The Memoirs of James Pinkney Pittman

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Pictures are available of James Pinkney Pittman and other of my ancestors.


The following was brought by my father's first cousin, Roy Hodges, to the family gathering following my uncle's funeral in 1985. It was handwritten, and in pencil. James Pinkney Pittman was the grandfather of my father, Victor Randolph Pittman, Jr. 

The handwritten text ended in mid-sentence on the last page of the steno pad. Obviously, there is or was at least one more steno pad like it that has been lost.

Judging from the markings on the pad, it appears to have been written some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

I have endeavoured to preserve the original misspellings. No doubt, I have added a few of my own.

-- Victor Darrell Pittman, James Pinkney's great-grandson, June 1997


My name is J. P. Pittman. James Pinkney Pittman. I was borned May the 20, 1855, in Owens Valley about 3 or 4 miles from Gadsden, Ala. My father moved to Gorgia while I was a baby. He got a job as overseer for a widow lady by the name of Thomas. She owned a big plantation and lots of negrows. He was the maniger of evrything.

My first relection was one day I was out playing, and was called to come to the house. My half-brother William had come to see us and he gave me a little dog knife. The handle was cast iron. Just a one blade. Handle was made just like a dog, 4 legs, tail, and head.

My brother William was a good looking young man. He fel in love with Mrs. Thomas youngest daughter. He was staying in Cloumbus watching the cotton at the factory while my father bringing it to the factory from the plantation. Cloumbus Ga had 2 factorys..

One day when father come w several wagons loaded with cotton my brother William ask him to stay there and let him go back with the wagons, that he was going to steal Sallie Thompson, the old ladies youngest daughter. So he did. Well Mrs. Thomas discharged my father.

Then my father bought a farm that had a goodeal of pine timber on it and he wanted to cut it and haul it to the saw mill and have it sawed into lumber to build a house on the farm. He was draging the logs to the saw mill using a 2 wheal log cart draging the logs when he got his skull broke and he was verry deaf. I don't know what he did with the farm.

Then he moved to Columbus, Ga. We lived there untill the War Between the States started. That war was declared in 1861 and lasted untill 1866. I was between 5 and six years old. I ust to see the soldiers leave on box cars and in box cars and flat cars, no Pulman

Then my father moved to Southwest Ga, Thomas County. There he and my brother Joe went to the war. My father was so deaf that he was discharged. My brother stayed untill the Surender in 1866. He is still living today at the Confederate Soldiers Home, Atlanta Ga.

I was the youngest childe of two familys. My father was born in South Carolina. He was born in 18 and 8. Come to Gorgia at that time he was 18 years old hired out on the farm. His first wife was a Miss Durdon. She died and left 4 children, three boys and one girl. Oldest boy Nathan, then John and William. The girl, the youngest child, name Ede Ann. I never saw her. She married a Mr. Asbell and moved to Mazurra.

Pleased excuse bad spelling. I had no chance for an education.

Nathan Pittman my half-brother was killed in the war. William Pittman w shot through the hips and had to walk on two crutches as long as he lived.

Then he married my mother, Sara Frasure. Father was of Irish decent, mother English. By this marage there w born three boyas and one girl. Oldest boy Joseph and Isam. Sister was the oldest child. Then me, James Pinkney Pittman.

Now back to the war. While Father and brother Joe was in the armey, Mother and I moved to Clumbus Ga. We had nothing. Mother baked ginger cakes and half mon pies. I went over the river to Clumbus and sold them on the streets for 50 cts each Confederate mony, then bye mour flower and molasses. I done the selling to make she and I a scant living. I had never went to school bout I did my job the best I could.

When my father come home from the war he moved to Atlanta Ga then he rented land about 15 miles from Atlanta. We lived there several years then father moved to Rome Ga. I was hired out to a farmer for $6.00 a month. There was where I commence thinking about egecation. I ask my bos to get me some books and a slate. You see I had gone to school three months prior to this. I got as far as Baker in the old Blue Back Speling book. My man I was working for helped me with my lessons. He told me to study the tabls in my mulplycations table, subtraction and division. So I got them down OK and I kept on studing.

Then father desided to move from Rome to Gadesden. So he come after me and we moved to Gadsden. I had a brother-in-law living there. Now I wanted to learn a trade. I went down in town to look for work. The first courthouse was under construction, the building of brick. The building proper was finished excep the cement flors and the plastering. Inside, the main courtroom was in the second story, all the oficies first floor. I went over there and I saw a tall well-dressed man standing out in fronnt of the building. I ask him for a job. I was 13 or 14 years old. He looked at me and smiled. "Well," he said, "what can you do?" I said "Anything that I can." "So you want to work." "Yes sir," I said. "All wright," he said, "get a wheelbarow and a shovel and whee dirt inside." The dirt was all around the building thrown out when the foundation was exevated. He went inside and marked on the wall. "Fill all the rooms up to this debth." Well I went to work. This man was the arktect of the building. The contrator was Mr Gabe Wright. He payed me one dollar a day. Well I thought I was geting rich. From 6 dollars a month to 1 dollar a day. Now when I filled all the rooms up to the mark, I ask him if that was all. He told me to go upstairs where the plasters was working and get on the scafold and keep water and lime putty and plaster paris, wash the tools, and hold the strateag fo them. I g me a plasters trowel. I tryed to put the plaster on the wall. I soon got the hang of it.

Then I hired to Doctor Nowlin as timekeeper on his brickyard. There was where I learned how brick was made and burned. Then a gunsmith ask me if I could build a chimby. Up to this time, I never had built one. I told him I could. He said he dident have the money but would give me single barrel shot guns. So I built the chimbley with 2 fire plases. Of course, evry boy wants a gun. Then I plastered a room for a watch. I wanted a watch.

About this time J. C. Stanton was building the A. G. S. Railroad from Chatanooga Tenn to Maredin Missipa. I was hired to build the chimlis to the section houses along the line. Then I went to Chatnogy Tennessee hired to a man that was building a iron furnace to make pig iron at Cornwall Alabama. Then when that was finished I went to Stonewall Iron Furncis. Was getting along fine. Was learning my trad all OK.

I went to Round Mountain Furnice. All this was fine brick inside the furnices except cast houses and smke stacks built of comon brick. I was working on a smoak stack 115 fee high. We finished it one day. That nite the foundation gave way and down she went. So I was luckey but we put in a new foundation and rebuilt it.

From there I went to Birmingham. It was a new town. The first court house was under construction. I got a job on it. Worked there for some time. I was sending my father and some money all along.

I went to Springville Ala. Worked there quite a while doing brick work and plastering. That was in 1872. I was 16 years old at that time, but was a good mecanic. Had learned my trade and I kept on working at it. I wanted to be a contractor some day. Work was hard to get.

I went to Gadsden. Heard that a man had a contract to build a stone building and was making the brick to build it. I went to the brickyard, ask the bos for a job. He hired me. I dident tell him I was a bricklayer. I knew when the brick was burned, I would get a job. Worked as a comon labor. Well when the time come told the contractor I was a brick mason. He seemed to be surprised the I done comon labor for $1.00 per day. He told of course he would put me on. So when the work started, he had hired several bricklayer. I was a fast bricklayer. It was not long before he got sick and had to go home. He come to me and ask me to take charge and finish the building for him. So I compleated the for him.

I had fell in love with a Miss Matie Dyer at Springville when I was working there. Then I went to Sulpur Springs to do some work and there I met Miss Nancy Vick, the girl I maried about 3 years later. She was born and rased there. That was quite a summer resort. I went to Tuscaloosa to work. Come back to Sulphur Springs to work again.

I got into truble. I went hunting with two men, one was midal eag, the other was young. The young man got killed out in the woods and the other man told evry body that I killed him. Well, I was arested, tryed and put under a ten thousand dollar bond untill the grand jury met. The county seat was Ashville Ala. I did not know a sole in the town. I ask the Sharif what he was going to do with me. I dident want to be put in jale. "Can you make a bond?" "I can try."

It w now getting dark when w come down out of the court house. Seemed I had the simpthy of older men. Went into a large store. The croud of men folowed us in. I ask the propreator if he would go on a tempry bond untill I could make bond, but when he found out how much the bond was he shook his head. One man in the crowed said he would, then another. So there was a lot of them went on the bond, a temporary bound. I gave my bond to a frend of mine from Springville to see if he could make bond in Springville for me. I wated sevrel days. So I ask the men that signed my bond if tha wood let me go to Springville and try to make my bond, that if I couldent make bond I wood come back. They told me to go.

Now there was a Mr. Wood and Miss Vick that was sumoned as witnesses at the trile. Mr. Wood had been going with Miss Vick and wanted her to mary him. So he told her that they w send me to the pen or hang him so she told him that wouldent do him no good, that she would mary me before I went. You see hur friend tryed to keep hur from maring me because I drink a little two much, but that dident do any good.

Well, back to the bond. I made the bond and sent it in. My friends in Springville went to work on the case. They corned the man that acused me out where the young man was killed and ask him where he was standing when the young man was killed. He showed them & thay traced the shot came from on the undergroth that killed the man. So he got scared and run away. So whe the grand jury met, he was not there to appear against me. So my case w throon out of court and I was clared. You see, he was the onley wittnes. God knows I dident kill him. It was all done axedently.

Well I went to work at Tusculoosa Ala, and when I was through there I come back to Sulpher Springs to do some work and I desided to get married. So on November 22, Sunday morning, I married Miss Vick. Well I hadn't saved up any money. I carried hur to my boardinghouse. So made up my mind to quit drinking. So I did. As soon as I could, we rented a house and got things together, and moved in.

I worked at Birmingham Ala for some time. Left my wife at Sulpur Springs. I stayed, then worked where I could. In about 2 years our first baby was born, a boy. So we named him John Isam after my father and my wife's father. So that was John I. Pittman.

About that time I hered that ther was going to be a brick sone house built at Utaw Alabama so I desided I would try to get the contrat. I figured it got the contract. You see I had been working at odd times in Mr Rouseaus archtect office and had learnd all about building plans. I got to be a pretty architect myself. Well I desided to make the brick there to do the work. So I found a place and made the owner a bid to pay him ten cts a thousand for the clay. Well I hired 2 negrows to mold the brick. Each man was to mold six thousand bricks a day. Well w got started. The first day put out on the yard twelve thousand brick. Well next morning when I went down evry brick was broke in 1 or 2 pieces. Well I sure scratched my head ang done some thinking. The thought struck me that I would mix sand with the clay, put the broken soft brick in the grinding pitt and mis a wagon load of sand to the 6,000 brick w I had the mud brick ground over. Well we made another trial so when I went down the next morning there lay m six thousand mud brick and there was not a broke brick on the yard. So I put wood chopers to cuting cord wood in 4 feet lenths so it would be seasoned by the time I would be ready to burn my first kilt of one hundred thousand brick. I dsided to make 2 hundred thousand as I could sell all I had left for a good price which I did. I made good money on the job.

Moved back to Gadsdan Ala. Desided I would go into the grocery business and run a meat market in conection. I hired a bucher and bout some beaves. Well I didnt like the buisness and sold out, and moved out on my farm and went to claring the land and making rails to fence it. In the mean time cut cross tie timber, put cos ties on the road. The company checked the ties and payed me for them. I got enough land cleared and fenced fo a one horse farm. I hired a young man to do the farm work. I worked at my trade when I could get work. When I didnt have a job I was clearing more land and fencing it. I soon had enough land for cleared and fenced for a 2 horse crop. So I bought another mule and had extry help to run a 2 horse farm.

I got a contract to build aditions to the court house in Ashville the county seat to the old court house that I was tryed in. Also I got a contract to do some work on the new jail that had been built there. You see the second story where the cages was to go wasnt high enough so the comishers sent fo me. The jale was finished, roof on but the cages wouldent go in. So the wanted me to build the second story higher. So I told them I could fix it and they give me the job. Of course tha thought the roof would have to come off so the walls could be built higher. I jus let them think. Well I got a lot of jack and I jacked the roof up the proper hight and build the walls up and let the roof down on the walls and the job was done, and the laugh was on them.

During the time I was on the farm I built a house for my father and mother so I could have them close to me so I could look after them when they wanted anything. When I didnt have the money I would give my father an order to any store in Springfield. I always had good credit in Springfield. I just sait please let my father have whatever he wants. So he got and I paid for it.

Now I desided to rent out my farm and move to Springville. So I did. While I worked on the farm and worked in town I would get up earley and walk 4 miles to town, work 10 hours a day and walk 4 miles back home at night. During the time my father dide. And then I taken my mother to my home to live with me.

I was working in Birmingham for a verry

-- Part 1 Ends Here --

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