-E.B. White

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Another foggy morning, but this time of year it seems to be the norm. We made it to Demopolis Lock and Dam around noon and have now joined the lower Black Warrior/Tombigbee River. This lock was completed in 1962, and it replaced Old Lock #4 on the Tombigbee and #5, #6 and #7 on the Black Warrior. The Lock has a lift of 40 feet, and the 48 mile long lake created by the dam has a capacity of 120,000 acre-feet at its normal 73-foot pool elevation. Picture of water coming over dam and floating bollard with yukky debris on it.

Now for a little bit of history on Demopolis. After Napoleon's defeat at the battle of Waterloo, a group of officers and their families came to America in 1817 with the intention of beginning a new life. They were given a land grant from the U.S. Government consisting of four townships on 144 square miles of land. The grant required the colony must cultivate olive trees and vineyards. They romantically called themselves the "Association of French Imigrants for Culivation of the Vine and Olive. They named their first settlement Demopolis "The City of the People". By 1818 they numbered 400, they had been counts, generals, scholars and ladies-in-waiting of a powerful emperor and accustomed to the lavishness of the highest class of European culture. Destitute before they reached Alabama many were forced to combine finances to raise the $80.00 needed o buy 40 acres. This area was Alabama's "Prairie Belt" where soil is as sticky as glue when wet and as hard as cement when dry and many of the plants shipped from France where the wrong variety, arrived at the wrong time of year, or were improperly packed and dead on arrival. Frost killed the olive trees, the grapes ripened too early and the wine tasted like vinegar. Eventually the Choctaw Indians were able to teach them how to grow corn and beans. After catastropic floods and outbreaks of malaria put an end to the vine and olive planters most of them returned to France or went to New Orleans.

We anchored at mile 176 on the river bank and enjoyed another quiet, peaceful evening.

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