TCNP Currents: A fresh S.T.A.R.T. for Turkey Creek

Today, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a beautiful area for recreation and relaxation, but it was a long fight to establish the preserve.  Turkey Creek Nature Preserve wouldn’t have been possible without may dedicated partnerships, including a very important group of Pinson citizens, organized under the name S.T.A.R.T., or Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek.

In 1998 the prison in downtown Birmingham was becoming overcrowded and Jefferson County had begun searching for a site for a second prison.  After much searching, the area that is now Turkey Creek Nature Preserve was proposed as a location.  Jefferson County hoped to build a new jail to house 900 minimum to moderate security prisoners, a $50 million project.  This plan was opposed by many Pinson citizens.  With a desire to protect the beloved Turkey Creek site, a local grassroots organization, S.T.A.R.T. (Society To Advance the Resources at Turkey Creek), formed and grew to 7,000 members.

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                S.T.A.R.T. had many reasons to oppose the jail site—the lands was in a residential area, which is not only undesirable but would also lead to decreased property values, the area was rich with history and Native American artifacts had been found in the jail site, and the construction of the jail had to potential to seriously harm the localized vermillion darter population, an endangered fish found only in Turkey Creek.  With these reasons in mind, S.T.A.R.T. began to meet and organize with the goal to stop the construction of the jail at Turkey Creek and to preserve the land for future generations.

S.T.A.R.T. became very active as the members fundraised for their work, attended commissioner meetings and met with city and county officials.  It turned out that Jefferson County was not only looking for a jail site, but also tracts of land to preserve, and Turkey Creek was proposed for both projects.  This helped spark the idea that, if the jail could be avoided, the Turkey Creek could become a preserve for education and recreation.  However, before much headway could be made in preserving the land, a new jail site had to be found.  S.T.A.R.T. members were clear in meetings with the commissioner that they did not oppose the creation of a new jail to decrease overcrowding, only the proposed site of the jail.  With this view, S.T.A.R.T. had the support of the district’s commissioner, Bettye Fine Collins, though they still had to convince the county.  S.T.A.R.T. co-founder and vice president, Mike Hamilton, went so far as to talk to then-mayor Richard Arrington about alternatives for the jail site, even proposing an old US Steel Property in Ensley.

By November of 1998, S.T.A.R.T. had won its first battle, as plans for the Turkey Creek Prison site were discarded.  However, there was still a long way to go in deciding the future of the Turkey Creek land.  The citizens of Pinson could rest easy though, as S.T.A.R.T. was becoming one of the most successful grassroots efforts of all time and a prison would not be in their backyard.

Part two of the S.T.A.R.T. story and the work to protect Turkey Creek can be found HERE!

This blog post was written by Sarah Gilkerson.

Sarah is interning at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this summer.  She is from Atlanta and attends Birmingham-Southern College where she is studying biology.  Outside of work, Sarah enjoys canoeing and comic books.

TCNP Currents: Summer Time Tips

The Falls

Now that summer has finally arrived, those seeking refuge from the heat are flocking to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. And why not? Turkey Creek offers some of the cleanest, coolest waters in town, not to mention breath-taking beauty.  Everyone seems to have their favorite shady spot for picnicking or reflecting as they watch the water flow by.

Since the crowds are growing thicker, it seems like a good time to discuss a few tips for how you and your family can make the most of your visit.

TCNP TIP #1: Always follow the rules!

No one wants to have their time or worse yet, their family’s time cut short because they could not follow the rules. This happens more often than it should, so please, make a point to review all Preserve’s regulations prior to your visit, which can be found HERE or on any of the Preserve’s kiosks. Please note that anyone found not adhering to these rules, will be asked to leave immediately. There is no excuse for not knowing.

TCNP TIP #2: Know the Hours of Operation and plan accordingly

It is easily the most common question by visitors to TCNP: “What are the operational hours?”. Well, this is a very easy one: Wednesday through Sunday we close at 5:30pm.  We are closed all day on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Friday and Saturday morning we have special “Pedestrian Only” hours from 7am-9am. At 9am regular motor traffic is allowed in. On all the other days (Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday) we open at 8am.

TCNP TIP #3: Come early or on a slow day

Anyone that has visited TCNP on a weekend knows how busy it can become and how difficult it can be at times to find a parking or picnic spot.  The simplest way to avoid this headache is to visit during off-peak hours.  I have spent over a year and a half watching the traffic and I am more than happy to share what I have observed. Come Early: traffic at TCNP (even on weekends) tends to be at it’s height in the hotter parts of the day. Visitors that come out early get the best parking/picnic spots.  Thursdays:  If you can swing it, a Thursday is the best time to come out and find a spot to yourself. Wednesdays and Fridays can be just as busy as a weekend, but for some reason, Thursdays are usually quite slow.

TCNP TIP #4: Stay Hydrated

On a hot summer’s day, there is nothing better than cooling off in the refreshing waters of Turkey Creek. However, even in that cool water, you can quickly become dehydrated.  This happens quickly, and without a lot of warning at times. So, please drink a lot of water during your visit. It could save your life. Plus, it is never ends well if you are dizzy on slippery rocks!

TCNP TIP #5: There is more to TCNP than just “The Falls”

There is no doubt, The Falls offer some of the most majestic beauty TCNP has to offer. Their unique features bring many visitors to Turkey Creek, but they are often times quite crowded. For those of you that wish to enjoy the waters of TCNP or avoid the crowds, seek spots upstream of The Falls.  These upper reaches offer some equally stunning views of Turkey Creek, as well as some great spots to lounge in the shade. Furthermore, TCNP has recently added a mile and a half of beautiful new trail along the ridge above Turkey Creek. This offers visitors the opportunity park in the Highlands picnic area and hike to The Falls area.

Thank you for reading, I hope that these tips help you to better enjoy your next visit to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Please remember, that we do not charge admission, and it is very difficult and expensive to keep the Preserve clean. On your next visit, take a look around you before you leave and pick up any trash (even if it is not yours). It will go a long way to making sure that others are able to enjoy TCNP as you have, and will help keep operational costs down.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at cyeager@bsc.edu.

Next week, contributing author Lyn DiClementel, will provide readers with some insight into the importance of controlling stormwater runoff in her column JeffCo H2O.”

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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TCNP Currents: The Hanby Enterprise Part 2

This month, we will conclude The Hanby Enterprise story at Turkey Creek. Part 1 of this can be found HERE.

David Hanby was around the age of 18 when he moved to Alabama with his father. He was around 26 when he helped his father, John Hanby, construct the Hanby Mill and forge on Turkey Creek. Richard Anderson suspects that in addition to John’s age, the extreme labor demands required in blacksmithing meant that, David was likely to have taken over most of these duties by the late 1820s.

Realizing the potential wealth of central Alabama’s natural resources, David’s efforts to expand the enterprises he helped his father create did not end at blacksmithing and milling. According to Dr. Allen J. Tower, in his article entitled “The Changing Economy of Birmingham and Jefferson County” Published in the Journal of Birmingham Historical Society (January 1960), around 1840 David began mining and selling coal.  This operation was not quite as straight forward as it might sound, however, because the most lucrative market for coal at the time was in Mobile, Alabama.  To reach Mobile, David, yet again, utilized Alabama’s rich resources: its interconnected water ways (since there were no railroads in the area until the 1880s). Using 25 foot long “flatboats” packed with coal, David traveled from the Mulberry Fork to the Black Warrior River and all the way down to Mobile Bay. After arriving in Mobile and selling his cargo, he would disassemble the flatboats and sell the lumber.  This must have proved to be a particularly lucrative venture, since Dr. Tower notes that by 1844 David braved this journey up to ten times a year.

flatboat

Above: An example of a typical flatboat used during Hanby’s time

Time and age grind away, and what was once new and lucrative will eventually find itself worn and brittle. Despite the prosperity and scope of the Hanby enterprise, it too, was subject to the terms of age. In 1865, David’s life came to an end when a brigade in Union General Croxton’s forces killed David, and destroyed his operations at Turkey Creek.  While it remains unclear why the Hanbys were targeted for this assault, we do know that Croxton’s mission was to destroy Confederate supply lines and manufacturing sources. It can be assumed that the Hanby operation was providing the Confederate army with munitions or other goods.  Further expounding this mystery is the circumstance surrounding David’s demise. One local legend suggests that while on a hog hunt, David in his advanced years, decided to take a nap under a tree.  While napping, Union troops advanced on David’s position, startling him out of his sleep. When asked to lower his hunting rifle by Union troops, David who was partially deaf, only starred back in surprise at the soldiers. Feeling left without any other recourse, the soldiers tragically fired on David.  After David’s death, his wife sold his property along Turkey Creek to William Nabers, effectively ending all operations at Turkey Creek.

Today, after years of natural and human disturbances, very little remains at Turkey Creek to suggest the scope of the operations that once existed there.  What does remain is a wealth of history and stories told by a community that shares a passionate respect for their forefathers and the painstaking efforts they took to settle this area. So, on your next visit to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, keep these stories in mind, but please, respect the preservation of this history by leaving it as you found it for future generations.

For more information related to the history of the Preserve, come out for one of our Living History Programs. Event dates can be found on our events calendar.

Next week, contributing author Lyn DiClementel, will explore the importance of finding the right balance when comes to applying chemicals to their lawn or garden in the JeffCo H2O column.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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Historical details and images are an interpretation of Richard K. Anderson, Jr findings published in “Turkey Creek Cultural Resource Mapping Project for Proposed Turkey Creek Preserve Pinson, Alabama” 2002

TCNP Currents: The Hanby Enterprise Part 1

photosFor most, it is a small piece of local paradise, a chance to beat the heat, catch a fish, take a hike, or snap a photograph. Any local knows you always arrive early (parking can be tricky) and do not forget your socks (the rocks are slick!). Whatever your reason for visiting, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a place of unique beauty that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Many visitors, however, are unaware that in addition to its rich natural resources, the Preserve plays a pivotal role in Alabama’s early industrial development. In fact, the most popular destination at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, known simply as The Falls, was once the center of one of the biggest industrialist operations in Alabama, and the home of John T. Hanby.

Around 1774, John Hanby, was born into the machinist’s trade, in Henry County, Virginia. It is believed that Hanby operated a small forge in Virginia, where he crafted a variety of tools, locks, and bored rifles. Around 1800, Mr. Hanby sold his land in Virginia and eventually made his way down to Lincoln County, Tennessee. During the War of 1812, John Hanby received a Captain’s commission in the 49th Regiment of Lincoln County. Under General Coffee, Hanby traveled down through Alabama working as a machinist and blacksmith. Many believe that Coffee’s regiment camped near Turkey Creek, as they journeyed south. If they did, Mr. Hanby’s keen observation skill and business savvy may have alerted him to the rich opportunity for development along the banks of Turkey Creek. Another theory suggests that Hanby may have relied on tips from prospectors to the region. Whatever the cause, after his military service ended around 1819, Hanby and his family settled at Turkey Creek.

While Hanby’s enterprises were spread across present day northern Jefferson County and Blount County, his operational center was located in Pinson. His operation at the Falls was believed to include not only his home, but also, a Dam, grist mill, forge, and a niter works.

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Mill Dam: Mr. Hanby choose his site carefully, with the knowledge that his work would require not only rich mineral resources, but also the means to power his bellows and grist mill.  Observant visitors to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve may have noticed a clue to how he produced this power, as well one of the first structures Hanby developed. Approximately 100 feet upstream of the “Big Rock”, a straight line of 19 small holes is bored into the rock. These holes once held iron pins, which provided support for a 6-foot tall wooden dam that tamed the waters of Turkey Creek.

wooden Dam_2 Wooden Dam

Grist Mill: From the dam, Hanby harnessed the power of Turkey Creek waters down a wooden flume to a large waterwheel. Investigations of the area suggest that this wheel, as well as Hanby’s Mill, were located on or behind the “Big Rock.”  Hanby’s mill wall can still be seen today opposite the “Big Rock.” This mill is likely to have grinded wheat into corn and flour for people as far away as Tuscaloosa and Selma in addition to have providing power for another source of revenue for the Hanby family, his forge.

Forge: From the Mill, belts were used to drive a bellows, producing fire hot enough to smelt iron. While this area is still under careful archaeological examination, artifacts including slag, hand forged nails, and brown ore confirm its relative location on the flat, glade next to the current road. The Hanby family is likely to have smelted brown ore for simple tools, kitchenware, horseshoes, and even possibly guns.

Hanby Homesite: An unnaturally flat spot of land on the hill above the Falls, is suspected to be the site of Hanby’s home. This flat area measures approximately 96 feet long, and would provide enough space for a small living quarters for himself and his family.  Nearby, a cold water spring head lined with stones is evidence of a possible cold food storage building. Many people today believe that Hanby’s home was relocated around 1910 by William Nabers to a site across from the Blue Hole. Mr. Nabers home was destroyed in a fire in the 1960s, so very little evidence remains.

Sometime in the 1820s, John Hanby’s son, David Hanby, began to take over the Hanby enterprises. The story of David Hanby starts with turbulent raft rides and ends in flames. Check back next month to learn how this story ends!

For more information related to the history of the Preserve, come out for one of our Living History Programs. Event dates can be found on our events calendar.

Next week, contributing author Lyn DiClementel, will provide readers with some insight into the importance of controlling stormwater runoff in her column JeffCo H2O.”

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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Historical details and images are an interpretation of Richard K. Anderson, Jr findings published in “Turkey Creek Cultural Resource Mapping Project for Proposed Turkey Creek Preserve Pinson, Alabama” 2002

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Currents

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Welcome to the newly developed Turkey Creek Nature Preserve blog and website! Through this site, our goal is to provide the public with a steady stream (pun intended) of information in topics relevant to the life of TCNP, ranging from history and the environment, to events and support opportunities. We have a fantastic group of contributing authors volunteering their time to help make this blog possible. Weekly updates are scheduled, with occasional bonus posts of supplemental materials. If you have any suggestions, or would like to contribute your own articles, please contact Charles Yeager at cyeager@bsc.edu.

Until then, we’ll see ya downstream!

Charles Yeager

Manager, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

TCNP