Early History of Columbiana


Bird's Eye View Of The Early History
Of Columbiana

"Eldred Burden Teague ~ January 20, 1820 - November 24, 1902"

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The Shelby Guide
March 19, 1872

We are indebted to Rev. E.B. Teague, of the Baptist Church in Selma, for a highly interesting communication in which he gives a birds eye view of the early history of Columbiana and the county generally.

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The Shelby Guide
March 26, 1872

Number One

~ For The Shelby Guide ~

Friend Roberts: - What say you to my whiling away an hour of semi-indisposition in a bird's-eye view of the early history of Columbiana? Few living men, I apprehend, know more of that history.

My recollections begin with the removal of the Court-house from a place near the present plantation of Rev. Mr. Boykin, some ten or eleven miles North of Montevallo, to its present site, about, I think, 1828. A large pine tree between the present Court-house and the jail, was literally split to pieces, near the ground, by boring auger holes into it, filling them with powder and exploding it, in honor of the triumphant vote, in competition with Montevallo, for the seat of justice. These explosions were heard as far as the present residence of Mrs. Mary Teague, on  "Four Mile!"  At that time (1828), the merchants at Columbiana, sometimes called Coonsboro, were Monsieur Genet, a Frenchman, whose store stood near the place of business of the late B.O. Nabors; "Charlie Mundine," noted for his devoutness and sharp trading, and that worthy citizen and good merchant, the late Samuel Brasher. I remember Mr. Brasher while he kept a store for a short time at Pitts' Spring, the head of Bullace Creek. He came to the play yard of Mr. James Hughes' school, hard by, and lying down on the pine straw, challenged as many of us little fellows as could get upon or about him, to hold him down. We were soon as thick as black birds on an oat stack. But our triumph was short; in a moment he had piled us all up together, and was master of the situation. Our schoolhouse was a diminutive log cabin - the earth for a floor - a crack, trimmed out between two logs, just below which was a dressed slab, the convenience for a writing-table - a stick and mud chimney for a fire place. There, many of us, in those days, learned to read and write. A big fire of pine-knots set the chimney on fire almost every right cold day, and the fun of putting it out was quite a frolic.

Monsieur Genet was very unpopular, on some account. The young fellows about town once put a goat down the chimney into his house, in the night. I was once in town on New Year's night, and recollect with what terror I heard the repeated shout -  "Hurra for Genet!"  - fearing mischief, as the shouts were interspersed with the explosion of fire-arms or fire crackers.

Some of the noted citizens of those days were O.B. Harris, a long time Clerk of the County Court, Davy Owen, of the Hotel, yet standing, the property of Rev. Mr. Wilson, where as good a meal as could be found anywhere was always to be had, and  "Dick"  Shackleford, nephew and protege of the distinguished Gen. Jack Shackelford, of North Alabama. - Richard Shackelford was an educated man, for the times, of fine personal appearance, fluent speech, and commanding address. He was a lawyer, and might, with good habits and application, have achieved anything he desired. But early disappointment, as he used to tell when intoxicated, and intemperence, blasted all his hopes. His story was romantic. Upon completing his studies for the bar, he became engaged to a wealthy and most accomplished young lady. His habits were then good, and his promise high. In the interval between his engagement and its consummation, he was found engaged with other young men in a game of cards. This came to the ears of the family of the promised bride. They had decided notions upon such subjects, and, at once, insisted upon a dissolution of the engagement. The game was one of mere amusement, and an explanation would have reconciled all parties; but he was too proud for this, and suffered things to take their course. But, his affections were deeply involved; as many another young man has done, he abandoned himself to wretchedness and the fatal cup.

Davy Owen was a rude wit, and on one occasion, when at the beginning of the settlement of Talladega county, the manners of the Indians were construed by the timid into something threatening. The militia were called out to take any necessary measures to secure the peace. Col. Smoot asked Shackelford to read an order to the militia drawn up in line at the Court-house. Shackelford was often this called on, being an admirable reader. But on that occasion he was too much under the influence of spirits to stand firmly; consequently, often lost the place; whereupon Owen commenced gobbling like a turkey, and after several denunciations from Shackelford, forced him to desist. Some idea may hence be had of the terror of military authority in those days.

I ought not, while mentioning such  "characters"  as Owen and Shackelford to omit McKinion, the tailor. He was a very tall, austere looking man, who would arrest attention in any presence. No one, seeing his grave demeanor, would dream of the fun of which his nature was full. It was, therefore, all the more taking, as it contrasted with an outward index almost ominously solemn. Mc, poor fellow, loved spirituous liquors, too, and, fine and faithful workman as he was, never accumulated more than enough to meet current expenses.

About 1830-35 the business of the place became brisk and important. Merchants enlarged their stocks and received several accessions; among them was that excellent business man and citizen, Mr. J. Roper. About this time, also settled at the place, the genial, intelligent and skilled Dr. Sterrett, with his brother, Judge Sterrett, still resident with you, for professional purposes. The Hon. John M. McClanahan soon began the practice of law there. And Doctors Lawrence and Caldwell soon followed. - I desire a little more space to pay a tribute to my honored friend, Judge McClanahan. His sudden demise, soon after removal to Louisiana, is known to your readers. Great was your loss when he left your community - great the loss of his adopted county in a neighboring State. Mr. McClanahan was raised, in part, nearly where the Shelby Iron Works now stand. His father was a most worthy citizen before him. When I first knew him, he was the popular teacher of a school at Hopewell Church, just below the plantation of the well-remembered Henry Gooch, Sr., on the road from Wilsonville to Wetumpka, in 1834. He was, also, at the time, County Surveyor, and used, such was his industry, sometimes to run a line in the neighborhood before school hours! - always having his chain and compass on hand for the instruction of his pupils in surveying. He first, some years before, taught an old field school, accumulated some means, then went to Tennessee, where an old uncle of his was a distinguished teacher, and there fitted himself better to teach. He was a superior teacher for his time, making up in application what he lacked in extent and accuracy of scholarship. Becoming a lawyer, he felt his way cautiously up to a good practice and a sound acquaintance with his profession. He was often elected to the Legislature, receiving generally an overwhelming vote, and was long the faithful and trusted Judge of Probate. Before middle life he had achieved a competency, and when the war came on, was comparatively wealthy. The writer owes a debt of gratitude to Judge McClanahan. He was a pupil of his in 1834. Hesitating at the time whether to expend his little expectations in acquiring an education or not, he consulted his preceptor.  "By all means, go to College,"  was the advice received. -  "You will have your education and more property in ten years than tho' you had put all into a farm, or any other business."  This advice probably turned the scale, and did much to decide the character of my life.

It is remarkable that though Shelby county has sometimes been the subject of disparaging remark, that every one of its young men who have sought higher education (leaving out the writer,) have achieved distinction of some sort - several of them marked distinction - and that the professional men who have settled down at Columbiana, have uniformly been successful. Its mines are inexhaustible, its agricultural resources considerable, its name widely known, and as producing such men as Shortridge, and Bowden, McClanahan and Lewis, not to mention others, an old resident is proud of it.          E.B. Teague

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The Shelby Guide
April 2, 1872

Number Two

~ For The Shelby Guide ~

Mr. Editor: - One of the most remarkable men of Shelby county in early history was the Hon. Saml W. Mardis, brother of Judge Mardis, of your place. He was the first representative in the Alabama legislature from the county, then served several years with Hon. Joab Lawler, father of Gen. Levi W. Lawler, of Mobile. He was afterwards the representative of the district in Congress. Mr. Mardis was a lawyer, unsurpassed by anybody in the State - once or more employed in great cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. I remember how his fluent speeches used to stir my soul, when a little boy, to be able to talk like him. His magnificent person was worthy of the mind that informed it. He resided at Montevallo up to 1835 or 1836.

Mr. Lawler was a scarcely less remarkable man and entirely self made. He became a highly intelligent legislator, state and national, being the successor in Congress of Mr. Mardis. He was an eminent preacher, whose connection with politics never stained his Christian reputation. He resided a few miles from Montevallo until the settlement of Talladega county, then removed from the county, not a great many years ago. He was often a representative or senator in the State Legislature, of fine legal acquirements, an able politician and a successful farmer, without ambition, and a prominent man without aspiration or effort. I have before spoken of some of the men of this community. I may make mention of several others still - Wm. W. King, prominent lawyer, New Orleans; Judge Thos. A. Walker, Jacksonville; Han David W. Sterrett, Andrew B. Stevens, a most promising young man, who died early. Fruitful, indeed, of valuable men has the community of Montevallo been.

The lands of this neighborhood, yet capable of great productiveness, were exceedingly fine before they were carelessly wasted and impoverished by improvident tillage. I have seen crops of almost tropical luxuriance, reaching up to the very tops of the hills now bare and galled, exposing only a surface of clay. The plantations of Woods, and Waters, and Bowden, and Edmund King, and Cross, and Harkins, and many others, were surpassed in fertility by no lands in the State.

Good schools have been sustained in this community from the beginning; numbers of the earlier matriculants of the University were fitted for College here, and the population has always been intelligent and interesting. We expect under the impetus being given these days to scientific agriculture, to see the vales around the venerable town of Montevallo rejoice and blossom as the rose. There is a future for the up country of this State. Let us persuade our sons that agriculture may be made a highly intellectual employment - that a field for talent is opened up in that direction more inviting than any other; waiting for genius to develop it.

The Harpersville neighborhood on the Coosa River, between Yellow Leaf and Kelly's Creeks, is quite equal in fertility of land and excellence of population to the Montevallo neighborhood; indeed I know no better improved and managed farms in the State, nor any population superior. This communtly was once a garden spot, and it has capacities unsurpassed for agriculture and social progress in the future. I remember its rich vales in their grand forest growth, ante-dating the many handsome residences since reared, the log cabins - the first cotton gins. Unequaled was the hospitality that used to be provided at the great annual camp meetin half a mile south of the village of Harpersville. Dr. Singleton, whose worthy son still resides on the family place, used to be the chief of the disciples of Esculapius. The brothers Jasper and Mandred Kidd, among the brilliant young men of the times. - Col. Jasper Kidd removed to the Canebrake and died young. Gen. Mandred Kidd, after representing the county several times, removed to Talladega, thence to Mansfield, La., and there lost his life suddenly by an accident - a tree falling upon him not far from where Judge McClanahan was stricken by lightning.

A neighborhood scarcely inferior in any respect to these, but smaller, was  "The Kingdom,"  between Columbiana and the river.

No disparagement of other communities is intended by singling out three of the earliest settled and cultivated. The men of Shelby have not all come from these neighborhoods; they did not contain all the early intelligence; they merely attracted people of more means, who, therefore, secured advantages for their children not afforded by other neighborhoods. There were good citizens strewed up and down the streams, edged by oak and hickory, that divided up the pine woods, all over the county. A fine specimen of these was Judge Leonard Tarrant, who used to own the Sammons' place, between Columbiana and Wilsonville. As representative in the Legislature, county Judge, and teacher of the youth of the times, as well as minister of the Gospel, he was a most valuable man. I have heard that he was offered a most tempting bait to engage in land speculations, when receiver of the land office at Mardisville, or Indian agent, but that he replied the insult with indignation, and exposed the fraudulent plans of the clique. His name was a synonyme of everything high-toned and pure. These small farmers bid fair to flourish again; and when fruit-growing, for which the hill lands are so well adapted, shall be enlarged and receive proper attention, the whole county may be made highly productive. These humble people were honest people, who, though they lived plainly, paid their debts, lived at home, and called no man master.

"A stubborn race, faltering and fearing none.
Who would shake hands with a King on his throne,
And think it kindness to his Majesty!"

A venerable Selma merchant told me, in trading with Shelbyans from 1816 to 1860, he never found but one dishonest man among them, and that man, running away to Texas, left a fine horse and said  "he wanted Billy Johnson to have him."  My recollections are that these are the people you used to have. I can wish you and my dear old boyhood's home, nothing earthly better than thousands of such people as cut down your original forests, and dwelt among the hills, where  "readin', writin', and 'rithmetic"  constituted the ground work of many worthy and some distinguished men.                                E.B. Teague

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The Shelby Guide
April 30, 1872

Note: - In a former paper I was made to describe Rev. Joab Lawler, State Legislator and Congressman, as also a  "lawyer,"  and  "farmer,"  of great ability but without ambition to make all he might have been. I meant Danl. E. Watrous, of Montevallo, so long and well-known representative and senator often in the legislature, who befriended me in my college days by securing my tuition free a part of the time. He was a valuable citizen.               E.B. Teague

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Facts About Rev. E.B. Teague

Taken from the History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography by Thomas M. Owen, Founder of Alabama Archives & History, and was published in 1921, Volume 3, by his widow, Maria (Bankhead) Owen.

Elred Burder Teague, a Baptist minister, born January 20, 1820, in Newberry District, S.C., died November 24, 1902 in Abernant, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. He was the son of John William Teague and Mary Davis He was a farmer who moved from South Carolina to Greene County Alabama in the spring of 1822 and in the fall of that year to Shelby County Alabama. He was the grandson of Rev. James Teague, a Baptist minister. He received a very limited education in the public schools of Shelby County Alabama, entered the University of Alabama in 1836, and in the main worked his way through college and graduated December 16, 1840. Three years later he received the degree of A.M., Howard College conferred the degree of D.D. on him in 1872. He taught school for six years in Montgomery County Alabama. He was ordained to the ministry in 1844. He filled pastorates in Alabama for ten years after which he assumed charge of the Baptist church at LaGrange, Georgia and held it for ten years. He was elected President of East Alabama Female College at Tuskeegee, Alabama and remained in that position for three years. Feeling the urge to return to active ministry, he assumed pastorate of the Baptist church at Selma, Alabama where he remained for eight years. Later he served pastorates in middle Alabama and in East Lake, Jefferson County, Alabama. He was mainly instrumental in removing Howard College from Marion, Alabama to Birmingham, Alabama and was a trustee for many years. He is reputed to have made the first Secession speech in Georgia and was made Chairman of the Relief Commission after the war began. He was with the Army of Tennessee from Chattanooga until Hood's expedition entered into that state. He was one of the Founders of the  "Alabama Baptist"  and one of the editors. He left a history of the Baptist denomination in Alabama, which is deposited in the Archives of the Southern Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He was a Democrat and a Mason.

He married: (1) June 15, 1843, at Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Sophia Nelson, daughter of James G. Blount Nelson, Captain in the Indian War, Sheriff, member of the legislature of Alabama from Tuscaloosa County Alabama. Their children were (1) Melancthon Blount, (2) Anne Mary, (3) Andrew Fuller, (4) Sophia Blanche, (5) Eldred Burder, Jr., and (6) John Shepherd Bealle.

He married: (2) June 1861, at Tuskegee, Alabama to Louise Emeline Philpot, daughter of William H. Philpot, a planter. Their children were (1) Felicia Pauline, (2) Sarah Purnal, (3) Elburda, (4) William Calloway, (5) Imogene, (6) Frank Philpot, (7) Gertrude, (8) Louella, (9) Edward B., and (10) Bessie Reynolds.

E.B. and Louise Teague resided and died at Abernant in Tuscaloosa County Alabama. He is buried next to his child, Elburda Teague that died October 10, 1895, in Columbiana City Cemetery in Shelby County Alabama.