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Birmingham Barons 1908

This photo was found in the barn of the Prickett house in Ashville, Alabama. Clarence Watkins, who wrote a book
on Birmingham baseball, said the photo was taken in 1908, because there was one player pictured here that was only
on the Barons that one year. The hill in the background is the famous slag pile. Thanks to Kerry Gossett.

When the Barons Played at the Slag Pile


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he Barons history can be traced back to 1885, when the Barons (originally known as the Coal Barons) played in the successive Southern Leagues during the early years of baseball.

In 1887, the Birmingham Barons were playing at the Slag Pile (West End Park), located on 6th Street between 1st Avenue North and the Alabama Great Southern Railroad tracks. The old Slag Pile grandstand would only grant one 60-day lease at a time. Also during these days, the Barons played in East Lake. A.H. (Rick) Woodward, the late Birmingham millionaire industrialist, decided to buy the team in 1910 from J. William McQueen, who had been the Barons’ owner since 1901.

After reaching the final terms in February 1910, Woodward’s first objective was to construct a ballpark. In a short time, he produced plans for the first concrete-and-steel ballpark in the minor leagues. Woodward consulted Philadelphia’s manager Connie Mack about building the 12.7-acre park. From parks such as Philly’s Shibe Park and Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Rickwood Field took shape. The name of the park originated from Woodward’s first name and part of his last name.

Construction of Rickwood was complete prior to the first game played there on August 18, 1910. The Barons won the opener 3–2 over Montgomery, after a 2-run rally in the 9th inning. A crowd in excess of 10,000 came for the contest.



When Did The Last Trolley Run?

—by: Jim Bennett

Street Car 1937

Birney car 811 was one of a group of 40 single truckers purchased in 1919-1920 from the Cincinnati Car Co.
Photo taken by O. V. Hunt in 1937. Car route sign indicates it ran on Highland Avenue
(Bill Volkmer Collection from Alvin W. Hudson).

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t one time Birmingham was the largest operator of surface steam dummy lines in the United States.

While other big cities were served in the mid-1880's by horse railways, metropolitan areas were trending toward new cable lines. Unfortunately, horse railways were unsuited for the distances involved in the Birmingham area other than to serve the central city. Cable railways were not well suited for Birmingham either because of their high construction costs which required a traffic density beyond the capability of Birmingham and its suburbs.

The lack of congestion, however, allowed Birmingham to experiment with a form of transportation which had been largely unsuccessful in other places, the steam dummy. While not a new idea, their use was discouraged because the cars scared horses on congested city streets. Because of its wide-open spaces, Birmingham was ideally suited for steam service, its use here providing rapid transportation without the cost of building a cable or main-line railroad.

Birmingham’s closest competition for steam dummies was Los Angeles which had a similar population dispersion. While horse trams remained in the city proper, the dummy steam lines headed out to the suburbs bringing workers to town on a daily basis.

The first horse car began operation in Birmingham January 24, 1884 while steam dummies began service May 25, 1885. A host of small companies went into business competing for the city’s business. As time passed and the city grew, many were consolidated into larger companies. Oddly, there was little consistency in car purchases and Birmingham had every imaginable coach type possible made by a myriad of coach companies.

Unfortunately not one of these cars, some unique to Birmingham, was saved for museums. Steam service gave way to electric service beginning in 1891 which gave way to trackless coaches with overhead wires in 1953. By 1958, the city’s transportation services turned to buses and the era of the street car was over.

The last trackless vehicles ran on the 25-Ensley line on November 29, 1958. Many of them were sold to Mexico City and Vancouver. (For more information see Street Railways of Birmingham by Alvin W. Hudson and Harold E. Cox privately published in 1976.)

1886: The world’s first electric trolley system
was introduced in Montgomery, Alabama.

Eastwood Mall opening ad

Opening Day - Birmingham Post Herald, August 25, 1960.

Edgewood line tracks

Some of the old trolley tracks from the Edgewood line can still be seen where Manhattan Street
dead ends into Parkridge Drive behind Homewood Park (Bennett).

Waite's Ad

Shades Valley Sun, 1955


The Hawes Horror Conclusion, Part Two

—By Tom Badham

(continued from last issue)

Lakeview lake

Lakeview Lake, now on the Highland Park Golf Course, was the site of one of the most heinous murders in Birmingham history.
Here the body of Mrs. Hawes was found. The so-called "Hawes Horrors" earned the Magic City unwanted national press.

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oncurrently with the coroner’s inquests, Richard Hawes’ defense attorneys led by E. T. Taliaferro and Frank W. Barnett went before Judge Samuel E. Greene with a motion for a change of venue due to the defendant’s belief that he could not get a fair trial in Jefferson County because the jail riot and all the subsequent publicity had prejudiced the local public. Solicitor James E. Hawkins argued that Hawes would get as fair a trial in Jefferson County as elsewhere due to the wide spread publicity all across the state. Judge Greene denied the motion.

Lurid newspaper reports of the murders had not only spread throughout Alabama and Georgia, but had been telegraphed around the world. Harper’s Magazine, then the most widely read magazine in the U.S., carried the story complete with drawn illustrations purporting to show the rioters being shot by the Birmingham lawmen.

Emma Hawes

Mr. Hawes

On January 28, 1889, at 10 a.m., Judge Greene called to order the preliminary session of the criminal court in which Hawes was to be tried. The judge had an extraordinary heavy court docket with 211 criminal court cases of which 20 were indictments for murder, 16 assaults with intent to murder and 42 indictments for manslaughter, robbery, forgery and other serious crimes. He then postponed the Hawes trial until late April of 1889.

At 9 a.m. Monday morning, April 22, 1889, the Richard R. Hawes murder trial reopened in the Jefferson County Criminal Court presided over by Judge Greene. Along with Fannie Bryant, law officers suspected John and Jules Wylie, two Atlanta railroad engineers, of being Hawes’ accomplices. They were arrested in Atlanta and returned to Birmingham. They were escorted into the courtroom under heavy guard.

Grand Jury indictments of Hawes for the murders of his wife and two daughters were presented to Judge Greene. The prosecution team for the state was lead by Solicitor James E. Hawkins and Judge George Bushnell Denison. Thus began the long and complicated trial of Richard Hawes. It was as much of a spectacle in its day as the celebrity televised trials of today. Colonel Taliaferro, as he was referred to in the press, again made a motion for the venue to be moved and was again denied by Judge Greene. All during the trial Taliaferro would bring up every technicality he could find to either have the trial moved or charges dismissed. Judge Greene steadfastly denied all his motions.

The courtroom was packed by spectators for each session with an amazing number of women competing for the best seats. As well as the Birmingham newspapers, Atlanta papers and others from across the country assigned reporters to watch Hawes during every session of the trial. His every action and demeanor was noted. In the courtroom before each session he seemed cool and detached, chatting with anyone and everyone around him. During the trial he would take notes on the various testimonies, occasionally whispering something to his lawyers and looking almost bored during the proceedings. He at no time admitted any guilt for the crimes.

Since no one admitted witnessing the murders, the crucial evidence and testimony for the prosecution revolved around the actions and movements of Richard Hawes during that first weekend of December 1888. When and where he rode Birmingham’s steam trolley system, both the Highland Avenue and East Lake lines, were key points that had to be established by the prosecution. His location and who he was with had to be pinpointed during those two days the murders were thought to have occurred.

Other key points were exactly when and where were Mrs. Emma Hawes and her two daughters last seen? Also examined during the trial were his accomplices. Fannie Bryant’s role was closely examined. While the Wylie brothers were also thought to be involved, especially John Wylie, perhaps in moving Mrs. Hawes’ and Irene’s bodies to Lakeview Park Lake, testimony and evidence was confused and lacking. While he and his brother were released at that time due to lack of evidence, charges were not dropped.

On Friday afternoon, 3 May 1889, The Hawes trial ended with jury coming back with a verdict around 3:30 p.m. Court Clerk W. N. Burgin read in a clear voice, "We the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the indictment, and say he shall suffer death." Col. E. T. Taliaferro gave an interview in the Saturday, May 4, 1889, Birmingham Age-Herald that he would, "of course appeal the Hawes case." Hawes was formally sentenced on May 23rd.

Judge Greene stated that Hawes had been tried and convicted fairly and impartially but that his attorneys already had made a motion to appeal his case before the Alabama Supreme Court. "Should this case be reversed and remanded, you will have to be tried again on this charge in this or some other county. Meantime, it is better for you to make such preparation as you think you ought to make for the infliction of the death penalty. It is the sentence of the jury that you suffer death, and of this court that on Friday, the 12th day of July next, you be hanged by the neck until you are dead."

Emma Hawes

Emma Hawes

May Hawes

May Hawes


To be continued in the next issue of the The Jefferson Journal.

Jemison Magazine ads 1911


From Jemison Magazine, February, 1911



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