Underneath the Huntsville courthouse, yawning caverns

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 5, 2017

“From the year 1830 to 1840, though embracing a period of great financial distress, yet was included a period of great improvement in [Huntsville, AL] and vicinity.

Madison County, AL courthouse at Huntsville. No date on photo.

Madison County, AL courthouse at Huntsville. No date on photo.

“The old brick court-house on the public square had become dilapidated and insecure, and after discussing ways and means for several years the commissioners finally let out the contract for the building of a new one.

“George Steele, a fine mechanic and a scientific architect, planned the building and drew up its specifications. George Steele had come here from Virginia young and poor, but by his energy and mechanical skill contributed largely to the development of architectural taste among our people and soon made a wide reputation and acquired wealth. He married a daughter of Col. Matthew Weaver and raised a large family, among whom were the accomplished wife of the lamented General E. D. Tracy, Matthew W. Steele the well-known architect, and Col. Jno. F. Steele, a celebrated civil engineer.

“But one of the men who constructed the court-house from corner-stone to minaret still lives in our midst, one of the last survivors of the celebrated mechanics of that era, whose finished and skillful workmanship gave both elegance and stability to our public and private edifices.

“Our fellow citizens William Wilson and Tames Mitchell were awarded the entire contract, and broke ground for the new building in the month of July, 1836, and the first court held in the new court-house in the fall of 1838.

“The excellent blue limestone of the foundation was quarried on Russell Hill. The white limestone of the steps into the hall and of the upper stonework was quarried on the spurs of Monte Sano, and the paving material from Round Top.

“Messers. Wilson and Mitchell’s contract included grading the site of the new court-house and removing the old one, and the workmen, in grading the square and digging the foundation, excavated a considerable quantity of loose flat rocks, which they used in covering fissures in the rocks of unknown depths across which the foundation walls were carried.

Inside the old Three Caves Quarry at Monte Sano Mountain Preserve, which is today administered by the Huntsville Land Trust.

Inside the old Three Caves Quarry at Monte Sano Mountain Preserve, which is today administered by the Huntsville Land Trust. The white limestone of the steps into the courthouse hall, and of the building’s upper stonework, was quarried here.

“To look upon the level green sward of the public square and the substantial basement of the court-house would make it difficult to realize that underneath are yawning caverns reaching down to the hidden waters of Huntsville Spring, with arches cleft by fissures extending up to the foundation walls of the court-house.

“Yet so sure and solid was the foundation laid that there was not on its completion nor has there since ever been any perceptible change or difference in level, except a slight depression of its north-east corner.

“The bricks for the court-house were made by Messrs. Wilson and Mitchell on the lots now occupied by George M. Neely and Fred. A. Howe, which were afterwards graded to the street level and sold for building lots.

“The court-house cost about fifty-two thousand dollars, and when finished it was considered one of the finest edifices of the kind in the Southern States. Messers Wilson and Mitchell quarried the stone in the mountains, made the brick, superintended hauling and transportation of all the material, and also directed and managed the inside work and plastering, and when they delivered the keys of the completed building to the county authorities they left to future generations a lasting testimony of their skill and fidelity as master builders.”

—-Excerpt from Later History Of Madison County,
by Thomas Jones Taylor, The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 02, No. 04, Winter Issue 1940. Online at http://bit.ly/iI8Y5Q

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Notice the trim, white washed poultry house

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 4, 2017

Stewart A. Cody worked as the Jackson County, WV County Agent in the early 1900s. The West Virginia Historical Photograph Collection possesses 36 images which were pulled from a photo album of his dated 1912.

As County Agent, Cody spent a great deal of time with the local chicken farmers, and the captions of these 36 photos, taken as a whole, provide a detailed insight into the practices of that time.

The greatest interest in poultry, Cody tells us, is shown by the farmers living in the ‘runs’ and ‘forks.’ On a typical ‘ridge’ farm, the farm land is rougher and the farms are further apart. More incentive to raise poultry than crops.

Cody undoubtedly knew all the players countywide: from Mr. O. M. Stone in Cottageville, “the largest as well as the most profitable poultry farm in Jackson County,” on down to Mr. W. L. Ball, who built his poultry house out of logs.

The Stone’s residence was built from the proceeds of the farm’s egg sales. The two girls, Cody noted, “add $100 to the family purse by washing and grading the eggs.” Mr. Stone’s laying house number 2 held 300 hens, and was ten feet wide and 100 feet long, a bit wider and far longer than the average area laying house. It cost $125 to build.

poultry farming Jackson County WV early 1900sO. M. Stone Feeding his Chickens

We learn that local farmers commonly used three types of poultry houses adapted to the county. The first, a ‘Tolman house,’ was a simple shed roof house with either a paper or tin roof and open front, with a packed dirt floor covered with sand. One caption gives the length and width as 7′ x 30′; another is 10′ x 31′. Mr. J. R. Backer’s shed roof house had a tin roof, and three openings in the front 2’10” x 7’4″. The use of galvanized roofing on poultry houses as well as other farm buildings was general throughout the county. It seemed to have the preference over paper roofing with the majority of farmers.

Cody felt C.D. Rice’s two-storied poultry house was “worthy of being used as a model by others in Jackson County desiring this type of house.” The birds are fed on the first floor in the winter. The nests are also on this floor while the perches are on the second floor. Very often Cody found nests on the outside of the houses, “undoubtedly the preference of the hens.”

The third type was a T-shaped house, whose roosting room intersected a scratching room. Cody describes a scratching room that is 14’6″ x 8′, and observes nest boxes, home-made hoppers, and sliding windows in it. Joining this at the middle of the side is a roosting shed 12′ x 40′. Mr. T. H. Snider’s T-shaped house held 100-150 pure-bred Barred Rocks.

Reading across the various captions gives us a sense of the average density of birds in Jackson County poultry houses: Mr. W.A. McMurray housed 35 fowls in a 10’x 12’ house, Mr. W.R Glovers housed 27 in an 8’x13’ shed, and Mr. C.D. Rice housed 150 in his 12’x 24’ space.

Cody must’ve come across an awful lot of tumble down chicken coops, for he notes in one caption “This farm [in Jackson Run] stands out from its neighbors because of its neatness. Notice the trim, white washed poultry house.” Frank McPherson’s small brooder house also stood out in Cody’s descriptions: it had a universal hover, a type of colony brooder “considerable above the average.”

And what about earnings from poultry farming? Mr. W. H. Melhorn and Mrs. Hartley each marketed a case of eggs during the spring months. C.D. Rice’s total income for 1913 was $259.25; T. H. Snider’s 1912 sales amounted to $104.87. Almost as an aside, Cody observes that farmers did not consider the value of the poultry manure as a marketable fertilizer. “This is a general condition in certain parts of the county,” he said.

We learn that farmers who lived within one or two miles of the country store would take their poultry to market pulled in a small wagon by hand, if they didn’t own a horse, or get one of the children to carry a pail of eggs in, often “hauled several miles in the hot sun over rough country roads.”

Abe Price was a major county merchant to whom the farmers brought their products. His store in Cottageville handled from ten to forty cases of eggs a week, in addition to several coops of chicken. The town of Evans was another central dropoff point for farmers.

Wholesale buyers such as H.E. Beegle, of Ravenswood, would purchase cases at Evans, then haul the still uninspected eggs by wagon 7 miles to the railroad. From there the cases were shipped 10 miles to the Ravenswood storage facility. Once candled, the eggs would be loaded to a refrigerated train car for shipment to Pittsburgh.

source: West Virginia Historical Photographs Collection/West Virginia University Libraries

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He poured out his soul in melting exhortations to a devoted people

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 3, 2017

Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church, originally located eight miles north of Jonesborough, has been accepted by historians as the first organized church body in Tennessee territory. Tidence Lane moved from North Carolina in 1776 to the Watauga Settlement, where he established and pastored the first congregation.

The first church was constructed of logs with a clapboard roof. A single window provided the light for the pastor to read his text and “line off” his hymns. There was a large fireplace, one window placed high in the end of the building out of the range of Indian gunfire, and a heavy wooden door. The seats were of split logs and had no backs.

In 1785, Jonathan Mulkey succeeded Lane as pastor.

By 1786 there were seven Baptist churches organized in upper East Tennessee; Kendrick’s Creek (Double Springs); Bent Creek (Whitesburg); Beaver Creek (Sullivan County); Greasy Cove (near Erwin); Cherokee Creek; North Fork of the Holston (Abingdon, Va.); and Lower French Broad (Dandridge).

Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church baptism 1931Congregation from Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church baptizing members at Gray Station, Tennessee, 1931.

Pastor Mulkey was instrumental in forming the first Baptist Association in Tennessee, the Holston Baptist Association, in October of that year, and remained active in it till the end of his life.

By 1817 Buffalo Ridge had a membership of 300, but for many reasons, membership declined over the next several years. Around 1815 some preachers began preaching a “Reformation.”

Jonathan Mulkey served Buffalo Ridge for forty-one years until his death in 1826. When the weight of his years laid heavy upon him, and his health had faded, the congregation placed a chair near the pulpit for him to sit down and “pour out his soul in melting exhortations to a devoted people who would listen to his every word.”

The church suddenly found itself without a pastor; furthermore the change in doctrine caused a division in the church and a loss of many members. Membership declined to 23 in 1828. Better times returned to the church with the selection of Rees Bayless as pastor. Membership increased over 300 percent during his pastorate.

Photo OurBaptistHeritage.org

Photo OurBaptistHeritage.org


By 1848 a new building was needed and a committee was appointed. Church minutes record that “Reverend Martin Kitzmiller preached the first sermon that ever was preached in the New Brick Church, March 22, 1851.” The debt on the new brick church was settled in July 1858.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Buffalo Ridge slowly lost membership due to population shifts and the isolated location of the church. By 1915 the church had only 77 members and closed due to a lack of support. For nearly ten years, the only time the church doors were opened was for an occasional funeral service.

The church was revived by Missionary S.W. Tindell in the early 1920’s. On October 1, 1922, the membership decided to relocate at Gray’s Station (now Gray, TN), about one mile from the original site. The first services in the new location were held in the upper room of Maden & Saunders Store. After a time, the congregation moved to the “upper room of the canning factory”, then to the high school building. For a while, meetings were even held under a tent. In 1927 the new church building was completed.

On top of Buffalo Ridge in the Buffalo Ridge Cemetery is a marker telling all who visit there that they are standing on very historical and memorable ground. This marker is inscribed: “Here stood Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church 1778 First Baptist Church in Tenn. Pastors Tidence Land, organizer 1778-1785, Johnathan Mulkey 1785-1826. Baptist Historical Society & E. Tenn. W.M.U. Golden Jubilee memorial 1938.”

sources: The Overmountain Men, by Pat Alderman, The Overmountain Press, 1986


History of Washington County Tennessee, Watauga Association of Genealogists – Upper East Tennessee, Walsworth Press, 1988.
The Baptists of Tennessee, Volume One, by A.B. Tindell et al., Kingsport: Southern Publishers Inc., 1930.

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Hauling the last shipment of Confederate gold

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 2, 2017

“A few miles from Seneca, S. C. on the Blue Ridge Railroad there was a station called Perryville; now only a few rocks remain on the south side of the track to mark the spot. There was a bar-room, where doubtless many regaled themselves. One man who lived nearby would light his pipe with a one dollar bill. Let us hope he never regretted what had gone up in smoke.

“A family who lived across the road were fine businessmen, and their sons established the Tate Marble works of Elberton, Georgia. They were very successful in their enterprise and one of them built a large home of pink marble which was a show place in that vicinity.

“A few miles down the Railroad, established many years ago, and recently enlarged, is Shiloh cut where Mr. Calhoun Clemson, only son of Thomas G. Clemson [founder of Clemson University] and his wife, Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson, was killed on the Railroad. He was said to be an unusually handsome man with a promising future.

“The Blue Ridge was called the Old Blunder Buss in those days and the people seemed not to realize the importance and the great future of the railroads [ed.—SC statesman John C. Calhoun did! He was a member of the original surveying team.]

“The Blue Ridge was the bearer of the last shipment of Confederate gold, and the seal of state was said to have been thrown into the Savannah River.

“At Pendleton, during the War Between the States, the people eagerly gathered around the station when the train came to hear the news read, especially the Casualty List in which all were vitally interested.

“The tunnel, only a few miles from Walhalla, was begun in 1851 or ’52 and is about one and one-third miles long. It was cut through Stump House Mountain and was intended as a link in the Blue Ridge Railway from Knoxville, Tenn., to Charleston, S.C., for the purpose of transporting the coal of the Tennessee mountains to the sea.

the Stump House Mountain tunnel “While the work was in progress [the town, also named “The Tunnel,” had a population of] about 2,000 at this point. When the tunnel was about two-thirds finished, the war came on and the work was never finished. Two or more men lost their lives during its construction.”


Mary Cherry Doyle
“Historic Oconee County, South Carolina” (1935)
Clemson, SC


Blue+Ridge+Railroad Oconee+County+SC Thomas+Clemson Confederate+gold Stump+House+Mountain appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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Miss America 1924 drives a Dagmar

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 1, 2017

Long before the well-endowed Hollywood starlet of the 1950’s, there was a Dagmar car, built from 1922-1926 in Hagerstown, MD by the M. P. Möller Motor Car Company. This luxury sedan was named for the one of Dr. Mathias P. Möller’s daughters. The make’s emblem was a pipe organ. The Danish industrialist by that point in his business career had made his first fortune manufacturing the instrument.  His organ company, in business from 1875 till 1992, was the world’s largest builder of pipe organs for over three-quarters of a century.

Only a few hundred Dagmars were built over the course of six years at prices upwards of $6,000.00. By comparison, the autos produced by Ford and Chevrolet during the same era sold for approximately $500.00. Dagmar models included the Petite, which soon became known as the “Baby Dagmar.” One of the most unusual features was its all-brass trim, instead of the more usual nickel.

Ruth Malcomson, Miss America 1924In 1924, Möller presented a Dagmar to Ruth Malcomson, of Philadelphia, who won the Miss America title that year. Curvaceous fenders appeared on the Dagmar for the first time in the 1925 line—coincidence? Even so, Dagmar sales skidded after that high point; the last car Dagmar ever built was for Mr. Möller himself. It was an enormous 7-passenger limo that was shipped back to his native Denmark for his personal use.

With the 1923 purchase of a 250,000 square foot Hagerstown building originally built for the Crawford Bicycle Company in 1891, Möller entered the field of producing taxicabs and shifted the focus away from luxury cars. Over the course of the ensuing years, more than a dozen models of taxis and trucks were built. The taxi make was dependent on the design and specification of the large taxi companies that sub-contracted the manufacturing to Möller. The best known of his taxicab lines was the Luxor; others included the Blue Light, Super Paramount, Astor, Five-Boro and Twentieth Century.

These names were either chosen for the operating company, as with Five Boro, or simply because the promoters thought a stylish new name would increase sales. Möller vehicles became commonplace on the streets of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and numerous other cities. Growth of the car works reached a peak in 1927 with 125 taxis rolling out of the Hagerstown facility each week.

1927 Möller Five Boros Taxi CabThe only goods vehicle made by the Möller company was the Elysee panel delivery (produced from 1929-1932).  They were made in four models, the Band Box, Fifth Avenue, Courier and the Mercury. These were stylish vehicles intended for the delivery of high-class goods to wealthy homes.

During the early 20th century the Möller name in the auto industry truly commanded respect as being builders of upper end motor cars both private and public. Taxicabs and trucks remained the thrust of the firm until the death of Dr. Möller in 1937 at which point the company was closed.

Sources: www.coachbuilt.com/bui/w/woonsocket/woonsocket.htm

M.+P.+Möller+Motor+Car+Company luxury+cars the+Dagmar Mathias+P.+Möller Hagerstown+MD Ruth+Malcomson appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

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