The Vagabond recently came across a book written by the Women’s Club called A Little book about Gadsden. It tells about the early periods of the Gadsden area. It begins:
“A young man trekked south, led by a dream to found a town somewhere between Nashville, Tennessee, and the Georgia coast. Spurred on by the development of the railroads, Gabriel Hughes, in the early 1830’s, left his home in Lincoln County, North Carolina, and journeyed into Georgia where he remained until 1838.
“What led him to seek Jacksonville, Alabama, as his next stopping place we do not know, but for two years, with that little town as his focal point, he made his search. We can picture him scouting the stillness of the great forests and wandering through the foothills of the Cumberland and the fertile valleys between.
“One day he stood on the banks of the Coosa. Gabriel Hughes had come home. Here he would pitch his tent. After Alabama became a state in 1819, there began an exodus from Georgia and South Carolina into what was then the great county of Cherokee.
“Gadsden honors these stalwart men and women who came into the wilds of the new state and dwelt peaceably with the Indians, but as this article deals solely with the founding of the town, we can only pay them silent homage.
“In 1832, the government bought the land of the Cherokees from the Indians but issued no grants to white people until 1840. A homesteader was required to prove a continuous residence of four years on the land, before he was given a title called a patent, which was signed by the President of the United States.
“In 1836, there stood at the Double Springs a story and a half log house, built by a half-breed Indian, John Riley. Here, from Huntsville on its way to Rome, Georgia, the stage coach stopped and delivered the mail. The postmaster, William Walker, had purchased the house from the Indian. (This house stood near the intersection of Third Street and Tuscaloosa Avenue.)
“When young Gabriel Hughes arrived here in 1840, he bought this log house and settled in it with his wife, Asenath Young Hughes, and his brother, Joseph. As these brothers began buying land, they soon found that John S. Moragne had seen the possibilities and beauty of the property along the west side of the Coosa and had entered his claims.
“From the Memorial Record of Alabama we learn that John S. Moragne came with his widowed mother to Alabama in 1830 from Charleston, South Carolina, and settled near the present site of Gadsden. He was then 16 years old. In 1835, he married Mary E. Whorton.
“These three men, Gabriel and Joseph Hughes and John S. Moragne, formed a friendship which lasted through the years, cemented by the marriage of Katherine Moragne (sister of John) to Joseph Hughes. There are few procurable facts concerning the next few years. Events did not then move with the swiftness of our day.
“A momentous event in the lives of Gabriel and Asenatli Hughes was the birth of their son, Joseph Rufus, on March 14, 1842. He was the first white child born in this community.
“Into this scene of natural beauty so well suited to stir the imagination of home seekers came another dominant figure whose name is connected with the founding and growth of the settlement. General D.C. Turrentine came from Coweta County, Georgia, with his wife Caroline Lucy Turrentine, and settled here in 1842. From that date the development of the little community is closely identified with the names of Moragne, Hughes, and Turrentine. General Turrentine purchased a tract of land at Lafferty’s Landing (at present the lower end of Broad Street) on which he built a hostelry called Turrentine Inn.
“Surrounding this tract was the land which was to become the town site. This land was owned by John S. Moragne, Joseph Hughes and Lewis L. Rhea.
“In 1844, these three men filed entry to the government for the land grants and received the patents in 1845. John S. Moragne entered 60 acres, Joseph Hughes entered 20 acres and Lewis L. Rhea entered 40 acres, which he sold to Joseph Hughes on July 14, 1846. On these 120 acres, the original survey of Gadsden was made. Out of vision, strengthened by indomitable faith, a city grew.
“There exists among the papers of the Hughes family a list written in Gabriel Hughes’ handwriting, of the first lots drawn from this acreage. This paper, marked ‘original copy’ is unsigned and undated.
“A copy follows: Lots drawn by Gabriel Hughes, W. S. Brown, James Lafferty, John S. Moragne, and James Broomfield, at the original drawing of lots in the town of Gadsden.
‘Gabriel Hughes, 52 lots; W.S. Brown, 52 lots; James Lafferty, 52 lots; John S. Moragne, 52 lots; W.S. Brown, 51 lots, James Broomfield 1 lot [for a total of] 260 lots. (W. S. Brown was an engineer and James Bloomficld was a surveyor.)”
“The following is an excerpt from an article in the Cherokee Sentinel, published at Cedar Bluff June 17, 1846. This article had been running since the first week in May.
‘SALE OF LOTS. There will be sold in the town of Gadsden, Cherokee County, Alabama, one half mile below Walker’s Ferry, on the Coosa River, on Saturday, the 1st August next, forty town lots, the proceeds arising from which will be set apart for the purpose of clearing out the streets and roads leading to the town and the general improvement of the place.’
‘Gadsden is the name given to that point on the Coosa River, at which the Coosa & Tennessee R. R. Co. have located their depot (Editor’s note: This railroad was never completed to Gadsden), and is well and favorably known as the Double Springs. As a result of the railroad fever then spreading over the country, Gabriel Hughes, after the railroad convention in Memphis, Tennessee in December of 1845, pushed the founding of a town with the hope of bringing the railroad here. Broad Street was built wide in order to accommodate the tracks. It was first called Railroad Street.
‘The Steamer Coosa, in the fall, will make regular trips from Gadsden to the terminus of the Memphis Branch Road at Rome, Georgia, and Daily and tri-weekly lines of Stages will run regularly from Gunter’s Landing, Rome and Jacksonville, after the 1st of August next, to these points. This opportunity will present a good opening for the safe investment of capital, all of which will be spent for the immediate improvements of the property then purchased, and the general improvement of the place. The terms of the sale, with the number of the lots for sale, can be seen by applying to Gen. D.C. Turrentine at his home, or to Gabriel Hughes, near Walker’s Ferry. (Signed) Proprietors. June 17, 1846.
“The proprietors were Messrs. Lafferty, Hughes, Moragne, Cox, and Brown. From the foregoing, we gather that Gabriel Hughes bought the holdings of Joseph Hughes. The two brothers’ names appear often in the court records in transactions involving ex-change of property.
“The following is a clipping from the Sentinel, May 6, 1846:
‘We understand a new town near the lower terminus on Coosa River, is about going ahead. A number of lots have already been sold and preparations are making to cover them with good houses. This is the right spirit and so much for the difference of people between our own diseased village and Gadsden. It is the people who build up towns or anything useful.’
The Naming of Gadsden
The town was named for James Gadsden, who negotiated the purchase from Mexico of 45,000 square miles of land in what is now Arizona and New Mexico. This act was known as the Gadsden Purchase. Tradition tells us he was a former comrade in arms of General Turrentine and a personal friend of John S. Moragne, as well as of Joseph and Gabriel Hughes.
A leaflet from the past
“The pioneer craft, the little Coosa, had an eventful voyage ere it was finally afloat at this wharf, for it received its creation on the banks of the Ohio at Cincinnati - was brought down that river into the Mississippi to New Orleans – thence through the Gulf to Mobile, up the Alabama and Coosa Rivers to Wetumpka, where it was taken to pieces, hauled round the shoals to Greensport, was rebuilt and launched by Captain James Lafferty and proudly steamed up the Golden Coosa’s placid tide on the 4th of July 1845.
“What a red letter day for the sleepy little town! Such a glorious Fourth the little steamer awakened for the tiny hamlet, the Gadsden of the long ago. How the people swarmed down from the mountain, and flocked in from the valleys and lined the riverbanks, eager to view the first steam boat ride the waters in state.
“Some who were happy little children hastening down this Broad Street that day with their parents, are silver haired today and many more have passed over that silent river forever. The pioneer fathers and mothers of Etowah are falling like autumn leaves by the wayside drifting away into the tide.
“We will hear no more the trials of the first settlers from the lips of our dear old Grandma Lewis, who lived on her farm, now the Marable Place, or from Grandma Hughes, who lived at the Double Springs, where the first post office was kept. They are laid to rest.
“We should teach our children something of their privations and hardships as compared with the luxuries and conveniences of today.
“Grandpa Hughes has told us that in all his long life, he never took such a lonely ride as the dark stormy night he rode alone over on Sand Mountain, where by appointment he met W.S. Brown, engineer of the T&RR, at a wayside cottage where they perfected their plans for laying off this town. The steamboat landing was finally located at the foot of Broad Street after much contention, as other parties wanted it at Hampton’s (now Ewing’s) Ferry.
“Having gained this victory, Messrs. Gabriel and Joseph Hughes and John S. Moragne laid off the town on their lands in 1846 and deeded Captain Lafferty, who had located the landing for them, a number of lots. They met one day by appointment to name their embryo city, at a building near the river not far from where the Barrett residence now stands and at once decided to call the place Lafferty – and Lafferty it surely would have been but for the opposition of the Captain himself, who had met with them.
“What a modest man this same Captain Lafferty must have been to decline the honor, for after a time, they decided to name their town after the hero of the hour, General Gadsden, then successfully fighting the Indians in Florida. Thus the Queen City of the Coosa received its baptismal name from this trio of pioneers – the Hughes Brothers and John S. Moragne.
“Gadsden is progressive always. If she doesn’t blaze like Birmingham and boom like Fort Payne – she is that blessed happy medium – she is the homemaker’s paradise. If any one doubts this, drive some brilliant morning to Bellevue Highlands, ‘When jocund [sic] day stands tip toe on the mountain tops, and look far down and away over roof and spire, railroad and bridge – it is a varicolored [sic] map – a mosaic jewel with its setting, the amber crescent of the Coosa and the emerald shield of Lookout’s vivid dome.’ (Excerpts from an article by Mary E. Hughes, written about 1884 and published in a southern paper.)
“My first recollection of Gadsden was in 1859, when as a 13 year old boy, I came to visit my uncle, Captain A.L. Woodliff and family. We came by the Centre Road which forked at Double Springs, where Mr. Gabriel Hughes, one of the first settlers, lived. I remember Gadsden as sparsely settled and surrounded by thick wooded forests with some very large trees in them. Most of the homes were built in the woods. There were three stores, Kyle, Winn & Company, A. Bears & Company, and Hill & Cansler. There was a railroad being built to Gadsden called the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad.” (Taken from Private Memoirs of J. A. Green.) ”