Rock Mountain Lakes
Rock Mountain Lakes is a community in Jefferson County near Bessemer and McCalla. It is accessed from McAshan Drive, which crosses I-59/20. The community covers an area located on both sides of Rock Mountain.
In the late 1800s and very early 1900s, the land was settled by pioneers who bought land patents from the U.S. Government. Farms were built and on occasion land was leased to timber companies. In 1886, DeBardeleben Coal and Iron Company became the first company to mine red ore at Red Ridge on the south side of Rock Mountain.
By the late 1940s all of the farmers had left the area and timber companies moved in to buy property. Griffin Lumber Company eventually became owner of all of the land that now makes up the Rock Mountain Lakes community.
In 1961, C. P. Griffin used the "over the mountain" section of present-day Rock Mountain Lakes as partial payment to W. L. "Bud" Coleman for the purchase of Coleman Lakes in McCalla. Coleman Lakes at the time of the sale encompassed seven recreational fishing lakes.
Coleman formed a partnership with Raymond Martin to develop the Rock Mountain property. Martin had previously been in the recreational fishing business at some property that he developed, Martin Lakes at Virginia Mines, also in Jefferson County. He had recently sold that development and was eager for a new business opportunity. Coleman and Martin built a road and two lakes on the Rock Mountain property. The first lake opened to the public for fishing in 1963.
Those first two lakes are now known as Big Lake and Grantham Lake. In the beginning only bass, bluegills and shellcrackers were stocked. Later, some catfish and grass carp were put in the lakes. Several years later the first crappie were caught, even though the developers did not stock them.
In the mid-1960s people were beginning to move farther from town to places like Rock Mountain Lakes. Coleman and Martin decided that they should try to capitalize on that, even though selling home lots was not their original intention. They built a spec house and sold it to Jon and Barbara Lyles. The Lyles were soon followed by the Mays, the Gaughts, the Murphrees, the Bensons, the Coles, the Donaldsons, the Lewises, and the Douglases.
In 1965, Coleman and Martin ventured over the mountain and bought the two Griffin Lakes from Roy Griffin. The purchase price for Griffin Lakes was $65,000. A road was soon built on the backside of Big Griffin and the land was subdivided. Those two lakes were also open for public fishing for several years. That provided another income source for Coleman and Martin which later became even more important when the three lakes over the mountain were closed to public fishing.
In 1968, a third lake was added on the Rock Mountain side. This lake has become known as Ellis Lake. The Ellis residence, built in 1967, is older than the lake. The dam of this lake was created by leveling a very steep dip in the road. For many years Lakeside Drive extended directly across the dam. Several years ago, the road was barricaded at both ends of the dam.
In 1975, Raymond Martin sold his half off the business to Bud Coleman. Several months later Elbert and Mary Buckelew bought half interest from Coleman. By that time the business was entirely real estate. All five lakes were closed to public fishing.
The Coleman - Buckelew partnership worked out well, lasting until the last property was either sold or donated to area churches. Rock Mountain Lakes, Inc. transferred ownership of the lakes and common areas to the Rock Mountain Lakes Landowners’ Association. Coleman and Buckelew later opened and operated video rental stores that operated under the name Video Xpress.
- Coleman, William L. (2011) The History of Rock Mountain In Jefferson County, Alabama. Dog Ear Publishing. ISBN 1457507080