Southern Belle's History

History from a southern belle.

Look for it!

Want more History and perhaps a good ghost story from Alabama? Look for Haunted Auburn-Opelika, a book published by History-Press, releasing October 2011!

Advertisements

January 16, 2011 Posted by | History | Leave a comment

50th Anniversary of the USS North Carolina

Look forward to this year at the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina! 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the ship and to celebrate the year will be full of fun, including opening up of parts of the ship never open to the public before, Summer festivals, a Fourth of July Extravaganza and fireworks show, and a commemorative ceremony in October. If you happen to be near Wilmington, visit the ship today! They do tours all day throughout the week, it is truly a remarkable piece of history.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | History | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Slave Narratives

If you are interested in a great read, full of rich culture and told first hand by the people who endured slavery. Read “Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves”, a Federal writers’ project. You can read them on http://www.Ancestry.com, they are well worth the read As historians, we must read the harsh truths of the past to keep from repeating the mistakes made in the future. Some of the interviewees are so full of spunk and it is quite an enjoyable read, as well as informative to know how much slavery influenced our culture, especially where I live in the South.

January 1, 2011 Posted by | History | , , , , | Leave a comment

One Man’s Last Stand

Four Million, seven hundred thirty four thousand, nine hundred and ninety one men of the United States enlisted in World War One, one man was left standing. This man has fought for what is rightly theirs, a monument in Washington D.C., honoring the one hundred sixteen thousand five hundred and sixty one (116,561) Frank Buckles at 16who lost their lives.

Frank Buckles is now one hundred and nine years old. He was born in Missouri and enlisted in military at age 16. Although he was not old enough, Buckles had a calling, a calling for honor and pride and so he told his recruiter he just wasn’t going to bring his family bible down to the recruiters office to show his birthday, that the man would just have to take his word for it, and that is what he did. Buckles served upon the Carpathia a ship used as a US troop ship during the war and later famous for rescuing passengers from the Titanic. A determined individual, Buckles wanted to be in the action in France. He was captured by the Japanese and spent two years in a Prisoner of war camp.(1)

As a member of the WWI Memorial Foundation, his bravery and honor during the war continues  and his last stand is to lobby for a WWI veterans memorial in Washington D.C. Surprisingly enough, and to many people’s dismay, there is no memorial for these brave soldiers. There is a memorial that is in dis-repair for the veterans of  of Washington D.C., but not for the rest of the 4 million. Buckles has been fighting for this memorial for years, and despite all his political recognition by senators and presidents alike, his dream is yet to be realized. As of 2006, Buckles was only one of seven veterans still alive from WWI and it is feared that without this man’s constant battle, this may never come to pass.

As historians, it is up to us to keep the memories of these soldiers alive. This war was meant to end all wars. Although it failed in that regard, whole generations were lost all over the world to fight this battle. Our cultures and our education were shaped by these men, not just in America. This war shaped continents. We must not let this man’s dream go unnoticed.

Consider the global impact of this war. India, Asia, the Balkans, Russia, Italy, America, Germany, Belgium, France, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Mesopotamia, Serbia, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Ireland, Transylvania, Bucharest, Poland, the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, just to name a few countries involved in this war.  Should these men go unnoticed; or forgotten and left by the wayside because they have passed away?

Particularly in the Southern United States, if you stopped the every-day citizen on the street and asked them the name of a General in the American Civil War, they would immediately say Robert E. Lee. If you asked that same person to name a general in WWI, they would not be able to name one so quickly. These veterans of World War One deserve the same respect and honor. Let us all stand along side Frank Buckles and see his dream come true before he is gone. He is our last American WWI Veteran. On this memorial day weekend especially, let us honor one man’s last stand.

sources: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/frank_buckles; http://www.frankbuckles.org; lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp-stories/loc.natlib.afc2001001.01070

To help Mr. Buckles please visit his website at http://www.frankbuckles.org.

May 23, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Harrisons Graveyard Kinston, Alabama

Dance Grancer dance they say; tap, tap, tap and play and before the sun begins to shine lay on your feather-bed so fine.

William “Grancer” Harrison was born in 1789 in Edgefield County, South Carolina moving to Kinston, Alabama in Coffee County. Grancer was a cotton farmer with about 2500 acres that he farmed. He lived in Kinston with his wife Nancy Justice Harrison and his ten children until his death in 1860.

He was loved dearly by his family, friends, and slaves. Grancer is a nickname William got from his slaves because he was a great dancer. Grancer had a dance hall built where they would hold dances and Grancer would clog and play his fiddle. Once Grancer passed, he was laid to rest in his large grancer1988feather-bed, enclosed by Florida bricks, wearing his finest suit and his clogging shoes. After he died the dances dwindled to a stop and the dance hall was eventually torn down. But that is just half of the story.

It was rumoured Grancer was buried with riches a plenty and in 1964 vandals blew up his large vault with dynamite to no avail. No gold was present and they only accomplished sending Grancer’s remains flying. His tomb was broken into several more times because the rumours never squelched. It was said his family reburied his remains underground as late as 1996.

It has also been reported by many that if you go to Harrisons graveyard, you may some times hear fiddling and tap dancing. From my own observance, what I have found at Grancer’s is a broken tomb of bricks with a large gaping hole filled with only dirt and a creepy old abandoned building on the property complete with graffiti and dark-magic or satanic emblems on the walls, although I have been told the building has been torn down since I last visited in 1996. It is unknown if this was the old dance hall once spoken of. 

Absolutely Harrison’s has a strange and eerie feel to it; but mostly the life of a good man has been overshadowed by a good ghost story. Harrison’s was featured in the book 13 Alabama Ghost Stories and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham again focusing on the stories and escaping the accomplishments of the man. Perhaps the story is a way to keep the memory alive of Grancer, at least for his family’s sake.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , | 6 Comments

The USS North Carolina is Still Alive

As I pulled into the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, I peered through the spots of rain on my windshield and saw The USS North Carolina and it  beckoned me to take a closer look and I nearly wrecked as I stared down the massive guns aboard.  I pulled in the parking lot and stepped outside to breathe the wet air of Wilmington.  Before me stood what I can only describe as a imperial mastodon; cloaked in steel and stamina.

I met the night watchman, looking more frail than his photographs may have eluded; but none the less Mr. Danny Bradshaw knew his way around this American mistress.  As I followed him throughout the ship, he turned the lights off for the night, and the ship began to feel as cold as its bowels. We walked along never ending hallways, narrow stairs, and dark passages; this ship began to speak to me.

At night the sounds aboard the bowels were as if it was still alive.  Literally the sounds of doors shutting would echo down the corridors when no one was aboard to shut them. Cracks and pops were heard and I had terrible feelings of dread near sick bay.

It told the stories of those aboard. How they lived their daily lives and you cannot forget that this beast was at war. The photos on the walls told of wounded soldiers stacked threehigh in sick bay and of the cereal they ate, three meals a day to discourage faking ill. It told of the late night card games and ice cream by the mail room… and it told a darker tale.

Deep below in the chasm of the ship was a wound. A deep penetrating wound of a torpedo that hit September 15, 1942, killing six of her men and damaging her strong ego. Understand that the North Carolina, built in New York Harbor in 1939, it seemed impermeable to the enemy.  In one battle along along side a sister ship the Enterprise earlier that same year, the North Carolina’s volume of anti aircraft weapons led the Enterprise to inquire if they were on fire. It appeared that nothing could touch it yet its vain psyche could not prevent its damage. Alas, this ship did not go down. She continued to fight and conquer until decommissioned in June of 1947 and turned into a museum for all to enjoy, mourn the deaths of its men and women, and pay honor and respect to the veterans who called it their home.

The deck

Courtesy Alabama Paranormal Research Team

Courtesy Alabama Paranormal Research Team

itself was just as impressive as the bowels (and the air fresher).  The beautiful city lights of Wilmington behind, the impressive guns shadowed over my head and lined the port and starboard side every few feet.  The fascination of its power was mesmerizing and affecting.  To see it laid to rest as a memorial almost seemed a shame. 

I looked down at the alligator who swam below and thought this ship’s shadow should be bearing down upon the enemy and not on the historical town of Wilmington. My conclusion was it earned its resting place. Safe from the gripping hands of war and still alive for all to see.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rawls Hotel: A Historical Beauty

Courtesy of the Rawls Hotel

Courtesy of the Rawls Hotel

Founded in 1903, the McGhee Hotel was a two story stucco building built across from the busy railroad of Enterprise, Alabama. The hotel was built by Captain Japheth Rawls and his wife Margaret, and it was the first hotel of Enterprise.

Japheth Rawls was a prominent businessman of Enterprise, owning a cotton gin as well as a turpentine plant.  Later, Rawls changed the name of the hotel to the Rawls Hotel and remodeled the outside to match his boasting personality.  After his death, Rawls left the hotel to Jesse Rawls and his wife whom also kept up the grandure of its beauty.

Over the years, the hotel has changed hands many times, but its beauty stands firm and is matched to no other in Enterprise.  Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, the Rawls is still going strong as a productive societal landmark.  Its ballroom hosts the grandest of Enterprises weddings and a ball named for the hotel itsself. 

Perhaps the fame of the hotel does not come from its grandure and beauty, but from the ghosts that supposedly walk the halls.  A proud man, believed to be Captain Rawls himself has been known to oversee the events at the hotel as well as a governing lady, one would assume is Margaret.  It has been reported as well that children are heard in the halls close to the kitchen.

Rawls Hotel is engrained with deep history. It has stood the test of war and depression and is just as much a part of Enterprise as it was when it was a small railroad town along an unbeaten path.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pine Hill Cemetery Auburn, Alabama

University_Chapel_at_Auburn_Resting aloof in the heart of Auburn’s City, close the the campus of Auburn University, this wrought iron gated cemetery holds the key to the heritage of many Auburn Residents.  Pine Hill Cemetery is the resting place of many of Lee County’s Residence. Its inhabitants in life were full of  pride for the great state of Alabama. Many who lie there died at the hands of a gripping war for Southern Independence, and they did it with honor.

What was the East Alabama’s Male College’s “Old Main”(1) building, only two blocks from the graveyard, was in Civil War times a hospital.  It stood where Auburn University’s Samford Hall now stands.  Formally named Texas Confederate Hospital, it was the healing site of many Texas soldiers stationed here in Alabama.  Old Main, the building behind it, and the University Chapel were used to house wounded soldiers.  There was little action here except during “Rousseau’s Raid”; a march across the south by a Union General Lovell H. Rousseau in 1864.  During the Raid, General Rousseau and his troops burned most of Central Alabama and nearly every inch of Lee County, Alabama and the bodies that came out of Texas Hospital were plenty. Once a soldier had passed, they took the bodies of the soldiers and stacked them across from the hospital where Samford Hall  now stands(2).  Many of these dead found their eternal resting place in Pine Hill Cemetery.

One of the graves is of a woman. Her tombstone reads that she had four brothers and a husband in the war. After the war, she raised her four sons alone, but she stayed strong and was proud to be a part of the Confederacy.  Most of the stones you find of women in the cemetery talk about the pride of the Confederacy and the pride of being Southern. 

Each year on Confederate Memorial Day, the Daughters of the Confederacy bring flags and pay homage to their great great grandfathers and grandmothers.  Just recently Pine Hill has become a site of controversy with one of the local councilman being offended by the flags and taking them off the graves.  It seems that this war is truly still alive in the hearts of Southerners. Wounds of the past just cannot seem to be undone.  Such bad light had been shown upon the Confederacy over the years that it has come to be synonymous with Racism. But many in the South will disagree.  To these persons, these men who lie in this cemetery stood for so much more.  They stood for honor and glory, heritage and family. 

Pine hill is slowly being swallowed by the fast pace of the growing city of Auburn.  For now, stepping  through those iron gates, the world changes to  1865.  The cars all but fade away, the yellow hammer sings a song; the confederate flag whips about, and  “Dixie” is heard on the wind.

(1) www.wikepedia.com , (2) www.alabamaghosthunters.com

May 13, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Covington County Jail

Hank Williams Sr

Hank Williams Sr

Added to the National Historic Register in 1989, the Covington County Jail sits behind the newest court house in Andalusia, Alabama. Mostly used from 1900-1949, this jail housed inmates from one nighters to the most seasoned murderers.                                                                                                                                                          

One of it’s visitors was Hank Williams Sr., the famous country music singer.  According the the Andalusia Historical Society, Williams was playing at a local bar in Andalusia and left his son, Hank Williams Jr. in the car while he did his show.  Apparently, someone called the police and Williams Sr. was taken into custody for Drunken Disorderly and Williams Jr. taken by the child protective services for the night.                                                             

Covington County Jail was also involved in one of the few cases of Marshall Law in the State of Alabama.  December 6, 1901, Sheriff Bradshaw and Governor Jenks contacted the Greenville National Guard and warned them of a pending riot totalling about four hundred men on the jail after twenty five black men were arrested for the murder of a merchant and a US Marshall in Opp, Alabama, Andalusia’s sister city. The mob never made it to the jail, but they left four men dead in their wake, killing three black men in Opp and tying another to a tree and setting him on fire.                                                           

It seems as though this jail housed many killers in the early days and at least three of those instances, a law enforcement officer was killed. One of these men, Reuben Alford confessed to a murder of a Forest Ranger Will Turbeville September 1, 1934. Forest Ranger W.E. Jordan was already serving a twenty five year sentence for the crime along with two other men.  These three were released after this confession and two other men arrested and charged along with Alford.                                                                             

Covington County Jail was riddled with whispers of intolerable cruelty to inmates as well as corruption in the ranks of the County Sheriff’s office over the years.  There have even been claims of murder of inmates trying to tell their stories.   (There were never any formal charges brought on any ranking official in Covington County.)                                                                                         

 The jail now sits quietly hidden away with the courthouse to the left and a cemetery to the right. Its lead based paint is peeling away and the black mold is just beginning.  The floor is riddled with old crime scene photos and boxes of old cases, tucked away from prying eyes of the public.  There is a looming sense of something remaining, a wisp of something walking by you in the hall. Perhaps it is the ghosts of the past, too tied to this place to leave -or too scared. Or perhaps it is just the creepy feel of an empty jail with rusty stairs.  Either way, the Covington County Jail is fading away and, without intervention, will soon be a forgotten piece of the past; taking its misery and murderers with it.

www.ancestry.com

May 7, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saving Spring Villa

Spring Villa, a mid 19Th century home build by Horace King. King was the former slave of John Godwin, father-in-law to home owner William Penn C. Younge. King was a prominent bridge builder and architect who took it upon himself to take in Godwin’s family as his own due to his fondness for his old master and friend. (Incidentally, King also was attributed to building parts of Bryce Mental Institution in Tuscaloosa, AL under the contracts of Robert Jemison, Jr. who the Jemison Center at Bryce was named after). The home has incurred its own legendary status, surpassing the true beauty of the home and the Genius of King’s masterpieces.
The legend of Spring Villa states that Penn Younge was a cruel slave owner and one night a slave hid in the niche of the staircase and decapitated Younge on the 13Th step. (Strangely enough, Alabama Paranormal Research Team has caught recorded sounds of something rolling down the stairs.) Younge is said to haunt the mansion to this very day. In a book about Horace King there is a mention of this legend and states it is false and that Younge died of old age eleven years after the supposed incident; although, the mansion does seem to be haunted. Alabama Paranormal Research Team has extensive recordings of a little child’s voice stating such things as “I want my mommy.” as well as a male’s voice with unsavory and belligerent tones. (APRT would like to express no one has ever been harmed in the home and stands firmly that the home should not be feared by any visitor.)
The land itself is filled with its own history. Native Americans were known to frequent lands filled with high natural minerals and we know the land Spring Villa was built on was used by the Uchee Creeks as a home (before it was settled on by Younge) due to its high energy fields generated by the quartz crystal that fills the land. Across from the home and about 800 yards to the west are mounds left behind by the Creek. Incidentally, APRT’s very own John Mark Poe is credited with the discovery of the mounds 800 yards west of the land. Interesting tidbit: Lee County Creeks were the ones who named the town Opelika meaning “Little Swamp”. APRT has gotten evp’s (electronic voice phenomenon) close to Younge’s grave site, which is across from the house about 100 yards in the wood line. Even in the house EVP’s could have been Native American. One sounded like a woman, mimicking the voice of our Co-Founder Cassie Clark saying “Umaneech’ho” (roughly). Since the Uchee language is all but dead, only spoken by a minute few and never written, it is impossible to translate. The closest we have been able to discern is OmeNuce’ which is “we sleep here.” Rarely do all members of APRT visit the mounds. For many reasons, such as feelings of dread, strange occurrences after visiting, and the unexplainable events of no birds, frogs, or even bugs being heard around the mounds. Call it superstition, but even professionals can get the “heebie geebies”!
On the land is a where the swimming pool is now, used to be old slave quarters. About 50 yards away is an old “cooler” they used possibly to store meat and other products, cooled by the underground spring that still flows freely there. There, APRT has recorded more Native American Voices and received many readings on the Tri-Field meter. A Tri-Field is a meter that shows electromagnetic fields, and once man-made fields, such as power lines are ruled out, any reading you receive may be paranormal.
Most recently, APRT has discovered documents showing the untimely death of young girls where a lake once was on the land. The girls were dressed in their Sunday best and were traveling from one side of the pond to the other when their boat sank and the girls drown. This explains the constant voices of children upstairs at the house.
This land is an enigma, layers upon layers of past energy, stored in the minerals that lay upon the ground. Any emotion left by slaves, campers, masters, children, visitors-a-plenty seems to stay imprinted somehow. The home a masterpiece of an architectural genius is slowly dwindling to its demise. Yet, the land stays lively, playing back the past, but very much intelligent and interactive at the same time. APRT would like to ask you to help us keep this place alive. A place once buzzing with the laughter of campers and children is slowly becoming a broken down place forgotten by those of the living but relished by those of the dead. Help the living save this land for generations to come.

May 6, 2009 Posted by | History | Leave a comment