Businessman's Gift: $400,000 Civic Center
Anonymous benefactor is funding 7,800 square foot building
near Alabama 59 and US 90
By J. Pepper Bryars - Staff Reporter
LOXLEY - A businessman with ties to the
Baldwin County farming industry decided last spring to pay
for all of Loxley's new $400,000 civic center set to open
in late February, town records show.
But there is nobody to personally thank
for the generous deed because the humble donor has asked
to remain anonymous, said Loxley Mayor Billy Middleton.
"They did it out of the kindness and
goodness of their heart," he said, adding that the
new building "is going to be gorgeous."
The 7,800 square-foot civic center is being
built on the site of Loxley's new 40 acre recreation park
west of Alabama 59 and just south of US 90.
Construction on the yet-un-named civic
center began about two months ago, Middleton said. It has
a stage, two dressing rooms, two restrooms, a kitchen, meeting
rooms and a large banquet hall with enough space for 200
people at tables or 500 people in an audience setting, he
"We designed it for everybody, but
we'll have planned activities for kids, especially during
summer months and after school," he said, adding that
most senior citizen and youth programs will be free.
Although the center is being privately
funded, Middleton explained that Loxley holds the deed to
the building and owes nothing but gratitude to their generous
The mayor wouldn't say how much the civic
center costs or who was building the facility. However,
town records indicate that general contractor Adrian L.
Johnson of Fairhope, is building the facility for $380,000.
In addition, James H. Clarke of Daphne, the architect who
designed the facility, said that figure should climb to
about $400,000 before the job's completed. He also added
that in recent years the anonymous benefactor has funded
several other similar projects throughout Baldwin County.
Middleton said the public will be able
to rent the center for birthday parties, wedding receptions,
and meetings but that people should call the town hall at
964-5162 if they have other suggestions.
"We're already getting requests for
next summer's family reunions," Middleton said.
Town officials will meet in the coming
weeks to create and appoint members to a Parks and Recreation
Board that will oversee the new park and civic center.
Among other duties, Middleton said that
the board will set rental fees for the building while one
full-time city employee will run the park from an office
inside the center.
The number of positions of the new board
and the park supervisor's salary haven't been decided, Middleton
Bobby McClure, a project manager with Goddwyn,
Mills and Cawood, the Montgomery based architectural and
engineering firm hired to design the unnamed recreation
park, said it's currently expected to cost around $750,000.
"It could easily go over $1 million
before we're finished," McClure said Wednesday, adding
that the park should be ready for batting practice some
time early next year.
The first phase of the park project, which
began in February, includes three baseball fields, a concession
stand, press and score boxes and the 200-car parking lot,
Once that phase is complete, tennis courts,
a playground and a walking trail will be added as funds
become available, pushing the cost to around $1 million,
Loxley secured the initial funds through
a construction loan from a local bank, but will pay that
loan off with an impending bond issue, Loxley Councilman
Richard L. Teal said Wednesday. The amount and length of
the issue haven't been decided he added.
"Loxley's never had a field of their
own," Middleton said. Currently, both youth and adult
teams are forced to use two fields at Loxley Elementary
The new ball fields will also be equipped
with an adjustable outfield so that little-leaguers and
their parents can play in the same park.
Most of the citizens of Loxley now
know that Lawrence Schmieding of Schmieding Prduce in Loxley,
AL and Springdale, Arkansas used his foundation, The Schmieding
Foundation, to fund the civic center project. To this day
the park and civic center are vital recreational areas for
the Town of Loxley and surrounding communities.
The above article had no date but officially
the building was dedicated in June 1999. This article was
either published in the Mobile Press Register Baldwin Edition
or the Baldwin Times around February 1998. There is another
article written by Bruce Sims who was a staff writer and
editor of the Independent that might suggest that this article
appeared in the Mobile Press Register.
A TRIP BACK: Writer reviews Loxley's
Reprinted from The Independent, Wednesday, November 10,
Editor's Note: Nancy Jack, a free-lance
writer who splits her residence between Loxley and California,
recently researched the history of Loxley. The result was
an article on the town's establishment and highlights of
its development through the years. She has given her work
to the Town of Loxley, and visitors to the town and local
students now have quick access to a brief account of Loxley's
past. The article is being reprinted in two parts in the
The first signs of commerce in the Loxley
area seem to have been on well traveled roadways, north
Just to the south of our present day town,
the famous "Old Spanish Trail" has run from the
days of foot traffic and horseback riders to today's speeding
cars and trucks along Highway 64, that same trail.
To the north, form the early 1800s was
a large stage coach line which traversed a "corduroy
road," a log and mud road built by man and maintained
mostly by nature. This surprisingly smooth highway was also
later known as the "Wired Road" as it followed
the first telegraph line from Pensacola to Blakely to Mobile.
In the late 1890s, the small village of
Benet (sp.), in Central Baldwin County, saw the arrival
of John Loxley and a large group of men from Michigan. Mr.
Loxley built a camp for his crew and a sawmill approximately
four miles north of the village He also established a small
gaufe railroad to haul his cut timber.
His men created commerce in the area and
the tiny town began to grow. After completing his task of
cutting and processing the local timber, Mr. Loxley returned
to his home state but most of his crew remained to marry
and settle here. Others moved into the area, attracted by
its thriving nature. Thus began the town of Loxley.
The Loxley residents of the first decade
of this century did not have an easy task when it came to
family shopping. A trip to the grocery store consisted of:
first a wagon ride over the "Spanish Trail" to
Daphne 11 miles away, a layover at the hotel there, then
a ferry boat ride to Mobile. There, the purchases were in
quantity: 10, 25, amd 50 pound bags of coffee, sugar, meal,
etc. for a lengthy period of use. All were loaded aboard
the ferry for a return trup to Daphne, to wagon, to home
again. Dry goods, shoes and such were purchased south of
Loxley in Silverhill at the People's Supply Store, which
is still in business.
In the very earliest days of this century,
a man named R. M. Mahler began his influence of our budding
community. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made
its plans to lay tracks through Loxley, but in which direction?
This became a matter of controversy.
Mr. Mahler had made plans for the railroad.
He had gathered a sizable amount of acreage northwest of
town where he established the first hotel, donated land
for public use, and had built his own home there. He had
then laid out the streets, one of which bares his name,
backwards, spelling out Relham Street. His intention was
to lay out the route the railroad would take as well, right
past his estate and hotel.
There were two other men in th area of
considerable influence who had other ideas, Mr. Hammond
and Mr. Roberts. Their intention was to have the tracks
run more north and south from Loxley to Robertsdale. The
matter was settled when these two men offered every other
section of land along their chosen route to the railroad.
One fellow near Robertsdale did not care
for the outcome and tried to prevent progress from crossing
his farm land. He nor his shotgun were able to succeed against
the tracks, engines and money.
An so, in 1905, the first commercial railroad
began its passage through Loxley. It was known at that time
as the Fort Morgan Line as a sign of unfulfilled intention.
The line never succeeded in running as far south as Fort
By the 1920s, the line was in lively use,
even by high school students who, having no local classes
in the higher grades to attend, rode the train daily to
Bay Minette school. It was then known as the Pine Knot Special.
Every few miles the train would stop long
enough for the workers and passengers alike to step down
and gather pine knots for stoking the engines. The L&N
built the first packing and loading shed in Loxley. Many
The railroad made possible a lively farm
industry in the area for a number of years. Around 1965,
a fire broke out in the vicinity of the depot, and sheds.
Most of those well-used structures burned down, precipitationg
the end of the railroad era, the beginning of trucking as
a major local industry.
The several means of livlihood in those
early years included employment at the Barnhill Turpentine
Still, Dean Comstock's cement block plant, and the creamery.
Stapleton's boarding house, the post office, a saloon and
several stores made up the commerce.
The first drug store was established by
Mr. John Saxe, husband of another local pioneer, the first
school teacher. In 1910, Mrs. Saxe began the education of
Loxley children. She started with an educational system
that consisted of a one-room building and has moved forward
to include a fine brick elementary school and a modern junior
The first school was replaced by a three
room building on the west side of Highway 90. This was later
moved across the road and, when too crowded, an enterprising
teacher made use of an old packing shed as a spare classroom.
The present elementary school is built on the site of the
last three room structure.
That same shed that so well served the
requirements of education had once played another important
role in our community. In the 1920s, two crops enjoyed great
prosperity. Oranges and satsumas were a major part of Loxley
agriculture from 1920 until around 1927. The trees grew
and produced bountifully during what must have been a weather
cycle that has yet to return.
Other businesses at that time included
an egg store, telegraph office, repair garage, blacksmith
and land office. Highway 90 was not yet paved but was well
used by wagon and automobile alike.
Note: Many of the details of this article have changed.
For instance, the Baldwin newspapers of the time spelled
Benet, "Bennitt." John Loxley left his son, Fred,
in charge of the logging industry. Fred lived in Daphne.
The article says that John Loxley moved back to Chicago.
He, and his wife, however, lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana
until 1911. The Loxley Elementary School referenced in the
article has once again moved to a new structure built where
the junior high school was located. The addition of several
classrooms and activity rooms makes the building a state
of the art educational facility.
LOXLEY: "The Heart of Baldwin
Below is an image of an advertisement that was used by
the Loxley Commercial Club and printed in The Advocate of
Greenville, AL. A similar brochure was used and sent all
over the country. Since it advertises satsumas and oranges,
it is believed this advertisement/brochure was used during
the 1920s when the satsuma and orange businesses were at
their height. Notice the information the authors of this
advertisement/brochure used to try to draw people into the
Select the above image
for a larger version.
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An Entire Lifetime of Loxley Memories
From horse-drawn carriages to 50-cent-an-acre
homesteads, Ada Ellison has witnessed many changes in Baldwin
by: Bob Morgan - Staff Writer - The Onlooker
- Saturday, September 5, 1998
Ada Ellison recalls
nearly a century in Loxley, which was once known as
LOXLEY - From the Old Spanish Trail that
wound its way from Mobile to Pensacola, to the stagecoach
stop that served travel-weary settlers journeying to and
from nearby Blakely, the town of Loxley has served as an
important crossroads since colonial times.
Today, as motorists pass through the municipaliity
along Alabama Highway 59, to its juncture with Interstate
10 and beyond, many will find it hard to believe that "downtown"
once ran in an east-west direction along Relham Drive, rather
than the north-south direction of today's four lane.
"There's a lot of history to be found
in this area," said Ada Ellison, 93, who was born on
May 5, 1905, the same day the railroad from Bay Minette
to Loxley was completed.
Ellison said in the early years the hamlet,
that would grow to become incorporated as Loxley in 1957,
was once known as Bennitt.
"That was before the Loxley family
set up a sawmill near where D'Olive Cemetery is today and
people began to refer to the area by that name," she
said. "In those days three sawmills were located near
Despite the sounds emanating from the local
sawmills, Ellison said things were so quiet that local farmers
could often hear the sound of ship's whistles and horns
from Mobile Bay, 10 to 12 miles away.
Prior to the construction of a one room
schoolhouse around 1908 near the now-abandoned St. Alban's
Episcopal Church, the first church to be built in Loxley
around 1914, children were oftened tutored at home.
"Rex D'Olive was the first baby to
be baptized at St. Alban's," she said. "The Baptist
Church was built in 1916, but it was flattened by the hurricane
of that year. It was later rebuilt."
A three-teacher school, that ran through
the 10th grade, was constructed in 1911, said Ellison, with
the old brick school, that houses a number of the Baldwin
County School System's admisistrative offices today, being
built between 1925-27.
"When I grew older I had to catch
the Pine Knot Special, that's what they called the train
then, and ride for an hour to Bay Minetee in order to attend
hight school," Ellison said. "I still have a book
of tickets around here someplace that I used to ride the
"It didn't do to get sick back then,"
she said, "as it might take the doctor three days to
get to your house, riding on his horse and buggy."
Land,however, was dirt cheap by today's
standards, she said, often going for 50-cents an acre for
100-acre homestead plots.
Families had gardens and grew their own
livestock in order to have food, she said, and horses and
oxen were used to till the ground for crops.
"Things like coffee, sugar, rice,
salt and flour were bought once or twice a year by taking
the boat from Daphne to Mobile and buying these items by
the barrel," she said. "When I was a child I sometimes
got to ride in the wagon down to People's Supply store in
Silverhill to buy other things.
early Loxley Elementary class Photo
Ellison said Loxley's first general merchandise
store was owned by the Davidson family, and later by M.
B. Dewey, Walter Hammond, and George Marenio (Marenos).
Occasionally, hogs and cattle would be
slaughtered and the meat passed around to various friends
and neighbors, Ellison said.
"That was before the days of refrigeration,"
she said. "So when a neighbor would slaughter a cow
or pig they would share with our family as well. Loxley
use to be where the annual roundup would be held where cows
would be branded."
For entertainment, Ellison said there was
an amazing number of books in the community that could be
borrowed and lent out, plus there were always plenty of
school activities such as plays and dances.
"My daddy would hunt quail and dove
for us to eat," she said. "I remember that I hated
having to pluck feathers from the doves. Quail wasn't so
bad because you could skin them."
Children did a lot of exploring in their
spare time, and Ellison well remembers the reaction her
mother had when her 10-year old brother killed an alligator
near the present-day location of the Loxley Post Office.
"She about had a fit," she said.
The old town hall, once located where Regions
bank is today, served as both a movied theater and a skating
rink at one time.
"Amazingly enough there weren't that
many house fires back then," she said. "With everyone
having to cook by a wood burning stove, and having to heat
their houses that way it's a miracle."
The railroad depot was a social hub of
sorts for those coming to town to get their mail, to arrange
the shipment of crops and so forth.
"There use to be a lot of satsuma
orchards around here," she said, "and local farmers
would ship carload after carload of satsumas north during
the harvest, but the freeze in 1924 wiped them out."
In 1945 Flowerwood Nursery began shipping
a lot its small shrubbery orders by train, she said.
A hotel near the railroad depot, served
the sleeping needs of all the "drummers," as traveling
salesmen were called.
During the years of World War II, Loxley
was home to several hundred German prisoners of war.
"The POW camp was located about a
half mile north of I-10 in that open field on the left,"
she said. "I remember seeing prisoners being taken
to work on local farms and produce sheds because most of
our local boys were in the service."
Ellison's husband, Roy, served as the town's
postmaster for 30 years before retiring in 1967.
"In the early years of the town we
would receive mail by the Pony Express from Daphne, and
by the railroad," she said. "Up near where I-10
is today there was even a mail stop called Peadro."
Ellison said she believes that the generation
of today will see even more changes.
"I love Loxley," she said. "It
has been a great place to live and raise a family."
Note: There is some question about
the first church in Loxley. Most people consider the Methodist
Church the first church built. It is said it was built in
1906 and served as the combined church, especially until
the Baptist church was rebuilt. Also, there is a corner
stone on the old brick elementary school that lists 1937
as the date of construction. Finally, records indicate that
the freeze that ruined the citrus industry in the area occurred
in 1927, not 1924. Additional research will be carried out
to clarify these discrepancies.