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Alabama Gold: A History of the South’s Last Mother Lode

Peggy Jackson Walls

Gold rushes in Cleburne and Tallapoosa Counties attracted thousands of miners years before California's famous strike. In 1936, production at the Hog Mountain mine caused Alabama to be recognized as the top producer in the Appalachian states. In Hog Mountain's heyday, a local German settler discovered the precious metal while digging a wine cellar. In Log Pit, unscrupulous speculators "shot" ore into rock crevices and "salted" nuggets on land to enhance its sale value. A Cleburne County miner cleaned over eleven pounds of gold and was killed in a "free fight" all in one day. Join author Peggy Jackson Walls as she traces a century of gold mining in Alabama.

Alexander City (Images of America)

Peggy Jackson Walls

The story of Alexander City began hundreds of years ago with members of the Creek Nation who lived along the rivers and streams in what is now central Alabama. Alabama gained statehood in 1819 following the Battle of the Horseshoe Bend in 1814 and ceding of Creek lands. With the final cessions of land in 1832 and removal of Native Americans in 1837, settlers arrived with their families, some purchasing lots drafted by Griffin Young in the town square. The arrival of the railroad in 1874 resulted in the town’s name changing from Youngsville to Alexander City to honor Edward P. Alexander, president of the Savannah and Memphis Railroad. Early commerce flourished with the opening of the Alexander City Mill in 1901. Within a year, the entire town and nearby residences burned. The pioneer spirit of the people prevailed, and the town was rebuilt within weeks. In the early 20th century, the successes of Avondale Mills and Russell Corporation provided an economic environment where hometown businesses, schools, and churches thrived.

Jacksonville (Images of America)

John B. Nisbet III

Known as the "Gem of the Hills," Jacksonville is situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. After Andrew Jackson's victory over the Creek Indians in 1813-1814 and his negotiation of a treaty with the Creeks in 1832, this land was available for purchase from the Creek Indians as well as the US government. Several buildings on the town's central square predate the Civil War, and numerous antebellum houses and churches remain. Famous Civil War figures, including John Pelham and Gens. William and John Forney, came from Jacksonville. During the 20th century, a large cotton mill provided employment for the town's citizens and the starving sharecroppers from the surrounding mountains. What began as the State Normal School evolved into what is now Jacksonville State University.

Wetumpka (Images of America)

Jan Wood

Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, seeking to create a strategic outpost for New France, built Fort Toulouse in Creek territory. This area would eventually become Wetumpka, located on the banks of the Coosa River and standing at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. The fort became the headquarters for Gen. Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812, and later it was where Creek Indians ceded their lands to the federal government. Wetumpka’s presence was also large outside of military endeavors. During the cotton boom, two years after the city’s incorporation in 1834, a New York newspaper declared it and Chicago, Illinois, the “two most promising cities in the West.” Although fire, floods, and the Civil War hindered growth, infrastructural transformations and cultural additions have helped mold modern Wetumpka into the “City of Natural Beauty” and propel it to occasional roles on the big screen.

Selma (Images of America)

Sharon J. Jackson

On April 2, 1865, one of the last battles of the Civil War destroyed nearly three-fourths of Selma and effected tremendous change in the lives of its people. At the war’s beginning, Selma became a transportation center and one of the main manufacturing centers supporting the South’s war effort. Its foundries produced much-needed supplies and munitions, and its naval yard constructed Confederate warships. A century later, Selma again became the scene of a dramatic struggle when it served as the focal point of the voting-rights movement. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, approximately 600 marchers set out from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church on US Highway 80, headed for Montgomery to petition the state legislature for reforms in the voter-registration process. They were met six blocks outside of town at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by state and local law enforcement and were turned back with Billy clubs and tear gas―the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” On March 25, after much discussion and a court injunction, some 25,000 marchers finally crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their way to Montgomery.

Sylacauga (Images of America)

Peggy Easterling Rozelle

The Shawnee Indians would be surprised to find the name that they gave the area in 1748―Chalakagay―remains much the same; however, the area has changed quite a bit. New ideas surfaced with the building of the plank road that supported rumbling horse-drawn stage coaches through the “old town” and again in recent times when a piece of marble became the Falling Star sculpture, a memorial to the local 1954 meteorite. Around 1820, Dr. Edward Gantt discovered marble in what would become Gantts Quarry while on military duty with Gen. Andrew Jackson. The pioneering spirit of early settlers continued with the planting of cotton and the development of small businesses. The arrival in 1886 and 1887 of two intersecting railroads ushered in a period of rapid expansion. A “new town” business section grew up along north Broadway where the rails crossed. Old town businesses, along the Main Avenue Plank Road and Fort Williams Street, soon relocated to the new business area. During World War II, a movie was filmed in Sylacauga by the US War Office in response to the development of recreational opportunities for the influx of people coming to work at the nearby defense plant. Today, Sylacauga is nationally recognized for its marble quarries, business acuity, and educational and cultural resources.

Monroeville: Literary Capital of Alabama (Images of America)

Kathy McCoy

Monroeville is the county sear of Monroe County, a count older than the state of Alabama itself. Located in what was the western Creek Nation, Monroeville became the center of county business in 1832, eighteen years after the surrender of the Creeks to Andrew Jackson. Monroeville soon became a powerful political base in the state. In the 20th century, it hosted visits from “Big Jim” Folsom as well as George Wallace, a powerful young orator who would change the face of American politics. Today, Monroeville is known as the childhood home of internationally known authors Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird was set in a small town that still Southern town based on Monroeville. Many of Capote's short stories and novels were drawn from his Monroeville experiences. Visitors from around the world come to the town that still remembers when Truman rented the town's only taxi for the weekend and drove around for days “visiting”. Townsfolk like to talk about the time Gregory Peck came to town to meet the many of the people who were inspirations for the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. As other writers from Monroeville emerge, such as Mark Childress and Cynthia Tucker, one wonders how many more stories the town holds, as well as what is so special about a small, rural southwestern Alabama town call Monroeville.

Letters from Alabama: Chiefly Relating to Natural HIstory (Library Alabama Classics)

Philip Henry Gosse

Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888), a British naturalist, left home at age 17 and made his way to Alabama in 1838, where he had heard educated people were in demand. He was employed by Judge Reuben Saffold at Pleasant Hill in Dallas County as a teacher for about a dozen children of local landowners, but his principal interest was natural history. During the eight months he lived in th Black Belt he watched, listened, thought, took notes, and made sketches--activities that eventually led to Letters from Alabama. He lived among Alabamians, talked and listened to them, saw them at their best and their worst, and came to understand their hopes and fears. They were a part of the natural world, and he paid attention to them as any good scientist would. With the skills of a scientist and the temperament of an artist, Gosse set down an account of natural life in frontier Alabama that has no equal. Written to no one in particular, a common literary device of the period, the letters were first published in a magazine, and in 1859 appeared as a book. By that time Gosse was an established scholar and one of England’s most noted scientific illustrators.

Lincoln (AL) (Images of America)

Kelly Love

Located near the convergence of the Choccolocco Creek, the Blue Eye Creek, and the Coosa River, whose Native American names pay tribute to the Muskogee who once populated the town, Lincoln attracted early settlers after the Cusseta Treaty was signed with the Creek Indians on March 24, 1832. Andrew Jackson passed through Lincoln on his way to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, when the town was still known as Kingsville and before it was renamed in 1856 for a famous soldier who fought in the War of Independence. Though Lincoln suffered during the Depression-closing its two banks and many businesses-it has recovered to become the eighth-fastest growing city in Alabama.

Around Stemley Bridge (AL) (Images of America)

Mildred J. Stathelson

Around Stemley Bridge captures the spirit of a community that overcame the destruction of the Civil War, reformed with Reconstruction, survived the hardships of both world wars, struggled during the Depression, and ultimately prospered. The photographs and legends herein tell of the Northern Talladega County people, from early farmers to modern-day lakeside dwellers who spend their weekends boating, skiing, and fishing. Churches, schools, businesses, and families around Stemley Bridge have preserved a way of life that has yet to succumb to the demands of a fast-paced world. From an original land deed signed by Pres. Andrew Jackson to the modern design of the bridge, images in this book traverse many cultural layers.

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