Friday, March 25, 2016

Photo Friday: New Castle, Alabama

Before I boarded my train back from Birmingham to New Orleans, my newfound Evans Family cousin scooped me up from my hotel and took me on a whirlwind tour of one of the coal mining communities where our shared ancestors had lived in the early-to-mid 1900s.

New Castle, north of Birmingham, along the L&N Railroad. Image Credit below.

New Castle, Alabama is located about 10 miles north of Birmingham and, since about 1870, has housed various coal mining operations that included company-owned homes, stores, schools, and churches for the miners and their families. The mines are no longer in operation today, and the houses are now owned by individuals, including some that are still in the hands of Evans relatives. 

Here’s a look at some of what I saw:

 New Castle Road is the main road through town and connected the community to other coal towns to the southwest and northeast.

Overlooking a portion of New Castle from one of the highest points. The area has been mostly reclaimed by woods now, but you would have seen large machines, great coal heaps, and many more houses and other buildings back in the day.

The New Castle Post Office, this used to be a gathering place for the community, where both mail and hot pieces of news were picked up.

One of the original camp houses (from my cousin's early years). Time, weather and abandonment have taken their toll.

Mt. Joy Baptist Church, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking the community. This was one of two black churches in the community. My great-grandfather Theodore Johnson (Steve Evans)'s sister, Sarah, lived on the same hill, and her husband, Archie, lived across the street. She was, I was told, an eclectic woman!

Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church, the other black church serving New Castle. Several family members were ministers, but they were Methodist and did not preach here.

One of the Evans Family houses, my great-grandfather's sister Janie Mae and her daughter Veola had it built.

Another of the Evans Family homes, still showing some of the bones of the original camp house.

The Louisville & Nashville Railroad (LNRR) tracks through New Castle. These and smaller spurs throughout the area moved people and coal to and from the mining towns to Birmingham with its coke and steel plants, south through Montgomery and Mobile to Mississippi and New Orleans, and north to Nashville, Louisville and Cincinnati, where they could connect to other points. 

My cousin also took me to the Evans Family plot in New Castle cemetery - I think I'll post those as my next photo Friday. Getting to see, stand on and walk the land where my ancestors and their families lived and hung out was an awesome, awesome experience and I'm grateful to my cousin for being so excited to make it happen.I can't wait to visit again and see the other towns we're connected to - Bradford, Majestic and Dixiana, I'm looking at you!

Map Credit: This image was modified from a map in "The Birmingham District: An Industrial History and Guide" by Marjorie Longenecker White, published by the Birmingham Historical Society in 1981.

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