BY ANNIE CRENSHAW
Lillian Shell Morgan’s history of the Brushey Creek community, written in the 1950s, told the story not only of settlers, log cabins and early life, but also transportation from horse-and-buggy days to the first automobiles.
Combining her own memories with tales told by older residents, she wrote: “Most of the early settlers had mules or horses, a wagon and buggy. The well-to-do had surreys, two seated buggies pulled by two or four horses. They had a covered top with tassels hanging around the edge. Beautiful wool lap robes were used to the cover the knees, legs, and feet.”
“The first cars caused much excitement. Everyone came out of the house and stood in the yard as car went by. Henry McCall owned the first car. R. L. Shell, Sr. bought the second one which cost $396.00. It was a model T.”
“To get the mail, one had to go to the post office – a six mile ride. One person usually brought the mail for the whole neighborhood once a week. Later a man on horseback, then in a buggy, brought the mail once a week. The roads in the community were in very bad condition. The men in the community had to keep up the roads.”
Remember we’ve talked about road overseers, men appointed by the county commission to maintain local roads near their homes.
Road maintenance wasn’t an easy job, and, in bad weather, muddy morasses and washed-out bridges were the norm. Folks had to wait for the roads to “dry up” before traveling ANYWHERE.
What was transportation like, when you got out of your home area?
As we’ve already pointed out, before the 1920s, our state and country could only be crossed through a complicated network of roads, some privately maintained and others under municipal management.
A traveler had no guarantee that the road he chose to take would be passable. A bridge might be out; a tree might have fallen across and blocked the way. The road might have changed ownership or management and become neglected or even abandoned.
You couldn’t depend on maps and travel guides, either. Maps weren’t drawn up very often, and the general public hardly ever used them. Cartographic accuracy was problematical, and embellishments, in both text and illustrative features, were common.
Travel guides barely existed. You could read about a place (and how to get there) in flowery magazine and newspaper articles, or you could use a gazetteer or atlas – the forerunner of tourism publications.
No visitors centers, no state, county or town tourism offices. No Internet with web sites like Trip Advisor, Expedia, Lonely Planet, Kayak… and no Fodor’s guides.
But we did have those atlases and gazetteers.
Take a look at a publication like “Colton’s General Atlas of the World, Containing Two Hundred And Twelve Maps And Plans, On One Hundred And Forty-Two Imperial Folio Sheets, Drawn By G. Woolworth Colton. Accompanied By Geographical, Statistical, And Historical Letter-Press Descriptions.”
This hefty “travel guide” was printed and published in 1886 by G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. of New York.
Butler County, on George Woolworth Colton’s beautifully tinted map of Alabama, looks well-supplied with roads and railroads. Greenville is shown as the center of a radiating star of transportation routes.
Was Greenville that accessible and attractive? Local folks thought so!
Learn more about Butler County history with membership in The Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society, P. O. Box 561, Greenville, AL 36037. Read more about Butler County’s Beginnings here – http://sites.rootsweb.com/~albchgs/, and, look for BCHGS on Facebook.