HISTORICAL BACKGROUND by Nat Self
Prior to the Civil War coal had already become an inexpensive fuel that
caused substantial changes in the marketplace and lifestyle of all industrial
nations. Coal generated the energy that moved powerful steamships, locomotives,
and industrial equipment, and it heated many homes and businesses. Although
the value of coal greatly increased during the Civil War, no one in their
wildest dreams visualized the contributions it would make as a driving
force of the industrial revolution during the ensuing years.
Shortly after the Civil War, many large and small coal prospectors, especially
in Jefferson and Walker Counties in Alabama, explored the nearby mountains
and hollows for accessible veins of coal. Several prospectors discovered
numerous seams in the Horse Creek area in eastern Walker County, but there
were no viable means for transporting the coal to market.Shortly after
the Kansas City, Memphis, and Birmingham Railroad line was completed through
the Horse Creek settlement in 1886, railroad officials named the newly
built depot Sharon. When coal operators in Jefferson County whiffed the
fresh coal dust riding the eastward breeze, they hurriedly formed mergers,
pooled resources, and with high-pitched excitement rushed to the coalfields
of Horse Creek near Sharon so they could become rich mining what was commonly
known as “black diamond.”
A flurry of coal-mining activity ensued. Railroad tracks were extended
around mountains and up hollows where coal-processing tipples, washers,
and loading bins were rapidly constructed. One-horse-wagon mines, pick-and-shovel
push-mines, and modern-equipped mines financed by large coal companies
began extracting vast quantities of coal from the Horse Creek region.
Owners of a new mine assigned a number to them. Usually the owners of
a productive mine constructed rental houses nearby for their workers and
assigned the number of the mine to the mining camp.
The business area of Sharon developed on the southwest hillside parallel
to the railroad tracks. Stores were built on the side of Main Street facing
the concrete bulkhead, ranging in height up to twenty feet that supported
the railroad tracks and depot. Stubborn businessmen unhesitatingly invested
their resources in what—except for the magnetic fascination of the
railroad depot—was one of the most unlikely business locations.
Even so, the business section rapidly grew as a sidesaddle to the depot
and railroad tracks
In 1897 Sharon was incorporated as the town of Horse Creek. In 1906 the
name of the town again was changed, this time to Dora. Yet many of us
who later grew up in and around Dora established sentimental roots nurtured
and strengthened by nostalgia of “Horse Creek.”
By 1910 Dora had grown to include over a dozen general merchandise stores,
a soft-drink bottling company, lumberyard, meat market, livery stable,
and furniture, contracting, and undertaking firms. The town also included
two hotels, a restaurant, and the Dora Banking and Trust Company. Three
physicians, a dentist, a lawyer, and two justices of the peace served
the population of about 800 people. Between 1920 and 1930 Dora grew to
include an automobile agency and a movie theater.
During the early1920s Kershaw, which was named after two brothers who
pioneered coal mining in the area, became a thriving coal-mining camp.
Located about two and one-half miles northwest of Dora, Kershaw had easily
accessible veins of coal that attracted investors as well as energetic
farmers, including my father, Sebern Lee Self, a recently discharged doughboy.
This is a photo of the tracks
that run through Old Dora.