The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Posts tagged “Florence

Staggs in East Florence gets rave reviews…

and there are many online. The following reviews came from

Posted By Dave Reasons on 3/25/2009 2:39:00 PM

This is the kind of place that is a legend in small-town America. Staggs Grocery, an East Florence landmark since moving

Staggs - A legend in East Florence

Staggs - A legend in East Florence

to what used to be the heart of the textile mill district in 1937, is going strong. Originally, it was a “Mom & Pop” grocery store that fixed cold cut lunch sandwiches for the mill workers. Through the years, as the textile mills closed and larger grocery stores appeared, their main focus moved from groceries to food service.

 In September of 2005 they suffered a devastating fire that put them out of business for two months while they remodeled and updated the interior. However, they retained all of the old-time charm of the building’s interior. Modernization included a new exhaust hood, furniture, tables, chairs, and other fixtures. Back also is the renowned “Liars Table” in its place of honor near the grill area. It’s presently owned and operated Lynn and Pat Staggs, the sixth generation of the Staggs family to do so. The Staggs and their staff, several of whom are family members, continue to prepare the burgers the way they always have.

Using the freshest ground beef, they fry the burger patty on a flattop griddle right before your eyes. This allows the hamburger patty to retain its juiciness, while the outside of the patty turns a golden brown. I’ve always heard this method referred to as a “Pool Room” burger because most pool rooms cooked theirs this way.

 When you come in, walk to the grill area and place your order, then grab a drink and find a seat. Seating is community style at long tables. The cooks will bring your order out to you; just tell the guy at the register what you had. It’s the Roadfood honor system at it’s best. Cheeseburger, fries, and drink for around $7. They’re only open from 5 am till 2pm Mon-Fri, so come early.

Now comes the part, where we all post what we know about this legendary place. Go ahead.

The famous factory in Florence…

was sometimes referred to as Florence Wagon Works. It was also called Florence Wagon Factory. Regardless of what it was called, it was the second largest manufacturer of wagons. Business in the wagon factory was booming until that Henry Ford had to spoil things. I would suppose that the glue factory may have had an uptick at the demise of the wagon which would have been horse-drawn. Consider this, had there been no Henry Ford, there would likely be no reliance on OPEC for oil today.

Please aid in identifying these fine gentlemen of the Florence Wagon Works in the photo. Third from left of those seated is Chester Kerby. Who are the others? The photo is vintage 1915 and was published in the Florence Herald.

Florence Wagon Works

Pretty ribbons, pretty paper…

of blue; wrap your presents to your darling from you were lyrics to one of her favorite songs. Her favorite color was blue. Her favorite people were her grandchildren. She lived a lonely life alone for most of her adult years. But when

My Darling Kim 1964

My Darling Kim 1964

she died she left a hole in the hearts of four grandchildren: Kim, Gary, Mark and Julie. She left them behind with only her memories; she left little of monetary value but that mattered little to them. 

What she left was mostly pictures that were valued beyond gold that were left to be treasured. And every card that her granddaughter had sent to her or given her was stacked and tied together. That was a tender moment watching her as she held that stack. The biggest treasure for her granddaughter was the little photo of her when she was born that Mammy had written “Darling Kim” on it.

Mammy was Marie Kerby Wright. The photo with the three adults leaves us to wonder, just who is that handsome man dressed to the nines and who is so suave and debonaire in the photo? On the left is Marie Kerby’s brother-in-law Jimmy Marks. In the middle is Marie Kerby all petite and young. And her sister Irene Kerby Marks took the photo as her shadow can be seen in the photo as she held the camera.  But the gentleman on the right is not identified. Could it be a Butler who lived nearby? Perhaps, a Butler descendant can answer that question and solve that puzzle for us. The  photograph is vintage 1944 or 1945 and the photo was taken at Seven Points in Florence, Alabama.

Florence native honored at the Madison County Courthouse…

Florence, Alabama native Sidney E. Lyons, Jr. is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel. He began his military career after receiving his commission through the ROTC program at the University of Tennessee. He has served as a scout master with the Boy Scouts of America and is himself, an Eagle Scout. Sid has lived in Huntsville since 1997 and his current interest is as an artist and sculptor. His art focus is on Native Americans and military scenes. He is married and has two children.

On June 19, 1967, he received the Silver Star for Gallantry in action while serving with Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 9th Infantry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. After learning that two of his unit’s helicopters had been shot down and ground forces were critically low on ammunition he loaded a helicopter with a re-supply of ammunition and braved a murderous barrage of enemy fire to land and unload the supplies. He then hovered his aircraft along the front line and extracted seriously wounded men until his aircraft could not possibly hold any more men. This action saved the lives of many of the engaged ground forces and the two downed aircrews. Sid was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and two awards of the Air Medal with Valor during his service in Vietnam.

  Sidney E Lyons Jr       





Sidney E. LYONS, Jr.

 SILVER STAR MEDAL, Distinguished Flying Cross

Air Medal with Valor (2 awards)

Henry C Jones…

was a native to Franklin County, Alabama. He served his country with honor in the judiciary. His brother-in-law Wade Keys followed a similar path.

Author: Vol. II. Brant & Fuller. Madison, Wis., 1893. pp. 358-359



HENRY C. JONES, a prominent citizen of Florence, and solicitor for the eighth judicial district of Alabama, was born in Franklin county, January 23, 1821. HeLaGrange College Site is a son of William S. and Ann (Cox) Jones, both natives of Virginia, and of English descent. Thomas Jones, grandfather of Henry C., was a colonel in the Revolutionary war, and William Jones, father of Henry C., came to Alabama in 1813, locating in Madison county, and removing thence to Franklin county, in 1819, where he died in 1874, at the age of seventy-six.

Henry C. Jones was educated primarily at the county schools, and then attended LaGrange college, graduating in 1840. He next read law under Prof. Tutwiler of La Grange college, and with Hon. Daniel Coleman of Athens, was admitted to the Franklin county bar in 1841. During the same year he was elected probate judge of Franklin county, and held the office for eighteen months. Being then elected to the legislature,
he resigned his judgeship and served in the legislature with distinction, both in the lower house and in the senate.

His work in both branches of the legislature gained him prominence all over the state. In 1856, Judge Jones settled in Florence, and continued the practice of his profession In 1860 he was a Douglas elector, and was a member of the state convention called up on
the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. In that convention he vigorously opposed secession, yet when the state had seceded, notwithstanding his vigorous opposition, to a secessional policy, he was elected to the Confederate provisional congress, in which body he served one year. During  which he was engaged in the manufacture of cottons and woolens in Mississippi, under a contract for the Confederate government.

After the war he returned to Florence, and resumed the practice of law, taking rank with the leading members of the bar. Judge Jones has always taken an active part in politics, and has given his services freely to the party in time of need. During the period of reconstruction he was for five years chairman of the democratic central committee. In 1876, he was the Tilden elector for his district, and made speeches throughout northern Alabama.

In 1874, Judge Jones was elected, by the legislature, solicitor for the eighth district, and he has been re-elected to that position at each election since. He is now serving his third term, which expires in 1892, and intends to retire with its expiration. Judge Jones was married in Athens to Martha L. Keyes, who died in Florence, May 6, 1887.

[Memorial Record of Alabama. Vol. II. Brant & Fuller. Madison, Wis., 1893. pp.

Judge Jones married Martha Louisa Keyes, daughter of General Keyes and sister to Wade Keyes on 13 Oct 1844 in Limestone County, Alabama.

Wade Keyes also resides in this county, but is a native of Limestone. His father, Gen. Keyes, was a planter, and merchant at Mooresville, where the son was born in 1821. His mother was a Miss Rutledge of Tennessee. Educated at Lagrange College and the University of Virginia, he read law under the eye of Judge Coleman in Athens, and in Lexington, Kentucky,

After a tour in Europe, he located in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1844. While there he wrote a volume on contingent remainders, and another on the practice hi chancery.

In 1851 he removed to Montgomery, this State. At the session of the general assembly in 1853 he was elected chancellor of the southern division, over Messrs Bugbee of Montgomery, and Sterling G. Cato of Barbour. He filled this station with marked ability for six years. In 1861 he was appointed assistant attorney general of the Confederate States, and held the position during the existence of that government He resumed the duties of his profession at the close of the war in Montgomery, but came to reside in this county in 1867, and an office in Florence.

Chancellor Keyes is justly admired for a profound knowledge of law, and for the dignity and impartiality with which he presided as a judicial officer. His attainments as a scholar are shown in the ease and clearness of his writings, which are restricted to professional subjects, and are valued by the members of the bar. He married a daughter of Gen. George Whitfield of Florida.

What is the difference between a wooden pencil and a nice fountain pen?

The difference is huge to the child receiving the gift of the wooden pencils while their sister receives the nice fountain pens. Huge. The same is true with broken dolls for the twin of the favored grandchild.

Catherine E Ruth Jones Kerby has been so elusive, but finally we found a photo of her. The story of the  pens and

Grandmother Ruth Kerby

pencils and porcelain dolls follows as great-great-grandchild, Kimberly Ricketts recounts the story told of Grandmother Ruth Kerby:

My Great-Aunts (twins Irene and Pauline) told a story about “Grandmother Kerby” and the Christmas dolls. Andrew, Ruth’s son, (my G-Grandfather) had a stroke when he was still a young man which made it hard for him to make a living for his family.

He was a painter by trade (Wagon Works in Florence had him listed as an employee – even though the girls never remembered him working there) and did some gardening and painting, but after his stroke around 1909 (in TX) he was forced to relocate back to his “home” near his family.

Andrew’s wife, Minnie, was pregnant with the twins during their journey back home. Apparently, Richard Marshall Kerby and his wife Ruth gave Andrew’s family their previous home (they had lived there on Trade Street since about 1883.) Back then families took care of each other the best they could.

Grandmother Ruth, according to the twins and my grandmother, was snobby and thought she was better than Minnie’s family. She would get on to Pauline for playing and eating turnips in the garden with “little negro” neighbors. She told them they were “blue – blood” and should keep themselves neat and proper at all times.

She would make a difference between the twins and Minnie didn’t appreciate it. She would mail the kids gifts and would always send Irene the nicest gift. Irene was her favorite (Pauline explained to me when she was in her nineties, that Irene was a “suck up” when it came to Grandmother Kerby.)

When their grandfather died Grandmother Ruth left Florence, AL to live with a daughter in Warrior, AL. She would continue to send Irene nice fountain pens, while sending Pauline wooden pencils. One Christmas Grandmother sent all of the children gifts that were wrapped and tagged neatly.

Pauline decided that even though she couldn’t see the gifts she knew Irene’s was the nicest. So, she switched the name tags on their gifts. Much to Irene’s chagrin on Christmas she opened a doll that had a flat head and crooked eyes. Pauline of course opened a beautiful doll with eyes that opened and closed. Pauline’s doll had a beautifully shaped head and was much superior to the doll Irene had received.

Later that year Grandmother Kerby came to visit. The twins would imitate the “blue-blood” attitude that Grandmother exuded when telling this story. Irene remembered her coming into town in a wagon. After Grandmother got settled, she asked all of the girls to get out the dolls she had sent them. She was going to inspect them to see if they had taken good care of them. If they were in perfect shape, Grandmother told them, “she had brought some beautiful cloth to make their dolls a dress.”

Grandmother was mortified when Irene ran to bring her doll to her. Grandmother says, “Irene this is not YOUR doll, this is Pauline’s.” Pauline and Irene’s mother,Minnie, stepped in and told her that if she couldn’t get them the same gifts, then she should get them nothing at all.

All my life I will never forget the twins different versions of this story. Each Christmas I asked the twins to tell us all the story of Grandmother Kerby and the Christmas dolls.

 Pauline and Irene Kerby were born in 1910, so they would have no memory of their father’s work at the Wagon Factory if the date of his stroke is correct at 1909.

Mrs. Lawyer and Mr. Chef…

that’s what they are. Photographed below is Amanda Terry who recently passed her Bar Exam and her husband Josh Terry who is a trained Chef. They are former Florence residents.

Amanda and Josh Terry

Blankinship Market…

in Sheffield was more than a little special to my family. The passing of these family members marks a bygone era of fellowship. For you see, my grandmother would call in her order which would be delivered, unpacked, and put away. I distinctly remember the name Bill Blankinship. This helped my grandmother stay independent just a while longer. She did not drive, so the home delivery was a blessing for her. But more than that, I remember that even the young delivery boys would be so cheerful. Those were the times those of my age lived in; times are so different today. Any photos posted of Blankinship Market would be appreciated.

But the last of them passed just recently. Following is the obituary from the Times Daily newspaper:

W. James Blankinship

Remembering the Shoals

      W. James Blankinship, born Sep. 2, 1914, in Sheffield, died Jan. 7, 2011. James and Nell, his wife of 69 years, have been lifelong residents of the Shoals area. James and his brother, Bill, owned and operated Blankinship’s Market for many years. He proudly served our country in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army.
James was a founding member of Eastside Church of Christ in Sheffield and served as an elder. After moving to Florence, he was a faithful member of Sherrod Avenue Church of Christ until his passing.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Marvin A. and Sarah Blankinship, and siblings, Bill Blankinship, Maude Ingram and Dorothy McWilliams.
Survivors include his wife, Nell, and their daughters, Nelda Jean Smelser (Van), of Tuscaloosa, Anne Gingles (Chris), of Nashville, and Barbara Williams (Phil), of Florence. Four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren will miss their loving “Papa.”
Visitation with family will be at 10 a.m Wednesday, Jan. 12, at Greenview Funeral Home, Florence. The memorial service will follow at 11 a.m., conducted by Dr. Kenny Barfield.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Mars Hill Bible School or charities of choice.
Arrangements by Greenview Funeral Home.

Published in Florence Times Daily on January 11, 2011

Picture perfect…

was the day this photograph ca 1930 was made. Minnie Viola Russell who was married to Andrew Ethelbert Kerby and her family lived in Florence; and on this day all but one daughter would be pictured with their mother. Those little twins lived into their nineties. Irene was the soft voiced one and seemed be the mother figure to others though childless; studied and down-to-earth is how she might be described. Pauline, on the other hand, well, was Pauline. She was talkative and never met a stranger. Much to her dismay as she aged her hearing became less acute and that must have been frustrating for her.

The twins and their younger sister, Marie, would sing on the radio in their youth. And, oh how you would love to hear these two little petite dynamos talk of their childhood, of their courting years, and about the close knit family life they lived at home with their Mama and Papa. One story Pauline could tell in her adulthood for then there was no fear of getting in to trouble, had to do with dolls that she and Irene received from a relative that Pauline thought favored Irene juuussst a little bit. Pauline unwrapped Irene’s doll enough to see that the porcelain face was cracked. So, little miss priss went about re-wrapping the doll and…

exchanging the gift tag with the one on her package. So on Christmas, when presents were unwrapped, Pauline was happy with her perfect doll.

Pauline was the contest winning queen back in her day. She won lots of prizes and really nice things like a boat, a car, and washer and dryers. She had a method to the contests and she was good at her hobby. It was Irene who was the keeper of the memories and treasures of the family. At Irene’s death she still had the original trundle bed that all her mother’s children were born on over a span of a hundred years even at that point in time, a pump organ, and an antique view finder with all the scenes on cards still with it. And, that is not even to mention all the treasures of family photos over the years.

By the way, you don’t believe that Harriet and Barbara middle name stuff, do you? The twins felt left out because they had no middle names, so they adopted the names of their favorite Kerby relatives for their middle names. Thus, Irene Harriet Kerby and Pauline Barbara Kerby were born. These little ladies were a delight to be around. The last time they attended the Sweetwater event was when their great grand-niece took them. They were the hit of the event that year. They grew up near Sweetwater, so it was always special to them.

Minnie Viola Russell Kerby and Daughters

The first meals on wheels…

in the Shoals area were very tasty.

They were delivered by pretty girls on skates at the WoodyMac Corral in Sheffield. The WoodyMac was so popular back then, a second one opened near O’Neal Bridge going toward Florence from Sheffield. It is that one that is featured in the photo below. The intersection there used to be called the TVA Intersection. I remember the biggest, coldest DrPepper in my life and it came from the Woody Mac Corral. It felt so good going down on such a hot day.

The first WoodyMac Corral was located where El Toro restaurant is now located near Helen Keller Hospital. Feel free to use the comment section to relate your memories of this fun establishment in Sheffield.

Woody Mac Corral II

Brunette “Nettie” Kerby

was beloved by her family and was a friend and colleague of Maud Lindsay.

Brunette "Nettie" Kerby Walters

Fondly referred to as “Aunt Nettie” by my grandmother is my great-grandfather (Andrew Ethelbert Kerby’s) sister. She and her siblings were reared in Dixon Springs, TN. Her parents were married shortly after the Civil War. Her father, Richard Marshall Kerby, was in the 8th TN Infantry Co. A during the war.  His unit saw action in most of the big battles of the Tennessee arena. In a book entitled the History of  Trousdale County, (Tennessee) a letter was published which was written the morning after the Battle at Chickamauga which mentioned “Marshall”. It was a letter written from a son (Daniel Burford) to his mother (Ms. Ward) which were neighbors of R.M. Kerby’s family. One of the Kerbys had been killed during the battle (I believe he was a cousin of R.M.’s ) and Daniel asked his mother to reassure “Mr. Kerby” (Francis Kerby, R.M.’s father) that Marshall was alright.

Shortly after returning home Richard Marshall married Catherine (Caron) Ruth Jones and they raised a large family there in Dixon Springs. A letter was written from R.M. to his sister, Medora Kerby Fergusson, in 1883 telling about his move from Dixon Springs to Florence, Alabama. R.M. and his children had intended to move to Texas but were wearied by their trip. They found a desirable place just “north of South Pittsburgh” (Sheffield)”along the Tennessee River.”  His family settled into Florence, Alabama during its boom in the 1880s.

Several of Richard Marshall Kerby’s relatives were school teachers, some were of the most prominent in the earliest schools in Florence.One of these teachers was R.M.’s daughter, Brunette, who taught at the famous Maud Lindsay’s Free-Kindergarten in Florence. She lived on N. Walnut Street, near the parking lot of the new Florence Public Library. I can just imagine her immaculate, warm, cozy home full of the best southern hospitality. I discovered an article that my Aunt Irene Kerby Marks had clipped and placed in her scrapbook. I thought you might enjoy it. It was from the Florence Times but I do not know the date on which it appeared.

This ittby bitty girl from Florence…

made a BIG impression and was awarded Teacher of the Year! Congratulations to Julie Wright Hilley. Julie is the daughter of Dale Wright formerly of Florence, but who now resides in Muscle Shoals. Julie teaches at Citrus Elementary in Apopko, Florida. She is just a back home, down home girl and a great teacher.

Julie Hilley: Teacher of the Year

Julie Wright Hilley: Teacher of the Year At Citrus Elementary

Outlaw John Murrell…

did not have a happy ending awaiting him.

From the Florence Times, Saturday, February 28, 1895, p. 1.


An account of His Capture Near Florence.
His Imprisonment, Death and Mutilation.

          Mr. T. F. Simpson of Tuscumbia gives the following interesting account of the noted outlaw John A. Murrell in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of Sunday last:
          I take the liberty of correcting an inaccuracy which appeared in The Commercial Appeal of Monday last, in reference to that of an interesting review of the incidents in the life of the famous bandit and outlaw, John A. Murrell, furnished by John P. Clay, which says the outlaw was never once captured in the whole course of his career. Mr. Clay is evidently not well posted, in view of the above statement. Many of the citizens of this section have heard from their parents’ knees numerous thrilling incidents in the career of Murrell, as he was often through this section away back fifty years or more, and of his capture and service in the Nashville (Tenn,) penitentiary, where he remained an inmate until he was declared to be dying of consumption and was pardoned by the governor. Soon after he was given his liberty he died at Pikeville, Tenn. Several years ago a citizen of Tuscumbia, Col. A. H. Kellar [sic], while visiting at Pikeville, met Mrs. S. C. Norwood, whose father gave Murrell employment as a blacksmith on his farm where he worked as long as his health would permit. Murrell had learned the trade in the penitentiary. Mrs. Norwood also informed Col. Kellar [sic] that Murrell was a constant Bible reader before his death, but always maintained that he had never killed a human being.
          The arrest and capture of the notorious outlaw was made on the outskirts of Florence through a negro named Tom Brandon [sic],1 a bricklayer, who died in Tuscumbia a few years ago, having reached a ripe old age. Tom’s master was a contractor and assisted in building many business houses in Florence. Colored brick masons were worth several thousand dollars, and Murrell planned a scheme by which he hoped to secure Tom and sell him for what he would bring. He made known his plans to Tom, with whom he proposed to share the proceeds of the sale. Tom heard his plans but would give him no definite answer until a second interview was had with the bandit. In the meantime he notified his master of Murrell’s proposition, and the time and place of the interview. Tom’s master enlisted the services of an officer and when Murrell went to fulfill his engagement with Tom he was captured and tried and sent to the penitentiary. These are facts which can be substantially corroborated by numerous citizens of Tuscumbia.
          Murrell was buried at Pikev[i]lle, and a short time after the internment his headless body was found near the grave, partially devoured by hogs. It was never known by whom this terrible deed was committed. It was rumored that his sku[ll] was sold to a Philadelphia museum.
          Thus it will be seen that John A. Murrell, whose name will live through centuries as one of the most noted criminals of ante-bellum days, was arrested, tried and convicted and served in the Tennessee penitentiary until the governor pardoned him on account of ill health.