Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST Silverhill, Baldwin County, Alabama – immigrants from throughout the World settled in this small community

Around the turn of the century, immigrants from many regions of the United States and from other countries began populating Baldwin County: Italians settled in Daphne, Scandinavians in Silverhill, Germans in Elberta, Poles in Summerdale, Greeks in Malbis Plantation, and Bohemians in Robertsdale, Summerdale, and Silverhill.

Bohemian Hall in Silver Hills ca. 1921

Bohemian hall in 1921 in Silverhills

In the spring of 1896, work opportunities in the Chicago shops were rather scarce, and therefore the idea was conceived to try to improve one’s condition by turning to country living and farming.

“To that end, Oscar Johansson [Johnson], J. Linden, [C.] Swanson, C. O. Carlson, and [C. A.] Vallentin met to discuss how to proceed. They decided to travel to the South to explore the possibilities of founding a Swedish colony.

First Baptist Church of Silverhills

First Baptist church silver hills

As of the 2010 census, Silverhill in Baldwin County, Alabama, had a population of only 706. Tradition states that the name of Silverhill was derived from the ‘Hill’ where people who worked in the Turpentine Still up on the hill, to the north of Silverhill. The workers were paid in silver money, hence the name Silverhill.

Oscar Johnson Memorial Library – Silverhill’s 1st schoolhouse

Oscar Johnson Memorial Library

Though settlement of the area in Silverhill history dates back to before the Civil War, the Silverhill community of today was actually founded in 1897.

The Svea Land Company in Chicago, which advertised land for sale in Silverhill, was founded by Oscar Johnson. Land was acquired by purchase from a Mr. Harford, the first block of land being 1,500 acres, which was added to from time to time as the colonization work progressed. Scandinavian settlers came to Silverhill from virtually every state in the Union and began the development of what is now the Silverhill district.

Soldiers from Silverhill of five boys holding rifles dated Dec. 4, 1906

Alabama State Archives

silver hill soldiers

In 1909, the first Czechoslovakian settlers migrate to an area southwest of Silverhill to begin a Bohemian colony.

The Wales West Light Railway, a replica of a Welsh mountain railway, is located 5 miles southwest of town.

As you can see from the film below; Silverhill was once a thriving and busy town. Today, Silverhill maintains a small-town charm throughout decades of growth and development both within its town limits and in the surrounding areas. The People’s Supply Store built in 1902, is now the bank. Silverhill’s first schoolhouse built in 1898, is now their Town Library.

The founding of the Silverhill Colony has been recorded carefully preserved in the book, Memories Preserved, Scandinavians in Alabama. Vol. II. by Lilly Setterdahl.

Silverhill will have its annual Heritage Day Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 9:00 to 4:00. 

The numerous immigrants in Silverhill created problems for the local schools due to the different languages and large number of students.  This film will probably bring back many memories for former residents of Silverhill.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: A Collection of Lost & Forgotten Stories

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. […] Colonies that were established around Alabama at the turn of the century, the other two were SilverHill in Baldwin County, Alabama and Fruithurst in Cleburne County, […]

  2. Very nice collection of photos.

  3. This sweet man, Mr. Conway Edhegard, just passed away a couple weeks ago at age 93 years old…sweet man and sweet memories…so glad we have this video…

  4. My family moved to Silverhill when I was 2 yrs. old and moved to Summerdale when I was 6 yrs. old. My Kindergarten teacher was Miss Guarisco from Daphne. She taught Kindergarten and 1st grade and then we went to Miss Emmons for 2nd Grade. I still have a Valentine from Miss Guarisco. One of my best friends was Alice Anderson and Bernice Ekman.

    1. Actually there were, many immigrants practice other faiths.

  5. Times were A LOT different back then; they weren’t coming in to kill us.

    1. I know what you mean! All those crazed Europeans who poured into the formerly peaceful continent wiped out more than 80 percent of the Native Americans in a few generations! Terrible!

    2. It wasn’t as peaceful before the Europeans arrived as you’ve been led to believe. Don’t get me wrong, the British, and later, the U.S. government surely mistreated the American Indians since they were first established on this continent, and it has only grown worse over time but, their world, the American Indians, was not the utopia we’ve been led to believe. As for Pamela Moore’s remark, she explicitly explained “killing US”….meaning, present day Americans.

    3. Oh! Thanks Greg! Had no idea Mrs. Zenophobe was referring to this century!

  6. Yep, and they all willing joined the melting pot and became one with us all. So many immigrants today refuse to melt, setting up a little Mexico or Middle East instead.

  7. Jenny Green Hixon great read!

  8. I was born and raised in Silverhill (1942). My Dad came from Sweden in 1923. He docked in Canada, came down through New York and went to work as a carpenter and painter in Chicago. That’s where he met my Mother, Muriel Olson. They moved to Silverhill in 1938. The school burned down when I was in the eighth grade. We finished that year in churches and the Town Hall so I never attended the new school. I worked for Mr Edhegard on his chicken farm when I was 12 making egg cartons, at Nan’s in Robertsdale as a waitress when I was 13 and then at Woodhaven Dairy Bar in Robertsdale as the curb service person when I was 16. We all worked and were taught good work ethics. I remember the Ferry that crossed Fish River at Marlow, square dances at the Little Bohemian Hall at its original site and many Founders Day celebrations. Silverhill was a GREAT place to be raised.

  9. I like reading your post about past years thanknyou

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