A Brief History of Etowah County


By Danny Crownover

This was taken out of an old book called Northern Alabama, 1888. In it is much about Gadsden and Etowah County. Let’s begin our story for the week.

The county of Etowah is situated in the northeastern part of the State, just above the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude, and is nearly divided by the eighty-sixth meridian of west longitude.

It is located in that section of the State, which is so rich in mineral wealth. The county also contains very productive lands, and large forests of the most valuable timber.

The name “Etowah” is an Indian word, and signifies large trees. The county was first organized under the name of Baine County, in March of 1867. It was composed of parts of Cherokee, St. Clair, Marshall, Blount, Calhoun and DeKalb Counties, and contained 520 square miles. The Constitutional Convention of the same year, 1867, abolished the county of Baine, and in December, of the following year, 1868, the Legislature reestablished the county with, the name of Etowah.

The territory, out of which Etowah County was formed, was originally known as the Mississippi Territory, and was formerly occupied by the Creek and Cherokee Indians.

The first white settlers, of whom we have any knowledge, were John Radcliffe and James Leslie, who settled in this county about the year 1800, the former settling at what is now called Attalla, and the latter at Turkey town.

In 1813 General Jackson, with his army, passed through this county in a southerly direction, cutting a road through it to Fort Strother, at Ten Islands, on the Coosa River. From that point he marched to the battle-fields of Tallassahatchee, Horseshoe and Talladega. On his return from these battle-fields he marched through the county again, halting at Turkeytown, a few miles northwest of Gadsden, where he concluded a treaty of peace with the Cherokee Indians. This treaty put an end to the hostility of the Indians, and in a few years the county began to fill up with white settlers. In 1816 there was quite a large number of white settlers here, most of whom lived in the western portion of the county.

The eastern and northern portions of the county were not settled up until 1833-34, when a large influx of immigration flowed into the whole State. In 1836 the Creek Indians opened hostilities on the whites, but were soon overpowered, and they surrendered in June of the same year. The leaders were captured and sent West in chains. All of the hostile Creeks were sent by the United States Government that year to the Indian Territory. The friendly Creeks were removed the following year, which was 1837; the Cherokees were removed in 1838. They were all collected at Ross’ Landing, on the Tennessee River, which is now Chattanooga, Tenn., and were removed to their present location in the Indian Territory. It may be of interest to the general reader, to state here that Stan Wattle, a Cherokee Chief, who was a Confederate General, in the Trans-Mississippi Department, was born in Etowah County, in the little village now known as Turkeytown.

Montgomery and Selma were the only markets for this county up to 1836 ; after that Wetumpka, the head of navigation on the lower Coosa, became the principal market until 1846.

The first steamboat that plied the waters of the upper Coosa, was built in Cincinnati, Ohio, and brought down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, and through the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Ala. From Mobile it was carried up the Alabama and Coosa Rivers, to Wetumpka. There it was taken to pieces, and hauled on wagons around the shoals to Greensport, where it was rebuilt by Capt. James Lafferty, and launched on the 4th of July, 1845, and named the “ Coosa.” Plying between Greensport, thirty miles below Gadsden. and Rome, Ga., it diverted the trade from Montgomery,ala. and Augusta, Ga., became the principal market for all this country.

Gadsden, the present county seat, was located and laid out in 1846, by Gabriel Hughes, Joseph Hughes and John S. Moragne, and was platted by W. S. Brown, engineer of the Coosa & Tennessee Rivers Railroad, who was here locating that road running from Gadsden on the Coosa, to Guntei-sville on the Tennessee River.

The first post office established at Gadsden was in 1836, and was called Double Springs, and the name of the first postmaster was Mr. William Walker, who was succeeded by Gabriel Hughes, who held the office until 1846, when the name was changed to Gadsden. The next postmaster was J. D. McMichael, who held the position until 1865. Gadsden, nearly 42 years old, has had three postmasters. Dr. W. T. Ewing succeeded Mr. McMichael In 1865, and held it for twenty years, and was succeeded by the present incumbent, Mr. Daniel Liddel.

The town of Gadsden grew very slowly until after the formation of the county in 1867, when it was incorporated and received a fresh impetus. The present court-house was built in 1870, and the jail in 1874. The present population of the city is about 5,000 inhabitants. The Alabama Great Southern, which is now a division of the Queen & Crescent Route, was built through this county during the years of 1867 and 1870, and was known as the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad.

The iron on the Tennessee & Coosa Railroad was laid in 1871, between Gadsden and Atlanta, on the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. During the past year, the Tennessee & Coosa Railroad has been extended a few miles beyond Atlanta to the foot of Sand Mountains.

Among some of the old inhabitants of Gadsden, who are now living, we mention Dr. Joseph Bevans, A. L. Woodliff and R. B. Kyle. Doctor Bevans has practiced medicine over thirty years in Gadsden, and is to-day a valuable citizen. At the close of the war in 1865, Captain Woodliff was elected Senator from Cherokee County, as it was then known, and introduced the bill creating the county of Baine, which was passed in 1867. Col. R. B. Kyle, for thirty years has been so intimately associated with Gadsden and Etowah County, and has been such an important factor in their development that any history of Gadsden without him would be incomplete.

The city of Gadsden was named for General Gadsden, of South Carolina. Hon. I. P. Moragne and his brother, J. S. Moragne, were from South Carolina, and, being great admirers of General Gadsden, named the infant city for him. It is situated at the southern terminus of Lookout Mountain, on the west hank of the Coosa River. It is about ninety miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn., fifty-two miles west of Rome, Ga., and fifty-five miles northeast of Birmingham, Ala.

It is beautifully located at the foot of Lookout Mountain, which rises like a wall on the north to shelter it from the cold winds. The beautiful Coosa, a bold, navigable stream, flows at its feet, and furnishes water transportation for a large part of its traffic. Until the great awakening in the mineral region, Gadsden was content to be the center of trade for about seven or eight counties that surrounded her. Gadsden for many years has controlled a large trade from the surrounding counties, and not knowing the great mineral wealth placed by nature at her very door, has directed her energies in the commercial line. When Birmingham attracted the attention of the whole country, and sprang into such wonderful activity, Gadsden found itself right in the heart of the great mineral region of North Alabama, and has begun the development of her great mineral wealth. We believe no city in the South has more assuring prospects or a brighter future than Gadsden. Certainly no city in the mineral region of North Alabama has any natural advantages over it. Coal, iron and limestone abound in the mountains around it, while manganese, marble, slates and building stones of the best quality are to be found at its very door.

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