Two locomotives being tested at the same time in about 1913 and photographed together. The three-truck 85-ton engine at the left was built for Sunset Timber Company in California. The two-truck 58-ton locomotive was built for the Escambia Railway in Alabama.

Don't say "Hit's er raining" even if hit is!

Ledger column for June 2, 2005
Jerry Simmons

Century, Florida, owes much of its very being to Escambia County, Alabama.

Now that I've shocked you by making that statement, allow me to explain. The resources, that is, the trees, used by The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company were primarily in Escambia County, Alabama. To a lesser degree, Monroe and Conecuh Counties were also instrumental in the town's early existence. You see, the logging was done in Alabama. The authoritative book, Logging Railroads in Alabama by Thomas Lawson, states, "The premier number one logging railroad in Alabama was The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company, even though the sawmill was in Florida."

The sawmill in Century employed perhaps 300-500 people at its peak, and many of those came from Alabama. The logging woods may have had as many men but the labor was harder and may have shortened the lives of some men. We have one member who believes her father died at an early age because of overwork.

The Escambia Railroad was part of the Sullivan Timber Company, located near Nokomis and was already in use in Escambia County, Alabama as a common carrier and for logging in the late 1890s. When Martin Sullivan and R.A. Alger pooled resources to form The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company, they operated a sawmill at Foshee and integrated the Escambia RR into the ASLC. This sawmill provided lumber to construct the sawmill at Century during 1900-1901.

The reason I am saying all this is to attempt to explain that Alabama has direct connections with this part of Florida - the imaginary line separating us is just that: an imaginary one. The steel that made up the tracks of the Escambia Railroad was a thread that kept the ties that bind between the two states for the first 30-40 years. As always, things changed. Log trucks replaced the engines and log trains; and dirt, concrete, and macadam roads replaced the rails.

So you folks in Escambia and other counties in Alabama that think you have no stake in helping us in our quest to Bring Back Old 100, think again. It's very likely that in your family there are one or more who had some sort of tie with Century and the ASLC. We plan to emphasize the role of Alabama and its people in our displays when (not "if") Old 100 is back home. That you can bank on.


I am serious enough about the bonds between us that not only do I belong to the ASHS but am also a member of the Escambia County Historical Society in Brewton. I enjoy every meeting I can attend and all the people there are very nice to me. I highly recommend you join them/us every month on the 4th Tuesday at 3 pm. The meetings are in the Thomas E. McMillan Museum at JDCC.

On May 24, Wilellen Elliott, a former president of the ECHS, gave a talk on the amazing Rev. Shofner and the Downing-Shofner Institute, a school for "girls with limited means." The school, located in East Brewton, closed in the 1940s.

I want to share with you the "Ten Commandments" of the Dormitory at the Institute written by Jim Shofner in the school paper, "The Hill-Top."

1. Thou shalt not put biscuit nor sausage in the milk bucket (Jim got up very early to milk the cows as he was attending Brewton Collegiate Institute. One of the kitchen girls had made this error).

2. Thou shalt not sympathize with any "Po Thing" whatever.

3. Thou shalt not say, "Hit's er raining" even if hit is!

4. Thou shalt not use slang, snuff, nor tobacco.

5. Thou shalt not swipe, falsify, testify, not tattlefy.

6. Thou shalt avoid demerits, lectures and wrath of the matron.

7. Thou shalt obey the teachers with dignity and pride.

8. Thou shalt not cheat nor chew gum on examinations.

9. Thou shalt not leave the gate open, for the reason that Gus, Mike, Mary Jane, Coed, Pete and Monk (the calves) will astray afar and never be found again.

10. Thou shalt nor break any of these commandments for verily I say unto those that thou shalt repent as the years draw nigh and the President shall say unto thee, "Pack thy trunk and go the way of all the world."

"Take heed and Abide by Them:"


While I am promoting the Escambia County Historical Society, let us not forsake the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society! We have a wonderful treat in store at the next meeting, with the author of "Homestead" to speak to us. Betsy Bishop Thomas wrote a true-life story of her grandfather's homestead near Jay, Florida. The book deals with the lives of Nate and Melissa York who often struggled in the lonely and sometimes harsh setting in this remote area of rural Northwest Florida in the late 1800s. Ms. Thomas grew up on her grandfather's homestead but now resides in Fort Walton Beach.

Make your plans to hear this heart-warming and compelling tale. Our next meeting is June 21, 2005 at 7 pm. If you want more information, call 850-256-2029, 850-256-3980, or 850-256-2661. Great social time and free refreshments!

This page last modified on Thursday, June 02, 2005