Alabaster, county lose a great man

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Alabaster and Shelby County lost a prominent businessman and friend with the recent passing of Frederick Funston Phillips.

Known to his family and close friends as Fred, to those of us who only knew him well enough to respect his many good works as Mr. Phillips, his life will have a lasting impact on our community.

Mr. Phillips father and mother, James Thomas Phillips [better known as Captain Tom] and Nellie Brannon Phillips, helped grow Shelby County&8217;s early industrial strength while operating and eventually owning the Buck Creek Cotton Mills Company which was located in Siluria [now part of Alabaster]; most now know the location of this long ago industrial boom as the Siluria Mill.

Mr. Phillips and his father partnered to operate Valley Mills in Columbiana and Starkville Mills in Starkville, Mississippi. Mr. Phillips also helped his family operate the Siluria Mill.

The Siluria Mill, unlike industrial sites we think of today, was much more than simply a place to work; the Phillips family and their predecessors, the Thompson family, made certain people found a warm community there complete with stores, a hotel, a village, a ballpark and a clubhouse, doctor and dentist offices, churches, a school, even boy and girl scout troops.

At one time, the mill was Shelby County&8217;s largest employer indicating that good business and good stewardship can indeed co-exist.

The Siluria Mill was a place people called both home and work; it was a reflection of so many good things about that time in our county&8217;s history.

Mr. Phillips knew that history as few others could.

That is why, years after the Siluria Mill had closed and the property had deteriorated into an unsightly and unsafe eyesore, Mr. Phillips lead the effort to make something positive for the community rise from the site of the old mill.

As a result of Mr. Phillips efforts and leadership, the City of Alabaster purchased the mill site and its remaining 20 acres in 2004 with the idea of creating a public or private development on the property.

The City of Alabaster is still cleaning the site and planning for what we all hope will be something special for the citizens of this area. That&8217;s what Mr. Phillips would have wanted I suspect. Mr. Phillips saw great potential in the Siluria Mill site, his passion was infectious and now many share his vision for what can and should be done there. What comes of the Siluria Mill site will not only be a testament to Mr. Phillips and his family but to the countless others who worked and played there. Mr. Phillips dream is one worth realizing