|Cotton Mill - Song written and performed by Don L Williams, former resident of Shelby County. www.donsongs.net|
Thomas Carlyle Thompson, third child born of Jesse Sampson Thompson, 1825-1872, and Henrietta Collins, 1826-1903, was born in Oak Bowery, Chambers County Alabama on June 22, 1850. However, all early census records indicate that he was born in 1851. He died in Siluria, Shelby County Alabama on October 5, 1922 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Jefferson County Alabama. He was a pioneer "master builder" in the southern textile industry.
Jesse S. Thompson and his family, one of the city's pioneer families, came to Birmingham, Jefferson County Alabama in 1871. He died July 5, 1872 and was the first interment in Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama. His oldest child, Miss Cornelia A. Thompson, 1848-1935, was prior to the time of her death on February 11, 1935 "the only surviving charter member of the First Methodist Church" in Birmingham, Alabama. His oldest son, Burges Asbury Thompson, 1850-1922, was a former "pioneer mayor" of Birmingham, Alabama serving from 1888-1890. Another son, William H. Thompson, 1866-1913, played an important role in the first incorporation of Siluria Cotton Mill Company.
T.C. Thompson married Miss Julia N. Seaman in Jefferson County Alabama on October 11, 1883. They moved to Shelby County Alabama and in the early 1900's built a beautiful two-story home that resembled a small mansion on the West Side of Alabaster, known as Blue Spring Farm. Julia Nancy (Seaman) Thompson, 1866-1940, death record indicate that she died in Shelby County Alabama on October 24, 1940. A day remembered by many, "Mrs. Thompson was cremated and her ashes were dropped from a low-flying airplane over the orchard on the farm, which was famous for its peaches." However, Oak Hill Cemetery records indicate Mrs. Julia N. Thompson's date of interment was December 18, 1940, and her "cremated remains were placed in a brick vault grave." She was the daughter of George Edward Seaman and Sarah Frances Hudgins.
In 1896 Mr. Thomas C. Thompson organized and built on the banks of Buck Creek in Siluria, Shelby County Alabama a textile manufacturing plant and named it Selma Cotton Mill. This location was once the old muster ground where the "Shelby County Volunteers" for the Indian War was organized in 1836. Soon thereafter, a village to house employees was built and the manufacture of cotton fabric was begun. At that time it was said, "They have every prospect of making the enterprise one of very great success, and its establishment marks a new era in the plan possibilities and fast-coming development of the county."
Siluria Cotton Mill Company was originally incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware on November 17, 1902. The main section of the mill was built in 1903-1904, the office was built in 1906, and the first addition to the main section of the mill building was in 1911. It was re-incorporated in the State of Alabama under the same name on February 6, 1908. On April 6, 1911 the name was changed to Buck Creek Cotton Mills, at which time certain changes were made in the issues of outstanding capital stock with an increase from $250,000 to $600,000. As reported on October 22, 1912 at the stockholder's meeting, "We have kept the mill and village in good repair and have tried to improve our organization, which we believe we have done. Our village is in good shape at the present time, clean and healthful and we also have a good church and have this winter a good school with two teachers and from 50 to 60 scholars, all of which is necessary to improve the efficiency of our help."
In the spring and summer of 1921 a four-class room "high school" building and auditorium was constructed next to the existing five-class room elementary and junior high school building in Siluria, Shelby County Alabama. In the fall of that same year school started, thus, becoming the second consolidated school in Shelby County Alabama. Owing to the generous donation of property and personal funds from Thomas Carlyle Thompson, the school was named Thompson, which was the beginning of Thompson High School.
It was the desire of Mr. and Mrs. T.C. Thompson, and later Mr. J.T. Phillips, to provide for the whole life of its employees and those that lived in the village. Located in Siluria on approximately 305 acres were the mill, stores, hotel, village, ballpark and clubhouse. In addition, there were doctor and dentist offices, churches, and a school. The village in 1936 consisted of 120 operative cottages including homes of the mill executives. The houses were of varying ages, having been built from 1904 to 1935. All houses had electric lights and water and a few had complete bathrooms while others had outhouses. Village streets at that time were not paved. Provided for their social life were (1) both Girl Scout and Boy Scout Organizations and buildings for their use, (2) a Community Park near Blue Spring, one of two natural springs that provided water for the mill and village, and (3) a two-story Community House that included a movie theater on the upper level. The Community House was destroyed by fire in 1933 and was replaced by a one-story brick Recreation Building. The Band Hall that was located next to the Community House was converted to a Movie Theater with a 316 seating capacity and was operated by Albert Grady Guy, 1905-1979. The women were taught sewing and cooking and the men had sports. There were even classes taught in ballroom dancing. So extensive were the social activities under the leadership of Mrs. T.C. Thompson that there was maintained a Brass Band of well over twenty-five instruments, a Band Hall constructed in 1924, with a full-time band conductor and members in uniform. The Shelby County Reporter, dated Thursday, March 20, 1930, indicate "The Buck Creek Band, directed by W.H. Hicks, rendered an open air concert Sunday afternoon." Buck Creek Cotton Mills, under the leadership of J.T. Phillips, was known for its Semi-Pro Baseball Team. Some of the larger families that lived in the village were Brogden, Byrd, Davenport, Langston, and McCartney.
If you have any information or can identify the newspaper and date the following article appeared, please contact Bobby Joe Seales. The caption that was below the newspaper photo of Buck Creek Baseball Team, "Pictured above is the strong Buck Creek team of Siluria which has scored 67 victories to 6 defeats in play during the current season. Led by Dee Miles, Johnny Thomas and Herman Ware, a former Beaumont hurler, this squad has perhaps the best rounded pitching corps in amateur baseball. Both of the former slabsmen have rung up 19 wins to a duo of losses. Buck Creek is to meet Jacksonville Monday in one of two Labor Day contests in the state amateur championship tournament. Standing: Sonny Birchfield, utility; Chuck Harris, second base; Hilton Tubbs, shortstop; Fern Ward, left field; Jack Husley, utility. Kneeling: Nigger Yates, catcher; Russell Lowery, first base; Tobe Moore, third base; Red Amos, pitcher; Toots Brandon, catcher; Moose Parrish, manager. Sitting: Dee Miles, pitcher; Johnny Thomas, pitcher, Herman Ware, pitcher; Buddy Moore, mascot." (Henry Clay "Moose" Parrish was born January 28, 1902 and died March 3, 1975 in Clarke County Georgia. The 1930 Randolph County North Carolina census indicates his occupation was "Fielder, Ball Player" and he was living in the next household to Hilton L. "Toots" Brandon, "Pitcher, Ball Player". Toots died in 1973 in Caddo County Oklahoma. Charles Hulet "Chuck" Harris was born February 27, 1907, died April 9, 1986, and is buried in Elliottsville Cemetery in Shelby County Alabama. For many years he served as Chief of Police in Siluria.) )
The medical needs in the village for many years were provided by Dr. John Allen Hines, Sr., 1896-1959, and his faithful nurse, Miss Mollie Belle Vinzant, 1900-1987. In July 1951 Dr. Willie Elijah "Bill" Stinson, 1907-1971, arrived in Siluria and his faithful nurse for many years was Miss Evelyn Urmi, 1900-1997.
Mrs. T.C. Thompson provided for the safety and security of the village by maintaining a small jail located behind the main mill building. William Francis "Frank" Fallon, 1872-1962, was responsible for the daily operation of the jail. Mr. J.T. Phillips later filled this position with Charles Hulet "Chuck" Harris, 1907-1986.
After the death of Mr. T.C. Thompson on October 5, 1922 his family operated Buck Creek Cotton Mills. Mrs. T.C. Thompson served as President from October 12, 1922 until her resignation on October 5, 1931. On June 25, 1935 James Thomas Phillips was elected as a member of the Board of Directors to fill the vacancy "caused by the resignation of Frank Dominick." Mr. J.T. Phillips on February 8, 1937 was elected President and Treasurer of Buck Creek Cotton Mills and within that year had acquired the corporation, the operating facility, and all factory and village property.
On April 18, 1953 a tornado damaged the plant to the extent that operation had to be suspended for a full year while repairs were made. At this time, more modern equipment was installed in some departments to make the mill more competitive.
Siluria was incorporated on May 25, 1954 with a population of approximately 600. The first city leaders were (1) Mayor: Tollie Eugene Jones, 1906-1985. (2) Council: Burrell Brannon, Willie H. Brogden, 1904-1976, Dr. Willie Elijah "Bill" Stinson, 1907-1971, Bascom L. Vinzant, 1906-1987, and Cecil Brown Zuiderhoek, 1899-1987. (3) Town Clerk: Frances (Nabors) Duke Wilson, 1919-1996. (4) Chief of Police: Charles Hulet "Chuck" Harris, 1907-1986. The people of Siluria on April 27, 1971 voted to merge with Alabaster, the adjoining city.
Siluria was the birth place for Ann M. Steely, born July 6, 1923, and is where she lived her first seven years and attended the first grade at Thompson. After her father's death in 1935 in Dallas County Alabama she later moved with her mother and brother to Oklahoma and then in 1944 "packed her bags to try her luck in Hollywood." Ann Steely changed her "acting name" to Cathy O'Donnell and made her screen debute in the Best Picture of 1946 in The Best Years of Our Lives. Her final film before retiring from the screen was another classic Hollywood's greatest, the Best Picture of 1959 and winner of eleven total Oscars, was Ben-Hur. Her parents were Harold Grady "Henry" Steely and Ora Lecher Steely. The April 3, 1930 Siluria Village, Shelby County, Alabama census indicates Harold G. Steely, age 37 years, born in Alabama, his parents born in Alabama, married at the age of 29 years, "School Teacher" and his wife, Ora L., age 24 years, born in Alabama, her parents born in Alabama, married at the age of 17 years, and their two children, all born in Alabama, (1) Ann M., daughter, age 6 years, and (2) Joe C., son, age 4 years 7 months. Living with them as "boarders" were two 21 year old single school teachers, Mary S. Burkette and Eva Johnson. In a May 2005 interview with Fred F. Phillips, who moved to Siluria in 1927, the Steely's "Mill Village House" was located next to the Community House. Some of their neighbors were Arnold C. Edwards, Homer Stanley, Alice Cofer, Berry Cofer, Riley Cofer, Samuel W. Huddleston, Lester Williams and James C. Goff. Mr. Steely was not only a school teacher at Thompson but also was the local theatre operator, located in the Community House, in Siluria. Ann married Robert Wyler, brother of director William Wyler. Ann S. Wyler died April 11, 1970 in West Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California. Her husband, Robert Wyler, died January 16, 1971. They had no children. For more information about "Cathy O'Donnell" click here.
In December 1959 J.W. Valentine Co., Inc. from New York purchased the operating facility, factory site, and all the village property. The name of the business was again changed and this time it became Siluria Mills, Inc.
The final name of the business was changed in January 1965 to Buck Creek Industries, Inc. and the village houses were sold to the employees. The operating facility and factory site was sold in 1968 to Reeves Brothers, Inc., a New York Stock Exchange, and in 1972 to Canton Textile Mills, Inc. from Canton, Georgia. Assets were liquidated in May 1979 and Buck Creek Industries, Inc. closed its doors permanently. The Birmingham News, page 58, dated Thursday, May 10, 1979, "A textile mill which was once the largest onsite employer in Shelby County is closing its doors this week ...."
The old Buck Creek Mills Work Application Forms which give information on many of the past employees are at The Shelby County Historical Society.
Peggy Nell (Peeples) Genry organized a committee and on September 24, 1988 the first annual "Buck Creek Cotton Mills Reunion" was held for all former employees and their families. It was annually held the second Saturday in September.
In 2003 the City of Alabaster purchased the 22 acre Buck Creek Cotton Mills site. In August 2007 the demolition of the buildings were started by Granger Grading of Alexander City, Alabama. At that time, the city's plans were to have all of the buildings taken down except for the old jail, the water tower and the office building. In January 2008 only these three structures remained standing. However, in early 2009 the office building was taken down due to structural damage caused when the attached portion of the mill was demolished.
On September 19, 2010 the City of Alabaster held the grand-opening of the "new" Senior Center, built by the Montevallo-based Wayne Davis Construction Company, that is located on a portion of the site where the Buck Creek Cotton Mills once stood.
Visit Lord, How that Old Whistle Blew! written by Rusty Kendrick.