Vagabond - Early interesting facts about Attalla and its railroad connection

February 12, 2016 chris
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Part II

The story of the naming of Attalla is often incorrect, and The Vagabond would like to tell the factual history on how Attalla was named and how the city was connected with the early railroad that went from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Meridian, Miss.

We continue the story…

An early employee of the railroad remembers that the railroad tract at first was three and a half inches wider than standard and laid with small iron rails that soon splintered and got round on top. Trains came into Chattanooga on a different gauge rail. The sleepers had to be jacked up at that location and trucks put under them to fit the gauge on the new line. It was not until 1890 that the track was changed to its present gauge. Rails were moved over in one day on the whole length of the line.

The Stanton brothers promoted the theory that a new town should be laid out and they even suggested that it be called Newton. The Stantons were from West Newton, Mass. The local newspaper of Dec. 17, 1869 carried the following statement:

“The Town of Newton, we hear, was laid out yesterday by an engineer imported by J.C. Stanton from the hub of the universe for this particular job. It was necessary to have a town on paper, all hands engaged in the work, and the town of Newton was laid out.” When that name was presented to the United States Postal Department, the Stantons were notified that there already was a place called Newton, Ala.

“The town was laid out within the area from First Street to Sixth Street and First Avenue to Eighth Avenue. There were 29 blocks with a total of 280 lots. The area lying between Second and Third Streets from Third Avenue to Sixth Avenue was designated as company and was not marked off into lots. It is designated as the Original Survey of Attalla. It was not filed for record until Sept. 25, 1900 and recorded in Plat Book “A,” pages 226 – 227, with the following certification:

“The State of Alabama Etowah County, I hereby certify that the within conveyance was filed in this office for record September 25, 1900 at 2 o’clock P.M. and recorded in Town Plats Record “A” page 226 and examined. J.H. Lovejoy, Judge of Probate I hereby certify that this is the Original Map of the Original Survey of Attalla. M. E. Benjie.”

The Stantons had built a depot and hotel at the site of where the two railroads were projected to cross. They were located on the part of the Original Survey designated as “Company” at the corner of Third Street and Fifth Avenue where the freight depot was located until a few years ago. They brought to the town one of the most distinguished men in Attalla’s history to manage the hotel.

This man was Commodore Ebenezar Farrand, who had served in both the United States Navy and the Confederate States Navy. When the Civil War began, Farrand searched his soul for the direction he would like. He settled in his own mind that he would support the Confederate cause. He left his home, family, and friends and joined the Confederate Navy and served throughout the war. When the war ended, he became an insurance representative in Montgomery.

When the railroad was completed in 1879, a depot was built on the railroad property. This also provided an eating place. Farrand came to Attalla and became the first person to operate this establishment.

The hotel was a replica of the famous Stanton House in Chattanooga. It was one of that town’s most outstanding landmarks until it was dismantled several years ago. 

Farrand was an educated man and gained many friends among the first families of Attalla. He was especially a good friend of Mrs. M.E. McKenzie, and when she learned that he was ill, she rushed to give whatever aid she could. He died in 1873.

Mrs. McKenzie contacted his family in Massachusetts and was told to bury him here. Farrand was buried in the old Attalla Cemetery located just off of 6th Avenue in the area of Attalla known as Rowan Hill. This cemetery has now been destroyed, but during the Civil War Centennial, one of the projects for Attalla – under the guidance of Mrs. Glenn Brown – Commodore Farrand‘s remains were re-interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Attalla.

When Farrand’s remains were recovered, it was revealed that he had been buried in his Confederate Navy Uniform. The buttons and the braiding on the shoulder of his uniform were in good condition.

Mrs. McKenzie’s niece, Mrs. Lalla Rock Forman, organized a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was name the Farrand Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. One of the groups’ projects was to erect a marker to honor Commodore Farrand. The marker was erected at the point where Fifth Avenue, Cleveland Avenue and First Street intersect. This site was between the two underpasses.

As more automobiles came into use, and with this marker located in the center of this intersection, there were a number of accidents. The marker was removed and placed on the grounds of the Attalla City School property on North 4th Street. It was removed from that location and for many years it was stored at the city shop.

During the Civil War Centennial, the marker was placed in a memorial garden at the intersection of 3rd and 4th streets, just south of the Oak Hill Cemetery.

With the completion of the railroad came a new era of less traveling by stage and more traveling by train. Many people felt that the new Town of Attalla would soon outgrow Gadsden. The first census of Etowah County in 1870 was also the first census of the Town of Attalla and was enumerated on 1870.

The following head of households were listed: W.C. Hammond, Hampton Miller, Amos Miller, S.M. Fry, Martha Rhea, Jerusha Whorton, Edward Whorton, H.F. Wescot, Gabriel Hughes, Emily Funderburg, Scott Hammond, William Pitman, Francis Hughes, E.R. Mattox, H.W. Pickens, Andrew J. Sitz, Thomas Land, Joel Gallion and Reuben Brown.

Note: be sure to visit the Etowah Historical Society and Heritage Museum located at 2829 W. Meighan Boulevard in Gadsden. Museum and office hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Visit the website at www.EtowahHistory.com.