February 12, 2009

History Stuff

As an update to last month's family history roundup, my kinfolk encouraged me to submit an article to a couple of the smaller papers in the area to see if they might be interested in the family name story.

Nicely enough, both the Centreville Press and the Tannehill Trader decided to run the piece--the former running it yesterday, and the latter to run it next month. I haven't seen the actual print version yet, so just in case there is any editorial editing that got done between submittal and printing, following is the article as it was written. ALSO--an extra great big thanks to my editor, Dr. James Smith, noted professor of management at East Carolina University and a former denizen of Bessemer. Jim looked over the article and made some much-appreciated comments, so he gets full blame if anything goes horribly wrong.

Oglesby Family Members Seek to Correct Error in Cemetery Name at Tannehill

By Terry Oglesby

February 9, 2009—BIBB CO., AL—For many years, history publications have stated that Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park is the site of the Oglesby Plantation Cemetery, a supposed resting place of 400 slaves owned by one of Bibb County’s early settlers. Family members familiar with their history disputed that idea, and set about to conduct their own research to determine what the real story is.

The Hickman Cemetery between Green Pond and Tannehill is the burial site of an early Bibb County settler, Sabert Oglesby. He had arrived in the New World from his native Scotland and originally settled in South Carolina. He was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served in the 4th South Carolina Artillery Regiment, and later still fought in the War of 1812. Sometime around 1820, he and his wife brought their large family of nine children to northern Bibb County, settling in the Green Pond area.

A host of Oglesby’s descendents now live across the United States, including many in Alabama who remain in Bibb, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties–and an important part of the story of their history has now been corrected.

For some time, Sabert’s name has been erroneously associated with a cemetery of unmarked graves on property now belonging to Tannehill State Park. The misnamed “Oglesby Plantation Cemetery” is referenced in several publications as containing 400 unmarked graves of slaves who were workers at the Tannehill ironworks, and who were purported to have belonged to Sabert Oglesby, or to his Presbyterian minister son (also named Sabert, born in 1809).

However, recent research conducted by several Oglesby family members casts doubt on the identification of the cemetery.

They found that the actual number of graves is unknown, and could be as few as twenty-five. While there could have been 400 workers at the Tannehill Ironworks during the height of the Civil War, and slaves were part of that workforce, it is implausible to think such a large number died and were buried nearby.

Research of records from the time period up to the Civil War has not documented that Sabert (or his namesake son) owned any slaves, nor that they ever owned the land. Although the land was owned by another family member (probably Sabert I’s son, George), no information has yet been found that ties him to the gravesites, either.

How this mistaken identity came about is still unclear. It appears Sabert Oglesby II’s name and the incorrect number of gravesites was first used in a story published in 1991 when the park was being developed. The error was then picked up by other published accounts of the park’s history in the years afterward.

Three cousins, Kenneth Oglesby, Charles Adams, and the author, each descendents of the pioneering Sabert Oglesby, recently were able to gain a much-welcomed opportunity to present their research to Deb Vieau Haines, the Bibb County coordinator of the ALGenWeb Project (http://www.algenweb.us). Bibb County’s website (http://bibbcountyal.org) is a much-used genealogical tool that had originally carried the incorrect information in its listing of county cemeteries.

Ms. Haines reviewed the research information and created a new, corrected biographical entry for the cemetery. It is a hopeful first step in what promises to be a long task of undoing the error in other places and publications, but a step worth taking to ensure that the historical record is as accurate as possible.

(Additional information can be viewed online at

So, there you go.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at February 12, 2009 02:02 PM

Now that y'all are a published author and editor in the old media, do you think that you and Jim could write an article to get the President and Treasury Secretary to be quiet for a few days? My retirement plan can't handle many more "helpful" comments from them.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at February 12, 2009 05:08 PM

Oh, come on! Haven't you heard that dissent is no longer patriotic!? Next thing you know, you'll be saying stuff like you think everyone is created equal and junk.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at February 16, 2009 09:14 AM


I seem to recall dissent being illegal and irregular during the last reign.

And how are ya? LTNS.

Posted by: vachon at February 16, 2009 11:46 PM

Heheee--VACHON!! How have you been, sugar!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at February 17, 2009 08:25 AM

Way to go Terry! Now just apply these skills to the rest of history and we'll be set.

Posted by: Jerry O at February 19, 2009 09:06 PM

Hmm--I think that might be rather more comprehensive than my spare time would allow...

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at February 20, 2009 10:21 AM

The Origins Of Biofuels
February 26th, 2009 by skippy

Since energy independence is a current in topic, and since I am all about leaping onto the bandwagon, I decided to do some poking around into biofuels. I wanted to see if I could run my car on them, if they were really as environmentally friendly as suggested, and even if they would be available in my area.

So while I was poking around I discovered that biofuels had actually been around a lot longer than I suspected. It turns out that like many innovations, several of which we take for granted nowadays, the modern concept of biofuels originated with the axis powers just before WWII. Which makes sense, I guess, because in America the first time somebody said “I want you to grow gasoline!” he got laughed at. But when a murderous dictator tells you the same thing, you’re probably going to give it the old college try.

Since Italy contained very few strategic resources during the lead-up to the War, Mussolini was worried about being able to maintain sufficient fuel supplies to keep the infrastructure functioning. Especially since his larger and more aggressive allies might not be willing to share their stockpiles if they became scarce.

And so he instructed several of the leading minds in his country to come up with alternative fuel sources, preferably ones that could be maintained indefinitely through domestic production. And so scientists got to work on the problem. In the end, it was determined that the only even remotely practical solution was to try to produce different kinds of vegetable oil, and see if any could be made to work in a modified engine.

These experiments continued once the war broke out, and for the most part, they didn’t turn up much that was useful. The closest they ever got to a functional engine was a stripped down locomotive that went about 100 yards, off of a fake diesel variant, made out of a bunch of locally grown herbs. They could actually burn it hot enough to power a small steam turbine, but not particularly well. The extraction process was prohibitively expensive, and produced a liquid that was inferior in every way to just burning coal or wood. With the added bonus of being extremely volatile.

The “spice engine” though technically a success, was a colossal waste of resources that could be ill-afforded by a country worried about impending invasion and it’s very survival. Some people believe that insane directives like this, might have helped foster the resentment, which led to his being deposed.

And in the end he was left with the epitaph of many dictators. He was a bloodthirsty psychopath. But at least he made the trains run on thyme.

I just couldn't wait till 1 April....

Posted by: Chef Tony at February 27, 2009 08:30 PM

Oh, Tony--that was AWFUL! My compliments!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at March 2, 2009 11:16 AM