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
uburn University History professor Dr. Kenneth Noe will make a repeat visit to the JCHA as its January speaker while taking a look back at Alabama’s Centennial celebration of 1919 and what’s upcoming for the celebration in 2019.
The event will culminate with Alabama’s 200th anniversary as a state from 1819. The Bicentennial will be a year-long event on which planning has already begun.
Alabama will also celebrate the end of the Civil War Sesquicentennial in April noting the end of the 150th anniversary of the close of the Civil War in 1865.
He is a native of Virginia, received his doctorate from the University of Illinois and for the past 15 years has been the Draughon Professor of History at Auburn.
Please note that if you have not renewed your 2015 membership, dues are due in January.
est of wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hope all of you had a beautiful holiday season and have made your list of New Year’s resolutions. High on that list should be to attend all of the wonderful programs VP/Program Chair Tom Carruthers has lined up for us in 2015.
Jeannie and Harry Bradford and I attended the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Tutwiler where our latest historical marker was dedicated. It was a gorgeous affair; General Manager Kay French touched all of the bases and hit one out of the park with the event. I was delighted to be able to express how honored the Association was to have been asked to participate in the momentous occasion. A huge thank you is owed to Harry Bradford for his hard work in getting the historical marker made.
Articles submitted for consideration should be 750‑800 words and must include the writer’s name, address and daytime telephone number or email. Several high resolution photos are also requested. Stories may be edited for grammar, spelling and brevity.
Email: Jim Ben net, Editor.
Mail: The Jefferson Journal,
112 Meadow Croft Circle,
Birmingham, AL 35242.
Published quarterly by and for the membership of the Jefferson County Historical Association.
Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.
Jim Bennett, Editor Email:
Judy Haise Email:
Tom Badham Email:
Dr. Ed Stevenson Email:
The Birmingham History Center, while still unable to find a new location, is still actively searching for a new home. In the meantime, they have relocated their corporate office. Originally at 1807 3rd Avenue North, they are now at 310 18th Street North on the fourth floor. This is literally catty-corner across the intersection of 18th Street and Third Avenue North.
James Lowery’s Birmingham Mineral Railroad project, which the Association has endorsed, is moving ahead nicely. Logos have been adopted for the markers and a tentative driving program has been drafted for the Red Gap Branch Line. He is planning to be with us in January to give us an update.
It is January, and once again, dues are due. Your board appreciates your support through your dues as it pays for our excellent programs, our projects and now, maintenance for our historical markers. You make it all happen. On another board note, all of the officer team will stay in place for this next year. I deeply thank all of them and the board, for their time, talent, dedication and the excellent job they have done this past year. They are a wonderful asset for the Association. Many thanks for your support this last year. Hope to see you January 8th.
— Alice Williams, JCHA President
he Jefferson County Historical Association unveiled its latest historical marker November 6 at the site of the newly refurbished Tutwiler Hotel, formerly known as the Ridgely Apartments building. It is our 22nd marker.
In 1986, the building was converted into a luxury hotel named after the original 13-story Tutwiler, which was demolished a few blocks away in 1974.
Guests and visitors including JCHA members marked the 100th anniversary of the hotel with a rededication ceremony and presentation of the new landmark sign.
The nine-story building on the corner of 20th Street and Park Place was built in 1914. It was later renamed as the new Tutwiler Hotel in homage to the original hotel formerly located on 20th Street. Both buildings used the same architects, and both were originally owned by the Tutwiler family.
Temple Tutwiler III spoke of the building’s significance. The original hotel was the namesake of Tutwiler’s grandfather, the principal financier of the project. To connect the two eras, the younger Tutwiler brought his grandfather’s pocket watch with him for the rededication.
The building, which has undergone several major upgrades, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
—by: Jim Bennett
ike the fingers on a giant’s hand, elongated Appalachian ridges push into Jefferson County in parallel lines of verdant mountains and farmed valleys. They are ancient, filled with Indian lore and packed with mineral wealth.
Early pioneers thought the red dust being kicked up by their wagon wheels was just a nuisance before they discovered it was iron ore on which a major industry would be built.
More rounded than peaked, the high hills lack the pinnacles of the steeper Rockies showing years of weathering that date back over 250 million years. The same mountain chain in Alabama and the Great Smokies are the result of buckling from continental plate collisions millions of years ago. The upward thrust, then the downward wear — exposed the sedimentary rocks, which provide many of the minerals we extract through mining to support industry in the region.
Their presence often comes as a surprise to visitors from other states who don’t think of mountains in Alabama as much as flat fields of cotton. These are, in fact, the foothills of the Appalachians as they roll to their conclusion across the eastern U.S. They were once steep and tall, but millions of years of erosion have worn them down to narrow ridges of durable rock, most topped with Sandstone.
You know them by their familiar names like Red Mountain, Shades Mountain, Sand Mountain, Oak Mountain and Double Oak. How did these high forest features come to have these names? Some fact, some fable.
Red Mountain may be the most famous. The corresponding valley, Jones Valley, contains most of Birmingham. The pattern is echoed in other ridges across the region: Shades Mountain, Oak Mountain, Double Oak Mountain, plus several smaller ridges crossing the metro area. Red Mountain is different from these other mountains in several ways. Most notably, it contains layers of hematite, or iron ore, and it lacks a layer of sandstone at its very top.
Its name is derived from the red ocher or hematite ore found there, first used by Indians for war paint and by pioneers to dye britches. The Oxmoor Furnace began using red ore here in 1863 to manufacture iron for the Confederacy and it later became the main supply of ore for the Birmingham iron and steel industry.
Creek Indians also hunted on Shades Mountain, which is separated from Red Mountain by Shades Valley. Today residences and businesses in the communities of Bluff Park, Hoover, Homewood, Vestavia and Mt. Brook can be found there. The mountain itself contains the last major undeveloped Southern Appalachian mountain forest in Jefferson County.
According to local lore, the mountain was called "Shades of Death" by local Indian tribes who found it so dark, forbidding and overgrown that it was a place to be feared.
Another story involved Andrew McLaughin, an early resident of Jonesboro, who explored the area about 1816 on horseback and got lost. Finding his way back home hungry and afraid for his life, he said he had been in the "Shades of Death." The valley would become known as Shades Valley and the creek that ran through it Shades Creek.
Alabama historian Mary Gordon Duffee said the few pioneers who tried to settle in this area usually met with terrible accidents, from drowning in creeks, being attacked by wolves and other misfortunes. After 1817, the long name was replaced by "Shades" and while other lands were being settled in Jefferson County such as Jones Valley, both Shades Valley and Shades Mountain were referred to as wild places.
Geologist Randy Gray said the U.S. Geological Survey, which is responsible for naming mountains, likes to use established local names to avoid duplications across the country.
Oak Mountain to the south, once contained great stands of hardwoods including oak.
It became the site of Oak Mountain State Park following passage of the State Land Act of 1927 which granted the park the 940 acres between Double Oak Mountain and Little Oak Ridge. From 1934 to 1941, the park saw improvements made by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration. Remnants of the CCC era—foundations, bridges and other infrastructure, often made of stone quarried from within the park—can still be seen. It is today, Alabama’s largest state park. Oak Mountain also contains the communities of Inverness, Meadowbrook, Greystone and Indian Springs.
Sand Mountain is the northern most Appalachian extremity and a part of the Cumberland Plateau. It contains at Butler Mountain northeast of Pinson the highest elevation in Jefferson County at 1,480 feet. Sand Mountain has, on average, 2-to-4-feet depth of soil–after which is solid sandstone bedrock.
Sources: Norma Warren, "The Shades of Death", The Vestavian, Oct. 1, 2012; TrekBirmingham.com, Geology, (Birmingham-Southern College, 2011); James R. Bennett, Historic Birmingham & Jefferson County, (Historical Publishing Network, San Antonio, Texas, 2010); George I. Adams; Charles Butts; L. W. Stephenson; & Wythe Cooke (1926). Wikipedia.
eeds is a unique tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties which was founded in 1877 during the final years of Reconstruction. It was named for the noted industrial city in England where a bricklayer invented the Portland cement process. Leeds is one of four municipalities in Jefferson County to adopt British names. Others include Birmingham, Brighton, Trafford and Cardiff.
Leeds housed the workers of the Lehigh Cement Co., a Portland Cement manufacturing plant which located there in 1906. Lehigh was the first cement plant in America to sell bagged cement, beginning a new type of revolution in America’s cement industry.
Lying at the crossroads of several ancient Indian paths, Leeds drew European, Cherokee, and African-American settlers to fertile farm land and rich mineral deposits. The early settlers built churches and schools in places called Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principle survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporated in 1887 as "Leeds", is located along the banks of the Little Cahaba River beside an historic stagecoach route and along two railroads.
Veterans of the War of 1812 were among the earliest settlers. By 1887, the original railroad pioneers included African-Americans, many former slaves, who came to work at the Leeds cement plant and the Central of Georgia and Georgia Pacific railroads.
At times folklore and history are hard to distinguish. The tale of John Henry was believed to have originated in Leeds. In this folk story, John Henry, the "steel-drivin’ man", raced (and won against) a steam engine in the laying of rail track that penetrated the Oak Mountain Tunnel. Retired chemistry professor and folklorist John Garst, of the University of Georgia, contends that the contest happened at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern Railway) in Leeds on September 20, 1887.
Based on documentation that corresponds with the account of C. C. Spencer, who claimed in the 1920s to have witnessed the contest, Garst speculates that John Henry may have been a man named Henry who was born a slave to P.A.L. Dabney, the father of the chief engineer of that railroad, in 1850. Since 2007, the city of Leeds has honored John Henry’s legend during an annual September festival, held on the third weekend in September, called the Leeds Downtown Folk Festival & John Henry Celebration.
Sources, City of Leeds web site, About Us; Wikipedia; Bennett, "Historic Birmingham and Jefferson County", 2010; John Garst, "Chasing John Henry in Alabama and Mississippi, A Personal Memoir of Work in Progress" (2002). Tributaries: Journal of the Alabama Folklife Association 5: 92–129; Jane and Henry Hall, Pat Newton, "Leeds, Images of America", (Arcadia Publishing Co., Charleston, 2012).