The Rude Awakening of Jimmy O’Neal

On occasion I come across some unique gems tucked away in our local history, and during a recent chat with Donald Ward, one such story was told to me that came to him from Joe Ben Hudson.  Mr. Hudson, some readers may recall, lived to be one of our oldest citizens, going home to be with the Lord at the young age of 108. He bore witness to many of the historical facts we can only read about today.

Every town has its characters, and Millsboro has had its share. Some of us could name quite a few in a brief conversation, but I’ll go farther back in time, beyond the living memory of any reader here. In the mid-1800s, there lived a man by the name of Jimmy O’Neal, whose reputation for the consumption of alcohol was the stuff of legends. He was the town drunk. Jimmy could drink almost anything, and he would it seemed, even at peril to his own life.

Round about the year 1851, during the winter of ’51, folks in Millsborough were rounding up firewood and coal for the night.  It was a bitter wind that blew across town, made even more so as the last tinges of heavenly warmth disappeared with the setting sun. Even though it was Saturday, no one lingered on Main Street, as was the custom. Coal stoves were being stoked, ashes were stirred in fireplaces, and wood stoves were reloaded, all over town. People were settling in for another long, cold winter night.

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