Sunday, December 21, 2014

Casey Jones was here!

Along with the construction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad came the need for railroad shops. It was this need that led to the birth of the town of Whistler.  In 1851 Jacob Magee donated the land and the new town was named for Washington Jefferson Whistler, a well known engineer and the older brother of James Abbot McNeill Whistler, the artist.  Though a small community just north of the city of Mobile, Whistler has had its share of famous residents and events. It was here in April 1865 at Eight Mile bridge that one of the last squirmishes of the Civil War was fought. Casey Jones was baptized at St. Bridget's Catholic Church and lived for a time on Whatley Avenue. Billy Williams, a hall of fame baseball player, was born here, as well as, Edward Lilley, a well reknowned scientist and professor at Harvard University. Many of the modest old homes still remain and St. Bridgets Catholic Church and the Whistler Methodist Church are two of the most beautiful churches in all of Mobile County.

Whistler has always been a working class town and has really struggled the last half century to survive. Despite the efforts of preservationists such as Johnnie Andrews to bring attention to the town and its history, the town is slowly losing its historic fabric. Jernigan's Hardware, a family owned business that had been a landmark of the community since the 1930's recently closed its doors. It is hoped that a new generation of preservationists will see the value in saving this community before it is too late.

This post is dedicated to my friend Shirley Sharik (May 25, 1934 - October 31, 2012) who passed away in her home on Rebel Road in Whistler. The home, part of which dated to the 1850's, had been in her family for more than a century. Shirley was a preservationist, bon vivant, and story teller that lived her life to the fullest. She is very missed.

Whistler Station, c. 1860
St. Bridget's Catholic Church, 1874

 St. Bridget's Parsonage
 Whistler Methodist Church
 Whistler Masonic Hall


 Haner House (Home of Shirley Sharik)
Shirley Sharik, photo c. 1960