Early settlers along the bends of the Coosa River – Part Two


The Vagabond has been asked several times about writing about the bends of the Coosa River and whom they were named for. This is what has been found so far:

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

Tillison Bend is on the same side of the river as Alfords’ Bend extending from Hokes Bluff to East Gadsden. 

The part of this bend on the east side of the creek in the area was known as Caddel Bend.  Andrew Caddel was born in Scotland, came to America and married Jean Henderson in N.C.  The couple came to this section in the early 1800’s. In this area was an island called Caddel Island.  Leon Walker’s family also came early. Caddel Island was renamed Walker’s Island. The Sims family was there early as well.

Spencer Tillison, born in 1791, married Margaret Owens May 16, 1815. The couple had seven children.  In 1834 or 1835 this branch of the Tillison family moved from McMinn County, Tenn. to Calhoun County.  In 1836 one of the couple’s sons, William S., joined a company of volunteers to help subdue an Indian uprising in south Alabama and south Georgia. As soon as the uprising had been put down, the volunteer army was mustered out in south Alabama.  Instead of returning to his home, William remained in south Alabama and learned the well borers trade.

On November 20, 1856, William S. married Martha Ann McGehee, who was living with her grandfather on a Montgomery County plantation. William and Martha had 13 children. In December of 1859 the family moved from Montgomery County to a plantation on the Coosa River near Gadsden now known as Tillison Bend.

It was at the death of one of his Negros shortly before the Civil War that William Tillison set aside the tract of land for the Tillison Cemetery.  The family’s servants and five generations of Tillisons are buried in this location. 

The Thomas McCluney family also came early from Ireland to South Carolina, and then to Etowah (Cherokee). They were leaders in forming the Cove Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Two of the McCluney daughters married Tillison men and lived in Tillison Bend.

Edgar Keeling, who came to Alabama in 1829, owned land on the west side of this large bend.  He also owned land in Gadsden. Keeling left the land in Gadsden to his daughter and the land on the river to his son, which became known as Keeling’s Bend. Keeling’s Island was used for picnics was almost covered when Alabama Power Company raised the river level.

Originally known as Cedar Bend, the area from Green Valley to the Coosa River is now known as Southside. The old Cedar Bend Baptist Church became Southside Baptist. The Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in this section is one of the oldest in Etowah County. Some faithful blacks that were servants of the early settlers, including Steve Hodge, Pierce and Jane Watts and Ben Myrick, attended the Pilgrim Rest Church.

John Moragne, a French Huguenot from Abbeville District, S.C. and his wife, Catherine Read Williams, joined the trek to Alabama with their family in about 1830. Most of John’s children were born in South Carolina, where he became wealthy. After losing a large part of his wealth in a land dispute, Moragne set out with his large family and the remnants of his slaves for Alabama. The family located in the bend in the river about five miles south of Gadsden. 

Originally called Cherokee, the section had once been part of the Georgia Territory and then part of the Mississippi Territory until the Territory of Alabama was created in 1817.  In the sparsely settled wilderness that still held a few scattered Indians, John Moragne found other immigrants from the eastern shore. According to the probate county records of St. Clair County, the Whortons settled in the area prior to 1820 and gave their name to the bend. The Moraines settled on adjoining land. In 1838, the two families were joined by the Hughes and the Young’s, who settled farther east on the river. 

Descendants of John Moragne were active in the growth and development of the community. One family member became the county’s youngest judge. A daughter, Catherine Moragne Hughes, established the Hughes Cemetery in Gadsden, where only descendents of Hughes and Moragne’s are buried.  In 1836, a son, John S. Moragne, married Mary E. Whorton.

The Whortons who came to Alabama were first found in Granville, N.C. The family moved to Greenville County and Anderson County, S.C., to Hall County, Ga., and then to St. Clair County. The census of 1820 contains the names of William and Abraham Whorton. William was one of five brothers who moved to Alabama soon after the War of 1812. He moved a long wagon train of household goods and servants. He eventually served on the first grand jury of St. Clair County.

At that time land often was obtained from the Indians by bartering. After the treaty with the Cherokees in 1836, white settlers were required to buy their land again from the government. William Whorton’s land was handled through the office established at Lebanon and later at Huntsville. William built a home five miles south of Gadsden in a bend of the Coosa River, which took his name and is still known as Whorton’s Bend.  Whorton and his son extended the family’s land property along the Coosa and on across north of Attalla to Big Spring.

Abraham Whorton also came to Alabama very early. His first child was born in St. Clair County. Whorton was a Justice of the Peace and was listed to serve on the grand jury in September of 1819.  He settled near William but soon moved to Coates Bend.

South Carolina natives Leah Moragne and Benjamin Bridges Whorton were among the early settlers of St. Clair County (now Etowah) as early as 1815. Whorton became a big planter and operated a general merchandise store.


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