Winding River Road Becomes Useful To Community
ASHS Column for 10 05 2006
Margaret Collier

    Feedback from our columns indicates that at
least two or three of you are reading and paying
attention. From your communications we blush-
ingly revel in your "thank you" notes, become
better columnists from your instructive criti-
cisms, and learn much more of the area his-
tory from your contributions, so do keep on
letting Jerry and me hear from you.

    In reference to the picture of Ethel McKin-
ley's "twig table" in my last column, Preston
Solomon, of the Oak Grove-Walnut Hill area,
called to let us know that there had been an
identical one in his family. His daddy had
swapped syrup for the table from a man who
had them for sale at the old camp site near
the creek. His thought is that the tables
were made from vines (possible scupper-
nong) rather than twigs or limbs. Do any of
you have any more info about these tables?

    One day recently, Carol Dole and I went a-roaming on our way to and from Brewton for lunch. On the way we took a round through Pollard. I never tire of driving around that peaceful, historic area and regretted missing its recent celebration. On the way back, I mentioned that I did not know where Joe and Kay Ross lived, so Carol told me to turn on Old Highway 31 that loops through Catawba Springs and McCall before returning to the new highway.

    Now I can just hear you snorting, "How could anyone around here not know where those lovely communities are?" Well, you just have to understand that I don't often go a-roaming by myself and since I didn't grow up around here I just don't know about all of the special goodies that lie beyond the beaten paths, so I appreciate those of you who volunteer to bring them to my attention.

    We weren't through exploring then though. On returning to Century we rambled through McCurdy Cemetery where we located Luman and Juanita Mayo's headstones as well as many others of our old families. Unfortunately, the weeds and other debris have marred the beauty of this quiet place and have obliterated many grave sites. Maybe there is something some of us can do to restore this historic area.

    The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society trips have added much to my knowledge as have the stories of individual members. In other words, folks, if you would like to know more about this great area in which we find ourselves, you should come join us.
In continuing the saga of The Winding River Road we want to relate more of its various uses.
    Before all the short stretches of log and timber roads between the log landing on the river and between the different saw mills on the creeks became connected, stretches of it were used only locally. After all the connections were made the road gradually came into general use. It was used by the inhabitants of the area in traveling up and down the river in looking after logging and timber business, in looking after livestock and other business transactions handled by inhabitants of such communities.

    It was used to haul hundreds of tons of feed to commissaries operated at the several saw mills and logging camps along the route to feed the logging teams. It was used to haul hundreds of wagon loads of supplies for these same commissaries for use of employees in the logging business and their families. A great deal of the feed and supplies was hauled from Pollard, Alabama in big wagons pulled by three or four yoke of big logging oxen.
Such wagons usually carried from 4 to 6 thousand pounds. This road was used by people in traveling to and from social gatherings such as community or inter-community fish fries, down by the river at log landings where plenty of fish could be caught during a few hours fishing by a few fishermen to supply dinner and supper for the crowd.

    Sometimes such gatherings would be held at a saw mill when it was closed down for repairs. In such cases the water would be permitted to drain from the pond. Hundreds of fish would be floundering in small pools left in the pond. They could easily be picked up by men and boys who would gather them by big bucketsful. Typically, the owner of the mill invited all the men working either at the mill or in the logging camps and their families to come to the mill for a big fish fry and a square dance. On such occasions the owner of the mill would usually build a platform for the use of the dancers.

    The inhabitants of this area often rode in big freight wagons up and down this winding road to Fourth of July celebrations where big country dinners of barbecued juicy beef, crisp venison and tender brown turkey would be served with smoking hot coffee dipped from a couple of big washpots boiling on the same bed of coals. They also rode in these same big freight wagons over this same winding road going to and from May Day picnics at the big spring down on the creek where dinner was brought from home in big baskets made at home from white oak splits and served on long tables.

    This was the season when young chickens and young wild turkeys were tender and juicy. When fried brown and crisp they added joy to such picnics. The many big sponge cakes, broad frosted cakes and high built-up layer cakes never failed to add sweetness to the occasion. Dancing on a big platform made on undressed lumber would supply amusement for the day. No brass band would be there with its loud, "Tooting and Honking Horns," called classic music, but two or three old time fiddlers would be there with fiddles brought from Spain mellowed by an hundred years of service. When they tuned up these old instruments and rosined their bows with fresh rosin picked from a catface on a nearby pine tree they made music that stirred people's souls and moved their feet in perfect rhythm with the music.
                                                                      * * *
    Now doesn't that sound like great fun? They went through hard times back then, but they also knew how to have good times.

Click for full size image
"Catfaces" (used in the Winding River Road story) are the portion of the bark cut away to promote the tree's sap to drain. It's collected and then distilled to make turpentine. (Photo from Lumbering in Northwest Florida and Alabama, 2006, by John Appleyard. Available at The Alger-Sullivan Historical Society)

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This page last modified on Monday, October 30, 2006