Remember When: Early Andalusia historian B. B. Padgett
Published 2:30 pm Friday, July 21, 2023
It has been my good fortune to run across articles of Andalusia history written by Mr. B. B. Padgett who penned various histories in his day including First Baptist Church history. Let me tell you about Bertie B. Padgett who grew up 11 miles from Andalusia. Gus Bryan in his 1976 Covington County History stated that Padgett moved to Andalusia in 1916. Padgett had a great memory and recalled traveling back and forth to Andalusia with his father on a wagon in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In 1952, Padgett was honored at a dinner staged in the Scherf Memorial Hall celebrating his retirement from the post office after 40 years as a rural mail carrier. A Covington County native, Padgett was born near the Conecuh Church on RFD 1, the route which he served for so many years as a mail carrier.
Using a horse and buggy, Padgett entered the postal service on November 16, 1912. His first mail deliveries were on the Falco route. He transferred in 1916 to the Andalusia office and began carrying mail on Route 1 where he remained for another 36 years. During those years, he averaged using one automobile a year. In his last 20 years, he traveled an average of 25,000 miles per year.
The mail carriers of Andalusia were in 1915 said to be the first motorized unit in the state of Alabama. The five cars for the five Andalusia routes were Model T Fords. Jim F. Brawner was the Postmaster.
Padgett and his wife, the former Miss Melissa Lundy of the Salem Community, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1960. A “golden” reception was held at their home on 211 Second Avenue hosted by their grown children Cecil and Frances.
Padgett remembered an event which happened on the Conecuh River when he was a child of about eight years. There was a promotion at the time to secure federal funds for a nine-foot channel in the river to bring river transports from Pensacola to Andalusia. For years logs had been rafted downstream to Pensacola by the logging crews.
A steam boat, a small river boat, about 44 feet in length that had twin smokestacks and was propelled by a giant paddle wheel got stuck. The pilot house was high up front where the helmsman could be seen steering the craft. Above the cargo deck were quarters for passengers and crew. Progress up the river was very slow because crew members had to cut overhanging trees to allow passage of the tall black smoke stacks.
Padgett said the situation was talked about for years. He did not know whether the boat was hauling cargo or was making an experimental run. There were no docks in the area to handle incoming cargo, old timers recalled. It was an amazing event for a young boy to eye the steam boat tied up at what was known as Padgett’s Cut-Off where the shoals prevented it from reaching River Falls. In later years when Padgett would tell the story he described as “incredulous,” he stated that it was the only steam boat he ever heard of coming almost as far up as River Falls on the Conecuh.
The next Remember When column will include one of B. B. Padgett’s stories about the founding of the Montezuma Community on the Conecuh River, “the seedling from which Andalusia and Covington County have grown to its present status.” He stated that “many persons have little or no knowledge of its significance or importance to the people of the Andalusia area.” He further wrote that he hoped he had written some things that could be of interest to the casual reader. That was very well stated since that is this writer’s hope as well.
Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, former choral music teacher and local real estate broker, is a long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at email@example.com.