From long ago now and far away, there are memories that are cherished. Home. Family. Gran. Aunts and uncles and first cousins. Family like my children have never gotten to be a part of, extended family. It made you feel safe, secure, loved. You learned what was important even when you did not know that you were being instilled with values and wit and humor. My ancestors James Richardson Isbell and Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell lived in that little community of Paint Rock while other kin lived in Larkinsville and other surrounding towns and communities. In Jackson County during those days Isbell was a fairy common name. There was John Isbell, James Isbell, Allen Isbell, Levi Isbell. There were Birdwells, too. John Birdwell, Elizabeth Birdwell Isbell’s father, with all his family were in Jackson County before statehood as well. There were the Houk and the Peters families, and the
Murray lines. Rev Simeon Houk whose wife was Tobitha Murray Houk married William Deaton Jackson Murray and Susan Anna Isbell Murray in the year 1848 in Jackson County.
My Birdwell/Isbell line settled in Jackson County, Alabama after they had brought their family into the Mississippi Territory a good fourteen years before statehood. And then moved to Franklin, now Colbert County, Alabama. But first were the towns of Paint Rock and Woodville, Trenton, Pleasant Grove, and the communities of Aspel and LimRock and all the surrounding little towns and communities.
When I read the account of one man named Hodges recount in a speech in 1993 his experience and delight in being born and raised in the little community of LimRock and Aspel. His title is Judge Bob Hodges and his story sounds so much like one that my Gran may have told. It made me feel at home, safe, and longing for the good old days, the simple days, the days of extended family. The content of his speech follows:
AN ADDRESS AT LIM ROCK ‐ ASPEL HERITAGE DAY on October 9 , 1993 by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bob Hodges
Before you take anything else I say seriously, I want to read to you my father’s business card he used at Hodges Drug Store for over 30 years: “Robert Leslie Levi Buchannon Fairbanks Hodges, Jr……. Born on land lying N W One-fourth o f S E One ‐ fourth of Sec 10, Township 4 , Range 7E, Berry’s Cove, North Lim Rock, Alabama…… Now located in trading business about, 1 2 miles N E born site…….Come’n see me…. T
elelphone: Day: 2 longs and 1 short Nite: 2 longs and a half….” As you can see, he never forgot where he came from, and he was one of the best representatives o f the Lim Rock Chamber of Commerce who ever served. My roots go back here a t least three generations before me, and my memories of this community go back to the years of my childhood just before World War II. I want to share some of them with you today, because the heritage of a place, to me, means what culture that place has left us ‐ that unique and special quality a community has that is measured not just by its physical boundaries and its geographical features, but by its people: Who they were, what they believed in, and what they raised their children to be. And so, as I began thinking about what to say today, I considered In any memories of this community and its people, and ‘the special place it has occupied in my heart and in my family.
It began, for me, over 60 years ago, when three brothers left the cotton fields here on a sharecropper farm and moved ten miles up the road to the big city of Scottsboro. Each of them, my Dad, my Uncle Mess, and my Uncle Charles, never missed a chance t o remind travelers who stopped at Hodges Drug Store ‘that Lim Rock and Aspel were not just places you passed by on your way from Woodville to Scottsboro ‐ Lim Rock and Aspel, to them, was an oasis where you could come from Huntsville or Scottsboro or wherever else and quench your thirst for plain and simple beauty and good solid. working people who loved a good laugh and a rocker on the porch in the evening after a plate of pinto beans and corn bread and turnip greens, and the sound of the animals in the barn at night. The stuff a farm boy never finds, no matter how long he has been gone from the farm and no matter how far removed he has become in his dress and his income, from that simple beginning. The stuff he always longs to return to, and he can only find in a place he called home.
From my great ‐ grandfather George Johnson Hodges, known to the folks in this community only as Crockett, or my Grandfather Bob, for whom I was named, to my father, I learned legends of the people who lived here. They were told over and over to me and to others in my hearing so many times that they have become the stuff of this community. Whether they ever really happened or not is now not important to me when I think of them and of this community ‐ What i s important is the humor and the dignity of those who were portrayed in the stories I heard and the respect of the storytellers for them and for this community.
M y memories begin with evenings spent with. my grandfather here as a very small child on the porch of a two ‐ story log house which sat just over yonder around the curve from the Methodist Church. And I remember the smell in the springtime in those evenings of freshly turned earth, and of his eagerness over the crop he thought he could coax out of it, and of our watching and waiting for the sound of the Joe Wheeler to come churning through the night, its whistle blowing for the people of Lim Rock.
I remember Clyde Gentle’s store, where my father had his first job as a boy clerking and keeping up with the eggs and chickens on the rolling store, and the smell of pine wood floors and kerosene, and the sight of mule harnesses hanging from pegs, and glass jars of candy, while we waited for the Joe Wheeler to return me to Scottsboro after a weekend. Even as a child, there was a sadness on leaving, a sense that the old man in the overalls who was waving bye to me as the train pulled out from Clyde Gentles’ store, and so many others like him in this community were somehow special parts of my beginning that I wanted to come back to and hold on to until I understood the peace and the simple virtues of this place.
I remember cotton fields and hoes and long pick sacks and the hot day in the field when my grandfather and Charlie Stewart watched me drink in gulps from a cool thermos jug and then cackled and told me it was a chamber pot they kept under the wagon for themselves.
Some of the past citizens of this community, many of them now dead and gone, have become legends in my mind, because of the stories I was told about them. The athletes in Lim Rock took on superhuman proportions for me. Dr. Rayford Hodges swore to me in the drug store as he was sipping his coffee, time and again, that Rabbit Gray, the catcher for Lim Rock’s baseball team, played barefooted and once caught a foul ball that traveled 200 feet and never got higher than his head. M y father swore to me that Shine Lusk kicked a 50 yard field goal barefooted for Lim Rock’s football team, against the wind, in the closing seconds of a big game against Aspel.
The people of this community were always church ‐ going people on Sundays. My father’s earliest memories were of being carried in a wagon by my Grandmother to the Primitive Baptist Church. He remembered it well, because when they got to my Grandfather with the footwashing, he always let out a cackle when they got to the foot with the stub of a little toe he had cut off when cutting railroad ties.
The people of this community“ have always stood out for me as being folks with a never ‐ give ‐ u p attitude. Through the droughts, the flooding rains, the bitter winters, the poverty of the depression, the great tornado that swept through Paint Rock and here, the infant flu deaths that struck family after family ‐ through all those times when it seemed that a mother and father and children could not possibly hold up for another day ‐ your ancestors and mine ‐ and some of you who are older and here today ‐ squared up your shoulders and spit on your hands and went back to work and endured. I think that never ‑ give ‐ u p attitude is best remembered by me in a little story by Bob Hodges my grandfather told me that happened back in the late twenties.
My Uncle Mess, an older and larger boy than my father by far, had my father down, pinned flat to the ground, pummeling him at will, when my grandfather discovered them on his way back from milking. “What’s going on here?”, he asked. Immediately, my father, who was flat on his back and taking a mighty whipping, said: “Papa, you better get him off of me or I’m gonna kill him.”
The generations of the people of Lim Rock and Aspel before us were hard ‐ working, church ‐ going, mostly quiet ‐ spoken people, it seems from my memory and from stories I heard. But in all that toil and adversity they faced as farmers and farmers’ children, there beat within many of them the pulse of a sense of humor that no other community surpassed.
My father never got past the little nine ‐ grade school house that used to sit down the road over yonder, and he always envied his older brother, Charles, for being so bright and for getting a college education. There came a day when my father’s old school teacher came in the drug store to get a prescription filled and my father” waited on her. He was working there as a teenager then, and he had some conversation with the lady, and then called all of us employees over t meet her.
We gathered around, and he said, “Now, Miss Birdie, tell all these people what you just told me.” She looked at u s and said: “He was the brightest student I ever had. He made all A’s and h e could work any problem I ever gave him. He was a brilliant student.” My father swelled up and beamed at all of us, and the little old lady made her way to the store going out, and she turned, looked back at my father, and said: “CHARLES (not R.L.), it sure was nice to see you again.”
My grandfather and my father had the same name, except for the junior and senior that separated them. One day a juror summons came to the drug store delivered by the sheriff and made out to just R . L . Hodges. My father made a call to the courthouse and discovered that, by the birthdate, it was intended for my father. He called my grandfather to the store and told him he had a jury summons delivered there for him.
M y grandfather took the subpoena, never said a word, went to the courthouse the next week, and served on the jury. Many months went by, with never another word being said. Then, just before Christmas, Mr. Brad Stewart, a long ‐ time friend and customer of m y father’s, delivered a nice big country ham to m y father as a gift, wrapped in brown paper and labeled “R.L.Hodges.” My father put it on a table at the back of the store until he could take it home at quitting time. In comes my grandfather, walks straight to the back room, picks up the ham, and starts out the drug store. “Papa” screamed my father. “Papa ‐ that’s m ham!” “Son,” my grandfather said, “If that was my name on that jury summons, that is my name on this ham.” And off he went.
Lim Rock and Aspel people have always been known as good neighbors. My grandfather Bob Hodges’ neighbor was Charlie Stewart, who lived on the next farm down the road toward the school house. One cold January day, when the snow was on the ground and more predicted, a Saturday, my grandfather told Charlie that h e was taking his wife and children down to Paint Rock Valley to sit with a sick relative for the night, would be gone the whole weekend, and would Charlie milk the cow and feed the mule the next day. Charlie readily agreed to help out.
The next morning, more snow having fallen during the night, and bitter cold, Charlie came trudging up in the darkness, milked the cow, set the pail on the back porch, fed the mule, and on his way out through the snow, just as he passed my grandfather’s bedroom window, my grandfather threw up the shade and the window, and said, “Much obliged, Charlie.” You don’t find good neighbors like that any more.
There are many, many other stories I could tell which reflect the solid kind of people who founded this community and those who came after them. It says something about what we revere in this community and its people that those of us who have ties here come back and back again and are here today to celebrate it.
Someone once wrote that you can never really go home again, but I think we can, time and again, in our memories. Less than thirty days before my father died, just before Christmas of 1983, we took our last ride together. He was s o frail I had to help him in the car, and he was so weak he could hardly talk above a whisper. “We’ll o anywhere you want,” I said as I backed the car out of his driveway. “I’ll show you,” he said, and he just from then on, pointed his finger where he wanted me to turn.
W e came here, and w e rode through Aspel and by Jenny’s Chapel and past Gentry Hastings’ house and down to Pinky’s Store to say hello and then by the old Clyde Gentle store where he first worked as a boy. And then on we went, by the fields where there used to be cotton and by the piece of ground where the barn and log house once stood, and around the curve where the old schoolhouse once stood, and then out into Berrys Cove where he was born, until. he became too tired to continue. He wasn’t talking during the ride, but both of us were thinking of these communities and his childhood and all the years that had brought him full circle back to here. You see, he never ever forgot that this was home. And you never ever forgot to take him in. That is why I am here today, and that is why I thank you for letting me be a part of it.
The phone number has changed for us – It’s no longer ” 2 longs and 1 short”, but our “trading business“, as he said on his card, is still about 1 2 miles northeast of Berrys Cove, and, for our family, this is still home.
Robert L . (Bob) Hodges practiced law before being elected Circuit Judge of Jackson County, Alabama. He is a highly esteemed judiciary by profession, much sought after as a speaker, and without equal as a storyteller and writer. Bob is the son of the late R . L and Zelma (Nichols) Hodges, Jr. who set an impeccable example before him.
memories die with them as do life experiences and lessons learned. It is imperative that those of a younger generation preserve the memories of their forefathers; if one does not know their own and family history, how can he or she judge what the future should hold?
How I wish I could find photos and information on the Golden Gloves boxing of yesteryear, especially on those who got into the ring. And that would include Daddy, James Murray.
A name that you may recall from history is that of Governor George Wallace. He was also a boxer in his youth. He and my Daddy knew each other, were friends and that was a life long friendship. Perhaps they were introduced to each other during their boxing days. They had a lot in common. They were both stubborn, especially if they knew they were right about something. Neither would forfeit a fight even when encouraged to ‘fix’ a fight. They would rather quit than lose when victory could be theirs.
JFK and George Wallace visited TVA in Muscle Shoals to be the keynote speaker at the 30th anniversary of TVA.The date of the event was 18 May, 1963. Here is a photo of JFK and George Wallace on the TVA grounds on that date.
The fighting years of their youth must have been exciting. George Wallace received the moniker “The Fighting Judge” and James Murray, well he simply became known as “Daddy” to five children.
My brother related a story to me that I will treasure. He said that we were at one of George Wallace’s rallies, and when George Wallace saw our Daddy something notable happened. He came over and body hugged him and greeted him warmly. That was likely the rally I remember that was held at Spring Park in Tuscumbia. If only someone had a camera handy at that moment. What a treasure a photo would have been.
It was a sweltering hot day in the south in the 1960s, and a memorable one. The political rallies held at Spring Park in Tuscumbia, Alabama every year on the Labor Day weekend were touted as late as 1993 in the Times Daily newspaper as Alabama’s oldest continuously held Labor Day rally. The festivities were varied, the crowds were big and the snow cones were cold.
George Wallace came to Muscle Shoals, Alabama along with President John F Kennedy to present at the anniversary of the TVA Authority. He later endured an assassination attempt while running for President. The bullet did not kill him but he was in agony for the rest of his life as a result of the gunshot wounds. He endured the pain because he was a trained fighter.
shows descendants of Levi Isbell at the 1930 family reunion at the Isbell home on Main Street, Albertville, Alabama. The home was later demolished but stood on the court house square across the street from the court house. Levi Isbell was the brother of our James Isbell. Levi Isbell married Sarah “Sallie” Birdwell and James Isbell married her sister Elizabeth Birdwell. James and Elizabeth Isbell are my third great-grandparents on my Murray line. The Murrays who married Isbells moved from around Paint Rock and Larkinsville in Jackson County, Alabama sometime between 1865-1870 to Colbert County, then Franklin County, Alabama.
often remind us of someone else. This photo was made circa 1956 at Mama and Gran’s house at 1308 W 8th Street in Sheffield, across the street from Southwest Elementary School. That was the home of my grandparents, Robert Duncan Peebles and Betty Drue Jane Tolbert Peebles. This was way before Gran had the house remodeled It had been a sort of shotgun house with a long hallway going from the front door to the backdoor at the back end of the hall. There were four more doors, two on each side that led to other rooms. They had the area of the hall beyond the hall boxed in and it was where Mama’s icebox and hoosier cabinet was housed, along with her bonnets, her galoshes, some aprons and gloves for outside work. That wallpaper was a deep red and if I recall correctly was flocked. To the right of the front door was the telephone bench. This was a type of desk that had a small top for the phone and a seat attached to it for sitting while on the phone. The photo depicts only the structure for a telephone bench but does not really resemble the one that Mama and Gran had. They had one, and he may have built it, that was some sort of red naugahyde material. I believe there were gold thumbnails at the seams. The seat and table portion were positioned as you see, but the chair part was the red material and there were no legs visible as the whole thing went to the floor. Their first phone was on a four household party line as was ours. Now, that was fun.
This photo is of me when I was about five or six years old. For some reason as a girl at Easter, I always got a new dress, shoes, and an Easter hat. I guess that is what a girl got on Easter in those days. There I am with my Easter basket, my pretty dress, my Easter hat and my right eye parked next to my nose. As best as I recall we would go to Mama and Gran’s and Mama would always make pictures of us sitting on that same red bench in their hall. My eyes were blue and my hair had copper highlights. Later and for years I almost always wore my hair in a ponytail. There is a little girl who favors me and that makes me happy. This photo reminds me of her. I wanted her to see this photo.
as the photograph clearly shows.
Most of the time a doll for my mother and her sisters were sticks from a tree that had a fork to them. There would be no head or arms, just two legs. But that was enough to spark Mother’s and Ellen’s and Preston’s imaginations. Since their dresses and drawers were made of the hard to come by flour sack material that Mama would fashion into pretty little things for the girls from pictures in the Sears & Roebuck catalogs (that served a dual purpose), there were no scraps of materials to use to clothe the dolls. So, they improvised with whatever was available to ‘dress’ their dolls. I wish I had asked if they were pretend baby dolls or pretend fashion dolls, but I think I know the answer to that for they always lived out in the boonies and likely never saw fashion in anything. I do recall that mother said once that when Mama told her it was her fourth birthday and Mother asked if her birthday could walk because she equated birthdays with the calendar on the wall. The calendar always had a picture of a pretty girl on it. So she figured birthdays could walk, unlike her stick doll.
Mother and her siblings grew up during the first great depression. Times were hard. Very hard. When the girls were lucky enough to come across a passion-flower they would create the most beautiful colorful doll in the world. Mother always loved purple, so I am quite sure this was very pleasing for her. The siblings would pluck the flower with as long a stem as possible as those were the doll’s legs. Then they would pluck off certain parts until there was a head and two arms. The purple fluffy and flowy part was the skirt. They pretended the doll was a dancing doll. I always called them a ballerina, but I did not remember to ask them if they thought that – likely not as Mother never had a hamburger until she was grown and they had moved to town so it is just as likely that they never saw a ballerina until grown either.
To this day, I have never witnessed anyone who could play a game of Jacks as well as mother. My jaw dropped to the floor at her skill level and dexterity when she played with us when we were little. No doubt they played this game when they were little, too. But not with store-bought Jacks, just rocks and whatever they could use for a bouncy ball.
Didn’t we have it good when we were growing up compared to most of them in that generation?
are featured in this photo taken in 2009. Hillard Murray was born in Sheffield and lives in Colbert County. Hillard has two children: Tim and Patty. The photograph shows Hillard with son, grandson and great-grandson. Hillard is one of the subjects of a prior story published on Remembering the Shoals.
Hello Soldier, I am your brother Hillard and this is our little sister Alice. <Remembering the Shoals>
Another Father’s Day Without Daddy <Remembering the Shoals>
Gregory and Sparks Family <Remembering the Shoals>
Sarah Ann Elizabeth Lucas <Rememberng the Shoals>
The Lucas Family <Remembering the Shoals>
should be the norm now since he died in November of 1979. The one thing most lacking after losing my father is that my children will never know the meaning of what a ‘Gran’ or a “PaPaw” can be. For as my first cousins can attest; it is the gatherings of family on special occasions that jolts our memories of good times and family, especially extended family. Sadly, my children really have never known much extended family. So, I must tell them my firsthand accounts and stories that will give them a sense of what ‘family’ could be and should be. So, dedicated to my children, my grandson, and my great-grandchildren, I proffer this about my soldier father:
James A Murray — a member of THE GREATEST GENERATION
“The Victory Division”
24th Infantry Division, US Army 1941 to 1996*
There are some histories of the battles of the 24th Inf. Div. and its men and women over its 55 years of service to country, especially for the Victory Division who fought so valiantly in the Pacific in WWII. They were truly the greatest generation. And we are free because of them.
Nick named the “victory division” and the ” pineapple army” because it was formed in Hawaii in early 1941. It also carried other nick names and mottos; “First to Fight” and ” Taro Leaf “, which is now the name of its association’s news letter.
World War II: Campaign Participation Credit
1. Central Pacific;
2. New Guinea (with arrowhead);
3. Leyte (with arrowhead);
5. Southern Philippines (with arrowhead)
The Victory website welcomes us to the official Web site of the 24th Infantry Division Association, the Pride of the Pacific Theater. Our motto is, “First to Fight.” An Act of Congress confirms this. We were first to take arms against Imperial Japanese forces, and we were first to engage the North Korean aggressor in 1950. We are the division Japanese Army General Yamashita said broke the back of the Japanese Army at Breakneck Ridge on Leyte, and we are the division the liberated people of the Philippines called, “Victory”. Taromen have always stood ready to defend freedom and the democratic way of life, anytime, anywhere, against all aggressors . . . in the jungles, through the snow, or on the sands in far off lands. We are fiercely Proud of our heritage, and when our nation calls upon us once again . . . we will be, First to Fight!!! The 24th Infantry Division (Mech) inactivated on August 1, 2006 at Fort Riley. Its most recent operations included preparing Fort Riley for the return of the 1st Infantry Division, previously stationed in Germany.
World War II
The 24th Infantry Division was among the first to see combat in World War II and among the last to stop fighting. The Division was on Oahu, with Headquarters at Schofield Barracks, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, and suffered minor casualties. Charged with the defense of northern Oahu, it built an elaborate system of coastal defenses. Pvt. James Murray arrived in Hawaii on May 17,1942. In May 1943 it was alerted for movement to Australia and by 19 September 1943 had completed the move to Camp Caves, near Rockhampton, on the eastern coast of Australia. After a period of intensive training, the Division moved to Goodenough Island, 31 January 1944, to stage for the Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura)–Tanahmerah campaign. The 24th landed on Dutch New Guinea, 22 April 1944, and smashed its way to and seized the important Hollandia Airdrome despite torrential rains and marshy terrain. Shortly after the Hollandia landing, the 34th Infantry Regiment moved to Biak, 18 June, to reinforce the 41st Infantry Division, and captured Sorido and Borokoe airdromes before returning to the Division on Hollandia in July. After occupation duty in the Hollandia area, the 24th Division landed on Red Beach on Leyte, 20 October 1944, as part of the X Corps, Sixth Army, and driving up Leyte Valley advanced to Jaro and took Breakneck Ridge, 12 November 1944, in heavy fighting. While mopping up continued on Leyte, the 19th RCT moved to Mindoro Island as part of the Western Visayan Task Force, landing in the San Jose area, 15 December 1944. Airfields and a PT base were secured for operations on Luzon. Divisional elements effected a landing on Marinduque Island. Other elements supported the 11th Airborne Division drive from Nasugbu to Manila. The 34th RCT, landing at San Antonio, Luzon, 29 January 1945, ran into a furious battle on Zig Zag Pass and suffered heavy casualties. On 16 February 1945 the 3d Bn. of the 34th Infantry took part in the amphibious landing on Corregidor and fought Japanese under a hot sun on the well-defended Rock. After numerous mopping up actions in March, the Division landed on Mindanao, 17 April 1945, cut across the island to Digos, 27 April, stormed into Davao, 3 May, and cleared Libby airdrome, 13 May. Although the campaign closed officially on 30 June, the Division continued to mop up Japanese resistance during July and August 1945. Patrolling continued after the official surrender of Japan. On 15 October 1945, the Division left Mindanao for Japan.
United States Army
U. S. 6th Army
24th Infantry Division
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
General Douglas MacArthur
Gen Walter Krueger
Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff, Commander of the
24th Infantry Division and
503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team
All the little ones, at least those not experienced enough to escape, would get the perfunctory pinch and twist of the jaws by this man, my Daddy. I am here to tell you, it would be something that you would not soon forget. Daddy had a sense of humor. That humor is attested to in the following postcard that he sent home while in the service during World War II: