PARRISH, ALABAMA IN WALKER CO. -
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
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.
thanks for the historical material in the 1978-1976 OUR
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
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
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