A picture of how Selma looked once upon a time, such is the topic of Lardent's "Selma Through the Years"-- Courtesy

Minnie Lardent tells the story of old Selma

Published 3:06pm Monday, August 16, 2010

In December 1948 Minnie L. Lardent completed assembling a collection of articles and sketches in order to preserve facts about the history of Selma which might otherwise be lost. In her foreword she expresses appreciation to many friends for their keen interest in the work and for the loan of old documents, letters, scrapbooks and newspapers. She gives special thanks to Mrs. Emma Wilkins, Miss Rose Weaver and to the Librarian of Carnegie Library for valuable assistance. The aim of her book, as expressed by the author, “was primarily for accuracy, authenticity, and, of course, reader interest, since most of us shy away from dry facts.”

Little is known today about Minnie Lardent, although several Lardents are listed in the genealogical records of both Old and New Live Oak Cemeteries. And in Walter M. Jackson’s “The Story of Selma” Miss Minnie Lardent is listed as a graduate in the Dallas Academy Class of 1884-1885.

She chose not to publish her book which she called simply: “SELMA: Through The Years, Historical—Biographical—Anecdotal.” The first page in the hand-typed book is a table of contents of the 26 chapters by name and beginning page number. Hand-typed, the pages are filed in a hard-back binder that is about 3 inches thick.

Miss Lardent’s book is impossible to resist if you have any interest in the history of our area. Here are a few examples to whet appetites for more.

Chapter 10—Selma Resurgent: After the Civil War ended many Southerners and their former enemies realized it was necessary to let bygones be bygones, once the community was rid of the Yankee adventurers whose sole aim was to enrich themselves at the expense of an impoverished people.

However, quite a number of Northern people came to Selma to make their homes, soon identifying with the town and in time becoming valued and respected citizens. In 1866 the court house was moved from Cahawba to Selma and a number of its residents followed it to Selma. Many of this influx of people brought fresh energy and financial means to invest in the city. Business houses, residences and offices for these incoming professional and businessmen were built and the city took on new life.

The population in 1870 was 6,684 according to the Official and Statistical Register of Alabama. There was also renewed interest in city government affairs with city officials ensuring that ordinances were rigorously enforced.

In 1871 a Board of Health was established with Dr. James Kent president, Dr. C.F. Fahs secretary and Drs. J.P. Furniss, J.E. Locke and B.H. Riggs members. Better health resulted due to greater care and attention paid to city authorities and citizens under their instructions.

In 1875 the City Council adopted an ordinance providing for the registration of all births and deaths in the city.

In 1872 the Selma Street Railway Company was organized, tracks laid on Water and Broad Streets and by December of that year the cars were operating. These were drawn by mules and while self-sustaining they were not exactly profitable. Later they were succeeded by electric cars.

In 1876 a steam laundry was installed by E.N. Medley adjoining his place of business in the Eastern section. It proved to be a profitable venture.

According to historian and author John Hardy “the history of ice in Selma has been as progressive as that of cotton, steamboats or buildings.”

The first person to sell ice in Selma was Constance Dominic, who sold it at 10 cents to 20 cents per pound. However in 1850 he had competition from Jacob Krout who built a small house for ice and reduced the price. Ad advertisement appeared in the Selma Sentinel on June 9, 1854, as follows: “ICE! ICE! ICE! 8 CENTS A POUND.”

During the Civil War the demand for ice decreased. Shipping conditions made it hard to get and many people thought it was wrong to indulge in such luxuries while Southern soldiers were suffering for actual necessities.

Then, in 1878 Clayton and Cook erected a ‘manufactury ‘ at Water and Mechanic Streets for making ice by steam. In great excitement people came to see the miracle— ‘Ice made by steam!’ The verdict was that it was ‘As cold as natural ice and just as satisfying.’

To supply the demand Clayton, Cook and Stuck formed the Enterprise Ice Company, installed machinery and made an average of 7 tons per day with water from an artesian well. Their price of 1cent a pound brought it in reach of all.

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