Etowah celebrates 150 years as a county

December 16, 2016 chris
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By Sarrah Peters, News Editor

On December 7, 1866 Baine County was created by the Alabama legislature. It was named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel David William Baine, after his death in the Civil War. To form the county, area was taken from six adjoining counties. Since the formation of the county happened during Reconstruction following the Civil War, in 1967 Baine County was abolished in objection to the county being named after a Confederate hero. In 1888, it was re-established as Etowah County. The name Etowah came from a Cherokee word meaning town or village.

Etowah County Commissioner Larry Payne recounted the story of Etowah’s beginnings during a 150 year anniversary celebration at the county courthouse on Tuesday, December 13. 

Probate Judge Bobby Junkins spoke next, recounting stories of Judge Lemual Hamlin, the first man to hold office in the county.

“He was a very popular man,” said Junkins. 

Hamlin served four consecutive terms in office.

But Junkins said that the “unique thing about Hamlin” was that he had a knack for “holding things together,” a necessary trait considering the upheaval Reconstruction caused in the region, with starvation being a leading cause of death. Junkins said that Hamlin also went on to have decendents that impacted Etowah County’s history, including several present at the ceremony on Tuesday.

In Hamlin’s time, only 474 votes were counted in one of the races. In the most recent election, 545,000 people voted.

“That gives you an idea how the county has changed,” said Junkins.

After Junkins spoke, the county commissioners took turns highlighting some of the things that have happened in Etowah County that “contributed to our success.” This included the county’s past as a shipping center by way of the Coosa River, the incorporation of cities  and towns to the county and the construction of roads and bridges to improve transportation. It also detailed the success of various industries in Etowah County from the past’s hat making to the steel industry to the present’s booming medical industry.

After the commissioners spoke, attendees had refreshments and socialized.