Another chapter in Lardent’s history of SelmaPublished 4:33pm Monday, August 23, 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 that might otherwise be lost. 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.”
She chose not to publish her book which she called simply: “SELMA: Through The Years, Historical—Biographical—Anecdotal.” However, it is a treasure trove of little known facts and, occasionally, fancies related to this Black Belt area. And it is fact that shortly after the end of the Civil War, Selma and the Black Belt showed signs of thriving.
HISTORIC FACTS, Part II:
A Selma newspaper dated Dec. 2, 1870, stated that the bridge over the Alabama River on the Selma-Montgomery railroad was completed yesterday.”
The developing telegraph system brought Selma even further into the rapidly changing world of the mid 1800s. In 1853 the first telegraphic message was received locally and in the same year a connecting line was put through to Cahaba at a cost of $2,000, a cost publicly subscribed. Previously all telegraphing had to be done through Montgomery. The first telegraph offices in Selma were put in the Cassin building at the foot of Broad Street, possibly the same building housing them in the early 1900s.
Electricity has long been taken for granted in Selma streets and homes; in fact, daily life without it is difficult to imagine. Fact: the first electric lights were turned on in Selma in 1886. Prior to that, there were only a few street lamps throughout the city and these were lit by gas. On moonlight nights they were turned off to save the city unnecessary expense. According to early reports, gas lamps were not satisfactory. Some would not burn at all and others gave only a feeble, yellowish light. Unfortunately, the first electric lights gave cause for complaint, frequently going out when it rained. Fortunately, their efficiency progressed over the years.
In the late 19th century it became necessary to enlarge the West Selma graveyard so 15 acres were purchased from the E.S. Jones estate, later known as the Featherstone property. After purchase the area was enclosed, laid off in walks and avenues and lots of varying sizes sold to local citizens. A plot of one acre was given to the Ladies Confederate Memorial Association in 1878 and a monument to Civil War soldiers erected in the center of the circular shaped area. On the south side are burial places of Confederate soldiers and on the north, those of Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Selma. The cemetery was officially named Live Oak.
During the mayoral term, 1895-1897, of M. J. Meyer, land was purchased adjoining the Civil War site and set aside for a Jewish burial site. And during the administration of Mayor T.J. Rowell (194-32) Live Oak cemetery was enlarged again and additional acreage across Valley Creek laid out for what was named New Live Oak cemetery.
Toward the end of the century Selma banks began to thrive. In 1870 the City National Bank (now RBC Centura) was organized with a capital stock of $100,000 and W.P. Armstrong elected president.
The Selma National Bank (presently Regions) succeeded the Banking House of Minthorne Woolsey, which opened in 1898 with cash capital of $50,000. The Selma National began business with a capital stock of $150,000, increasing to $200,000 the same year. E.C. Melvin was president of the bank.
The Peoples Bank & Trust opened for business on Aug. 6, 1902, and just before the doors opened, $38,000 in sold, silver and currency was transferred from City National to the new bank. Charles M. Howard was president and S.A. Fowlkes cashier.
Selma Trust and Savings Bank began business just seven weeks prior to the beginning of the panic of 1907 and remained exclusively a savings bank.
Newspapers were also in the news of that period. On Sept. 30, 1871, The Selma Times announced the empanelling of the first white grand jury since the end of the Civil War. Robert D. Sturdivant was foreman.
Earlier the newspaper had refused to mince matters when it came to defining their politics, stating “Editor Stokes of the State Journal at Montgomery wanted to know where the editor of the Selma paper stood and what he stood for.”
In the next issue of The Times & Messenger, dated Aug. 21, 1869, published:
“WHERE WE STAND:–The sweet scented Stokes, editor of the State Journal, the organ of the radical carpetbag element of the state, is somewhat exercised about the position of the Selma Times & Messenger and wishes to know where we stand. For his information we will state that we favor any and everything calculated honorably to rid Alabama of the carpet bag thieves and scoundrels who have worked themselves into nearly all the offices of the state.”