VINEMONT, Ala. – Vinemont Elementary celebrated the town’s history Saturday in conjunction with the ongoing Alabama 200 Bicentennial celebration. Chosen as one of the Bicentennial schools, Vinemont Elementary has focused on Vinemont history throughout the school year while planning Saturday’s Vinemont History Day.
The school invited community members to come enjoy many activities. Guests strolled the campus and enjoyed storytelling, a car show and free hot dog lunch. Classrooms offered demonstrations and an opportunity to talk to experts invited to speak on interesting topics.
Ed Green spoke about the Civil War and explained the different flags of the Confederacy. He also brought many items that were used during the war such as pistols, muskets, canteens and a long saber.
Across the hall, Billy Grayfox Shaw spoke about Native American culture and the Cherokee who lived in the area long before white settlers arrived. The High Town Path, an Indian trail from Charleston, South Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee cut through Cullman County and also served as a tribal boundary between the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Creek.
Shaw also had a proclamation issued by the State of Alabama acknowledging the historical significance of north Alabama’s marker or directional trees. Native Americans would bend young trees as they grew to indicate a variety of things. The trees helped guide people to safe shelter or water.
Also displayed were gourd bowls of dried beans and corn that Shaw referred to as “the three sisters,” many traditional musical instruments, the first cordless drill and a “booger man mask.” The mask was worn to frighten children in order to discourage them from wandering off.
Other stations included the history and tradition of fasola, or Sacred Harp, singing, the science and importance of beekeeping and an opportunity to hear about World War II from Mr. Talmadge Drake who served in the 35th Infantry.
Dressed in finest pioneer attire, Vinemont Councilwoman Shirley Arnett gave demonstrations on quilt making. On display were many beautiful quilts passed down as priceless heirlooms. Arnett brought her vintage Singer sewing machine powered by foot pedal.
Dr. Jane Teeter and Rodger Walling hosted a historic bus tour of Holmes Gap and Vinemont. All seats on the bus were full as they told stories of Vinemont’s earlier days. The town was named Pinnacle until 1898 when a group of entrepreneurs from Chicago came to start a wine cooperative. The Alabama Vineyard Company created what Walling described as a “financially exclusive neighborhood” and renamed the town Vinemont because there would be grapes on the mountain.
Teeter and Walling pointed out where all the historic buildings are standing or once stood including one of two fancy hotels that existed near the numerous train depots. Parts of one hotel can still be seen peeking out of the trees and brush. The weathered building is evidence of a once bustling town where visitors were taken by horse and carriage to enjoy a night in Vinemont.
One funnier story told by Teeter was the fate of the original jail. A red barn close to the railroad by what locals referred to as “the black road,” served as the town’s jail. One night a group of boys Teeter described as “rascally” took advantage of the jail’s close proximity to the railroad tracks. They tied a rope to the cross ties of the jail with the other end tied to a train. When the train left the depot, the old jail went with it. No worries, the jail was already empty.
The finale of Vinemont History Day was a fun parade that began at the elementary school and looped around to the fire station and back to the school. The parade was led by Mayor Radginal Dodson followed by the town’s fire engines. The school cheerleaders and students threw candy and had a great time. Finally, the most anticipated visitor appeared in a beautiful horse drawn carriage. The Easter Bunny!
Many in the crowd hoped the History Day and parade would become a yearly event for their community. Brandon Stapleton came with his 3-year-old daughter Madison. She was especially happy about the parade and her collection of candy.
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