Lee S. metcalfe and Jala Guin Metcalfe cira 1889 (2) (780x1024)

Sheriff Lee S. Metcalfe with wife, Jala Guin Metcalfe about 1889.

 THEY ARE GONE – But Not to the Penitentiary

 The two prisoners, WILL COX, white and LUTHER METCALFE, col. who were sentenced to the penitentiary at the last term of the circuit court and were confined in jail here waiting for the penitentiary authorities to send for them, escaped jail Sunday evening about dark.  When Mr. WIMBERLY, the jailor, carried their supper to the jail he placed it inside and closed the door of the cell and pushed the bolt in place, then he closed the outside door, or the door of the corridor and pushed one of the bolts in place, but did not secure either – not thinking there was any possibility of the prisoners being able to reach the bolts – and went into an adjoining yard for a bucket of water, during his absence they succeeded in prizing back the bolt to the inner door with a stick of stove wood, and COX slipped his hand between the bars of the cage and reached the bolt of the outer door and slipped it back., and they were free, as the doors to the building are never fastened.  It was getting dark and no one was near the jail, so they had no difficulty in making their escape.  Mr. WIMBERLY gave the alarm, but it being dark and no dogs to trail them nothing could be done towards capturing them.

One prisoner, BOB LAMPKINS, who was committed to jail late Friday did not try to escape, and was very sensible for not leaving as he was bailed out last Monday.

Since the above was written LUTHER METCALFE has been brought back. Mr. C. W. HALL brought him in and received the reward of $25.00 which was offered for his apprehension.

COX was brought in by Sheriff METCALFE Wednesday evening.  He was caught on the platform at Guin waiting for a train. The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 12, 1888.

Mr. HALEY, traveling agent for the T. C. L. & Railroad Co. was in town Wednesday after the two prisoners, COX and METCALFE, and left for Pratt Mines with them to charge. The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 19, 1888. The jail is now empty. The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 26, 1888.


A DASTARDLY ASSAULT – Unknown Parties Shoot at Sheriff L. S. METALFE in the Dark

On last Friday night, about 11 o’clock Sheriff METCALFE walked up to his stable in town to see about his horse, which had been sick that evening, and as he was returning to the hotel when passing the north-east corner of the court-house yard, he saw two men standing out in the street about ten yards away, and supposing them to be some of the town boys spoke to them and asked “Who is there?” at the same time taking a couple of steps toward them. When he did this one of the parties threw up a pistol and fired, the ball passing through Sheriff METCALKE’S hat brim about one and a half inches from his head. Sheriff METCALFE returned the fire instantly with two shots at the then fleeing parties, who, when they saw he was going to return the fire unceremoniously took to their heels, running down in the direction of the jail. It is not known whether either of his shots took effect, as the parties made good their escape. No cause for such an assault can be given, as Sheriff METCALFE has no enemies who would attempt to take his in the dark. The night was so dark that he could not see the parties well enough to give any description of them A telegram was sent to Pratt Mines for blood hounds to be brought down to tail up the parties but none could be got all of them being in use at Pratt Mines. June 27, 1889 Vernon  Courier Vernon, Alabama.


Wiley Saint Clair Metcalfe born in 1837, married Virginia Ellen Bradley in 1858. Wiley and Virginia were early settlers of what is now Sulligent and Lamar County.

 Mrs. Virginia Metcalfe was known in Sulligent as “grandma Metcalfe”. The Metcalfe’s reared nine children and had 36 grandchildren.  The Metcalfe’s children were: Martha Elvira, who married Perry Evans; Leander Saint Clair “Lee”, married Jala Guin Lee served as Lamar County Sheriff; Henry Franklin married Melinda Shaw. Henry worked for the Frisco railroad; Sarah Anna Elizabeth, married John Bannister. John was Sulligent Marshall; James W. “Jim Buck” married Amanda May; Rosa Ellen, married first William Cobb, second Cannon Richard Weaver, after Mr. Cobb’s death; John Edward “Ed” married Lou Ella Brown. Ed founded the Metcalf Grocery and Market that was in business in Sulligent  for 70 years; Hattie Stella married Rudolphus Brown, a brother to Lou Ella Brown; George Tollivar Carrington “Toll”, married Bessie Lee Stanford. Toll worked as stock broker in Kentucky.

Historical newspapers are transcribed by Veneta McKinney from microfilm. Metcalfe picture is from Rose Marie Smith Collection housed in Mary Wallace Cobb Memorial Library Vernon, Alabama.



Sulligent street

L. D. Byrd Killed. Early Thursday morning even before the sun had risen far above the eastern horizon, the alarm at the telephone rang out and “Hello what is wanted” went from the operator at this place. But how unexpected and how shocking was the reply which came from Sulligent. “Mr. Byrd was shot and instantly killed a moment ago by Burley Johnson of near this place.”

It seems that an old grudge had been cherished between them for some time past, and they were evidently expecting trouble as both were armed and when the fatal combat occurred. It also seems from the best information we can get that Mr. Byrd was using every means possible to escape, when they met for the last time. Details are meager here, notwithstanding the affray occurred Thursday morning.

According to our information, Mr. Byrd, when seeing that he must meet Johnson, said to his nephue that Johnson was hunting trouble and so saying left the side-walk, giving to Johnson the right-of-way. They had not proceeded far when Johnson holding his pistol close to a shade tree took deliberate aim and fired. He continued to fire until he had fired five shots, four of which took effect, Mr. Byrd fired two shots, neither of which took effect. Johnson succeeded in making his escape. Source: The Lamar Democrat Vernon, Alabama  07-23-1898, transcribed by Barb Carruth.

“Lucian David Byrd, son of John K. and Elvira Moore Byrd, was born September 26, 1861, near Detroit, Alabama. Later, the Byrd family moved to Splunge, Mississippi. On November 27, 1878, he married Mary F. Collier who died when their son was born. Their children were Lillian Byrd, who married R.C. Paul, and Haston Byrd, who married Donnie G. Nichols.

Later, L.D. Byrd married Lula Duncan Guthrie. They had five children, but only two lived: Gertrude Byrd, who married Byron Woods, and Annie Mae Byrd, who married Jake Green.

In the early days of Sulligent, this family moved to the new town where Mr. Byrd established a mercantile business. He owned farm land where the Hyster Company now stands. Through the years this land has been called the

Byrd Place. The old Byrd home is still standing on Vernon Street in Sulligent.

L.D. Byrd was a strong leader in First Baptist Church from its beginning. He was a charter member and soon was elected church clerk, a position he held for eight years. Many times, he served on church committees and often was sent as a messenger to the Sipsey Baptist Association. When he died on July 21, 1898, the church lost a valuable member.” Source: First Baptist Church Sulligent, Alabama 1890 – 1990 Our Heritage Our Hope a History of 100 Years, written by Mrs. Virginia Woods Gilmer.



Pratt Mines

Smith Brothers sent to Pratt Mines. “Their friends paid up the cost in all the case which leaves them to work out only the penalties which is, JOHN 115 days and JEFF. 155 days.”

The quiet streets of Vernon presented a very excitable scene Tuesday night.  Two wild-catters, brothers, by the name of John and Jeff Smith, from Marion County, were overhauled in Yellow Creek Swamp about a half mile from town, dishing out the pure and unadulterated juice to the boys.  They were captured by Constable Haley and posse, they showed fight when the officers walked up on them, and in the tussle Jeff discharged his pistol the ball striking Mr. Tom Moore on the left arm, but being a very small pistol and at such close range the ball did not break the skin.

They were brought to town and warrants were issued by Judge Young on the charge of violating the revenue law and prohibition law, and a charge of resisting arrest was placed against Jeff.  Not being able to give bond they were committed to jail, and when the officers started with them to jail the fun commenced again.  John jerked loose from two men, one holding each arm, and started for Yellow Creek Swamp at a lively rate, with Constable Haley close behind.  Several shots were fired in the chase none of which took effect, he was soon overhauled, however, and brought back and the cell doors closed on him.

Their trial came of Wednesday in the county court.  They plead guilty to retailing and accepted the lowest fine, $375 each, and Jeff was fined $10 for the assault.  Up to going to press they had not confessed judgment but are expecting their friends from Marion county to come to their relief. Source: The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 12, 1888.

Up to the time of going to press no disposition has been made of the Moonshiners.”Source: The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 19, 1888.

The friends of JOHN AND JEFF. SMITH were in town Monday seeing what could be done towards securing their release, but while they were seeing what they could do, Mr. HAYLEY, agent for the T. C. I & Railroad Company arrived in town as soon had them dressed for a trip to Pratt Mines, and left for that place with them in charge.  Their friends paid up the cost in all the case which leaves them to work out only the penalties which is, JOHN 115 days and JEFF. 155 days. Source: The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama October 19, 1888 transcribed from microfilm by Veneta McKinney.


To meet the pressing demand for labor in the early days, the Pratt Coal and Iron Company (later TCI) employed state convicts. The practice of working convicts outside the prisons, begun in Alabama in 1866, was common across the South well into the 1900s. Private companies paid state and county governments a certain amount each month for each convict. The company built prison facilities and clothed and fed the men, who were required to work 10 hours a day and fill a quota. TCI continued the practice until 1914, and other District mining concerns worked convicts until 1928.

In 1883, a new Alabama law required the state penitentiary physician to reside where the greatest number of convicts were confined. Thus Dr. Russell M. Cunningham moved to the prisons at the Pratt mining camp to take care of some 1,000 inmates a year. His attention to sanitary conditions, hours of work, diet and recreation resulted in the reduction of the mortality rate from 18 percent in 1881 to two percent in 1884. In reports to the state inspector of mines in 1883 and 1884, Cunningham recommended a stockaded convict town be built, with 50 cabins, a hospital, adequate bathing arrangements, guardhouses, a cook room, kitchen and space for outdoor recreation, so that the welfare of the prisoners would approximate that of the free miners. His findings and recommendations created a stir among lessees of convicts and led to improvements in sanitation and living conditions at the mines.

Prison facilities were enlarged in 1888 after TCI signed a 10-year contract for 500 to 600 convicts with the State of Alabama. An 1888 Sanborn map of the Pratt mines shows a complex of frame structures including a prison, convicts’ kitchen, convicts’ dining commissary, bathhouse and kettles to boil clothes. By August 1906, probably the era of maximum use of convicts at the Pratt Mines, 906 state convicts (described as able bodied males, age 16 and over from 23 county and state prisons) resided here. Of these, 300 worked at No. 1.

Until January 1914, Cunningham retained charge of medical services for convicts employed by principal mining contractors throughout the state and served as company physician for the Pratt Company and TCI, At Ensley he constructed a private infirmary, the Cunningham Hospital, to serve his large industrial practice. During this period, he also launched a successful political career, serving as state senator (1896-1900), lieutenant governor (1901-1904; 1905-1907), and acting governor of the state (1904-1905). Throughout his political career, Cunningham worked for reform of the convict lease system, inspection of coal mines and regulation of mine sanitation.

Source: HISTORIC AMERICAN ENGINEERING RECORD National Park Service Department of the Interior P.O. Box 37127 Washington, DC 20013-7127.

Picture source:



Moore's Mill (2)

Sometime in the late 1930’s Dan Box and a friend posed for this picture in the boat with no bottom at Moore’s Mill, south of Vernon. Moore’s Mill was probably built in the late 1800’s but was called by several names. The mill still stood into the 1940’s. Source: Personal collection of Rose Marie Smith housed in History room of Mary Wallace Cobb Memorial Library Vernon, Alabama.

ACCIDENTAL KILLING – A Joke Ends in a Tragedy

On Tuesday night there were assembled at Moore’ Mill two miles south of town, a party of young men who had done, some early in the day and some at night fall to have a pleasant fish fry. This is usual every year, the young men of Vernon taking an outing like this. The party consisted of Messrs J. E. MORTON, V. E. MORTON, J. L. GUYTON, DICK NESMITH, W. A. COBB, DEWITT MORTON, FLINT MORTON, DICK MORTON and several others.

They were joined in the day by GEORGE JOHNSON, a lad of about 17 years and son of a widow lady who lived a few miles south.  The boy remained with them as one of the party, enjoying their hospitality, until about 11 o’clock that night when some of the party decided to visit the hooks set out, and young JOHNSON was one of the party to go along.

An agreement was made to have a sham attack made on the party, some one feigning to be shot, to scare the boy.  Mr. DICK NESMITH went forward some distance and stopped by a stump at a bluff in the turn of the road, when the party carrying a lantern camped, he cried hault and fired a pistol, the party began to run and he shot again, back the way they had come, and unfortunately shot the boy, hitting him in the shoulder and ranging downward, it is supposed entered the heart killing him almost instantly.  He seemed to have taken in the situation or from some cause had not run on with the other party, and to their utter dismay and awful sorrow there lay the boy dying

There is no question about the harmless intention of the parties in the joke that proved to be so sad a tragedy. It was some time before some of the party could realize that such an awful thing had happened. The young man sent to town for friends and justice to act as coroner if one should be needed but no inquest was held as it was known how he came to his death.

The young man had every necessary preparation made for his burial and turned his body over to this relatives who were possibly no more heartbroken than themselves.  Nothing has so profoundly stirred the community for years.  There is profound sorrow and sympathy for the poor boy and his mother, and then for the young men who in jolly good humor, by one of those unaccountable accidents that no one could dream of or foretell to have such a shadow cast upon their recreation and their lives calls the deepest sympathy.

They do not seek to evade the responsibility but each seems to reproach himself as being the greater to blame, and those who knew nothing of the intended joke until it was over seem to feel the same.  It was one of those things that have happened that could have been avoided; but who would ever think of such results.

We are surrounded by a world of the unforeseen; we may go one road to a place and one unaccepted thing may lead to fortune or calamity. We might have gone another quality as near to the destination and missed it all.  No one and tell what an hour may bring forth. Source: The Vernon Courier Vernon, Alabama July 18, 1895. Transcribed from microfilm by Veneta McKinney.

Doctor Loses Eye In Unique Accident


Aberdeen, Miss., Oct. 17. – (AP)- Dr. George Barker of Sulligent, Ala., lost the sight of an eye today when a nail flew from the hammer of a blacksmith here. Dr. Barker was driving past the shop when the nail flew through the lowered car window striking him in the eye. Date: Thursday, October 17, 1929   Paper: Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi)   Page: 1.

Who was Dr. Barker?

1930 U. S. Census Lamar County, Alabama Moscow Beat 9 Sulligent, Dwelling number 141, George Barker, age 49, occupation: dentist; industry: general practioner; listed with wife Cordella, age 38; daughters: Willie M. age 18, Faye age 14. Neighbors: Dwelling number 139: Jud C. and Ellis Buckelew; Dwelling number 140: Dudley and Etta Cooper; Dwelling number 142: James E. and Ella Metcalfe; Dwelling number: 143: Everette and Birdie Metcalfe; Dwelling number 144: Acklen U. and Fannie Hollis.

Information from U. S. World War I Draft Registration Card: George Jefferson Barker; Address: Berry Fayette, Ala.; Birth 6 June, 1880; Occupation: Dentistry Self Employed; Business Address: G Berry Fayette, Ala.; Tall Height; Slender Build; Blue Eyes; Red Hair.

From 1910 U. S. Census Beat 5 LaFayette, Mississippi, it appears Dr. Barker’s father was John J. Barker.

Bathing the Baby


Baby Vintage (1024x644)

               Those who have once become accustomed to the daily bath will be loath to give it up.  I never think we can commence a good habit too early’ so I have always had my babies put into the bath from the time they were a fortnight old, says a lady correspondent.  My last baby, however, proved an exception.  For five weeks after his birth I was too ill to attend to these things myself, and the nurse was too ignorant or too idle.  The consequence was, when I was able to take charge of the young gentleman myself, there had to be a battle.  I had the water slightly warm, so as to cause no chill, and when baby was undressed I popped him straight in.  The little man kicked and screamed for a minute or two, but soon ceased.  For the next two or three mornings, there was a slight resistance, fainter every time; after that, the crying was performed when he had to be taken out of the bath; not when he was put in.

A warm or tepid bath should be given every night, until the child is three or four years of age; then a bath twice a week is quite sufficient.  After cold bath the children should be well and briskly rubbed all over with a coarse towel.  This is of great importance.  If a child displays symptoms of weakness in the spine, indicated by general lassitude and an inclination to stoop, it is a good plan to put a handful of very coarse salt into a bowl of water, and sponge the little one’s back and chest with this when it is in the bath.  No one, either old or young should stay in cold water more than a minute or two at the outside.

Source: The Lamar News March 11, 1886, transcribed from microfilm by Veneta McKinney.




Moscow CSA Left to right (3) (1024x643)

Saturday the 20th of August will long be remembered by the citizens in and around Cansler and Moscow. And the train of memories awakened from the slumbering past by the 1st reunion of veterans in Lamar County will be green in the hearts of all who remember the bitter struggle of twenty-six years ago.

On the 19th the survivors of Co’s K and G of the 16th Alabama Infantry met at Cansler bringing with them the simple rations of the soldier, and when the shades of evening were darkening gathered round their campfire, cooked their frugal meal, and after the repast was ended lit their pipes and around the smoldering fire recounted the deeds and memories of the campaigns in which they had figured so gallantly.

On the next morning a large number of citizens assembled and the matrons of the company, the gentle commissaries of all successful out door fetes came well supplied with baskets of the choicest viands.

At eleven o’clock the two companies were formed and under the command of Hon J. H. BANKHEAD, former Captain of Company K., marched in double file to the grove where the appropriate ceremonies of the occasion were to be performed, and halted in front of the speaker stand tastefully decorated with flowers and evergreens, surmounted by the motto “Co. K.” framed in an artistic garland of flowers, the work of Mr. G. E. BANKHEAD.

1st Sergeant D. W. HOLLIS opened the ceremonies with a few elegant and feeling remarks that sent a thrill of emotion throughout the large assemblage, and proceeded to call the roll of Company K in the midst of a profound silence. Twenty-two answered to the call and Sergt. T. M. WOODS accounted for the silent ones whose voices had been hushed forever in roar of battle, or the groans of the hospital. The frequent answer, killed at Fishing Creek, Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Knoxville, Jonesboro, Newhope, Atlanta, told eloquently of how unfalteringly those gallant men who went forth from the quiet hills, and marched though the red path of battle to the leaden halls of death.

The roll of Co. G was called by Sergt. A. J. HAMILTON, now one of Marion’s noblest sons whose patriotism and public spirit is well-known throughout the land. Here was a touching episode. The first name upon the roll was that of the Sergt’s father who was among those who had laid down their lives upon the altar of their country. The gallant sergt’s voice quivered with emotion as he called the name and manly tears that brave men shed trickled down the veterans cheeks as they stood in line and listened to a repetition of the story of heroism and sacrifice that had glorified their comrades of Co. K. in the struggle that tired men’s souls. Eight responded to the roll, these were all who had been apprised of the reunion of Col. K. and had responded to the invitation of their comrades to be present.

As it was soldier’s day a still older reminiscent of the patriotism of our citizens was given to the audience. The roll of the Company of Capt. D. U. HOLLIS which had enlisted for the Indian War of 1836, up on the self same spot where their sons enlisted for our late war, was called by Sergt. HAMILTON from an issue of the North Alabamian, published at that time, and which has recently been found among Judge TERRELL’S (deceased) papers.  But one answered to the roll, Mr. JOHN W. GUYTON, an old citizen of this county, a venerable pure and patriotic man who is now going far down the western slope of life, adorned with shining habiliments of good deeds, and upright character and blessed with the reverence of all. The roll of this Co. will appear elsewhere in this issue. We will also give a list of Co. K. and G. in next weeks issue.

Capt BANKHEAD gave an interesting synopsis of the history of the Company, and was followed by Capt. BISHOP, of Co. G. who enunciated the principles of constitutional liberty for which those companies fought, and exhorted them to always defend them whenever the occasion should arise.

Capt. S. J. SHIELDS was then called to the stand and delivered an appropriate speech up on the occasion.

Dinner was then announced, and such a dinner – can we describe it – we are now as we were then too full for utterance, suffice it to say that it was all that could be desired, and was such a one as the people of Cansler and Moscow, always renowned for hospitality and good cheer, had busied themselves in spreading for delighted guests.

Moscow reunion 2 2015 (2) (1024x592)

The entire entertainment was a success and all retired when the lengthening shadows were falling upon the hillside, sated guests from the banquet, and with heats filled with solemn and reverent thoughts of the brave who had passed away and those who still lingered upon the stage and proud emotions in view of the fact that they had been face to face with living witnesses of the valor and devotions of our citizens for half a century.  (SOURCE: The Vernon Clipper Vernon, Alabama, August 26, 1887 – transcribed from  microfilm by Veneta McKinney).