Newspaper Articles


Submitted by: Paula Hurst
Decatur Daily Newspaper-May 15 1916
Edgar Willis is killed at church by Henry Sharp. Trouble arises Sunday at revival near Hartselle-slayer is jailed. Henry Sharp, a prominent farmer of the Somerville neighborhood, is now in the Morgan County jail charged with murder, and his victim, Edgar Willis, lies dead at his home five miles east of Hartselle. The killing took place at about noon at Mr. Tabor Church near Hartselle. Both men were attending a revival (Decoration Day) service at the church when the trouble occurred. Sharp opened fire without warning according to the statement of Depurty Whit Sparkman who brought Sharp to Decatur Sunday night. Willis was shot four times and his death was instantaneous. Both men are of prominent families. Insanity is plea of Henry Sharp-Slayer of Willis. A plea of not guilty, coupled with insanity, was made by Henry Sharp, the Morgan County farmer who shot and killed Ed Willis at Mt Tabor Church last Sunday. Sharp was arraigned late yesterday before the law and equity court after being indicted by the recent grand jury."
This was Henry Bolton Sharp, b. March 2, 1879, d. Nov. 24, 1958. Son of Edmund Whitfield Sharp, son of James H. Sharp.

Submitted by: Paula Hurst
This is from The Decatur Daily Nov. 25, 1990
"1811 quake recalled in man's letters" "I saw the earth sinking and the trees falling. The great road passed by my door alive with men, women and children shrieking and crying and some of them almost without clothes as they had escaped from their beds and nearly frozen with cold, some running one way, some another in a state of distraction." Joseph Burleson told this account of the "shakes" along the New Madrid fault in 1811 to Anne Newport Royall and she related it to a friend in a letter dated March 10, 1819. Ms. Royall wrote several letters concerning stories she heard from "the elderly Tennessean" as she called Burleson, whom she met in Moulton. According to several accounts, the earthquake that shook the New Madrid Fault started shortly after 2 am on December 16, 1811, and continued in intervals throughout the day. It was not the first time Joseph Burleson had experienced misfortune, according to his great-great-great nephew, David Burleson, of Hartselle. Holding a list of "intruders" in Sim's Settlement dated May 27, 1809, he pointed to Joseph's name listed beside his two brothers, John and James. Burleson said his ancestors were run off for illegally homesteading on Indian territory in what is now Limestone county. Joseph and his brothers settled about two miles north of Belle Mina along Limestone Creek, according to Burleson. Anyone who settled there before 1818 were "officially intruders" he said, indicating the year land in the region was opened for settlement. The U.S. government burned Joseph's cabin and ran him out of the territory, Burleson said. He eventually made his way to New Madrid. The quake's effects on the Decatur area apparently are not documented. Burleson said he doubts if there were any structures in the area to be damaged since the Chickasaw and Cherokee Indian tribes still claimed the land. "If there was anything in this area it would have been an illegal log cabin. It would have been in violation of territorial laws because this was Indian territory at that time." Legend has it the Shawnee Inidan Chief Tecumseh predicted the
earthquake. "He said you'll see the sky turn black during the day, the river run backwards and things of that nature." Burleson said. "He was trying to draw all the tribes together to drive out the white man. This (the earthquake) was the symbol that all those tribes should come together. While the Indians of North Alabama may not have slept good as the ground shook here, Joseph and his family weathered a more violent experience in New Madrid, according to Ms. Royall's letter. When the quake hit, he leaped from his shaking bed but, because the house was "reeling" couldn't stay on his feet. He concluded the house was either haunted or the end of the world was at hand. "The terror of the family was beyond description," Ms. Royall wrote, "They all gave themselves up for lost. He (Burleson) thought he ought to pray but could not think of anything proper to say. After the first shock ended, he determined if he lived until morning to go to the nearest neighbor and ascertain whether it was the end of the world or whether the house was haunted. When the morning came, he was surprised with another shock worse than the first. As this happened in the daytime, he thought.. it could not be spirits.. therefore it must be the end of the world!" According to Ms. Royall's letter, Joseph thought the "chastisement of heaven" was raining on his family. Burleson sent his son John galloping on his fastest horse to a neighbor's house to see if they knew what was happening. While this was going on, the earth, trees and stable were swinging "backwards and forwards" according to his account. " But it was just as bad there (the neighbor's house) and I now bethought muyself it must be an earthquake." Though he lived through the quake, and his family also survived, Joseph Burleson went on to be stolen blind by a religious group and, after living in Moulton for awhile, eventually settled in Texas. There he fought in the Mexican War with Sam Houston at San Jacinto and his family Bible is on display in the Alamo along with his musket. He died at 5 p.m. on Aug 2, 1849, at his home near the present town of Smithville, Texas."

Submitted by: dkwwoods
Decatur Daily dated 08-07-1935
Enclosed is a copy of a newspaper article that apparently appeared in the Decatur Daily on August 7,1935 regarding my great-great-grandfather James K. Polk Copeland. The text reads as follows:
List of All Living in State Prior to 1845 Made
As a feature of the Texas centennial celebration, the Fort Worth Star Telegram is enrolling all old people living in the state who were born prior to or during the year 1836 and those who were born before Texas was admitted to statehood in 1845.
The name of a prominent former resident of Morgan and Lawrence counties who removed to the Lone Star state 40 years ago is included in the list. He is James K. Polk Copeland who now resides five miles east of Cleburne. Mr. Copeland is now 95 years of age. He is an uncle of the late Solomon Sparkman, postmaster of Decatur during the last Cleveland administration.
Mr. Copeland had several children who resided here for some time after he went to Texas to make his home. Fred Copeland, a son, died here several years ago.
The late Dr. Anderson Guinn Copeland, widely known Methodist minister of the North Alabama conference who was a brother of JKP Copeland, died in Birmingham in 1893.
The information about Mr. Copeland was supplied the Daily by R.E. Sparkman, mayor of Italy Tex., who enclosed the following clipping from the Fort Worth Star Telegram:
"James K. Polk Copeland, who lives five mile east of Cleburne on the Grandview highway, not only is as old as Texas statehood but a great grandson of the American Revolution. He is approaching his ninety-fifth birthday."
"Copeland is the great grandson of James Wilson, distinguished lawyer who served in both the early Provincial and Continental Congress, and whose understanding of constitutional theory made him a power among the authors of the Constitution of the United States. He was one the signers of the Declaration of American Independence and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."
"Born in White County, Tenn., Copeland moved with his parents to North Alabama in 1852. He moved to Johnson County 40 years ago. He is a great-uncle to R.E. Sparkman, former representative of Ellis County."

Submitted by: Karen Chastain
Chattanooga Times paper,Sept. 5,1923
DECATUR "NEW" CITY HAS 12,000 PEOPLE. Decatur,Ala.Sept.4.---Alabama boasts a new city of more than 10,000 population. Decatur-formerly Albany and Decatur--merged into one, boasts more than 12,000 inhabitants, a fast growth and a spirit of co-operation. The new city of the Tennessee Valley came about during the present session of the legislature, when Representative Patterson, of Morgan County,introduced a series of bills providing for the consolidation of the "Twin Cities", and Gov. Brandon's signature on the bill has made the measure a reality. Morgan county's younger generation even can remember when the cities were one in the past,under the name of Decatur. Then came a city government squabble and the cities divided,under the name of "Decatur" and "New Decatur" . Then some one discovered that every state in the Union had a city by the name of Albany except Alabama and the decision to change the name of ""New Decatur" to "Albany" was executed and Alabama completed the list. Now the Union again has one state without such a named city, but the citizens of the old north Alabama center had too many fond recollections centered around the name Decatur to consider a change, and older inhabitants say:"Let some new building town, without traditions, take the name of Albany.It'll add the distinction that they want and that we don't.We're satisfied with Decatur." The cities before the consolidation were about equally divided in population, and they are linked so closely that many residents in one of the cities has his place of occupation inthe other.

Submitted by:
May 16, 1985 DECATUR DAILY
MAN SEARCHES FOR HIS FAMILY by Brooks Boliek Staff Writer There is a picture of George HIGDON & his wife(being 3rd wife) and their eleven children. Story is of genealogical interest to other family of WISDOM who was born Harvey HIGDON when George was married to Elizabeth "Betty" WINSETT. Pictured with Belle and George are 1. Travis 2. Pearl 3. Odie 4. Gracie 5. Mary 6. Elizabeth 7. Mary 8. Willie 9. Benford 10. James 11. Franklin George married Annie SLATER or SLATOR, then wed Elizabeth "Betty" WINSETT and then Belle LEMLEY and maybe another one before Annie. There is also a picture of Harvey (HIGDON) WISDOM and Vergie (HIGDON) KILPATRICK. Vergie was the daughter of George and Annie SLATOR. Marilynn & Jack

Submitted by: Sherry Marine
Decatur Daily date unknown
Article from Mammy Barclift's Scrapbook
Fire started In Will SUMMERS' Livery Stable and Was Beyond Control When It Was Discovered.
Bucket Brigade Made Heroic Flight
Last Wednesday evening a few minutes afer seven o'clock fire broke out in the hay loft of Will SUMMERS' livery stable, being beyond control when discovered and within two hours from the sounding of the alarm 14 buildings were burned.From the first it was seen that it was impossible to save the old buildings and in order that the main business section of the town might be saved, the proper thing to do was to concentrate the fighting forces - bucket brigade - on the Crescent Cafe building and J. H. CORSBIE'S warehouse, just to the rear of the doomed row. From this advantage point the wall of the last frame building to burn, was kept thoroughly soaked and as the flames burned up to the water soaked wall it fell away from the Crescent Cafe building and danger point passed. Never in the history of the town did the noted bucket brigade put up a more stubborn and heoric fight and the fire fighters descended from their positions there was not one who could account for a dry thread of clothing. The heat from the flames, combined that of the hot weather, was responsible for intense suffering, and several of the workers were victims of heat prostrations. Several houses were burned on Hickory street and seven on front row, the old historic business of the town, which for many years had been an eyesore to the patriotic citizens of Hartselle. The general sentiment is that the fire could not have happened at a more favorable time as the stillness of the summer evening and heroic effort of Hartselle's bucket brigade is all that saved the entire business section on the west side of the railroad. Outside of a few individual losses the fire was a blessing to the city and as a result this seciton will soon be rebuilt with brick buildings.The fire could be seen for many miles away and visitors from many places of the county came here during the evening.The following buildings were destroyed:

 L.&N. Freight Depot.
      Will SUMMERS' Livery Stable, two buildings
      J. O. BURLESON, stable.
      J. B. ORR, one building.
      Mrs. Carrie LEE, one building.
      Robt. SOBOTKA, brick warehouse.
      J. H. CORSBIE, two warehouses.
      W. S. ROBERTS, one building.
      D. J. L. ROUNTREE, one building.
      J. J. CUDD, two buildings

Nearly all roads led to Hartselle last night for local motorist. Thirty minutes after the fire started there the fact was circulated on the streets of the Decaturs, and many automobile parties set off to view the conflagration and to render assistance if possible. Lamar PENNEY drove the Ford that conveyed Chas JOHNSON, Dr. AYER and the representative of the Daily to the scene. The roads are not first class, but despite this handicap the thirteen miles was covered in in about th minimum of time allowed by the speed regulations. Half a mile out of Hartselle, Mr. PENNY'S light fickered and went out and he was compelled to drive the remainder of the distance in darkness. As soon as Hartsele was reached, Dr. SHERRILL was found on the streets and set out to find someone to repair the lights, as the garages had closed. Chester LEE was located and deserted his own automobile long enough to replace the lights. The courtesies shown the party further impressed the visitors of the thriving sister city. - Decaturs Daily

Submitted by: Sherry Marine
Decatur Daily date unknown
HARTSELLE TWENTY YEARS AGO Hartselle Index, August 5, 1886
John BRITNELL was appointed city marshall. James W. THOMPSON died near Flint on the 1st. W. H. SIMPSON received over 2000 votes for Representative. Patent medicine advertisement were the principle ads at that time. Mt. Nebo Baptist church was dedicated on the 1st, by Rev. W. B. CARTER. Rev. S. N. LAPSLEY, of Dectur, was conducting a meeting at the Presbyterian church. Politics were just as exciting over the Richardson-Wheeler split as Prohibition-Dispensary is today. Prohibition was being agitated and a warm campaign being waged to clear this county of the whiskey traffic. The county election gave for Probate Judge, RUSSELL 1,477, HUGHES 946, Clerk, FOWLER, 1, 632, NABORS 669. Dr. WEST resigned as chairman of the County Executive Committee; Frank TROUP succeeded with L. Hensley GRUBBS as secretary.

Submitted by: Sherry Marine
Newspaper: Uncertain (probably Hartselle paper)
Date: May 15, 1958
File Location: Alabama Archives Department, Montgomery AL
Basham Gap; A Fascinating Account of N. Ala. History
(Editor's note: The story below, a fascinating account of the early life of a settlement on the edge of Bankhead National Forest, was written in 1949 as part of an assignment in Alabama History by MCHS instructor Roman HIGDON. Mr. HIGDON took about two months to research and write the story. He was called on to write a research paper by his history teacher at Florence State College and had planned on writing the history of Morgan County High School. However, a fellow student beat him to the story, so he turned to Miss Lizzie PENN, MCHS teacher, for inspiration. She suggested the Basham Gap story. He searched out documents and old settlers and came up with the following article, eight pages of typewritten manuscript, which is printed in its entirety.) by Roman HIGDON
In the early days of American history , when the white settlers began pushing the Indians further and further West, many schemes were developed to encourage colonization of the vast new territory opening up through western migration. The so-called "Bit-Law" of Thomas Jefferson's administration was one of these methods of bringing settlers down through the fertile Tennessee Valley region. A quarter, often referred to as "two bits," was supposedly cut in half pieces equal to twelve and one-half cents; and land was offered for sale in the Valley at "one bit" per acre. Among the many names connected with these easy land sales were those of Jesse GARTH, Daniel GILCHRIST, and William E. BAKER. These men bought land from the Bond Brothers Lumber Company, brought their stock with them, and began settlements along the Tennessee River, not far from the present site of Decatur. A horde of many men, both good and bad, flooded the region. Down in the extreme southwestern corner of Morgan Conty, in northern Alabama, was begun a small settlement which had much colorful tradition of the early days of the Civil War period centered around its activities. About thirty miles southwest of Decatur, a little gap in the mountains led on down to Jasper, Alabama, some forty miles further southwest. To this mountain gap came many early settlers, who built homes and began farming, hunting, and "settling up" the region. The settlement took its name from a family by the name of BASHAM, who built the last home in the edge of the mountain gap leading into the wilderness between the gap and Jasper. Jim BASHAM and his family were connected with a story of early pioneer lawlessness, and tragedy that is still told with vivid remembrance by some of the present inhabitants as an account handed down from father to son the the Gap. A notorious outlaw, by the name of John A. MURRELL, is reported to have organized an extensive network of horse and slave thieves from Kentucky, through Thennessee and on down through the North Alabama territory, finally ending in operations around Vicksburg, Mississippi, and even on to New Orleans. MURRELL posed as a traveling preacher, holding revival camp meetings up and down the Valle. When the settlers flocked in to camp meeting to hear MURRELL preach, he secretly looked over the crowds, spotted the finest horses and slaves, and instructed his men to steal and sell them. Gullible negro slaves were often offered bribes of a part of their sale price if they would assist in the theft by running away to join the gang. A trade often offered to them was that they would be sold, stolen again, and resold until the bribes would amount to a sufficient sum to enable them to buy their own freedom. Usually three auction sales were promised them with a third of the sale price as a bribe to run away from each new master. MURRELL'S henchmen were settled about thirty miles apart and were supposed to operate a sort of loosely connected relay system of passing stolen Negros, horses, and other property on down to certain auction centers, where a sale was at last considered safe from the law. Jim BASHAM was suspected by his neighbors to be a member of the John A. MURRELL gang and a last important outpost in its operations between Decatur and Jasper. Several stories were circulated around the Gap about him before he at last met his targic fate. One story concerned a young man who late one afternoon came riding up to Mr. BASHAM'S place on a fine blaze-faced horse. He and his helper had with them twelve good horses. The two spent the night and next morning went on their way into Mississippi. In a few weeks the young man returned alone riding the blaze-faced horse and again was seen by two neighbors, Mr. Alex DUTTON and Mr. John HUNTER, to stop over for another night whith BASHAM. Later, neighbors, who watched anxiously, saw the fine horse but never the yound man again. Another story, which ended with the tragic death of BASHAM, concerns an old negro slave, a white farmer, old Mr. BLEVINS, who lived two miles east of BASHAM, owned three big negroes, Harry, Dick, and Zion. Harry was Mr, BLEVINS' foreman, and as such was allowed many privileges. He was allowed to make foot mats, shuck collars, and cotton baskets in his spare time; these he sold, often for fifty cents a piece. All the money old "Uncle Harry" made he carefully saved; for he held a life-long desire to buy his wife, "Old Aunt Ann" who belonged to Mr. George SIMPSON who lived about a mile from the BASHAM'S place west of the Gap. At last Harry's life savings grew to eighteen hundred dollars in gold. Mr. SIMPSON refused to sell Aunt Ann, who was a valued survant and laundress. Harry concealed his money in the deep woods back of the Gap in a hollow stump until a forest fire frightened him into getting it out. He carried his money to Mr. Will PENN, a very near neighbor to the north of Mr. SIMPSON, and requested Mr. PENN and his wife, Ariminta, to count his money and keep it for him until the following Sunday night. Mr PENN carefully counted the money, finding Harry accurate in his report of it. On the following Sunday night Old Harry again took his money deep into the woods to bury it somewhere in the mountain back of Basham's Gap. Finally Mr. BLEVINS died and Harry realized he would be sold at the next public auction; he went back to Mr. Will PENN, whom he trusted, and besought him to take the hidden gold and buy him for his servant. Mr. PENN did not believe in owning slaves and refused to buy Harry. The old negro asked several other men to buy him to prevent BASHAM from doing so. No one dared to do so; although Harry told them he feared BASHAM would buy him, find his gold, and kill him just for the money. The day of the sale arrived, BASHAM bought Harry for fifty dollars, and suspicious neighbors took up their watch for the old negro; but he was no longer seen in the Gap. One day, John HUNTER, a close neighbor of the SIMPSON'S decided to hunt wild turkeys in the mountains and also to look for Harry. As he went through the mountains back of BASHAM'S he found Harry, dead. His body was badly mutilated ‹ fingers gone, ears cut off, and tongue out. Neighbors always believed BASHAM had turtured Harry to learn where his money was hidden. John HUNTER returned from his hunting trip to report his horrible discovery to his neighbors in the community. Since the community felt sure BASHAM was a member of the John A. MURRELL gang and a desperate criminal, it was decided to execute him on the very night of the discovery of Harry's body. Five men ‹ "Bill PENN of the Mountains", Bill LOONEY, Perry CUMMINGS, Sam BLACKBURN, and Sam SWANN ‹ went that very night to the BASHAM home. They called old Jim out, warning his wife on fear of death, not to follow him from the house. These five men took Jim BASHAM and hanged him to a log projecting from the corner of his own crib. Feeling that his son was also connected with the crime, they returned for him, carried him into the woods to th spot where Harry's body lay and made him confess to the crime. This was during the latter days of the Civil War, and one of the five avengers wore a battered uniform and a hat with a hole in it, while Jack BASHAM wore a new hat. In his anger the soldier swapped hats with BASHAM saying, "That hat is good enough for you to go to Hell in!" Each of the five men carried a gun. The soldier unloaded two of the guns, mixed them all together; so no man knew who held the loaded guns. Young BASHAM was placed at a distance, and at a given signal all men pulled the triggers, and no one knew which of the five men killed the criminal. Later history of the BASHAM family tells of how Jack BASHAM'S wife and son lived on with Mrs. Jim BASHAM, until Mrs. Jim BASHAM'S death two years later, at which time Mr. B .G. HARDWICK went and got the young widow and little boy and carried them to his home. The mother lived only a short time; Mr. HARDWICK reared the boy, who made a fine young man. In his later years he married and moved to Texas. At the present time (1949) he lives an old man of about eighty-five years of age in Roswell, New Mexico, on a stock farm. Such was the history of the family for whom the little community of Basham's Gap was named. the settlement grew and prospered as years went by. At one time it boasted of a general merchandise store, a post office, a cotton gin which was operated by four mules, with a negro to tramp cotton into the crude hand press, with a ginning capacity of three bales per day. Also, there was located at the large spring nearby a saw mill and a grist mill. Mail was carried through from Decatur to Jasper by relays across the Sipsey River. At one time a railroad from Decatur to Jasper through Basham's Gap was well under way as a convenient route for a part of a projected Middle Tennessee and Alabama Railroad. The road was actually completed from a point in Tennessee to Decatur, with trains acutally running as far as Jeff, Alabama, near Huntsville. It was a proud day for the community of Basham's Gap when a large crowd gathered there to hear Mr. Sam BLACKWELL, a silver-tongued orator of the old South, describe the great days ahead for the Gap, when the railroad would be completed through the valley and up the Gap. The panic of 1893 ended the plans for the projected railroad. Rural mail routes were set up through Morgan County and ended the necessity for the government post office at the center. Gradually the older residents moved away to neighboring communities, and today Basham's Gap remins a small North Alabama farming settlement which nestles peacefully between Bugaboo Mountain and the Black Warrior National Forest.
NOTE: Two advertisements on this same page of the newspaper, May 15, 1958:

Under New Ownership
Walter RYAN
Now the Owner and Manager of
Specializing in the Most Delicious
Barbecue Pork and Barbecue Chicken
You Ever Tasted!
Weekend Special
(Friday, Saturday and Sunday Only
Take Out Price
Whole Barbecue Chicken - $1.50
Barbecue Pork - $1.75 per lb.
Cole Slaw Included

Guy L COLBERT, A.B., D.C., Ph.C.
Complete Neurocalometer Service
Office Open All Day Mondays and Saturdays
Please Call My Home (SP3-7656) for Appointment
at Other Times.
Office 120 1/2 W. Main Street

Submitted by:
Extracted From the Albany-Decatur Daily, dated Wednesday, May 12, 1926:


Blood Marks On Road Tell Story of Tragic Accident


Delegation Comes From Hartselle To Help Find Machine

The five year old daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Dave Thomas of Hartselle was
killed almost instantly shortly after eight o'clock this morning when struck
by an automobile, the occupants of which were unidentified.
The accident occurred at the Shoals Creek bridge just south of Hartselle on
the Bee Line highway and the car continued on its trip, without stopping,
according to reports made to the police authorities here.  
Numbers of Hartselle people were here today, having joined in the chase of
the automobile which was reported to have crossed the river at this point
and to have continued northward along the highway.  A number of people early
this afternoon were in route to Pulaski, Tenn., where authorities reported
they were holding a car until the Morgan County delegation could reach the
scene and determine whether or not it was the car wanted.  Telephone
communication was established with Pulaski, Athens and Huntsville, asking
authorities in all those places to be on the lookout for the death car.

Kiddies Enroute Home
According to dispatches to The Daily, the Thomas child was accompanied by
her sister, aged 11, at the time she was killed.  The family reside just
south of Hartselle and only a short distance from the highway on the Saboka
place.  The children, it was said, had gone into town on an errand and were
returning home when the accident occurred.
The younger child appeared to receive the full force of the blow, the body
being dragged some distance, report stated.  Dr. White, of Hartselle, was
summoned immediately after the accident, but the child was beyond medical
assistance.  Blood left on the highway told its own tragic story.

Automobile Chased
According to reports received by police, the death car continued on its way
after striking the child.  An alarm soon was spread, however, and a dragnet
thrown out in an effort to apprehend the occupants of the machine who were
variously described as tow boys and a girl and two men and a woman.
Occupants were said to have work knickers.
The traffic office at Hartselle, upon learning of the accident, set forth on
the trail of the car, and himself narrowly escaped possible serious injury
when his motorcycle had a flat tire, while he was reducing his space between
himself and the pursued car at the rate of 63 miles an hour.
Officer M. J. Mitchell, local traffic officer, was notified from Hartselle,
but first descriptions of the machine gave it as a Hudson, whereas later
ones stated it was a Ford.  Officer Mitchell immediately hurried to the
ferry, but was told there no Hudson car of the description had passed this
morning.  Leaving a request to be notified when the machine arrived at the
river bank, he came back to town and was informed that the first description
was erroneous and that the death car was a Ford.  He raced back to the
ferry, only to be told that the car filling the new description had crossed
on the same boat that was leaving at the time of his first visit.
Citizens Stand By Citizens, aiding officers in the chase, stood by throughout 
the morning while wires carried descriptions of the car and occupants all over 
the valley.  Shortly before noon the report came in from Pulaski of suspects
held there and a delegations left for the Tennessee city.
The tragedy created widespread resentment in Hartselle and Albany-Decatur as
news of the death spread.  The sympathy of the entire community goes out to
the members of the bereaved family.

Submitted by: Rita Birdsong
Decatur Daily Tuesday February 22, 1927

Death was the unseen third passenger in their car last night and when fate gave death the steering wheel, the Ford runabout occupied by Austin 
Brown and Miss Louise Johnson plunged off a bridge, three miles west of here on the Courtland pike and they were drowned in five feet of water.
Miss Johnson was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Johnson, who reside just east of the Benevolent Hospital, and Mr. Brown was the son of 
Captain and Mrs. Raymond Brown of West Decatur.
The exact time of the accident today had not been fixed. Various opinions regarding the time ranged form 7:30 to nine o'clock, but it was believed 
the tragedy occurred about 8:30 last night. 
The death car was the property of George Gunn, of the Decatur Storage Garage. Young Gunn told The Daily today that early last evening Brown asked him for 
the loan of his Ford runabout for a short time, explaining that he would not be gone long and would return the machine soon. The request was granted.
By a singular twist of fate, Gunn was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, not knowing at the time that it was his own machine which 
had tumbled into the icy waters of the little creek and which pinned two persons to their death. Fate could not let them find the way out. His forefinger 
became entangled in the machinery of the Decatur storage wrecker and the member was severely lacerated. 
First word of the accident reached here about nine o'clock. Harvey Flemming reporting to the Decatur storage garage that an automobile had gone into the 
creek, several miles out on the Courtland pike and that a man was pinned beneath the machine. Raymond Moore, George Gunn, C. M. Dobbins, and Sherman 
Sherrill left immediately for the scene, making good time, as the informant had stated there was a chance for the victims to be alive and to be rescued if 
help came quickly.
Racing through the darkness, the wrecker reached the creed in record time.
As the crew assembled hurriedly on the bank to plan for lifting the car, which was bottom side up, Moore recognized it as belonging to Gunn.
"That is your car, George, " Moore told Gunn.
While word was sent to Brown's to rush an ambulance to the scene, the crew of the wrecker began their grim task, the pale glow from the lights of their 
own and other gathered cars, giving illumination for their gruesome task.
Moore climbed onto the wrecked machine and attached the heavy chains to the front axle and the derrick hoisted the car from the water. 
Tenderly the human burdens were lifted from the one seat of the car, but both the occupants were dead.
Apparently both had been drowned. When the bodies later were removed to the Brown's funeral parlor, after the ambulance had made a quick trip to the scene,
medical examination failed to reveal injuries which might have caused death.
The nameless little creek into which the automobile made its fatal plunge is narrow, not being more than 15 feet wide at the bridge. Measurements made this 
morning placed the depth at the bridge, at approximately five feet. 
It probably never will be known just how the accident occurred, but one theory was that a bump in the road probably caused the driver momentarily to lose 
complete control of the car.
The bride is of concrete and marks on the edge of the bridge this morning revealed clearly the exact spot the machine left the road, the crank case 
apparently striking the edge of the cement and catapulting the car, somersault fashion, into the waters below.
Both bodies were found the car. In a last minute effort at preservation of himself and passenger, young Brown seemed to have gripped the side of the top. 
When his body was rescued, it was necessary to pride the death-chilled fingers from the rod which he had clutched frantically in his last conscious moments.
Miss Johnson seemed to have kicked her shoes away in a desperate scramble to reach the surface of the stream, but death ended her struggles.
The curtains of the car were not up and the machine was of an open model. Under ordinary conditions it would not appear a difficult matter to escape, but 
local investigators held to the theory that, confused by the rapidity of the tragic action, and finding themselves head foremost in the bottom of the creek, 
both of the unfortunate young victims were so bewildered that they could not find their way to safety.
Announcement of funeral services for the young couple was made this afternoon. The services for young Brown will begin at 2:30 o'clock at the home of Mrs. 
B. M. Brown, 136 Fifth Avenue West, conducted by Rev. J. D. Wallace. 
At 3 o'clock, services will be held at cemetery chapel for Miss Johnson, conducted by Rev. R. T. Taylor. Following the conclusion of the services at the 
Brown home, the funeral cortege will move to the cemetery chapel and there will be joined by the members of the Johnson family and will go to the grave in 
which the body of the youth will be interred. Following the services at the grave, the cortege will return to the chapel and from there will move to the 
grave to be occupied by the young woman.
As the tragic details of the accident found their way about the city today, the community was bowed in sorrow. Both of the young people were well-known and 
had scores of friends, to whom the news of their untimely death came as a profound shock.
Young Brown was a son of Captain Raymond Brown, world war hero who led Company E, the local unit of the Rainbow division, thru every major engagement of the
 war. Captain Brown was a Camp Oteen, North Carolina, for treatment at the government hospital when notified last night by long distance telephone of the 
accident. He will arrive here late today.

Last Update Wednesday, 10-Aug-2011 17:34:32 EDT

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