The Hanby Enterprise Part 2

Drawing of Early Ohio River Flatboat (Sieber and Munson, 1994: 27)

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Currents
By Charles Yeager, Manager Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

Historical details and images are from an interpretation of Richard K. Anderson, Jr.’s findings published in “Turkey Creek Cultural Resource Mapping Project for Proposed Turkey Creek Preserve Pinson, Alabama,” 2002.

David Hanby was around the age of 18 when he moved to Alabama with his father. He was around 26 when he helped his father, John Hanby, construct the Hanby mill and forge on Turkey Creek. Richard Anderson suspects that in addition to John’s age, the extreme labor demands required in blacksmithing meant that, David was likely to have taken over most of these duties by the late 1820s.

Realizing the potential wealth of central Alabama’s natural resources, David’s efforts to expand the enterprises he helped his father create did not end at blacksmithing and milling. According to Dr. Allen J. Tower, in his article entitled “The Changing Economy of Birmingham and Jefferson County” published in the Journal of Birmingham Historical Society (January 1960), around 1840 David began mining and selling coal. This operation was not quite as straightforward as it might sound, however, because the most lucrative market for coal at the time was in Mobile, Alabama. To reach Mobile, David used another of Alabama’s natural resources, its large rivers. Because there were no railroads in the area until the 1880s, David constructed 25-foot long “flatboats” to haul his coal from the Mulberry Fork to the Black Warrior River, then all the way down to Mobile Bay. After arriving in Mobile and selling his cargo, he would disassemble the flatboats and sell the lumber. This must have been a lucrative venture, for Dr. Tower notes that by 1844 David braved this journey up to ten times a year.

In 1865, David’s life came to an end when a brigade in Union General Croxton’s forces killed David, and destroyed his operations at Turkey Creek. While it remains unclear why the Hanbys were targeted for this assault, we do know that Croxton’s mission was to destroy Confederate supply lines and manufacturing sources. It can be assumed that the Hanby operation was providing the Confederate army with munitions or other goods. Further expounding this mystery is the circumstance surrounding David’s demise. One local legend suggests that while on a hog hunt, David – now advanced in years, decided to take a nap under a tree. While napping, Union troops advanced on David’s position, startling him out of his sleep. When asked to lower his hunting rifle by Union troops, David who was partially deaf, only stared back in surprise at the soldiers. Feeling they had no other recourse, the soldiers fired on David. After David’s death, his wife sold his property along Turkey Creek to William Nabers, effectively ending all operations at Turkey Creek.

Today, after years of natural and human disturbances, very little remains at Turkey Creek to suggest the scope of the operations that once existed there. What does remain is a wealth of history and stories told by a community that shares a passionate respect for their forefathers and the painstaking efforts they took to settle this area. So, on your next visit to the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, keep these stories in mind, but please, respect the preservation of this history by leaving it as you found it for future generations.