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The following is an article written by Joel D. Jones and published on March 25, 1943 in his column in the Democrat-Reporterat Linden, Alabama. Joel’s column, “Old Times” was a regular feature of the Democrat-Reporter.
My grandfather, Wiley A. Jones, was born in 1812 in South Carolina, and in 1832 he married Martha Rebecca Desaker of Columbia, S.C. In the fall of 1833 they in company of his brother, Joel Desaker, and two of his sisters, one a Mrs. Williams, the other with wife of Maj. William Freeman, and all their young families and servants headed for Alabama in search of a permanent home. They camped at Claiborne on the Alabama River, where my father was born on the 13th day of February, 1834, and they named him “Claiborne” in honor of the village in which he was born.
Not being satisfied with the location in Claiborne, in the summer of 1834 they headed north u the east side of Alabama River to Cahaba where they crossed the river and headed west, and in a few miles they came to a beautiful level land, and struck camp to investigate. This was the present site of Orrville in Dallas County. Here my grandfather’s brother, Joel Desaker, purchased land and established a home while my grandfather and the rest of the company continued west arriving at a point about two miles west of the village of Shiloh, they found some level land that was vacant, and my grandfather entered several hundred acres and with his brother, Leonard, established homes. Freeman and Williams proceeded on west, Freeman stopping in the neighborhood of Nanafalia, and Williams crossed the Tombigbee River and settled on level land in Choctaw County.
My grandfather built a home. The house is still standing and owned by one of the Jones family. The house is resting on the brick pillars on which it was built over 100 years ago. The brick was made by my grandfather near the house and the brickyard is still visible.
I well remember listening to my grandmother tell of the preparations for the long trip to Alabama. Everything had to be gotten in readiness for the families and the servants to leave at the appointed time for the journey which would take them over rough roads traveled only be emigrants. It was a journey which would require endurance to withstand.
The whites traveled in family carriages drawn by horses, the servants followed in wagons. At times they walked singing their great religious hymns. I have often heard my grandmother as she recalled incidents and happenings while on the journey, seeing the wave of immigration that flowed through the country on its way to Alabama. With amusement she would tell of the mountaineers of North Carolina packed in their covered wagons making their slow way to the distant land. When they were asked where they were going, their invariable answer was “Going to old Alabam.”
After crossing the state line into Alabama in their carriages, followed by their troops of servants, they looked for the first time at the Alabama cotton fields. It must have been an interesting moment when they crossed a river. No bridges had been built and travelers crossed on what was known as flat-bottom boats, the propelling of which required endless patience and perseverance.
My grandmother said that when they settled in their home they thought it was the garden spot of the world. The kitchens were detached from the houses; the servants’ quarters were conveniently near the fields. These cabins were built of logs. The large plantations had their own blacksmiths and their own carpenters. Every household had its own seamstresses, its laundresses, its special cooks. In the servants’ quarters there were Negro women who cooked only for the servants who worked in the fields, and there were other women whose duty it was to care for the Negro children during the day while their mothers were at work—a sort of day nursery on a large scale. Those of us who can remember slavery time, know that the mistress of a Southern plantation had to be an accomplished woman. As I look back to those days I recall the amazing industry of my grandmother. Her hands were seldom idle. There were servants to come and go at her beck and call, but she superintended every part of the household. There were no labor saving devices and everything was done by hand. The carding, the spinning, and the weaving required handwork. The hand looms were kept busy in a room called the weaving room Then came the cutting and making of the garments the for the men, women and children of the plantation.
I have in my possession letters written by these families, some of which are over 100 years old, and they are very interesting to me, and also have other records, old land grants and such, that I enjoy looking over, and wondering over the old days when these people seemed to be happy and enjoyed the days in which they lived.