Perusing the past

Published 12:33 am Friday, August 21, 2009

The other day, Larry E. Caver Jr. sent a review copy of his latest compilation, “Genealogical Abstracts from Dallas County, Alabama Newspapers (1823-1865).”

This is the 17th book relating to Alabama history and genealogical research the Wilmer man has compiled and published.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed researching the old newspapers from Dallas County, as they are a valuable resource in looking at the early history of our state,” Caver writes.

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The abstracts are entertaining and show that even domestic troubles are similar today as they were back before the Civil War.

Take, for example, this notice from The Cahawba Press published Sept. 27, 1823: “NOTICE: Whereas, my wife, Elizabeth, having absented herself from my bed and board without any just cause, the public are hereby warned against harboring or trusting her on my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of her contracting after this date. — Shadrach Martin, Dallas County.”

A little more eloquent legal notice than the “I will not be responsible for any other debts but my own,” used in the late 20th century and sometimes today.

The police stories are short and to the point in The Dallas Gazette from Feb. 15, 1856. “This county has been made the theatre of another murder. On last Tuesday night about 10 o’clock, Mr. Stewart Pool, a constable, was killed by William H. Farmer. It seems Mr. Pool went to the residence of Mr. Farmer for the purpose of arresting his son, Gabriel Farmer, on a warrant of some sort.”

Death notices and obituaries are among some of the most popular items in a community newspaper. The writers and editors of The Selma Free Press had some pretty succinct ways with them as evidenced by these selections from Oct. 10, 1840.

“Died, at his residence near Chawba, on the morning of the 26th ultimo, Capt. Williams Hendrick, aged about 50 years. He was amongst the oldest citizens of Dallas County, and his death is one of the severest calamities which has befallen the community, as well as to his own immediate family.”

Or this one, “Died, in this place on Saturday night, 26th instant, at the residence of L.W. Chapman, after a short but severe attack of bilious fever, which she bore with Christian fortitude, Mrs. Ann Hibbard. She has left one child, a daughter (not named) to mourn her loss…”

The book is instructive and valuable to those who want to track down relatives. But it’s also a lot of fun to read just for the sheer prose and a touch of history. It is available from Pioneer Publishing Co., P.O. Box 408, Carrollton, MS 38917. It costs $43 per copy, plus $5 postage/handling.