Bay Minette is the county seat of Baldwin County, the second-fastest growing county in Alabama. The city is located 35 miles northeast of Mobile; 45 miles west of Pensacola, Florida, and 75 miles east of Biloxi, Mississippi. Bay Minette got its name from nearby Minette Bay, named for a French surveyor named Minet. The city did not officially become the county seat until 1900, and was finally incorporated in 1907. The city is governed under a mayor/council form of government that maintains four-year terms.
Settlement in Bay Minette began in 1861 when the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad reached the area, and the town became a junction for the L&N. Newcomers were attracted to the location because it was surrounded by forests and located near the Tensaw River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico.
Although Bay Minette is the most centrally located township in Baldwin County, it was not chosen as the county seat when the county was established. Baldwin County is the third oldest county in the state of Alabama, created on December 21, 1809, ten years before Alabama officially became a state. The first county seat location was at McIntosh Bluff on the Tombigbee River, but it was transferred to Blakeley only one year later, in 1810. In 1898, the State Legislature decided to move the county seat to Daphne. In 1900, however, the Alabama State Legislature officially named Bay Minette the county seat, and on October 1, 1901, Bay Minette town leaders officially dedicated a courthouse in the town. The city of Daphne resisted its loss of status, however, and refused to surrender the powers of government.
In order to move the county records to Bay Minette, town leaders devised a scheme to lure the sheriff and his deputy out of the Daphne with a false story about a murder. While the law officers were pursuing the fictitious killer, a group of Bay Minette men stealthily traveled the 30 miles to Daphne, stole the Baldwin County Courthouse records, and delivered them to the new courthouse in Bay Minette. Thus, the town was established as the Baldwin County seat.
The economy of Bay Minette is centered on the thriving timber industry in the region. Approximately 73.6 percent of the Baldwin County area is forest land. In fact, the production of the tar and pitch that was used to caulk and waterproof ships and turpentine (collectively known as naval stores) in South Alabama was, from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, one of the forest industries' largest enterprises. The only significant employer in Bay Minette was a wood processing plant that produced turpentine, resin, and pine oil from knots, roots, and stumps, making use of every part of the tree.
Because of the rich, fertile soils and moderate temperatures in the area, Baldwin County also became one of the richest farming areas in the state. Soybean cultivation began to flourish there in the 1930s. Wheat and potato farming peaked in the 1940s. Pecans and cattle have also played an important role in the county's economy. The Agriculture and Civic League of Bay Minette mainly concentrates on promoting agricultural organizations but also promotes other industries.
Railroads also were an important economic factor in Bay Minette's development. In 1905, the Bay Minette and Fort Morgan Railroad, a supporting line for the L&N Railroad, was built through the dense Baldwin County pine forests between Bay Minette and Foley. Later known as the "Foley Branch," this railroad played a significant role in the county's logging industry. By 1924, the town ranked near Montgomery and Mobile in the freight tonnage handled in the town. In 1982, the L&N Railroad Company merged with the Seaboard System Railroad, which in turn merged with the Chessie System in 1986, becoming CSX Transportation. The company currently handles freight and provides employment in Bay Minette.
Bay Minette's population according to the 2010 Census was 8,044. Of that number, 60.4 percent identified themselves as white, 35.3 percent as African American, 1.8 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 1 percent as Native American, 0.8 percent as Asian, and 1.7 percent as two or more races. The town’s median household income was $35,951, and the per capita income was $16,897.
The workforce in present-day Bay Minette is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.7 percent) · Manufacturing (18.4 percent) · Retail trade (13.1 percent) · Construction (10.2 percent) · Public administration (9.6 percent) · Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.7 percent) · Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (6.1 percent) · Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.4 percent) · Transportation and warehousing and utilities (3.5 percent) · Other services, except public administration (1.9 percent) · Wholesale trade (1.5 percent) · Information (1.7 percent) · Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.3 percent)
Schools in Bay Minette are part of the Baldwin County school district; the town has approximately 3,696 students and 252 teachers in three elementary schools (K-3), one Intermediate school (4-5), one middle school, (6-8) and one high school (9-12). James H. Faulkner State Community College is located in Bay Minette and offers two-year degrees in a variety of educational programs.
Bay Minette has a city-owned Municipal Airport intended for public use. It is located three miles southwest of the central business district of the city. Bay Minette is served by two major highways: U.S. Highway 31 runs northeast-southwest through Bay Minette, and connects the city to I-65 to the north and to I-10 to the south.
Events and Places of Interest
Bay Minette is home to a number of Civil War and other early American historical sites, including antebellum homes and Civil War cemeteries. The First Baptist Church, the Kilcreas House, and the Fort Louis De La Louisiane site are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Concrete Water Tower at the intersection of Hand Avenue and West Third Street, the L&N Railroad Depot, Rhodes Store, and the U.S. Post Office are all listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The John F. Rhodes Civic Center is a 6,000 square-foot facility available to rent for most social events. Bay Minette also holds various events, such as the charity Tour for Toys Motorcycle Run, and the Bike-O-Rama Motorcycle Rally, which includes a motorcycle show, games, live music, refreshments, and other entertainment.
Bay Minette operates seven municipal parks that offer such activities as skateboarding, picnic facilities, ballparks, playgrounds, and gazebos and pavilions. The City of Bay Minette Municipal Pool features a diving board, a slide, and a special section for younger children. The Pitcher Plant Bog is a preserve devoted to the carniverous and endangered pitcher plants as well as sundews and butterworts.
Baldwin County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Baldwin County, Alabama . Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.
Nuzum, Kay. A History of Baldwin County . Bay Minette, Ala.: Baldwin Times, 1970.
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