By Vicky Clemmons and David Daniel On Behalf of the Centreville Historic Preservation Commission
Arcadia Publishing, 2008
Reviewed by: Danny Gamble
I’m a sucker for historical photographs. The faces, places, and spaces fascinate me. Images of America: Bibb County by Vicky Clemmons and David Daniel on behalf of the Centreville Historic Preservation Commission is one book I will spend hours and hours perusing.
The 126-page book is filled with black and white photographs of Bibb County, Alabama, from the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries. The photos were collected from area residents and focus on the people, institutions, and commercial endeavors that once made Bibb County the industrial capital of Alabama. The cover sets the tone for this collection. In it, Mariana and O.P. Dailey stare at the camera from behind the dry goods cluttered counter of their mercantile store in Centreville, circa 1939. This pre-war photo illustrates that while the Great Depression ravaged the country, the Daileys and Centreville were open for business.
Images of America: Bibb County is divided into nine sections: Early Families and Homes, Churches and Congregations, Schools and Activities, Businesses and Occupations, County Seat and Court Square, Transportation and Bridges, Public Service and Military Service, Outdoor Bibb and Disasters, and Modern-Day Bibb. Artfully reproduced photographs often contain a paragraph-length, mini-essay of sorts. One photo of Richmond Pearson’s steer team from a 1947 lumber operation even names the individual cattle—Buck and Tig, Pobe and Doc, and Let and Lemon. While the photos are often not credited, the contributors certainly are, and these contributors read like a who’s who of contemporary Bibb County—Marty Everse, Gwendolyn Valentine, the Belcher family, and many more.
Businesses and Occupations is a fascinating chapter. In these photos, we see the industrial base of early Alabama in towns such as Blocton and Six Mile, Aden and Marvel. These communities are little more than ghost towns now, but they once supplied the nation—and the Confederacy—with the coal, iron, and lumber it needed to grow and prosper.
Of course, no pictorial essay on Bibb County would be complete without photographs of the ferocious tornado that thundered through Brent in May 1973. (Brent celebrated its rebuilding with Twister Day each spring for years.) The four photos here convey the unbridled power of that storm and the utter destruction of a small Alabama town.
Arcadia Publishing is currently printing photographic histories of communities from around the nation. If Images of America: Bibb County is an example of this series, the publishing house is doing a great service to historical photo suckers like me. Dec 2008
Danny Gamble is managing editor of First Draft Reviews Online.