The Vagabond has been asked many times about how Gadsden was started. One of Gadsden early historians and mayors, Charles P. Smith (1863-1929) wrote about the early Gadsden and how it got started. He continues:
“A brief history of Gadsden’s first steamboat in 1845 – The Coosa. She was made in St. Louis and steamed down the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico on through to the port of Mobile, thence up the Alabama river to Wetumpka, where she was completely taken apart and handed overland in Greensport, where she was again put together and started on her journey up the river to Walker’s Landing, which is opposite the old Ewing estate.
“She was greeted by a large crowd with much enthusiasm. In fact all up the way from Greensport, the river banks were lined with backwoodsmen and their families who gazed on it with open-mouthed awe and amazement. It was the first steamboat ever seen on the placid waters of the Coosa.
The Port of Gadsden
“I find that writing history is no easy snap. In looking over my preliminary work of last Saturday, I found it utterly void of easy flow or fluency. 1 was ambitious to surround it with that brilliant, romantic style of James Morgan, “in the path of Napoleon one hundred years ago.”
“I fear that I am doomed to disappointment, and am alarmed lest there be a lot on my brain, or a tangle in my typewriter, that will gum up the cards and spoil the game. It also means a lot of real hard work, which has always been somewhat repulsive to my dainty taste, and aristocratic airs which were born in me in dear old Dale County, Georgia, where I bore the undisputed title of being the laziest boy in the whole community round about.
“However, I have given my system a general shaking up this week, eating fish and other brain foods in enormous quantities, mixed only with small bits of bread, and the pure sparkling waters of the Coosa for an inspiration. So I have spat upon my hands, rolled up my sleeves, and butted my head cruelly against our historic trees, determined to write it though the Echols building falls in my wild and ferocious struggles.
“Well, let’s push the button on the self-starter. In the first place as stated, the steam boats stopped at Walker’s Ferry, but the people who owned the land on which Gadsden was to be located, were insistent that the Ferry or landing should be moved to the foot of Broad Street where it is today.
“The people who lived at and around Walker’s Ferry were clamorous in their demand that it should remain there. It was also a small trading point in the year 1845. There were also some demands from people living down the river reaching as far as Greensport for the location of the town to be at their respective ferry. It seemed that Capt. Lafferty of the steamboat and W. S. Brown, chief engineer for the old T & C railway, had plenary power, and that they were the court of first and last resort. So after much wrangling and bitterness by the different factions, the owners of the land, Gabriel Hughes, John S. Moragne and Joseph Hughes, Sr., threw the trump card, by offering a large number of lots to Capt. Lafferty and Engineer Brown to change the landing to its present location.
“The town was quickly platted and lots staked out by W. S. Brown which may be seen on Pope’s map of the original survey of Gadsden. W. S. Brown must have been an exceptionally competent engineer.
“After this was done Judge J. M. Moragne says that his father, John S. Moragne claimed the honor of naming the ‘child’ – which he did, calling it Gadsden in honor of his personal friend, Gen. Gadsden, who was a famous patriot, statesman, and leader in South Carolina, the original home of John S. Moragne.
“Gen. Gadsden was given a commission with full power to act, to negotiate, what is known as Louisiana Purchase which he successfully accomplished, an epoch making period in the history of our nation, immortalizing the name of Gen. Gadsden for all time to come.
“Now, a brief review of how the old T & C became a factor in the location of the town. Gabriel Hughes, the father of J. R. Hughes, prior to the arrival of Capt. Lafferty’s steamboat, made a visit to W. S. Brown at Guntersville representing himself, John S. Moragne and Joseph Hughes, Sr., who owned the town site, using impressive argument as to why the survey should be made, to a point near the L & N station, out in what was to be called Railroad Avenue (now Broad Street) a little west of present Hart place and on east side of the river.
“The argument was evidently strong, no doubt liberally seasoned with promises galore, etc., and so on, ad infinitum. John S. Moragne, had in the meantime, inoculated Capt. Lafferty with a similar seductive dose. It seemed but little trouble for this court, of first and last resort, to patiently listen to the clamors of others and locate the town as it did, which was wisely done as has been amply attested in subsequent events that has made Gadsden truly, the beautiful Queen City of the Coosa.
“In order that this history may be easily understood; take First Street running north of Broad street to Town Creek, and south of Broad street to Hughes Spring branch, and all lands lying west of the river, where the first buildings of embryo Gadsden actually began, on the northwest corner of First and Broad streets.
“Mr. Whorton built the first drug store (he was an uncle of the Whorton boys in the drug business now). Adjoining north the general store of Melvin Crownover, next north, the general store of William Brothers. The further development of First street was the Turrentine Hotel built, Gadsden’s first hotel, by Gen. D. C. Turrentine on the southeast corner of First and Broad street where the Barrett home is today, a portion of which is a part of the Turrentine Hotel.
“Gen. Turrentine successfully ran this hotel a number of years, Gadsden being on the old stage line from Rome to Tuscaloosa, which laid over night, here going and coming. Gen. Turrentine was a man of much note and influence in the community, being aggressive, and progressive, acquiring large acreage in the suburban section of the town on which he built a beautiful home, being known now by many, until it was torn down to make room for the onward push of Gadsden. He was the father of Mrs. R. 0. Randall and Miss Carrie Turrentine, deceased, who were well known and much loved for their beautiful Christian characters.
“I mention only two of this large family – the others stood high and were much respected in the communities in which they lived.
“Gen. Turrentine was a man of high ideals, being a profound Christian man and for 25 years continuously, superintendent of First Methodist Church Sunday school. His splendid farms have been turned into a beautiful residence section, worth now from $2,000 to $3,000 the lot. His remarkable foresight of coming events, caused him to have planted the grand old oaks seen on Turrentine avenue today; which the late lamented and much loved Maj. R. O. Randall irreverently called ‘Robber’s Row.’
“But to continue: On the south side of Fifth Street, small stores were built and occupied by a party by the names of Grimes, also Dunn. The residence section on south side fronting First street, were the homes of Dr. Williams, Dr. P. G. Cobb and Melvin Cromwell.
“On the north sides the homes of Mose Daniels and Steve Edwards. I never met these distinguished pioneers, nor am I able to get any data as to their descendants; but they were evidently right on the job working for what they saw with a prophetic eye the coming city.
“Gadsden’s first postmaster was J. D. McMichael, a very erratic but well-educated character; who tramped into the hospitable home of Gabriel Hughes where he remained a year or two without price or pay, until he was called to high office in the gift of the village.
“So endeth the second chapter – and I am doggone glad of it, as I am tired, worn out, and want a drink of sparklin, refreshing Coosa River water.
P.S. – Meantime the ‘Coosa’ was running right along from Rome to Greensport, stopping at the port of Gadsden, ‘gwine and ercomin.’”
Stay tuned for Part 3.