Montevallo 100 years ago

A morning spent reading through old records at Montevallo City Hall revealed some interesting and surprising information. The pages of the minute books have turned brown and are almost crisp, but the reports of the town council meetings of 1907 are clearly legible.

The procedures for the meetings of the town leaders a century ago were much as they are today and the subjects considered then show amazing similarities to the concerns of the current city council. The 1907 council minutes typically began, &8220;Mayor and Council met in regular session in the Mayor&8217;s office 7:30 p.m.

All members being present, the minutes of adjourned meetings were read and approved.&8221;

There were then, as there are now, a mayor and five councilmen:

Mayor E. S. Lyman (a judge), Councilman McNath, G. W. Morgan (a business man), C. L. Meroney (a merchant), P. J. Kroell (a merchant) and J. T. Ellis.

The mayor and council were elected at-large by the male population; women were not given the right to vote until 1919.

City Clerk F. W. Rogan and Marshal Newton Eddings were appointed by the mayor and council. It appears that there was only one policeman (the marshal) and a night watchman.

At one of those early council meetings, the finance chairman reported that the books of the city clerk and the marshal had been examined and found to be correct and neatly kept. Money on hand amounted to $157.20, and there was $8.64 in uncollected taxes. The wording and amounts are different, but the essence is about the same as Montevallo&8217;s most recent audit report.

There were, in 1907, just as today, licenses for operating businesses in town. They ran from $5 to $25 a year. The license for a blacksmith was $5 and the same for a weigher of cotton. Property taxes were &8220;one-third of one per centum,&8221; about 3.33 mills, based on the value assessed by Shelby County. Today the Montevallo city property tax is seven mills.

Some interesting laws &045;&045; a few are probably still on the books &045;&045; were passed a century ago.

The reckless or careless throwing of a stone or rock with the intent of hurting someone was ruled a misdemeanor, and the offender could be fined $1-5 and also could be imprisoned in the town prison or sentenced to hard labor not to exceed 50 days.

Another law passed that year prohibited the at-large running

of horses, mares, colts, mules, jacks and jennies on town streets.

Other important decisions of the 1907 Town Council included the acceptance of the donation of a triangle of land (on the corner of Nabors and King Streets) from Mrs. S. E. Nabors for use as a park.

J. W. Ellersburg was employed as principal of the white public school at a salary of $75 a month for the eight and a half month school term that ran concurrently with the term of the Alabama Girls&8217; Industrial School (now the University of Montevallo). The term for the school for the &8220;colored&8221; was to be only six months.

A detective was employed to work on cases of violation of prohibition laws. Charlie Huff was fined $25 plus cost for unlawfully taking whisky from an open barrel at the depot.

The early council was challenged with the issues of finances, health and safety, accountability, education, recreation and planning. In short, they had the responsibility of protecting the people of the town and improving their quality of life.

Sounds familiar. Dates change and people come and go, but the challenges for small-town government remain the same.

Catherine Legg can be reached by e-mail at mailto:clegg2@bellsouth.net