According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad [TCI] entered the Birmingham area in late 1886. "In addition to [its] Tennessee holdings, TCI now owned 76,000 acres of coal land, 460 coke ovens, two blast furnaces, and 13,000 acres of land that included the Red Mountain ore seam. The company moved its headquarters to Birmingham in 1895." In other words, TCI was a mighty player in central Alabama and would remain so for decades. In this area we are living with the results today.
The current unincorporated community of Edgewater is a perfect example. Located north of Pleasant Grove, Edgewater began as a TCI coal mine opened in 1911. At first state convict lease system prisoners were used, and their mined coal was hauled by railroad to the coke ovens at the company's Ensley Works.
In about a year TCI ended its use of prisoners, hoping to attract better, more dedicated workers and their families. A modern village soon opened near the mine that included houses, schools, churches, recreation facilities and modern sanitation methods. TCI trucks picked up garbage on a regular basis. Recreational activities included baseball leagues and regular community dances. Segregated facilities were created for black and white workers and families.
This kind of corporate paternalism was common in other industries as well. My maternal grandfather, John Miller Shores, was a longtime Methodist minister in the North Alabama Conference. One of his postings over the years was the Methodist Church associated with the giant Avondale Mill textile operation in Sylacauga.
The Edgewater Mine thrived during the World Wars, but changes continued to occur. The schools were sold to Jefferson County in 1932. At its height the mine employed over 1200 workers and produced more than 800,000 tons of coal a year. The mine closed in 1962.
The BhamWiki web site gives many more details on the mining operation and the community that survives today.
Below are some photographs from the U.S. National Archives. The first is the company store at Edgewater. The rest are views outside and inside of the dispensary, which provided medical care, supplies and drugs onsite.
In 1913 TCI hired Dr. Lloyd Noland to run its health and sanitation efforts, which became elaborate at the mines and resulted in the building of the hospital in Fairfield eventually named after him.
Edgewater Mine Company Store in July, 1946. The photo is from the U.S. National Archives.
The exterior and interior photos below of the dispensary at Edgewater are also from the U.S. National Archives.