Dr. D.D. Cole and his adventures in Eliska
August 22, 2019
The Alabama River is a place of rich history and ancient cultures. Native Americans roamed the rivers in a time before the arrival of Europeans and thereafter Europeans mapped and settled the area. Later, as the area became a new frontier for the US, another round of settlers called the area home. It is also likely that men such as William Travis travelled passed Gainestown Landing by river boat as he conducted his profession as an attorney-perhaps with a court hearing in Mobile or elsewhere- before going on to greater fame at the Alamo in Texas.
The area around Gainestown Landing on the Clarke County side of the river and Eureka Landing, which rises from the banks of the Alabama River on the Monroe County side; share a unique history.
Gainestown was founded in 1809 by George Strother Gaines as a Choctaw-Creek trading post along the river. As the Battle of Maubila, De Soto's hogs escaped and from here proliferated across the Southeast. In the Antebellum period of river travel, steamboats traveled between Mobile and Selma in an endless procession of travelers, consumer goods and settlers seeking a better life.
A little-known fact is that the master mechanic who worked on the construction of the Confederate submarine, CSS Hunley was from Gainestown. During the War Between the States, every male from the age of 16-60 left Gainestown to serve the Confederacy.
In the decades following the war, Gainestown continued to be an important cog in the wheel of industry and transportation for Clarke County and the surrounding area. Residents such as J.R. Norris, were manufacturing soap on small industrial sized basis in 1883 and using an unknown chemical compound. It has also been said that an elderly lady ran a store at the landing, and she would routinely shoot at river boats which refused to give her service as they plied the waters.
The area was also at risk of natural disasters as well. The April 6, 1911 edition of the Monroe Journal reported a cyclone (tornado) which ripped through Barlow Bend, Gainestown, crossed the river into Eureka, and went on to wreak havoc at Jones Mill (Frisco City). Two people were killed, and the children of F.D. Norris were blown 500 yard across a field and their heads buried in the mud.
By the early 1900s, Dr. D.D. Cole of Eliska (on the Eureka side of the river) was running a busy ferry between the two counties. Cole was an enterprising man in that he was appointed postmaster of Eliska on December 13, 1905. He also owned a gin and mill which was burned by arsonists on the morning of January 8, 1913. Cole was so enraged by the burning that he ran an ad in the Monroe Journal on July 10, 1913 and offered a $1000 reward for the conviction of anyone connected with the burning.
Cole operated the ferry from Gainestown. On February 26, 1914, he published notice that he would be seeking a renewal of his license for another ten years. Dr. Cole was also an accomplished beekeeper and was well known for his extensive apiary in the Eliska area.
Cole was diversified in the Eliska area. In addition to his other endeavors, he also ran an acetylene light plant. While working on the generator, which ran the plant, he was badly burned in an explosion on December 23, 1927.
The Monroe Journal reported that an assistant held a lighted lantern too close to the generator causing the gas to ignite. Dr. Cole was transported to a hospital in Mobile for treatment.
Dr. Cole recovered from his injuries and lived on another 16 years. According to the Atmore Advance, Dr. Cole passed away on February 24, 1943 at his home at Eliska, although the Monroe Journal from the same period stated Dr. Cole passed away at Turberville Hospital in Century, Florida where he is said to have went for treatment earlier in the week.
His son, Julian Cole, of the Graham Oil Company in Atmore, was called home to Eliska over the news of his father's passing. Julian Cole had previously been employed at the office of Probate Judge of, E. T. Millsap at Monroeville but had taken employment at Graham Oil in January 1943. The Cole and Northrop families were closely related according to newspaper stories of the era.
The Atmore Advance of March 4, 1943 noted, "Dr. Cole had been in failing health for several years from a heart aliment and death came suddenly. He had practiced in Eliska for a long period of years, and besides being prominent in his profession, had large farming and business interests in the area."
Dr. Cole's bed-side manner was also noted in the column, "Dr. Cole was a real family doctor, one of those who had endeared himself to generation after generation of clientele by competent and faithful service, and who regarded him not only as their family doctor, but adviser as well. He will be greatly missed by the people he served and lived. He is survived by his widow, several children and grandchildren."
Dr. Cole is buried at Little River Baptist Church Cemetery off Highway 59. While riding the river around Eureka or watching the sun awaken the woods around the landing for another day, it is easy to imagine an enterprising country doctor transporting goods and people across the waters, treating patients and living his life in a not so distant past.
In later years, Monroe County constructed Eureka Landing. Lots began selling in the late 1960s and is today a place of great fellowship among neighbors and friends who call Eureka Landing home.
Shadows and Dust Volume III: Legacies is available for purchase in the amount of $30.00+$5.00 shipping and handling to PO Box 579 Atmore, AL 36502 or visit Lulu Publishing.com; Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles.com OR at the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama or by calling 251 294 0293.