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masthead edition

Bill Finch

Bill Finch


Thursday, October 10, 2019
Emmet O’Neal Library Auditorium Refreshments at 6:30 pm Meeting at 7:00pm

Bill Finch
"Kudzu" Alabama: Cultures of Diversity


Wednesday January 8 2020

Michael P. Rucker
Civil War Experiences of Colonel Edmund W. Rucker


To Preserve And

Trollies and Parks of Early Birmingham
From Street Railways of Birmingham

—by: Alvin W. Hudson and Harold E. Cox

Highland Avenue Trolley passing Lakeview Park.

Highland Avenue Trolley passing Lakeview Park.


s in most cities in the late 19th and early 20th century, Birmingham was well equipped with amusement parks built and/or served by the early street railroads. The earliest such resorts were developed in the steam dummy days and included Lakeview Park, served by the Highland Avenue and Belt; Avondale Park, served by the horse car line of the same name; Smith’s Driving Park, at 10th Street and 6th Avenue North; the original Birmingham fairgrounds, and Behren’s Park, reputedly popular with the German residents and reached by horse car.

Red Mountain Park advertised its view overlooking the city, offered free mineral water and ice and gave band concerts with a twenty-seven-piece band during the afternoon.

Fare collection on the dummy line to Red Mountain was curious. Passengers were charged ten cents to go up the mountain but were allowed to return free. The logic of this move can be seen in fact that patrons could be expected to come up at various times during the afternoon but virtually all would want to leave when the park closed.

Considering Red Mountain’s limited equipment, the poor conductor would have been lucky to get on the car, let alone be able to collect fares on the down trip.

With the coming of electrification, street cars became a form of amusement in themselves, as well as providing transport to the parks. Trolley parties were a national craze during the 1890’s. Birmingham Railway & Electric built a few open parlor cars similar to those in other cities. In addition, there were two excursion cars named Orion and Royal Red placed in service in July 1901. These were reputedly built by St. Louis Car Company, but no evidence is to be found in the St. Louis record books.

Special attractions were promoted by the trolley company at Lakeview Park and at East Lake Park. Stock companies’ plays, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and vaudeville acts were featured at Lakeview, which also had a beer garden. A dance pavilion was built over the lake at East Lake and other amusements provided under the direction of T. G. Brabston, later an executive of the Birmingham Electric Company.

On one occasion a man offered to be buried in a casket for a week, was widely advertised and drew many curious spectators. However, Brabston caught the stunt man trying to get out under the cover of night and posted a guard to make sure he stayed where he was supposed to be. After five days, the stunt man insisted on being released and collected $25 for his largely involuntary stay.

The Birmingham Traction Company also tried to cash in on the park business and constructed a resort known as Traction Park on the North Birmingham line..

During the winter season, the Bijou Theater was heavily promoted by the street railway because of the business it generated. Many of the acts found at East Lake in good weather would simply move downtown to the Bijou for the colder months.




Dan Puckett

Harry Bradford

Harry Bradford

Jim Hard


Cathy Criss Adams
Leah Rawls Atkins
Thomas E. Badham
Jeanne B. Bradford
David Bright
Thomas N. Carruthers, Jr.
Walter W. Dean, Jr.
Judy S. Haise
George L. Jenkins
Catherine Pittman Smith
J. Randall Pitts, Jr.
Mary Ellen West
Alice McSpadden Williams


Edward W. Stevenson, MD


J. Morgan Smith
Margaret D. Sizemore
Elmer C. Thuston, Jr.
Chriss Doss
Betsy Bancroft
Tillman W. Pugh
William A. Price
Thomas M. West, Jr.
Madge D. Jackson
Thad G. Long
Don G. Watkins
Fred M. Jackson, III
Thomas O. Caldwell, MD
Charles A. Speir
Craig Allen, Jr.
Edward W. Stevenson, MD
Jim Bennett
Alice McSpadden Williams
Thomas N. Carruthers

Alice McSpadden Williams


Tom Badham, Editor (thomase.badham@yahoo.com)
Jim LaRussa, Graphic Designer

Message from the President

W. Dan Puckett

W. Dan Puckett


n July we celebrated the 243rd year of our independence as a nation. Its founding was remarkable. Just as remarkable is that we have continued as a republic for so long and have grown into the undisputed leader of the free world. That is worth celebrating! These facts also place a huge responsibility on us to protect our freedoms and cherish our values.

History plays a large role in that responsibility. We must preserve it, learn from it and make it available to our heirs for their edification. Your association is aligned perfectly with this responsibility. Through regular presentations, historical markers, book publications and the quarterly Jefferson Journal it provides our members and others fascinating stories and documentation of significant events and people of our area. You might learn of the days when our land was so coveted it was claimed by France, Spain and Great Britain at the same time. On another occasion, you may be introduced to a far-sighted founder of Birmingham. Recent history to some of us can be old history to others, so it gets it’s time also. With so many opportunities to learn, I know I am a much better informed person about our own local history.

Not only is the information interesting, it becomes knowledge for our use in meeting our above responsibility. I hope you will take every opportunity to fulfill this responsibility.

I encourage you to come to our meetings. But, more than that, I encourage you to bring a guest or more than one. Here’s a radical idea: Bring one of your children or grandchildren. We would love to have them!

In October, Bill Finch will talk about the globally exceptional biodiversity of Alabama and its impact on the state’s cultural heritage. Join us on October 10th.

— W. Dan Puckett, President

Facts About Birmingham

The original name of Lloyd Nolan Hospital was “TCI Hospital”. TCI owned and
operated the hospital and it was one of the first full scale hospitals dedicated to
caring for steel industry workers.

Hayes International Aircraft Company came to Birmingham as an indirect result of the Depression: the US Gov’t had taken over the Birmingham Airport and spent millions on improvements before ceding it back to the City. Hayes employed 5,000 people at their peak in Birmingham and built aircraft write-ups and also contributed to the space program.

During the period of 1896 to 1900, people in most Birmingham industries
typically worked 10 hours per day, 6 days per week. Workers at the
blast furnaces worked a 72‑hour week!!!


The Frisco 4018 Locomotive at Sloss Furnace

The Frisco 4018 Locomotive

—by: Richard Neely, Ph.D.


hen I was growing up in Birmingham, my family often went to the Birmingham Fairgrounds. While my parents were doing things like going to an art show, my brother and I went to "Kiddieland". The most impressive attraction was a giant railroad locomotive.

My brother and I explored it thoroughly and it inspired a lifelong fascination with railroading. In 2009, the engine was moved to Sloss Furnaces where I have given tours for over 30 years and, now, I have the pleasure of including its story at the museum. (Editor’s Note: Terry Oden engineered the move, and will write "the rest of the story" for the next issue of "The Journal"). I have also had the added enjoyment of re-painting it for the last two months with the help of my young cousins Issac and Eli Dorning.

The locomotive has added to an impressive collection of machines at Sloss. Not only do we have this addition to the collection, but Sloss has two steam shovels, a rail mounted crane, a diesel switch engine, diesel shovel and bulldozer, and the largest eight vertical steam engines left in the world.

There is a museum in Texas which has a locomotive steam engine like our new addition and by itself is a National Historic Landmark.

Our engine was built in 1919 by the Lima Company in Ohio to respond to the need to move equipment for World War 1, but arrived too late for that job as the war ended in 1918. The engine was sold to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad in 1923. For the next three decades it hauled coal from Bessemer to Birmingham. Birmingham mayor James W. "Jimmy" Morgan saved the engine from scrap and it moved under its own power to Kiddieland in 1952. It was neglected in the 1980’s and 90’s and then moved to Sloss in 2009.

There were 625 originals and 641 copies produced of this design. The engine is called a light "Mikado" because the first contracts were to Imperial Japan whose engineers redesigned the firebox to their own specifications. It also included a 2‑8‑2 wheel set-up typical of this model. This was done during the reign of the Japanese Mikado Emperor.

Three companies built the design including ALCO (American Locomotive Company), Baldwin, and Lima. Fully loaded it weighed 147 tons. One of the most romantic stories connected to it was that 200 were contracted to Imperial Russia, but the sale and delivery were interrupted by the Bolshevik Revolution. As of today, six are known in the United States. However, there are some still in Mexico and I am almost sure I saw two in China where the military prevented me from taking pictures unfortunately.

A good friend tells me that he has seen one in Russia. I was watching a show on abandoned places and two of them are in the woods in Vancouver where they were put to work hauling logs. Birmingham and Sloss Furnaces is very lucky to have such a treasure and we at the Furnaces hope that this will give you another reason to stop by the museum.

The engine and tender are in good shape for being outside most of its’ life. Fortunately, when it was out at the Fairgrounds it was under a shed. I would say that the greater part of its deterioration has occurred since it was at Sloss. Current Director Karen Utz has presented a plan for a new shed and I think this will save the engine.

At the minimum, the sheet metal covering the boiler should be redone to seal off the boiler. Of course, complete restoration would require deep pockets. However, given the importance of this machine in our history and culture it would be a gift to future generations.

Dodge Brothers ad

Welcome to Moss Rock Preserve Sign

Moss Rock Preserve

Jefferson County’s Geological Treasure

—by: Edward W. Stevenson M.D., Associate Editor.


he shortness of our human lives is evident to most adults, but nothing puts it into better perspective than the study of geology, archeology and paleontology. A visit to Hoover, Alabama’s, Moss Rock Preserve elicits awe, wonder and stimulates profound questions about the origin of those huge boulders and the millions of years required to form them.

A child may see them and envision "The Jolly Green Giant" having tossed a handful of huge rocks in a random pattern. Thoughtful adults, however, including geologists since the early 1800’s, have theorized about what they termed "erratic boulders". Tourists likewise have wondered, for example, what happened to “the other half” of the 8,000-foot HALF DOME formation at Yosemite; or how the huge boulders arrived in the surf on the coast of Oregon. The huge boulders in Jefferson County Alabama’s Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover can elicit similar thoughts. Such mysteries are the scientific domain of geologists, and although it is not the principal intent of this article, a short geological description will be included.

Most Alabamians are familiar with the iron, coal and limestone geology of the Birmingham mineral district, but it is surprising that so few are familiar with the presence in Jefferson County of something that is quite fantastic. The Alabama Tourism Department should develop this site into a target tourist attraction, as they now do for such attractions as Desoto State Park and Little River Canyon..

MOSS ROCK PRESERVE should not be confused with the nearby commercial real estate development named "The Preserve". The residential real estate development derived its name from the contiguous natural wonder. The MOSS ROCK PRESERVE, however, is a 349-acre public park, which is maintained by the City of Hoover. Moss Rock Preserve currently contains about 12 miles of hiking trails, most of which were built by volunteers, and are now maintained by volunteers and City staff. All trails interconnect to form loops and are excellent for all levels of hiking, and the huge boulders are also popular with rock climbers. The park contains 80 or more huge boulders of variable size.

This does not mean that people must be prepared to hike a long distance in order to see these magnificent boulders. There is an adequate parking area for automobiles, and one can walk on a short trail from the parking area to see enough of the huge boulders to be awe-inspired.

Rock at Moss Rock Preserve

A short summary of the 400 hundred million to a billion years of Jefferson County geology can serve to inspire further study by those who may be interested in more detail. Of local interest is the observation that the industrial minerals that are the basis of Birmingham’s "mineral district" are largely associated with Red Mountain, rather than Shades Mountain, although the two mountains are only several miles apart. Moss Rock Preserve is on Shades Mountain, which has no iron mines.

Driving to the park is simple. Drive west on Highway 150 from The Galleria to the intersection for the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, at which the road to the right is clearly marked, PRESERVE PARKWAY. It will bring you directly to the residential development mentioned above, but also on the left, is the entrance to Moss Rock Preserve, marked by a prominent sign.

The stones in the Preserve are sandstone, with a high quartz content, which is quite resistant to erosion, compared with other surrounding minerals. Surrounding erosion has left the Moss Rock stones standing high above the present ground level. Shades Mountain and Red Mountain were caused by the uplifting of the Alleghany range, and is part of a very large area known as the Pottsville Formation of the Pennsylvanian Period. The Pottsville Formation extends from Pennsylvania to Alabama. Horsepens 40 is also a part of that formation.

The formation of the sandstone developed as a result of silt being deposited on successive ocean floors as successive ice ages came and went. Alabama was not ever under the ice; but at times it was even tropical, hence the coal. The successive melting and reforming of ice north and south of present Alabama caused great fluctuations in the depth of the world’s oceans.

Therefore, Alabama, which was under oceans for long periods, had sand deposits, as well as the seashells. The seashells resulted in large limestone and marble deposits. The timing of the tectorial uplifts vis-à-vis the fluctuations in the depth of the seas resulted in different deposits in Red and Shades Mountains.

For those readers and Moss Rock Preserve visitors who may feel inclined to learn more about Alabama geology, the Alabama Museum of Natural History has produced a fascinating book, "Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks" by Dr. Jim Lacefield. It is easy to read and understand, and is beautifully illustrated.

Moss Rock Preserve is recommended for a Sunday afternoon drive to visit our own unique wonder of nature right here in Jefferson County.

Dr. Fred Andrus, Chairman Univ. of Ala. Dept. of
Geology. Personal correspondence.
Dr. Jim Lacefield: Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks,
Second Edition, 2013.


Map of Moss Rock location.

Map of Moss Rock location.



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