We will take another walk down “history lane.” York, Day’s Gap,
Oakman – take your choice for a name for one of the older towns
of the county. The present site of Oakman is in close proximity
to some of the earliest settlements in the county. Thomas Davis
was born on Cane Creek, near Oakman, in 1826. Tinson Shepherd
settled on a nearby farm in 1827. John Key settled on Lost
Creek, northwest of Oakman, in 1824. At Providence Church, a
few miles east, Hugh Lollar settled before 1820, and Reason
Courington before 1832.
John Washington Gurganus settled near Oakman about 1830.
William Jones was living on Cane Creek, two miles south of
Oakman, in 1838, and the Morris family was on Lost Creek before
1839. Elijah Blanton was born on Wolf creek, near Oakman, in
1846, and in the same year Isaac Brown was born on Lost Creek.
In the early 1840’s, William Swindle, Samuel H. Simpson, William
Cobb, and Samuel Tubbs settled on nearby farms. Robert Palmer
settled on Wolf Creek in 1859. Mortimer Corry was also an early
As early as 1833, a report of a Methodist Quarterly Conference
held at the home of John Key, on Lost Creek, lists John Gurganus
as an exhorter and David Blanton as a class leader. In the
HISTORY OF METHODISM by West, Blanton’s and Tubb’s were listed
as preaching places in Walker County in 1842.
A post office was established near the present site of Oakman
before 1860, and called York Post Office. It is assumed that it
was on the old Jasper-Tuscaloosa Highway. A recruiting station
was set up at York during the Civil War to enlist soldiers for
In 1862, William Byrd Day came in and settled at a gap in the
mountainous ridges that surround the town. Shortly afterward,
the community became known as Day’s Gap.
The community did not grow very much until 1884. The big event
which contributed to its growth was the building of the Georgia
Pacific Railroad (later Southern). It began in Columbus,
Mississippi, and established a terminal at Day’s Gap. This was
the first railroad built in the county. Goods had previously
been hauled by wagon or ox teams for long distances, usually
from Tuscaloosa or Warrior in Jefferson County. Day’s Gap became
a distribution center for the entire county. A stage line was
operated to Birmingham via Jasper and South Lowell.
In addition, the work of building spur tracks into Coal Valley
and Mountain Valley was speeded up by the railroads, and in a
short time, coalmines were operating at both these points. The
Coal Valley mine was started by T.J. Dunn and Company for the
development of their coal properties. This was one of the first
operations. Although a short distance from the Day’s Gap
community, it caused a boom and by 1885, the population grew to
J.E. Cook formerly of Columbus, MS, had purchased a large tract
of mineral land and began to develop it. He started a new town
on the opposite side of the gap and called it Marietta. This
new town could not compete with the steady inflow of merchants
and businesses into Day’s Gap. Among these at this early time
were: Wiley W. Hutto, James S. Watts, J. J. Phifer, and James
I. Odom. These were prominent residents. Other business and
professional men were: Dr. W.C. Rosamond, J.H. Cranford, and
Dr. J.W. Gravlee.
Lee Williams and Mr. Bean were the Gap’s blacksmiths. Joe bush
was the town marshal. James Corry, affectionately known as the
“Duke of Day’s Gap, ”was offering building lots free to any
religious denomination that would erect a church.
The completion of the Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham
Railroad (now Frisco) through Jasper, slowed Day’s Gap’s growth,
but it held its own and improved when Georgia Pacific completed
the line from Day’s Gap to Birmingham.
Note: Today, Oakman is a very progressive town. Two strong
schools and supportive parents keep residents coming in. The
development of “Old York” by the Corry Family has given the town
a tourist attraction that keeps drawing outsider to the town.