Reflections of life in Semmes
An interview with Sarah Phelps Wilson, 2018
Sarah is a descendent of the pioneer families of Semmes. According to the BLM land Records, Willis Waltman was issued a homestead patent for 80.24 acres 7/2/1904. Sarah Whiting and James H. Allen were issued a homestead patent for 161.19 acres in 1879.
Her great, great Grandparents- were Damon Blanche Waltman and Elizabeth Francis Henderson, and her Great Grandparents-Willis Master Waltman- and Melinda Tempy Whiting and grandparents Eddie Baker Waltman and Ella Mabel Lewis
Sarah’s mother and father were Alice Imogene Waltman Phelps and Alfred Henry Phelps.
Sarah’s father was a Merchant Marine and later he became a farmer. Even when he was in the Merchant Marines he had an interest in growing things. In his travel, he collected different varieties of pecan trees which he brought home to Semmes. The Pecan is native to south-central North America with different varieties growing in different regions. Calvin Tanner was living on the Phelps property while Alfred was in the Merchant Marines, and would plant the trees for Alfred.
Later on after leaving the Merchant Marines and marrying Imogene he began farming. Crops included vegetables, chickens, geese, peaches, pecans, chestnuts. A cow furnished milk for the family. The milk was rich and delicious with crème coming to the top that was used to make butter. Sarah said, “I loved to drink the milk after the crème had been skimmed off. Milk without crème was called blue john.”
The main crop that he grew was chickens for their egg production. He became the supplier of fresh eggs for ships docked in Mobile. He had two chicken houses that were lined with shelves of nests for the chickens to lay their eggs. He would gather the eggs and candle them before taking them to the market. Candling is a process where a candle was placed behind the egg to be able to see in the shell to see if the egg was fertile and should be kept for hatching baby chicks. Fertile eggs were not sold but saved to produce more chickens. Eggs were placed in card board boxes for delivery to the state docks.
Sarah said, “It was interesting to take the eggs down to the docks. The docks and buildings were open and you could drive right into the building on the docks to unload the eggs going on the ships.”
People in Mobile would come out to purchase eggs and other fresh farm products.
Leave a Reply.
Preserving our History