Going “Over the Bay”

Bay Boat James Carney, 1905, Point Clear, Alabama. Historic Mobile Preservation Society, William E. Wilson Collection

My sister and I burst into laughter, pointing and guffawing at the uniformed men in Mobile, Alabama’s Bankhead Tunnel, constantly waving “come on” at our cars. We sped through it almost bumper-to-bumper as our father, driving, sped out of the city onto a causeway to go “over the Bay.” Why were they always waving at us? No car was pokey, and if one of us happened to break down, well, it was a narrow two-lane tunnel. It would be one huge traffic jam! For my sister and me, watching these men constantly waving their arms was entertaining.

“Over the Bay” is one of those expressions we Mobilians often use. It simply means crossing Mobile Bay for a visit on the Eastern Shore—to a beach, to visit a friend, a restaurant, a town, etc.

Before 1927, the year the bridges and the Causeway opened, people traveled to the Eastern Shore via bay boat. These boats, like the one pictured above, brought goods to those who lived on the Bay’s Eastern Shore as well as passengers. Toll rates ranged from $3.50 to $6.00 per person. One tragic event happened on a Sunday in 1871 when a bay boat, the Ocean Wave, exploded, killing an untold number of people. Later estimates put the number of deaths at close to 100.

Boat person that I am, I enjoyed using a bay boat as a setting in one of my chapters. Mobile Bay is beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset!

Later, the Bankhead Tunnel was built. Nowadays, the city has two, more heavily-used tunnels.

As for me, whenever I visit my hometown I always drive the Causeway through the old Bankhead. No longer is it bumper-to-bumper, and numerous fond memories flood my mind. I only wish I’d been able to take a bay boat “over the Bay,” at least once in my lifetime.


Angela Levins. “How to get to the other side? Vintage photos document storied past of Mobile’s tunnels and roadways,” Mobile Real-Time News, Updated March 6, 2019, https://www.al.com/news/mobile/2015/06/how_to_get_to_the_other_side_v.html

Angela Levins. “Quick Facts of Mobile Bay’s Tunnels and roadways with vintage photos,” Mobile Real-Time News, Updated January 13, 2019, https://www.al.com/news/mobile/2015/06/quick_facts_of_mobile_bays_tun.html

Tom McGehee, “What caused a bay boat to explode at Point Clear in the summer of 1871?” Mobile Bay Magazine, August 17, 2020

Michael V.R. Thomason and Carol Ellis, Mobile Bay: Yesterday, Today, and Forever, n.p.: Beers & Associates, LLC. 2009

The Great Post Stakes Race, Lecomte’s Revenge, Part Four

Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

After Lexington won the Great Post Stakes his owner, Richard Ten Broeck and Lecomte’s owner, Thomas Jefferson Wells, had a rematch. Instead of racing each other, however, they agreed that their horses would race against the clock for four miles.

Riding Lecomte: Abe Hawkins, whom Wells obtained from Abe’s owner, Duncan Kenner.

Riding Lexington: a famous white jockey named Gilbert Kilpatrick

Race Date: April, 1855

Place: Metairie Race Course, New Orleans, Louisiana

Course conditions: dry

 Grandstands: about 10,000 spectators

When the timekeepers nodded “ready,” the starter lowered his flag, and Lecomte and Lexington galloped down the track, their hoofs thundering amidst cheers.  

Lecomte, sweating hard and breathing hard, surged ahead as Abe, fierce competitor that he was, urged him on. Wider and wider the distance between the horses stretched, Lecomte constantly in the lead till he defeated Lexington by six lengths and set a world record: seven minutes and twenty-five seconds.

Upon hearing this time announced, clapping and hurrahs rocked the grandstands. Everyone, it seemed, had gone wild.

All wasn’t lost for Lexington yet. He had one more heat. But Abe galloped Lecomte into racing history when he won it as well. Though jockeys who were slaves were seldom referred to by name, such wasn’t the case with Abe. Everyone involved in racing in this era now knew him. As for Lecomte, every January at the Fair Grounds Race Track in New Orleans a race is held in his memory—the Lecomte Stakes.

Lecomte and Lexington, half-brothers who shared the same sire, became the greatest Thoroughbreds of their era.


Mooney, Katherine. Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2014.

Weldon, Nick. “From slavery to sports stardom: Abe Hawkins’ rise from a Louisiana plantation to horse-racing fame,” The Historic New Orleans Collection, January 11, 2019, https://www.hnoc.org/publications/first-draft/slavery-sports-stardom-abe-hawkins%E2%80%99s-rise-louisiana-plantation-horse-racing.