James Mallory was an uncommon Southerner. Most inhabitants of the Old South, especially the plain folk, devoted more time to leisurely activities--drinking, gambling, hunting, fishing, and just loafing--than did Mallory, a workaholic agriculturalist, who experimented with new plants, orchards, and manures, as well as the latest farming equipment and techniques. A Whig and a Unionist, a temperance man and a peace lover, ambitious yet caring, business-minded and progressive, he supported railroad construction as well as formal education, even for girls. His cotton production--four bales per field hand in 1850, nearly twice the average for the best cotton lands in southern Alabama and Georgia--tells more about Mallory's steady work habits than about his class status.
But his most obvious eccentricity--what gave him reason to be remembered--was that nearly every day from 1843 until his death in 1877, Mallory kept a detailed journal of local, national, and often foreign news, agricultural activities, the weather, and especially events involving his family, relatives, slaves, and neighbors in Talladega County, Alabama.
Mallory's journal spans three major periods of the South's history--the boom years before the Civil War, the rise and collapse of the Confederacy, and the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. He owned slaves and raised cotton, but Mallory was never more than a hardworking farmer, who described agriculture in poetical language as "the greatest [interest] of all."
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Grady McWhiney is Lyndon Baines Johnson Professor of American History at Texas Christian University.
The late Warner O. Moore, Jr., was Associate Director of Student Services and an Adjunct Professor of History, The University of Alabama.
Robert F. Pace retired from the history department at McMurry University and is currently an Episcopal priest.
"The journal of James Mallory is a rare document: a commentary on farm life in East Central Alabama (outside the plantation Black Belt) in the middle of the 19th century, recording the activities of farming and detailing the author's views on politics, religion, and events of the times."—James B. McMillan
"This journal is a valuable contribution to the history of Alabama in particular and to Southern history in general. It will be of interest to scholars of agriculture and religion especially, and persons concerned with the health of the Southern population during these decades. Geneaologists will find it to be a gold mine of information."—John Hebron Moore, Florida State University
“ In this edition of Mallory’s journal the editors have limited their intrusion on the text, identifying interventions in square brackets and making a few silent corrections of the author’s accidental errors. Their numbered notes, which represent one-quarter of the volume, identify and explain not only persons, places, and events but also farming techniques and tools, as well as varieties of plants and insect pests mentioned in the text. Information in the notes is drawn from census, church, court, and military records; contemporary newspapers; and secondary sources. A detailed index facilitates reference on subjects ranging from agriculture to genealogy to religion. . . . Thanks to this edition of his journal by Grady McWhiney, the late Warner O. Moore Jr., and Robert F. Pace, we can see the variety of farmer-planters of the mid-nineteenth century South. And we can trace their perceptions from the antebellum frontier era through the Civil War and Reconstruction.”
—Florida Historical Quarterly
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