NEXT MEETING: April 20, 2017
Reception at 6:30 p.m. Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Emmet O’Neal Library, Mountain Brook
SPEAKER: James Lowery
TOPIC: Birmingham Mineral Railroad
he Battle of Horseshoe Bend was fought during the War of 1812 some 85 miles from Birmingham near present day Dadeville in Tallapoosa County. On March 27, 1814, United States forces and Indian allies under Major General Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Sticks, a part of the Creek Indian tribe who opposed American expansion, effectively ending the Creek War.
Horseshoe Bend was the major battle of the Creek War, in which Jackson sought to "clear" Alabama for American settlement.
On August 9, 1814, Jackson forced the Creeks to sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The Creek Nation was forced to cede 23 million acres, half of central Alabama and part of southern Georgia—to the United States government.
Jim Noles is a partner with the law firm of Balch & Bingham, where he practices environmental law. A former Army officer, he is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Texas School of Law. He is the author of several books including A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America, One State Quarter at a Time (2009) and Mighty by Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron (2009).
His remarks on Horseshoe Bend come on the 200th anniversary of the pivotal battle.
Josiah Morris, acting on behalf of the Elyton Land Company, purchased 1,113 acres from William and Elizabeth Nabers. That land is where Birmingham was gradually built.
The first building in the new town was the existing William Nabers’ blacksmith shop.
hope by the time that this reaches you, that we are all enjoying spring after the strange, ugly winter we have had. I am sincerely glad to be back as your president and looking forward to working with all of you again this year.
I can’t take back over, however, without noting how indebted we all are to Tom Carruthers for the outstanding job he did as president for this past year. Equally outstanding is the fact that he is repeating as Vice President and Program Chair and already has all of the programs for this year lined up.
Let me also thank Harry Bradford for continuing his service as treasurer and George Jenkins as secretary.
Dues are again due. A notice was sent in January, but so far only 33% of the membership has paid for 2014, and it would be very helpful to receive the rest in a timely fashion. The board deeply appreciates your dues support as it enables us to bring you excellent programs each quarter, take on extra projects, and erect and maintain our historical markers, maintenance of which is now becoming a real issue. We need your support and don’t want to lose members for non-payment. Dues become delinquent on June 1. If you are unsure of your status, please call Harry Bradford at 871-7739.
Please send letters and notices to the editor via Email:
or mail to:
112 Meadow Croft Circle, Birmingham, AL 35242
You know from the last issue of this newsletter that the Birmingham History Center has lost its exhibit space and moved all 13,000 of its artifacts into storage. The museum board is working very hard to find a new location as well as new sources of funding. Tom, Harry and I are all on that board and hope to have some progress to report to you at the April meeting. Hope to see all of you there.
— Alice Williams, JCHA President
—by: Jim Bennett
ome 200 years before the arrival of Columbus, one of the first permanent settlements in Jefferson County was abandoned along Valley Creek in Bessemer. Now, there are efforts to bring its history back to life.
The project focuses on restoration of the Bessemer Indian Mounds, a collection of three earthworks which formed the center of a village of thatched dwellings where nearly 2,000 people once resided in the pre- Columbian Period. The pre-historic mound builders from the Mississippian era were the ancestors of modern day tribes including the Creeks.
Around 900–1450 AD, the Mississippian culture developed and spread through the Eastern United States, primarily along the river valleys. The Bessemer site is related to the mounds at Moundville although older.
Just what happened to the village to cause it to be abandoned is unknown but it could have involved some kind of climate change or the site, damaged from years of farming and sewage, had become less desirable. The mounds survived until a WPA project in the late 1930s conducted by the University of Alabama resulted in their destruction through an archaeological study.
While those studying the mound structures may have intended to put them back up as was a common practice, this work was never done perhaps due to a change in WPA funding.
The Jefferson County Commission in 2009 created a special study committee to evaluate the site and make recommendations for its eventual restoration. Fundraising efforts to accomplish this goal are underway.
"What is envisioned is a minihistorical park with hiking trails and picnic areas located around the rebuilt mounds,” said Jim Bennett, committee chairman. “Not only would the project preserve an important historical site but it would be a good way to honor our first residents, native Americans known as the mound-builders."
The nearby water-filled Delonah Quarry could also incorporated into the project and park trails would join the Red Rock Trail System already being developed by county officials and the Freshwater Land Trust.
At this site about 1,000 years ago existed a thriving community and an associated agricultural hinterland. The three mounds located here included a ceremonial mound, a burial mound and a domiciliary mound. Domiciliary mounds usually supported other structures above the flood plain. The Ceremonial Mound, used for religious purposes, measured 130 feet by 102. A knob at one end rose 18 feet above the ground while most of the mound had a rise of 10 feet. The Domiciliary Mound measured 11 feet high and was 120 feet wide.
arly settlers were attracted to the Midfield area because of its natural springs, one of which, Hawkins Spring, can still be seen in the Midfield Municipal Park. Williamson Hawkins was one of the earliest settlers in the area, arriving prior to 1830. The spring was named for his son David, who built a house beside it.
The land around the spring was sold after the Civil War to the Hawkins Spring Land Company, and the spring became a popular recreational area for people from Birmingham and Bessemer who travelled there on two separate streetcar lines. The Allendale Land Company of Birmingham before the development, laid out streets and subdivided lots, dubbing the town Midfield.
John J. Walker subdivided the land for Allendale and it was he who named the place. An ad in the Birmingham News, September 26, 1926 by J. Walker Realty Company proclaimed, "Midfield, the new city, halfway between Birmingham and Bessemer."
Unfortunately this project began in 1929, right as the Great Depression hit and development was halted until 1941, when the Belcher Building Corporation purchased 700 acres and constructed and sold 450 houses.
World War II once again put a halt to development. After the war, Belcher again spearheaded a housing boom in the town. In 1952, Midfield became part of the Jefferson County School System, which constructed an elementary school there in 1952. After overtures from the city of Fairfield to annex Midfield, city leaders decided to pursue incorporation, which they achieved in 1953. The city has since left the Jefferson County school system and established its own system. Midfield grew by annexing the McDonalds and Wilkes communities in 1961 and the Rutledge Heights and Fairfield Highlands communities in 1967.
Thanks to "A Brief History of Midfield Alabama" by B. J. Williams and the Encyclopedia of Alabama.