He Wasn’t The Best, But He Was The Best I Ever Had

This week, Anne and I decided to go back to Florence, Alabama — our first stop was the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery, where Key buried his dog in 1937. Since that time, other hunters wanted to bury their dogs there, and a rule was put in place to limit the place to only true coondogs. From the cemetery site:

“When I buried Troop, I had no intention of establishing a coon dog cemetery,” says Underwood. “I merely wanted to do something special for a special coon dog.”

When columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson interviewed Underwood in 1985, he told her that a woman from California wrote him wanting to know why he didn’t allow other kinds of dogs to be buried at the coon dog cemetery.

“You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs,” he responded.

My Flickr set of previous visits here.

I didn’t photograph it this time, but my favorite quote on these is this one, for Track:

“He wasn’t the best, but he was the best I ever had.”

Marriage License Into The Afterlife

In the Monroe, Louisiana Old City Cemetery, the most prominent monument is that of Sidney Saunders, whose likeness stands holding — of all things — his marriage license

After being born in 1846 in Mississippi, he grew up in Morehouse Parish when very young, and was orphaned as a teenager. He joined the CSA, and after being wounded during the siege of Vickburg, became a prisoner and was paroled home.

Later, he became a grocery and saloon keeper and in 1875, brought his wife and son Willie to Monroe, which apparently was a big surprise. There were rumors that Sidney’s business practices were suspect and that the circumstances around his marriage weren’t on the up-and-up. Bad things were said about his wife, Annie, and the nature of how she and Sidney actually became a couple.

Their son Willie died in 1886 at age 12.

In the span of about 20 years, three of Sidney Saunders’ properties caught fire, and the last one in the late 1890s cast him, at least in his own mind, as a suspect of the latest arson. Sidney bought a lot in the Monroe City Cemetery in January 1889 and less than two weeks later, he was found dead, believed to have been the fault of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After his death, his wife Annie found herself in a situation to make full claim on his $83k estate. Relatives remembering the odd circumstances in which he found himself married could not find a legal marriage license and thus took the inheritance.

Annie fought back and the register (not license, but officiant statement) of their marriage had been found in St. Louis, dated back to 1875. Annie had this cemetery monument made, based on the likeness of someone who worked at the monument factory, holding a marriage license — which is what’s in the statue’s hand, below.

She had their son Willie moved to this crypt also. Inside the crypt, what’s believed to be a 10′ square room, Annie:

..hung curtains, moved in her husband’s desk and kept a sewing machine and her son’s velocipede (or tricycle).

Local history enthusiast Ron Downing said his grandfather talked about visiting with Annie Saunders on Sundays while she sat in the subterranean room in a rocking chair.

People said she went there daily to pray and sew, according to Peppers.

Annie was later buried in the crypt also.

Doro Plantation at Beulah MS

The historic marker at the turn for what was the Doro Plantation at Beulah says:

Doro Plantation
On land received as payment of legal fees in the 1840s. Doro Plantation was established in the early 1850s by Charles Clark, Confederate General and wartime Governor of Mississippi (1863-1865). Doro continued to thrive in the post-Civil War years. Gov. Clark and members of the Clark and Jacobs families are buried here.

Cotton field at Doro Plantation//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Doro Plantation was in what’s now called Old Prentiss. It was the county seat of Bolivar County from 1852 to 1863, when it was burned by Federals. It fell into the river in 1865 and was uncovered in the drought of 1954 (the Clark’s house had to be moved before the war because the site was falling into the river. The house doesn’t exist today.).

Cemetery on Indian Mound at Doro Plantation, Near Beulah MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
The cemetery where General Clark is buried with his family is on top of an Indian mound.

General Clark’s monument in the cemetery.

Beautiful Selma

Av and I had supper before services in Selma at the Tally-Ho restaurant (507 Mangum Ave, 334.872.1390), which has been in business since the ’40s.

Tally-Ho Restaurant, Selma AL

Tally-Ho Restaurant, Selma AL

It has this really interesting English foxhunt-style theme running throughout, which is really very charming; what made it particularly lovable was that it looks as if it hasn’t been reinvented over the years….that the restaurant was decorated ages ago and it’s been carefully kept intact, without need for further embellishment.

Our waitress was a lovely lady, and it was all ‘thank yous’ and ‘yes pleases’ and pleasantries back and forth. Av had the New York strip and I had the prime rib, which was just delicious. They don’t serve horseradish sauce automatically with my dish, but when I asked if they had any prepared, our waitress offered to make some up – and it was just perfect. I didn’t order any dessert, but Av had a slice of peanut butter and chocolate pie, which was very nice.

Sweet Alabama Painted on Brick, Selma AL

Downtown Selma is just great – old drugstores, signs painted on brick (I really like this ‘Sweet Alabama’ faded sign above). I wish I’d taken more pics – I should be back really soon, so I’ll take and post more later.

Whenever we go to Selma, which is a few times every year, we always visit Live Oak cemetery. I know it sounds weird to visit a cemetery, but Live Oak is truly special. It is just *so* beautiful. Spanish moss hangs over everything – the oaks, of course, and magnolias too.

VP William Rufus de Vane King Tomb at Live Oak Cemetery, Selma AL
Above is William Rufus de Vane King’s tomb. This is what the marker beside it reads:


William Rufus de Vane King
Native Sampson County, North Carolina.
Admitted to the 1806. North Carolina House of Commons 1807-1809. U.S. Congressman 1811-1816. Secretary U.S. Legation Naples and St. Petersburg 1816-1818.

Moved to Dallas County, Alabama, 1818. A founder of Selma, named city. Delegate Alabama Constitutional Convention 1819. U.S. Senator 1819-1844, 1848-1853. U.S. Minister to France 1844-1846. President pro tempore U.S. Senate 1836-1840, 1850-1852. Vice President of United States, 1853.

William Rufus King ran with Franklin Pierce on the Democrat ticket in 1852, and when he was to take the oath of office in 1853, he was actually in Cuba to recover from tuberculosis. It was by a special order of Congress that the oath was taken by someone in a different country. His health in Cuba did not improve, so he decided to return home to Alabama. He died the next day.

All the pics below are of beautiful Live Oak cemetery:

Live Oak Cemetery, Selma AL


Monument, Live Oak Cemetery, Selma AL


Monument, Live Oak Cemetery, Selma AL


Monument, Live Oak Cemetery, Selma AL

Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS and Trying to Find Miss Sophronia

We’ve been to the Natchez city cemetery several, several times – but I noticed when I went to their website that the site has a section for particularly interesting monuments. I couldn’t right-off find the book that we’d bought earlier about the cemetery, but I made some quick notes about some of the monuments I wanted to take pics of. Here are just a few:

Louise the Unfortunate, Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS
This monument above is for Louise. The Unfortunate.

How sad!
Apparently she came to Natchez to meet and marry her fiance. He either died or just didn’t show up, and she didn’t want to return home. She supposedly went from respectable career choices like seamstress and housekeeper to – over the years – careers that were, ahem, less respectable in society. There are three ideas as to how she came to be buried in this plot, with a headstone (even though no dates are on it), and this is from the cemetery’s website:

…some say Louise became friends with a doctor who treated her during her hard life Under-the-Hill, and upon her death he paid for her funeral. Some say a wealthy plantation owner who frequented her room on lonely nights paid her funeral expenses. Others say a preacher paid for her funeral from his pauper funds, but she wasn’t buried in a pauper’s grave.


Natchez Drug Company / Turning Angel, Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS

This pic above is of a monument that was erected by the owner of the Natchez Drug Company. There was an explosion at the building that leveled the five-story structure and among others killed five of his employees, the youngest being twelve years old.

The monument reads:

Erected by the Natchez Drug Company to the memory of the unfortunate employees who lost their lives in the great disaster that destroyed its building on March 14, 1908.

Carrie O. Murray
Inez Netterville
Luella D. Booth
Mary E. Worthy
Ada White

In front of this angel monument are headstones for each of the employees. The angel on the monument is referred to as the ‘turning angel’ because it appears to turn at night as cars’ headlights shine on it from the main road.

Schwartz monument – Christian Schwartz had ‘White House’, the home now known as ‘Glen Auburn’ built.

….so we left the cemetery and went to some little just-for-tourists shop right downtown to ask them if they knew where we could find Miss Sophronia that day. Miss Sophronia sells pralines outside Rosalie and also where the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen steamboats dock, some other places too. When we walked in to this little touristy shop (which I could not believe we were going to, but okay, we wanted to find her), we were asked by this man who didn’t sound at all like he was from anywhere south of Pittsburgh if we wanted to try *their* PRAY-LEENS. (no.)

“Prah-leens” please.

He didn’t know who Miss Sophronia was.

Update 2015: Miss Sophronia passed away July 21, 2015.

She touched the lives of a number of people with her quick style and jovial nature. She enjoyed making praline candy and delighted in meeting people from all over the United States and other countries while selling her pralines during the fall and spring tourist seasons and throughout the year at the various antebellum homes in Natchez and under-the-hill. Nobody was a stranger to her.

Coon Dog Cemetery, near Cherokee AL

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Av and I visited the Coon Dog Cemetery while we were in the Florence area a few days ago.

The cemetery began in 1937 when Key Underwood buried his dog Troop there. Some other men asked if they, too, could bury their coon dogs on the land, and this started the ‘Coon Dog Cemetery’. The cemetery website states that there are more than 185 coon dogs buried there now.

This is from their website:

When columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson interviewed Underwood in 1985, he told her that a woman from California wrote him wanting to know why he didn’t allow other kinds of dogs to be buried at the coon dog cemetery.

You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs,” he responded.

Coon Dog Cemetery, Near Cherokee AL

Lots more pics of the coon dog cemetery can be found here at my Flickr set.

LaGrange College, Alabama’s First Chartered College, "The West Point of the South" in Leighton, AL

Av and I visited the site of LaGrange College this weekend. The town of LaGrange AL, on a ‘spur’ of the Cumberland Mountain, was founded around 1822, and at one time more than 400 people lived there, mostly as a summer resort which they referred to as “Rocky Hill”. Previously Chickasaw land, it was considered holy to the Indians who had lived there, and they vowed when they were forced out that the land would be cursed because it had been taken from them.

Today the town is sometimes called the ‘vanished village’.

LaGrange college was founded in 1830, and the University of North Alabama, in Florence, considers LaGrange as its predecessor – so this year, UNA is celebrating its 175th year.

Monument at LaGrange College Site, Leighton AL
The monument reads:

This is the Site of
LaGrange College
Chartered in 1830 by Act of
the Legislature of Alabama
An Insitution of High Order for Men
Attended Chiefly by Students
From the Southern States

The College was Burned April 28, 1863
By Federal Cavalry Commanded by
Colonel Florence M. Cornyn
Under General Granville Dodge

Bishop Robert Paine 1830-1846
Dr. Edward Wadsworth 1846-1852
James W. Hardy 1852-1853
Rev. Smith Moore 3 months 1853
Dr. R. H. Rivers 1854-1855
Rev. Felix Johnson 1855-1858
Col. J.W. Robertson 1858-1862

The college was originally opened by the Methodist Church, but there was some turmoil over the school’s future due to money issues – in 1855, the school was moved for a short while to Florence even (now UNA) – but the State took it back over in 1857 and renamed it ‘LaGrange College and Military Academy’ in LaGrange. It was at this point that it was considered ‘The West Point of the South’.
When the war started, most of the teachers and students had enrolled in the CSA army. In fact, the college had closed its doors in 1862 due to this fact.
In “With Sabre and Scalpel, The Autobiography of a Soldier and Surgeon” by John A. Wyeth, he writes this about the cadets at LaGrange:
Of the one hundred and seventy-nine cadets, with the exception of three lads who to the end of the war were still too young to enter the service, all became soldiers of the Confederacy. Of this number twenty-three were killed in battle, and twenty-six died in the service from wounds or diseases incident to exposure, a total death-rate in the war of nearly twenty-eight per cent. Of those who survived many suffered from wounds or acquired diseases which carried them, soon after the close of hostilities, to untimely graves, while some who still live are suffering from those injuries which have handicapped them in their struggle for the support of themselves and families. True to their convictions of duty, they were worthy sons of the land they loved. The story of their war experiences would fill a volume of thrilling narrative, and were it possible I would honor these pages with the roster of their names and the record of their heroism. There were four, however, to whom I am closely bound by the ties of an affectionate friendship, which, commencing in youth, ripened with the years of maturity and crystallized with age. They were of the flower of our country, typical of the spirit of the South.
There weren’t many inhabitants of LaGrange when Union Colonel Florence M. Cornyn and his “Destroying Angels” of the 10th Missouri cavalry burned and destroyed the college on April 18, 1863. They also destroyed the Lafayette Female Academy, which was established by the Baptist Church in 1825.

Wyeth also writes:

A bill was introduced in Congress in 1904 by Hon. William Richardson to reimburse the trustees of La Grange Military Academy for the loss sustained by the destruction of this property during the Civil War. To replace at this period the library of four thousand volumes belonging to the institution, together with the chemical and physical apparatus, furniture, buildings, etc., would require at the lowest estimate one hundred thousand dollars. Upon the introduction of this bill the matter was referred to the Court of Claims. Over the door of that court might well be written the quotation from Dante, “Who enters here leaves Hope behind.”

LaGrange was never rebuilt. In 1904, a reunion was held and a church was the only building left standing.

Cornyn later went on to burn Florence, including the Globe Cotton Mills. Curiously, he was killed by his own second-in-command, Lt. Col. William D. Bowen on Aug. 10, 1863. I haven’t found if that was accidental or what…
Today, it’s (sadly) really just a site of where the college stood, with buildings brought in to make it more of an attraction.
There is a is a dog-trot log house which was built in 1908 and moved to the site in 1995 to become the welcome center.
This is a pic of the “LaGrange Bed & Breakfast”, which was built in 1880 in Tuscaloosa county and moved twice, and donated to the site in 1998 to be used as a B and B:

B&B at LaGrange College, Leighton AL

A wedding chapel is also on the site. It started out as a one-room log house in Flatwoods, but weddings are performed there now. It’s really pretty:

Wedding Chapel at LaGrange College Site, Leighton AL

Across the street from the college site is a country store that stocks things like bonnets and aprons, but it’s only open by appointment or during school field trips, according to the LaGrange brochure.
Down the road from the college site is the old LaGrange cemetery:

Old Sign at Cemetery, LaGrange College, Leighton AL

Cemetery at LaGrange College, Leighton AL

The cemetery is listed on the Alabama Historical Register of Landmarks.
There are two main stories told about the cemetery, one is (a creepy one) about the ‘petrified lady’ – a little bit about that here. Another is about the Abraham Ricks monument, which supposedly cost $5000 back in 1852. 
At the University of North Alabama, one of their dorm buildings is named after LaGrange.

Folk Gravestones at Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL

I have family buried at Black Oak Cemetery in Dekalb County, and I was there last week to take pictures and get good dates for my genealogy projects.

Besides the usual markers….marble, granite…were these wonderful hand-made markers. This first one below is for John L.A. Brown – he was born September 19, 1800 and died October 19, 1818 (Alabama wasn’t even a state until 1819). His marker as well as some of the others feature this tree motif. What else this particular one includes is heart shapes, and a hand pointing up.

I have a friend whose relative passed away (just a couple of years ago), and their family members dug the grave themselves, with shovels, not machinery – not because they couldn’t afford to hire someone else to do it, but because they wanted to – as a kind of service in itself. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t do that at a big city cemetery, but this was beside a small country church.

The family members who made these monuments below decorated the gravestones by hand either because they couldn’t afford a professional stone, there was noone nearby to do the job, or because they felt it was their duty. In whatever case, these stones in particular seem so much more *real*.

John L.A. Brown 9.12.1800 - 10.19.1818, Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
John L.A. Brown

To the Memory Of...  Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
To the Memory of…

Monument, Margaret ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL

Joel T. Thacker Monument ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Joel T. Thacker

Son of Thacker ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Son of Thacker
Monument with Tree Design ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Tree design

Tree Motif ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Another…tree motif