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.

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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.

ArthurStClairOfficialPortrait-restored

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: Alabama Fever

When last we visited the history of the area near and around Pinson, we had made our way through the war years during which our ancestors fought the War of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-1814. Some settlers had arrived in the area prior to the wars while others found their way as they traveled to join Jackson and others in the war effort. These new arrivals came into Alabama from Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Of particular note are the volunteers coming into the state from eastern and middle Tennessee to help fight the war (that’s how Tennessee became known as the Volunteer state).

            These settlers traveled by way of the Huntsville Road, a trail originally cleared and used by Native-Americans. The road began in Fayetteville, Tennessee. It was lengthened as soldiers moved southward from Fayetteville to Huntsville (at Ditto’s Landing), then to Mudtown (a Native-American village located on the Cahaba River; Blountsville, down to Elyton (later the city of Birmingham), and then finally to Tuscaloosa. In very general terms, the road moved down what is now US Highway 231, merging with what is now AL Highway 79, passing Pinson on its way south and then moving down what is now Pinson Valley Parkway, into Tarrant and then turning right (approximately where the Cedar House restaurant is today) toward the neighborhoods of North Birmingham and Norwood in Birmingham.

Alabama Trail Map

The Huntsville Road, also known as “Bear Meat Cabin Road” (pictured above), took many early Alabama settlers through modern day Pinson, AL.

            Aside from the natural beauty found in the lush hills (some of the highest points in Jefferson County are found here) and valleys of what are now Blount and Jefferson counties, there were added incentives. As Native American tribes ceded territory after their defeat in the wars, a land rush occurred when settlers and land speculators moved in to establish land claims in Alabama. This influx of settlers driven by the availability of cheap and plentiful land became known as “Alabama Fever”. New arrivals were impressed with the availability of good land with plentiful natural resources where they could hunt and farm. There was plenty of available timber and other materials that they could build their homes from. They liked what they saw and determined to build a new life in the area. Both before the wars (some family histories claim kin living in the area before 1808) and afterward, they traveled to the area that they had fallen in love with and established settlements here.

            Daniel Murphree, from South Carolina, established a settlement that became known as Murphree’s Valley and, later, as Village Springs. The area between Pinson and Oneonta is still known by that name). Dr. Zachariah Hagood and his family settled here after the Creek War about 1816. The Hagood and Anderson families helped to found Oldsides Baptist Church (now Pinson First Baptist) in 1818 and included a slave member, Alfred Hagood. Dr. Zachariah, as he was known, allowed mail service to be operated from his home beginning in 1836. However, it was not Dr. Zachariah that lent his name to the town. The doc’s son, Robert opened a store at the crossroads in town. The settlement became known as Hagood’s Crossroads, and the name stuck until about 1852, when a vote by the townspeople renamed it Mount Pinson. The story goes that the name change resulted from a group of men from Pinson, Tennessee stopping in town for a few days while herding their horses and mules. They camped on a piece of land between Oldsides Baptist and Old Bradford Road that was often used by people passing through and needing to stop for the night. Later settling here, they said the area reminded them of home, so they starting calling the area Mount Pinson, later shortened to Pinson…

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Daniel Murphree’s cabin was orginally constructed in Murphree’s Valley and later relocated to Palisades Park in Oneonta, AL. Photo Courtesy of http://www.blountcountypark.com

            One of Jackson’s blacksmiths, David Hanby, and his family purchased land here by as early as 1822. The Hanby’s not only farmed, but operated a blacksmith shop (producing horseshoes and household goods) and was also successful in the mining and selling of coal. James Cunningham and Hanby both operated mills on Cunningham Creek and Turkey Creek, respectively. Most of these early mills were designed to grind corn, but could not grind wheat. Other mill owners of the day were Jonathan Moreland, John Click, and a Mr. Revis, among others.

            Our history extends beyond the borders of what we now know as the Pinson area. It extends and includes most of the communities that surround us. We will discuss these communities, the pioneers that settled them, and the ways that we are all connected in the months ahead.

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: The War of 1812

           Although not typically thought of as a key player in the second war against Britain, Alabama can boast a number of sites and events of historical interest. Granted, only a few were directly involved with the conflict with the British, and much more revolving around the Creek War of 1813-1814.

            Between 1812 and 1815, Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory (Mississippi became a state in 1817, Alabama in 1819), and played a very minor role in the War of 1812, in terms of the conflict with the British. Aside from some relatively minor skirmishes at Mobile, then part of West Florida, Alabama essentially served as a conduit for troops moving south from Tennessee and other states to the Gulf Coast. While not a major player in the war against the British, it was on Alabama soil that much of the Creek War took place. It is important to look at the overall picture to put things in context. Articles for the next couple of months will attempt to put the “Anglo” part of the War of 1812 in perspective.

mississippi territoryThe Mississippi Territory

            There were two driving causes of the war with Britain. First, a British blockade of American ports on the Atlantic coast kept needed goods from reaching our shores and prevented American goods from being shipped to other countries. The embargo was an economic disaster for the US. Merchants were unable to see their merchandise… goods were literally rotting on the docks. When there were no sales, there were no sales taxes. As such, The young US government had defaulted on its debt. Such economic pressures caused internal discontent within individual states, who saw themselves as sovereign entities that were somewhat loosely joined in a United States “cooperative” (the fight over “state’s rights” vs. strong federal government would continue to raise its ugly head until leading to the Civil War). Some New England states were openly considering secession  with the intent of forging their own treaty with Britain. New England tended to be against the war and hoped for a compromise that would end the conflict. The forced impressment of American merchant sailors into the British navy was the second cause. It is estimated that around 10,000 Americans were forced to serve under the Union Jack.

            Much of the first two years of the war were waged in Canada, on the Great Lakes, and on the open seas of the Atlantic. US forces had attempted numerous times to invade parts of Canada, but to no avail. In fact, the failed northern invasions resulted in large parts of what is now Maine (then part of Massachusetts) falling into British hands.

1814-burningBurning of the White House by British Troops

            The parts of the War of 1812 that most people tend to remember are that the capital at Washington City was taken and burned by the British in retaliation for the US burning of York (Toronto), Canada. However, Dolley Madison was able to save the famous portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart from the burning White House. A month later, the Battle of Fort McHenry took place in Baltimore harbor and the country gained the Star Spangled Banner.        

Ft McHenrythe Battle of Ft McHenry

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: The Muskogee

With the arrival of the Spanish and other Europeans came new infectious diseases which ravaged the indigenous peoples and contributed to the depopulation and collapse of the Mississippian culture. As survivors and descendants regrouped, the Muskogee (or Creek) Confederacy arose. The Muskogee were the first group of Native Americans to be “civilized” or “assimilated” under George Washington’s civilization plan. The Muskogee were known as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) because they embraced a number of cultural and technological practices of the Anglo-European settlers during the colonial and early federal period. What we know as Creeks were not a single tribe, but a loose alliance of Muskogee-speaking peoples, that likely aligned in order to guard against other tribes that posed a threat of conquest. The “Creek” name seems to have resulted from the common practice of English colonists to designate tribes based upon their geographical location, in this case, from a shortening of the name given to tribes living along the Ocmulgee River, (or Ocheese Creek) in Georgia. What became known as the Creek Nation (or Creek Confederation) was not always a unified body. The union was in constant flux, with its numbers and land possessions ever-changing as small bands joined and withdrew from the alliance.

civil tribes

            The Muskogee lived in autonomous villages in river valleys throughout present-day Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, speaking several related Muskogean languages. Muskogee was spoken from the Chattahoochee to the Alabama. Koasati (Coushatta) and Alibamu were spoken in the upper Alabama basin and parts of the Tennessee River.

The most important social unit was the clan. Clan membership and hierarchical power in the tribe was matrilineal. Clan leaders were typically older women, respectfully termed “mother” or “grandmother”. Clans organized hunts, distributed lands, arranged marriages, and punished lawbreakers. In the Muskogee culture, the Wind Clan was considered the highest-ranking of the clans and the majority of village chiefs (micos) belonged to this Clan. It was commonplace for romantic relationships to occur between Creeks and settlers (either white or black), resulting in children of mixed heritage. These children, (or métis) were accepted freely into Creek society. Since many of the children had a Creek mother, their right of inheritance or succession was unabated.

The basic social unit was the town (talwa). The Upper Towns, located on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers, were Tuckabatchee, Abhika, Coosa, Itawa, Hilibi, Eufaula, Wakokai, Atasi, Alibamu, Coushatta (Koasati; they had absorbed the Kaski/Casqui and the Tali), and Tuskegee (“Napochi”).

The most important leader in Muskogee society was the mico or village chief. Micos led warriors in battle and represented their villages, but held authority only insofar as they could persuade others to agree with their decisions. The authority of the micos was greatly limited by clan leaders. Micos ruled with the assistance of micalgi or lesser chiefs, and various advisors, including a second in charge called the heniha, respected village elders, medicine men, and a tustunnuggee or ranking warrior, the principal military advisor. The yahola or medicine man officiated at various rituals, especially administering the “black drink” (a ritual beverage consisting of roasted leaves of the Yaupon Holly, which contained caffeine), and engaged in purification ceremonies.

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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: Muskogee Settlements

Pinson has an ancient and abiding link with its past – especially its Native American past. As part of the Upper Creek territory settled by Creek (or Muskogee) peoples, much of this heritage is because of water. If anyone spends any appreciable time in or around Pinson, they quickly realize that there is water…lots and lots of water. Creeks, streams, ponds, lakes, you name it, we have this liquid gold in abundance. The earliest white pioneers realized it – that’s one of the reasons they settled here (David Hanby and his mills are a good example.)  Much earlier, Native American tribes roaming through the area depended on the presence of water and the bounty that it yielded – game, wild fruits and vegetables, rich land to grow crops, and trees for shelter. There were also abundant rocks and minerals to be shaped into tools and weapons (Red Mountain in Birmingham was named for the iron ore deposits that local Indians used to color their faces and bodies.) The importance of these water features to Native peoples is well-documented given the number of artifacts (mostly projectiles) commonly found around the creeks. What may be less known is that, while nominally Muskogee, the area in and around Pinson is believed to have been used by a number of tribes as a gathering and hunting ground.

The Muskogee descended from Mississippian culture, which developed in the Mississippi(for which it is named) and Tennessee River Valleys and flourished in what is now the US before the arrival of Europeans. The Woodland Period (illustrated by the Pinson Cave) predates the Mississippian Period. Almost all dated Mississippian sites predate Spanish exploration of the area in ca. CE 1540. Mississippians were structured as a collection of moderately-sized chiefdom’s, with completely autonomous villages and tribal groups. While probably best-known as mound-builders, the Mississippians were also characterized by the development of small triangular projectile points, shell tempered pottery, increased agriculture, the establishment of urban centers and regional chiefdom’s, and a stratified society with a hereditary religious and political upper class. Unfortunately, by the time of Spanish exploration, many of the Mississippian political centers were already in decline or abandoned.

The best known Mississippian site in Alabama is located at Moundville, although there are important sites near Mobile (Bottle Creek) and Florence (believed to be the largest mound in the Tennessee River Valley.) A lesser known, but nevertheless important, mound site was located near Bessemer (near Alabama Adventure water park). Also less well-known are three sites excavated in 1973 prior to the construction of the Miller Steam Plant by the Alabama Power Company near West Jefferson. Shortly thereafter, two small sites were excavated in the Cahaba River drainage. All of these sites date to the Late Woodland and early Mississippian period, resulting in a new sub-classification, the West Jefferson phase. Archaeologists continue intensive investigation of West Jefferson trying to answer a number of important research questions, including the role that West Jefferson might have had in the development of Moundville, Bessemer, or other Mississippian societies, and if other influences might have led to the specific way these cultures and their peoples evolved. These and other questions have prompted ongoing research since the sites were discovered.

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.

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