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LIFE IN SHINBONE VALLEY
The story of the Moore Family would be incomplete if we failed to tell the story of the place where they settled, lived, died and raised their families. The story of Shinbone Valley, a place they loved; a place they called their valley.
Excerpts From Shinbone Valley by Vista Strickland
I do not recall the first time I heard of Shinbone Valley. I was young and had often heard my grandmother, Leelah Idona Newsome Moore, mention it. A valley, a place somewhere in Alabama, which at the time meant very little to me. Then my grandfather, James Rufus Moore, in his old age came to live with my mother. He yearned for one last visit back to the valley in Alabama before he passed on. Arrangements were made for him to go visit his brother, John Wesley Moore who still lived there. Papa, as we called him, after his short stay in the valley , returned home with a real inner peace and a lot of pictures. During this time I began to ask questions about this place and became aware of a feeling deep within me to know more, not only of this valley, but of my family and my ancestors. It took me some thirty years until I became serious about fulfilling these desires to see this valley and to learn more about where my ancestors lived. My ancestors the, Moores, Stricklands, Newsomes, McInvales, McClintocks, Hayes, Hollys, Shorts and others are my links to this place called Shinbone Valley.
My first visit to Shinbone Valley this past summer was a wonderful experience. It was made even more enjoyable because of Robert J. Moore, the son of Jasper Moore, who met us there with his wife Gene and gave us the grand tour of the valley. Robert recalled many of the Moore family members that he lived with and visited during in his youth. The visit to the Union Cemetery was almost spiritual for me in nature.. For in this cemetery lies the final resting place for four of my grandfathers and four of my grandmothers with countless grand uncles, grand aunts and cousins. The valley was so beautiful and it was easy to understand why they loved it. So, I want to recount the story of this valley through the eyes of one of our relatives who lived in Shinbone Valley as young girl, Vista Strickland.
James Robert Swafford
Vista Strickland tells of the history of the Valley. " I know only that the valley lies in the foothills of the Appalachian range of Blue Ridge Mountains, in the evening shadow of Mt. Cheaha, which is in the northeastern part of Alabama. It is the highest mountain in the state, with an elevation of 2,468 feet. No other mountain in the state has an altitude of more than 1600 feet."
"There are two mountains on the west side of this valley: first, Horseblock Mountain, then Cheaha, standing majestically above it, joining it with a sort of pack-saddle. Rain falling on the north end of the mountain flows north in Hilliby Creek, and that falling on the south end flows south in Horse Creek."
"From the valley Mt. Cheaha appears to wear a veil of misty blue, and because of that was sometime called "Blue Mountain." From the top of Cheaha, on a clear day, one may see a seventy-five mile expanse of rugged mountainous grandeur and splendor. This area was once Indian country......Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee. According to to history , when the white man came there was an Indian Chief Chinabee on the west side of Cheaha. What tribe I do not know, but he was called "The Peace Maker." On the east side of the mountains was Chief Shinebone and his tribe was Creek Indians. Chief Chinabee and Chief Shinbone were friends, and when the white man first came the Indians were friendly to them."
"It was to this Indian county - the land of Chief Chinabee in the morning shadow of Mt. Cheaha - that my great grandfather, (James Robert, Jim Bob Swafford's great-great grandfather) Ancel Butler Strickland, came when he immigrated to Alabama from Georgia. After living here for a number of years, he moved to the east side of the mountains, to the valley of Chief Shinbone and settled on Kethchamegherke Creek. Kethchamegherke is an Indian name and was pronounced by the inhabitants of the valley like it was spelled. It was called "Kichemedogee". That is all I ever heard it called, and that is what I shall call it. Other white settlers came, and in the 1830's the white man, by various treaties, secured title to all the land. A pact was made between Grandfather Ancel B. Strickland and Chief Shinbone, whereby the Chief, with his family, lived on Grandfather's land as long as they lived. For this privilege, the Chief gave Grandfather Strickland his peace pipe. The pipe is now in the possession of my Uncle Northern Strickland's family and is valued very highly."
"Chief Shinbone and family remained on the Kickemedogee, on Grandfather's place, his glory, his chief hood stripped of him, (after the Indian wars) his tribe gone. They lived there until they died natural deaths, and are buried, I am told, on top of a little mountain overlooking the valley. This valley was named for Chief Shinbone in what is now known as "Shinbone Cemetery", not far from the Cypress Springs, crystal clear springs bubbling up in a grove of beautiful trees with cypress knees bending all around- shall we say, "bending in prayer and mourning for the valley's lost children, the Indians."
Vista continues, "The part of the valley I was most familiar with was the Union, Alabama community, so-called for the school. The community centered around a little village about a quarter mile north of the upper bridge on Kichemedogee.
I knew the village only as "Town", or "Mt. Zion". There had been a post office there in former years, named "Dempsey", and one on Swan Branch called "Buckeye". They had been discontinued and mail delivered on rural routes. The village consisted of seven residences, one general store, selling everything from groceries and dry-goods to buggies and wagons, a grocery store, drug store, blacksmith shop and Church of Christ building, called Mt. Zion. Across a little valley west was a Baptist church house, cemetery and school. This was all called Union."
"The people in the valley were comparatively poor and ignorant of the ways of the world. Most of the older ones owned their homes, and some were very well fixed, but none wealthily-that is, in silver and gold or worldly goods. They were rich in spirit of cheerfulness and good will and other things that really count for wholesome living and happiness.
Only those who owned their homes remained in one place for long at a time. Many rented land and moved most every year from place to place in the valley. We were among the last, so we lived in many different places."
"Life at its best was crude as compared to today, but it was adequate; shelter, the warmth of the fire, clothing, blankets and quilts, food to stay hunger and cool water to quench thirst.
There was no indoor plumbing facilities, nor running water or electricity, no air-conditioning or central heat, or circulating heaters, but big fireplaces in nearly every room. Everyone's diet was not perfect, and there were no vitamins, only sassafras tea in the spring, and, for some, sulphur and molasses. Modern people would consider in very primitive, and so it was, but in those days it was at least comfortable.
Almost everyone had orchards and gardens, and some had vineyards, so they raised their own fruits and vegetables - beans, peas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and corn for bread. Cane was raised, and they made, or had made, their syrup. Most had one or more cows, some hogs and chickens, geese or ducks. So there was milk and butter, meat and eggs, feathers for beds and pillows, and some owned sheep that furnished wool for clothing and meat for the table.
In the early days, most furniture was handmade - bedsteads, tables and chairs, and some were quite beautiful. I remember seeing a homemade four-poster bed with a mat of splits for the mattress to lie on, and we would had some beautiful chairs that Uncle John Strickland made. Wagons were also made, candles were moulded and even bullets were made."
"Much of the farming was done by hand, without any machinery, only a walking plow and hoe. Cornstalks were cut with a hoe and cotton stalks knocked with a stick and burned early in the spring. A familiar sight on spring nights was the sky lit up with bright lights from rows of stalks across the fields blazing and the men and boys silhouetted against the lights running from row to row with pine torches lighting them. The air was filled with the scent of smoke and I loved it."
"Everyone worked hard through the spring and early summer, planting and cultivating crops and harvesting grain. When the last sheaf of grain was hauled in, the last furrow plowed, and the last row hoed, everyone shouted with loud whoops of sheer joy. Now they were able to rest and enjoy themselves for a season. If you heard someone in the field in early summer shouting at the top of his voice in a joyous tone, you would know that his crop was laid by.
Common interests and short distances created a closeness. Everybody knew everybody else and was interested in their welfare. If there was sickness, the neighbors were there to help in any way possible. If an emergency arose and someone was needed at once, you just took up a hunting horn and gave three long blasts and soon help was on the way, often, a crowd. If a doctor was needed, someone mounted a horse and galloped off in a hurry."
"Someone asked Papa once in Alabama if Texas wasn't a land of outlaws and renegades. He told them, "No, that he supposed those outlaws came to Texas and straightened up and flew right for Texas was a land of honesty and uprightness, more so than the part of Alabama he knew."
In memory to our ancestors who lived in Shinbone Valley: Stricklands; Moores; Newsomes; Hootens; Birchfields; McClintocks; McInvales; Shorts; Carters; Elders; Shaddixs and others.
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