Friday, May 19, 2017

Where is Arkadelphia & What Does It Mean?

Last year brother Richard and I made one of our trips exploring Alabama and family history that took us through Bessemer, Jasper, Bug Tussle, Colony, and Hartselle. We also went through Arkadelphia, which is about halfway between Bug Tussle and Colony on Alabama Highway 91. I failed to take any photos there, but recently returned and did so. This post is the result. 

Virginia Foscue's Place Names in Alabama notes that a post office was established in Arkadelphia in 1854. She also discusses the origin of the name. "One proposed explanation is that the name was that of the wife of John A. Donaldson, the first postmaster. However, it may be a combination of Ark, the name of an early nearby settlement and PO in Winston Co., and -adelphia, a pseudo-Greek combination meaning 'brother-place,' probably taken from Philadelphia."

There is a much larger Arkadelphia, the seat of Clark County, in Arkansas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System, only two towns in the U.S. have that name. Also according to the GNIS, the Alabama town once had an elementary school, and Cullman County also has an Arkadelphia Mine and Arkadelphia Mountain. 

Because of shifting boundaries, Arkadelphia has been located in three Alabama counties: Walker beginning in 1820, Blount in 1850 and finally Cullman in 1901. The community was a stagecoach stop on the Huntsville to Tuscaloosa road and once included a tavern and blacksmith shop. The post office closed in December 1968. 

Arkadelphia's first school was built before 1900, and several different buildings housed the facility over the years. In 1962 the school was consolidated with one in Hanceville. In 1921-22 the town had a four-teacher school with 117 students in grades 1-7 and 20 in grades 8-12. By 1959 that elementary school had 59 students and three teachers. 

Arkadelphia is not listed in the 2000 or 2010 U.S. Census cities and towns in Alabama. The Wikipedia article linked above gives an 1880 U.S. Census population of 195. In 1950 the Cullman County voting precinct 7, Arkadelphia, had 944 people, according to the Alabama Almanac and Book of Facts 1955-1956. 

Unless otherwise noted, much of this information came from Margaret Jean Jones' 1972 book, Combing Cullman County. On page 106 she has a photograph of a house built by Jeff Calloway in Arkadelphia in 1820. She also describes a 12-room house built in 1884 by Dr. Charles Drennen that included a clinic and hospital. Those facilities closed soon after 1900 and the house eventually became an apartment building. At the time Jones wrote, the house was still standing in Arkadelphia. 

Various comments are below the photos. All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. 

Many times I've passed this exit on I-20/59 in Birmingham and wondered where or what is Arkadelphia?

Source: AA Roads

There is another United Methodist Church on Arkadelphia Road near Birmingham Southern College. This church also serves the community of Bremen. Both churches are in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.

A Methodist church was first organized in the community in 1867.

Here's a view of Highway 91 toward the Arkadelphia cemetery. 

I think Swann's operated until fairly recently; the store below is a reminder of much older days in the community. 

In her book Jones notes, "The local trade area now has only two general stores..." Even that has changed since she wrote it in 1972.

The community center applied to the state as a non-profit entity in September 1991. 

For some strange reason, although I stopped right in front of it, I did not photograph the church itself!

The cemetery is large, well maintained and still active. According to an inventory available here, graves date to the early 1800's.

This 1902 "Official Map of Cullman County, Alabama" shows Arkadelphia in the extreme southern portion of the county. The community remains on official state highway maps, such as these recent ones below.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Singer Marilyn McCoo's Alabama Connections

Marilyn McCoo has been a very successful singer and actress since the 1960's. She was born in New Jersey to Waymon and Mary McCoo, both physicians who graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville in 1938. By the mid-1950's the family had moved to Los Angeles, and McCoo began modelling before graduating from high school. 

She apparently inherited her father's singing talents; before medical school he had toured the country with the Jones Boys trio and Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. In the first half of the 1960's Marilyn toured with the Hi-Fis, a group that often opened concerts for Ray Charles. In 1966 she met future husband and founder of the 5th Dimension, Billy Davis, Jr. The group, with McCoo singing lead, had tremendous success including several massive hits such as "Up, Up, and Away," "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Wedding Bell Blues."

Married in 1969, McCoo and Davis left the group in 1975 and found success as a duo. On her own McCoo hosted the Solid Gold television music series through much of the 1980's and toured nightclub and concert venues. McCoo and Davis continue to perform and wrote about their lives in the 2004 book Up, Up and Away. 

So, just what are McCoo's Alabama connections? 

To begin with, her father Waymon was born in Eufaula on May 9, 1909. After earning a bachelor's degree from Talladega College, he left for New York City to pursue that singing career noted above. He then had a long and prominent medical career in Los Angeles before his death in 2003. The Eufaula paper noted his death at age 94: “Dr. McCoo, 94, dies in L.A. ; Eufaula native and father of superstar Marilyn McCoo, Dr. Waymon McCoo, died Friday in Los Angeles . He was 94.” [Eufaula Tribune 20 October 2003].

Another of her state connections is her grandparents, Thomas and Gertrude McCoo. Born in 1883, Thomas graduated from Selma University and then Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., in 1906. He was certified to practice medicine in Alabama by the Barbour County medical board in 1907. Thomas married Gertrude Coffee, daughter of a Methodist minister, in 1908. Thomas spent most of his medical career in Eufaula. 

 “Not only was Dr. McCoo a competent physician who rendered invaluable service to the suffering, but equally as important he was a dedicated civic and religious leader for many years…Eufaulians of both races have lost a friend,” wrote editor Joel Smith in the Eufaula Tribune after Thomas McCoo’s death in 1967. "’Eufaulians of both races’ loved Dr. McCoo. Throughout his life, Dr. T.V. McCoo was a friend to both white and black Eufaulians—often at times when that was difficult to do.” 

Before integration, a high school for blacks, T.V. McCoo High School, now a municipal center, was named after him. His portrait hangs in the McCoo Branch of the Carnegie Library in Chattahoochee Courts in Eufaula. Son Waymon returned to Eufaula in 1988 for the dedication of this portrait. Dr. T.V. McCoo Boulevard in the town is also named after him. 

For more information, see an article by Patrick Johnston, "Eufaulians of both races' loved Dr. McCoo." Eufaula Tribune, February 7, 2002. This article cites a book, Robert Flewellen, Along Broad Street: A History of Eufaula, Alabama, 1823-1984 published in 1991.

Marilyn McCoo

McCoo's father and grandparents are buried in Haven of Rest Cemetery in Barbour County. 

Source: Find-A-Grave

T.V. McCoo [1883-1967]

(SOURCE: Eufaula Tribune 7 Feb 2002)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Alabama Apartments in NYC in 1909

Here's another one of those "I was looking for something else and found this" posts.

In 1908 the G.C. Hesselgren Publishing Company of New York published Apartment Houses of the Metropolis; the following year it issued a Supplement. In that supplement is a photo of "The Alabama", an apartment building at the northeast corner of Riverside Drive and 127th Street. That location is in Harlem, a large neighborhood in northern Manhattan. The area's history dates back to the Dutch in the 17th century. 

Also below are a photograph of the complex from 1910 and a contemporary view. I have no idea why the building was called "The Alabama".

Under the supplement photograph we read:

"Built by the Riverside Viaduct Realty Company 1908-09

"George F. Pelham, Architect

"Apartments in suites of 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 rooms and servants' toilets and baths for six and seven room suites."

I have been unable so far to find anything about the realty company other than a few newspaper mentions related to other buildings. Pelham was a prominent New York architect who designed many city buildings in his long career. He apparently has no state connection, since he was born in Canada. 

The complex seems to have been pretty upscale!

Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

550 Riverside Drive at the corner of 127th Street. The Alabama Apartment House.

Taken by the Wurts brothers, ca. 1910

Here's the Google Street View of the building today. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Birmingham Photo of the Day (56): The Barons in 1917

The 1917 season was the seventh that the Barons played at Rickwood Field. This period was the "dead ball era" in professional baseball in which strategy, base hits and speed at stealing bases were most important. Home runs were not emphasized by players or fans, and teams hit very few. 

At this time the Barons played in the Southern Association League. By 1917 the Barons had won four league titles in 1888, 1906, 1912 and 1914. For those last two championships the team was managed by Carlton Molesworth. He came to the Barons as an outfielder in 1906 and managed the team from 1908 until 1922.

The Barons did not win a championship in 1917; they finished third with a record of 87-66. They did draw the fans, though; over 9000 attended on opening day and more than 115,000 over the season.

Four no-hitters were pitched at Rickwood that season. Barons pitchers Ralph Comstock, Carmen Hill and Ray Milligan had one each. A pitcher for the Little Rock Travelers also threw a no-hitter at the park. Hill's final record of 26-12 set a Barons record for wins in a season. Further information on Comstock and Hill is below; Milligan apparently did not play in the major leagues. 

The Birmingham Black Barons shared Rickwood Field with the white team, but did not begin play until 1920. 

Allen Barra's history of the stadium is Rickwood Field: A Century in America's Oldest Ballpark published in 2010.

Birmingham Barons, Rickwood Field, spring 1917. Taken by O.V. Hunt. I wonder what position the dog played. See Comstock's photo below; is that him holding the dog? Not sure which one might be Hill.

  Source: Birmingham Public Library 

Right-handed pitcher Comstock was born November 24, 1890, in Sylvania, Ohio. He played three non-consecutive seasons in the major leagues, finishing with an 11-14 record as a pitcher. 

Right hander Carmen Hill was born October 1, 1895, in Royalton, Minnesota. He pitched 10 years for several teams in the National League with a final record of 49-33. His last season was 1930.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

36 Grocery in Lacey's Spring

When I visit mom in Huntsville, I exit I-65 in Hartselle and head east on Alabama Highway 36. I've written before about some of the sights and history encountered on this route: Cotaco, Lacey's Spring, and Valhermoso Springs

In that previous post about Lacey's Spring, I noted:

"Lacey's Spring is an unincorporated community at the base of Brindley Mountain in Morgan County. American Revolutionary veteran John Lacy and his brothers settled there in 1818. A post office was established in 1831.

You'll find Lacey's Spring by going south on US 231 out of Huntsville. After you cross the Tennessee River you are essentially there. More of the community is also down Alabama Highway 36 as you head west toward Valhermoso Springs and Hartselle and I-65."

The abandoned business below is one of several seen along 36. A little research turns up the address as 9383 Highway 36 East and the name of the business expanded to 36 Grocery and Restaurant. Gary Morrow was listed as the "principal", presumably owner, of the establishment. Another web site gives the date it opened as 2008, although I would have guessed much earlier than that. Interestingly, that same address is listed as a small grocery store named Kate's Place that opened in 2005 with three employees. Perhaps more than one business has operated in the location.  

I've made a few comments below the photos. 

Glenn Wills has published two books documenting his extensive travels through "Forgotten Alabama"; more information is here

That's Highway 36 you see to the right. In the background are some of the pretty rolling hills to be seen along this route. I wonder when gas was just under three dollars at this location.

Lots of groceries and gas sold and meals eaten at this place once upon a time. 

As you face 36 Grocery, you see this little building to the left. I'm not sure what it was. In the background are what seem to be other old buildings.

Here's the view across 36. That's a bathtub at the end of the slab. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dan Dunn's Creator Crash Lands in Siluria

Well, it wasn't really a crash, more of an emergency landing, but let's adopt a little of the comics' drama for this title!

I was on another mission recently, looking at The Heritage of Shelby County [1999] in search of some history of Siluria, and ran across this fascinating tale.

"Once a small single engine airplane, piloted by the author of a comic trip, developed problems and made an emergency landing in Roy's field. The ground was soft and the wheels lodged in the dirt causing the plane to upend. The pilot was not seriously injured, His comic strip was about a police detective, Dan Dunn, and appeared in the Birmingham newspaper. Shortly after the plane accident Dan was chasing a villain on top of a freight train and commented that he would catch the rogue before they reached Siluria."

--Jerry and Alice Vandiver, entry on Siluria, p. 29

Let's investigate. 

According to the entry on Siluria by the Vandivers, "Roy" was Mal Roy who owned property and a store near Thompson High School. Buck Creek, a tributary of the Cahaba River, flowed through his property. That school opened in October 1921. 

So who was Dan Dunn??

In September 1933 Dan Dunn began as a daily comic strip and eventually appeared in 135 newspapers. A color Sunday strip was soon added by the Publishers Syndicate distributor. Dunn began life in a comic book issued in May of that same year. That one-issue comic is considered the first U.S. comic with original material ever published. 

In 1936 two Dunn stories were used in a pulp magazine. In the following year he appeared in one of the Big Little Books from Whitman Publishing. Many of the comic strips have recently been reprinted

The fictional detective was created by Norman W. Marsh and probably influenced by the success of Dick Tracy comics. Marsh had worked as an art assistant to Chester Gould, Tracy's creator. Marsh wrote and drew the Dunn strip until 1942, when he joined the Marines. After the war he created two even more obscure strips, Hunter Keene and Danny Hale. 

A 1952 newspaper article about Marsh gave some more background on the man. "The cartoonist's own life has been at least as adventurous as his hero's. He served in the Marine Corps in both world wars, enlist­ing at 16 in the first and com­manding a line company in the second. In the rest of his 51 years he has worked as a prizefight manager, sailor, pilot, speculator and detec­tive." 

The 1940 U.S. Census finds Marsh living in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife and daughter. His profession was listed as "cartoonist" and his birth year "about 1901." The 1952 newspaper article gives his address as 1234 West Lake Street in Chicago. 

I have so far been unable to locate any further information about Marsh, including his death date. Maybe one day I'll track down more information about that plane landing in Siluria, too!

The comic book origin of Detective Dan Dunn

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Pulp.Net

Dan Dunn's Big Little Book appearance

The recent Dunn reprint.

Source: Amazon