Remember when: Scrapbook tells story of E.L. More

Published 1:50 am Saturday, June 16, 2018

Recently, the Covington Historical Society received in the mail a magnificent professional quality scrapbook compiled under the guidance of Livingfield More of Franklin, Tennessee. Mr. More is the son of the late Mr. E. L. More who came to Covington County in 1898 with the railroad. He was president of the A & F Division of the L & N Railroad. He was responsible for overseeing the construction of the rail lines from Georgiana, Alabama to Graceville, Florida. This was very significant since transportation by the railroads opened up our area to nationwide shipping, and there was no need to depend on the river as the main route for commerce.

This scrapbook contained the Dedication Program of the 2008 event when the River Falls Bridge across the Conecuh River was named the E. L. More Memorial Bridge in honor and in memory of Mr. More who organized the River Falls Power Company in 1920 and brought low cost electrical energy to nine counties in South Alabama. This move brought industry into the area such as cotton mills, woodworking plants, underwear factories, building materials shipped in, and other sources of industrial development.

A booklet written by G. Sidney Waits also outlines the story of Mr. E. L. More who was so important to the early growth of Andalusia and Covington County.

More was impressed with all the Long Leaf Pine covered forest lands and recognized an opportunity in lumbering. He purchased a small sawmill in the River Falls area owned by Mr. G. B. Frierson and Mr. Cyrus O’Neal. From a small start, he developed a very large sawmill operation known as the Horse Shoe Lumber Company which provided employment for a large group of people.

According to Gus J. and Ruby R. Bryan, authors of Covington County History, 1821-1976, “During its hey-day, it required the services of some seven to nine hundred men to supply the 100,000 feet a day appetite of the first two big Horse Shoe mills. The first mill at the horseshoe bend was burned in 1907 and the second one was destroyed by fire in 1925.”

In the course of a few short years, More’s great lumber company grew in maturity to a significant size. It operated a logging railroad north and south of the main mill. A logging crew harvested much of the Long Leaf Pine that was so abundant along the Southern boundary just off Highway 29 South. This land is now a part of the Conecuh National Forest south of Andalusia. These lands also extended up and down the Conecuh River from River Falls.

“The late Bill Houston of River Falls who was an engineer on one of the long trains recalled the old railroad locations that wound through the thick swamps over which the giant Longleaf Pine logs were hauled,” Gus Bryan wrote.

Before that time the history of the county was confined almost exclusively to the back woods life of a wilderness. In a few years, farmer began to come in and take up the cut-over land to commence farming.

Mr. More was also interested in raising saddle horses which interest was typical of many men of that period in history. He maintained a barn and training track for his horses and employed a trainer. He used saddle horses as a mode of transportation as he was keeping up with what was going on in his timber holdings owned by the company which was about 50,000 acres.

E.L. More and Cryus A. O’Neal inspecting specimen long leaf yellow pine CIrca 1919, now part of the Conecuh National Forest.

Mr. More, a businessman and practical in every sense of the word organized the River Falls Power Company in 1920 immediately following World War I, referred to by many as the Great War. More was president, Cyrus A. O’Neal, a bank president, was vice president, and Mr. Henry Stanley was secretary. Because dams had already been built and hydro-electric power was in development, More and his company built the first dam at Gantt with completion on March 1, 1924 and later the Point A Dam which started operating on June 1, 1926. Lighting and power franchises were purchased and power was made available over a large territory from the Florida line to a point 75 miles north, and for a distance of more than 100 miles east and west near the heart of what is known as the Wiregrass Section of Alabama.

More also constructed the branch line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The cross ties were manufactured at the Horse Shoe Lumber Co. mill. He and his wife built a beautiful home in River Falls that was long noted for its old Southern atmosphere and hospitality. They often entertained house guests from Nashville.

In the Andalusia Star, March 7, 1924 edition, an article appeared that read, “Last Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock, something happened in Andalusia that possible passed unnoticed by most of our people. The current provided by the River Falls Power Company at its new hydro-electric plant on the Conecuh River near Gantt was turned into the lines of the Andalusia Light and Water Co. …and since that time has supplied all the city’s needs. All of this means that there is now available to the city, enough power to operate the industry of the city of several times our present requirement.”

It is my understanding that the power being steam generated in downtown Andalusia in the building we now call the Power Plant Marketplace built around 1904 was no longer needed. Power was now available for 24 hours a day instead of lights out around 10 o’clock and back on at 5 o’clock in the morning. The tall smoke stack marking the spot across from the present Three Notch Museum and adjacent to the old Andalusia Manufacturing Co. building was removed many years ago for safety reasons. There was a ladder that allowed a man to climb to the crest. A picture taken looking west toward the South Cotton Street area was once taken from that crest.

Waits wrote, “Some authorities give credit to Beaury Gantt for establishing the first small turbine electric generating facility in this county. Homer Gantt, an Auburn engineering graduate, established a generator at the Beaury Gantt wooden dam across the Conecuh which was in existence before the Gantt Dam was constructed. With that generator, he supplied his home and a few others in Gantt with electrical current until 10 p. m. each night.”

Gus Bryan stated that much of the data gathered for the history of the generation of electricity for public use in Covington County was gotten from Henry Peacock of Gantt, a former employee of the Horse Shoe mill and the City of Andalusia as well as B. B. Padgett who recalled traveling to Andalusia with his father in a wagon in the late 1800s.

In 1928 Mr. E. L. More took ill, and it was decided by the officers that the River Falls Power Company must be sold which was a sad time for Mr. More who had plans to acquire new counties and towns in South Alabama as customers for the electricity produced by River Falls Power Company. However, the sale was made prior to the 1929 flood which devastated the Horse Shoe Lumber Company operation. The mill site and all the structures on the banks of the Conecuh at the horseshoe bend of the river were flooded and washed away on that fateful day of March 14, 1929. It is remembered that prisoners that were leased from the State of Alabama to work at the mill who were kept in a compound area close to the old Commissary were heroes in helping rescue some from drowning.

Ultimately, the sale of the River Falls Power Company was a good thing for Mr. More in the long run for it removed the responsibility of rebuilding the plants at Gantt and Point A at great cost following the Flood of 1929. More and his wife returned to Nashville but returned to River Falls off and on until his death at the age of 66 years.

The scrapbook donated to the Three Notch Museum documents much of the history of the sawmill, the first of its kind to be built in the United States. Mr. Livingfield More, only son of Mr. E. L. More, acknowledges the professional skill of his assistant Jon Kinnard in preparing the volume.

At the time of the dedication of the bridge in 2008, a joint resolution was obtained from the Alabama legislature, thanks to the Honorable Seth Hammett, Speaker of the House, and Senator Jimmy Holley, acknowledging More as a great visionary in developing commercial quality power for South Alabama and major contributions being instrumental in the early industrial development of Covington County and surrounding areas.

We are grateful to Mr. Livingfield More for his donation of these outstanding pictures of the River Falls Horse Shoe Lumber Co. and adjacent structures and of the numerous woodland scenes in 1919 of what is now the Conecuh National Forest.

More writes, “This scrapbook, a collection of photographic history, Circa 1898 through 1934, brings to life the history of both the Horse Shoe Lumber Company and the River Falls Power Company some hundred years after the glory days of my father’s remarkable business acumen and vision.”

In conclusion, I quote the poetic Gus Bryan, “The deafening howl of the giant lumber saws, the hiss of escaping steam, the crash of falling timber are sounds that have been engrained deep into the memories of some of the older citizens of River Falls, named for a natural water falls in the run of the river between the site of the town and old Montezuma, the home of the great Horse Shoe Lumber Company.”

I Remember When the Brunson family would talk about the Flood of 1929 for years afterward. It is remembered that my paternal grandfather Charlie Brunson, the town baker in Andalusia for 45 years, would deliver bread by mule and wagon to the River Falls area and for a time would hand boxes of bread across shallow areas to Mr. Charlie Sellers who owned and operated a grocery store in downtown Red Level so the people up there would not go hungry.

Another story went like this – The Brunson Bakery made a regular daily delivery to the River Falls Commissary. Young Johnny Crenshaw would drive a load of baked goods by mule, “One-eyed Jack,” and wagon. Every day he would pass by a row of houses on the left side just past the railroad crossing on River Falls Road. He knew some of those young girls who lived there. On one occasion or maybe more, he simply motioned to the mule to keep on going toward River Falls without him, the driver. He decided to stay and visit his friends. When the mule and wagon arrived at the Commissary, the prisoners unloaded the baked items and turned the mule and wagon around heading the delivery back toward Andalusia. The mule was trained so well that he knew the route to go and come to the Horse Shoe Lumber Company! When the wagon passed back by, Johnny Crenshaw would jump back on and head back to town to the bakery. It wasn’t too long before Mr. Brunson heard about it!

Just those two memories I wanted to share with you readers! There were three written accounts I drew information from. Some dates may be a little conflicting due to a lack of more written details of the history. Be sure and visit the Three Notch Museum soon to see the scrapbook which contains additional pictures now available.


Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She may be reached at