Childhood Memories                 

Garth-McBride House

One of  numerous landmarks still standing in Courtland

Lisa grew up in the small town of Courtland. Nestled between Decatur and Florence, and, rich in southern history, many old plantation houses still grace the quiet streets. Now, all but forgotten, the community was once a safe haven for a child to grow and play.

The town spans only two city blocks, and storefronts boast original exteriors. On many street corners slave blocks of grayish white stone still stand. A dim reminder of how slaves were auctioned to the highest bidder to work in fields and homes owned by the wealthiest landowners.  

Many times as Lisa walked the streets, her hand lingering on the stone’s cool surface, she wondered how the slaves felt, the humility they'd suffered, the heartache they'd endured being torn from their families? Sad thoughts for a child, but also, a remarkable part of the town’s heritage, and a much needed reminder of the past.

Lisa remembers fondly, gathering in the Town Square with her friends. Playing ball and wading in the fishponds, there. Watching old men while away an endless summer’s day, whittling blocks of cedar into amazing and unique shapes. Touch football and Halloween, water balloons filled and ready for battle. Egging each other until everyone was exhausted. A fun and acceptable way for children in small town America to play, and done all in good fun within throwing distance of the police department. A time lost and mourned. Never to be regained.

Nineteen-seventy was the year her family bought their two-hundred year old house, and also that same year Segregation came about, thrusting the South into turmoil. Her small town changed and shifted. But the storm passed as all storms do…

Rumors echoed about Courtland’s history…and how criminals had been punished in years long passed…barely audible whispers of the Hanging Tree that once graced her family’s front lawn.

She remembers staring out the window to a dip in the earth where bright yellow buttercups bloomed, and wondered…An inquisitive child, she questioned old timers in the community and discovered that the scarred earth was where Courtland’s last hanging tree had stood. It’s canopy of branches splaying wide enough to play baseball under. Criminals had drawn their last breaths, met their maker there.

     For many years, the tree trunk, snarled and twisted, lay to the side of the house awaiting its demise. Each spring, Lisa watched her dad pile brush and leaves atop the stump and set it on fire, repeating the process over the years until nothing remained but black and gray ash. 

     Every incident is carved in Lisa's memory. Eerie moans of an eighteenth century plantation house supposedly just settling...unexplainable bumps in the night...objects that moved for no apparent reason…and footsteps when no one else was there…

Although a slow and gentler time... a huge reminder of the love of a wonderful family, a special bond between friends...a childhood Lisa will never forget...