More about E.J. Beasley: ‘I was like David Crockett’

Published 2:27 am Saturday, November 19, 2016

Life sketch of E.J. Beasley (second part) from The Covington News.

“The Life Sketch of E.J. Beasley” as written by him was printed in The Covington News beginning in 1925 in a series of stories. About a third of the narrative was presented in last week’s column, so a second third is shown below.

“Such conditions remained for quite a while after the war ended, which was April 1865.
Then cotton sold for 50 cents a pound, and my mother took the cotton out of her cotton beds and sent it to Evergreen, Ala., and sold it and bought salt and a few other things which we had lived without for so long.

“The nearest market for cotton was Evergreen (Transcriber’s note: this section of the paper was in the fold and some of the words are blocked. DF) and as we made very little cotton, our neighbors would carry it to market and sell it for us. With the produce of this, which never amounted to more than one bale, we would buy –Shows, Coffee, one barrel of… We made our own soap and I would be glad if some people had seen us. We would make an ash hopper, cut down oak trees and put them in the hopper and pour water on them and when we got them wet through, we would let them stand for a week and the water that dripped formed lye. We put the lye in pots and added lard we called soap grease, such as meat, meat skins and boil this in the lye to make soap.

“At that time there were but few slave owners in this county. Those owners moved from South and North Carolina and Georgia. One of the owners by the name of Bradley and one named Mitchell settled on Pigeon Creek, twelve miles west of Andalusia and another man named Ru—settled in Patsaliga, a few above River Falls. I suppose they owned altogether 150 to 200 slaves. These negroes were very settled and easily controlled, although some of them would run away until their owners would locate them and bring them back with the help of other men and dogs. They would then receive a severe beating every morning until they had –not to go away any more. Some slave owners made cotton before the Civil War and made their gins and ginned their cotton and stored it in little houses during the war to keep Yankees from getting it and when the war ended, sold the cotton for a few dollars.
“After the conditions begin to improve, the writer decided he would be better off if he had a wife, so in the year of 1869, I married and will state here that I was dressed in a suit of clothing that my mother spun and wove and made for me.

“I began keeping house with six homemade chairs, one homemade bedstead, which was held together with a long rope, one mattress. I got a pot, oven, frying pan and kettle, and a homemade table. This was my kitchen supplies.

“I rented land for three years, and then bought 160 acres of good land for $300. This I bought on credit, but I soon managed to pay for it, but we still had hard times. My wife would make the clothing and if we could get bread; we could get plenty of meat to live on. I soon found I was like David Crockett said, ‘I was better at raising a family, than a fortune.’

“People were very good to each other in those days. We would, in the spring of the year, cut up the logs in our fields and the men would get together and go from field to field and roll all the logs in the neighborhood. The ladies would go from neighbor to neighbor and help each other cook and do quilting and when we got through rolling the logs, we would frolic, as we called it. We would dance all night sometimes and part of the next day, if the fiddlers did not give out.

“After the Negroes were set free they would not stay with their owners and scattered about and lived with poor white people. Every man that owned a home got a Negro to stay at his place, and those Negros said that they were taught to steal, and in some instances, I think this is true. I remember a man got my mother to send me with him with her wagon and oxen to hunt some corn. We went to a man’s place by the name of Ashley. He was a slave owner and the man I went with was named Hinton. He came home from the army and found his family without anything to live upon, not even bread. When we got to Mr. Ashley’s, Hinton asked him for some corn and he told him that he did not have any corn he could spare him. He told him that he had been fighting for his Negroes and that his family was suffering and he had to have bread. He also told Hinton that he had divided until he had no more to divide. By this time, it was night and we started away but we did not get very far before we met a Negro. Hinton asked the Negro if he knew where there was any corn. The Negro told him there was some in a house in a field so Hinton told him to fetch some of the corn out to the wagon and he would pay him. The Negro brought several baskets of corn to the wagon and Hinton gave him a Yankee overcoat and a pocket-knife.

“After the L&N Railroad built their road from Montgomery to Tensaw Bay, twelve miles this side of Mobile, the traffic was carried across the bay by steam boat. The writer went to Mobile with some soldiers’ wives to see their husbands who were camping there. I remember crossing the bay in a steamboat called Mary Wilson. After the railroad was built there was a small route from Greenville to Andalusia by way of Oakey Streak and Red Level during the war, but this was discontinued and we had no way of getting mail in Andalusia. However, the citizens of Andalusia and along the road to Evergreen employed a man by the name of Riley Hitson to carry the mail from Andalusia to Evergreen. He arranged with my mother for me to carry the mail and worked in my place as I was lighter than he and could stand the trip on horseback better. This was our mail situation.

“I will always remember the old men who met me to get their mail. There was Judge Fletcher, Judge Snowden, Judge Jones, Judge Acree, and John R. Salter, all of whom have relatives living in and around Andalusia. After the war, there was a time when we did not have any mail at all. I will let you readers know how we lived in regards to doctors in those days.
“I do not remember any doctor except Dr. Cook who lived in Butler County, and Dr. Robertson of Brooklyn, Ala., and Dr. Cusher of Georgiana. They were all considered fine doctors in that day. In my neighborhood, when people got ill, we had to go fifteen or twenty miles to get a doctor, then often the doctor would be away, and we would have to return without even seeing him, and when we got back the patient would either be a great deal better or dead. My mother helped quite a bit in nursing. She would send to town and get a lot of blue mass castor oil, spirit of turpentine, and quinine, besides this, she grew several herbs in her garden among them catnip, perennial tansy and horsehorn. She would use them for tea and was very successful with her patients. She died in the year 1875 and was greatly missed by her friends.

“In those days we did not grow anything for a money crop. Commercial fertilizer was not known. We would cut and hew timber, raft it down the river and go to Pensacola and sell it. There were lots of public lands in Covington County with a great abundance of timber, and the people used it until the government passed a law against it.

“It was about 1885 before people began to grow cotton, using commercial fertilizer and improved along this line a great deal. For a while the price of cotton was below normal and stayed that way for a long time.”

There will be one additional segment presented in next week’s column. Again, appreciation is expressed to Donna (Chism) Fountain for transcribing the stories and making them available for this column.

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