E.J. Beasley’s sketch of his life concluded

Published 1:17 am Saturday, November 26, 2016

“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 two thirds of the narrative were presented in the two previous columns, and the conclusion is shown below.

“About the year of 1890, I became interested in politics. This was when we had that hot contest between Colb and Jones. I am sure there are quite a few people who remember that campaign. Things were very unpleasant from a political standpoint for about four years. In 1894, I was elected to the Legislature. This was altogether a new business for me. There was no railroad in this county at this time, and we had to go to Evergreen by private conveyance to get to the train. I had never been to Montgomery but a few times and had never been to the Capitol. I was there on time. This was a very trying time for me. I did not find but three men in the legislation that I had met before, and you can imagine my embarrassment in a responsible position without any experience and no one to help me or show me how to do. I thought of what I had oftentimes heard ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’

“I had no certificate of election and not knowing how to get it, I noticed lots of men talking to a one-legged man with crutches, and I learned his name (it was Hassell), so I introduced myself to him and found that he wanted the job as door-keeper. I asked him where the secretary of state’s office was and he showed me. I found the secretary to be very kind and polite, and he asked me if I wanted my certificate, so he gave it to me, and I asked him if I could make his office my headquarters while in Montgomery. By this time, I was feeling better as I had my certificate. Directly the house was called to order and after the usual preliminaries, we took the oath of office. I decided I would surprise them, so I rose and addressed the speaker; the speaker says ‘Of what purpose does the gentleman rise?’ I made a move that the house adjourns until 10 o’clock the next day. My motion prevailed and then I began to feel fine. The members came to me and inquired who I was. They all seemed to be pleased with my motion. I soon found out that there were other men in the same fix I was and wanted to learn something they didn’t know. So, the next day we met and got organized and all committees were appointed. I was appointed on the Local Legislation and Temperance Committee and Public Road and Highway Committee. I began to think that everyone knew me and I was ‘Hot Stuff.’

“The third day came and I was there an hour and a half before anyone else came. I began to think they were the slowest crowd that I had ever met but after a while they got there and when the roll was called my name was third. I didn’t know they called the names alphabetically, but thought they thought of me among the first.

“Well, things passed off fairly well, but in a few days, the Governor was inaugurated, so the next thing was the inaugural ball. Then came the tug with me when I got home and found a note on the table written by a lady asking me to carry her to the ball. This seemed strange to me, so I asked my landlady about it. She told me that she supposed that it was customary on an occasion like that.

Well, when the hour came I went to the appointed place at the Exchange Hotel and called for the lady. She responded to my call, we went out and found a carriage waiting. We got in and away we went to the ball. When we got there, we saw a lot of people and then the music began, and the folks began to pair off. Directly my lady came to me. She had changed her dressing and I did not know her. She said that she was the one that I brought to the ball and was ready to dance. Now what a fix I was in. I had never seen a round-dance and knew nothing about dancing. I told her that she would have to excuse me as I could not dance. ‘Well,’ she exclaimed, ‘You a law-maker and cannot dance!’ The ball passed off very well, but I thought they were taking drinks a little too often, but we got home about two o’clock.

“What I did during that session is too long to tell right now, but if anyone would like to know they can go to the Courthouse and get the Acts of Legislation of 1894.I do not recall just when our courthouse burned but for a while we held court in the Baptist Church.

“There were no hotels or boarding houses in Andalusia and when we were summoned as jury men or witnesses, we would load on wagons with bedding and provisions and camp for the week of court. There was but a few houses here, one or two stores, two or three barrooms and a few dwelling houses. There was no railroad in this county and we did our trading at Greenville, Georgiana, and Evergreen, on the main line of the L&N. Our teams consisted mostly of oxen and it took three to six days to make a trip to market.

“Two years later in 1896, I was elected to the Legislature again. By that time, I had begun to realize the importance of my position.

“Before my first election there was one William Beck, who represented this county in the Legislature, He passed a law giving us locals option where each beat could hold an election to say whether we could sell whiskey in the beat or not. I don’t recall whether any beat voted out or not; only Beat No. 12 where the writer lived at the time, but when I went to the Legislature in 1896, I received a petition from the citizens of Andalusia Beat one asking me to pass a law prohibiting the sale of whiskey within five miles of Andalusia. This petition was about 300 strong, mostly ladies. I proceeded at once to prepare a bill, introduced it and got a favorable report from the Temperance Committee. When the Calendar called it up, it passed the house, went to the Senate, passed likewise, and became law. This was the beginning and the first fight against whiskey in Covington County. From that day till now, I have favored prohibition. When the county voted whiskey, it voted it out; the state and the nation is now a National law.

“Some people said if we took whiskey away that towns would go dead, but not so. See where we are today; right in the midst of a flourishing city. Then we have the city of Opp, Florala, Gantt, Red Level, all progressing nicely as cities and towns. I wish to show this comparison of today and the days I have described above when we had narrow roads with gullies almost to the courthouse and we could hear the screams of drunken men echoing from hill to hill. The ladies were afraid to go shopping in town for fear of meeting a drunken man. Now we have paved roads and sidewalks, and ladies can walk the sidewalk and drive in the streets without fear of being molested or hindered by any drunkards, and instead of barrooms, we have the well-equipped drug stores and barbershops where the ladies as well as men can meet. They have nice seats, and time can be passed away pleasantly.

“Then the cemeteries were grown as if they were fields and had pines growing over them. Now we have a nice, clean cemetery. All of this was accomplished by enterprising citizens who have been actuated by a progressive spirit, and sobriety.

“Now, Mr. Editor, I am proud of Covington County, am glad I am a citizen of this county and all we lack now, energy, man-hood and determination to educate our people along the lines of better citizenship, improve our methods of better farming by improving the lands.”

Written by Elijah Jackson Beasley and transcribed by Donna Fountain.

Anyone having a comment or 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 Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will be meeting for their annual Christmas dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Members of the Thomas R. Thomasson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and those interested in Confederate heritage are invited to attend. All are asked to bring a covered dish.