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.
Many changes have taken place since the beginning of public education in Semmes. The first school was a log cabin school built on the townships sixteenth section of land in 1878. Mt. Pleasant church met in this school. Semmes Elementary, Semmes Middle School, and MGM High School are located on this sixteenth section today close to where the log cabin school began.
The transition from log cabin buildings came about with the development of the timber industry in the early 1900’s. Timber was cut, and saw mills sprang up along with turpentine mills. Saw mills produced lumber making it possible for the construction of lumber buildings instead of log buildings.
Transportation had improved with the coming of the trains. The center of town moved close to the train station. A wealthy timber man, Thomas Jefferson Howell, saw the need to build a new modern School and Church near the new center of town to replace the log cabin school. Mr. Howell donated land to the Mobile County Public School System to build a new school. A new church was built to sit by the new modern schoolhouses. It is interesting to note that Mr. Howell was concerned that a school remains on the property and stipulated in the deed that a school should always remain on the property or the ownership of the property would revert back to the Howell family.
Around 1917 a new stucco building was built across the road opposite the one room school. The old Semmes post office, Allentown school and the 1902 one room school house were moved to sit by the stucco building. As the population continued to grow a red brick building was built in front of the stucco building. In time, additional buildings were moved behind the stucco building. One of these buildings moved in was an old army barracks from Brookley Field. This building became the first Semmes School Cafeteria.
The population continued to grow and area schools were consolidated into Semmes School by the Mobile County Public School System. A new Cafeteria, High School, Home Economic and Agriculture building were added to the campus. Additional buildings were added as the need arose.
With continued Population growth, Allentown Elementary School, Semmes Elementary School and Mary G. Montgomery High School were built. The old Semmes School Campus became Semmes Middle School. Latter a new Semmes Middle School was built close to Semmes Elementary and MGM High School.
When citizens heard the original one room 1902 Semmes School was about to be torn down, they rallied together to preserve the one room school forming Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc. a 501 (C) 3 non- profit all volunteer organization. Instead of being torn down, the school was given to the group and moved back to its original site and restored becoming a Living History Museum. This original site is now known as Semmes Heritage Park. Additional buildings have been added by the group to the park are replicas of the 1900’s church, a log cabin, an outhouse (we have modern restrooms in the chapel) and storage building which also contains hand tools and other artifacts.
The stucco building and the Red brick building have been torn down. The Remaining buildings on the Old Semmes School Campus belong to the Mobile County Public School system and are leased to East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, Semmes Health Center and the old Semmes High School Building to the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Semmes Branch.
Mark your Calendar-Saturday May 4, 2019- 10 am till 2 pm
16th Annual Semmes Heritage Day 3871 Wulff Rd.-Semmes Heritage Park Celebrating the History of Semmes -Sponsor- Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc.
Semmes School -All class Reunion -3810 Wulff Rd.-Old Semmes High School-
Sponsor-Semmes Boys & Girls Club.
CELEBRATING SEMMES HISTORY
Remember Our Past as we Look to the Future.
117th Birthday of Semmes One Room School
25th Anniversary of Semmes Heritage Park
Spinning, Loom Weaving, Quilting, Basket Making, Grist Mill, Horse Drawn Wagon, Old Fashion Children’s Games,
Music, Food, vendors
Historical Displays that include a 147 year old chair from Semmes first school a Log Cabin established in 1872.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
MGM High School
Robotic & Electric Car Teams
May 4, 2019 10 am till 2 pm
Semmes Heritage Park
Bill Dodd-Semmes Heritage Park 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 chickens 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 sell 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 could 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 cut into the plant and the 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. Kiyono was a nurseryman that moved to Semmes in 1914. He had children in school and he bought an (RCA) Victrola for the school. Classical music was played every Friday as it was rolled from one class to the other.
Mrs. Tift and her daughter Mrs. Pringle had a store, Bread was delivered by train form Smith Bakery in Mobile to Semmes. I would go to the train station pick up the bread and deliver it to the store. I was paid a nickle, and at the end of the year I was rewarded with a Smith bakery Calendar. that had just expired.
There were section houses close to the railroad. The Havard house that sits close to the railroad tracks 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.
May, 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Semmes Heritage Park to preserve the Semmes One room School. The park is the center of the Historical Preservation of Semmes.
Semmes was once known as a community in the Albritton Precinct.
The Albritton Precinct came about when the Alabama General assembly divided Mobile County into three revenue and road districts in 1888. The districts were then divided into precincts for voting, mail delivery, the collecting of revenue and building roads. Prior to this time most of the roads that existed were Indian Trails.
Early small settlements of Alabama were often close together as transportation was limited to walking, by horse, by wagon and boat down creeks and rivers. Families often migrated together purchasing and homesteaded land close to one another. These settlements were often named after the founding pioneers.
Land was plentiful, but communication was limited. Sometimes early immigrants just picked out a piece of land, cleared the land and built a log cabin house, not having legal claim to the land they were known as squatters and had to move when the legal owner was known. This happened to one of the first churches in Semmes known as Mt. Pleasant Church which was later renamed Semmes First Baptist Church. Each small settlement had its own school, church, blacksmith shop, cemetery and general store and all were located within a ten mile or less range of one another.
The uniting factors of these small surrounding settlements into Semmes were transportation and education. A railroad station was established in Semmes allowing the shipping of goods to the port of Mobile and included passenger service.
The beginning of the town of Semmes
Word had traveled up north that Alabama was the land of opportunity with rich soil, mild winters, great forests and plenty of wild game for food. The 1900’s saw an increase of migrations of people to Alabama.
In 1900 August Pickus and eight men from Illinois purchased a section of land fifteen miles west of Mobile near the railroad station and began laying out a new town. They gave the town the name Semmes after Admiral Raphael Semmes. The Pickus group stayed at the McCrary’s home while laying out the town. The McCrary’s had homesteaded in Albritton Precinct in the 1800’s. The town of Semmes became the City of Semmes May 2, 2011.
The beginning of Semmes Public schools
The enabling act that was passed in order for the Alabama Territory to become a state required that each township set aside the sixteenth section of land for public educational purposes. State Route 42 (A Post road) running through the sixteenth section of land of township 3 is now known as US 98. The first school in Semmes was a log cabin on the townships sixteenth section. Mt. Pleasant church began in the school house and is known today as Semmes First Baptist Church.
Shifts in the population, and new transportation in the 1900’s brought about the need for a new school building. Thomas Jefferson Howell, a concerned citizen, saw the need to have a new school closer to the new center of town, near the railroad. He gave land to build a school and a church. In his deed to the Mobile County Public School Board, he specified that a school must remain on the land or the land would revert back to the Howell Family.
By this time logging, saw milling, and turpentine stills were the main industries of Semmes. This made it possible to transition from log buildings to buildings made of lumber. The new school and church along with new homes were built of sawed lumber and were unpainted. Mobile County Public School records indicate that the new school was not painted until 1911. I remember seeing older homes as late as 1950 that were not painted.
Early Settlement Community Schools
In 1917 the Semmes School stucco building was built on Wulff Rd across from the 1902 Semmes School. Semmes 1902 School, the Allentown School and the old post office were moved to sit besides the new stucco school building. This began the consolidating of smaller public community schools into Semmes School thereby uniting the communities together.
Semmes A Great Place to Live!
Beginning as a small rural community with families homesteading as early as 1839, Semmes continues to grow. The City of Semmes was established May 2, 2011 and is a unique and wonderful family orientated friendly place to live with a variety of amenities, services and great schools. It is has become a bed and breakfast city and still maintains its small town rural flavor even though it is taking on a more metropolitan atmosphere.
Semmes unique location makes it the Regional Center of Western Mobile County which is growing at a fast pace. The Semmes Mobile County Regional Public Library in 2016 recorded 73,299 patron visits. ALDOT recorded in 2016 and indicated that 31,798 vehicles crossed Schillinger at Moffett Road every day,(four lanes are being completed which connect to I-10 and new US98) and according to a survey in 2017 by Alabama Power there are 48,006 people living within a five mile radius of the intersection of Moffett Road and Schillinger Road near the heart of Semmes.
MAY 2019 IS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ALUMNI & FRIENDS OF SEMMES SCHOOL, INC., AKA SEMMES HERITAGE PARK.
Looking back lest we forget the beginnings!
May 1994 A group of volunteers, citizens, students and former students rallied together with the goal of preserving Semmes 1902 one room school.
July 18, 1994 The group was incorporated as Alumni & Friends of Semmes School, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
August 25, 1994 The one room Semmes school was declared an Alabama Historical Landmark.
1998 The school was returned to its original site.
1999-Restoration Completed – A replica of Mt. Pleasant Church was built on its original site beside the school.
May 5, 2001- Dedication of the Park - May Day Celebration.
EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
2003 President Calvin Tanner appointed Jeanette Byrd Events Chair.
May 2003 First Annual Heritage Day-: open house, old fashioned children’s games, and square dance demonstration by special group called Square Deal Square Dancers and Music - the Deep South Dulcimers. Food-Served Wash Pot Soup and Fried Corn Bread.
September 2004 –Student Field Trips began. First student field trips were second grade classes from E. R Dickerson Elementary School and the University of Mobile History of Education class.
December- 2012-Old Fashioned Christmas Began- Carolyn Owens has served as chair since 2014.
October 2012-Selection of Camellia Maids ( Before we had the Camellia Maids, The Oakley Bells from Mobile and MGM Azalea Trail Maids assisted on Heritage Day.)
January 2013- Restoration of Camellia Festival held at Semmes Public Library. (Alice Baker has served as chair since 2016.)
May 2013- Purchase of the Log cabin for teaching purposes and historical displays.
2018 Heritage Day- Students from MGM Robotics Team and Electric Car teams were added as exhibitors. One of our goals is to not only remember the past, but look to the future.
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.
Preserving our History!