A steady growth of dairy farms took place from 1915 to the 1970’s when there were approximately 45-50 dairies in the Semmes Area. There are no dairy farms today!
The first commercial dairy farming in Semmes area began in 1915 when Bernice Graham started a dairy on Schillinger Road. He milked his small herd of cows by hand. The milk was strained and stored in five and ten gallon milk cans kept cool when the cans of milk were placed in canvas bags surrounded by cool pump water. The milk was then transported to the creamery plant in Springhill, Alabama where it was processed and distributed to homes and businesses.
1919 Dairy Farmer Roland Graham bottled raw milk (unpasteurized milk) into ½ pints,1 pints and 1 quart bottles and making delivered to businesses, homes, cafes, boarding houses.
In the 1920’s electricity began to expand into rural areas making it possible for the construction of an ice plant in the Crawford Community. Dairy farmers began using ice to keep their milk cold.
1930’s Dairy farmers began to grow corn and hay to feed the cows. Commercial Feed stores began feed delivery to dairy farms.
1940 Roland Graham built a Pasteurizing Plant in the Crawford community. The Pasteurizing plant was sold to Barbers Dairy in 1950.
As electricity became available to outreaching rural areas, there was a change from hand milking to electric milking machines.
1940 Lewis Waltman built his own pasteurization plant and bottle milk from his dairy. He purchased a truck and delivered milk to homes, business. In 1960 he sold his pasteurizing plant to Van Antwerp. And his milk route to Barbers Dairy.
When I was around 4 year old we had a cow named Bessie to provide milk for our family. One day my mother heard me screaming at the top of my lungs out in the barn. She ran as fast as she could to the barn. Entering the barn she saw I was safe in Bessie stall and Bessie was on the outside looking at me wondering why I was screaming. Needless to say, I did not play in the barn again, or go near a cow.
My next up close experience with a cow was many years later when we were living at the Byrd family home place. My father in law decided to buy a milk cow to keep on the home place. He was a pastor living in a local church parsonage and asked if I would be willing to milk the cow for half of the milk. Our children were small so I agreed, and amazingly I learned to milk. The milk was rich and delicious with cream on top.
" Scrapbook of Memories," 1996
Early settlers had to be very resourceful, creative, inventive people. Resources were very limited to the tools, items they brought with them. When something broke it had to be repaired or a new one made from bar stock of iron or steel.
An important person in the early settlement was the blacksmith. He was a skilled craftsman, who heated iron to shape it, using a forge, anvil, hammers, tongs, chisels and punches to create, repair, and make needed metal items. With a vise and files, he refined the rough edges.
A forge (furnace) burning coal was used to heat iron placed in the forge to a high temperature. The temperature of the forge was controlled by air being pumped into the forge using large leather bellows, the more air the faster the coal burns, the higher the temperature.
Color changes in the metal indicate when the metal was ready to be worked. It was taken out of the fire and hammered on an anvil until the desired shape or repair was achieved. The reheat process is repeated until the desired shape, repair or weld was made. It was then dipped in a tub of water or oil to cool quickly or slowly to the desired temper of hardness.
Allentown had a blacksmith shop that was located at the corner of Wulff and Howells Ferry Road. (Allentown was a town with a church, school, store, cemetery and blacksmith shop that was named for the Allen families who homesteaded in 1820. The only thing that remains today is the Allentown Cemetery and Allentown Holiness church)
Semmes blacksmith shop was located at the corner of Wulff and Hwy 98, just north of the Tift-Pringle grocery store. The shop was owned and operated by Mr. Wulff. Horses and mules were shod, and all types of agricultural equipment were kept in repair. Knives and other useful items were made.
Russell Wulff would later build a home and operate a grocery store at this location. Today in 2019, Walgreen’s Drug Store occupies this property.
The gazebo is a wonderful addition to the park. We are looking forward to using the Gazebo at the Semmes Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration. Make plans to attend- Mark your calendar! AL200 endorsed event.
Property has been purchased by the City of Semmes in the heart of the old town of Semmes for a New City Hall. The old town of Semmes was laid out and named by the Semmes Land Company in 1900, and is located near the railroad next to the Semmes Honor Park on Wulff Road.
The City Council approved on October 1, 2019 the above design for Semmes City Hall, submitted by Adams-Stewart Architectural firm. The New City Hall is a combination of ideas reflecting Semmes in 1900, the 1900’s Semmes Funk Hotel and surrounding farm homes.
The City Hall Complex will house Administration Works, the Municipal Court, Council Chambers and a Banquet Hall.
Tsukasa Kiyono was one of the earliest Japanese immigrants to settle in Alabama. He came to Semmes in 1914 purchasing farm land and began growing Satsuma’s and Pecans. In 1921 he returned to Japan for a visit, marrying Tomoe and returning to Semmes.
Tsukasa and Tomoe had two daughters, Mary born in 1926 and Marion born in 1928 while living in Semmes.
Hard freezes destroyed the fruit crops and the farming changed to grow nursery plants. In the beginning years, all work was done by Tsukasa and Tomoe. With years of hard work, Kiyono Nursery became very successful; employees were hired to do the labor.
Tsukasa was always interested in the development of new plants and methods of growing plants, traveling back to Japan and over the world to see plants that might be grown here. He became known as a renowned horticulturist. He was featured in Life Magazine in 1939. The Nursery industry was growing in Semmes.
The Kiyono’s are fondly remembered for their kindness, friendship and generosity to the community. Semmes was a rural community with a rural school with limited teaching resources. Tsukasa purchases a Victrola and records for Semmes School. The Victrola was rolled from room to room every Friday and classical music played according to Tom Dodd, Jr.
In 1939 Semmes First Baptist Church had built a new church but did not have money for pews. Tsukasa purchased and donated all the pews for the main auditorium in honor of his two daughters, Marion and Mary, who had become Christians.
While the Kiyono Family was on a visit to Japan 1941, World War II broke out preventing their return to the United States. Kiyono Nursery was sold at auction to Clint McDade and renamed Semmes Nursery.
Melba & Buddy Martin
The Martin Family Philosophy still rings true today!
John and Essie Martin
“BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE, BUT NEVER BE ASHAMED OF, NOR FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM. NEVER FORGET YOUR ROOTS—IT’S WHAT KEEPS YOU GROUNDED. GOD PLACES YOU WHERE HE WANTS YOU IN THIS LIFE—MAKE THE MOST OF IT. DON’T SIT AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. EARN YOUR KEEP. MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE WITHIN YOUR CIRCLE. AND NEVER FORGET THE PEOPLE WHO EXTEND TO YOU A HELPING HAND ALONG THE WAY.”
(Donna Martin Turk)
John and Essie Martin and their children Sara Elizabeth, Edna Earle, Johnnie Ruth and Jack moved to Semmes on Snow Road in 1935. James Rufus, Betty Ann, and Thomas E. (Buddy) were born in Semmes.
Semmes was a very rural area, sparsely populated with small farms, and a few nurseries. It was a period of time when neighbors knew all their neighbors and willing to share a helping hand to one another when needed.
The Martin Family farmed the land and sold produce, cut and sold firewood, odd jobs, plowed for neighbors, mowed lawns at schools and other locations around Mobile.From Produce farming, John decided to go into Dairy farming. His father and grandfather had been dairy farmers. Semmes was becoming a large dairy farming community.
Early dairy farming was hands on farming that was very hard work, beginning before daylight and lasting till after dark, seven days a week. Cows were fed and milked by hand. The dairy farmer had to grow food for his cows, Hay and Silage. Hay was grown cut, and dried then gathered for storage in the barn. Silage, annual green crops, usually corn and sorghum were planted and gathered green, chopped, stored in a silo where fermentation took place. (Silage had a pleasant sweet smell.)
The beginning of a turning point in the Martin Family from Dairy Farming to the Nursery Industry happened when Buddy stopped to help a neighbor Delano Ikner, whose horse was in a ditch. Delano managed a Nursery in Semmes. Delano and Buddy became friends.
Not only did Buddy become interested in the nursery business, by simply stopping to help a neighbor, but he later met Melba who was to become his wife. Melba was the sister of Delano’s wife Gloria.
Buddy and Melba and their families continue to uphold the family philosophy that was passed down from John and Essie Martin, not forgetting their roots, working hard, and making a difference in the lives of those around them, and contributing to the people of Semmes. The Martin Family Farm that began with 40 acres has grown to 400 acre Nursery which is known worldwide.
We lived our teenage years during a time of peace and We grew up during the greatest possible era. There has never been a better time to be a teenager.
We never worried about peer pressure. All the boys wore their jeans the same way with a turned up cuff. The girls all wore dresses and skirts.
Only boys had flat tops and only girls wore ear rings, and three was too many.
We participated in the birth of "Rock and Roll" music. We did the Twist and the Mash Potato. It is said Elvis Presley actually appeared at the Mobile Fair before he went on Ed Sullivan.
We swam in Carre Lake, Miller's Park, and Johnson's Lake.
We played "Kick the Can" and "Spin the Bottle"
We enjoyed "Dew Drop Inn" hotdogs.
We went to Drive-In's, Air Show, Auto Show, Bama, and the Do Drive in on highway 45. After the drive in double features, and kissing our dates, who watched the movies? We drove our Muscle cars through "Ossie's", "Dick Russell's" and "Johnny's" to see and be seen.
But best of all in Forest Hill and Moffat Rd. we had "Dub's".
We did have drag races all over the place. Was not legal but we had fun, winning or losing.
You could drive down the beach at Gulf Shores to Alabama Point, there was no Bridge across to Florida. Private homes were spaced sometimes a half a mile or more apart. There was no high rises. Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island were ours to enjoy.
There were no K Marts or Walmarts. No Shopping Malls. When Bella Hess opened up we were all amazed, a one stop shopping place. You could buy clothes and groceries and whatever. They drained Ragg Swamp and then built Sprindale Plaza.
There were no Dollar General or Dollar Stores. We had five and dime, Woolworth, Kresses, Neisner's and Grant's. You could sit and get a milk shake or a sandwich. We had Planter's peanuts on Dauphin Street.
By Kenny & Brenda Michael, Class of 61
Photo - Kenny MIchael-Semmes High Class 1961 Blog
The class of 1961 was a unique and wonderful class with a blend of students from various backgrounds, from the rural country to the suburbs of Mobile. It was a period of time of consolidations of Mobile County Public Schools in order to meet the need of population growth.
Forest Hill Elementary, Wilmer Elementary and Tanner Williams Elementary and Semmes Elementary all attended Semmes High School. The class of 61 was the largest class (159) to graduate since the founding of Semmes School in 1887. This was the beginning of Semmes having the largest Schools, Elementary and High, in the Mobile County Public School system, (In 1965, Mary G. Montgomery High School was built to replace Semmes High School.)
The class of 1961 was not only unique in the blending of students from the city and rural areas, but had a loving caring spirit for one another. This is exemplified in the fact that the class after graduation had class reunion regularly and anyone who had been a part of the class was welcome to attend, not being forgotten.
This class has had people working in all professions: farmers, school teachers, college professors, nurses, eye surgeons, attorneys, a judge, an actor- film producer, missionary, pastors, business leaders, homemakers, tradesmen, industry workers, artists, and military careers.
And yet the most important quality of this class is the love, kindness and respect shown to one another. It made no matter where you came from, what your accomplishments or station of life. I am proud to be a member of the class of 61. Jeanette
Larry’s Career in the entertainment world began as a DJ at WABB, Mobile’s top 40 station after graduation from Semmes High.
His radio career included his own radio show, The Larry Black Show which aired on 125 radio stations.
His acting career was launched after appearing in ‘Earnest Goes to Camp’ with the part of the camp counselor, Mr. Tipton. This led to more than 40 roles in TV shows, made for TV movies and future films.Some of the films he has appeared in are Ernest Scared Stupid, October Sky, Pure Country 2: The Gift, TV series I'll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night.
He is the founder of Gabriel Communications, specializing in the production of “Reunion Video’s.” He is the TV producer of Country Family Reunions, and Larry’s Country Diner, (his own show) as well as other Reunion Video’s.
Larry’s Country Diner is a country variety show that may be seen on RFD TV and is recorded as it is performed at Ray Steven’s CabaRay Dinner Theater in Nashville.
Larry is married, has three sons and lives in Nashville, TN, after having traveled to many cities in his DJ career.
The place where it all Began- Semmes High School
“I didn’t grow up in Semmes School like so many of my class mates, but I never felt like an outcast or like I didn’t belong; when my dad became the pastor of the Moffett Road Assemblies of God Church, I was half way through the 11th grade. Normally that would have been rough to come into a new school, but that was not so at Semmes.
All of my high school days I’d tried out for every play that rolled around, but never got a part. At Semmes, I took Mr. Cole’s Speech Class and the Jr. Class was in the middle of rehearsal for their play.
Buddy Porter had the lead in “The Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.” It was (as I recall) about 2 weeks before the play was to open when Buddy decided he didn’t want to stay in the play. Mr. Cole asked me if I would like the part. It was something I’d always wanted to do and here it was being handed to me, of course, I said yes.
The success of the play was great, it enabled me to show-off in front of the whole school and by the end of the play everyone knew me. This laid the ground work for what was to come.
Mr. Posey, the band director asked me to announce the half-time show at the football game. It was a themed event and scripted. I did and the next day my Algebra teacher, Mr. Gossett, complimented me on the half time show and said “have you ever considered radio and entertainment as a future vocation?” I think he knew from my Algebra Grades that I wasn’t going to be going into mathematics. That statement stuck with me and I became a DJ actor and producer.
And to think it all started with a lead role in the Junior Class play at Semmes High School.
Mr. Cole and Semmes High School, Thank you!
Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc. /aka Semmes Heritage Park is in the process of revising and updating the original Scrapbook of Memories that was published in the fall of 1996, now out of print.
The goal is to have the new book, Semmes Scrapbook of Memories 2019 Legacy for the Future published and ready for sale by December, 2019. Great Christmas Present!
This new book contains stories from the Past of Semmes, those now in the present, and gives a glimpse into the future. Just imagine what you see today, will become tomorrow’s history!
Thank You to those who have been willing to share stories, and donate items making it possible for museum displays and our archives to continue to grow for future generations.
New Members are welcome! Check out our Face book page-Semmes Heritage Park. Just a reminder, we are all volunteers!
This is the new book cover that was created by
Dr. Philippe Oszuscik
Preserving our History