Tom Dodd Jr. May 4, 1915-May 7, 2009
Tom Dodd Jr. is known worldwide for his many contributions to the Nursery Industry. He developed new propagation methods and introduced new plants into the trade. Many of the plants commonly used in southern landscapes originated through the careful research and development by Tom.
He was especially fond of plants that were native to the southeast. However, Tom took many trips all over the world to other climates similar to the southeast in order to introduce something special to the industry. Many times the research plants would end up in the homes of friends, pastors or coaches homes all around the region.
A trip to Auburn University will reveal hundreds, if not thousands of plants all around the campus given to them by Tom Dodd Nurseries. Over the years the nursery generously donated countless plants to universities, schools, churches and gardens all over the United States. A great legacy of Tom Dodd Nursery is all the beautiful plants that were grown in Semmes and donated or sold far and wide.
Numerous honors have been bestowed on Tom Dodd, Jr. Among these are the Jackson Dawson Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the Garden Club of America Medal of Honor, He was an Honorary Fellow of Mobile College, Received the D. Todd Gresham Award of the American Magnolia Society, and is in the American Nurserymen Hall of Fame.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Auburn University. During World War II five of his brothers were serving in the military and he was needed at home to work on the family nursery.
Another interesting story about his college education concerns that his first year of college was at Spring Hill College. Money was short, but the family being farmers had made plenty of cane syrup so he asked could he trade buckets of syrup for his tuition and so he did.
Tom Dodd nursery has been operated by four generations of the Dodd family until it was sold in 2004 to Jack/John Williams who kept the family name.
Elizabeth Betsy Dodd- Daughter,
Auburn University College of Agriculture Directory
Floating around in 1966 Raymond Byrd, a 1959 Semmes High School Graduate experiences weightless flight in a Zero-G flight, a parabolic flight experiment.
In 1961 the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy announced the goal to be the first nation to land a man on the moon and bring him safely home. The Space Race was on. Much research and development had to take place to accomplish this goal.
The Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI) in Pensacola Florida was doing research under the direction of Dr. Ashton Graybiel. Studies on the effects of weightlessness and acceleration on human balance, spatial orientation, physiology and performance helped prepare America's astronauts for manned space flights.
Raymond became a research team member under the team leader of Dr. Earl F. Miller II, Team leader of the Physiological Optics Branch, in 1966 through 1972 participating with parabolic flight experiments to create short periods of weightlessness.
Apollo 11 Astronauts, and many others; Such as Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins participated in these research projects in Pensacola prior to spaceflight.
Semmes School Red Brick Building
In 1938, the red brick building which stood in front of the 1917 Stucco building was erected. The elementary grades moved into the brick building, and the high school occupied the stucco building.
Artist -J L Byrd
Semmes First Outdoor Mural was painted as part of the Celebrate of the Semmes All-Class Reunion that was sponsored by the Semmes Boys & Girls Club. The location is 3810 Wulff Rd East, the old Semmes High School building. The Mural depicts scenes from Semmes past. Blake DeWitt is the director of the Boys & Girls Club who now call the old high school home.
Morris Hill School/Crawford Community House
Morris Hill School was located in the Crawford Community on Alabama Highway 42 (Now called Highway US 98).
Changes came about in 1917 when the Mobile Co. Public School System Consolidated Morris Hill School with Semmes School when the new stucco building was built in Semmes.
Prior to the consolidation, in 1916, two of the teachers of Morris Hill, Mrs. Eta Lord, Mrs. Margaret Cogburn and Mrs. H. R. McCrary planned a Thanksgiving Supper for the parents and children of the school.
It was a great success, causing the community to decide once a month to have a community supper. Families of the Community would gather together, bringing large baskets of food to be shared by all at Morris Hill School. A Prayer was offered up prior to the meal.
Becoming a Community Club
In 1920 the community organized themselves into a Community Club. They purchased the grounds and building of Morris Hill School from the Mobile County School Board and named it Crawford Community House. Citizens came together and remodeled the Community House by donating their time for repairs. Money for materials was raised through lawn parties.
The Community Center was the heart of Crawford, providing a place to gather to catch up on the community news, visit with neighbors, food and fun activities, quilting parties; however, dancing was not permitted. Active committees made home visits to the sick. Education programs were presented by the Mobile County Home Demonstration Agent on improving farming and homemaking skills and political discussion took place.
As so many things have gone by the way side, so has The Crawford Community Club. The building was used by a various groups and torn down last year.
Source- Mobile Press Register, Sunday, March 11, 1951. “Crawford Community House to be Repaired, Remodeled”
Semmes Art Guild
The Mary Ward Art Guild is an all-volunteer group that was founded in May, 2011 to promote art, and to provide an opportunity for local artists to come together with like-minded people. Warren Gatwood was the first President, Jennie Bradley Secretary and Jeanette Byrd Treasurer and Activities Coordinator.
The current President is Lori Riley, Vice President- Cynthia Oszuscik ,Secretary -Philippe Oszuscik, Treasure and Activities Coordinator- Jeanette Byrd.
The guild is named to honor Mary Ellen Ward, a teacher who lived in Wilmer beginning her teaching career at Wilmer School and teaching Science, Math and Art at Semmes High School, MGM and Faith Academy.
Mrs. Ward’s love affair of art began in 1948 when she was teaching at Wilmer School and continued throughout her life until her death in 1998. She is remembered for her love, devotion and encouragement to all her students. Often heard in her class, “Never say I can’t, but I’ll try.”
Guild Membership is open to all adults interested in all forms of art. The Monthly meeting takes place on the first Wednesday of the month, 12 o’clock at Semmes Heritage Park. The meeting is a sharing meeting beginning with a covered dish lunch and featured artist demonstration, and the sharing of works of art and projects of attendees. New members are welcome.
The guild has from its conception sponsored a free open studio class for adults at the Semmes Regional Library in the Community Room. The class is the Third Wednesday of the month at 12 noon. The motto of the group is, “if you have always wanted to paint, or just would enjoy painting with a group we have a place for you.”
Please Note! Semmes has a Public Art Gallery, located in the Semmes Regional Library, The Semmesonian, where local artist may exhibit. The volunteer Founding Curator, Mary Rodding, is a local artist.
McCrary Store- Pearson Store
Semmes First Bank
Banks were limited in pioneer days. Bartering was often the method of exchange for goods or services. Cash money was limited and often hidden or buried on the property of the early settlers.
This is evident in the fact that Federal lands were essentially given away to citizens over age twenty-one and heads of households who were willing to work to develop the land. The Homestead Act of May 20, 1862 stated the each adult head of household could receive up to 160 acres of land worth no more than $200, for a ten dollar fee.
The first bank in Semmes when it was known as Albritton Precinct was at the McCrary Store. Hoyt Pearson bought the McCrary Store and changed the name to C.K. Pearson Store. Hoyt reported that when he purchased the store, Mr. McCrary had a large cast iron safe that had small drawers in it where citizens placed money for safe keeping.
The Population Explosion has brought numerous banks to Semmes.
The Beginning of Mail Delivery
Congress was given the power to establish post offices and post roads. 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 and dependable deputies were appointed to carry the mail. The McCrary family received mail at the 15 mile post.
The first post office in Semmes was established in 1894 with the appointment of Drury O. McCrary as postmaster. For many years the post office was a two room wooden building near the train station.
Mrs. P.G.Christopher Train Agent and Fellie Christopher Metcalf with the mail bag at Semmes Train Station. The mail bag was placed on a hook, and when the train did not need to stop, the mail bag was grabbed from the hook by the moving train.
With addition of the stucco building to the school in 1917, the old post office building became a part of the school being moved in 1919 to sit by the stucco building.
Next the post office was in a corner of the grocery store near the railroad station. The postmaster was Clausell Blackwell.
Around 1935, Mrs. Marti Roberts was appointed postmaster and the Post Office was moved to the corner of Wulff and Moffett Roads in a building that also served as a gasoline service station.
In the fall of 1945, rural mail delivery service was started in Semmes, Prior to this; mail delivery east of Semmes was through the Crichton Post Office and the northwest of Semmes from the Wilmer Post Office.
William (Bill) R. Dodd, who had just returned from W.W. II military duty in France, Germany and Austria, was appointed by Congressman Frank Boykin to be the first mail carrier.
The route required a half of day to deliver mail to approximately 200 boxes. From the Semmes Post office at the Corner of Moffett and Wulff Roads, the route went south and west the length of Wulff Road to its intersection with Howell’s Ferry Road, then reversed on Wulff Road to Snow Road south on Snow road to Howell’s Ferry, east on Howell’s Ferry to Schillinger Road to Moffett Road and east on Moffett to the Post Office.
In early 1946, Bill Dodd returned to active military Duty. He was replaced by Edward Welch who held that position until 1972.
In 1975, the Post Office was moved east to a new brick building on Moffett Road which was quickly out grown. And In 1988, the Post Office was moved to a much larger building on the southwest corner of Moffett Road and Illinois street.
Semmes Population continues to grow. According to Post Office officials in 2019 there are 11 routes and in addition to the post office boxes, serving approximately 13,000 - 15,000 patrons.
1935 Semmes Service Station & Post Office.
Dr. Leonard T. Lane - “the Baby doctor of Country Folks.” was a native of Mobile County and a lifelong resident of Mobile County. He was the attending physician at almost every farmstead in the northwest section of Mobile County.
He began his medical practice in Wilmer Alabama in 1916. He lived on a farm in Tanner-Williams and owned other farms and timber tracts of land in Georgetown and Mississippi until his death in 1948. He is buried in the Whistler Cemetery.
Prior to his enrollment in Mobile Medical College in 1910, Dr. Lane was a teacher in Mobile County Public Schools System for eight years.
He began his medical career when he enrolled in the Mobile Medical College in 1910. He began to practice medicine in Wilmer in 1916. With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Army Medical Corps. and for his work in the relief of Cholera he received a metal. He was a member of the American Medical Society, the Mobile Medical Association, a staff member of Mobile City Hospital and the Bowen Lodge #249 of Masons.
Posted in Public Pages of Ancestry. com by Debra Candy Powell, 26 October 2013.- Dr. Leonard Templeton Lane, Obit
Florence Jackson Rester -County Home Health Service Nurse
Florence Jackson Rester was born in 1882 in the Tanner-Williams Community. She married Harris R. Rester, Sr. who was born in Semmes In 1876 and they lived in Semmes until their death. They were married fifty-seven years. Ten children were born of this union.
Through the Health Board Services, Mrs. Rester received training as a County Home Service Nurse. She assisted Dr. Lane when he came to Semmes.
When no doctor was available, Mrs. Rester made home visits to the sick in the community.
She was the community midwife delivering babies and caring for the new mothers when no Doctor was available. To keep a record of these births a nurse from Mobile was sent once a month to collect information about new births and any information concerning the health of the community citizens and to make home visits when required. These new births were then recorded in the Court House.
Source-Scrapbook of Memories-Thelma R. Sheffield
Doctors and Health Care Currently Available
No longer a rural area, the demographics have changed to a thriving community of homes with a growth in population. Numerous Medical groups have set up Medical Offices to meet the demand of the population growth.
Medical Services are available for all Citizens.
The Semmes Health center-Family Health Alabama provides services for those with limited income.
Family Medical of Mobile-Semmes (Infirmary Health-Urgent Care), Providence Family Physicians,
Northcutt Dental, Dr. Bruce King, DDS, Mobile Bay Dental & Vision
With the population explosion so has the need for animal care. The following provide animal care:
Animal Care of Mobile County, Semmes Animal Hospital
TLC Veterinary Hospital
Schillinger Road Heart of Dixie Veterinary Clinic
Dr. Lynne Leonard
FIRST FIRE DEPARTMENT
Elaine and N. L.(Rat) Dearmon were the driving force behind the establishment of the town of Semmes first fire department in 1975. Rat served as Fire Chief for 35 years. When a fire call came in and Rat was not available, Elaine would rally the volunteers and drive the fire truck herself.
The fire department was composed of all volunteers. The first officers were President N.L. Dearmon, Vice President J. Billy Woodard, Treasurer Jessie Vick, Secretary Elaine Dearmon and Fire Dept. Chaplin Rev. Albert Huckaby.
The first fire station was located on Wulff Rd on land leased from the Mobile County School Board in 1976.The first fire truck was a 1948 Mack truck purchased from the Mobile Fire Department for $10.00.
The second fire station is located at Coleman Dairy and Lott Road.
By 1996 the volunteer fire department had grown to two fire stations, 30 volunteer members and seven fire trucks.
CITY OF SEMMES FIRE & RESCUE
The City of Semmes was founded May 2, 2011 and contributed money to the Semmes Volunteer Department until The City of Semmes Fire & Rescue Department was established November 3, 2016 as a paid fire department.
The City fire department provides Basic Life Support Care, Fire Prevention and Fire Suppression to the citizens of Semmes jurisdiction. Kevin Brooks is the Fire Chief with a total of 24 personnel. (2019)
The city has three Fire Stations, #1 -3751 Wulff Rd., Station # 2 -6836 Lott Rd., Station # 3 -8855 Morris Hill Rd. and a Training Center– 9010 Forest Street.
The Training Center is used for the training of local firefighters throughout Mobile County providing realistic training and instruction on fighting deadly structural fires.
The Mobile County Commission funded the three-and-a-half story fire tower out of Commissioner Connie Hudson’s District 2 education funds in partnership with the City of Semmes.
City Fire Department trucks and equipment include 3 engines, (Two brand new fire trucks were purchased by the city in 2018), (1) Reserve Engine (1)Ladder Truck (1) Tanker Pumper, (2) Brush Trucks, (2) Command Vehicles, (1) Inspector Car (1) High Water Rescue Truck, Specialized equipment include the Jaws of life, air bags, stabilizing struts, Rope Rappelling Gear, Confined Space Tripod.
In the dedication and Reopening Ceremony held on July 19, 2017, by the City of Semmes, at station # 1 the Dearmons were honored for their tireless dedication for the safety of their community, when Station #1 was named the N.L. Dearmon Station. Rat passed away April 24, 2014 and Elaine April 14, 2015.
Sources; Scrapbook of Memories
City of Semmes Fire Chief Kevin Brooks
Preserving our History