Monday, November 28, 2016

Pondering Alabama Maps (7): October 2, 1866

I stumbled across this map in my random wanderings around the web and found it interesting. On the bottom right is noted "Department of Interior/General Land Office, October 2, 1866" thus making the map seem to be a snapshot of the state on a particular day. Perhaps that's actually the date the map was finished and ready for printing.

Published in Philadelphia, the map has an abundance of information about the state at that time. In Jefferson County the only town we see is Elyton, the county seat until moved to Birmingham in 1873 just seven years later. At the bottom is this note:  "The whole central region of this state is underlaid with iron ore, in vast beds. There are also coal measures of great thickness and extent. Lead ore is also found." 

In east central Alabama along the Georgia line we see Benton County. Created in 1832, the county was named after Missouri senator and defender of slavery Thomas Hart Benton. In the 1850's Benton became an opponent of slavery, and the name was changed to honor secessionist John C. Calhoun. 

North of Walker County is Hancock County. Established in 1850 from a part of Walker County, the name originally honored the famous signer of the Declaration of Independence John Hancock. The name was eventually changed to Winston after state governor John A. Winston.  

At the time this map was created Alabama had entered the Reconstruction period

Friday, November 18, 2016

Some Family Photos from Back in the Day

Well, the 1960's anyway.

Most of these photos were taken by yours truly, or at least using the black and white camera I had in those days. The location for the first four was my paternal grandparents' house on Chandler Street in Gadsden. I imagine we were visiting for Sunday lunch. The other four were taken at our family home on Lakewood Drive in Huntsville. Some comments are below each one. 

I also have photos from the 1950's that will do just nicely for another post someday soon...and probably more from the 1960's...

Here I am on the left along with younger brother Richard and our grandfather Amos J. Wright, Sr. Pawpaw worked for the L&N Railroad for many years and died in 1975. I remember one of his favorite sayings: "See you in the funny papers." I've written about his World War I training at Auburn here

This photograph features my mother and grandmother washing dishes. Mawmaw seems about to laugh at her silly grandson taking pictures. She died in 1997. That little iron skillet hung on the wall there for a long time.  

Here's Mawmaw again sitting in their long narrow den off the kitchen. I think she's looking at some photographs. The clock on the television--a Zenith, I think--tells us it's one-thirty. Mawmaw would later move her Singer sewing machine to that alcove on the left where it sat for many years. That ancient machine is now sitting in my daughter Becca's home in Oklahoma: 

Younger brother Richard poses in the same den a half hour earlier. That clock on the shelf behind him is still in the family. On the table on the lower left is a candy dish Mawmaw always kept there and a book. Wonder if it was one I was reading and brought with me? Looks like a library call number on the lower spine. That appears to be one of Mawmaw's African violets on the television with the other clock. 

Now we come to the house in Huntsville. Our beagle Duchess surveys her back yard domain from the roof over the basement entrance. 

Here's Duchess behind bars--er, the fence--probably wondering why I'm taking pictures instead of playing with her. 

And here's Duchess in another roof pose. We lived in a house halfway up a fairly steep hill, and sometimes she would be sitting on the other side of the roof. That gave passersby coming up the hill or even some neighbors the impression that we had a dog on our roof.

Brother Richard faces the camera in one of our bedrooms; it looks too neat to be his. Before he became seriously interested in Alabama archaeology, dad did a lot of woodworking and that desk and lamp are two of his pieces.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movies with Alabama Connections (10): Alabama Jones

My investigations of many things Alabama-related can lead to some pretty odd places. Case in point: this bit of erotica, which actually has TWO Alabama connections.

I haven't seen this film, but the type is well-known. In recent years any major box office hit has gotten an erotic remake--er, rip off; the numbers are legion. This genre echoes the "Eurospy" French and Italian films of the 1960's and 1970's that rode the success of James Bond films. Alabama Jones was directed by Jim Wynorski [under the name Harold Blueberry], a well-known figure in erotic and exploitation genres. 

The film has a state connection beyond the title. One of the leads is Angela Little, born in Albertville in 1972. In the film she is billed as Katie James. In addition to work in the adult film industry, Little has also acted in mainstream films and television shows including Rush Hour 2, Charmed, CSI and Monk. She was Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Month in August 1998.

For some reason, Little's screen name doesn't appear on the DVD cover below. I presume the three names listed were bigger stars in the industry in 2005 when the film was released. 

Other characters in the film include California Jones and Oklahoma Jones. I leave historical researchers in those states to do their duty at some point.

Angela Michelle Little

Friday, November 11, 2016

The 1898 U.S.S. Alabama Battleship

Most of us are familiar with the World War II battleship USS Alabama saved from the scrapyard in the 1960's and now the centerpiece of Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile. I've written about the campaign to save her here

An earlier battleship designated the USS Alabama did not have such a pleasant fate. Launched in 1898 and commissioned two years latter, the Alabama had a long service history, cruising to ports around the world. She was decommissioned for the last time in May, 1920, and in September of the following year turned over to the War Department for use as an aerial bombardment target by the U.S. Army Air Service. 

Under the supervision of legendary General Billy Mitchell, the battleship was attacked by aircraft with both chemical and demolition bombs. On September 27 she finally sank in shallow water; the USS Alabama remained there until sold for scrap in March 1924.  

Several photos related to the 1898 vessel are below. Many others featuring commanders, crew members and the ship can be found at the Navsource Online Battleship Photo Archive. A film about the ship over three minutes long can be found on YouTube. Additional photos can be found here

A photograph of the launching of the second USS Alabama in February 1942 taken by a Life magazine photographer can be found here. Another view of the launching is below. Kent Whitaker has published a book on the second USS Alabama [Images of America, Arcadia Publishing, 2013]. 

Information about the World War II light cruiser USS Birmingham can be found here. The most recent of four ships named USS Montgomery after the state capitol was launched in August 2014. 

USS Alabama anchored off New York City around 1912

USS Alabama being used for aerial target practice in 1921

Portion of the USS Alabama being scrapped at a shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland in June 1928. 

"Alabama had been sunk in bombing tests in September 1921 and had to be raised for scrapping. Note the cofferdam used to seal her hull amidships, and the dished-in side plating caused by near-miss bomb explosions." 

Postcard of the battleship from the early 1900's

Launching of the USS Alabama on February 16, 1942

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Quick Visit to Tuskegee

In 2012 son Amos and I made a day trip to some historic sites in Montgomery. We saw a couple of other places as well, including the Clanton drive-in ruin I've written about here. I plan several posts on the Montgomery portion; in this one I cover our quick visit to Tuskegee.

Tuskegee became the seat of Macon County in 1833. Several Native American towns in Alabama, perhaps Creek, were given this name. In his book Historic Indian Towns in Alabama, 1540-1838, Amos J. Wright, Jr., notes four of them located on the Alabama, Chattahoochee, Coosa and Tennessee Rivers. Virginia O. Foscue in Place Names in Alabama says the name is probably a Muskhogean or Creek tribe and means "warrior(s)". There is a ghost town in Oklahoma of the same name. I've written about other Native American names from Alabama in Oklahoma here

Unfortunately, the town was at the end of the day before we headed home, so we didn't have a lot of time. We drove through the pretty Tuskegee University campus and saw the downtown square. Comments are below some of the photographs. 

The Macon County courthouse is an impressive piece of architecture. Built in 1905, the style as know as Romanesque and was popularized by Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston. Popular from about 1880 until 1910 for public buildings across the United States, the style resulted in a spectacular courthouse for a small rural county seat. The history of "one of the best-preserved turn-of-the-century courthouses in Alabama" can be found in Samuel A. Rumore, Jr., "Building Alabama's Courthouses: Macon County Courthouse," Alabama Lawyer 56(5): 207-209, 212, July 1995

Fred Gray has been called "the foremost civil rights attorney in Alabama history." Barclay Key's entry on Gray in the Encyclopedia of Alabama is a good summary of his achievements over many decades. 

Of course, two coffee lovers had to spend a bit of time in the Tiger Pause "coffee, tea and smoothies" shop. We found it to be a nice place to relax on a hot day.

Tuskegee's history dates to the mid-1700's when a French fort was established on the site. As several of these pictures demonstrate, a number of the downtown buildings have been restored. 

Also to be seen in downtown Tuskegee are signs of the ironies of history.

Built in the 1850's, Grey Columns now serves as the home of Tuskegee University's President. An older photograph can be seen below. More irony...

Tuskegee University has a pretty campus with striking architecture. I wish I had taken more photos!

Near the roof of the building to the left you may be able to read "John A. Kenney Hall." Kenney was an early black physician in Alabama, and served a number of years at Tuskegee Institute. He was personal doctor to Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. 

Grey Columns in the 1930's

Source: Alabama Department of Archives & History Digital Collections

Friday, November 4, 2016

"An American Italy" in Baldwin County

In one of my recent wanderings around the web I stumbled on the March, 1894, issue of The Southern States: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine devoted to the South. Published in Baltimore and edited by William H. Edmonds, the journal included information on business and industry developments around the region, and page 14 of this particular issue had an interesting piece related to Alabama entitled "An American Italy."

The article discusses the recent influx of Italians into the Daphne area in Baldwin County. The article notes that the colony's success is continuing to attract Italians not only to that area but also to Mobile. "These Italians" were described as mostly from northern Italy, or the Naples area, and not like the ones in the "slums of larger cities." I suppose that might include the Italian immigrants in Birmingham, mostly from Sicily. The Catholic church in Daphne today has its roots in the Church of the Assumption built by these immigrants in 1895.

The article is quoted in full below, and gives much detail about these immigrants. After the quote, I've included another quote from the Wikipedia article on Daphne giving some more information about the Italians. 

This book has a few photos of the early Italian immigrants: Harriet Brill Outlaw and Penny H. Taylor, Daphne. Images of America Series. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

"The Southern States.
MARCH, 1894.


By Erwin Ledyard.
The Southern States of the Union have received only a small proportion of the tide of immigration that has flowed into this country during the last half century, and especially during the last twenty-five years, swelling the population of new commonwealths, causing towns to spring up, like Aladdin’s palace, in a night, and giving to cities a growth phenomenal and marvelous. It is not the purpose of this article to inquire why this has been the case; it is sufficient to state a fact that is indisputable. During the past decade the people of these Southern States have turned their attention seriously to the question of attracting immigration, and thus increasing their industrial importance and utilizing some portion of the immense tracts of land now lying idle. Books and pamphlets descriptive of the climate, soil, products, and resources of the different States have been published, conventions have been held, and agents have been appointed. The results of these efforts are now beginning to be seen. The number of foreign settlers in the South is steadily increasing, and the class of immigrants coming into the section is, generally speaking, a most desirable one. They are men of sufficient intelligence to think and act for themselves, and to leave the beaten paths that have been followed by most of their compatriots.
For a number of years the Irish were the most numerous class of immigrants that came to the South. They settled for the most part in the cities, and, as they have done elsewhere, early exhibited great aptitude for politics, and much inclination for municipal offices. For the most part they were useful and patriotic citizens, taking a deep interest in public affairs and thriving in their various vocations. Then came the Germans, also industrious, and more thrifty than their Celtic predecessors. They also, with few exceptions, became inhabitants of cities. Caring less for the machinery and minutiƦ of politics than either Americans or Irish, they devoted a large portion of their leisure time to social relaxation, and to musical and dramatic societies, and taught native as well as foreign born citizens the useful lesson that a moderate use of wine and beer would give much more rational enjoyment than an immoderate use of spirits, and would leave no headache afterwards.
During all this time, extending to some eight or ten years ago, few immigrants coming into the South settled in the country. Some may have realized that “God made the country but man made the town,” but few felt like venturing into what was terra incognita to them, a region where, in their opinion, the negroes were the only people that ploughed, hoed and planted, and where they would be compelled to compete with that class of labor. More is now known about the South, and the fact that white men in that section have for years been working small farms by their own individual labor is now fully recognized, and in Texas and other Southern States citizens of foreign birth have turned their attention to tilling the soil. The tide of immigration no longer spends itself when it reaches the cities.
This fact is especially apparent in the large counties of Mobile and Baldwin in the southern part of the State of Alabama. Some years ago a settlement of Italians was located near Daphne in Baldwin county, close to the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The colony has thrived and prospered, engaging in fruit and grape culture and agricultural pursuits. A short walk brings its members[15] to the town of Daphne, where they can look out upon a sheet of water thirty miles long and from twelve to fifteen miles wide, which, though not so beautiful as Naples’ famous bay, is still fair to look upon, and glows sometimes with as gorgeous sunsets as those that are reflected by the blue waters of the Mediterranean, while the smoke that rises from its shores is not that of a slumbering volcano threatening devastation and destruction, but of industry and commerce, promising peace, prosperity and happiness.
The success of this colony is attracting other Italians to Baldwin county, and also to its neighbor across the bay, Mobile county. Quite a number have bought lands along the line of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, on a plateau or table land that begins some twenty miles from the city of Mobile, and which extends to the northern limit of the county. This plateau is from 350 to 380 feet above the level of the sea, and from five to ten miles in width. The Italians who have settled on it have cleared their land for cultivation and have built themselves comfortable houses. They are all putting out fruit trees, principally pears and plums, and grape cuttings of various kinds. The pear trees are mostly what are known as “Le Conte” and “Bartlett,” while the grapes are “Delaware,” “Concord,” “Catawba” and some other varieties. They will probably in time turn their attention to winemaking, and can then make use of the “Scuppernong” grape that grows almost wild in the section of country in which they have located and rarely fails to bear abundantly.
These Italians are a very different class of people from those one meets in the purlieus of the fruit quarters or in the slums of large cities. They are mostly from the north of Italy, although some of them hail from Naples and its neighborhood. They are intelligent, industrious, orderly and law-abiding, and they are so polite and cheery in their manners and demeanor that it is a pleasure to meet them. They seem to regard people of property and position, near whose places they reside, in the light of friends and advisers, entitled to deference and respect. Many good people in this country have formed their ideas of Italians from what they have read of the lazzaroni of Naples or the vendetta-loving inhabitants of Sicily. Others have an undefined notion, gathered from operas and melodramas, that most Italians who are not proprietors of hand-organs and monkeys wear either red nightcaps and striped shirts or tall hats shaped like the old time sugar-loaf, jackets or coats with metal buttons and short coat tails, and leggins composed to a large extent of particolored ribbons. This costume they accentuate with a sash or belt containing a stiletto and a pair of villainous looking horsepistols, and an old-fashioned muzzle-loading gun with a crooked stock. These simple folks would be much surprised if they could see the sons of Italy who have brought their lares and penates to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. They dress as the average American citizen dresses and the only vendettas that they swear are against those birds and animals that injure their crops. Their hope is soon to sit under their own vine and fig-tree in a land truly flowing with milk and honey, and to make their lives bright with the light-hearted gaiety and peaceful content that made existence pleasant even amidst the exactions and privations of sunny, but overtaxed and overcrowded Italy. Already the sounds of music are borne on the evening air as these pioneers in a great movement of their race rest at the close of day from their labors, and rejoice over their freedom from heavy burdens, and in that feeling of independence that the ownership of land gives to foreigners of small or moderate means.
These settlers can truly be regarded as to the advance guard of a race movement that will eventually make of Southern Alabama, Southern Mississippi and a portion of Western Florida an American Italy. The coming of Italians to Alabama can no longer be considered as an experiment. As has been previously stated, the settlement in Baldwin county was made some six or eight years ago. These people can live on less than either Americans or negroes,[16] for they have been accustomed to the strictest economy at home. The great fault of the colored race, and to a large extend of their white employers in the South, is wastefulness. When negroes can make a living on land in the section of country under consideration, Italians will surely be able to do so. They have the utmost confidence in their ability to do so. The negro is not satisfied unless he has meat to eat every day in the year. The workers on farms and in orchards and vineyards in Italy are accustomed to live on bread, fruit and vegetables for weeks at a time. Their repasts often consist of a piece of bread and a bunch of grapes, or a piece of bread and an onion.
That this class of immigrants will greatly benefit the section to which it has been attracted, to use a Gallicism, goes without saying. They will make good citizens, for they would not seek rural life if they were the adherents of any special political propaganda. Experience has fully demonstrated the fact that all foreigners holding extreme opinions in regard to government and social order that come to this country, Russian Nihilists, German Socialists, French Anarchists, Irish Dynamiters, and Italian Red Republicans, make their homes in cities, and generally in large ones. The quiet of country life is distasteful to them. They must live in the midst of agitation and turmoil, and constantly attend gatherings where they deliver or listen to incendiary or socialistic harangues, or existence becomes almost unendurable to them. These settlers in South Alabama, on the contrary, are well satisfied with the institutions of the country to which they have come in search of homes, appreciate the safety and security that are caused by the supremacy of law and order, and look forward to prosperous and happy lives in a land where war is unknown, where the balance of power does not trouble the souls of statesmen, and where no immense armaments are maintained by imposing heavy and grievous burdens on the people. They have come to stay, and many will follow in their footsteps. The region to which they have betaken themselves has for years been a market garden for the West. It will now also become an orchard and a vineyard. We are living in an age of progress, and wonderful changes and developments are ahead of us."

The Wikipedia entry on Daphne has this information about the Italian immigrants to the area in the late 19th century:

Baldwin County saw many distinct immigrant groups moving into the area in the late 19th century, particularly from Western Europe, and Daphne was the site of the first group which arrived in 1888. Alesandro Mastro Valero purchased land in Daphne to locate a refuge for Italian immigrants looking for a more pastoral alternative to the large urban cities of the north.[4] In June, 1895, land was purchased in Daphne for a Catholic church in what is now the center of Old Daphne to be built by the early Italian colonists. Father Angelo Chiariglione, a Scalbrini missionary from Torino, Italy, was the first resident pastor (1898-1909) of the church, known as the Church of the Assumption.[9] This small-town church quickly gained the recognition of the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, who in 1898 sent a gift of rich vestments, an illuminated missal, a chalice, monstrance, candlesticks and other articles, and all are still on display in the present Christ the King Catholic Church, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1937.[10]

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Veterans Days Past in Alabama

Veterans Day has its origin in "Armistice Day" which in many countries recognizes the end of World War I. A resident of Birmingham, Raymond Weeks, led the effort in the U.S. in the early 1950's to expand Armistice Day to include veterans of all wars. President Dwight Eisenhower formally recognized the change on June 1, 1954.

Veterans Day parade in Huntsville November 1979. The location appears to be along Williams Street downtown.

Governor George Wallace and wife Cornelia at a Veterans Day parade in 1972

Veterans Day services at Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomeryin 1954

Message from Frank W. Boykin published in 1950. Boykin was a U.S. Representative from Alabama from 1935 until 1963.

Raymond Weeks [1908-1985] the "Father of Veterans Day"

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Susan Hayward, Cleburne County Property Owner

I recently ran across one of those fascinating tidbits of Alabama history worth sharing here. In Wayne Ruple's book Cleburne County [Images of America Series. Arcadia Publishing, 2010] the following information appears on page 9 in the "Introduction":

"The beauty of Cleburne County drew national attention in January 1961, when Hollywood actress and Oscar winner Susan Hayward and her husband, F. Easton Chalkley of Carrollton, Georgia, purchased property along the Tallapoosa River. The couple bought the W. J. Cole home and 600 acres of land and called their new ranch Chalmar. They remodeled the house originally built in 1912 by W. O. Owen, built a new air-conditioned barn, renovated a small outbuilding for a studio, and brought in 200 to 300 cows and a prized $30,000 polled Hereford bull."

Well, let's investigate. 

Hayward's Hollywood career began in the 1930's and lasted until the early 1970's. In the 1950's she was one of the industry's top stars. Nominated five times for a Best Actress Academy Award, she finally won in 1958 for her performance as Barbara Graham, an habitual criminal facing execution. The role exemplified many of the characters she played: strong, feisty women. She continued those roles late in her career as well. Helen Lawson in 1967's Valley of the Dolls is a fading star trying to hang on to the glory. Hayward's performance is almost as spooky as Gloria Swanson's in Sunset Boulevard. Fittingly, Doug McClelland's 1973 biography is entitled Susan Hayward, The Divine Bitch.

She's always been a favorite actress of mine from the Golden Age of Hollywood, so I was pleased to find an Alabama connection. But it's a puzzling one. Her Wikipedia entry includes more information on that connection:

"In 1957, Hayward married Floyd Eaton Chalkley, commonly known as Eaton Chalkley. He was a Georgia rancher and businessman who had formerly worked as a federal agent. Though he was an unusual husband for a Hollywood movie star, the marriage was a happy one. She lived with him on a farm near Carrollton, Georgia. The couple also owned property across the state line in Cleburne County, just outside Heflin, Alabama.[7] She became a popular figure in an area that in the 1950s was off the beaten path for most celebrities. ...Chalkley died on January 9, 1966. Hayward went into mourning and did little acting for several years, and took up residence in Florida, because she preferred not to live in her Georgia home without her husband."

Chalkley was her second husband. As noted in Ruple's Cleburne County book, the couple also bought the property near Heflin and developed it extensively. I've been unable to determine if they ever actually lived there or what has happened to the property in subsequent years. Anyone with information is invited to share in the comments.

I did find this photo on Alabama Mosaic, taken in December 1995 and identified as the Owen residence in Heflin. I wonder if it's the 1912 home built by W.C. Owen and remodeled by the Chalkleys that Ruple mentions in his book.

Hayward died of a brain tumor in March 1975 and was buried next to her second husband in Carrollton, Georgia. The Associated Press story below describes the funeral. The feisty lady from Brooklyn, who auditioned for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, had a long, strange trip to her final resting place in a small Georgia town.

In June 1969 Hayward came to Auburn University to watch her son Gregory Baker graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Source: Auburn University Digital Library

Studio publicity photo of Hayward in the early 1940's

Source: Wikipedia

Hayward holds the Best Actress Academy Award she won for the 1958 film I Want to Live

Source: Wikipedia

Associated Press story about Hayward's funeral which appeared in the Tuscaloosa News 17 March 1975

Source: Find-A-Grave