McGowin among early settlers
For the next couple of weeks I will finish with Ethel Holmes History of Escambia County. Then we will get around to something else. This week contains a short biographical sketch of a couple of the area’s outstanding citizens.
One of Escambia’s earliest white settlers was Mr. Samuel McGowin who came from Georgia. He was a successful planter and had a large family, of whom he sent seven boys to serve in the Confederate Army during the war, five of whom were slain. Mr. McGowin died in 1892 at the age of 86 years.
Mr. Elisha Downing, one of the most successful lumbermen of South Alabama was born in what is now Escambia County in 1837. He left home at the age of 21 and hired himself to his brother, John R., as a farm laborer at $13 per month. He later worked at different sawmills for $2 to $3 per day, most of which he saved so that he might go into business for himself. In 1859 he married Esther Ellis and farmed for a short while on Burnt Corn Creek.
In 1862 he enlisted in Company H, First Florida Regiment, with which he served in the army with General Bragg until taken prisoner at Glascow, Kentucky, where he lay sick at the time of the capture. He returned home after being paroled, but subsequently re-entered the army at Tullahoma, Tennessee, where he was confined to the hospital for a long time. He was captured again by the Federals at Jackson, Mississippi and was sent to Camp Morton, Indianapolis, Indiana, where he remained a prisoner for 22 months, until after the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox.
After his release he returned home and engaged in getting out timber for railroad purposes and was employed some time later to hew timber for European markets. In 1878 he reinvested his savings in a sawmill 15 miles northeast of Brewton, which he operated successfully for nine years until the Cedar Creek Lumber Company was organized.
Mr. T.R. Miller was born of poor parents in what was at that time, Conecuh County, Alabama (now Escambia County) on April 7, 1843. His parents were Robert Miller and Cherrie Floyd Miller. He could write his name, but he could not read, for although he went to school, he said that when he tried to study it always nauseated him. It is known now, of course, that this was on account of defective eyesight.
Mr. Miller joined the Confederate Army at the age of 18 years and served throughout the war. After the war he came back home and began farming.
He would make a crop and after the crop was “laid by” he would get out the hewn timber and float it down the river to Pensacola. He did this for seven years after the close of the War Between the States, then quit farming and gave his entire time to the timber business.
He had mills at different places on the Conecuh River.
Mr. Miller moved to Brewton in 1887, and from that time was engaged in the lumber and timber business at Brewton until his death, on May 20, 1914.
Next week we will have a couple more of these sketches to end this historical account.