Impressions of Mobile and Brewton, Alabama, Aswell as Some Comments on the Negro – Bill Arp, 1/10/1889

Impressions of Mobile and Brewton, Alabama, Aswell as Some Comments on the Negro – Bill Arp, 1/10/1889

Forty-two years ago I visited Mobile, one of the oldest cities of the south. It is there yet, but not changed. I recognized many
of the same venerable buildings, and I spotted the very place where I bought a mule from a wagon-a mule that I was to ride
125 miles to my destination in Mississippi. I mounted the ambiguous brute and politely invited him to go, but he did not. He
did not feel inclined to leave his companions in the team and the more I urged him the more he declined In fact, he did more receding than proceeding, and the clerks in the stores took a lively interest in my welfare. They advised use to whip him on
the hairy side and to turn him round let him advance backwards and so forth. I could have whipped any two of them and wanted
to do it, but my father had told me to keep my temper while was gone and have no fuss with anybody. A good hearted man
came up to me and sympathized and said I had better get me a pair of spurs, and I did. He held the animal and helped me
to put on the spurs. I roweled that mule’s flanks with vigor and he departed those coasts with alacrity and I and my friend were parted forever. I hope we will meet in heaven and recognize each other, but if those devilish boys are there and recognize me,
I recon they will apologize-I recon they will. Young men-you boys, I mean-be careful how you make sport of a of a stranger,
for you don’t know how lonesome he feels. For forty-two, years I have had bad feelings towards those Mobile clerks. The may
be dead; they may be in the chaingang; they may have suffered all sorts of trouble and misfortune, but I am not reconciled.
I rode forty miles that day-forty miles through piney woods and over corduroy roads, and stopped over night in a shanty that
had a dirt floor and a pile of straw in the corner-a table made of split boards, and we had roasted potatoes for supper. The man was clever and his wife was kind. They apologized for the scanty fare, for the man said he had hunted all day and didn’t find
“nary squorl nor nary deer.” A pet fawn laid down by me on the straw, and I slept well, for I was tired. Just think of the changes
that-12 years have made. It took me three weeks of hard work to make that trip, and now it can be made in three days with
ease and comfort. Sometimes I feel like we old folks ought to be allowed to grow up again and have a good easy time like
this generation of young folks.

Forty-two years ago I took stage at Barnesville and rode on to all night going to Montgomery. The great United States mail
was carried on the foot boot of that stage. There was no railroad from Atlanta to Montgomery then. From Montgomery I went
to Mobile on the new and beautiful steamer, the Orline St. John. Before I returned she was burned to the water’s edge, and
many passengers perished in the flames or in the water. Here is John Taylor, the barber in my town, who was on that boat
and who is proud to tell how he followed Henry R. Jackson to Mexico in the war of ’46, and has shaved Judge Law and Judge Berrien, and all the notable men of Savannah. Mobile is a good old town and always will be. Her people are not progressive
like the people of inland towns, because they don’t have to be. The grea gulf protects them. No rival cities can ever be built
south of Mobile. She is at least secure on that side. No railroads can take commerce away from the ships that anchor there.
I saw a great ocean steamer there the other day-the Victoria-loading with cotton and in a few days will unfurl her sails for
Liverpool with eight thousand bales of cotton on board. Just think of eight thousand bales on a single vessel. There are five
neat compartments water tight and fire proof, and the compressed bales are packed in with jack screws that make the whole
mass solid-so solid that you can hardly insert a knife blade between them. Two hundred years ago Mobile was the capital of
the Lonisiana colonies and was owned by the French. Long years afterward New Orleans was made the capital. The French ceded all that coast to England and England ceded Mobile to Spain, but Spain, was whipped out in 1812 by the Americans colonies. There is some curious history about Mobile. In 1704 the little French colony that had settled there got belligerent because there were no women there and they swore they would not live such a God-for-saken county; whereupon the
French government called for female volunteers, and forty-three responded and came over. And then there was a big
row over choice of wives, for the good looking men wanted the best looking women, and so it had to be decided by lot.

The next year the women got up a row because they had to eat corn bread. It was called the petticoat insurrection, and was quieted by a promise of wheat and barley. I wonder how many of our girls would be willing to go into the lottery business for
a husband. Georgia has given many notable men to Mobile. John A. Cuthbert was born in Savannah just one hundred years
ago and died in Mobile when he was ninety-three years old. He was the oldest living graduate of Princeton College. In 1818
he edited the old Federal Union at Milledgeville. In 1837 he removed to Mobile and tas made judge of the circuit court. John Forsythe. Sr., another notable Georgian, moved to Mobile and became the foremost editor of the south and was also minister
to Mexico. But the busiest, livest little town I have I have found In my travels of late is the town of Brewton, which is seventy-five miles northeast of Mobibe the Louisville and Nashville railroad. The latest edition of Raul & McNally’s map of Alabama, gives
the town only ‘280 inhabitants, which shows how hard it is for the mapmakers to keep up with the ground swell of southern progress. Brewton now has a population of nearly 3,000 and there are over 100 new buildings going up. Over three hundred
and fifty thousand feet of lumber are shipped from this point every day. I visited one of the great liviathan mills that cuts over
one hundred thousand feet a day and kiln dries about half what it cuts and dresses all that it dried, and the plant cost four
hundred thousand dollars. The logs are floated twenty miles in a plank race that cost twenty thousand dollars, the logs are
end to end the whole line and moved to the mill just as the mill wants them. This company is from Michigan and owns over
100,000 acres of timber land, and they intend to cut it all up. The yankees are taking that country. I met one who was preparing
to plant 100 acres Lecomp pears. They will find use for the land after timber is all cut. They dress well and drive good teams.
They build nice churches and academies. I know one dwelling that cost 10,000, and several that cost half that sum. All this
venture of northern men and northern capital has come within two years, and the cry is still they come. They don’t come
tooting horns nor waving banners. They don’t come in swarms nor platoons, but they are slipping down upon us quietly,
and before we know it have bought up our lands or our mines at their own figures.

They prefer to invest in new places that our people have slighted, and they go at once developing. I am glad to say that our
people give them welcome. They seem content in their new homes, and their wives and daughters go into raptures over our climate. They are nearly all republicans, and civility, morality and energy is making their politics respectable. They have no love
for the negro, and say that in a few years be will not be a factor in national politics. They say that their party tried hard to get
his vote, and failed, but they do not need it now, and do not desire his affiliaton. One man said to me: “You southern democrats know better how to manage him, and we will gladly let you do it. We have a clear majority in both houses, ‘and will soon make some more republicans states out of the territories, and will run the government until new issues come up and new parties are formed that will divide the solid south, and, in the meantime, we will help to divide it by transplanting thousands of our best
people to this inviting land. Your people seem at a loss to decide what was the real cause of Mr. Cleveland’s defeat, but I can
tell you. It was not a bad administration, nor was it the tariff, but it was the solid south. That battle cry aroused our northern
pride. It was the chip on the hat. It was human nature; it was not politics.” Alas, poor darky? It looks like he is going to be left
out in the cold-going to fall between. In national politics he, will not be wanted, and in state politics the southern republicans
will unite with the democrats in ruling him out. But he has got a his mucle safe and can always rely upon that. He has got his
good nature and his contented disposition, and so we need not worry about .him. I saw one the other day in a side-show to
a circus. He had his big black head sticking through a hole in the wall for a target to be thrown at with a ball or an egg. “Step
this way, gentlemen, and kill the coon,” the manager said to the gathering crowd, and for hours the boys paid a nickle for a
shot and fired away. The coon was allowed to dodge but his dodging soon was very limited. If he was hit the marksman gets
a dime. It hit twice in succession he got a quarter and for three good shots the refund was fifty cents. “Step this way gentleman, and kill the coon.” When eggs were used the price was a dime a throw. I saw one fellow pop the coon square in the mouth
with a ball and it hurt I know it did for the coon pulled in his head and struck for higher wages and got them. I couldn’t tell
whether his lips were swolen or his nose flattened but his big face seemed puffed and bumpy from the daily pounding.
I see him now like a photograph and imagine that I hear that significant, prophetic speech of the yankee manager.
“Step this way, gentleman, and kill the coon.”

Last Updated on March 24, 2021 by Bill Arp

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