Painted by Jeanette L. Byrd
Semmes Train Station-Mrs. P.G. Christopher Train Agent and Fellie Christopher Metcalf.
Train service brought much growth and changes to Semmes. The train station became the center of the community with passenger service, a store, a hotel, moving of the school and a post office.
Prior to the establishment of post offices in rural areas, a line of posts were set up along a designated Road. Al. Hwy 42, known today as U.S. Hwy 98 was a designated post road. Mail was delivered by horseback to the post which had a leather bag to collect the mail. The McCrary Family received mail at the 15 mile post.
The first post office in Semmes was established in 1894 near the train station. The first postmaster was Drury O. McCrary. Mail was delivered by train on the fly as the train did not have to stop. A canvas and leather catcher pouch that could hold up to 50 pounds of outgoing mail was suspended on a crane’s arm by metal rings. A mail-bag catcher was affixed to the train mail car door. It was manually deployed to grab the mail bag from the crane and was sorted on the train. Arriving mail bags were kicked out the mail door to the ground and the train agent collected the bag.
Semmes was a stop on The Rebel Route of the Gulf Mobile & Ohio passenger service operating from 1940 to 1958. Rebel Trains were lightweight streamlined hybrid diesel- electric trains built by American Car and Foundry, 1935. Citizens of Semmes traveled to Mobile on the Rebel as commuters.
Bill Dodd shared these memories of Life in Semmes at the Semmes Heritage Park Meeting November 2008
I was born in 1920 and it was a very strict time of life, but a wonderful time. We (my brothers and I) milked the cows, fed the chicken and pigs. We had a barn that had a hay loft. I did not learn how to read until after I had an exam and it was found out that I could not read.
I remember someone came down from Iowa to see if we could grow plants to sale in one year. Plants were shipped bare roots, tied together 20 to 40 plants to a bundle on the train. We had Roses and Privets.
My brothers and I had chores. We were to carry buckets of water for the workers working in the field. We had to work in the field too. Sometimes one of my brothers would climb a tree to be the look out while we rested. He would sound the alarm when he saw someone coming so we get back to work..
Roses were a big crop in Semmes. Tyler Texas undercut the prices of roses so the rose business went to Tyler. One of our jobs was the budding (grafting) of roses and multi flora Japonica with budding stock. You took a knife made a t shape into the plant and budding stock was inserted and wrapped.
Dan McDuffie was a farmer that hauled pigs to market on the weekend. He cleaned his truck well and it became the school bus during the week.
I remember classmates Dorothy and Melody Pollard, and eating lunch with P.J. Christopher whose grandmother ran the railroad station. We played under the schoolhouse. The Schoolhouse was high up because the land would hold water.
Mr. Kino had children in school. He bought a Victrola for the school. Classical music was played every Friday as it was rolled from one class to the other.
There were two stores in Semmes, Mrs. Pringles and Mrs. Tiffin and I went to meet the train to get the bread and deliver to the stores. Bread came from Mobile.
There were section houses close to the railroad. The Havard house was made from section houses.
P. J. Christopher would meet the train and if he did not like the way a person looked he would tell them to get back on the train and keep on going.
Daniel Christopher would put on his Confederate Uniform to come to town.
Will Christopher worked for the railroad as an inspector of the railroad tracks.
A Tribute to the Last Active Founding Board Member Sarah Wilson Alumni & Friends of Semmes School Inc. February 21,1937-August 11, 2023
Sarah Phelps Wilson grew up in Semmes, where her mother started the first school cafeteria at Semmes High School. She married her husband Earl in Semmes First Baptist Church 55 years ago, and today lives with him on the same property where she lived as a child.
Though not flashy or attention-seeking with her work, she’s nevertheless a leader: She is a charter member and vice president of Alumni and Friends of Semmes School; the person who oversees the rental and upkeep of Malone Chapel at Semmes Heritage Park; a worker and faithful member of her church and a supervisor during elections at the voting site at Semmes Community Center.
JoAnne McKnight-November 14,2012
Phelps Family History
AL.com and Press-Register Correspondent
Exhibits included vintage automobiles and several antique tractors, including one John Deere Model 50 from 1953, shown by M.C. Carr. A table of small farm tools and old household utensils attracted Taylor Jemison and Austin Miller, student council volunteers from Mary G. Montgomery High School.
On the campus of the 1902 one-room schoolhouse, children jumped rope, see-sawed and swirled on a tire swing. School marms Mildred Harris, Betty Houston and Terri Dodd beckoned guests from the schoolhouse doorway, while a few adults played a game of horseshoes.
Some marveled at the ingenuity of a mother killdeer who feigned a broken wing to lure inquisitive onlookers away from her nest on the school grounds.
There was no charge to enjoy the activities at Semmes Heritage Park, which includes Malone Chapel as well as the school, but donations were accepted to maintain the wood frame building and to offer schoolchildren an opportunity to spend a day in the classroom as their grandparents did.
Semmes Heritage Day Festival is May 15, 2010
Many events, games and activities will be going on at the festival, most reminiscent of an earlier time.
For example, at 10 a.m., Frankie Wood, a Mobile storyteller and former principal at Semmes Elementary School, will be telling one of her favorite yarns, “Sweet Patootie,” the tale of a little Colonial-era girl who had no doll and made out of a sweet potato.
There will be music by the Deep South Dulcimers, led by Joyce Harris. Though the name implies that only dulcimers will be played, other old-time instruments and the voices of singers will lend depth to the group’s 11 a.m. performance.
Both of these events take place indoors — storytelling in the schoolhouse and the dulcimer concert in Malone Chapel, a replica of the first Baptist church of Semmes.
Another musical performance will be presented by the Semmes Elementary School choir. Also performing will be the Lost and Found Orchestra, led by David Baker, a member of the Mobile Pops. That group will entertain visitors from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
A square-dance demonstration by the Square Dealers, a troop of special-needs dancers, is on the schedule for a noon performance.
Festival chairwoman Jeanette Byrd said the grounds at Heritage Park will be filled with a display of wagons and classic tractors, with various vendors and arts and crafts exhibitors. There will be a country store and food and baked goods for sale.
Among the vendors will be the Sandovals with their popular Kettle Corn; a company with SnoBalls for sale; and Thirty One, a booth run by Gloria Greene, Janice Ross and Sue Ann Dixon. They specialize in purses, lunchboxes, cosmetics and Watkins Products.
Semmes Woman’s Club members will be selling their cookbook, “A Taste of Semmes.” The book includes photos and drawings of Semmes historic buildings and other scenes.
SWC will also have for sale a Mary Rodning print of the Howell Home, an 1897 farm house that will become the third Heritage Park structure, joining the school and Malone Chapel. The print sells for $10, as does the cookbook.
Among the demonstrations and exhibits: a grist mill grinding corn, a wash or rub board being used and a quilt in the process of being completed. There will be games for children, the kind their grandparents played, and there are see-saws and swings on the school grounds.
There is no admission charge. Byrd is still looking for volunteers who would like to display old-timey crafts. Vendors and artists and crafters can still get a space for $20 by calling Terri Nelson at 251-649-3163.
I am reminded of the many volunteers who gave of their time to make Semmes Heritage Park the success it is today.
The first food we had for Heritage Day was Wash pot soup, and fried corn bread in iron skillet on a camping stove. Sammy Everett cleaned and sanitized his family wash pot and built the cooking fire. Members contributed cooked meat, and vegetables to make the soup. It was quiet a success.
When a citizen of Semmes Community. Chris McNeal heard of our need for food for Heritage Day He donated and grilled chicken. Semmes Winn Dixie donated the sides for the BBQ Plates along workers to fix the plates and the Semmes Woman’s Club donated bake sale items. All activities of Heritage Day were free except for the food sales with funds going to the park for maintenance and upkeep.
Another fond memory in our early days of celebrating Heritage Day happened when a man came by and saw what was going on and said he would be glad to bring a wagon for rides next year. But, he did not wait till the next year, He went home got his horse and wagon came back and gave rides. One year we had a stage coach that gave rides.
The next year we had Carriage rides by Port City Carriage, Steve Quigley. Another Year, Bart Massey and friends brought a cover wagon and a farm wagon gave wagon rides.
Throughout the years so many people have volunteer, just ordinary people that were willing to give of themselves. Semmes people are can do people and not afraid of hard work. Thank You!
Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc. was formed in 1992 to preserve the 1902 one room Semmes School as a living history museum.
Joseph (Gene) Shumock was elected president and this began the nine year journey of restoration of the school and the building of a replica of Mount Pleasant church which is located on this site. Mount Pleasant Church was renamed Semmes First Baptist and a new church built on its present site.
The dedication ceremony for Semmes Heritage Park took place May 5, 2001. The next phase began with the offering of living history school field trips, tours, and historical events. Historical events include the Old Fashioned Christmas, Camellia Festival and Heritage Day 2003.
May 2, 2011 the town of Semmes became the City of Semmes.
A new era began for Semmes Heritage Park in 2022 when the park became a City of Semmes Park.
The first Heritage day since the park became a city Park was May 6, 2023. It was a great success. There was even a chuck wagon where visitors could purchase a bowl of chicken and dumplings, corn bread, sausage biscuit, and pie all cooked the old fashion way over a camp fire. Needless to say, the chicken and dumplings where sold out quickly.
Below are a sprinkling of the Heritage Day Activities. Photos are by Liz Lovelady, City of Semmes Events. You may see more on the City of Semmes Facebook.
Preserving our History