said, ‘I’ll see that Pooley (ed. Note: quarterback of the ’25 BAMA squad) signs with you for a post-season coast-to-coast tour if you will wait until the college season is over.’
‘All right,’ said Charlie, ‘But when BAMA finishes its season you agree to see that he comes with the All-Stars.’ ”
Champ successfully negotiated a contract that promised Pooley Hubert $5000 for ten games and Hubert went on to play the next year with the All-Stars.
One of the reasons Johnny Mack did not pursue a professional contract was due to the fact that he was getting married and he really did have dreams of making it in Hollywood. There are many unsubstantiated stories that Johnny Mack made a screen test during Bama’s 1926 Rose Bowl trip. There probably was no screen test made in Hollywood but what literally amounted to a screen test was the film of Johnny Mack and the teams’ return to campus in which it was very obvious that the motion picture camera was very kind to a 21 year old Johnny Mack Brown.
Again, we find the evidence for this is in Champ Pickens’ A REBEL IN SPORTS:
“Movies of the Rose Bowl Game were taken, and, as a means of recruiting new students, we showed them in hamlets, towns and cities throughout the state. We always closed by saying, ‘Come to the University of Alabama.’
Johnny Mack Brown, a regular big buster of a guy, with the profile of a matinee idol, stood out in the film. He photographed particularly well. One night, at a showing I thought particularly well. One night, at a showing, I thought to myself,  ‘That big, handsome lug ought to be in Hollywood.’
Johnny was earning outside money for school by selling insurance. I went to him and told him about my plan to get him in the movies. I’d be his agent. He agreed and we got on a train and headed for Southern California. (ed. Note: This was BAMA’s 1927 Rose Bowl trip where the team fought Stanford to a 7-7 tie and Johnny Mack served as backfield coach.)
Johnny’s screen test was a smash hit. They offered us a five-year contract, with options. I told him to sign. They put him in Westerns and he’s been making pictures since. How he could remember his lines I will never know. His memory was terrible. They called him ‘Dumb Dumb’ at Tuscaloosa because he had a hard time remembering football signals. Coach Wallace Wade, in fact, had to install the huddle system for Johnny’s benefit.
Once he got his signals straight, however, it was a case of Mr. Brown doing it up brown.
He needed no script to score touchdowns.”
Now, thanks to Champ Pickens, we all know “the rest of the story.”

SID SEGLER: "Robert, you may have seen this before, but just in case I'll comment on Johnny Mack again. Johnny Mack's Aunt Ada was the wife of Troy Lewis who ran the men's clothing store on N. Foster Street (I worked there part time over Christmas in the 11th and 12th grades.) My aunt, dad's youngest sister Mattie, rented her and my Uncle LeRoy Peacock's apartment in back of Troy and Ada's house. When I was in the 5th and 6th grades, she would call me when she found out that Johnny Mack was coming to Dothan to visit his aunt and uncle, then would come get me out of Highland school to spend some time with Johnny Mack Brown! BTW, she was in Johnny Mack's DHS class! Of course, I felt like a real wheel getting to spend time in person with a Hollywood star! Great memories for me!"

Champ Pickens: The Man Who Sold JMB To Hollywood

JMB in front of Dothan High. Miss Pelham is on the left.

The Brown's shoe store in Dothan.

JMB with is younger brother, David. (picture from THE GARGOYLE)

JMB in silent movies

from JMB comic book

Recently restored house built by JMB in Beverly Hills

Corolla picture

First spotted by Hollywood on the sidelines of the Bama-Kentucky game in B'ham
JMB and his wife. She was a Foster from Tuscaloosa

Corolla picture

Corolla picture
Corolla picture

 l. to r.: Leslie Howard, Will Rogers, Carole Lombard, Spencer Tracy, JMB













 VICTOR HUGO FRIEDMAN: Tuscaloosa businessman and the benefactor of the ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE during their rise to their FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

from Amos Tindall, bass player for THE WEBS:

"Hey Robert, you may find this interesting. When we (The Webs) played at the Old Dutch during the summer of 1962 we were shown a tunnel that was accessed from behind the bar which was on the left as you entered the building. It was a small door that was kept bolted behind the bar several steps down from the main floor. The tunnel went under Front Beach Road and continued on in the direction of the old Red Rooster Club across the street. The tunnel was blocked by a cave in due to construction in the area some years earlier. We were told by the owner Cliff "Papa" Stiles, who was from B'ham and had bought the Dixie-Sherman Hotel in downtown PC, (as you know) that, during WWII, German spies were dropped off on the Beach by U-Boats and they would come up to The Old Dutch and use that tunnel to go inland to a Safe House. Was Burghduff really 100% American?😎 Was Stiles kidding us? If so, what was the tunnel really for?"


Thursday, May 26, 2016

It is intellectually impossible to be dismissive of Dauphin Island's strategic importance in North American history. Dauphin Island's first 100 years make it the STRATEGIC FOCUS of an amazing story of how two Catholic countries reconciled their differences in order to try to stop the English. If fact, the entire history of the permanent establishment of civilization in the Gulf South began on Dauphin Island.

The first sentence of R.G. McWilliams' essay, DRAMATIC HISTORY OF DAUPHIN ISLAND:
"With the exception of Cuba, Dauphin is, historically, the most prominent and interesting island in the Gulf of Mexico."

The purpose of Iberville's first successful colonizing expedition to the northern Gulf of Mexico in 1699 was to discover and secure the mouth of the Mississippi River for France. Of course, the French intended to occupy the entire Mississippi River area, but their ultimate goal was to follow this river west to find the Northwest Passage, a non-existent waterway that could provide a short cut to China and Japan.

After finding that the Spanish had recently occupied and armed Pensacola Bay, Iberville's convoy sailed west and dropped anchor at Dauphin Island on January 31, 1699. This was the beginning of the French colony of Louisiana.

After discovering the mouth of the Mississippi in March of 1699, Iberville's first efforts to secure this strategic position was to build Fort Maurepas near present-day Ocean Springs. The translater of IBERVILLE'S GULF JOURNALS considered this to be one of Iberville's greatest failures.  "This was the day (February  4, 1699) of the best weather for sounding that Iberville had had at Mobile Bay; yet in sounding the waters from Sand Island to Dauphin Island, he made the biggest mistake of his first voyage to the Gulf.  He must have taken soundings on a straight line toward the east end of Dauphin, for he failed to locate the deep water between Pelican Island and Dauphin- a tight little harbor that three years later was to become the port when the French abandoned Fort Maurepas on Biloxi Bay and moved to Twenty-Seven-Mile Bluff. Pelican Bay would have been a far better anchorage than the Ship Island anchorage."

The French on Dauphin Island may have given up on finding a Northwest Passage to China but they continued to desire the products of the Far East. For this they attempted to establish trade with Veracruz. From Shorter's STATUS AND TRADE AT PORT DAUPHIN:
 "Chinese porcelain reached the New World predominantly via the trans-Pacific Manila galleon route to Acapulco, then across Spanish Mexico through Puebla to Veracruz, where goods were loaded back onto ships for the voyage to Spain..."

 "The most likely source [of Chinese porcelain] is Veracruz, which was visited at least 11 times by French colonists from Mobile during the first decade of the 18th century. In 1711, however, Spanish officials confiscated French merchandise arriving at Veracruz and effectively closed that important trade connection to Louisiana. Conveniently, this date coincides with the relocation of Mobile to its present site down river and with the building of the stockade on Dauphin Island."

September 14, 1712: A monopoly for commerce in Louisiana was given to Crozat and the only geographic place name in the entire contract is DAUPHIN ISLAND. Consideration was given to moving all fortifications to Dauphin Island due to its excellent anchorage which was then in present-day Pelican Bay. This harbor was 31 to 35 feet deep and Pelican Pass between Pelican Island and Dauphin Island was 21 feet deep.


The Oregon Question: Or, A Statement of the British Claims to the Oregon ...

By Thomas Falconer, 1845

"The first notice of the western boundary of Louisiana, of any authority, is in the grant made, September 17, 1712, by Louis XIV to Crozat. This grant empowered him 'to carry on exclusively the trade in all our territories by us possessed and bounded by New Mexico, and by those of the English in Carolina; all the establishments, ports, harbours, rivers, and especially the port and harbour of DAUPHIN ISLAND, formerly called Massacre Island ; the River St Louis, formerly called the Mississippi, from the sea-shore to the Illinois ; together with the River St Philip, formerly called the Missouri River, and the St Jerome, formerly called the Wabash (the Ohio), with all the countries, territories, lakes inland, and the rivers emptying themselves directly or indirectly into that part of the river St. Louis. All the said territories, countries, streams, and islands, we will to be and remain comprised under the name of  'The Government of Louisiana,' which shall be dependent on the general government of New France, and remain subordinate to it; and we will, moreover, that all the territories which we possess on this side of the Illinois be united, as far as need be, to the general government of New France, and form a part thereof, reserving to ourselves to increase, if we think proper, the extent of the government of the said country of Louisiana.' "

"This document defined with tolerable precision the province of Louisiana. It was partly bounded on the west by New Mexico ; it did not extend beyond the Rocky Mountains, for the rivers emptying themselves into the Mississippi have their sources on the east side of these mountains, and it was to reach the Illinois to the north. It was also declared that the government should be dependent on the general government of New France — that was, subject to the superior authority of the Governor of Canada."


The entire basin of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and much of the coast region of the Gulf of Mexico which were subsequently known as the Territory of Louisiana, were originally claimed by La Salle in 1682 for France by virtue of discovery and occupation. The area claimed on the Gulf extended west and south to the mouth of the 'Rio de las Palmas,' which was probably the stream now known as the Rio Grande. In 1712, France made a grant to Antoine de Crozat of the exclusive right to the trade of this region. Because this grant gives the limits of the vast region as they were understood by France, a part of it is here quoted: 'We have by these presents signed with our hand, authorized, and do authorize the said Sieur Crozat to carry on exclusively the trade in all the territories by us possessed, and bounded by New Mexico and by those of the English in Carolina, all the establishments, ports, harbors, rivers, and especially the port and harbor of DAUPHIN ISLAND, formerly called Massacre Island, the river St. Louis, formerly called the Mississippi, from the seashore to the Illinois, together with the river St. Philip, formerly called the Missouries River, and the St. Jerome formerly called the Wabash [the Ohio], with all the countries, territories, lakes in the land, and the rivers emptying directly or indirectly into that part of the river St. Louis. All the said territories, countries, rivers, streams, and islands we will to be and remain comprised under the name of the government of Louisiana, which shall be dependent on the General Government of New France and remain subordinate to it, and we will, moreover, that all the territories which we possess on this side of the Illinois be united, as far as need be, to the General Government of New France and form a part thereof, reserving to ourself, nevertheless, to increase, if we judge proper, the extent of the government of the said country of Louisiana.'
 This document indicates that France regarded Louisiana as comprising the drainage basin of the Mississippi at least as far north as the mouth of the Illinois and those branches of the Mississippi that enter it be low this point, including the Missouri, but excluding land in the Southwest claimed by Spain. It is, more over, certain that the area now comprised in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho was not included. Crozat surrendered this grant in 1717."


Baron Marc de Villiers.
A History of the Foundation of New Orleans (1717-1722).

LATITUDE must be allowed in the use of the term foundation, when speaking of New Orleans. According to the interpretation given, the date may be made to vary by six years, or even much more.
Since time immemorial, the present site of Louisiana’s capital had been a camping-ground for Indians going from the Mississippi to the mouth of the Mobile River. As soon as the French had settled on Massacre Island, that site became the customary landing-place for travellers on the Father of Waters. Wherefore the history of New Orleans might be said to date from the winter of 1715-1716, when Crozat demanded that a post be founded where the city now stands; or even from 1702, in which year M. de Remonville proposed the creation of an establishment “at the Mississippi Portage.”
And yet, a lapse of fifteen years, which might be almost qualified as proto-historic, put a check upon the Colony’s development. Then Bienville revived Remonville’s project. The Marine Board at last harkened to reason, and, in concert with the Company of the West, appointed, on the 1st of October, 1717, a cashier in New Orleans.
Land was not broken, however, until the end of March, 1718. Even then, work progressed slowly, owing to the hostility of settlers along the coast.
Dauphin Island's importance in the history of Illinois. The pioneer history of Illinois [prospectus] : containing the discovery in 1673, and the history of the country to the year 1818, when the state government was organized "Crozat established a trading company in Illinois. About this time, a considerable commerce was carried on between Illinois and the French in the South. We read of fifteen thousand deerskins, in one year, being sent from Illinois to Dauphin Island. Also flour and buffalo meat were sent to the South. Illinois in the year 1712 commenced assuming the character of a civilized and permanent-settled country. The villages of Kaskaskia and Cahokia were fast changing their Indian character for that of civilized communities. The clergy and the traders, who first located in the country, had with them associated other families and citizens that cultivated the soil and improved the country.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The historic origins of modern Tuscaloosa began prior to 1816, however, THE LEGAL ORIGIN of Tuscaloosa's story began 200 years ago this coming, October 4, when the signing of the TREATY OF THE CHOCTAW INDIAN TRADING HOUSE (located somewhere underneath the Sumter County side of the present-day Interstate 20/59 bridge) on October 4, 1816, EXTINGUISHED ALL INDIAN TITLE to all the land now within the boundaries of Tuscaloosa County.
In commemoration of this important bicentennial anniversary, I have reprinted my article first published in Old Tuscaloosa Magazine,
FRONTIER TUSCALOOSA- "Gettin' By On What We Had!"
When we review the progress of most endeavors, we usually find that the first years are always the toughest. So it was with Tuscaloosa. The story of the modern city of Tuscaloosa begins in 1816 when Indian title to this land was completely extinguished by the Treaty of the Choctaw Indian Trading House signed on October 4, 1816 at Strother Gaines' trading post on Factory Creek in Sumter County (Any archaeological remains of this old trading post were probably destroyed during the construction of the Interstate 20-59 bridge that crosses the Tombigbee.)
All of this good land for growing cotton lay vacant and enterprising heads of households from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia poured into West Alabama to prospect for the most fertile land from which to make their fortunes. For five years, from 1816 until 1821, progress in this remote back country was nil and the rowdy frontier town that haphazardly rose on top of River Hill faced continuous problems produced by a lack of land ownership and adequate transportation.

Every person who settled in Tuscaloosa was a "squatter" and many factors complicated the land situation, making it impossible for anyone to own land within the town's boundaries. Before any public land in West Alabama was offered for sale, the land that contains Tuscaloosa's original city had been reserved from entry. By an act of Congress which formed Alabama Territory ( called "Mobile Territory" in the original legislation) on March 3, 1817, all of the land that is now north of 15th Street between Queen City Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard was reserved for a town site. The earliest settlers in Tuscaloosa could not buy the land they lived on until it was surveyed. Even if they had the money to pay cash, our earliest pioneers could not obtain titles for the land they claimed. The town's survey did not occur until the spring of 1821. In the absence of property lines and titles, the frontier town with a population of between 600 and 800 sprang up in a climate free of almost any governmental authority.
William R. Smith, in his REMINISCENCES... , describes the rustic settlement of his childhood:
"...the place presented nothing as a village but a rude cluster of log huts, heterogeneously arranged, with little regard with regularity as to streets. My own very dim recollections open here in 1821. Even then there was scarcely a plank or brick in the village. It was full of shrubby little oak and pine saplings, and literally swarming with the native Indians. Here the red men resorted to trade and to drink, and here they came to exhibit their skill at their favorite sport of ball playing."
This form of field hockey appears to have been the predecessor of the Crimson Tide's present proud Saturday afternoon football tradition. An early Greene County newspaper includes this advertisement:
By a special appointment made by a party at the Choctaws
A grand DANCE and BALL-PLAY,
will take place on Saturday next, in the vicinity of this place, on which occasion
all choice players
will attend on that day!
The Captain of the party makes the following requests,which it is hoped, will be observed by the citizens and those who may attend, not to give gratuitously, or sell, to any of the Players or Indians of the nation, who may accompany him,
In their old age, many of Alabama's earliest settlers fondly recalled these spectacular athletic contests. General Thomas Woodward described the excitement of a Creek ball play in 1825:
"The old man(the Chief) then turned to his people, and said to them,... that every man must do his best-show himself a man, and should one get hurt he must retire without complaining, and by no means show anything like ill humor. The speech ended, about two hundred stripped to the buff, paired themselves off and went at it. It was a ball play sure enough, and I would travel further to see such a show that I would to see any other performed by man, and willingly pay high for it, at that!"

With such a large and idle illiterate population of American men passing through town on exploratory trips to the newly opened wilderness, Tuscaloosa was the frequent destination of professional gamblers. In a letter to his wife, Clarissa, William Ely expresses his disgust at Tuscaloosa's favorite vices:
"...they disipate their time and money and would their morals if they had any, without enjoyment, in lounging about taverns, stores, tipling and gambling houses, or making and attending horse races, cockfights, called chicken fights,shooting at a mark, hunting or fighting.
Notwithstanding such are their habits, I think them a very avaricious people. Money is their god and cotton is the idol of their devotions."

To say the least, Mr. Ely did not have a taste for frontier living. A successful businessman, this 53-year old Connecticut native was in Alabama because he had devoted his life to charity and philanthropy. Indian title in West Alabama had been extinguished and Ely came here to locate and sell public lands donated by Congress to the Connecticut Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. From its formation in 1815 until 1819, the asylum was supported by charity but in 1819, the U.S. government gave its support to this institution, the first of its type in our nation.
In 1819, Congress gave the institution an entire township, thirty-six square miles of public land. Ely came to Alabama because land was about to go on the market and he was authorized to buy thirty-six square miles of his choice in Alabama and then sell it to the highest bidder. Despite his highly critical letters about Tuscaloosa, he liked the area and considered it to be "a very healthy place." In fact he liked it so much that he bought four-and one-half square miles of land that spread out south of 15th Street and west of Martin Luther King Boulevard. In a letter to his wife dated "Tuscaloosa, 2nd June, 1821," Ely bragged that, "The population now may be from 6 to 800 souls, not one of whom,except a few to whom I sold land since I came here, have any title to the land they live on."
Tuscaloosans did not appreciate being hemmed in by a Connecticut Yankee, no matter how noble his cause may have been. He wrote to his boss, James H. Wells, Treasurer for the asylum about his fears in Tuscaloosa:
"My health is not very good, tho I am able to attend to business, but the constant care and anxiety I experience, both on account of my business and the hazard to myself, and the property in my custody among such a barbarous people, many of whom are incensed against me, and the confinement I find it prudent to subscribe to, never going out here unarmed; pray severly on my health and spirits and tender me quite unhappy."
William Ely knew the muddy streets of Tuscaloosa were filled with men who would love to give his Yankee ass a royal butt kicking.
It was not as if Tuscaloosa was populated with the criminally insane. These squatters were making a living in the wilderness without the support of any governmental agency. They lived here in spite of the government's laws and the government didn't have the guts to send troops to the Falls of the Black Warrior to burn their cabins and send these men of the forest packing.
Thomas Perkins Abernathy gave a great description of these citizens, "...the people of early Alabama farmed their patches of cotton and corn, lived a hardy, rugged life close to nature, were friendly toward their neighbors and hospitable toward strangers, made an honest living for themselves and their families, attended to their own business most of the time and only rarely had leisure to celebrate."
After crossing the Warrior River at Tuscaloosa on a flatboat in 1821, William Gilmore Simms commented on the people living in the surrounding area, "Like the people in all counties who live in remote interior situations and see few strangers who can teach anything, these people had a hundred questions to ask and as many remarks to make upon the answers. They were a hardy, frank, plain-spoken, unequivocal set who would share their hoecake and bacon, or take a fling or dash of fisticuffs with you according to the several positions of friend or foe which you might think proper to take. Among all the people of this soil good humor is almost the only rule which will enable the stranger to get along safely."
One leisure activity that lured our rustic predecessors was the barbeque. The folks who attended these congregations were greeted by neat rows of liquor bottles each handsomely adorned with a paper label which named the political candidate who furnished the rum and whiskey.

These fellows loved to horse around and they weren't blood thirsty, but they loved to get drunk and fight. William Ely, the cultured businessman from Hartford, Connecticut, did not appreciate Tuscaloosa's fondness for this "hardy form of sport":
"The highest and lowest classes in society, the one considering themselves above, and the other below the influence of public opinion, are much addicted to excessive drinking. And to have a reputation of being a brave, daring character, with property, whether with or without talents, learning or any other requisites for an office, will enable a candidate more surely to command the votes of the electors than all other requisite qualifications without it. And I am told that one of the representatives from this town actually fought himself into the legislature last year."
The center of the frontier town of Tuscaloosa is debatable but this author believes it was right across the street from where I now type this essay on the north side of the 2600 and 2700 blocks of University Boulevard. The late Matt Clinton states, "The first burial ground in what is now Tuscaloosa was the hillside at the northern end of 27th Avenue near 4th Street. Close to that spot were built the first Baptist and Methodist churches. The cemetery was north of the churches. It was destroyed when the cut of the L&N Railroad was made."
Simms says that, "The town was little more than hewn out of the woods. Piles of brick and timber crowded the main [street], indeed the only street in the place, and denoted the rawness and poverty of the region in all things which could please the eye and minister to the taste of the traveler. But it had other resources in my sight. The very incompleteness and rude want of finish indicated the fermenting character of life."
In his biographical information on Captain James H. Dearing, Mr. Clinton wrote:
"He [Dearing] came to Tuscaloosa on an exploratory trip during the first year of the town's existence, 1816. He stayed in a little 'shanty of a hotel' kept by Joshua Halbert [this hotel was located near the site of the old water tower, on the southwest corner at the intersection of 4th Street and 27th Avenue]."
William Ely describes the tavern where he stayed as Lewens Hotel and he states that this log structure was located across the street from a log cabin used as a Methodist Church. This was June of 1821, so possibly Halbert's establishment was being managed by Charles Lewin who was mentioned as the Tuscaloosa tavern keeper in 1842.
Ely describes Tuscaloosa as a " which contains twenty stores and little groceries or hucksters shops..." Written records on Tuscaloosa from between 1816 and 1821 are scant so William Ely's fifteen letters from Alabama are important documents. Acquired by the University of Alabama before 1950, these documents are a tangible witness to Tuscaloosa's earliest days. To sit in the Ganrud Reading Room at Special Collections and to hold and to read a fabulously detailed letter penned in one of Tuscaloosa's log taverns in 1821 is a profoundly moving experience.
When reading Ely, one main thing needs to be kept in mind. William Ely was accustomed to the finer things in life and he was miserable in Frontier Tuscaloosa. He complained to his wife that he was indeed "a stranger in a strange land," and was sick of his journey from the very beginning. A year before his letter from Lewen's Hotel, he wrote this on April 20, 1820:
"I am weary with traveling over mountains, thro' swamps and mud and living in the middle of piles of logs with no other windows than the large spaces between them (there not being a pane of glass to 5000 people in the country), of living on hog and corn with a few racoon, oh , how I long to return to a civilized and moral world." However, one year later, in 1821, Ely did discover panes of glass in some Tuscaloosa cabins and wrote that, "I have traveled about 240 miles south of the Tennessee River and except at this place [Tuscaloosa] have not seen a pane of glass in any house and I do not think there are as many panes of glass, as houses, in this place...They all live in dirty, small sod and mud cabins, or in those of a more mean construction, and are generally almost destitute of all the comforts and conveniences of life. Bacon, corn bread, or greasy hot half baked biscuits, about as often without, as with vegetables, with water, buttermilk and sour milk, constitute, with tea and coffee, for those that buy them, their general diet..."
Mr. Ely's inspection of his tavern's kitchen convinced him that Tuscaloosa did not meet New England's public health standards. He complained to his wife:
"The kitchen!! Oh the kitchen!!!! The filthiest place you can conceive of being occupied for cooking, is small, but contains two beds, in which and on the floor, from six to ten negroes of both sexes and various ages all unmarried sleep promiscuously."
Ely says that "The Methodist house is across the street from where I live- about three weeks since, under the pulpit, which is a coarse square box raised about two feet from the floor, a great old sow introduced to the light six or seven fine pigs. Whether the floor was even swept after it before the next meeting I could not tell as I could not discover that any dirt was missing and two or three times since when the people have assembled there the old sow with her pigs placed herself at the door and claimed and disputed for the right of possession and a person was obliged to go out several times and beat her away from the door."
Tuscaloosa's pioneer women did not escape Ely's poison pen: "I am told the females, ladies I should have said, have almost no taste or inclination for reading, mental accomplishments not being sought after by the other sex, are neglected by the females and their whole attention is directed to tricking off their persons in the best manner for catching a man to take care of, and support them, their courtships if they deserve the name, are generally very short, and on the part of the female at an early age, and there is generally very little of either sentiment or prudence in the connection between the sexes."
Ely was highly amused at the married ladies attempt at "high society." He wrote,"A coach with two or three servants, driving up, with three or four ladies, dressed in their crepes, cambricks, silks, laces, leghorns, lace veils, white or coloured kids, to one of these cabins, the ladies jumping out into the mud and clamboring, perhaps, over a dirty rail fence, and walking, sometimes over shoes in mud, to get to it, and then stooping to enter the door (as few of them are high enough to permit a man to enter without stooping), is a perfect burlesque on show and parade, on good sense and propriety."
In the summer of 1821, Ely left Tuscaloosa and never returned. During that summer, frontier Tuscaloosa and its shabby cabins and eight-hundred squatters came to an end. The Cotton Plant became the first steamboat to ever dock at Tuscaloosa. With Colonel John McKee opening a federal land office in town, men without capital were at the mercy of the men with the money. Many of the squatters moved into the back country. Abernathy describes them:
"Men of this class, being improvident by nature, did not come to seek wealth but merely to gain a subsistence or to enjoy the freedom of the forest. They built their simple cabins and planted their crops of corn between trees which they killed by girdling. Their greatest immediate problem was to live until the first crop was made, and here there was much difficulty."

Four years later, in December of 1825, Tuscaloosa was made the capital of Alabama and the little town at the Falls of the Black Warrior began to reap the fruits of its destiny.
The frontier and its people had vanished.
That rugged way of life would never return.