AMES Bag Company, Selma, Alabama : A Brief History (1912-1977)

“The Ames Bag Company, one of the important cogs in the economic wheels of Selma and Dallas County…”

An abbreviated history of the Selma Manufacturing Company and Ames Bag Company in Selma, Alabama from 1912-1977.

The Ames family and their manufacturing business has a long and interesting history in Dallas County and beyond. If there is anything you would like to add or contribute, please leave a comment along with the name you’d like me to credit and I will be happy to make an inclusion.

— ”In Our Hearts”, June 2022.

Source: Clipped from “The Selma Times Journal”, Selma, Alabama. 23 Jan 1959, Fri  •  Page 7.


California: Ames family patriarch Josiah Parker Ames (1828-1903) was a notable politician and businessman. Josiah Ames began textile manufacturing in 1883 when he partnered with E. Detrick & Company to manufacture burlap bags, cotton, twine and rope from a factory in San Francisco. In 1884 a branch was established in Portland. The firm changed names as ownership was transferred and by 1906 was known as Ames-Harris-Neville Company.

In 1861, Josiah Parker Ames married Elizabeth Freeman at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in San Francisco. Together they had 5 children; including J.F. Ames, who would become the founder of Selma Manufacturing Co. and Ames Bags in Selma.

John Freeman “J.F. Ames (1868-1941)

John Freeman “J.F. Ames (1868-1941) was born in Half Moon Bay, San Mateo, California “of rugged pioneer stock, among early conquerors of the west” (Selma Times Journal, Jan 13, 1941). J.F. Ames learned business and administration from his father, Josiah Ames.

In January 1890, J.F. Ames married Evelyn Hinkle at the home of her father, Dr. John Mortimer Hinkle, in Oakland, California.

In 1904, J.F. Ames broke away from the family business to establish independent ventures in cotton milling, manufacturing and packaging. J.F.’s first factory was opened in Ithaca, New York. Then, in 1905 J.F. opened a factory in Cleveland called the Ames Bag Mill and Machine Company. In all- J.F. Ames established 3 bagging factories in San Francisco,3 in Portland,1 in Ithaca,and 4 in Cleveland.

Following the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, J.F. Ames and family relocated to Cleveland, where a new base of operations for the business was established.

In 1909, J.F. Ames came to Selma with his family, residing at 2011 Church Street in Selma. The home was well known for its beautifully tended garden, the work and creativity of Mrs. Evelyn Ames. The Ames family also owned a home in Cleveland and would frequently travel there for business or social visits.

J.F. Ames headed Ames Bag and Selma Manufacturing until his death in 1941. J.F. Ames died of heart complications following a three week illness that resulted in surgery. He was buried at New Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. J.F. Ames was known for his active involvement in civic organizations and generosity in contributing to local and humanitarian causes.

Mortimer Parker Ames (1891-1938)

Mortimer Parker Ames is the only child of J.F. and Evelyn Ames. He was born on May 12, 1891, in Oakland, California.Mortimer Ames spent his youth in Portland, Oregon, where the family lived while J.F. Ames worked as a branch manager for Ames-Harris-Neville Company.

Mortimer attended the Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina for 3 years then completed his education with a degree in applied science from Case Academy in Cleveland. Mortimer Ames was placed in charge of the Cleveland Manufacturing plant and was also placed in charge of sales at the Selma Manufacturing plant.

On December 29, 1920, Mortimer Ames married Evalyn Brewer, also of Cleveland. Together they had 3 children. Mortimer purchased an old farmhouse in Perry County where the family resided. Mortimer restored the farm house and planted an orchard, cultivated streams for fishing and planted seasonal gardens (he was well known for being a conservationist).

Mortimer Ames was respected for civic leadership in Selma. He was nationally recognized by the Red Cross for his work in the Dallas County Chapter. The notice of his death says about Mortimer Ames,” His genuine love of his fellow man and his widely varied interests kept him in close touch with such movements as the Boy Scouts, the YMCA,the Red Cross and the Welfare Board of Dallas County of which he was a Board chairman at the time of his death. To each he gave lavishly of his time and means.” (Selma Times Journal, July 24 1938). Mortimer died July 20, 1938 in a St. Louis hospital, following an operation. He is buried in the New Live Oak Cemetery in Selma.

After the death of J.F. Ames and son Mortimer Parker Ames, Ames Bag continued to operate as a family business  until it was sold to Conpack South in 1977.

Mortimer Parker Ames (1891-1938). Source: Clipped From “The Selma Times Journal”, Selma, Alabama. 21 Jul 1938, Thu  • Page 1

Ames Bag and Manufacturing

March 18, 1912 – J.F. Ames and associates in Cleveland organized the Selma Manufacturing Company, buying the old Helen Mill on Jeff Davis and the Southern Railroad Tracks in Selma. The Selma-Times Journal reports (p.1),”When the mill was built here many years ago and was first known as the Matthews cotton mill and later the Cawthon cotton mill (1897) and more recently the Helen cotton mill has in past years manufactured a kind of duck cloth, under the new ownership it will be turned into a bag factory…” While in operation, Selma Manufacturing Co. was one of Selma’s largest industries.

Note: Joe Early Matthews was a Dallas County pioneer who owned an extensive plantation in Cahaba.He built the first cotton mill in Alabama at Cahaba in 1850. When the mill burned, Joe built a new mill in Selma in its place, establishing the first important industry in the area. He died in Selma on May 11, 1874.

1915– J.F. Ames opened a factory located at 1903 Selma Avenue. Ames specialized in making cotton and burlap bags. Orders were shipped across the U.S. and as far as Hawaii and Venezuela. Additionally, a million bags were manufactured to aid the War effort in Europe.The bags were filled with sand and used for breastwork fortifications.

April 1922 -The Selma Manufacturing factory closed for several months, putting 500 people out of work, after one of the machine’s engines suffered a broken piston rod. As a result, an explosion occurred and the cylinder head on the engine was blown out and went flying several feet in the air. No one was hurt, although Walter Donovan, master mechanic, narrowly missed being struck by the projectile by just a few inches. The projectile weighed about 300 pounds. The old engine would be dismantled and a new one installed. The cost of the damage was estimated at more than $10,000. Along with repairing the engine, repairs were slated on other machinery and additional repairs planned for Ames Mill Village.

Nov 1922 – Following the explosion, renovation was underway in the Selma Manufacturing factory with a completion date at the beginning of the new year.

Extensive remodel was planned for the historic structure. Selma Manufacturing was located on the site of Selma’s first cotton mill, built in 1850 by Joe Early Matthews (Matthews Cotton Mill Company). The original buildings of the 1850 mill were incorporated into the newer buildings of the Selma Manufacturing Company. The facilities were modernized and became one of the first plants in Selma to transition from steam power to full electricity.

The mill would employ between 200-300 people and boosted Selma’s local economy. J.F. Ames received some help financing the renovation because at that time new industries in Selma were exempt from all city and county tax for a period of 5 years.

July 1923 – J.F.Ames sold the Selma Manufacturing cotton mill to the Miller interests. It was renamed the Alabama Cotton Mill.

J.F.  Ames retained the name Selma Manufacturing after the sale and continued to use I for other properties he owned. He also retained a small bagging factory adjacent to the cotton mill. The reason for the sale is that J.F. Ames was in the midst of plans to build an even bigger bagging mill..

November 1923 – J.F. and Mortimer Ames open a second factory in Selma on a building near Alabama Avenue and the Southern Railroad Tracks. This building was known as the Ames Bagging Factory. The factory could produce 40,000-50,000 bags a day; specializing in salt and sugar sacks. Ames Bags primary handled orders for the Southern region, including producing bags for sugar refineries, while the Cleveland factories handled orders for the Northern region.

By 1925 Selma Manufacturing/Ames Bags produced over 3,000,000 bags at its factory located at it’s new location at 1903 Selma Avenue. (The former mill was the smaller building located adjacent to Alabama Cotton and was sold). The new mill was one of the best equipped in the country and housed in a wood and brick factory. It employed 135 people.

August 1929– J.F. Ames purchased the Kraft cheese plant located at Selma and Range Streets. New machinery was installed in the factory and bagging production greatly increased.

In September 1934, mill workers nationwide lead a strike and an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 workers in both the Northern and Southern states walked off their jobs. The strike became known as the Great Uprising of ‘34. The mill workers fought for higher pay, better working conditions and shorter work days. Black workers complained about racial discrimination and unfair treatment in mills. A majority or strikers were farmers not accustom to factory work and expecting better conditions than what they left, they were bitterly disappointed by life in the mills. The strike spread from the South to New England and the Mid-Atlantic states and became one of the biggest industrial strikes in U. S. history.

The Selma Manufacturing mill was not affected by the strike because local workers agreed to continue with their jobs.

However, operations in a mill owned by the Ames family in Birmingham did close down during the strike.After being out of work, 350 workers petitioned to return to their jobs but were met by an angry mob when they attempted to do so.

The strike lasted for 22 days. The outcome of the strike was unsuccessful in  initiating reform. Nor did the mill owners or the government recognize the existence of unions. Anti-union sentiment increased and spread across the South. Local governments refused to support or offer financial assistance to mill workers.Those who went on strike were out of their jobs and not rehired by mills. Mill workers were evicted from company housing. It was a difficult time. However, the strike did help pave the way for future reorganization of unions,who continued to fight for better treatment of mill workers, including stronger laws to protect workers wanting to join unions.

1952– Ames Bag diversified to include packaging and manufacturing containers in its operations. Ames produces a variety of products including bags, plastic containers, toys and dispensable travel products, to name a few.

1954– Ames Bag contracted with Morton Salt Company to fill 400,000 miniature salt shakers to be used on dining cars, restaurants,and air planes. Because the operation is entirely new, machinery had to be developed. Much of the new and automated equipment used for the packing of the salt shakers was created in-house at the shops located inside the Ames Bag Company. Ames has been a supplier of Morton Salt since 1906. The relationship Ames had with Morton began by manufacturing cotton bags used for packaging salt and sugar.

March 1957– Tissier Hardware Company purchased the mill buildings known as the Ames Building from Mortimer P Ames Jr, grandson of J.F. Ames.The buildings were located on the Southern Railroad Tracks at Jeff Davis Avenue and covered 85,000 feet of floor space. The tallest building reached 3 stories.

1961- Ames Bag left Selma permanently and moved to Marion, Perry County, Alabama. This happened when Ames was forced to vacate its location on 1903 Selma Avenue after the property was sold. Ames fought hard, for 5 months, to remain in Selma, working with city officials and local businesses/civic organizations to relocate their factory within city limits. A plan was developed for Ames to issue public bonds in order to raise the money needed to build a new factory. The plan came to an abrupt halt when city officials determined that municipal regulations would not allow the sale of the bonds; and thus financing fell through.

After plans in Selma failed, Ames Bag moved into a 200 acre facility on the eastern edge of Marion, Perry County, Alabama. The facility was the first to be fully air conditioned.

1969– An expansion of a two-story administration building and additional production facilities to house the plastics division was completed. The Selma Times Journal reported, in 1969, that “Ames Bag and Packing Corporation is the only known company in this country and the entire world to offer a complete packaging operation from the label to the container to the filling and packaging to the final distribution.”

The Selma Times Journal additionally reported, in 1971, about Ames “Continuous operations through war, peace, recession, boom and other situations, have been going on since 1904.”

1977– Ames Bag was purchased by Conpack South; a package and container manufacturer.

Steam Powered Weaving Shed. Retrieved: Wikimedia Commons.
Source: “Plate from More Pictures of British History, London, 1914, p.61. Publisher: London. Adam and Charles Black. 1914″.
Author: E.L. Hoskyn. Public Domain.

Ames Cotton Mill Village

Mill/textile owners often built villages or company towns to attract workers to their factories. Ames Mill Village was adjacent to Ames Bag factory and consisted of 51 homes for mill workers. The homes faced Range Street, Legrand Street, Leroy Street, Griffin Avenue and Small Avenue. In 1918, the Mill Village housed 800 white people, 10% of the white population of Selma. In the village, mill owners established rules and controlled the running of the homes, schools, commissary, and even medical facilities.

Ames Mill Village Included:

A doctor’s office and pharmacy (in 1918 the resident physician was Dr. J.T. Ray). There was also a hospital (in 1918 charged by a specially trained nurse, Mrs. Register) and a dental office (in 1918 Dr. A.J. Fuller).

A nursery to care for children while the women worked. (1918 – charged by Lillian O’Cain).

A boarding house for women (the mill hired women 16+ years) with rooms arranged in a row, porcelain tubs for bathing and use of both hot/cold water that poured from an automatic pump. (1918- charged by Nellie O’Cain).

A picture show house where movies were shown twice a week. The picture show house could seat 700 people. (1918 – Rev. Norton Williams was in charge of the picture show and censored the movies).

A gymnasium opened in 1920 with a court to place basketball and space for community gatherings. Ames Mill formed its own basketball team to play against other local teams.

A plant for sterilizing milk containers and vessels, which contributed to improving sanitation in the Village.

In May 1922, Ames Mill Village became a ghost town after a mill explosion which closed down the mill and displaced 500 workers. Cotton mill workers left Selma and sought employment in other nearby mill centers. Many would return upon the mill’s re-opening.

In 1957, the Ames family listed the Mill Village property for sale.

Retrieved: “Jute Shopping Bags India FreePhoto”, Author: srikirthika. Public Domain Image.


“Josiah Parker Ames: Miramar Beach could have been named after him” by June Morrall. December 11, 2008:

“New South Era” by Ron Dixon, University of Alabama. Retrieved Encyclopedia of Alabama:

“Southern Labor Archives: Work n’ Progress – Lessons and Stories: Part III: The Southern Textile Industry”. Georgia State University Library:

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), April 14, 1918. Page 3. “New Route of Street Ry Co Is Opened Up. Representative Citizens Given First Ride Over New Line And Visit to the Mill.”

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), April 30, 1922. Page 5. “Blow Out StopsSelm Mfg. Plant”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), November 12, 1922. Page 50. “Cotton Crops Over a Billion.”

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), November 12, 1922. Page 50. “New Selma Industries Exempt From All Tax For Five Year Period.”

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), November 25, 1923. Page 6. “Ames Bagging Factory Has Erected a Plant Which Reflects Credit on City” by O.S. Wynn.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), July 24, 1938. Pages 1-2. “Ames Funeral Services Held Here Saturday”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), July 21, 1938. Pages 1,9. “Rites for Ames Here Saturday”.

The Montgomery Advisor (Montogmery, Alabama), January 13, 1941. Page 3. “J.F. Ames Dies At Selma At 72”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), February 14, 1954. Page 11. “Miniature Containers Filled With Salt Newest Product Of Ames Plant Here”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), January 23, 1959. Page 7. “Ames Bag Firm Plays Important Role in City Economy”by Jamie Wallace.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), May 25, 1961. Page 8. “Bond Sales Here For Ames Totals $34,500 Quickly”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), July 16, 1961. Page 1, 14. “Loss of Quarters Forces Move of Ames Concern.”

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), January 5, 1969. Page 19. “Ames Expansion is Announced”.

The Selma Times Journal (Selma, Alabama), December 15, 1971. Page 8. “To Celebrate 68th Anniversary Ames Holds Open House.” (at Marion facility)

June 24, 2022 at 6:02 am 1 comment

Cute Kid Story: The Cat is My Mom!

“In Our Hearts” is meant to be not only a record of our family history and genealogy but also a way to preserve our memories, and what makes our family special. If you would like to share something to the blog or add a story (or something else?) of your own, please leave a comment with your e-mail. Your info will be kept confidential. I will reply with details on how you can contribute to the blog.

Blessings ❤

Sharing a funny story from my family…

Cute Kid Story:

So today my Lil Guy did not want to finish his breakfast. In fact, he wanted to splash his spoon in the bowl and watch cereal swim across the puddles that belly flopped onto the table. So I told him to sit in quiet time, for a few minutes, until he was ready to eat. He was not very happy with me.

Next thing I know, Lil Guy is running out of QT… I follow him to the living room where he has his arm around the cat and is whispering in her ear.
Me: “What are you talking to the cat about?”
LG: “You are not my mom anymore. The cat is my mom now!”
Me: “The cat can’t drive. Who is going to drive you when you want to go some place?”
LG: “MY dad (he works on cars) will get me some parts and I will build a special car for the cat to drive.”

So I agreed…the cat can be your mom today!

Lil Guy was not too impressed when Cat Mom made “dinner” and served him a bowl of beef liver soft cat food.

Lil Guy did not like that Cat Mom makes him nap all day just like she does.

And he certainly did not want to change Cat Mom’s litter box!

So after some careful thought.. my Lil Guy tells me “I want you to be my Mom again.

I’m sorry. I love you Mom.”

Awww.. my heart melted! I have since learned that play is actually the best approach to get my child to eat, and if I make food interesting or fun he will eat. We now enjoy International Cooking once a week and try food from around the world. We also learn about the country on the menu’s respective culture, and enjoy music, games or activities from that country. The cat sneaks up to the table, and has to sample too!

~ In Our Hearts, 2015

July 28, 2020 at 2:50 am Leave a comment

Study Reveals: Brutal Treatment of Enslaved People Shapes DNA of Descendants

“Genetic Journey”, original art, by In Our Hearts

“Scientists from the consumer genetics company 23andMe have published the largest DNA study to date of people with African ancestry in the Americas….More than one and a half centuries after the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended, a new study shows how the brutal treatment of enslaved people has shaped the DNA of their descendants.” – Christine Kenneally

Has anyone taken an at home DNA Test to learn more about your ethnicity or family? What surprised you? What did you learn? Post in comments. 

I took a DNA test, and it has been an emotional, amazing journey as I learn more about my family, and retrace the footsteps of Ancestors. One of the things that really touched me is discovering that the paternal side of my family, is mostly Nigerian (and neighboring countries) in ethnicity. It was so humbling to discover where my Ancestors originated, to have a name for my homeland, to belong somewhere. I have since developed a love for Nollywood movies, and really enjoy the spirited comments on the videos posted. I am also learning how to cook Nigerian recipes, some of which are similar to soul food.

A distant cousin (DNA match) living in Jamaica contacted me after I took the DNA test, and told me a little about family in Africa, and wondered if I knew the name of our shared ancestor. I hope one day to discover this person, am still researching… I am so grateful for every connect to family, and enjoy meeting new cousins. Thank you, and sending love from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has left comments or connected through this blog or elsewhere…you are a precious part of my journey, my family, and my life. I thank God for all of you, and keep you in prayers.

I read an article about a recent study that may explain some of the findings in my own DNA test about Nigeria, and cousin in Jamaica.  The study revealed that Black DNA participants from the U.S. had a high percentage of ancestry from Nigeria. “After consulting another historian, the researchers learned that enslaved people were sent from Nigeria to the British Caribbean, and then were further traded into the United States, which could explain the genetic findings, he said.”

As exciting as these discoveries are, the ancestry tests also can be a source of pain, and deep emotion that words cannot adequately describe. Because I know that despite the results of the test, that Nigeria is a foreign place to me. I do not speak the language. I am not familiar with it’s customs or cities. There is no one there that I can call family. And the reason for that loss is that my ancestor(s) was once a free person who was kidnapped and forced into slavery. My ancestor(s) left their homeland in chains, travelled in the stinking belly of a slave ship to eventually be deported to the U.S. While my ancestor(s) survived, millions others died. That is a grief that does not escape you.

Findings from a recent study validate that the experience of slavery has affected the DNA of descendants, “The forced displacement of more than 12.5 million men, women, and children from Africa to the Americas between 1515 and 1865 has had significant social, cultural, health, and genetic impacts across the Americas.”  Like these scientists, I use the DNA tests along with historical research and family stories in an effort to learn more about my family. The DNA test is the only way I can trace the lost footsteps of my Ancestors.

Scientists from the at home DNA testing company, 23andMe, published the largest study to date about people of African ancestry in the Americas.  More than 50,000 participants gave informed consent to be included in the study, which included 30,000 people of African ancestry. The participants had grandparents who were born in one of the geographic regions of trans-Atlantic slavery.

The study gives information on the countries where people were kidnapped from in Africa, the route they travelled on the trans-Atlantic slave trade and where they were enslaved across the Americas (including U.S., Caribbean, the Guianas and Latin America). The outcomes or what happened to enslaved people can also be traced, to some degree. Since very few records on enslaved people exist, DNA tests are crucial to help piece together the story.

Results of the DNA tests combined with historical records and research shows that enslaved people were subjected to horrific degradation as well as physical, mental and sexual abuse.


-Reduced numbers of certain genetic populations showing up in parts of the Americas where slavery existed suggests that enslaved people were forced to work under “life-threatening conditions” and died as a result. A majority of those who died were men, who did not live long enough to bear children (which also means their culture would die out because there were no survivors to pass down knowledge and traditions).

-Widespread sexual abuse and exploitation of enslaved women was a common practice. A high rate of genetic presence of European DNA shows that many women conceived children as a result of rape. “What’s more, in the United States, European men contributed three times more to the modern-day gene pool of people of African descent than European women did. In the British Caribbean, they contributed 25 times more…”

“The asymmetry in the experience of enslaved men and women — and indeed, many groups of men and women in centuries past — is well understood. Enslaved men often died before they had a chance to have children. Enslaved women were often raped and forced to have children.”

-High rates of suicide among Igbo people from the Bight of Biafra (Nigeria) are also suggested in the study, again due to the low presence of Igbo genetics among study participants. Historical records say that suicide was used as a form of resistance, that the Igbo would rather die than be held as slaves in the new world.

-Historical records show a high rate of enslaved people who were deported from Senegambia to the Americas. Yet, the genetic studies show a very little genetic material passed down to descendants. The study theorizes that since so many children were taken from Senegambia that they likely died during the slave passage due to illness, starvation, unsanitary conditions or abuse, and this is why their offspring did not survive and why there are not many descendants. Dangerous plantation conditions, and malaria, may have also contributed to why very few people from Senegambia survived.

The devastation caused upon Black lives, families and communities by slavery and generations of oppression cannot be underestimated. The trauma has been passed down from one generation to the next, our tears are literally the diluted blood of our Ancestors. This study has shown the horrific consequences of slavery but it has also shown that within our blood, within our DNA is is the same strength, the resilience that enabled our ancestors to survive despite the odds against them. That is why I have hope that in this generation, we can heal and rebuild our lives, our families, our communities. I am also motivated by this study to preserve the memory of our Ancestors, so that they will never be forgotten.

❤ In Our Hearts

The study can be read here: Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas

Source (Quotes taken from): Large DNA Study Traces Violent History of American Slavery by Christine Kenneally

Retrieved: July 25, 2020

July 26, 2020 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

1872 Fire Destroys B.J. Fort II Home

Fire Destroys Fort Family Home

Marion Junction, Dallas County, Alabama (Saturday, September 28, 1872) – The large and handsome residence of prominent planter Burwell Jackson “B.J.” Fort II  burned to the ground after a fire started in the kitchen and spread rapidly through the structure. The Fort family barely escaped, fleeing the furious flames in middle of the night. Mr. Fort is credited with saving the life of his children. The night clothes they wore that night would be the only belongings they could save from the fire.

Mr. Fort lost everything in his house as a result of the fire – all of the furniture, his family’s clothing and personal belongings were reduced to smoldering ashes. The loss is about $7,500, on which there was insurance for $2,500 in the Central City Insurance Company. From the ruins, B.J. Fort would not only rebuild his house but create a historic treasure in Dallas County, a welcoming site for decades for family and community gatherings. 


Source: The Times-Argus: Selma, Alabama. October 4, 1872. Page 3 (Retrieved:, 6/10/2020).

Source: Selma Dollar Times, Selma, Alabama. October 8, 1872. Page 1. (Retrieved:, 6/10/2020)

Early Fort Family Origins in Marion Junction, Alabama

Burwell Jackson Fort Sr is the father of Burwell Jackson “Jay” Fort II, and his namesake.

Burwell Jackson Fort Sr. married Nancy Northington (1800-1822) and had the following children: William E. Fort (1819-1844) and Eliza Ann Fort (1820-1858).

After the death of Nancy, Burwell Fort Sr married Charlotte E Harrell (1804-1870). From their union, the following children were born: Lewis A. Fort (1825-1901), Noah Suggs Fort (1829-1910), Frances Fort (1831-1879), Elias William Fort (1833-1898) and Gabriel Holmes Fort (1835-1911). Burwell Jackson Fort Sr. died in Marion Junction, Alabama in 1836 and is said to be buried on the family land.

B.J. Fort II was a well known farmer who became one of the largest stock raisers in Dallas county. He was a master Mason; the Fort family has a long and established history in Masonic Fraternity. He was also an elder in the local Presbyterian Church.

In 1846, B.J. Fort II married Talitha Averyt.

The 1870 census for Dallas County, Alabama lists “Jackson Fort” as residing in Harrell’s with wife Talitha (Averyt) Fort and children: Louis P. Fort (1851-1896), Charles Fort (1854-1912), Emma Fort Deihl (1856-1906), Anna Eliza Fort Riddick Harrell (1856-1906), Burwell Fort III (1858-1878), Thomas Fort (1862-1911), Frank Fort (1864-1917) and Elias Roach Fort (1866-1871).  This is the home that later burned.  Louise Alice Fort Bell (1849-1926) was also born to the couple.

Talitha died in 1876. In 1877, B.J. Fort II married Virginia F. Tabb.

B.J. Fort II died on June 26, 1897, and is buried in the Fort family plot in Marion Junction Community Cemetery. Marion Junction Community Cemetery is in the middle of 1 plot of the Fort’s land. Find A Grave: Burwell Jackson “Jay” Fort, Jr 

The Fort Home is Rebuilt and Renewed

Many here remember the Fort family. Believe the Earnest Randall home is the old Fort home...” (“Presbyterian News”. The Selma Times-Journal. Selma, Alabama. June 3, 1979.) 

The estate files of B.J. Fort describe him owning property in Marion Junction that is both improved and unimproved. Including “a large residence house on one part, a smaller residence on another part, and on another part there is a dwelling and restaurant combined…and the remainder being unimproved except as two double negro cabins...” (Probate Court of Dallas County, Alabama. April 18, 1913). After the death of B.J. Fort II, his personal property, homestead and lots of land were parceled and sold off individually and the proceeds divided among the heirs.

Records state the “spacious country home where B.J. Fort II and his family lived  has been modernized and restored to its original grandeur and is now the home of his great-grandson, Earnest Franklin Randall.” (“A family called Fort: the descendents of Elias Fort of Virginia” by Homer T. Fort, Drucilla Stovall Jones, p. 591). The ante-bellum home is also noted as being “one of the prettiest in the Junction“. The home was part of Morning View Stock Farm, which was registered as an Alabama heritage farm in 1977. Earnest Franklin Randall died in 1979 and is buried in Marion Junction Community Cemetery alongside his ancestors.

Historical newspapers note the Fort Randall home was once the site for many social gatherings including an afternoon tea, a birthday party, an “ideal Southern barbeque”, a family reunion and an engagement party and wedding. In 1922, the home hosted a Christmast party for the “Do As You Please Club”, an organization of prominent West Dallas women, who meet to “have a good time and do as they please” during scheduled social events. The Fort Randall home was decorated with holiday finery. Guest were given gifts that hung from a brightly lit Christmas tree. Rook was played and at the conclusion of the game, guests were served a salad course with coffee and fruit cake. Reading descriptions of these lavish events, you cannot help but to also be entertained!

In April of 1979, the Fort Randall home was once again making the local papers; this time after being designated as a Heritage Farm, meaning it has been in the same family for over 100 years. I hope this beautiful home, and valuable site of Dallas County history, will continued to be enjoyed for another 100 years more.

Map of Marion Junction and rel estate owned by B.J. Fort, 1913. Source: Alabama Wills and Probate, Burwell Jackson Fort, 1913.

June 11, 2020 at 6:44 am Leave a comment

Jordan and Jane Martin Family – Dallas County, Alabama

In loving memory of Jordan and Jane “Judge” MARTIN family of Dallas County, Alabama. 

If you are a descendant of any of these families, please leave a message to say “hello” or let me know if you’d like to contribute to this post. ❤



Jordan Martin (b. 1833), farmer.

Spouse: Jane “Judge” Martin (b. 1846)


William “Big Willie” Martin. (b. May 1869 – Nov 13, 1928).

married March 30, 1895 at Callen Place.

Spouse: Della Callen

Children: Jennie b. July 1895, Ada M. b Sept. 1896, Louesa b. July 1897, Rosey, John b. 1900.

Sarah Jane Martin (b. April 1871-?)

m. Simon Robbins (b. 1874)

One child: Mary Ella Martin (b. July 15,1897-1986).

*** Needs further research **

Jim Green b. 1871 m. Sarah J. Green b. 1876.

Daughter Lettie Green b. 1908.

Listed on census as residing with nephew Lettie/Levie Martin Jr. b. 1907 and Nephew Lum Martin b. 1906.

James/Jim Martin (b. 1873-before 1904)

married March 7, 1897 on the Callen Place (Rangeline Road, Dallas County)

Spouse: Lucy Callen (b. 1888)

Children: Frank Martin (b. May 1896- Dec 20, 1935)

Herbert Martin (b. August 1898-1964)

Jordan Martin b. 1899

Note: Lucy Callen Martin marries second husband Solomon “Sol” Green on Jan 15, 1904.

Agnes Martin (b. 1875-?).

Luke (b. 1885). May have died in 1951.

*** Needs Further Research ***

Wife Mulyana (?) b. 1893

Dau. Julia b. 1913

Son: Laman b. 1914

Bama Martin (April 15, 1887-April 24, 1971).

Married July 16, 1911, Selma Courthouse.

Spouse: Will Dock

Children: Beatrice Dock Harris (b. 1915)

West/Wes Martin (b. 1893 –May 8, 1923)


Spouse: Alberta McIwain (August 12, 1889-march 17, 1991)

Children: Deli Martin, Rosa Martin, Adabelle Martin, Malachi Martin, Fred Martin Sr., Rosa Martin, Aldolphus Martin, Clarence Martin and CD “Dugga” Martin.

Julia Martin (1895- Jan 1977)

married Oct 6, 1917, Selma Courthouse.

Spouse: William/Will Phillips (Feb 15, 1894- Sept. 10, 1952)

Children: Sarah Phillips 1906.

Lettie Martin (b. 1900 –Sept 17, 1946).


Spouse: Richman “Rich” Austin. Resided in Brent (Bibb Co, AL).

Children: Richman A. Austin (b.1922), Ethel M. Austin (b. 1926), Dewitt Austin (b. 1929) and Fannie B. Austin (b. 1930).



1850 Slave Schedule Henry Martin:

Bama M. Dock Martin Death Certificate (Dallas County, Ala):

Frank Martin 1918 Draft Card (Dallas County, Ala):

Herbert Martin WWI Draft Registration Card:

Lettie Austin Martin Headstone (Bibb County, Ala):

Luke Martin 1918 Draft Card (Dallas County, Ala.):

Luke and Melyena Martin 1920 Census:

Sarah J. and Jim Green:

West Martin WWI Draft Card:

Wes Martin Death Certificate (Dallas County, Ala):

June 11, 2020 at 1:20 am Leave a comment

James “Jim” Fort – “He Was Honest & Enjoyed the Respect of All Who Knew Him”

James “Jim” Fort was born around 1855 on the Fort Plantation in Marion Junction or Harrell’s Crossroads in Dallas County, Alabama to Julia Fort (an enslaved woman) and an unknown caucasian father.  In 1889, Jim Fort married Darnella Curtis. Together, they had 5 children.  He died in March 1922 at his home, located 5 miles northwest of Selma, near the R.H. Jones plantation. Jim’s obituary says about him, “He was honest and enjoyed the respect of all who knew him“.

A descendant of Jim and Darnella Fort has contacted this blog, and been a help in sharing family stories and contributing to the family tree, to her I will be forever grateful.

A big motivation for creating In Our Hearts, and sharing information and stories, is to record a history that would be lost otherwise, and to give voice to our ancestors and record the important events of their life, from their perspective.

If you would like to contribute to In Our Hearts, or include add any additional thoughts on this article, please leave your name in the comments below and I will respond. Any identifying info will be kept confidential (and not published).


“What One Colored Farmer Did By Working His Farm”

Editor Journal:

As an encouraging illustration of what has been done in this county, even this poor crop year, and what can be done every year, permit me to submit the following facts. James Fort, one of our most humble, respectable and well-behaved colored citizens, resides in Frog Level beat, on the old Summerfield and Cahaba road, about five miles northwest of Selma. He is well known to many of our citizens.

Sixteen years ago he purchased 105 acres of land, about the poorest in the county, at $7.50 per acre, and has paid for it. He has resided on it now for about fourteen years. Jim has forty-five acres in pasture, under fence, in which he grazes eight cows, and four hogs that give him more than enough, milk butter and meat for home consumption. Sixty acres of his farm are In cultivation, thirty acres of which he rents out at $2.00 per acre. He cultivates, with himself and one hand, the other thirty acres.

On his thirty acres farm, this year, he made 470 bushels of corn, 45 bushels of unknown peas; 100 bushels of sweet potatos; 250 gallons of ribbon cane syrup, the yield from one-half of an acre, and saved enough seed cane to plant this much another year; and nine bales of cotton which now stand under cover at his home, thus showing produced from thirty , following facts. acres worth approximately $1,175. His young turkeys this year were destroyed by the variments. He has 75 hens from which he sold eggs for $42. 

Jim has no merchant, gets no advances, makes no mortgages, and owes no debts. His motto is; Work and let the merchants do the rest. He land, about the poorest has used no fertilizers on his crops, at $7.50 per acre, and so far, simply works them,and leaves it. He has resided on natures to do the rest.

Every small farmer in the county can do as well, or better. And what a prosperous country we would have! How independent we would be of Wall Street and the rest of the world! And yet people tell us that we cannot raise corn here, that we must raise cotton alone!

Hoping these facts may prove to be a lesson of encouragement and a commendable example to some, at least, of the small farmers of this section, The facts are submitted forpublication.

Very respectfully yours,




The Selma Times-Journal
Selma, Alabama
27 Dec 1908, Sun • Page 1

Retrieved: December 26, 2019.

James “Jim” Fort Obituary






The Selma Times-Journal
Selma, Alabama
12 Mar 1922, Sun  •  Page 5
Retrieved: December 26, 2019

December 26, 2019 at 7:23 pm 1 comment

Cropper Killed By Fort After Attempting to Leave Plantation (1899)

Wilson Coleman, a husband and father, is murdered in cold blood by John B. Fort, a landowner who was angry because Coleman sought to leave his farm and work on another. Coleman was unarmed, and totally defenseless, when Fort fired a bullet into his abdomen. Fort was told to leave Coleman alone prior to the assault but refused to do so, he fled only after firing the shots that took Coleman’s life.

John B Fort was never held accountable for the murder. He pursued public office, and even campaigned for sherriff of Dallas County but withdrew the from the race before the primary was held. Fort died in January 1911 in Safford. He was noted in the obituary posted in the newspaper to be a quote “honest and upright citizen”.

According to the 1880 Census for Liberty Hill, Wilson Coleman was born in 1845 in Georgia. He worked as a farm laborer all of his life. His wife was named Eliza Ann (b. 1848, Virginia) and children were Violet and Betsy.  Sadly, Eliza Ann passed in March 1880 from pneumonia. Both girls grew to adulthood, married and had children, and continued to reside in Dallas County for the rest of their lives.

Wilson Coleman, and his family, never saw justice during their lifetimes. I can only hope in sharing this story to preserve his name. Coleman was a man murdered for seeking work, and a better opportunity, for his family. After his death, his wife certainly faced hardships, and two young girls would become orphans when she died. At the moment of Coleman’s death, he faced his killer, and though their eyes met, his humanity was never recognized. Fort looked at him like an animal to be hunted; but when Coleman’s blood was shed, he was discarded with less care than an animal carcass. Coleman died on the steps of a grand home, never crossing the line so many African-Americans were trapped behind, never realizing the dreams he worked so hard for. Like so many croppers, his hands dug into the earth, and sweat watered the crops, yet he never received the benefit of his labor. John B. Fort should have spent the rest of his life in jail but instead was praised until the day of his death. My words will never be adequate enough but I leave them so Fort will finally be held accountable for this terrible crime.



A White Man Instantly Killed Wilson Coleman, A Negro.


Dallas county has its first killing this year. It took place on the plantation of Hon. J. Craig Smith, in Liberty Hill precinct Thursday morning. From the report received at the Times office yesterday, the following facts have been learned: Wilson Coleman, a negro, has been living on the Fort place, about three miles from Safford but decided to move over on the Waller place which belongs to Hon. J Craig Smith.

Mr. John B. Fort, a young white man who also holds the position of Justice of the Peace for Liberty Hill precinct decided to take the negro to task about moving away from him and he rode over to the Waller plantation With his rifle.

Mr. Smith asked him politely not to bother his tenants and that he was perfectly willing for Coleman to move back to the Fort place if, the negro wanted to and that he had not asked him to move on his plantation. “Let him alone”, said Mr. Smith, and, “go awav from this plantation”.

Fort promised to do ; so and Mr. Smith went to his house to do some writing accompanied bv his overseer Jacob Schuler. Hardly were they seated when a report came that Mr. Fort was outside, at the gate and Mr. Smith told Mr. Schuler to go and tell Mr. Fort to leave the negro alone. Schuler reached under the bed to get his pipe, but before got to the door he heard the report of a fired from a Winchester (unclear). Both jumped up and walking out on the porch, they saw the negro falling dead with his back on the steps leading to Craig Smith’s house. Mr, Fort had shot Coleman through the abdomen, death ensuing instantly. Only one shot was fired. From last accounts Mr. Fort made his escape and has not been apprehended yet.

CLIPPED FROM: “The Selma Times”, Selma, Alabama. 28 Jan 1899, Sat  •  Page 1. Source:
Retrieved: 11/20/2019.

Background – Sharecropping System

“The idea that sharecropping was a free and fair economic system is ridiculous. Even the idea that the 13th Amendment ended slavery in the United States is not even, in theory, correct. ..In fact, I tell them, slavery never ended in the United States. Not even for a single day. The 13th Amendment allowed us to maintain slavery but use different language to avoid the pain of acknowledging slavery. Slavery changed form, but it never ceased to exist….In fact, I tell my class, sharecropping only ended in the 1950’s.” – “Sharecropping: Slavery By Another Name” by Tyler Rust

After the Civil War, enslaved Africans were legally freed but had no place to call home, no resources or money, no claim to land, and lacked education that would be needed to rebuild their lives. At the same time, Southern planters desperately needed cheap labor to maintain their plantations, the backbone of the economy and way of life. Since African-Americans could not be considered slaves or property to anyone, an arrangement called “share cropping” was developed to exploit the labor of free African-Americans, who worked under the same conditions as what existed in slavery under the guise of being “employees”.  Poor whites and other minority groups also worked as sharecroppers.

In the sharecropping system, tenant farmers, called “croppers”, were allowed to work and live on former plantations and assigned a few acres to farm. In the years following Emancipation, US Census research shows that prior to 1910, more that 90% of freed African-Americans lived in the South. Most continued to live and work in rural areas where they, and their ancestors, were held as slaves. The life of a cropper continued much in the same way as that of a slave. Croppers kept a small share of the crops  they raised but gave the majority to landowners. Farmers were required to repay landowners for expenses such as rent for the home they lived in, the cost of seed, feed for animals and credit for items purchased at the landowner’s store. Landowners charged high interest rates to impoverished croppers, who had no other choice but to pay in crops and labor because they lacked basic necessities needed to become independant farmers. At the end of the planting season, most croppers had little or no income or crops of their own.

I remember the story of a daughter, “Josie”, born to Alabama sharecroppers. Josie, along with her siblings and father, worked in the fields; her mother worked for the landowner as a domestic. Josie shared with me that even as an adult, she resented that her mother was not fully able to care for her own children because she was needed to care for the children of the white family who treated them harshly. In tears, Josie said that the elder daughters helped to care for the home, and helped to raise their younger siblings, while their parents worked long hours. Josie loves her mother dearly, and has no hard feelings towards her. She was angry at “the way things were”. Josie didn’t dare express any hostility towards the landowner, not even years later and far removed from that life, but the pain was still felt. As a little girl, all Josie wanted was her mother, at home with her. She grieved a tremendous loss as her mother was forced to work in another home, with other children, in order to keep her own children fed and clothed. Josie grew, as an adult, to become a very loving and devoted mother of her own children as well as church mother who was held in high esteem in the community. Her home became a place for gathering, and she became a mother to many.

Most croppers could never work enough to repay landowners (and it is not just one person farming but often several generations of families, including children) so they were tied to the plantations with debts owed to the landowner. In this way, the landowner controlled the movements (freedom) of the cropper, could place demands on them and keep them tied to the plantation.

Laws favoring landowners made it difficult or even illegal for sharecroppers to sell their crops to others besides their landlord, or prevented sharecroppers from moving if they were indebted to their landlord.” PBS: Slavery By Another Name

I have heard stories of the difficulty and intimidation croppers faced when trying to leave the plantations they worked on.  Even with the passing of years, I could still hear tremors of fear and trauma invoked in many of these memories due to the cruelty in which croppers were treated. Despite the risks, a large number of African-Americans moved from rural areas into cities or left the South entirely, seeking better opportunities and a better life. The mass exodus of African-Americans living in the South to moving North became known as the Great Migration. According to US Census research, between 1910 and 1970, an estimated 6 million Blacks left the South.My own family is included among these numbers.

Public Domain Pic:

November 21, 2019 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Newspaper: The Planter, Wagon Train, and The Negro Began History of Marion Junction

A history of Marion Junction, Alabama, and some of it’s families. Also known as Fort’s, Bridges, Harell’s, and Harrell’s Crossroads.



The Planter, Wagon Train, and The Negro Began History of Marion Junction

Fifty Three Huguenot Families First Settlers


Does Tremendous Business In All Kinds Of Produce

by O.S. Wynn

When one would go back to first Origin In the history of any Black Belt settlement, three things invariably are found the ambitious planter, the wagon train and the Negro.

It is so at Marion Junction, one of the thriftiest settlements in Dallas county, and the center of a vast hay country, where older residents recall stories told them by their parents and grandparents who made the trip to Central Alabama by wagon train from the older centers of population. Often the reason for striking out for new land was the desire to secure greater acreage for cotton, and the wagon train and the negro were the instruments by which the dreams of a cotton kingdom were to be worked out.

Harrell’s Roads

The first settlers chose to build their homes at what is now Harrell’s Cross Roads, and where a stage coach station was established soon after Cahaba became the first capital of the state. Travel between Tuscaloosa and Cahaba flowed through the little settlement, and ; near this place was constructed 25 miles of plank road, on which toll gates were established every three miles, for maintenance.

Near Harrell’s was first established the Associate Reform Presbyterian Church, which was moved to Harrells proper in 1893, and afterwards to Marion Junction, when the tide of settlement set in that way.

French Huguenots 

In the early fifties three families of French Huguenot descent came out from South Carolina and settled at Marion Junction, which took its . name from the fact that it was a junction point for the town of Marion. These were the RASCOE, the RAVASEE and the BOSWELL (families) who built homes and farmed in the fertile section about the Junction. The home built by the Ravasee family was one of the most pretentious in the whole country around when it was completed in 1857 and it is today occupied by Pettus Randall, once sherriff of Dallas county.

In 1856 (?) the name of the post office at Marion Junction was changed to Bridges, as a compliment to Capt. Bridges, the widely known and popular railroad superinendent. In the early nineties the name was changed back to Marion Junction because of the confusion resulting from the separate names of the post office and the railroad station, which was never changed.

County Leaders

Early settlers who descendants are today leaders in the Marion Junction community were the FORTs, the RANDALLs and the MOOREs who developed their section by a strict attention to farming and business interests. Other names connected with the building of the town are COCHRAN, JOHNSON, GOLDSBY, HARRELL, TABBS, CRAWFORD and W.A. JONES. Many big plantations are spread out in all directions about Marion Junction which is the center for Hazen, Bellevue, Massillon, Hamburg and other communities. “Wallnutta” one of the richest plantations in the county and owned for many years by COL. SAM WILL JOHN is at Massillon. It is now the property of SOUTH TRIMBLE of Washington, once clerk of the House of Representatives, who raises fine cattle.

Thriving Community

Situated at the junction point of the Southern Railroad’s lines between Selma, Meridian, Mobile and Akron and connected with Selma by an excellent pike road, Marion Junction enjoys ample and varied means of communicating with every section of the state and far beyond. Along with heavy shipments of cotton, hay, cattle, milk and lumber which go out from the Junction to domestic markets, hardwood shipments lor foreign ports are heavy. There are 100 white families in the community; a number of mercantile establishments and grocery tores; an express office, a bank, four churches, an excellent school, and a famous hotel and eating house conducted by Mrs. W. P, McCollum.

Holds Church Record

Marion Junction holds the record as a town in which every family goes to church on Sunday. A census taken several years ago revealed the fact that there were not more than two persons within five miles of the churches who did not attend services with regularity, it is not surprising, therefore, to find each of the four denominations represented there, housed in well-kept buildings and served by active and influential pastors. The Associate Reform Presbyterian church, the oldest religious influence in that section, has 40 members and is served by the Rev. Boyce Grier of Camden. The Methodist church, with membership of 100 has as its pastor the Rev. J. F. Feagin. Recently the Rev. R. L. Alexander from Howard College. Birmingham, assumed the pastorate of the Baptist church, which fills a big place in the community. An active and devoted congregations numbering 777 carry on the work of the Southern Presbyterian church under the Rev. George R. Kirker. The women are well organized in church societies and a literary club also does splendid work.

Active Lodge

For the past 32 years the Knights of Pythias have been a strong force for good in the lives ot many in the communlty. The lodge is called the Justice H. Rathbone No. 80, and Charter members still living are John J. Chisolm and W.B. Chisolm. Bart Fort joined the lodge the year after its organization and he is still an active member. Officers are; E. F. Randall, chancellor commander; Rev. J. F. Feagin, vice chancellor commander; H.M. Morrow, prelate; A.H. Moore, master arms; J. C. Chisolm, keeper records and seals. Trustees of the lodge are Hugh Hopper, E.B. Moseley and H.P. Randall.

Fine School

The Marion Junction school was established in 1888 and is on Dallas county’s accredited list, sending out its graduates into the secondary schools well equipped to carry on their studies in higner education. H.L. Morrow is principal, and teachers are Mrs. H. L. Morrow, Miss Isabell Phillips, Mrs. Miree Fuller and Miss Edna Leatherwood. Graduates who received diplomas this year were Luella McCaslin and Harris Louis Gilmer. Enrollment for the year was 75 pupils. The trustees are W. S. Randall, James Alexander, P. L. Kirby, Warren McCaslin and A. B. Moore, who succeeded his father, the late A. A. Moore, 20 years ago, after the latter had served since the first public school was opened.

Want High School

Citizens of Marion Junction are eager to see a high school established here which would serve the western half of the county as the Plantersville high serves the northern and central section. Many boys and girls go away to preparatory schools each year , and tne need for a splendid high school building which would supply every facility for securing a high school education one which is becoming more keenly felt each year.

Fine Banking Record

The Marion Junction State Bank holds a unique place among other financial institutions of its kind, in the 11 years of its history only $16.05 have been charged off in losses. The bank does an excellent business as is attested by the 15% per cent profit made on its capital stock in 1923. Of this profit, 10% per cent was paid stockholders as dividend and the remaining 5% per cent was applied to the bank’s surplus which is given at $15,000 in the last statement made. The bank has a capital stock of $26,000 and $50,000 on deposits at the present time. This figure goes much higher in the late summer and fall.

Bank Presidents

Dr. J. M. Donald was the first president of the bank, when it was organized in 1913. Other presidents who have served since Dr. Donalds death are H. C. Armstrong, president of the City National Bank, Selma; C. L. Gilmer of Marion Junction, and P. B. Harrell of Selma and Marion Junction, now serving his third year as president. Hugh Hopper has served continuously as cashier since the bank was established. Directors are P. B. Harrell, C. L. Gilmer, H. P. Randall, W. J. Gilmer and Hugh Hopper. The bank owns its home, an attractive brick building, well equipped.

Home of Johnson Grass

Marion Junction, one of the biggest hay shipping points in the entire country claims to be the original home of the Johnson grass hay. The story of how this hay was brought to the section by William Johnson is tinged with romance. Johnson, then a young man, was visiting the home of his sweetheart in Newberry, South Carolina, When he was asked by the young lady’s father to inspect a new and peculiarly prolific grass which had been discovered in the garden. Idly Jonnson picked some of the heads of grass and placed the seed in his vest pocket. Returning to Marion Junction he planted the seed in a corner of his garden. Within a year the garden had to be abandoned to the grass, which speedily asserted its light to the soil and overran the entire farm, to that Johnson became financially embarrassed and had to move to other land.

Old Mowing Machine

In 1874, G. W. and H. C. Randall, the latter the father of Speers and Pettus Randall, prominent merchants and planters, cut and shipped the first hay from the waving fields of Johnson grass which surrounded the Junction. The mowing machine used for this purpose is now in the possession of Pettus Randall who keeps it because of the historical interest which will some day attach to it. Commercialization of the Johnson grass hay was due largely to H. C. Randall who turned commercial traveler, carrying miniature bundles ot the hay about in grips, until he had established a ready market for it. Only recently one of his earliest converts to Johnson grass hay, John C. Ramsey, died in Mobile. Ramsey was a stock dealer, and Mr. Randall made him the proposition that he would ship him a car of Johnson grass hay which was to be placed in the feed racks of Ramsey’s stable with an equal quantity of Timothy hay. If the stock refused to eat the Johnson hay, Ramsey would not hay to pay for it. The plan secured Randall a lifelong customer, for the Timothy hay was left in the rack, and the Johnson hay was eagerly seized on by the stock.

“Pop” Gears

When “Pop” Gears, the famous race horse owner, wintered his siring of horses in Selma, he was a big customer of the Randalls, and would buy several carloads of the hay a season. Big Hay Shipments Marion Junction is one of the biggest Johnson hay shipping points in the world, sending out from 800 to 1,000 cars a year, M. V. Waugh is a big shipper and a cattle raiser also. Some alfalfa is grown, but tire greater emphasis is laid on Johnson grass, although both grow to perfection here. Immense hay barns are to be seen on all sides of the Junction, with great stores,’ of the fragrant, well-cured hay.

Fine Grazing

Cattle are raised in great numbers on the splendid natural pasture lands which add to the wealth and beauty of the Marion Junction section. The hard winter just past took toll of cattle here, as in other sections but losses are being replaced and a number of head of cattle have been shipped into this section recently. The dairy industry Is growing rapidly and thousands of gallons of milk are sent in to the Selma Creamery annually.

Alfalfa King

Among the larger shippers, who use both truck and train to get their milk to Selma are: A.B. Moore, J. J,. Kirkby, Kendrick and Bondurant, R. B. Wallace of Browns, who is known as the “Alfalfa King” of Dallas county, with a herd of splendid cattle and many others. Wallace, by the way, was for seven years a missionary to Africa, and was attracted to the fertile Black Belt section near the Junction because of the seemingly limitless possibilities which the section offers to the agriculturist and cattle man. He owns 880 acres of as fine land as can be found, and is rapidly developing every inch of it.

Lumber Mills

In spite of the fact that Marion Junction is surrounded by a vast acreage of hay lands, both pine and hardwood are to be found In considerable quantity nearby, and several big lumber mills operate at the Junction. Joe D. Springer and Son have a planer mill with dry kilns and they dress and ship from 30 to 40 cars of lumber a month. The Dallas Lumber Company has a mill and there is a new mill now in course of construction, owned by M.W. Smith of Camden. Tht Pioneer Pole and Shaft Company of Memphis is a hickory mill which turns out material for shaft automobile wheels, golf sticks, skis, many of which are shipped to Norway, and other hardwood products. The mill was established a year ago and consumed 3,500 square feet of lumber a day, with a payroll of $3,000 a month. Its plant is valued at $20,000, to care for improvements and enlargement now under way, Eben Iglehart, manager, estimates that the mill has standing timber sufficient for five years cutting within a radius of 100 miles of Marion Junction. Large export shipments are made.

Turkeys Plentiful

The hay lands are a natural range fur the turkey, and large flocks are raised by many farmers. Last year over $14,000 worth of turkeys were sold and shipped to eastern markets. Several carloads of dressed turkeys were shipped and the prospects are good for similar sales this year.


Many acres are devoted to cotton in the neighborhood of Marion Junction and the forecast is made that 3,000 bales will be raised this year. Crops are clean and in better condition than last year, in spite of late spring.




Retrieved: November 19, 2019

“The Selma-Times-Journal”. Selma, Alabama.13 Jul 1924, Sun  •  Page 64

Newspapers made available courtesy of


November 20, 2019 at 5:44 am Leave a comment

Amazing Story of William B. Shields Family (Perry County, Alabama)

I was looking through some records online for Perry County, Alabama and came across this interesting record:

William B. Shields executed a deed in trust to Henry Chambers on the 28th day of August 1849. In the trust, Shields emancipated his children and all of the Mulatto children listed in this census and another named Sarah who is not listed. This deed in trust was filed in Perry County, Alabama on June 10, 1857.” 1850 Federal Census Perry County, Alabama – USGENWEB Archives


Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Alabama 1847. Digitized by Google.


In June 2013, The Victoria Advocate, Texas, wrote a story about one of the descendants and offers the rest of the story: Victoria man learns he is a descendant of slaves, looks for relatives

For most of his life, Daryl Ewers believed he was white, but two years ago, he learned he is a descendant of slaves.

“I just found out a few years ago that I am part black. I did not know this,” he said.

He learned his family’s history from discussions with family members and a 2010 book titled “Positos/Oakley Texas 1886,” by Mammie L. Ballard.

In 1848, Shields moved to Mexico with his family, where slavery was already abolished, and began negotiating with Alabama legislators. He wanted to will his plantation to his children, but the state of Alabama wouldn’t allow it.

He also wanted to free them, so the state of Alabama did a special legislation on it where they could be free – but only in three or four counties,” said Ewers. Eventually, he did manage to gain legal title for his children as “free blacks” within the United States. Shields bought 3,300 acres in Polk County, Texas.

He taught his children to marry white to avoid having their families kidnapped and sold into slavery. He also taught his children how to read and write and gave them an education. They lived in Mexico until the Civil War ended…”

You can also read more family history from descendants of the Shields family at this genealogy blogRobert’s Children: Researching the Robert Norris family of Selma and Wilcox County, Alabama

William B. SHIELDS – Our Family Genealogy Pages

The Shields plantation is recorded as being a mile outside of Woodville (now Uniontown), Perry County, Alabama. It includes an “old cemetery” for Blacks. It once had 6 slave cabins.

The census records for William B Shields in Alabama are extremely unusual.

In the 1850 Federal Census for Woodville, Perry County, Alabama, William B Shields includes the children, who are offspring of a relationship with an enslaved African woman, as included in his household.

Head: William B Shields, born 1786 North Carolina, farmer.

Hamilton Shields, born 1826 South Carolina, mulatto

Archie Shields, born 1828 South Carolina, mulatto

Benjamin Shields, born 1830, South Carolina, mulatto

William Shields Jr, born 1834 Alabama, mulatto

John Shields, born 1838 Alabama, mulatto

Martha Shields, born 1834 Alabama, mulatto

Delaware Shields, born 1836 Alabama, mulatto

Missouri Shields, born 1838 Alabama, mulatto

In another listing of the 1850 Alabama State Census, Shields is recorded as having 47 total inhabitants of his household.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • 30 African-American slaves
  • 10 free persons of color
  • 10 whites


From the 1840 Census

Name: Wm B Shields
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Perry, Alabama
Free White Persons – Males – 20 thru 29: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 30 thru 39: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 50 thru 59: 1
Slaves – Males – Under 10: 5
Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23: 7
Slaves – Females – Under 10: 9
Slaves – Females – 10 thru 23: 6
Slaves – Females – 24 thru 35: 5
Slaves – Females – 36 thru 54: 1
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 14
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 3
Total Slaves: 33
Total All Persons – Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 36

Source Citation

Year: 1840; Census Place: Perry, Alabama; Roll: 10; Page: 291; Family History Library Film: 0002334

Source Information 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Original data: Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. (NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

August 19, 2017 at 8:42 am 2 comments

It Takes These Things to Heal (Poetry, Memoir)

Public Domain Image:

This poem is inspired by my beautiful and amazing daughter who came to visit me in the hospital when I was sick… her love is all the medicine I need.

I love you, Sissy! And thank God for you every day ()-:) xoxox Mommy xoxoxo


My daughter and I lay side by side

On a narrow hospital bed,

Her brown eyes gaze into mine

As she solemnly presents:

A carefully colored get-well card,

An old picture of my Dad,

The latest news about Taylor Swift.

A picture of my Dad

Posed next to the Christmas tree…

Looking supafly in plaid bell bottoms,

Did Dad know I was the surprise in his stocking?

That next year he would be a father for the first time—

To a rebellious daughter

Who sang out of tune on purpose,

And sang in tune when no one was watching—

Who tested patience, and flunked

That daughter that grew into a young woman…

Who stood under a wishing star,

The flickering light reached a dark spot

I closed my eyes, and threw my heart into the heavens,

Just off a meandering trail

Someone else was wishing too..

And caught my rebellious heart,

Together we would begin a life,

Have a beautiful baby…

My baby girl came into the world laughing,

She was born unafraid—

Her antics kept me racing

The floorboards shook with large feet chasing after smaller

The tired sigh of exhaustion,

The sail of black hair would collapse against her narrow shoulders,

And almond shaped eyes would finally shudder

Giving way to sleep, thumb hanging from rosebud mouth

My daughter and I sing together,

When angry we crescendo,

our voices hammer to the beat

Then reunite over tearful ballads

Wondering what Taylor Swift song we are living out today.

But right now, there is only the hush of breath–

I am recovering from surgery

An IV snakes through my arm,

A small hand winds through plastic tubing

Squeezing my larger hand, lending strength..

It takes these things to heal—

A carefully colored get-well card,

A picture of my Dad

The latest news about Taylor Swift…

The love of my daughter.

In Our Hearts, © 2013.

August 18, 2017 at 2:39 am 1 comment

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