A short history of the Hokes Bluff community

By Danny By Danny "The Vagabond" Crownover

  The Vagabond has been hearing about a teacher and 90 of her 11th grade students at Hokes Bluff High School asking for folks to share old Hokes Bluff photos or stories of the past.

In 1999, Hokes Bluff High School students helped to publish a book, “The History of Hokes Bluff, Alabama and Surrounding Areas.” Since then, additional copies have run out and there are many stories and pictures that need to be added. 

This school year, HBHS teacher Jill Boatwright and her history classes will be re-printing the book. Mrs. Boatwright said her class will be accepting pictures and conducing interviews periodically throughout the school year.

Local citizens who wish to take part by contributing information or pictures to the book are urged to contact the school. Interviews and photo copying sessions will be set up once you contact the school. You can also download an interview form on the high school website and e-mail that in, as well as any pictures you would like to contribute.

To send photos or information to Jill Boatwright, contact her by email at jill_boatwright@ecboe.org or call the high school at 256-492-1360. The Hokes Bluff High School website is www.ecboe.org/hbhs.

A short history 

f Hokes Bluff

The Hokes Bluff area has a rich history. The city of Hokes Bluff was incorporated in 1946. However, its history began long before that date. From early days, Cherokee inhabited the area and Creek Indians who participated in a ball play each year to decide who won prized hunting grounds. 

After the Trail of Tears pushed many of these original inhabitants to reservations in Oklahoma in the 1830s and 40s, white settlers began populating the area around present-day Hokes Bluff. During these decades, the site of Hokes Bluff was located in Cherokee County. Etowah County wasn’t formed until 1867. 

The town gets its name from a Jacksonville mercantile business owner named Daniel Hoke, Jr. Hoke had a trading post, general store and blacksmith shop on the high bluff near the First Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff. It was at that location that he would meet steamboat traffic from Rome and take the supplies he needed back to Jacksonville.

Other families in the area bought land in the bends of the Coosa such as the Pollards, Alfords, Caddells and the Tidmores.  In 1842, members of the Tidmore, Andress, Chandler, Smith and Dunn families formed the Liberty Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff. This later became the First Baptist Church of Hokes Bluff. 

The name “Hoke’s Bluff” reportedly came from Mayor W.B. Wynne of Gadsden in May of 1853. He was a friend of Daniel Hoke and John H. Wisdom, a local hero of the Civil War.

Since there were few large plantations in this section of Alabama, many of the settlers took no side with either the Confederacy or the Union, wanting no part of the war in general. The people in the Hokes Bluff area were raided and pillaged during the Civil War, victims of raiding parties by both sides as well as notorious freelances in northwestern Alabama.

However, on the night of May 2 and the morning of May 3, 1863, Hokes Bluff resident John Henry Wisdom rode the 67 miles from Gadsden to Rome, Ga., to warn of Colonel A.D. Streight’s proposed march to burn and sack Rome, which was a Confederate stronghold and had an iron works and supply depot. Through the efforts of Mr. Wisdom, “the Paul Revere of the Confederacy,” barricades were erected, leading to the eventual surrender of Colonel Streight to General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

After the able-bodied men went to war and the Northern armies invaded deeper into the South, it was a day-to-day struggle for existence in Hokes Bluff and the surrounding areas. Because of the suffering and sacrificing, there was much resentment harbored by the people of the area, which was furthered by the Reconstruction. As a result, there was very little information passed out during that long period. Much essential information was not even mentioned in family Bibles for fear of reprisal.

Records were either burned or destroyed due to fear of persecution. 

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Hokes Bluff area grew. By this time, small one-room schoolhouses had formed in Mayes Crossroads, Alfords Bend and Ball Play. Schools such as Smyrna, Morris, Rains, Mayes, Birdsong and Hokes Bluff were merged to form Hokes Bluff High school in 1937.

Hokes Bluff High School had its first graduating class in 1938. 

A new mail route from Gadsden to Hokes Bluff was established in July 1890. The carrier was to make six round trips each week. Before this route was established, Hokes Bluff and the surrounding area had poor mail facilities, receiving most mail via steamboats. 

The Hokes Bluff Post Office was established February 23, 1877, and discontinued October 31, 1931. 

In the early 1930s, mail was delivered entirely by rural route carriers, and a similar practice currently exists.

In the early history of the area, the site around Tawannah Springs was known as Sibert’s Mill. This mill provided the industrial means for early settlers and pioneers to have milling done. Ewing’s Mill was later established just slightly south on the creek.

By 1946, Hokes Bluff was a thriving community with many businesses. That year it was incorporated with a population of about 1,200 people. Until then, it had been a community for over 120 years, one of the oldest in Etowah County area. 

W.B. Ford was the first elected Mayor. Councilmen were Dr. H.G. Ford, R.A. Pentecost, L.J. Barnes, Frank Wester and M.C. Morris. The first clerk elected by the council was J.J. Barnes.

In early 1949, a water system was installed with a 75,000 gallon reservoir and 54 hydrants.  

By 1953, Hokes Bluff had installed city gas, and by 1956, over half the streets within the city limits had been paved. 

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