The Vagabond has been asked many times as to how Gadsden was started and its early years. One of Gadsden early historian and mayor, Charles P. Smith (1863-1929) wrote about the early Gadsden and how it got started. He continues:
Chapter IV – Gadsden in the ‘Sixties
“During the week, I had a most pleasant and most profitable interview with those grand old pioneer women, Mrs. M. J. Hollingsworth and Mrs. Wm. Christopher, whose memories are bright and full of reminiscences of the early history of Gadsden, and far back of that time. Those who have been reading this series will recall that last week I parenthetically said that, ‘I would have something more to say about Thomas Hollingsworth.’
“I get from Mrs. M. J. Hollingsworth that he came here from St. Clair County about 1829 and immediately purchased the Dr. Ewing place, and in the same year married Miss Dorothy Lewis, an elder sister of Mrs. M. J. Hollingsworth, and began merchandising in the early thirties at a place opposite the Ewing place, which was also a large farm made up of a number of sections of land living north of the river. And at which place there were a number of small stores, in fact quite a trading point, being in close proximity to Walker’s Ferry and on the main stage line running from Rome to Tuscaloosa.
“Thomas Hollingsworth continued at this place until sold to Dr. Ewing in about 1862. However, he made many changes both as to locations and associations in the meantime.
In 1839, at the age of 11 years, W. P. Hollingsworth, also coming from St. Clair County, began clerking for him, and at the age of 16 acquired a partnership in the firm under the name of T. and W. P. Hollingsworth at the Ewing place. About 1852 or ‘53, they moved, building a store on the northwest corner of Second and Broad streets where the business was continued until the firm was dissolved about 1856 or ‘57.
“Thos. Hollingsworth very soon sold out to A. Beyers & Company and began farming on the Ewing Place, doing so until 1862, when he sold out to Dr. W. T. Ewing, and moved to Oxford, Alabama, later on moved to Texas where he and his wife died after lives of usefulness and mature years.
“Miss Mary J. Lewis (Mrs. W. P. Hollingsworth) was born in Spartanburg, S.C., March 20th, 1833, moved across the river from Gadsden with her father, Joel Lewis, who bought the Cox place and large acreage around and down the river. It was there she first knew W. P. Hollingsworth, both being children and playmates, and later when yet in their teens, became much enamored with each other.
“Mrs. Hollingsworth says, it was their first, and only love affair, and they decided to marry when they became old enough. She was sent away to school at Jacksonville, Ala., where she remained two years, all the time carrying on a clandestine correspondence with her sweetheart, who she speaks of endearingly, with deep sentiment of the delights of a congenial, ideal and happy home. They determined to marry in 1851, which they did over protest of both her father and mother.
“To them were born Annie B., wife of J. S. Paden, Laura J., wife of W. P. Lay, Katie C., wife of W. S. Standifer, Willie A., wife of W. P. Johnson, E. Tracy, president of the Gadsden National Bank, Alice M., wife of R. C. George. All of whom with their husbands were and are so prominent in the social and business life of Gadsden.
“W.P. Hollingsworth was born August 22nd, 1828, in St. Clair County, his father’s family having moved there from Virginia. He immediately, after the dissolution with his brother, built and opened a general store on an adjoining lot east on North Broad Street, where he continued until 1861.
“In August of that year he was elected captain of a company in the 19th Alabama Regiment, after his first year in the army, he was transferred to the commissary department with the rank of major, by Capt. E. D. Tracy who had become a brigadier general. The major remained at his post of duty all through the war, returning home penniless when his real and best life work began, which will be taken up in the ‘after the war ‘series.
“The venerable and honest blacksmith, William Christopher, moved here in 1854 from Newnan, Georgia, where he first married Eliza Hardy in 1837 to whom were born Emmaline C., in 1838, who in time married Fayette Young, now living in Arkansas.
“Columbus, born in 1838, living now somewhere in the southwest. His first wife died about 1840. In 1841 he married Susan Hardy, a younger sister of Eliza Hardy, who is the present Mrs. Wm. Christopher, living in perfect comfort here today with her baby boy, Rufie.
“Rufie says he is most generally called Rooster, reason for which I cannot account for. Anyway, the Christopher-Hardy combination were a prolific family without the modern curse of race suicide hanging round about, Mrs. Christopher at once took up the rearing of her stepchildren, Emmaline and Columbus, nobly standing loyal equal with her own children, first of whom was born Obal, in 1842, whose technical knowledge of minerals, extraordinary business judgment, and mechanical genius, made him such an important factor in the making of greater Gadsden that it will be my pleasure later to take up separately the epoch making period in which he played so great a part.
“To begin again with the marriage of Wm. Christopher and Susan Hardy in 1841, Mr. Christopher plied his trade for quite a while at Newnan, afterwards moving into the country of Coweta, Ga., where he farmed, ran saw and grist mills until coming to Gadsden in 1864; buying the place of the Elliott home on Broad Street, at which place they lived until sold to Col. R. B. Kyle.
“At the same time he bought and acquired by entry three sections (120 acres) of land lying around the intersection of Walnut Street and Turrentine Avenue, where they afterwards lived, at the Riddle place on Walnut Street, and later at the present home of Mrs. Christopher, which was completely destroyed by fire, after which they moved to the Burnett place on Turrentine avenue and built, afterward rebuilding at the present home of Mrs. Christopher.
“At the same time, the family was coming along with religious regularity, Abychue, born in 1844, living in Attalla, Zebulah, in 1846, living in Senoi, Ga., Luther C., born in 1848, living in Cottonwood, Missouri, Lenora, born in 1850, wife of Zach Hardy, who died November 9th, 1901.
“They reared a large and most interesting family of boys and girls. Tom Hardy as a youth, showed a gift that amounted to an inspiration, in the designing and making of women’s clothes, and as a boy in knee pants did a great deal of such work for his mother and sisters.
“At the age of 20 he went east, determining to coin his knowledge into money, which he did with great rapidity. Soon he began sending for his sisters one by one until he had taken them all, with his younger brothers, whom he educated in New York, at which metropolis he now heads a great establishment of all kinds of work for women; visiting Paris with one of his sisters annually and selecting goods of the finest texture, and most exquisite gowns, frills and furbelows, catering largely to the four hundred from his magnificent place on Broadway. His older brother, Wesley Hardy, holds a responsible and lucrative position in Chicago.
“In the meanwhile, old Zach is a live wire, and says he is going to make an honest living right here which he is doing. Bully for Zach. But here are some more Christophers: Mary O., born in 1852, Ella, born in 1854, wife of J. T. Fulcher, living at Guntersville, Ala., Dolly, born in 1856, wife of one of our substantial farmers, S. D. Sharp, W. G. born in 1858, blacksmith, Delia, born in 1862, wife of John Trotter, Senoi, Ga., G. Ed, born in 1864, president of the board of city council, and blacksmith, AI. L., born in 1866, blacksmith in charge of the Weller Mfg. Company, Joseph, born in 1868, Rufus, born in 1869, blacksmith.
“What a splendid tribute to the dear old mother who has done her full duty as the Lord directed in the rearing of two stepchildren and 14 of her own, in all, 16, just as God ordained. May her last years be the best and sweetest of all!”