Archive for the ‘Bessemer History’ Category

>Historic buildings in Bessemer

September 29, 2009

>Have you voted? The unscientific Bessemer Opinions poll has Claire Mitchell winning the district 56 primary without a runoff! Low turnout is expected, so your vote could really make a difference. Go now!

I don’t know the history of this building. I don’t know when it was built. I don’t know what it’s original purpose was.

I do know that it is one of Bessemer’s historic buildings.

But there’s no preservation going on here. Yesterday the building came down, as you can see in this picture from the rear.

This is unrelated, but just a block away, the remains of this building sit on this corner for months. Why hasn’t this been cleaned up?

Three blocks away, a burned building sat for months before the lot was cleaned off. And that didn’t happen until the city decided to build the new DHR building there. Click here to see how the DHR building will look.

This building had an advertisement painted on it. The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association is interested in it. More on this in a few days.

Bing Perrine of Billings, Montana collapsed last year because of congenital heart problems and needed open heart surgery. Can you imagine holding bake sales to fund your life saving surgery? That’s what our country has come to, and that is what the Republicans (and Max Baucus) are fighting for. The status quo.
I’m fortunate, I guess. I know how to bake.

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>A changing community

August 25, 2009

>In 1887 Bessemer was founded by Henry F. DeBardeleben. DeBardeleben is being honored today by the Kiwanis club of Birmingham as it inducts him along with three others into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame. His credits include (for Birmingham) forming the Pratt Coal and Coke Co. and the DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Co., which later merged with TCI.

As for Bessemer, the King of the Southern Iron World, as he was known, Henry DeBardeleben came here around 1887. (History – Bessemer Chamber of Commerce)

At age 30 he came to Birmingham and they soon had acquired a controlling interest in the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Eureka Mining Company. Debardeleben was the general manger of this company. It was during this time in 1886 that he proposed to buy a site consisting of 4,040 acres of land that was located about 13 miles to the southwest of Birmingham for approximately $100,000. Debardeleben’s plan was to build eight furnaces and to add two additional railroad outlets to the city within two years. He believed that the future of this city and the surrounding areas depended on the success of its iron and steel resources. This became the key part of Debardeleben’s organizational structure for the city. Debardeleben even renamed the city to reflect the resources in the area that it could offer. The original name of the city was Brooklyn; however Debardeleben decided to rename the city Bessemer in honor of Sir Henry Bessemer, the British scientist who was famous for his contribution to the steel making process.

“His descendants have made a mark in the Birmingham area….” the release about today’s award says.

For instance, I guess, his son, Charles DeBardeleben? According to Diane McWhorter, in Carry Me Home, Charles DeBardeleben identified himself as “one of the greatest believers of White Supremacy” and proclaimed his contempt for an organization (labor union) that let whites “mingle and associate with Negroes.” It gets worse.

But this is not about Charles. It’s about the positive changes that Henry brought to our area.

Another positive step toward change is the announcement from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama that the Jefferson County McCalla Industrial Park is being designated as an “AdvantageSite,” the first such site in Jefferson County.

This site is next to the proposed intermodal facility to be built by Norfolk Southern. Being designated an AdvantageSite helps to “take away much of the guess work for a company looking to locate or expand in the state. Industrial sites earn the designation after an extensive process that verifies all types of information, from the ownership to environmental studies and zoning and other essentials.”

In other words, it helps in recruiting development. This should help to bring the type of development that Norfolk Southern is predicting alongside their hub.

By the way, if you were unable to attend their information meeting last week, McCallaCan.com
has the answers you are looking for. This site provides most of the information that was presented at the Bessemer Civic Center. (Without being under the watchful eye of the Bessemer Police whose presence offended so many of the McCalla residents).

There are other changes coming to Bessemer. There is someone thinking outside the box, with a vision that can help our urban neighborhoods get out of the rut we are in. More about this later.

>Bessemer in 1965

February 4, 2009

>Be sure to read my column from this week’s Western Tribune, following this post, for my take on the current Alabama legislative session.

Doing research for a historic novel uncovers all kinds of interesting stuff. Since my novel takes place in 1965, I have some memories of my own. But old newspapers tell a lot also. Sometimes they reveal more by what they don’t report than by what they do.

In 1965 Bessemer had two newspapers, much like today. The Bessemer Advertiser and the Bessemer News. You know, in today’s Bessemer, there are some who do not like to see the truth printed in Newspapers. Any criticism of local officials is considered to be in bad taste.

I think I know where this attitude comes from.

In 1965 Viola Liuzzo was murdered on a highway between Selma and Montgomery while transporting marchers (a scene which is recounted in my book). It was quickly learned that the 4 men who did this were members of the Bessemer Klavern of the KKK. This was announced on nationwide TV by President Johnson. I have spoken with a man who as a child in 1965 was sitting with the son of one of those KKK members when the announcement came on TV. That is a whole different story, but it does tell me that there is no doubt of a Bessemer connection.

Was there any reporting of the murder or the arrest of Bessemer KKK members in those papers? No. Now, you may say they were just local papers, but the story became local when the perps were named. Also, the papers, especially the Bessemer Advertiser, did report every week for a while on what Senators John Sparkman and Lister Hill were saying about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (they, and the paper, repeatedly called it “the so-called voting rights bill). And the Advertiser printed articles against the actions in Selma and the “outsiders” in our state.

So maybe those papers or their publishers tried to hide what was really happening in our community and state from their readers, or maybe they were afraid of the Bessemer Klan so they avoided the subject. At any rate, the truth was not printed.

The Bessemer News did report in February 1965 that Negroes in Bessemer were suing the federal government, petitioning it to cut off funds to the city since we had not desegregated in the 9 years since the 1954 decision ordering it. “The city of Bessemer is said to be the most segregated city in the world, including Johannesburg, South Africa,” the paper reported.

They danced around that issue, and later that year, Bessemer Schools were (barely) integrated (against the opinion of the paper).

They did find the space to report on issue of great importance, the Beatles Atlanta concert that year. The Bessemer News reported that Mary Charles Essman, Carolyn Virciglio, Patsy Schilleci, Alecia Hull, Sue Williamson, Norma Jean Williamson and Judy Lint all attended the Beatles concert. I would have gone, that’s for sure.

I didn’t do quite as good last week when I saw the BeatLads in Birmingham. I took this video with my cell phone, so the quality is not great (and its loud) but here are the BeatLads.

One last tidbit, surely to interest those of you who are crying “socialist” in regards to the president. According to the 1965 Bessemer News, in 1903 the “Southern Socialist” was printed right here in Bessemer. Now before you get all excited, the group was not about joining the commies (the Russian Revolution had not even happened by then), but was a labor movement hoping to gain better wages for workers.

The things we learn by studying history.