The water pipe wars and another Etowah County General Forrest incident


  Congratulations to Catherine Threadrell Nichols for the 2014 Greatest Achievement Award from the Etowah Historical Society for her research into the Water Pipe Wars of Etowah County. The following is her work.

Over the last 20 or so years I have asked as many people as I could about the alleged water pipe war. Was it just a rumor or is it fact? I am quite sure I don’t know. What I do know is what I was told by oldtimers in the area.

With the impending desire of annexation of the south Gadsden area into Alabama City, water lines were continued from the Dwight Community area into the Airport/Steel Plant property and also the surrounding community (Dogpatch) running parallel with South 11th Street. My understanding was this work was done by a com-pany contracted out of New York.

Down the rabbit hole

As a kid, I recall a game the neighborhood kids would play called “Captain Mustard, Custard and Ketchup.” You had to follow and do whatever Cap-tain Mustard said. Not following orders would result in, I presume, having to eat a bug or some other bizarre punishment. Fortunately for me, I was not big enough to play, only observing from the sideline. At times, this game ventured into the area that is now Banks Park. The area where Banks Park is located had houses with streets back then, although most of the houses were in disrepair and not used.

I remember watching sewer type covers being removed (these were approximately halfway into the park area) and the kids disappearing down into that scary place.

These crazy bravehearts would traverse the distance of what is now the park, emerging on the other side near Central Avenue.

Easing up on and looking down into these manholes with the eyes of a little kid, they looked to me to be quite deep, with a metal ladder disappearing into the darkness. Those covers are now long gone, covered by time, most likely.

Stranger things 

surely have happened

Attalla also wanted to annex the same “dogpatch” area back in the day. Did Attalla attempt this before Alabama City during its great water/electricity project in 1902? Which came first in this story? I have no idea. Allegedly, Attalla laid pipe through the Walnut Park area and along South 11th Street on the north side. The Alabama City pipe was laid on the opposite side, and that pipe supposedly runs parallel with the existing City of Gadsden pipe.

Given the annexation dispute going on, the plans/blueprints from each contractor were not shared with each other, which resulted in a rather redundant situation. Apparently, some time passed between each of these endeavors. The pipes laid by the City of Gadsden did not take place until after this land grab story and at times the contractors found themselves running into and butting up to these phantom pipes, taking off their hats and scratching their collective heads with a “what the heck is that and why is it there?” kind of expression

Well, that’s the story as I know it and I am sticking to it. It really would be nice if someone else might recall this story or a variation of it.

General Forrest incident

Recently, Laura Elliotts asked if anyone can recall the names of the young women who captured the Federal soldiers by giving them moonshine laced with morphine) near Blountsville and turned them over to Forrest near Walnut Grove? I have forgotten their names, and now I can’t find anything about the incident.

The Vagabond doesn’t know the name of the women, either, but he did find about this interesting and true local story of Co. Abel Streight’s Raid. After the incident at Blountsville, Forrest’s Cavalry pushed on towards Gadsden. Just before the soldiers reached a stream at what is today known as Walnut Grove, three young women appeared, leading three fully accoutered horses and three Federal soldiers, whose guns the women carried.

The women had been home alone, the men away fighting in the Confederate Army. The women likely heard the commotion echoing through the mountain, as cannon fire and musketry announced the arrival of the war to the little valley. 

As the story goes, one of the women had recently given birth. The other two were either her sisters or perhaps sisters-in-law who were staying with her to provide care.

The Federal soldiers arrived and demanded food. Having only what was in the house, the women went about providing food. After they had eaten, the soldiers searched the cabin for valuables, tore up the furniture, and strewn the belongings into the yard. The women had some moonshine (for medicinal purposes, I’m sure) and the doctor had left some morphine in case it was needed for pain for the one who had just given birth.

Seeing an opportunity to rid themselves of the unwelcome guests, the women dumped the morphine into the jug of moonshine and pretended to hide it. The soldiers noticed the activity and demanded to know what they were hiding. When they saw it was moonshine, they began to drink. Soon, all three men were fast asleep or unconscious.

The women quietly approached, took the soldiers’ guns, and woke them up. They then marched the soldiers straight to Walnut Grove. Asking for the commanding officer, they related with much simplicity how they had easily captured the prisoners and wished to deliver them. General Forrest, seeing that the women were dressed in homespun and barefoot, knew that they were poor and could ill afford the food that had been stolen from them. The general gave each of them a horse in appreciation for their efforts.

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