The Vagabond – A brief history of Centre, Alabama

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By Danny Crownover

Gadsden was part of Cherokee County until Baine County (later renamed Etowah County) was created in 1866 from several different surrounding counties.

In 1844, there arose a great deal of dissatisfaction over the location of the Cherokee County Courthouse in Cedar Bluff, a small town located on the west bank of the Coosa River. The courthouse had been moved in 1837 from Singleton Hughes’ home.

The dissatisfaction was so great that the Alabama legislature appointed a special commission in order to ascertain the exact geographical center of Cherokee County. Members of the commission were Joseph Montgomery, Magnus G. Williams, A.G. Copeland, Thomas Garrett, Joseph Whorton, Aaron Clifton and A.R. Brindley.

Following a thorough in-vestigation, the commission selected the hill on which the City of Centre is now located as the best site for the courthouse. At that time in 1844, there was only one home in Centre, a log house that was later known as The Club House and still later became the residence of E.M. Sheppard.

An election was held on the first Monday in April 1844 in order to determine whether the county seat should be moved to the site selected by the commission. Centre won the election, and on January 27, 1846, the state legislature appointed another commission to sell lots and to erect public buildings. This commission consisted of Whorton, Clifton, Garrett, Brindley and Asa W. Allen. Allen was the project’s surveyor and his assistant was Mose Hampton. Allen and Hampton made the plate for the original survey.

Hampton was a Black Methodist preacher. During the Civil War he preached for the white people because all the white ministers had gone to fight. Hampton in-vented the brush system of ginning cotton. He was a contemporary of John Pratt, who invented the type-writer.

Within a few years, the United States Land Office was moved from Lebanon, which served as the first county seat of DeKalb County, to Centre. Slowly and steadily, the town started growing.

Centre’s first newspaper, The Argus, was established in 1854 by L.M. Stiff. It continued publication until shortly after the close of the Civil War.

Two courthouses have been burned at Centre. In each instance, there were rumors of incendiarism or the act or practice of illegal burning.

Although the new town was designated as geographical center of Cherokee County, it was not until recent years that the federal government could be induced to spell the name of the town according to history and the wishes of the residents.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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