Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: More Historical Indifference

In this month’s article, I will continue the rant started in July (hey, I’ve got to get it out of my system somehow…).

Last month, I focused on the lack of interest that far too many people have in their town’s or area’s history. This month, I want to drill down further into two additional categories; first, people who don’t seem care about the history or genealogy of their own family, and second, those people who like to think they know something, but haven’t bothered to do the work needed to ascertain the facts.

A case in point… Recently, I happened to overhear a person discussing, in great detail, a recent conversation during which some facts regarding their family’s role in the history of a local town had come into question. It apparently involved a disagreement between this person and a local historian who had written something in opposition to the first person’s beliefs about their family history.

Now, who was right? (Maybe, the better question is who was correct?) I don’t know and I don’t really need (or want) to know… Taking sides is not the point. But, for the sake of clarity, let’s look at what we think we “know” in this case…

First, let’s talk about the person whose family history is at issue. In this case, the person had heard various anecdotes and stories over the years from older family members that led to the beliefs that they have. It’s likely that most people take such conversations pretty much at face value and simply file them away as memories.

In the first case, someone is not interested in learning more about their family history… they are not interested in pursuing or questioning the stories. They do not take steps to dig into their family history and learn more about it. Maybe they find boxes of old photos or bundles of letters belonging to their grandmother… “OK, nothing valuable here, so just throw them out”. (These are often the same people who are prone to tear old buildings down for no other reason than they are old buildings – they do not see value in things that happened in the past). If others in the family want to play around in the branches of the family tree, they aren’t interested in taking part; and usually they are bored to the point of being comatose.

In the second case, the person takes significant pride in their family’s history. However, as in the first case, they do not delve further into the accounts they have heard from their forebears. In other words, “Granddad said it, I believe it, that settles it” or “I believe what I believe, don’t confuse me with the facts”.  Aside from what I view as a lack of curiosity, such a perspective results in an inability to look at the past, our community’s past, our family’s past square in the eye. When we fail in this, we discard any chance of seeing our history, and what we can learn from it, in all of its dimensions.

Now, on to the local historian… If they’ve done the appropriate due diligence, they should have some degree of objective documentation (newspaper articles, journal entries, etc.) that substantiates the historical position they are taking. Any good local historian will typically try to corroborate this information with other sources, in order to learn as much as possible about the event or person. Again, any good historian worth their salt will document the anecdotes, stories, tall tales, or urban legends that may accompany the particular occurrence. This allows the history to be a genuinely multi-faceted experience rather than simply a dry, single-sided litany of facts.

So, on a scale of 1 to 10 measuring interest in their about family history, the first case would seem to indicate a rating of 1-2, while the second would maybe rate a 9-10.

In both cases, however, what is missing, at the very least, is a willingness to think critically or objectively about their family’s history. Granted, such a willingness brings with it somewhat of an obligation to accept whatever they may learn (“if you’re not willing to accept the answer, don’t ask the question”). However, what is even more dangerous is there is an unwillingness to look at the past, warts and all, in an effort to learn from the experiences we collectively had, both the good and the bad. As anyone whose has read these blogs previously knows, I am a proponent of never editing our history – it is what it is… such a practice may be discomforting, but it allows us to learn so much more about our past and “forces” us to view our history as it really was, not what we wish it would be.

Over the past several months, I have had the privilege of working closely with a local Italian-American Heritage Society on an exhibit at Vulcan highlighting the contributions of Italian-Americans in early Birmingham. This group of immigrants came to America with little more than dreams and hopes of making a better life. Most Italian immigrants did not know the language or culture of their new country and were often treated with disdain and racial prejudices akin to those imposed on African-Americans by the white-dominated society of the time. There were numerous questions (and perceived concerns) as to whether Italians could be considered “white”. They were subjected to racial slurs and often forced to live in what amounted to “buffer zones” between whites and blacks. They were typically relegated to menial jobs and were often not given their due in terms of civil rights. Coupled with a prevalent anti-Catholic wave sweeping the country at the end of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century, Italians were often denigrated and were the target of jokes and conspiracy theories alike. As a result, they often “circled the wagons” and became somewhat of an insular community with a strong sense of church and family.

I have come to both admire and appreciate the members of the Italian-American community. Not only are they enthusiastic about their history and culture, they fully embrace the realities of their past, both good and bad. And while the injustices of the past are not good memories, they recognize that those experiences helped make them the people they are, with a great love for family, church, community, and a passion for life.

For those interested, the Italian-American exhibit at Vulcan, entitled “La Storia” will open beginning Friday, September 19 at Vulcan Park and Museum and will be in place until September 2015..

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.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the views of the individual author(s) and do not reflect the views or policies of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve or it’s partners. We do not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented on the website, nor does it make any representation concerning the same.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Historical Indifference

July’s article, coming half-way through the year (as most things in July tend to do), is a rant of sorts… Hopefully not a rant of tantrum-throwing, foot-stomping proportions, but certainly one expressing a prevailing sense of frustration, hopelessness bordering on despair, and a [metaphorical] desire to grab some people by the nape of the neck and shake the living @#$& out of them…

Why, you may ask, are you so up in arms? This is a valid question, the answer to which is the subject of this month’s discussion.

For the eighteen months or so that I have written this monthly history blog, a common thread has (hopefully) run throughout… that those of us living in the Pinson Valley and its environs are truly fortunate to have the rich and varied history that we do. Our history has not always been pretty, and frequently, not for the faint of heart. But, you don’t get to choose your history any more than you get to choose your parents… So, it is what it is.

Moreover, each of is historically-situated, basically meaning that we are products of the times in which we live. As such, while we can (and should) debate, interpret, and learn from our particular histories. It is my opinion, however, that we should never try to rewrite it. Such whitewashing of documentable facts does a dis-service to the history itself. It is unfair to our forebears who lived (and often suffered) through the times that are being discussed. As such, we should never try to whitewash, obscure, or otherwise, attempt to obliterate particular times or occurrences in that history.

As each article took shape and, even afterwards, the words would stick inside – both in my head and in my heart…

Historians, however, are supposed to be able to take a scholarly step back; being dispassionate in their research and objective in the analysis and discussion of past events and the repercussions of said events. In other words, one should never take the events of history personally.

And therein lays the rub… Now, I get the objectivity part [I really do]. When I do research, I can step back and view the facts with the necessary degree of professional detachment.

What haunts me so is that there are so many people in our communities that, very simply, couldn’t care less about their history. They say such things as: “What’s past is past…”, “You have to keep moving forward to grow”, “Why should I care? I didn’t know those people”. Now, to be fair, some people don’t have the “gene”. They simply don’t get it. There are still others who don’t care. They don’t see the important lessons that history gives us about how to live our lives. They don’t understand why it is important to recognize the contributions of our ancestors and to appreciate their struggles. They don’t understand the continual connection that the past has with the present and the present with the future.

I think this indifference results in the almost universal fact that historical and genealogical societies, museums, cemetery preservation groups, and historical restoration and conservation projects are chronically saddled with little or no financial support. Active physical support is in almost as sad a shape and is typically limited to more [ahem] senior citizens of the community. Politicians often give lip service, but little substantive support (dead folks usually don’t vote or pay taxes). It is important to get as many of us as possible (especially the young) actively involved. We learn much from our history, we learn important lessons when we have deep conversations and experiences about our shared histories, and we almost always emerge as better people as a result.

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.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the views of the individual author(s) and do not reflect the views or policies of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve or it’s partners. We do not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented on the website, nor does it make any representation concerning the same.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Greene Cemetery

In this month’s article, we will dig deeper (no pun intended) into a local cemetery with a list of residents that reads like a Who’s Who of the early pioneers of Jefferson County. The Green[e]’s Station cemetery (also called ” Green[e] family cemetery, Green[e]-Massey cemetery, or the Smith’s Chapel cemetery) is located on Kent Road near to the main campus of Jefferson State Community College on AL highway 79 between Tarrant and Pinson. The cemetery is adjacent to the site of, but was not affiliated with the Smith’s Chapel Methodist Church on the old Huntsville Road. The cemetery is of singular historical import to those of us living today in Pinson Valley. The area began to be settled between 1817-1818 and many of the area’s early pioneers (and a minimum of seven slaves) are buried in the cemetery.

Settlers began coming into the area by wagon train, ox-cart, Indian-drags, on foot or horseback and staked out homesteads for themselves and their families. The plantations and farms of early pioneers stretched from one end of Pinson Valley to the other, bordered by Tarrant on one end and Pinson on the other. The area also stretched from Trussville and Roebuck to New Castle and Springdale.

The city of Tarrant as we know it today was not incorporated until 1918. Named for Rev. Benjamin Tarrant, the town grew up around the National Cast Iron Pipe Company and related companies. However, the settlement was much older. Travelers on the Huntsville Road in about 1817 often stopped at an area known as the Big Spring to rest and recharge on their way further into Alabama. While many moved on, others stayed and built a community, originally called Green[e]’s, or Green[e]’s Station. Brothers George Livingston Green[e]and Robert Hardy Green[e] both built large plantations in the area. The Tarrant area was also sometimes known as Nabor’s Spring.

The cemetery is the final resting place of Zachariah Hagood, one of the earliest physicians in Jefferson County, who practiced from 1840 to 1856. Dr. Zachariah, as he was known, almost single-handedly populated the settlement in northeastern part of Jefferson County that would eventually bear his name. He came here with his wife and baby… However, the valley was soon teeming with life from the many sons and daughters, Zachariah had 21 children from three wives. Robert, son of Dr. Zachariah, built a store on a crossroads next to the Huntsville Road which, beginning in 1836, also functioned as the community’s first post office. The area quickly became known as Hagood’s Crossroads. However, horse traders settling in the area from Pinson, Tennessee came in around 1852, eventually outvoted the Hagood’s and renamed the town Mount Pinson which, in turn, was later shortened to Pinson..A more poignant burial is that of Thomas Haughey, a physician who owned land in the area. Serving as a Republican US Congressman in the years following the Civil War, Haughey was assassinated in Courtland, AL while making a speech in 1869.

The cemetery started as a family burial place for the Green[e] family, who had significant land holdings in the area. The oldest known burial is reflected on a stone carved in 1829. Two of the oldest known burials are that of Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt (a veteran of the American Revolution), who died in 1846 and George Nash who died in 1852, the father of Zachariah Hagood’s first wife, Nancy Nash. Also buried there are John and Margaret Erwin, parents of Zachariah’s second and third wives, Nancy and Mary Ann Erwin. Families represented in cemetery include Greene, Hagood, Erwin, Massey, Reed, Reid, Marshall, Nash, and Hewitt.

Registered as an Alabama Historic Cemetery on January 20, 2004, the cemetery is likely older than Alabama statehood. However, the years have not been kind to this venerable old resting place… In its current state, it is horribly overgrown, with numerous sunken graves and vandalized gravestones.

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This hallowed place of rest for our ancestors deserves better than it has received. It falls to the generations living today to give the cemetery its due, if for no other reason than a show of respect for this burial ground, and especially in gratitude for the stalwart pioneers who risked everything to settle what is now known as Pinson Valley.

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.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Neighbors Part 2

The second church that we will discuss from the early days of Tarrant was the Bethel Methodist Church, established between 1818 and 1820 by Methodist “Circuit Rider”, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn. Between 1817 and 1818, Rev. James Tarrant (a veteran of the American Revolution) traveled from South Carolina to Alabama with his family, including son Benjamin (a veteran of the War of 1812), and Benjamin’s wife, Morning, and their two children. Travelers into the Tarrant area often stopped at a large campground near to what was called the Big Spring on Five Mile Creek. It was popular because there was fresh water to drink and clothes could be washed. Rev. Tarrant had been sent by the Methodist Bishop in Nashville to establish a Methodist church in the area. James eventually moved on and built the Bethlehem Methodist Church, near Hueytown, with his slave, Adam, in 1818. Benjamin and his family, however, purchased property in the Tarrant area and maintained his home there until he died in 1874. Benjamin made his living both through farming and as a local politician. Benjamin also had a well-deserved reputation for hard living and was known to be a heavy drinker and gambler. However, in 1842, Benjamin changed his ways and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He later became active at Bethel Church where he was an evangelist for the next 30 years. Contrary to popular opinion, Tarrant was named for Benjamin Tarrant and NOT for his ancestor, Felix. Virtually all of the Tarrant family trace their lineage from Judge Leonard Tarrant who fought with Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend. (There is a well-known 1814 hand-drawn map of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, drawn for Captain Leonard Tarrant).

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Bethlehem United Methodist from Hueytown Historical Society

Northeastern Jefferson County paid a significant role in the Civil War. Bethel Church was used as a gathering spot for rebel soldiers from Tarrant who were members of Company C, 19th Alabama infantry, the Jefferson County unit originating “from Hagood’s Crossroads [Pinson]… and included the sons of all the planters for miles around”. The “Reminiscences of Julius C. Greene” note that the militia mustered once a year at Massey Springs on the Huntsville Trail [Pinson Valley Parkway and Valleycrest Road]. People from all over the county came and stayed a week. The young men would drill; the old men talked crops and politics; the young women cooked and played games; the old women would knit and gossip. There would be a dance every night, an old-fashioned square dance. Some old negro slaves, with wing collar, long-tailed coat, and pants as tight as their skin would call the dance while the negro fiddlers played “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “The Devil’s Dream,” and other old time pieces”.

The officers of the militia were: General John Massey, Major Robert H. Green, Captain A. J. Tarrant, Lieutenant John Ayers, Second Lieutenant George Barton, and Top Sergeant Robert N. Martin. Because of its close association with the rebel cause, Bethel Church was burned in 1865 by Wilson’s Raiders during the same sweep in which Hanby’s Forge was destroyed and the University of Alabama was burned.

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Union General James H. Wilson

Tarrant had its share of racial strife during the Civil War and Reconstruction. There is a reference to carpetbaggers wanting the blacks to kill all the whites between “Massey’s Springs and Hagood’s Crossroads” and yet another about arresting “every man from Hagood’s Crossroads to Five Mile Creek”. John Massey was one of the largest slave owners in Jefferson County. In the 1860 census he owned over 60 slaves. Greene mentions that “George L. Greene settled at what is now Tarrant and Major Robert H. Greene at what is now the Munger farm, six miles above Tarrant”.(Yankees camped on the farm when they came through the area). It is from this turmoil that the third Tarrant church emerged. Beginning as a prayer group of run-away slaves from Bibb County who joined with and others who worked on the plantation. First meeting in different houses each week, the group organized a brush arbor church [a rough-hewn, open-sided shelter constructed of vertical poles driven into the ground with additional long poles laid across the top as support for a roof of brush, cut branches or hay. Brush arbors were sometimes used by churches to protect worshipers from the weather during revival meetings] in 1891 known as Goins Chapel, for the former slave who eventually became a successful farmer and donated the land where the church would be located. Because “Chapel” was more often used by the Methodist church, the name was changed to Rushing Springs Baptist Church, a reference to a free-flowing spring near the church. Of special note is that the church had an early rule that required its Pastors to be able to read and write.

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Rushing Springs Baptist Church, Tarrant, Alabama

 

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.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Neighbors Part 1

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.

Tarrent City Hall marker

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.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Post Creek War Settlement

This month’s blog will continue our exploration of the early history of northeastern Jefferson on the “triangle” in and around the Pinson area made up of the respective parts of Jefferson, Blount and St. Clair Counties. Anyone with a weather radio can attest to the aggravation that occurs when you adjust your settings to include all three counties… During a good round of thunderstorms, it is hard to get any peace and quiet. In the same way that weather is no respecter of county lines, neither were our forebears to Pinson and surrounding areas.

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1818 Map of Alabama depicting county arrangements

            The Treaty of Fort Jackson effectively ended the Creek War in 1814 and opened what is now the state of Alabama to settlement by the soldiers and settlers who had come from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia to fight in the Creek War of 1813-14. When the war ended, they returned to take advantage of lands ceded to the United States by Native-Americans. As the population grew, the need for governmental infrastructure led to more counties being created in a relatively short period.

Blount County was created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1818, formed from land ceded to the federal government by the Creek Nation on August 9, 1814 and was named for GovernorWillie Blount of Tennessee, who provided significant assistance to settlers in Alabama during the Creek War. Blount County lies in what is known as the mineral region of Alabama. Last month’s blog introduced Caleb Friley and John Jones, who established Jonesborough, near current day Bessemer. As with other settlers coming into the area, Jones and Friley first came down the Huntsville Road from Tennessee into what is now Blount and Jefferson County. They established Bear Meat Cabin in 1816. In April of 1816, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn preached his first sermon here, signaling the beginning of Methodism in central Alabama. A post office was opened in 1821, and the settlement was incorporated as Blountsville in December of 1827.

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Ole Bear Meat Cabin.  (Junior Blount County Historical Society/BhamWiki)

            Originally part of Blount County, Jefferson County was established on December 13, 1819, named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson. The following day, December 14, 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state in the Union. The county is located on the southernmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains and lies in the center of what was the iron, coal, and limestonemining belt of the Southern US. Long before Birmingham was founded in 1871, the county seat of Jefferson County was located in Carrollsville (near Princeton Hospital on Birmingham’s west end) from 1819 to 1821. Elyton was the county seat from 1821 to 1873, when it was usurped by the new city of Birmingham.

Village Springs, the first settlement in the Pinson area, more or less straddles the Jefferson and Blount county lines. Along with Palmerdale, Remlap is also named for the area’s Palmer family. Remlap is “Palmer” spelled backwards (some stories tell of some alleged disagreement that forced the communities to separate). Clay and Argo meet near where Jefferson and St. Clair counties meet.

St. Clair County was established on November 20, 1818 by splitting off from Shelby County. The county is named in honor of General Arthur St. Clair, who came to America from Scotland as an officer in the British Army in the French and Indian War and later served as a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

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General Arthur St. Clair

            Originally called St. Clairsville, Ashville, the county seat, was named for John Ash, a senator in the state’s first General Assembly. In 1836, a portion of St. Clair County was separated to establish Cherokee County and DeKalb County. In 1866, after the Civil War, a northeast section of the county was used to create Etowah County. St. Clair currently has county seats in both Ashville and Pell City, making it one of two counties in Alabama, and one of 33 in the US, with more than one county seat.

 

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.

 

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Early Settlements

The history of what we now know as Pinson extends beyond the borders of our town… Geographically, it encompasses the entirety of the northeastern part of Jefferson County. When we examine the footprint over time, we see that it existed before there was a Jefferson County (Jefferson County was originally part of Blount County) actually; even before there was a state of Alabama.

These neighboring communities and Pinson developed from the same pages of US history – soldiers and settlers moving through the area as they moved southward from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Predominantly, they came first with military or volunteer forces joining the Creek War effort or later, taking advantage of lands forcibly ceded to the United States by Native-Americans.

Indian Cessions 1830-1834

In what was termed the “Great Migration”, veterans and others surged into Alabama. They were awed by the plentiful natural resources, rich soil, clear water, and moderate weather that bode well for future farming and settlement. In addition, what is now northeastern Jefferson County enjoyed an abundance of raw materials needed for the forging of iron and steel. The state’s population swelled from approximately 9,000 in 1810 to over 145,000 in 1820.

alabama settlers

Among the first settlers to our area were John Jones and Caleb Friley. Relatives by marriage, these ironsmiths from Tennessee traveled down the Huntsville Road in about 1815 with the throngs of others looking for opportunities in this new land. Jones and Friley had both been with Jackson’s West Tennessee Militia that marched through the territory in 1813. Jones and his family eventually settled in what is now Bessemer, near to where Splash Adventure Water Park now stands. After planting crops, several members of the Jones family built cabins and a stockade to protect them from Indian raids. Called Fort Jonesborough, the settlement that developed came to be known as Jonesboro. Jones Valley is also named for John Jones and his family.

map-old-jonesborough-alabama-18881888 Map showing Jonesboro

Shortly after its founding, Williamson Hawkins another veteran of the War of 1812 and reputed to be a relative of David Crockett (he hated to be called “Davy”), made it to the Jonesboro settlement in May 1815 after being detained in Tennessee “on personal business”. Hawkins drove some cattle with him, bringing “all the supplies he could pack on a horse”, including using a “drag” behind the horse to carry some of the goods. Hawkins eventually built a 2,000 acre plantation near Elyton, then the county seat of Jefferson County. Possibly at Hawkins’ urging, a colony of settlers from Rutherford County Tennessee moved into the area now known as Woodlawn. Other settlers came from South Carolina. In these groups of settlers came many of the names associated with northeast Jefferson County, including, but not limited to: Wood, Barton, Reid (Reed), Tarrant, Green (Greene), Brown, Cowden, Montgomery, and Cunningham.

Woodlawn takes its name from the Wood family, headed by Obadiah Wood and his son Edmund. The town of Rockville was established on Edmund’s twelve hundred acre plantation in 1832. A group of houses sprang up along what was known as the Georgia Road. When the Alabama and Chattanooga railroad was built in 1870, the town became known as Wood Station, and later Woodlawn.

wood_obadiah_washington_1815-1893,_rpr_collx

Obadiah Washington Wood, 1815-1893

Another resident of the area was George Roebuck, who built a home on Georgia Road near where the Boys’ Industrial School is located. Roebuck was named for George. His brother, Alfred Roebuck had a “stand” (an early combination rest area, truck stop, bed & breakfast, curb market, and used animal lot) at the intersection of the Huntsville Road and Stout’s Road in Norwood.

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.