Butler County, Alabama

The Story of the
Brushey Creek Community
Part 1

by Lillian Shell Morgan
[Permission to reproduce this history was provided by Rev. Wilson Shell (brother to Mrs. Morgan)
to Mrs. Lucile Smith Stinson, a former pupil and second cousin to Rev. Shell.]

The story of the Brushey Creek community was written in the 1950's by Lillian S. Morgan, who gathered information from local residents, church and school records. Each family in the community completed a questionnaire from which the history was gathered. The history was then written as a school project based on the materials assembled. The late Mrs. Morgan was a teacher and principal in Butler County schools for over forty years.

Early History
Two of the first families who settled in this community were Mr. Henry Burke from North Carolina and Mr. Bob Brown from Georgia. The Burke family was very well off. They owned many slaves. Henry Burke, Jr. was very anxious to reach the new land and start life anew with his family and a few slaves. The land in North Carolina was wearing out and the love of adventure was beckoning his family southward.

When they reached Georgia they met the Brown family, who also planned to move to this new land. For many days the two families traveled together, never seeming to find a suitable place to live.

At last they reached a place where many trails crossed and recrossed. "This is the spot," said Mr. Burke. Mr. Brown agreed and together they began to build a log cabin where brush had been cleared away. We believe they named this little settlement Brushey Creek because of the Creek Indians and the brush and woods that covered the land. The little creek in the western part of the community has the same name.

After living in this log house for a while, Mr. Burke and Mr. Brown sawed and dressed the lumber by hand with the help of the slaves and built a new house of six-inch heart lumber. This house stands today in the center of the community. It was the R. L. Shell, Sr. home. These words were written on the wall of this house, "This house was finished April 21, 1861. This was the year and month that the War Between the States began."

R. L. Shell, Sr. purchased the house when it was thirty-eight years old. Today this house is over one hundred years old. The cabin buried and a kitchen and back porch were added. The original cabin had a fireplace five foot long. Much of the house was put together with wooden pegs. When the Shells bought the house, there was no cleared land around it. [The original house no longer stands.]

After the War, it was not long until other settlers began to move into the area. Some of these were Hudsons, Carnathans, Cochrans, Pulaskies, Crenshaws, Bennets, Solomons, Mercers, Erkwards, Russells, Lancasters and Wilsons. The Henry Harrison (Tip) Shell family first moved to Tuskegee, Alabama from North Carolina and later into this community.

Early settlers in the community made their living by farming. Cotton was their main crop. Cows and hogs ran outside, staying in the piney woods until the fall of the year when everyone went to drive them in and separate them according to their brands.

Industry came to the community when E. C. Shell and R. L. Shell, Sr., built a saw mill at the church pool and spring. The house across the road from present store was built out of lumber sawed at this mill. Two gristmills were built. They ground meal and also made grits. Toll was taken to pay for grinding. Two stores were opened to take care of the needs of the increasing population and the public worker who had less time now to grow what was needed.

Most of the women and girls wore dresses to their ankles and bonnets made with stiffening stitched in them to hold them up. A ruffle hung on the back of the neck and a bow was tied under the chin. There was a Sunday bonnet and an everyday bonnet.

Later the women wore basque waists and black skirts. High top shoes and boots were also very stylish for the ladies. Many of the ladies wore spool heel pumps with buckles. Balmorals or grathered slips were worn under their full skirts.

The men wore stiff white collars and cuffs with cuff links. The collars and cuffs could be taken off and worn with different shirts.

The boys wore long shirts and no pants. Most boys had only one shirt. When it was washed, they got in a barrel if it was a pretty day, and stayed in bed if it was cold weather until the shirt dried.

The early settlers were very dependent upon each other. Hog killings, soap makings, log rollings, syrup pullings, and egg pippins were all social affairs as well as help for others. In sickness, neighbors were always willing to furnish wood, provide food, sit up with friends, help plant and harvest the crops of their neighbors. If a neighbor was going to town, he let family members know so they could go, or send for whatever was needed.

On Sundays, every family in the community visited, usually all eating together in the same home. The family being visited prepared the noon day meal for the entire community. Cakes and pies were baked and put in a screened safe under lock and key in the yard in the shade. A family had to prepare a Sunday meal only once a year or less.

Most of the early settlers had mules or horses, a wagon and buggy. The well-to-do had surreys, two seated buggies pulled by two or four horses. They had a covered top with tassels hanging around the edge. Beautiful wool lap robes were used to the cover the knees, legs, and feet.

The first cars caused much excitement. Everyone came out of the house and stood in the yard as car went by. Henry McCall owned the first car. R. L. Shell, Sr. bought the second one which cost $396.00 It was a model T.

To get the mail, one had to go to the post office -- a six mile ride. One person usually brought the mail for the whole neighborhood once a week. Later a man on horseback, then in a buggy, brought the mail once a week.

The roads in the community were in very bad condition. The men in the community had to keep up the roads.

Folklore had a very prominent place in the life of the early settlers. A little of this lore still remains:

The Early Church
The church was a very important part of the community. the first church was built of logs with a fireplace in one end. The first story of this building was used for church services and school. The top story was the Masonic Lodge. Quitman Lodge was also organized in this building. The Charter hangs in the Quitman Lodge today.

The lumber for the church was hand planed. Two large columns were on the front. Each family brought with them to church each Sunday a candle and put it in a special hole in the wall to light the church. Howell Crenshaw prepared the holes for the candles. The more families at church, (that appeared) the more light they had.

Most of the ministers were also the teachers. A few of these were the Reverends Tyler, Cochron, Pulaski, Henderson and Calvert. Preachers were treated with utmost respect. The preachers were paid very little for their services. Money was scarce. Eggs were sometimes sold to pay for literature and the preacher's salary. Two or three dollars for a service was the average pay.

Church services were held on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Only one hymn book was in the church. The preacher lined off a part of the song, and the congregation sang that line. This continued until the entire song was sung.

The sermons were usually long. The church was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but each child knew that he was in a place of worship and that he must act accordingly. The entire family attended these services, even babies. The mothers brought quilts during revival meetings and placed these on the floor for the sleeping children.

The ladies sat on one side of the church, the men on the other. An amen corner was on each side of the church. One was for the old men, the other for the old women. Many amens were heard during a sermon.

The settlers who owned slaves brought them to the church with them. They sat in the back of the church. Some members of the church. Aunt Maria and Uncle Pete Sims were members we are sure. They were slaves of Mr. and Mrs. Burke.

Church members looked forward to special services. During the summer, all day Sacred Harp Singings with dinner on the ground were enjoyed. While the old people were singing, the younger members were outside seated under the trees with their best girl or boy friend. On the first day of the summer revival, dinner was spread on the grounds. "As I ate your food, you ate mine" added to the fellowship of these occasions.

The cemetery joins the church grounds. It was the burying place for all adjoining communities. Mr. Burke, who was one of the first settlers, was the first person buried in the cemetery. The large rock grave in the old cemetery is the grave of a Mr. Moss who lived in Bolling.

The First School
Very little is known about the first school. It was a one-room log building with a fireplace at one end.

When the two story church was built, the first floor was used for school. The children sat on the long benches that were used for church services. There was almost no equipment to be used for school. The boys were seated on one side of the room, the girls sat on the other. The terms were from three to five months.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, Latin, grammar and geometry were taught. Spelling was taught by syllables and The Blue Back Speller was the textbook. The students were classed by readers and not grades. A pupil went to school until the teacher had taught him all the teacher knew.

A school day began at 8:00 o'clock and closed at 4:00 o'clock. An hour was taken at noon for lunch and games. Most of the children brought their lunches in lard buckets with holes punched in the lid to keep the food from sweating. Inside the bucket was a variety of food. Some had fried chicken, cakes, preserves, and a jar of milk. Others had biscuits or corn bread with a hole punched in it and poured full of syrup. There were fried meat, and baked and fried potatoes. Under the large oaks, which still stand, was a favorite eating place. A cool drink of water from the church spring completed their meal.

Some of the favorite games were hide and seek, catch ball, stealing sticks and marbles played with hickory nuts. All the balls were made of strings. Drop the handerchief, tag, and vine swinging were especially enjoyed by the girls.

Some of the teachers in this school were Misses Ellen Hornaday, Ruby Manning, Meryle Shell, Dotta Mason, Mavis Skinner, Ira Agnes Des Rochers, Willie Chambliss, Ruby Stringfellow, Bessie Smith, Blanche McKay, Bernice Camp, Annie Mae Miller, Fairy Shell, Elizia Kervin, Gladys Salter, Byron Shell, Meryle Lowery, Georgia McClure and many others.

The preachers sometimes served as teachers in this community. In addition to the preachers mentioned the following people taught in this community: Dr. James S. Jordan and his wife, Edna Mae Shell Jordan. A teacher was judged by the number of children he whipped each day. The teacher stayed in the homes of the children. The length of time stayed in a home depended on the number of children in school. Later a teacher provided his own board and was paid a small salary of $40.00 to $50.00 per month.

The teacher was considered one of the most important people in the community. He was considered head and shoulders above everyone else in knowledge. Many of the problems of the community were carried to the teacher for his guidance in helping to solve them.

When the church burned in 1900 some of the children went to Wild Fork where R. L. Shell, Sr. was teaching. A private school was taught by a Mr. Windman which was nearer by and a few went to this school. He taught in a room of his house.

In 1902 the county and community built a two room L-shaped building. In the center was a large stage with double doors in each room opening on the stage giving seating space in both rooms for entertainment.

The trustees were very active in the schools. They decided on the ways to raise money and secure wood for the heaters. Men and women (elected as trustees) were held in high esteem by the community.

Sock and Box Suppers were two of their main money raising events. Green Court was also held at the school. Very beautiful Christmas programs and concerts for closing day were always looked forward to. These became such important affairs that the community built a large outdoor platform for the concerts. This school also took part in the Field Day that was held every spring in Greenville. Jumping, running, pole climbing, spelling matches, and reading contest, were always entered. Many of our children won first prize at the field day events.

In 1926 the community building burned during the school session. The remainder of that year and a part of the next year school was spent in a vacant store and the church.

In 1928 a three room building was constructed. Two rooms were built by the county and the third room was built by the community. Grades one through nine were taught. A school term was seven months. Wood was furnished by the parents and a small fee [was] collected for chalk from those who were able to pay. Each family cut and hauled wood to be buried in the heaters.

Books were bought by the parents for their children. Parents came to the school to get the "used book list." There was much exchanging of second hand books. Reading, writing, history, geography, arithmetic and English were the subjects taught.

A Changing Community
Most of the early settler's income came from the farm. Their main crops were corn and cotton. In 1933 a new crop, tobacco, was introducted to our community by Mr. Charles M. Wingard, Sr. As the first barn went up and the first crop was gathered, there was much excitement. This crop brought money at the time of year when there was no income on the farm. After a few years other farmers began to plant this crop, until today it is one of the major sources of income here. In a short while the communities of Industry, Friendship, and Green-Moore also began to plant tobacco. Today within a ten mile radius of Brushey Creek more tobacco is grown than in all the rest of Alabama.

Many people began to raise cows, hogs, and chickens for added income. Income from all of these increased over the years. (See appendix). Tractors and other modern machinery have taken over on these farms. Henry Shell purchased the first tractor in 1946. It was a Farm-All Cub, costing $1,450.00.

Modern convienances have been added to the homes and a sense of community pride now exists. (See appendix).

Today less labor is needed on the farm and farming ranks second in the number of people employed.

Soon after the two story church burned the community saw the need of a church. It was decided to move across the road and build a church with a large auditorium. There was no Sunday school rooms. This auditorium had stained glass windows, an organ and later a piano. Some of the pastors were the Reverands Ralph Mullins, R. L. Shell, A. C. Shell, Jennings Baggette, M. C. Elmore, Calvin Forrestor, E. P. Robbins, H. B. Sheppard, Wesley Wilcox and Goree.

In 1950 a need was seen for a new building. It was decided to put this building in front of the school. Since it was on a hillside a basement could be built for Sunday school rooms at less cost. R. L. Shell, Sr. deeded the church more land so the building could be moved.

In early spring everyone met on Saturday to tear down the church building. At noon brunswick stew was served by the ladies of the church.

The new church is a brick building with a large auditorium, baptistry, library, eight Sunday school rooms including a nursery, two bathrooms and gas heat.

Rev. T. W. Eddins, County Missionary, was instrumental in getting this building underway. Members donated timber and hired Mr. William Blackmon to cut it into to lumber. The W. T. Smith Lumber Co. dried and dressed this lumber free of charge for the church. Most of the labor was done by the community. Mr. Colonel Davis, a carpenter in our community, was the overseer of the work. The Rev. Wilcox did much toward the completion of the building. During the early ministry of Rev. Paul H. Shell the building was completed and dedicated. The building is valued at $20,000 and the actual cash money spent was approximately $6000.00.

When the church was completed it was decided that a pastor's home should be the next undertaking. An old building was purchased from the W. T. Smith Lumber Company and timber was again donated by members of the church. A blue print was ordered from the Progressive Farmer and more land was deeded by R. L. Shell, Sr. Work on the pastorium was begun in the fall of 1955. Most of the labor was free. Mr. Floyd Lowery worked with the church in building the pastorium as overseer and carpenter. It has three bedrooms, bath, study, dinging room, kitchen, gas cook stove and gas heat. The cash invested in this building was $5838.32.

This building was completed in the spring of 1958. On Easter Sunday, April 6, 1958, the building was dedicated. Rev. Paul Shell, Pastor of the Church, Dennis Woodward, Assistant Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, and the Reverand Nez Sellers, Moderator of the Butler County Baptist Association, served on the program for the dedication. In the receiving line were the pastor, his wife, members of the building committee, and other department heads of the church. In a few days the pastor's family moved into this lovely home, which is built of brick to match the church. It gives us a feeling of pride to know our pastor's home is as nice as the other homes in the community.

Our church budget for the year 1958-59 is $4225. Our church has a full time pastor, Sunday School, Training Union and the other organizations of the church. It has one hundred thirty-six resident members. This church has ordained four ministers: A. C. Shell, R. L. Shell, Jr., sons of Tip Shell, also Wilson Shell and Paul H. Shell, sons of Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Shell, Jr. Oyette Chambliss, son of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Chambliss, has worked for two summers with the Baptist Home Mission Board in the western states. It was in this community in the old church that the Butler County Baptist Association was organized.

On the third Sunday in August a Homecoming Day is looked forward to by old and young alike. Friends and relatives who have once lived here come back to enjoy a day of fellowship with those in the community.

Our school was the second school in Butler County to start operating a lunchroom. It was equipped by the community. We used a wood stove and sterilized the dishes in large tubs of boiling water. Commodities were given by the government and other foods were donated. The meals were prepared by two different mothers each day. All the children ate hot lunch. Later a cook was hired and children paid for the lunch.

At the present time we have an electric stove, refrigerator, hot water heater and our cook is Mrs. Mary Till. Each child pays twenty-five cents per lunch.

In our school we have a central library with 420 books. Some of these are adult books.

The P.T.A. is very helpful in caring for the needs of the school so far as they are able.

We have two buses that transport our children to and from school.

We have very efficient help from the county school officials. Miss Kayron Campbell, Supervisor, and Superintendent, H. L. Terrell, work very closely with the schools.

We now have two teachers with an enrollment of sixty in grades 1-6.

The school term is nine months.

Today we believe in working with each child as an individual as well as a member of a group. Science, art, and music are considered as necessities in our school program as well as the tool subjects.

The work of the school can be evaluated by the quality of the citizens it helps produce. With this in mind we list some of the students who have gone through our school and their present positions:

The above list is not a complete list of all people who have attended this school but the whereabouts of all the former students is not know to the writer.

Two of our citizens, the late R. L. Shell, Sr. and Rufus W. Porter, have served as commissioners from District 4.

Visiting is not as common as in the early days of our community, but a responsibility toward our neighbor is still shown. If there is sickness in a family, or need of food or clothing, the community shares in seeing these needs are met. If a person is sick and his crops need planting or harvesting, the neighbors are ready to help.

We also see a need in helping to carry on our government. Many of the men and women not only are registered voters but go to the polls and vote on election day.

Many contribute to The Heart Fund, Red Cross, Crippled Children, Blood Mobile, and the other charitable agencies.

Our boys and girls are 4-H members and many receive awards for work done in the club. Charles Shell Wingard was the most outstanding 4-H Junior Club boy in Butler County in 1958. The late Sue Smith, James Davis, Clark Adams, Linda Shell, Gail Miniard, Joyce Ann Shell and Judy Shell have also received medals.

We see a need for helping the youth of our community. Many are unemployed and should have some help in spending their leisure time more wisely.

History is not written in a day. We shall continue to write. May we continue in those things that are good, discard those that are bad, and have community we are glad to call ours.

Pictorial History
This portion of the Brushey Creek story will be photographs from the past. It is not part of the original story by Mrs. Morgan. Many of these contain photos of children who attended class at the school. With the passing of time, some of the names have been forgotten. If you recognize some one in these photos, please send us the name so it can be added to the list.

The School
Brushey Creek School has long since vanished, another part of our heritage that has passed from us. This color photo was taken in 1958. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Lucile Smith Stinson, former student of Brushey Creek School.

brkcrksc.jpg - 1958 color photo is missing from server
(photo is missing from server)

The Teachers
Several teachers taught during the existance of the Brushey Creek School. Some of them were named in the story by Ms. Morgan, one of the teachers. We have only been able to locate photographs of three of those who taught at Brushey Creek. 

Mrs. Mamye Shell Chambliss, teacher at Brushey Creek
Mrs. Mamye Shell Chambliss

Mrs. Mamye Shell Chambliss. She taught school at Brushey Creek for many years. After her retirement, she remained in the Brushey Creek Community. Born March 13, 1907, the daughter of Clifford Eugene Shell and Ada Elizabeth Wilson, she married Morris Luther Chambliss on February 22, 1934.(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Lucile Smith Stinson, Bridgeport, TX.)

NOTE: Mrs. Mamye Shell Chambliss passed away on December 23, 2002. She was
buried at Brushey Creek Cemetery.

Mrs. Winnie M. Black, teacher at Brushey Creek
Mrs. Winnie M. Black

Another teacher who served not only Brushey Creek School, but also Georgiana High School was Mrs. Winnie M. Black. She taught school for 46 years in Butler County before retiring in 1978. She was born September 8, 1912, the daughter of William Nelson Moorer and Lee Addie Griffin Moorer. She married Edward Leslie (Les) Black. She died on March 25, 1979 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Georgiana. (Photo courtesy of Edwena Black Platt, her daughter.)

Mrs. Lillian Shell Morgan, teacher at Brushey Creek>
Mrs. Lillian Shell Morgan

Lillian Shell Morgan was another one of the teachers who served the school of Brushey Creek for many years. She was the daughter of Rosco Lloyd Shell, Jr. and Mary Malinda Wilson. Born March 2, 1915, she married Otis H. Morgan. She died May 23, 1990 and is buried in the Brushey Creek Cemetery.
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Lucile Smith Stinson, Bridgeport, TX.)

History of Brushey Creek, Part 2

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Page updated 9 Jan 2008.