The Scottsboro Boys

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 24, 2015

On March 25, 1931, local authorities in Paint Rock, AL arrested nine black youths on a freight train after receiving word about a fight between blacks and whites on the train. They discovered two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, dressed in men’s overalls on the same train and subsequently charged the nine young men with rape.

The doctor who examined the girls found proof that they had been having sexual intercourse but no reason to conclude that they had been roughly handled, except for a small bruise on one of them which might well have been caused by riding on gravel. This was not Victoria Price’s version of the story: “There were six to me and three to her….It took three of them to hold me,” she recalled under oath. “One was holding my legs and the other had a knife to my throat while the other one ravished me.”

Four of the “Scottsboro Boys,” Roy and Andy Wright, Eugene Williams, and Heywood Patterson, had grown up in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the Wrights were the sons of Ada Wright, a widow and a domestic servant in Chattanooga. Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Charlie Weems, and Willie Roberson came from different towns in Georgia and encountered the others for the first time on the train. Olen Montgomery was completely blind in one eye and could barely see out of the other; Willie Roberson suffered from untreated syphilis and could hardly walk.

Scottsboro Boys with their lawyer in jailPresiding judge Alfred E. Hawkins assigned all seven members of the Scottsboro bar to defend the young men, but all of them found excuses not to involve themselves except for seventy-year-old Milo C. Moody.

In Chattanooga, sixty miles away, members of the local Interdenominational Colored Ministers’ Alliance raised funds to retain Stephen R. Roddy, a white lawyer from Chattanooga. “I was scared before, but it wasn’t nothing to how I felt now,” said defendant Norris as the trials got under way. “I knew if a white woman accused a black man of rape, he was as good as dead.”

On April 9, 1931, after four separate trials conducted over a four-day period before four different all-white juries in the mountain town of Scottsboro, eight of the defendants were found guilty as charged.

Judge Hawkins promptly sentenced them to death. The case of the ninth defendant-thirteen-year-old Roy Wright-ended in a mistrial after a majority of the jury refused to accept the prosecution’s recommendation that he be spared the death penalty because of his extreme youth.

“I was sitting in a chair and one of those girls was testifying,” Wright was quoted as saying in a March 10, 1933 New York Times article. “One of the deputy sheriffs leaned over to me and asked if I was going to turn state’s evidence, and I said no, because I didn’t know anything about this case.

“Then the trial stopped awhile and the deputy sheriff beckoned to me to come out into another room– the room back of the place where the judge was sitting– and I went. They whipped me and it seemed like they were going to kill me. All the time they kept saying, “Now will you tell?” and finally it seemed to me like I couldn’t stand it no more and I said yes.”

Soon after the guilty verdicts, the NAACP and the International Labor Defense came to the defense of the “Scottsboro Boys,” contending the trials were unconstitutional. Three more rounds of trials ensued. Ultimately, charges against four of the defendants were dropped, but by that time they had spent over 6 years in prison on death row without trial.

Alabama’s Governor Graves had planned to pardon all of the defendants before he left office in 1938. However, during the customary pre-pardon interview, Graves was angered by the men’s hostility towards him and refusal to admit their guilt, so he did not issue pardons.


PBS April 2, 2001: “Scottsboro: An American Tragedy” (

One Response

  • Dan A Hayes says:

    I want to set the record straight about how and why the Town of Tallulah Falls came to be. I also want to set the record straight on who made the town what it was when and why. The Tallulah area was first inhabitants were Indians and fur trapping white men. The first white settlers were the Vandivers.and the McCracken Families. From the 1700.s to the eearl800.s at this time it was wild wilderness.
    A man named Rufus Lafayette Moss Sr came to the area in the 1870.s he was a wealthy Athens Ga business entrepreneur. He owned two banks. Two cotton mills. He owned the athens gas light company. The Athens steam engine company. Two lumber in Athens the other in Tallulah Falls. He was the man who founded the town of Tallulah Falls. He brought the Tallulah Falls railroad to town in 1882. He bought Tallulah Gorge in 1879.he built his summer house on the edge of the gorge he owned. He built the cliff house hotel. It was o. The rim of the gorge.45 acres of land on the rim of Tallulah Gorge. Rufus Lafayette Moss Sr was Commissioned by the state of Georgia legislature to incorporate the town of Tallulah Falls on October 7th this is all facts. The Moss house stands today in Tallulah Falls. It the fourth oldest house in Rabun County. Via the Rabun County Historical Society. It’s the oldest house in town. And the largest. This history has not been told and needs to be corrected. Rufus Lafayette Moss Sr. Has earned his place in Georgia History. It is time some one set the record straight.

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A pleasant drink of medicinal value

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 23, 2015

Ahhhh, dandelion wine! The popular name comes from dent de lion, French for “lion’s tooth,” referring to the teeth on the leaves. Wine is made from the heads. Choose dandelions from an open field far from any insecticide spraying. Pick early in the season when the leaves of the plant are still tender. Flowers that have just opened are best.

Photo: Bob Thompson/Flickr

Photo: Bob Thompson/Flickr

To make dandelion wine: “Four good quarts of dandelion blossoms, four pounds of sugar, six oranges, five lemons. Wash dandelion blossoms and place them in an earthenware crock. Pour five quarts of boiling water over them and let stand 36 hours. Then strain through a muslin bag, squeezing out all moisture from dandelions. Put the strained juice in a deep stone crock or jug and add to it the grated rind and juice of the six oranges and five lemons.

Tie a piece of cheese-cloth over the top of jug and stand it in a warm kitchen about one week, until it begins to ferment. Then stand away from stove in an outer kitchen or cooler place, not in the cellar, for three months. At the end of three months put in bottles. This is a clear, amber, almost colorless liquid. A pleasant drink of medicinal value. Aunt Sarah always used this recipe for making dandelion wine, but Mary preferred a recipe in which yeast was used, as the wine could be used a short time after making.”

For dandelion wine made with yeast: “Four quarts of dandelion blossoms. Pour over them four quarts of boiling water; let stand 24 hours, strain and add grated rind and juice of two oranges and two lemons, four pounds of granulated sugar and two tablespoonfuls of home-made yeast. Let stand one week, then strain and fill bottles.”

Sources: “Mary at the Farm and Book of Recipes Compiled During Her Visit Among the “Pennsylvania Germans,” by Edith M. Thomas, 1915.


dandelion+wine appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia appalachia

2 Responses

  • How enchanting! I just wrote a blog about dendelion wine yesterday!!! How wonderful to find the recipe for it, here, today!!!! You’re the best! <3

  • This makes me wonder what kind of recipe my Gran used for making dandelion wine, as hers had a pretty bad reputation (although her black raspberry wine was beyond divine!).

    We’re hosting a foraging round up called Wild Things, and the featured herb for the month of April is dandelion. We’d love it if you’d submit this recipe. If you’d like to play along, all you have to do is send a link to this page to by the end of the month. Thanks!

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The work of the mountain mother

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 22, 2015

The work of the mountain mother is burdensome and she bears more than her share of responsibilities of the household. Her housework includes washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and often spinning and knitting for the family. Handicapped by lack of modern conveniences, her task involves undue hardship.

In most of the homes cooking is done on a small wood stove, with none of the modern conveniences; often the only implements are iron kettles, pots, and ovens which may be used interchangeably on the stove or in the fireplace; the latter is still preferred by many for baking corn bread and sweet potatoes. A scant allowance of fuel is provided from meal to meal. During a rainy spell, or when the father is away or sick, or the children off at school, the mother may be left without fuel, though wood grows at her very door.

McDowell County NC woman with infant, early 1900sWoman holding an infant, early 1900s. McDowell County, NC.

Carrying water, a toilsome journey up and down hill several times a day, usually falls to the lot of mother and children. No one of the families visited had water in the house or on the porch, and only 1 out of 5 within 50 feet of the house. Twenty families carried water over 500 feet and 8 families were from an eighth to a quarter of a mile distant from their springs.

The wash place, consisting of tubs on a bench and a great iron wash pot in which the clothes are boiled, is usually close by the spring. Much straining and lifting and undue fatigue are involved in this outdoor laundry. Sometimes even a washboard is a luxury, substituted by a paddle with which the clothes are pounded clean on a bench or a smooth cut stump.

Much of the family bedding is homemade, the work of the women and girls in their leisure hours, after the crops are laid by or in the evening by the fireside. Besides the time-honored log cabin pattern, their collections of patch-work quilts include such quaint and intricate designs as “Tree of Life,” “Orange Peel,” and “Lady of the White House.” Many a mountain home has its spinning wheel still in use and occasionally one finds an old-fashioned hand loom.

Some homes display a collection of coverlids and blankets, handmade at every step of the process. The wool was grown on the home farm; sheared from the sheep; washed, carded, and spun by the women and girls of the family; dyed, sometimes with homemade madder, indigo and walnut dyes; and woven on the loom into coverlids and blankets. Even the designs are often original or variations of old favorites, like the “Whig Rose,” “Federal City,” and “High Creek’s Delight by Day and Night.”

The other duties of the mother are largely seasonal. From December to August the children are home from school and she has their help. Together they make the garden; help plant the com and peas for winter; gather them when ripe ; pull fodder and dig potatoes ; feed the stock; and perform the usual farm chores of milking, churning, and carrying water. In many homes the mother may be found doing chores which are usually considered a man’s work, unduly prolonging her working hours and exposing herself to more stress and strain than is compatible with her own health or that of the children she is bearing.

McDowell County, NC woman spinning, early 1900sA woman spinning thread, early 1900s. McDowell County, NC.

It is uncommon for help to be hired in the home, except occasionally for a few days during confinements. Moreover, with the exception of sewing machines, household conveniences are totally lacking. Hard-working women complained that the men have planters, drillers, spreaders, and all kinds of “newfangled help,” but that nothing had been done to make women’s work easier.

Practically all the mothers visited, besides their housework and chores, had helped in the fields more or less — hoeing corn, pulling fodder, and so forth. Of 212 mothers, 188, almost nine-tenths, had worked in the field before marriage; 167 since childhood; and 166, or three-fourths of the mothers visited, had helped in the field after marriage.

A woman’s field work in the mountain country is not so extensive or fatiguing as in the lowlands where the cotton crop requires the constant labor of the entire family many hours a day during a long summer and autumn. In the mountains, little farming is done, the average family raising no appreciable farm produce for sale. The woman helps plant and hoe the corn and in the autumn helps harvest the crops — stripping fodder, carrying it to the barn, making sirup from sorghum cane, picking beans, gathering apples, and digging potatoes. Her field work is not arduous in itself, but only because it is undertaken in addition to her already numerous duties — caring for the children, housework, sewing, canning, and chores.

“Rural Children in Selected Counties of North Carolina,” by Frances Sage Bradley, MD, survey published in 1918, U. S. Department of Labor, Children’s Bureau
online at

One Response

  • Janet, says:

    Mountain women worked very hard and it took it's toll on them. You can look at pictures of women and see how they aged in just a few years. I recently acquired my grandmother's wedding ring, it was very thin and a piece was missing from it. I was told that it wore thin and a piece finally broke from it from all the wood chopping she did. Women deserve a lot more credit and recognition than they get for all they contributed to their families back then.

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Cotton mills move upcountry

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 21, 2015

The South in the days before the Civil War had despised manufacturing, but the men who rebuilt the war-ravaged Southern states were well aware of the importance of industrialization.

The new era began with the opening of the Piedmont Mill in the upper part of South Carolina in 1876. The textile industry grew quickly after 1880, and South Carolina was one of the leading textile-producing states in the nation for the next forty years. By 1892 there were fifty-one mills in South Carolina, making the state first in the nation in power looms and second in spindles. Textile mills became a major element of industry, commerce, and society in the upcountry.

William Ashmead Courtenay of Charleston was one of the pioneers of the industrial movement which transferred the bulk of the American cotton industry from New England to the Southern states where the raw material is produced. Courtenay served as mayor of that city from 1879-1887, where he was lauded for his handling of a major earthquake in 1886.

William Ashmead CourtenayIn weighing a location for the cotton mill he wished to build, Courtenay selected the Piedmont section of South Carolina for proximity to the growing fields, and narrowed his choice to Oconee County with its river resources flowing vigorously out of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Among other criteria he considered was the expanding rural population with its eagerness for “real pay” and more favorable living conditions. He knew that a new, clean village with more conveniences and steady pay would draw the sharecroppers. And indeed, many unsuccessful farmers did turn to the textile mill for employment.

Of a nervous temperament, his was an impetuous and in some respects aggressive nature, involving constant effort to restrain impulses and check too hasty action. He possessed quick perceptive power, tireless energy, strong facility for organization, wonderful capacity for work and marked executive ability. Impatient of unnecessary delays, this with some left the impression of needless austerity and impulsiveness, but under all this seeming brusqueness there was a genial disposition.

—-Description of William Ashmead Courtenay from History of South Carolina, by Yates Snowden, Harry Gardner Cutler, Lewis Publishing Company, 1920

On April 21, 1893, Courtenay and his associates received a charter from the South Carolina secretary of state “to establish a factory in Oconee County for the manufacturing, spinning, dying, printing, and selling of all cotton and woolen goods.” Courtenay built his cotton mill and a village of workers’ houses along the Little River, naming the town Newry in memory of his ancestors’ original family home in Ireland.

There was a rumor about William Courtenay using funds allocated for earthquake relief in Charleston in order to start the mill community, says Henry Cater, who worked for Courtenay Manufacturing Company from 1952 to 1964, in an oral history. Even the location of the mill is key to the story, as it was claimed that the community was essentially “hidden” by its location in the valley.

Cater says the corporation formed by Courtenay with Frances J. Pelzer, William B Smith Whaley, R. C. Rhett, W. B. S. Hayward, and John C. Carey in fact raised stock aboveboard and was innocent of that charge.

“It was in a sparsely settled and unfrequented corner of the county,” Courtney wrote of the new site to his stockholders. “Labor had to be brought there, shelters built for them; in fact all the primitive conditions of the distant border had to be dealt with, machinery for brick making and other purposes had to be transported from distant points, one and a half miles of railroad must be graded and built.”

Courtenay Mill was constructed in a typical New England textile factory design. The design is attributed to William B Smith Whaley. On June 14, 1894, water first turned one of the mill power wheels. The mill was in full operation by the end of that year. The plant was originally operated by hydro power, but about 1905, steam engines and boilers increased production.

aerial of Newry, SC; Courtenay Manufacturing CompanyMany of the structures at Newry, including the mill, mill office, post office, store, church, supervisors’ houses, and many of the workers’ houses, were built between 1893 and 1911. The houses are excellent examples of buildings in a planned textile village.

Courtenay also built a house at Newry which he called Innisfallen and lived there until 1902. That year he told stockholders in the company’s annual report: “Under the Company’s By-Laws it has not been possible for me to be absent for more than a few days at a time during these ten years. I may be obliged to have a vacation in the coming spring.” But it was more than a vacation. He moved to Columbia, the state capital, where he spent the last years of his life, dying in 1908.

The mill itself closed in 1975, and The Newry Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.




One Response

  • Chip Mack says:

    Hi Dave,

    Saw one more thing, you may want to correct. There is another participant in the Felzer corporation, William Burroughs Smith Heyward.

    And yes, I notice the different spelling of Burrows vs Burroughs, which is of continuing debate. Certain branches may have elected to a more eloquent form of the name. It may have been easier to gravitate to the spelling of the day.

    The Heywards were a very prominent family in the sea island cotton aristocracy and milling endeavors. You can see his headstone at the following link:

    Chip Mack

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I took to the dry goods line

Posted by Dave Tabler | April 20, 2015

“When I started I didn’t have very much. Didn’t need very much, didn’t have many customers. Course I would see them go into the store across the street. I worked over there at one time and at the building that burned down. I’ve been fooling with [the grocery business] all my life. Before we came here, my uncle had a store in Hineytown. He had a little old store there. It was just along the road there. It was on a big farm and we’d go out and work. When a customer came he’d ring a dinner bell or blow a horn. I’d be away up on top of a hill a’hoeing corn and I’d have to go down and wash, sometimes I’d forget to wash, just go in and wait on them.

“We’ve given credit. That’s a great ____. But a lot of headaches. People move away or just don’t pay and there is no way you can make them pay. It used to be that you could mark up merchandise month after month and prices would be about the same. Very little variance. I have never seen them like they are today. Seasonal stuff would sometimes be a bit out.

Palmer's Market in Montgomery County, VA“Lots of the distributors, a lot of the merchandise come out of Baltimore. I took to the dry goods line. Groceries were from all different places. Some I bought from wholesale grocers in Stanton. Some from different places in this state, grocery houses, one or two. Of course we had salesmen, plenty of them. Elkins had two or three wholesale houses and their salesmen came here on that Western Maryland train.

“That was the only way to get here unless they drove all the way over the mountains. They would get their horses at the livery stable here and their vehicles, that is the grocery people. The dry goods and notions people located in Baltimore, they had their own outfit, but it was done by horse and hack. Until they got, one time they had a dry goods company, Treek, Ellis, Hertel & Company, in Baltimore, had an old chain model drive truck. First one we ever had. It just excited people to death to see that fellow coming in that. His baggages, his samples they just covered it with something to keep it dry.

“We’d laugh when we saw him come into town. Sometimes he couldn’t get it started and he’d lay over a day or two. Nobody understood them very well around here. Finally it would start and he would take off. Just like an old traption engine going up the road.”

Mr. Matheny (b. 1885)
interviewed at his grocery store
in Bartow, WV, summer of 1975



related posts: “Mom & Pop meet the Supermarket”

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