Tri-City Ledger -

By Kevin McKinley
Guest Writer 

Lawrence McKinley farmed near Canoe


June 6, 2019

Courtesy Photo

Lawrence McKinley and wife near Canoe, Alabama.

During the early 1900s, The Atmore Advance kept a weekly account of area residents in short biographies which were written by Hugh B. Dubose under the column name Who's Who in Atmore.

On May 2, 1929, Dubose chronicled the life of local farmer Lawrence McKinley. Lawrence was born to Elbert and Mary McKinley (Mary was a Stabler before her marriage to Elbert) on March 27, 1853. The young man grew up in the River Ridge/Franklin area of Monroe County.

According to the Advance, Lawrence had five brothers and four sisters, yet only two brothers were still living at the time of the article, Ollie McKinley, who farmed near Summerdale, and Lafayette McKinley, a 79 year old farmer from Franklin, Alabama.

The short bio article recounts that Lawrence's father was too old for service in the Confederacy during the War Between the States. Even with his father home to work the fields, the family still suffered from the war in that Lawrence recounted for the Dubose article the malnutrition his family suffered during and shortly after the war.

Formal education was also in short supply in those years and in his area he would attend school roughly three months of the year. Lawrence and most of his generation received their education through their hard work ethic.

When he reached the age of twenty, Lawrence left home and took a job at a "steam mill" at Snow Hill in Wilcox County. He worked there two years and thereafter returned home to farm with his brother Lafayette for a year before being hired by Mal Stabler as a farm hand for two years. Following this period he farmed with his brother Pence for two years before moving to the Canoe area.

Lawrence bought 40 acres of land from W.F. Brown, his homestead was on this property. He sold half of this land to John Black, according to the Advance article. He then began buying land from W.M. Carney until he amassed a farm of 200 acres. He had operated this farm for 33 years by the time of The Atmore Advance article. He married his first wife, Frances Wiggins at River Ridge on December 15, 1881, following her death he later married his second wife Florence.

Lawrence is said to have had the first car in Canoe and to have donated much of the lumber to build the original Canoe Methodist Church. Yet his views on farming gives a historic perspective that shows how much agriculture has changed in 90 years.

"The only thing Lawrence McKinley says he ever made money on was cotton. Yet he said he learned as a child not to depend on cotton to buy any foodstuffs or groceries at home but to grow them himself," wrote Dubose in the Advance article.

"His plan, he says, has always been to grow enough for his own use with some left over to sell of every type of food stuff that could be grown at home," noted Dubose as to Lawrence's farming practices.

This farm plan, according to Lawrence McKinley, was an insurance policy against hard times. "By following such a plan, even in lean years he would sell enough corn, hogs, chickens, potatoes, syrup and other items to take care of his living and operating expenses," continued the writer.

"He (Lawrence McKinley), attributed his success through subsistence agriculture as allowing him to farm cotton as a sideline and make money at it and the plan kept him out of debt," stated the Advance article.

Lawrence McKinley passed away February 1, 1941 but his legacy on the landscape around the area of Canoe and Malta can still be felt today.

Join the Canoe Civic Club for Market Days, Saturday June 8, 2019 from 8am-1pm. Those interested in selling crafts, produce, or other home produced items can rent a table at the event for $10. Call 251 294 0293 for more information.


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