Dora, Alabama - The Place That We Call Home -Dora has an interesting history. A place settled by people who were not afraid of work. People who scraped out a life for their families working long hours for little pay breathing dust from the black gold that has been both a blessing and a curse for the people here.
Nat Self is the author of a book "Echoes of the Great Depression" which is about Dora and the surrounding area. What's more amazing to me is that he is donating proceeds from the sale of the first 800 books to local charities.
Nat has graciously agreed to contribute stories for our community website and I am excited to bring you the first of a series of stories that will give you some incite to the humble beginnings of The Place That We Call Home.
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.