Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Submitted by Gary Compton
This trail was used extensively delivering supplies and mail to Fort Hampton. It was also used by thieves and no-goods that capitalized on the many travelers. Sometimes they would beg and other times they would rob. The latter was attempted on Levi. He was just east of Mooresville trail when from nowhere three crusty, looking fellows came from a heavily wooded area. They surrounded him and his mule. Using sharpened wooden spears, they demanded all of his furs and his ride or they would kill him. 
 ... Find Cathlamet High School Class Reunions; Home of Mule Sports TeamsTo even Levi’s surprise, his mule, "Old Bully", flared his nostrils and begin to kick violently at anyone in range. Levi had to use all his strength and might to stay on "Old Bully’s" back. First there was a strong thug as old "Bully" connected with one of the robbers' chest. One down and two to go. The second wasn’t lucky either. He moved in with his wooden pole to gore the mule. Suddenly, old "Bully" caught him in the head with his back hoof; down went number two. The third robber started running as fast as he could to escape, disappearing into the woods not to be seen again.
Levi had a mess on his hands as one robber was lying in the trail moaning and the other appeared to be dead. Levi dismounted Old "bully" and examined both of them. The one groaning had some busted ribs and the other was in fact dead. His head was laid open by "Bully's" sharp Hoof. Levi told the one still alive that he would need to take care of his comrade since he had started this mess. "I will be back thru here tomorrow and check on you” and the would be robber seemed to understand so Levi mounted and rode away being shook up by the hole ordeal.
Late that afternoon, it begin to turn cold as he arrived at the trading post. He stated his business to the keeper and requested to finish up the trade so he could head on back to his homestead. As nightfall came so did the cold wind, Levi knew it would be miserable traveling at night but it was more important to get back home with his family than to stay at the trading post overnight. 
Along with the 30 lbs. of salt he had traded for, there was one tin of black powder, two pounds of lead, one small sack of taffy, Two clay jugs with tops , three hens and a rooster. Not much for 25 top grade furs but Levi didn’t complain.
On his way back Levi arrived at the place where the robbers were. He could see a small campfire deep in the woods. Quietly he continued on, wondering what might have happened to the three. Why had they become robbers?  Why did old "Bully" do what he did? Why didn't they just ask for help? Levi being a sensible man, knew he would never know the answer to these questions. He decided not to stop and check on these thugs as he told them. He felt that getting back to his family was more important.

Monday, January 30, 2012


The Family History Center will be Closed for the second shift 1- 4 pm, Jan. 31.    We will still be open to help you from 10 - 1 pm.


PART I - submitted by Gary Compton

Whenever we think about pioneer days, we often think how much simpler it was and wish we could have lived back then. Contrary to those thoughts, life was hard then. Each day was a challenge, not knowing where that next meal would come from. There was very little communication with others. Hostilities were everywhere; almost unbearable work. Your daily decisions would regulate whether you would live or die.

It was in the early summer of 1817 when Levi Simms and his family arrived at a small stream west of what is now known as Elkmont. This area of Alabama had been prime hunting ground of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians. The area was heavily wooded and was considered wilderness. The United States was in the process of purchasing the northwestern part of Alabama from these two Indian Nations. Elk River was the western boundary that now separated the young America from Indian territory.  Ft. Hampton was located down the Elk about 25 miles southwest. The Fort's Mission was to prevent settlers from crossing the river into Indian territory and to prevent Indians from crossing back to Western America, It had been decided that their culture differences were much too great for Indians and Settlers to Live together peacefully.

As Levi and his sons led their horses and other livestock to water, they were all observant of their surroundings. There were deep rutted trails where elk and deer traveled back and forth between their feeding and bedding areas. There was a large spring coming from beneath an outcropping of rocks and the water was very cold and refreshing. Levi noticed how pleasant it was being beneath the tall canopy of Popular, Chestnut and Oak trees. The long Valley that ran from Northeast to Southwest creating a natural shield from the hot summer sun and potentially the cold North winds in the winter months.

The boys were already ripping up and down the stream splashing each other, venturing further and further out while being curious of every thing that they saw, felt and smelled. Andrew, the youngest son, soon found that the stream was abundant with fish and crawfish. He begin to remove stones and gathering crawfish, placing them in his ruck sack for a great evening meal. Herman, the older, begin gathering watercress, Chestnuts and wild berries of all sorts. These were typical daily activities as they all had to pitch in to survive.

Mrs. Simms, " Ma Gretchen" , they called her, was busy setting the Irons and building a fire for the evening meal. The Iron Dutch oven was her favorite and only cooking vessel and she always had it wrapped with a leather blanket when not in use. No one was allowed to use it for any reason other than cooking and it was constantly hanging over a fire when they were not traveling. The variety of things that had been in that pot would make some people cringe but nourishment was anything that had meat and none would ever complain. Wild grains were plentiful along their travels and were gathered almost daily. Ma Gretchen would sometimes find a convenient flat stone and a small round river rock. She used this to grind the grains into flour. Bread was a favorite among the family and it was part of their daily staple.

Mr. Simms was busy making a temporary corral for their livestock . His only tool was a Pole Ax that he brought with him from South Carolina. He chopped down several small saplings and tied them up with vines fashioning a fence that would do for a few days while he decided if this place would be their homestead or if they needed to move on. Levi was always looking ahead planning his next move. He was much more happy being away from all the hustle bustle of the east and took great joy watching his boys grow up away from the influences of civilization. Gretchen was his rock and he was always trying to comfort her as she missed her family back East so much.

In days to come, Levi would bridle up his mule early each morning, scouting the surrounding areas while Gretchen and the boys stayed behind doing their daily chores. Levi soon discovered that the Elk River was only a mile are so from camp and soldiers were frequently patrolling the river banks looking for evidence of anyone crossing the river. After getting acquainted with the soldiers, he found out there was several settlements and there was a couple of trading posts about a day's ride from where they were camping.

Levi would occasionally kill a deer to supplement their food supply and was delighted to see so much wild game. There was Turkey, Deer, Elk, Black bear and a few Buffalo. Fur bearing animals were various and plentiful, including Mink, Fox, Beaver, Coon and Weasel. All would be major factors in making his decision to stay or Move on.

Levi had a long day setting and running his snares and was on his way back to camp. Andrew ran up the trail to meet him all excited. "Papa, Papa, Papa look what I found in the branch". Levi had seen it back east and at first he thought it to be fools gold but after biting into it, it was soft and malleable. He realized it was a Gold nugget. "Son" he said, "Show me where you found this". they both ran to the branch. Levi scratched around in the rock crevices at the bottom of the pool using his bare hands and low and behold he found another Nugget. This was all that Levi Simms need to make his decision.” This is where we will stake our claim and make our home".

In days to come Levi had to resist the temptation of scratching around in the branch as he had to build a cabin for the family and shelter for his livestock before winter.  Over the next couple of months the Cabin and barn was erected. Now they had a permanent house and livestock shelter for the winter ahead. In this period of time several families, drifters, some freed men and even Indians came thru Levi’s homestead but they were all encouraged to move on as he had claimed the rights to 640 acres and they would need to settle somewhere else. Levi and his family kept the secret about the gold. not daring to tell anyone.

After finishing his log home, Levi traveled to the river bottom one day and caught up with the soldiers on patrol, he asked them to mail a letter back East to his two younger brothers. The letter asked them to come west . "It’s a good place to live and you will do well. There is plenty of game and the soil is rich". (Mailing something in those days was not very reliable and very slow. sometimes taking two to three months to be delivered). But Levi had plenty of patience, being seasoned by the many months of wilderness travels and personal hardships.  Andrew and Herman begin to take on more and more responsibilities and played a big role in the success of their new found home. They had cleared almost four acres of land at the lower end of the hollow, using a axe, mule and their hands.

They were getting ready for next spring and their first garden. Ma Gretchen had a variety of seed she had brought from back east. She had small glass bottles with wooden stoppers with a variety of garden seed in them She had them all wrapped in leather to protect them. The boys knew that this first year in their new found place was going to be the roughest. They knew they would be eating lots of wild game and wild plants.

Levi knew that laying up food for the winter months was going to be tough. One thing he needed badly was lots of Salt. He took inventory of his Animal Furs that he had acquired so far for trade . Mooresville was his destination and it was his first time to go there. The entire trip would take two full days so he left his musket, Powder horn and bullets with Andrew. Levi knew they would need protection while he was away. The next morning he headed out early using the Upper Fort Hampton Trail to go East.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Due to changes in staff, the Athens Family History Center on Market Street is now closed on Saturday.  Its current operating hours are Tuesday 10 am - 4 pm and Wednesday  6:30 - 8 pm

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Started in 1790 by then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, the census has a goal of counting every resident of the country. The United States had a population of about 132 million in 1940.
"The census is a wonderful tool for tracing your family history or doing any kind of historical research," said Elissa Scalise Powell of Marshall, a director of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh and one of six certified genealogists in Pennsylvania.
"Nineteen-forty, of course, is a booming time in our country. You've got the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and the war effort coming on."
Questions in the 1940 census "reflect the changes that occurred within people's lives and family structure within that 10-year period," said Luanne Eisler, a genealogist at the Butler Area Public Library.
For example, the government's 140,000 enumerators went door-to-door asking where residents lived in 1935 because so many people moved between 1930 and 1940. They asked how many weeks the head of the household was employed during the previous year because of widespread unemployment.
Those questions were asked in addition to typical census queries about names, dates, places of birth, and whether people owned or rented their homes.
"When the government releases information, it's a big deal," said Susan Boyko, a genealogist in Jeannette. "This is bigger than that. This is once-in-a-decade."
The 1940 census will be the first one the National Archives and Records Administration releases digitally. However, the 3.8 million raw images of census forms won't be indexed upon the release, so researchers will have to look up geographic areas and search addresses, rather than searching by keywords. Most public libraries will make the census available.
Spokesmen for the nation's two largest genealogy resources, www.Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest, said the services plan to index the census by the end of the year.
The Athens Family History Center will have this census available for you to see without charge this April.  Come visit and see what else the center has to offer. 

Monday, January 2, 2012


Free Access to Civil War Era Records

FamilySearch provides free access to millions of records from the time of the U.S. Civil War. Many of these records document events related to the war and its aftermath. Click on link to learn more. https://www.familysearch.org/civil-war