Shooting Stopped When Job Came Open
ASHS Column for 6 29 2006
I was asked about the cemetery
adjacent to Showalter Park, "Has
that cemetery always been called
"Century Cemetery?" I had to
admit I don't know. All my life that
location was called Kelly Field
and the cemetery has always
been there so it was always
Century Cemetery to me.
I took a chance and called Ruth
Paige, who may know almost
anything there is to know about
the history of Century. Mrs. Paige
said that it's always been called
Century Cemetery, as far as she
can recall. She stated that "Mr. Hauss gave us that property," meaning the community. Therefore, it apparently belonged to Alger-Sullivan at one time. If you've any knowledge of another name for this cemetery, please let me know.
Terry Bates was our speaker last meeting and his word pictures of the work to disassemble the Hauss mansion and reassemble it east of Jay made me feel some of the same aches and pains he must have felt. Lugging sixteen and eighteen-foot beams of heart pine made a young man strong and healthy, but also cut in on his courtin’ time, too, I betcha.
Our friend, John Bush, Miss Eva Vaughn’s nephew, sent an account written to her by R. W. Brooks, probably in the early 1940s. He called it "Some Unwritten History of Century." Since some of the vernacular is not politically correct, I will paraphrase a few of the expressions. His recollection of details in this story is remarkable, since he makes it clear it had been thirty-eight years since the events occurred.
A little background first. One of the main characters is Mr. H. L. Glover. Mr. Glover was the man selected by Mr. Hauss to oversee the building of the mill in Century. Glover was a driven man, by all accounts, and once he spoke to you, he’d turn on his heel and immediately go to his next task. He figured you only needed for him to tell you once and to avoid wasting time explaining the details, he allowed you to work it out the best way you could (Sorta like the axiom, "Take it to Garcia." I may explain that some other time),
The other main character is R. W. Brooks himself. In this narrative, he tells that he lived a couple miles below Century. At any rate, in the twelve months it took to build the mill, he and Glover became good friends. Brooks felt he could talk to Glover about anything.
Another character was a Mr. White, also from a few miles south of Century, known to be an influential man in the Knights of Labor, a trade union. Since The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company was not a "union shop," there was animosity between the union men and the mill people. During the construction of the mill, Brooks commented there was only one black man employed there, and he was a mule driver for Mr. Glover. However, the company built houses across the pond from the mill for what they hoped was to be an influx of blacks for laborers once the mill began operation.
The final character in this tale is John B. Vaughn, a friend of Brooks, the father of Miss Eva Vaughn, and not incidentally, a personal friend of William Jennings Bryan, a nationally-known attorney and politician and one-time candidate for Vice-President of the United States. John Vaughn was elected to the Florida legislature two times and had once been a deputy Sheriff of Escambia County, Florida.
Construction of the mill commenced in early 1901 and about a year later regular production started. About the time the mill began production and the houses across the pond were filled, one Saturday night several shots rang out. Immediately it was suspected that someone was trying to scare the blacks away. The company hired John B. Vaughn to be its constable and to get to the bottom of the shooting, as well as to keep general order in the community. Brooks said, "They could not have hired a better man for the job, but no man can compete with the man who, under cover of darkness, will stoop to such tactics."
A few months into 1902, Brooks said he was working near the mill when Mr. Glover walked up. He told Brooks he was worried. The previous night, there were more shots fired into the "quarters." Glover went on, "A delegation of them came to me and said they were going to leave if it was not stopped. We have got to have the men to stop this business."
Brooks asked why Glover didn’t have it stopped himself. Glover replied that he’d hired the best constable and even he couldn’t seem to stop it. Brooks said, "I told him frankly, that he had gone about it all wrong." Brooks continued, "I know who is doing that mischief."
When he said that, Glover jumped back "like I had hit him," according to Brooks. "If you tell me, I’ll see they get where they belong," Glover insisted.
"Yes, and make things worse. Let me tell you how to stop it. While I can’t specify which one it is, I know generally who it is."
"Can you suggest a plan?" Glover asked.
"I can," Brooks responded. "There is one man down there – if you will give him a job and pay him the best wages you can, the shooting will stop."
Glover got more information about this mystery man. Down below Bluff Springs a there was a lodge of Knights of Labor. The man Brooks told Glover about was the head of it and had a lot of influence over the boys Brooks was sure were doing the shooting.
Glover told Brooks if he’d get the man to come see him, he’d give him a job with Mr. Lane, a millwright, and pay him two dollars a day.
Glover then turned away and started walking off, as was his custom. About that time, the very man Brooks had told him about came up the path. Glover turned back around right away and got back to Brooks just as the man came up to him, too. Brooks only had enough time to ask, "Why don’t you get work here?"
The man answered, "They won’t give me work."
"I can get you a job," said Brooks. "I wish you would," the man replied.
About that time, Glover came up to them and Brooks introduced them and told Mr. Glover he wanted to give this man a job. Glover said he could give him a job working with Mr. Lane for two dollars a day. "When can you go to work?" Glover asked.
The man (Mr. White) replied that he could start right now, but Glover told him to come back the next morning. He did just that and went to work at a job he knew nothing about – he had always been a log driver, but he "made good" at the new job, according to Brooks.
He apparently passed the word around to the "boys" and there was no more shooting into the black part of town. When Mr. Lane left the company, White replaced him and stayed with it until almost the time of his death, years later.
Brooks closed his narrative by saying, "I expect all the boys who was [sic] engaged in the shooting have gone to their reward, as thirty eight years brings many changes in the life of us all."
Good writers could close this story with a philosophical statement and a moral for the story; well, guess what? You’ll have to think of your own moral for this one. The one who gets the best moral in my judgment will get a mention in this column and a free tour of the museums!