By Danny Crownover
The Duck Springs story begins with The Duck, a Cherokee Chieftain who some say was the brother of Chief Turkey, namesake of Turkeytown in Etowah County. Duck is buried above the springs named for him.
Topping the list of Indian celebrities native to the Duck Springs area was Sequoyah, reputed to have devised the Cherokee alphabet. The Indian scribe often went by the name of George Guest.
Early settlers of Duck Springs included the Sibert Family. A predecessor of the World War I General Sibert, David Sibert purchased 10,000 acres of fertile land in the Duck Springs area soon after the Indian exodus.
The marriage of Mary Sibert to Confederate Captain William M. Beason years later united two prominent landowners. The Beason estate was later owned by the Barksdales. Still intact are the hand-pressed bricks, the smokehouse and a blacksmith shop building.
Beason ruled his tenant, employees and family with an iron hand. The double staircases leading to the antebellum home’s second floor were designated right for the women and the left for the men, with all required to check in at the day’s end.
Amazingly, one Beason daughter gained enough independence to become a missionary to China. She returned bringing with her a supply of tea leaves. For years the family continued to raise a little tea from time to time.
Other early settlers came from the ranks of General Andrew Jackson’s army. The troops and officers were so impressed with the fertile valley during the Indian campaign that they returned.
Prior to the Civil War, Duck Springs was cotton cultivation territory. There are remains of chimneys still standing that were for slave quarters.
Records of the community reveal that Gail Amos Cox was an owner of a number of slaves and that his home served as headquarters during Indian and cattle rustling days.
Located on the route to Georgia, Duck Springs was a bustling business district during the 1850s.
The road to Rome was trafficked steadily by cattle farmers en route to the tannery. The Barksdales operated a tannery in what was in DeKalb County back then but is now Etowah County.
The Civil War temporarily devastated the community. Union Hill Church No. 1, the first church erected in the community, was destroyed by fire set by Union troops. Terrified of the lingering U.S. encampment, residents took care to protect their property and valuables.
One Duck Springs resident drilled a hole from top of his two-story frame house into which he poured his wheat. The Yankees took everything they could get their hands on, but that Duck Springs resident wasn’t going to let his family starve.
The community rebuilt after the war. Wheat cultivation and cotton picked back up. But it was the calm before the storm, as two more destructive turns of fate were just around the bend – the Great Depression and “Roosevelt Days.” The depression knocked the bottom out of cotton prices. Tenant farmers were penniless and the landowners were without disposable funds to lend them. The Duck Springs rendition of the feudal system fell into temporary shambles.
When times were good, some folks had several renter houses and adjoining farmland. Those people didn’t know what a bank was. They would come to borrow money for flour and living expenses, make their crop and pay the loan back in the fall. One family borrowed $25 every year, and that’s what they lived on and ran a crop with until fall.
In Roosevelt Days, Duck Springs farmers saw cotton fall to eight cents a pound. Farmers were paid not to sow their land. People in Dick Springs complained that they didn’t own any land and couldn’t collect the money.
The Roosevelt administration, however, brought one bright spot to Duck Springs when the federal Works Progress Administration constructed a schoolhouse. On the darker side was the nearby poorhouse, where residents lived in 9 x 10 foot rooms.
But the roads eventually became more passable, and the poor left Duck Springs in droves for Gadsden. Duck Springs became smaller overnight.
Duck Springs was once covered in wheat fields. The ﬂour was brown. You took your wheat to Rome in a Model-A and came back with the flour.
During high times in Duck Springs, there were several gins, gristmills, stores and a large commissary, where tenant farmers purchased everything they couldn’t create at home. Many people had to walk back carrying 50 pound sacks of flour across their backs. Everything was water-powered.
In 1906, the Duck Spring Road was paved by steam-powered rollers which sent horses reeling and buggies helter-skelter through the fields. But the finishing touch for the faltering farm community came with the building of I-59, when farmland was swallowed up by the construction.
Today in the area there is the school and churches, one with an adjoining cemetery where the buried are made up of black and white, slave and landowner and even a few Indians.