West Blocton History Short Notes.
Also written in Charles Edwards Adams book "Blocton - The History of an
Alabama Coal Mining Town" are other incidents and noteworthy items regarding
members of the church. Here are some listed below:
Near 1883 The first mine near Blocton opened called No. 1 Mine.
"The No. 1 Mine also mustered a ball team in the nineties
(1890's) It was called the Blocton team and it's fame reached far and wide.
Some times an excursion train would carry the team to Bessemer, Montevallo,
Aldrich, Randolph and other places. The players were: Joe Smith, first
base: H. H. Farrah, second base: Fred Lawley, third base: Bob Burton, right
field: Louie Farrah, left field: Albert Bracknell, center field;
Charley Fuller, short stop; Pat Finnen, pitcher, and Joe Sansing, catcher and
DeWitt Edmonds, utility man.
Note, the Bracknells were early members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.
I do not know the relationship o Albert Bracknell mentioned here to the church
but perhaps he was one of the early members.
The Tuscaloosa Catholic Parish, St. John's supported the organization of a
mission church for Blocton in 1886. The Reverend John Cassidy traveled to
Blocton every second and fourth Sunday to offer Mass in a private home;
identified by some sources as the residence of the
John Finnen family."
While the John Finnen family is identified as hosting the first Catholic
congregation in West Blocton, they are also listed as having been some of the
first members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. If these were indeed one
and the same people this indicates a change of mind around about 1914. The
Cassidy family is also listed as one of early church
member families but we do not know if they were related to the above named
"A column was published in the Blocton Courier titled "Our
Business Houses and What They Handle: Churches and Schools. Listed as a
Blocton Business was JOHN GILBERT POOL ROOM, near L & N Depot which keeps the
latest newspapers and magazines: also cigars and cider"
And later in the article it is listed is the following:
BRACKNELL. FRUITS AND PRODUCE. He always has country produce on hand."
(The Bracknells are also listed as early members of the church)
The name John Gilbert family is also associated with the Wesleyan Methodist
Church because they are listed in 1915 as being among the earliest members.
Perhaps his association with the early Wesleyan Methodist lead to a new line of
work because John Gilbert is again mentioned in the book on page 123 as being
the street contractor and later as the water maintenance man. Around 1915 we
find the following note:
"Town of West Blocton To: Oskar Israel
You are hereby notified to meet in front of Post Office the 14 day of July
1915 7 o'clock A. M. for the purpose of working the streets of West Blocton for
five days. Bring a good shovel. Also bring the notice or pay Street
Tax ($3.50) or make excuse. Five days after work date, all who fail to
work, pay or report excuse will be returned. This 8 day of July 1915" signed by
Dropping back to 1907 we learn the following:
"The town election of 1907 was reported in the January 31 Centreville
Press. W. H. Logan, a local attorney, was elected mayor. Councilmen
were M. C. Davie, merchant; L. J. Hays, cafe owner; M. M. odess, merchant; E. D.
Reynolds banker-mine investor; E. M. Stamps, and T. J.
Note in the above the vocation of E. M. Stamps is not listed. However
later he no doubt served as one of the first pastors of the Wesleyan Methodist
Church during the 1920's.
"The community took pride in the thrice-weekly appearance of the West Blocton
String Ban led by George Deerman on Station WAPI in Birmingham. Other
members were Henry Fayette, the Fitts
brothers, Fred Henderson, Curtis Martin, and Will
Finnen. Their introduction to WAPI was in January 1929 by T. T.
Dison, Majest radio dealer in West Blocton."
One day in the summer of 1933, miners, still apprehensive about the sincerity
of the Act (National Industry Recover Act of 1933), gathered at dawn in small
groups in the heavily wooded areas north and south of town and cautiously moved
eastward to an outdoor meeting on a shaded hillside near the Catholic Church to
organize and elect officers. Other union organizational meetings were held
at Hill Creek ballpark as sunrise. Arthur Finnen recalls that he and his
brother William and a third person met with a Birmingham UMWA organizer to whom
a petition was presented declaring the intent to organize. Will Finnen was
later to serve as local president of the Hill Creek union.
The Centreville Press reported on the building of the new school building for
grades 7 through 12 by the Civil Works Administration. The agreement
called for a local contribution of materials so the old church building that was
currently in use as a chemistry class room was torn down and used for lumber.
During the construction the classes met in the Free Will Baptist Church and also
the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Harmon Fredrick
reported that during his junior high days in the early 1940's the sidewalks that
circled the abandoned Number One TCI school site were broken into pieces and
laid as mosaic-style sidewalks at the new WBHS.
"The Hill Creek mine would operate until 1950. Like other local mining
enterprises, it occasionally shut down or employed only a small number in slow
market times and during the Great Depression. It supported its own
commissary near the mine's tipple and washer, and for many years Marvin M.
Martin was store owner-manager. Cars hoisted from the mine were drawn for
more than a quarter mile by dinky steam locomotive to the tipple near the
railhead. Once the mine was in operation, the McGrawtown residents
frequently hear the loud, shrill whistle of that small locomotive as it plied
its way from near the mine entrance to the tipple. On the day in 1950 when
operations ceased, Arthur Finnen, Berl Dyer, and Lester McCulley pulled the last
trip of cars from the mine. Also working the day were Hulet Reach and the
blacksmith-mechanic, "Preacher" Henderson."
"In spite of the handicaps that substandard facilities imposed on students and
teachers, capable and talented students from the school continued to display
their ability to overcome. One music student of the era made his mark on the
community an state even before leaving high school. Jerry Carter was a
member of a high school quartet, the Crownsmen, other member were Charles
G. West, Billy Roy Finnen, and Charles Carroll, Jr."
" The West Blocton Lions Club under leadership of
Harmon Fredrick and
Howard Pate, had a list of accomplishments to report. They had sponsored a
youth center at the old high school building featuring roller skating. The
Lions Community Center also provided Ping-Pong and billiards. The Lions
supported Girl and Boy Scout activities, contributed to sending the WBHS
football team to the Sugar Bowl to see Alabama play Nebraska, and sponsored a
Christmas lighting contest."
Later on in 1973:
"A musical group was organized in 1973 called the Believers Quartet consisting
of Billy Roy Finnen, Sr. his son Billy Roy, Jr. and Brian and Dewey Williams of
Anniston. The quartet had concerts in Anniston, and in several locations
in Georgia and Florida."
West Blocton and Church historical short notes.