In this month’s blog, we will talk about my old stomping grounds – our neighbors on highway 79 – from Tarrant (in the interest of full disclosure, I was an Inglenook kid, growing up just over the city limits into Birmingham) north on Pinson Valley Parkway including Robinwood, Ketona, Pawnee, the Jefferson State area and on out to Pinson. From a historical perspective, these areas have much more in common than they do differences.
Tarrant was incorporated as a city in 1918, a mill town owing its existence in large part to the starting of the National Cast Iron Pipe Company. One of the original share owners in NCIPC was Felix Tarrant, a dentist by training. Felix also founded the Tarrant Land Company which sold property in and around the Tarrant area.
However, Tarrant, as a settlement, was there much earlier. Originally called Green[e]’s, or Nabors Springs, the Tarrant area was settled in much the same way as Pinson, by soldiers passing through the area to or from the Creek War or War of 1812. These soldiers later brought or sent for their families to join them in their new home. After local Native American tribes were forced to cede their land after signing the treaty in 1814 with General Andrew Jackson, the US government opted to offset the costs of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812/Creek War by giving or selling the newly acquired lands to their veterans. Some land was given to those owed pensions due to military service, while some lands were sold for as little as $1.50 per acre.
Churches were almost always at the center, both literally and figuratively, at the center of most early settlements and, as such, were major influences. In Tarrant’s case, however, most denominations did not come onto the scene until after the town was incorporated. That being said, there were three early churches in Tarrant that deserve mentioning. The older of the two was the Smith’s Chapel Methodist Church, founded in the days before Alabama became a state in 1819. Originally next to James Cunningham’s house at the headwaters of the creek named for him, the building was later moved to the Huntsville Road (now Highway 79) close to where Kent Corporation now stands. The Greene family cemetery, where many of the area’s early pioneers (and a minimum of seven slaves) are buried, was next to the church. Families that are residents of the cemetery include Greene, Hagood, Erwin, Massey, Reed, Reid, Marshall, and Hewitt (including Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt, a veteran of the American Revolution). Extant church records for Smith Chapel include a copy of the General Rules of the United Methodist Societies (published for the Tract Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church), which admonishes its members to lead an exemplary life: “…by doing no harm; by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which most generally practiced”. These “rules for life” were part of a booklet where the church listed their members, attendance records (including notes on members who had been “expelled”), from 1842 until 1855. Copies of the original church records list members who owned slaves. In addition, it lists the slaves who were members of the church, and who their owners were. While not unexpected for the time, it is ironic that the Rules expressly forbid members of the Methodist church from “buying and selling of men, women, and children, with an intention to enslave them”.
This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.
–E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.
Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.