Ethelsville Revisited

If you read my posts about spending New Years Eve at the Griffin farm in rural Pickens County, Alabama, about five miles from the Mississippi state line, you know about my long-time fascination with this area. I spent last Saturday out at the farm. I had a blast picking guitars with Big Charlie. He played me some of his original tunes, all of which I liked very much. Then Charlie introduced me to his neighbor Lawrence, whose family has been living around that general area since about 1830. Lawrence is very interested in local history, as well as the history or his family and his wife’s family. They are both in Sons/Daughters or the American Revolution, and they both know quite a bit beyond what’s written down in books about that area.

One of the most interesting stories Lawrence told me was about a gentleman to whom historians refer only as “Mr. Hancock.” He was a resident of what was then called Yorktown, which was later named Ethelsville after Mr. Hancock’s daughter, Ethel. All Wikipedia says about Ethel is that she was “a one time resident and staple of the community. She was famous for being Mr. Hancock’s daughter.” It says far less about Mr. Hancock himself.

According to Lawrence, Mr. Hancock was known in the community as “Square” Hancock. He added that just as you call a bald man “Curly” or a fat man “Slim,” Mr. Hancock was called “Square” because he was a crook. He once burned down a neighbor’s barn because the neighbor refused to sell him some land. Hancock also ran a general store in town, which I’m sure positioned him for all sorts of shady dealings. I’m certain my further investigation into this matter will result in more Faulknarian tales of double-crossing, violence, and drama.

Another interesting note is that when they built the railroad through Yorkville, the railroad line missed the town by about half a mile. The people of the town essentially picked up and moved everything over a half a mile so they could have a railroad station there. That’s when it changed over from Yorkville to Ethelsville. I need to dig a little more into this as well.

Thanks again to Charlie and his wife Kathleen for their extreme hospitality. I’ll be back to visit again soon.


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