Ellen Hill in Fairhope

Meet a well-known fixture of late 1880s Fairhope, formerly enslaved Ellen Hill.

Over 100 years ago, Fairhope had its own celebrity in longtime area resident Ellen Hill. Hill was a freed slave, and fellow residents and tourists alike assigned her the affectionate nickname “Aunt Ellen.” She lived in a small cabin, where she is pictured in the photo at right, between Volanta and Sea Cliff. From the house was a picturesque view of the water, and locals would come over to enjoy it and the fruit from Ellen’s orchard, which they would purchase or sometimes receive for free. Along with selling fruit, Hill made a living charging passersby pennies to travel over the footbridge that spanned Fly Creek. According to a note on the photo, Hill was 98 years old at the time it was taken. However, her exact age thoughout her life was reportedly unknown, even by her own family. Local rumors popularized the idea that she was 104 when she died in 1920 after a “stroke of paralysis.” 

By the numbers

The year Frank Stewart came to Baldwin County. A photographer best known for his photos of Baldwin County landmarks, he was called “Frank Stewart, the Picture Man.” He took the above photo of Ellen Hill.

The population of Fairhope by the year 1900. Just six years earlier, 19 adults and nine children arrived to create the Fairhope Single Tax Colony. Before long, their numbers drastically increased.

The tax freed slaves in the Fairhope area paid annually on their land. After the Civil War, freed slaves oftentimes settled on formerly unused land, and could stay there as long as they continued to pay the annual tax.

- Sponsors -

The year Volanta, a Fairhope neighborhood, was first populated. Residents sold lots for homes and businesses. They planned to build a railroad to Pensacola, Bay Minette and Fort Morgan but it didn’t sell.

Do you know any further details about this photo? Let us know! Email [email protected].

Get the best of Mobile delivered to your inbox

Be the first to know about local events, home tours, restaurant reviews and more!