Grant will allow study of tunnels

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 1, 2002

A study of the six mysterious underground tunnels discovered in Selma’s Old Town and Water Avenue Historic Districts will soon get under way due to a $10,000 grant from the Alabama Historical Commission.

Project Director Elizabeth Driggers said the next step is to get money from the state to further the exploration of the tunnels in hopes to learn as much as possible about them.

Curiosity in finding out what the tunnels were used for and the history that it entails has brought excitement among many, including Mayor James Perkins, Jr.

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The grant project is to include research of historical documents, oral interviews from knowledgeable citizens and fieldwork conducted on the brick-lined tunnels with the assistance of a structural engineer.

From the data retrieved, a document will be produced to help direct the city in ways to protect, promote and develop the underground tunnels as they interpret Selma’s history.

The usage of these tunnels, which leads to the Alabama River, are not yet known.

There is speculation that the tunnels were used during the Civil War to secretly transport soldiers and ammunition during the war. Others say that it was a passageway to bring slaves in town for auction. And some people say that they were just used and water conduits.

One person in particular, 87-year-old Evelyn Hill, said she was told by her grandfather that the tunnels were in fact used during the war to transport &uot;wounded soldiers to Vaughan Hospital, now the Smitherman Building, and were storing ammunition in the tunnels.&uot;

Hill said the tunnels were also used by people traveling from the river to the buildings in downtown Selma. She said her grandfather never said anything of the tunnels being used to transport slaves.

Since the city has received its first grant toward researching what all six tunnels were used for, more concrete information will be knowledgeable to the public in the future.