Monday, February 29, 2016

Midfield, Alabama

When people think about Birmingham and its many surrounding suburbs, they normally think of Hoover, Mountain Brook, Bessemer or even Fairfield but rarely do they think of Midfield.  Like its name, Midfield is snuggled in the middle between Fairfield and Bessemer.  According to the 2013 census, Midfield boasted a population of 5,284.

Midfield, in comparison to its sister suburbs, is a baby having been incorporated as recently as 1953.

Early settlers were attracted to the Midfield area because of its natural springs, one of which, Hawkins Spring, can still be seen in the Midfield Municipal Park.  The spring was named for the earliest settler in the area, arriving prior to 1830.  His name was Williamson Hawkins.  His son, Davis built a house beside the spring.

Portrait of Williamson and Betsy Hawkins of unknown date
Williamson Hawkins was related to David Crockett and when his first son was born, he named the child David Crockett Hawkins.  When David Hawkins married Mary Finley in 1831, his father gave the young couple land which surrounded the Big Blue Spring (now Midfield).  David selected a high site near the spring upon which to build his home.  He selected "the Carolina plan", which were two or more rooms connected by a long hallway or dogtrot.  The house was built of cedar logs and soon became a center of gracious hospitality for weary travelers who stopped at the spring to drink.

Photo of Hawkins Spring at some point in the early 1900's
Photo of Hawkins Spring located in the Brookwood City Park taken in 2013

The Civil War was devastating to the Hawkins family.  David and his wife, Mary, died a short time after the war.  With the coming of the industrial era in Jefferson County, Williamson eventually sold his property to Samuel Thomas of Pennsylvania, one of the founders of Republic Steel and Iron Company, which still stands today.  The land around the great spring was eventually developed.

The Bessemer Super Highway very narrowly missed the Old Hawkins Cemetery that is located at the corner of Woodward Road and the Bessemer Super Highway.  It came so close that many of the headstones had to be moved.  The cemetery is now known as the Walnut Grove Cemetery.

The land around the spring was sold after the civil war to the Hawkins Spring Land Company, and the spring became a popular recreational area for people from Birmingham and Bessemer, who traveled there on two separate streetcar lines.  

The Midfield community actually started in the late 1920s by Alandale Land Company, with paved streets and sidewalks.  Lots went up for sale but only three houses were actually completed.  They tried to develop the land, laying out streets and subdividing lots, dubbing the town Midfield.  Unfortunately this project began in 1929, right as the Great Depression hit and development was halted until 1941, when the Belcher Building Corporation purchased 700 acres and constructed and sold 450 houses.

World War II once again put a halt to the development.  After the war, Belcher again spearheaded a housing boom in the town.  In 1952 Midfield became part of the Jefferson County School System, which constructed an elementary school there in 1952.  After overtures from the city of Fairfield to annex Midfield, city leaders decided to pursue incorporation, which they achieved in 1953.  The city has since left the Jefferson County school system and established its own system.  Midfield grew by annexing the McDonald's and Wilkes communities in 1961 and the Rutledge Heights and Fairfield Highlands communities in 1967.

The first Midfield City budget was approximately $15,000.  By 1958 there were 40 businesses in Midfield.   It was during this time that a new sport was born.  A group of citizens purchased land and built a new kind of racetrack, which they named the "Dixie Speedway".  Many of the young rookies got their start at this speedway who would later become stars of the sport.  Thousands of spectators came to the speedway to see the races and many of the exisitng NASCAR rules and regulations were establsihed and refined there.  

Among the first businesses in Midfield was the W.V.O.K. Radio, which went on air with 50,000 watts in 1947.  For 25 years, they hosted local music events and remained a Midfield staple until they moved to Oxford, AL.

Whereas initially the Chamber of Commerce listed 40 businesses in Midfield in 1958, in November, 2010 the Midfield Area Chamber of Commerce decided to invite all business owners and managers in Midfield to an open house.  They did a business survey and mailing labels were created for 181 Midfield businesses.

While Midfield may not be a common name to many people in the Metro area, I'm sure the residents of this small suburb are happy to have escaped the often notorious reputations of some of its neighboring suburbs.  

According to, there have been 12 murders between 2001 and 2013 in comparison to 43 in neighboring Fairfield and 57 in Bessemer.  The crime index number for Midfield is 549.8 with Fairfield sitting at 1006.9 and Bessemer at 1068.8.

Whatever they're doing in Midfield, it appears to be working rather well.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pinson Alabama

Pinson, Alabama is a small out of the way community that even the locals in the area don't seem to know much about.  As of 2010 census, the total population was 7,163.  Pinson wasn't even officially a town until they incorporated on March 30, 2004.  

Downtown Pinson ca. 1911

When I decided to research the town, I was pretty amazed at the wealth of history this town has. 

For instance, did you know:

1. Pinson is one of the oldest settled areas in Alabama;
2. It was settled before Alabama was even a state;
3. It once was settled by ancient Native Americans (Creek, Muskogee)
4. Pinson is home to one of the oldest known (ca. 900 CE) cave dwellings & burial sites in the entire United States;

These are just a few of the interesting historical facts about the Pinson area.  How did Pinson come to be?

It would be impossible to tell the story of Pinson without telling the stories of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve and the the Greene Cemetery.  These two landmarks are so intertwined with the history of Pinson that to omit them would be omitting the majority of Pinson's history.

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is located just off Highway 70 past Pinson's Main Street.  This 466 acre Preserve offers free admission, hiking, fishing, swimming, an annual fishing tournament, marathon, boating event, it hosts the State's butterbean festival among many other great events and recreational activities.  They also offer hands-on educational events for local schools, boy scouts or anyone else wanting to know more about nature and/or history.

The rich history of Turkey Creek dates back to documented prehistoric Native American inhabitants.  During the early days of the Alabama statehood, the preserve played a key role in the birth of industry in this area by the works of early entrepreneur and industrialist, David Hamby.  The Hamby family ran a grist mill and a small iron forge on the banks of the Turkey Creek.  David Hamby's forge made horseshoes for the Confederacy until he was killed by a Union Soldier on April 19, 1865. 

Turkey Creek is home to 3 endangered species of fish.  

The Vermilion Darter  (occurs only in Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world.)

the Watercress Darter

 and the Rush Darter.

Turkey Creek is also home to a threatened bat species (long eared bat), 

an endangered bat species (Grey Bat), 

an endangered turtle (Flattened Musk Turtle) 

and an endangered flower (Eared Coneflower).  

This makes  a total of 7 protected species that can be found at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, making it one of the most critical habitats for rare species in the entire country.

Woodland Period Cave

Turkey Creek Falls Swimming hole is one of the most popular swimming holes in the state.

Greene Cemetery 
(aka Greene's Station Cemetery, Greene Family Cemetery, Greene-Massey Cemetery or Smith's Chapel Cemetery)

Greene Cemetery reads like a Who's Who of the early pioneers of Jefferson County Alabama.  It's located on Kent road next to Kent Corporation near the main campus of Jefferson State Community College on Highway 79.  It's adjacent to, but not affiliated with, the Smith's Chapel Methodist Church on the Old Huntsville Rd.  This area began to be settled in 1817 and many of the early pioneers and slaves are buried in this cemetery.

The cemetery began as a family cemetery for the Greene family who owned a considerable amount of land holdings in the area.  The oldest known burial is 1829.  However, 2 of the oldest residents are that of Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt (a veteran of the American Revolutionary War) who died in 1846 and George Nash who died in 1852.  George Nash was the father of Zachariah Hagood's first wife, Nancy Nash.

Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt's son (Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt, Jr.) was a Captain in the Confederacy, graduated from Cumberland School of Law (when it was in Lebanon, TN), served in the State House of Representatives, The State Senate and as a Congressman from 1875-1895).  He died on May 27, 1895.
Photo of Goldsmith Whitehouse Hewitt, Jr.

Originally the land between Tarrant and Pinson was known as Greene's Station.  Brothers George Livingston Green and Robert Hardy Green both built large plantations in the area.

Headstone of George Livingston Greene (died 6-22-1875)

The cemetery is the final resting place of Zachariah Hagood who was one of the earliest physicians in Jefferson County.  He practiced from 1840 to 1856.  Zachariah had 21 children from 3 wives.  His son Robert built a store at the crossroads next to Huntsville road in 1836 which also functioned as the first post office for that area.  Soon that area was known as Hagood's Crossroads.
Headstone of Zachariah Hagood (11-21-1792 to 2-21-1875)

However, horse traders settling there from Pinson, Tennessee soon outvoted the Hagood's and it became known as Mount Pinson which was later shortened to Pinson in 1895.

Another permanent resident of the Greene Cemetery is Thomas Haughey.  He was a physician who owned land in Pinson.  He served as a Republican Congressman in the years following the civil war.  He was assassinated in Courtland, Alabama while making a speech in 1869.

Pinson, Alabama is a scenic area with rolling hills, deeply wooded plots that go on for miles and historical treasures tucked in along the way.