E.J. Beasley’s life sketch: A series in the News

Published 12:21 pm Saturday, November 12, 2016

Recently Donna Fountain posted a transcription she had done of a story printed in 1925 in The Covington News.

Since the author of the story, Elijah Jackson Beasley, was featured along with his family in last week’s column, his description of life during those days is presented in today’s column.

His stories entitled “Life Sketch of E.J. Beasley” appeared in a series of articles beginning in April 1925.

The narrative is shown as it was written by the author and as it was transcribed by Donna Fountain.

“I am offering you a brief sketch of my past life. The writer of this article was born in Butler County, Alabama, within three miles of where the town of Georgiana now stands, in the year of 1849; twelve years before the Civil War began.

“My father died when I was only two years old. He left my widowed mother with seven children.

“Before his death he bought a farm in the fork of Persimmon and Panther Creeks; it was a fine piece of land and produced fine crops, but the raccoons and squirrels would eat the corn and sometimes the bears would help them.

‘We could not save any peas for the deer and turkeys would get them.

“In the year of 1857, my mother sold this home, preparatory to going to Texas.

“This was before there were any railroads farther south than the city of Montgomery.

“My mother got one man by the name of McPherson (and I will state right here that this man was the father of James McPherson, who is now engaged in business with A.M. Riley, Druggist).

“Mr. McPherson could not get his business in shape to make the trip that year, but he told my mother if she would wait until next fall, he would go with her to Texas.

“She rented a farm that year and waited for him, but the next year, Mr. McPherson changed his mind and my mother decided it too long a trip to make with one team and seven children, so she abandon the idea of going to Texas.

“After we gathered the crop that year, I went to school and my teacher was Mr. Tom Brown (father of Mr. Tom Brown of Brown & Broughton Drug Store and Mrs. N.S. Cooper and Miss Jennie Brown).

“I wish to state here that our teacher was one of the best-informed men of that day and time.

“He lived at that time where the little town of Owassa now stands, on the L&N Railroad in Conecuh County, Alabama.

“He was one of the best-informed men regarding location of land and giving numbers of land there was in the county.

“People would go for miles to Mr. Brown to get the correct numbers of land, when they wanted to enter land.

“He could always give them the correct number no matter where the land lay in Conecuh County.

“Mr. Brown had three or four children that went to the same school: William Brown and Daniel Brown and one daughter who married Dr. W.R. Smith and now lives at Red Level, Ala.

“When my mother abandoned the idea of going to Texas, we came to Covington County and bought land three miles from Red Level on Pigeon Creek.

“This was the year of 1859.

“Two years later in the year of 1861 the Civil War began and my oldest brother enlisted in the Army.

“I was 12 years old at that time, and when my brother left there to go to the army, he left my mother, four sisters and one brother, two years younger than I, and myself.

“This was the beginning of hard times for us, as we lived on what we made and made all the clothing we wore.

“My father had made my mother a loom and two spinning wheels, so my mother and sisters spun and wove cloth and made all of our clothes.

“My younger brother and I tanned cow hides and goat skins and made our shoes.

“We did this for 10 or 12 years, and I wish to say that during the Civil War we had hard times and it lasted several years after the war ended.

“During the war we made hats of palmetto and pine straw and some of them looked real good.

“We had no sugar, flour, or coffee whatever and our salt gave out and we would build ash-hoppers and dig up the smoke houses and put it in those hoppers and pour water on it till the water ran through and catch it as it dripped out and boil it down and make salt that way.

“Later we would make up a crowd and take wash pots and go to the bay and make salt for our use.

“ Now, I state that water in the bay will not make salt.

“We would dig holes in the sand on the beach and the water would seep into those holes and would make from 10 to 15 percent salt.

“This made hardly enough for table salt, and in the spring of 1865 on the 22nd day of March there came a raid of Yankees or a gang of Southern deserters through the county and treated the people shamefully.

“They came to our place and took the horses and all our meat and broke all the guns on the place and plundered all the trunks and a large chest my father made and took the money that my mother had saved and all the land deeds and valuable papers.

“We thought that we’d been having hard times before, but it was nothing compared to what followed.

“We lived from the 22nd of March until the next winter without a pound of meat in our house, only when a neighbor would kill a beef and send us some.

“There was no meat, no coffee, no sugar.

“We lived on cornbread alone.

“We had no guns or ammunition to even kill a squirrel and the squirrels were so numerous that we had to gather our corn early in the fall to keep them from eating it.

“My mother would have me stay in the field from early morning until night to keep the squirrels and turkeys frightened away.

“The wild deer would eat our field peas at night so badly that we could hardly save seed for another planting.

“After the war ended, three of my sisters married ex-Confederate soldiers.

“They had very little toward keeping house with, but they knew how to work and they lived somehow.

“We had no schools until they could be reorganized, and a few people would get together and hire a teacher.

“One conducted by Mr. James Mancil was in our neighborhood.

“I went there a short while.

“He married a Miss Wadkins, and he is now living with her two sons three or four miles below Andalusia on the old Three Notch Road.”

A break in the E.J. Beasley’s stories is made here, and the remaining segments will be continued in future columns.

It is fortunate that citizens such as Elijah Jackson Beasley took the initiative to record life as it was in South Alabama during his lifetime.

Appreciation is expressed to Donna (Chism) Fountain for sharing her transcription of his story for this column.

Anyone who might have a question regarding this column is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.




The Covington Historical Society will be having their annual Thanksgiving dinner meeting on Thursday, Nov.17, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Guests are welcome, and all members are requested to bring a favorite “covered dish” for the dinner.