Early settlers along the bends of the Coosa River, Part I


  The Vagabond has been asked several times about writing about the bends of the Coosa River and who they were named for. This information may be helpful for a lot of genealogists who what information of the early settlers in this area. This is what has been found so far:

The Coosa River comes into Etowah County on the east and forms part of the boundary line between Etowah and Cherokee counties. The river forms a total of eleven named bends across Etowah County, ending with Riddles Bend on the south border between Etowah and St. Clair counties.

Riddles’ Bend, Cedar Bend, and Whorton’s Bend were in St. Clair County before Etowah County was created, while the others were in Cherokee County. They all were made part of this county when it was formed in 1866 as Baine County and later changed to Etowah. 

Why was the County name changed? The “carpet-bag” government of that time would not accept a name honoring a Confederate general, so the county was given an Indian name of Etowah.

After Andrew Jackson de-eated the Creek Indians in 1814, the new state of Alabama was admitted into the Union in 1819. In 1835 land was thrown open to entry for as little as $1.25 an acre. A great migration from Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia took place. Settlers came by oxcart, covered wagons, pack horses, on foot and on flatboats. Some people referred to the Coosa Valley as the “Lost Land of Eden.” Many of these people settled in the bends of the river, and all the bends except one were named for these early settlers.

Pollard’s Bend is part of the big curve in the river that also makes Woods Bend.  The early Pollard family who settled here had a granddaughter who married a Stallings in Gadsden. The three Stallings daughters married Odell Wofford, Dr. O.R. Grimes,Sr., and Roger Suttle. The sisters didn’t know very much about their great-grandparents but had seen a picture of their great- grandmother, who was a beautiful part French and part Indian girl. 

The part of Turkey Town called Coates Bend was named for John Coates who came early and developed a plantation in that area. His beautiful old two-story home still stands. Other pioneer families in the area were J.C. Whites, Jack Gideon, James Anderson, Sam Berry and W.H. Cowan.

Abraham Whorton moved early from Whorton’s Bend to Coates Bend. In back of his old home is a small family cemetery. An Indian chief is said to be buried under a tree in the backyard. Joseph Wilson built a home known an “Wilsonia.” The old T.A.G. Railroad ran through the property, which had a flagstop just back of the house.  The property has been in the Wilson family for over 100 years.

The annual Methodist Camp Meeting was a popular event as early as 1842 in Coates Bend. 

Georgia Hughes, daughter of Paralee Whorton and Jas. A. Hughes, married Robert Dozier Thornton, the owner of a large plantation in the area.  About the time of his marriage, Thornton built a beautiful home, one of the finest of the time. It featured 15 rooms with 14-foot ceilings and was filled with fine pianos, furniture and wall- to-wall carpeting. A curved stairway led to the second floor.  Thornton used carved doors and paneling brought from England. Gold brick is said to have faced the fireplace in one of the music rooms. 

After Thornton’s death, the two older sons began to dispose of the treasures and share with other members of the family.  The “mansion,” as old-timers in the bend called it, burned several years ago. 

The McCluneys were also in Coate’s Bend during the early years.

John Tidmore, a Revolutionary War soldier who came from South Carolina to Greene County before 1840, had three sons and one daughter who came to Cherokee County to live.  John Jr. settled in the bend of the river that is named for him, Tidmore Bend. Thomas J. Wofford came from Georgia and bought land for a cotton plantation in Tidmore Bend, where he built a white two-story home. Woford owned land on both sides of the river and maintained a small ferryboat for crossing. 

There was a Wofford’s Landing where steamboats brought in supplies and loaded cotton to ship back to Rome. Col. Wofford operated a grist mill on the Hokes Bluff side of the river that later became Ewings Mill.  He gave land for the Hokes Bluff Baptist Church, which is said to be one of the oldest churches in the county, and was one of the original members. Woford also was a charter member of the Hokes Bluff Masonic Lodge.  He and his four sons all served in the Confederate Army.  

Col. Wofford was quite prosperous until the end of the Civil War, when he was left with worthless Confederate money. It was here in Tidmore’s Bend that he called his slaves together at the end of the war and told them that they were all free. Wofford said that if they wanted to stay he would furnish them a house and supplies and they could pay him with a share of their crops.  But if they wanted to leave he promised to take them where they wanted to go.

All wanted to stay except one called “Aunt Sudie,” who had a son living in Whorton’s Bend. Wofford took her there, but in four days she came walking back “home.” The O.K. Ashley family was also in Tidmore Bend very early.

One of Col. Woffords’ daughters married Marcus S. Jones and lived in Alfords Bend just across the river. M.S. Jones’ mother had come from Columbus, Ga., after the death of her first husband and married E.G. Thornton. She bought land in Alfords Bend and built a home on the river. There was a small cemetery on the place where some Thornton blacks were buried.  

The first settlers in the Bend were Jefferson and Nancy Alford, for whom the bend was named. Other early families were Wise, Hodges, Croft and Smiths.  Pinckney Black, son of Minerva Whorton and Mortimer Black moved there early from Coates Bend.

Next week  – Some early Gadsden settlers were already in today’s Etowah County before settling in Gadsden. Who were they?


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