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PARRISH, ALABAMA IN WALKER CO. - HISTORY

By Ruth Teaford Baker

 Parrish has a proud old history.  It is like many other towns across Walker County that has been through many booms and busts. That is what happens to any town whose job market relies on one major commodity instead of being diversified.

 Parrish grew from an old post office known as Hewitt, which was established in 1878.  The location was on the old Baltimore Road.  There are so many names used for these places that it becomes hard for the history buff to put the pieces together.  We have recorded that the post office was two miles northeast of America, on what was known as the Rufus Jones’ place, and sometimes called Jonesboro.  The first postmaster was William Rufus Jones.  He served from 1878-1879.  Tram Jones followed him.

 The early mail was handled by Pony Express.  The route was from Jasper to Birmingham.  The driver made one round trip each week.  In 1886, William Rufus Jones came back for his second term following Tram Jones.  The post office was moved to America when the Georgia Pacific Railroad (now Southern) was built in 1888; however, the name Hewitt Post Office was used in the move.

 About 1890, the Sheffield, Birmingham, and Tennessee Railroad (later the Northern Alabama) was completed, and it intersected the Georgia Pacific Railroad.  At the point of intersection, an old boxcar was set off on crossties.  They added a telegraph instrument and hired an operator.  The first operator was named Parrish, and the telegraph station took the name of Parrish.

 As the mail was now being handled by the railroads instead of pony express, Postmaster William Rufus Jones was instructed to move the post office at Hewitt to the intersection of the railroads.  Effective on January 1, 1891, the name was changed from Hewitt to Parrish. ( See what I mean about name changes? It gets confusing putting together the history of the area).

 Railroad Fuel Company’s entering Parrish history paved the way for a boom period.  Civil engineer, Jacob DeWitt Walker, was sent to Parrish to make plans for the opening of a coalmine there.  This was to be operated by Southern Railroad to obtain fuel for their rail system.  Mr. Walker and O.L. Lockwood established the boundaries for the mine, did the topography work for the owner, Georgia Industrial Realty Company. 

 The groundbreaking was held July 1, 1917.  After nine months, the 710 feet slope was finished to the coal seam and on March 1, 1918, production began.  Mr. Richard Pill was the mine superintendent, and Mr. Herbert Todhunter was mine foreman.

 During the time the work was being completed to get the mine in operation, 125 houses were built to house the workers.    In 1920, 125 more houses were built for employees.  This brought 250 families into the new mining community.  The inflow caused over-crowding in the school and the result was the building of a sufficient building to house the children.

 Railroad Fuel was one of the largest coalmines in Alabama.  At the peak of its production, it had a work force of 500 and produced 3,000 tons of coal each day.  The company kept up with new technology as it was available and was a strong force in Walker county until diesel fuel began to replace coal and the mines closed in December, 1951.

 Parrish was a strong town in its day, but like the history of almost every coalmining town in Walker County, when the mines closed, the people moved.  There are many strong leaders who emerged from this town.  Its heritage is proud.  As the younger generations move out and finish their educations, they start yearning for home.  Many return to build homes and commute to their jobs. That keeps life in the old hometowns. A role call of families would include well-known individuals who have made a real difference in the history of their town as well as far outside its borders.

 ( My thanks for the historical material in the 1978-1976 OUR HISTORY:PARRISH, ALABAMA)

 Note:  I must say a special “thank you” to our readers from Winston County.  I received phone calls from early Friday morning until late that night and again on Saturday.  I was out Saturday and came home to the voice machine full of calls.  If I started naming names, I would leave someone out.  Natural Bridge, Arley, and Double Springs sent the highest number.  The proud heritage of these people was revealed as they answered my inquiry concerning Old Fall City.  Before the day was over, I had many sources of history for the young man who asked.  I have pad and pen at every telephone in my house and they are full.  I can’t wait to go looking for myself. Some of you promised to write down your memories and I shall look forward to reading them. You will see more on this subject soon.

Many responses to the Cranford story have created a search for more.  As soon as possible, I have an offer from a Jasper native to map the old home sites as soon as time permits. For now, I must get down to our income tax or I will be in trouble. Again, thanks to all of you.  ...Ruth Baker

 For more from Ruth Teaford Baker: visit her website