History of Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville is located between the Tennessee River and the Tennessee border. Nicknamed "Rocket City," the history of Huntsville is intertwined with America's space program.John Hunt lived in a cabin beside a spring there in 1805. LeRoy Pope, a man of considerable wealth, followed soon afterwards, made large purchases of land, and changed the community's name from Hunt's Spring to Twickenham, the name of the London estate of the poet Alexander Pope. Local residents rejected the change and renamed it Huntsville.Huntsville became the first incorporated town in the state in 1811. In 1819, the leaders of the Alabama Territory gathered to appeal to the U.S. In 1820, the capital moved to Cahawba in the first of several transitions that led eventually to Montgomery in 1846.In the years before the Civil War, Huntsville was an important cotton trading center. The Memphis & Charleston Railroad was built through Huntsville in 1855. On April 11, 1862, Union troops, guided by General Mitchell, captured Huntsville to cut the Confederacy's railroad communications.Until 1940, Huntsville was a small city with a population of 13,150. The situation changed at the beginning of World War II, when it was chosen as the site of several military manufacturing plants. rocket research and development, was established here in 1941. Wernher von Braun, a German rocket scientist, arrived in 1950, and led development of the Redstone, Jupiter and Pershing missiles.Prior to getting the name "Rocket City," Huntsville was known as the Watercress Capital of the World, because watercress was harvested in such abundance in the area.

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Huntsville Huntsville, located in the northernmost part of Alabama near the Tennessee border, is the fourth largest city in the state and the seat of Madison County. As the first incorporated town in Alabama, Huntsville played an important part in the birth and growth of the state. First settled in 1805, the fertile lands around what is now Huntsville lured English-speaking pioneers migrating to the Mississippi Territory. The early cotton economy that arose in northern Alabama centered around Huntsville, also attracting pioneer families, traders, merchants, wealthy planters, and speculators. Big Spring, ca. 1862 The region that would become Madison County was located within the territories of both the Cherokees and Chickasaws Indians prior to white settlement. The abundant game around Big Spring made the site an important location for hunters. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, the lure of rich soil and abundant game in the newly created Mississippi Territory brought illegal settlement on Native American lands, despite federal prohibitions. The first pioneer in the area, John Hunt, arrived from Tennessee and settled in the area known as Big Spring in 1805. The Chickasaw ceded their rights to the area that July and the Cherokee ceded their lands in January 1806, and illegal settlement began in earnest. By the time Madison County was established by the Mississippi Territorial Legislature in December 1808, the village, which had become known as Hunt's Spring, boasted a population of 300. Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park and Museum Entrance Huntsville grew to become important to the early cotton economy of Alabama. By 1815, there were five cotton gins operating in the town. Cotton ginning brought wealth to the town, which in turn led to the establishment of a broad variety of commercial establishments. The Madison County Gazette, the first newspaper in the territory, began publication in 1812 and in 1816 became the Huntsville Republican. By the time the courthouse was completed in 1816, it was flanked on all sides by brick storehouses, hotels, and homes. The first Masonic Lodge in Alabama was founded in Huntsville, with John Hunt being a prominent charter member, and Andrew Jackson being a frequent visitor to the lodge. General Jackson was also a frequent visitor to Huntsville's Green Bottom Inn and race track, and when Pres. James Monroe visited the Alabama Territory in June 1819, he and his entourage stayed at the Huntsville Inn. Memphis & Charleston Railroad Depot, ca. 1970s The U.S. Congress selected Huntsville as the site for the first Constitutional Convention of Alabama after it was approved to become a state. From July 5 to August 2, 1819, delegates met in the late Walker Allen's cabinet shop and prepared the new state constitution. This large building served also as the inauguration site of the state's first governor, William Wyatt Bibb, in December of that year and was the meeting place for the newly formed Alabama State Legislature. Huntsville served as the temporary capital of Alabama from 1819 to 1820, when the seat of state government was moved to Cahaba in Dallas County. The town remained an important center for cotton trade and transportation. In 1854, Huntsville became the headquarters of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the first railroad to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Mississippi River. Huntsville's First Streetcar After the war, Huntsville remained closely tied to the agricultural economy. Small mills and gins were the most common enterprises, but Huntsville in the 1880s began to advertise itself as a progressive city of opportunity. Through the 1880s, investors helped Huntsville grow by establishing the Huntsville Cotton Mill, a telephone exchange, electric and gas lights, and a rail line connecting the city to Nashville. In the 1890s, investors from New York and Ohio established commercial nurseries. The Huntsville Wholesale Nurseries was, at that time, the largest wholesale nursery in the United States. During the Spanish-American War, Camp Wheeler was established to train National Guard in early 1898. It was renamed Camp Albert G. Forse after a local soldier who was killed in action. In October 1898, following service in Cuba, members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry—one of the African American units known as the "Buffalo Soldiers"—were sent to Camp Forse to recuperate. (A memorial statue to these soldiers was erected at the camp's site, now called 10th Cavalry Hill, in 2014.) The camp was abandoned in 1899. Additional cotton mills were built in Huntsville through the first part of the twentieth century, many of which remained in operation and provided some stability for Huntsville through the Great Depression. U.S. Space & Rocket Center Huntsville's fortunes changed dramatically after the outbreak of World War II and the establishment of the U.S. Army missile research program at Redstone Ordnance Plant in 1941 to support the U.S. war effort. The facility was renamed the Redstone Arsenal in 1943. Redstone operated largely as a chemical munitions production and stockpiling facility until 1949, when it was chosen to be the site for the U.S. Army missile research program. This decision, advocated by Alabama senator John Sparkman, brought to Huntsville an entirely new, technology-based economy that would stimulate development for the next several decades. In April 1950, German rocket engineers and their families were brought to the Redstone Arsenal to begin the U.S. rocketry program. Among these individuals was Wernher von Braun, a preeminent rocket engineer who would help guide development of the U.S. ballistic missile program and, eventually, the U.S. space program.
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.9 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (18.6 percent)
  • Manufacturing (11.4 percent)
  • Retail trade (11.2 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.4 percent)
  • Public administration (7.8 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (4.3 percent)
  • Construction (3.9 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.6 percent)
  • Information (2.8 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (2.7 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (1.8 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.5 percent)
Weeden House Huntsville offers visitors a wide range of attractions and recreational activities. For those interested in Huntsville's history, the Twickenham Historic District contains the densest concentration of antebellum homes in Alabama and is home to some 60 historic structures. The 1819 Weeden House, home of artist Maria Howard Weeden, is a city-owned museum and Alabama's oldest building open to the public. Each May, the Pilgrimage Home Tour offers visitors the opportunity to see a number of the antebellum and Victorian homes in Huntsville's Twickenham and Old Town Historic Districts. Just north of the district near the courthouse is Harrison Brothers Hardware, a historic store museum operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation. The Episcopal Church of the Nativity, a Gothic Revival structure, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1990. Also in May is the annual barbecue-themed WhistleStop Festival, which features cook-offs, live music, and the Alabama Cornhole Championship. Big Spring Park The historic Big Spring that formed the core of John Hunt's pioneer village is now contained within a downtown city park, Big Spring International Park. It hosts the annual Panoply Arts Festival in April. The Huntsville Museum of Art, also located on the grounds of Big Spring Park, hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, including traveling exhibits and the work of nationally and regionally acclaimed artists. Downtown Huntsville's EarlyWorks Family of Museums houses three museums: the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park and Museum, the Huntsville Depot and Museum, and EarlyWorks Children's Museum. The U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum celebrates servicepeople from the American Revolution to the present and is the official veterans museum for the state. Monte Sano State Park Huntsville has a number of recreational activities available for visitors. Hampton Cove is one of the complexes on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Huntsville's Monte Sano State Park is a 2,140-acre mountaintop park that has attracted visitors since the 1820s. Spanish for "Mountain of Health," Monte Sano was home to a nineteenth-century sanatorium and hotel resort. In addition to trails and outdoor recreation, the park offers Civilian Conservation Corps-era cabins, a campground, and a hotel. The Huntsville Botanical Garden is open year round and showcases the natural beauty and plant communities of north Alabama. It features a wildflower and nature trail and numerous specialty gardens and plant collections. Huntsville is also home to the headquarters of the National Speleological Society and is a well-known launching point for exploring northeast Alabama's many caves.

The biggest attraction for visitors to Huntsville is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The center was opened in 1970 on land donated by Redstone Arsenal and has grown to become the world's foremost museum of space flight and technology. From the more than 1,500 aerospace exhibits and artifacts, visitors can experience a restored Saturn V test vehicle, the Apollo 16 command module, a Saturn I rocket, and original Mercury and Gemini capsule trainers. Attractions include launch and G-Force simulators, cockpit training modules, an IMAX theatre, and digital 3-D theatre. The U.S. Space Camp, hosted by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, attracts visitors from around the world. The camp, started in 1982, provides both residential and day camp educational programs to children and adults interested in space flight, aviation, and outdoor activities.

Betts, Edward Chambers. Early History of Huntsville, Alabama, 1804-1870. Montgomery: Brown Printing Company, 1916.

History of Huntsville, Alabama - History

Madison County, Alabama

County History


[Source: Early History of Huntsville, Alabama 1804-1870, By Edward Chambers Betts - Transcribed by C. Anthony]

As to who was the first white man to settle in Madison county is yet a mooted question, but circumstances lead to the belief that "Old Man Ditto" was living among the Indians as a trader at "Ditto's Landing," (Cherokee-Old-Fields or Whitesburg) some years before Huntsville was located.

That John Hunt was the first white man to build his hut on the banks of the "Big Spring," is historically settled. Hunt's cabin was situated on the slope of the bluff overlooking the spring, at the point which is now the southwest corner of the intersection of Bank street and Oak avenue, on the property occupied by the residence of Mr. Frank Murphy. Incidents and circumstances attending Hunt's journey to the Big Spring confirm the belief that there were white settlers in Madison county, north of Huntsville, before the arrival of Hunt.

Judge Taylor, in his letters dealing with early life in Madison county, tells us that Joseph and Isaac Criner, accompanied by Stephen McBroom, explored the northern part of the county in 1804 and built a hut on the banks of a stream, which is now known as Mountain Fork of Flint river. Isaac Criner was personally known to Judge Taylor, and in his letters he gives us Mr. Criner's narrative of the events of those early days in his own words. In substance Mr. Criner says: In the early part of 1805 he and Joseph, his brother, came to Mountain Fork and built a cabin for Joseph's family, then one for himself. Shortly after the erection of these cabins, John Hunt and a man named Bean came to their cabins and spent the night, continuing their journey the next morning.

Hunt and Bean came from the north of what is now New Market, along a trail, which is now the Winchester, Tennessee, road. They had heard of the "Big Spring,'" and of the abundance of big game in its vicinity. In a few weeks Bean returned and stated that he was going back to what is now Bean creek, near Salem, Tennessee, but that Hunt was going to locate at the "Big Spring," and would return and bring his family later. Mr. Criner also tells us that in 1805 several families came into the county from north of New Market, along the same course traversed by Hunt among whom were the Walkers, Davises, McBrooms and Reeses.

These early settlers got word back to their former friends and neighbors of the unusual fertility of the soil, the beauty of the country, and of the wonderful "Big Spring," and in 1806, large numbers of home-scekers began to come into the county from Middle and East Tennessee, and Georgia. These pioneers were of the types usually found on unsettled frontiers, "the advance guard of civilization," known as "squatters." They were a very thrifty lot, and at the Government land sales in 1809 many were able to buy the tracts upon which they had "squatted" and made their homes. As a whole they were an honest, law-abiding people, modest in their desires and customs, living peaceably without law or government for some years.

Between the years 1805 to 1809 wealthy and cultured slave owners came into the county in large numbers from North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. Soon this class outnumbered the pioneers these later settlers bought large tracts of land at the sales in 1809. In coming into the county, the settlers from North Carolina and Virginia moved along the then western boarder of civilized customs and cultivated lands into West Georgia and Middle Tennessee, till they reached the Tennessee river, which they crossed near the Georgia line.


Source: Northern Alabama - Historical and Biographical by Smith & De Land, Birmingham, Ala 1888 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

County Seat - Huntsville Population, 8,000 located on M. & C. R. R.

Madison county, Alabama, is at the head of the famed Tennessee valley, and has an area of 872 square miles, with a frontage on the Tennessee river of thirty miles. The salubriousness of its climate, fertility of soil, abundance and purity of water, agricultural resources, beautiful, grand and picturesque scenery, educational advantages, cultured and refined society, and noted healthfulness, give it such substantial charms as make it one of the most desirable sections for residence in the South. Madison is the banner county of the cereal belt. It leads all others in wealth and the production of cotton. The soils of the county vary, but generally are of the red clay subsoil. Its shape is almost square. The county is remarkably well watered, there being twelve creeks and rivers running through it from the north to south. These are Barren Fork. Indian, Prices' Fork, Beaver Dam, Frier's Fork, Mountain Fork, Hurricane, Aldridge, Limestone and Huntsville Spring creeks, and Flint and Paint Rock rivers. In the mountainous portion of the county, eastward, and on the Whitesburg pike to the Tennessee river south of Huntsville, are found farms which are devoted to raising-clover, small grain and stock with great success. This county occupies medium ground between the tropical and temperate producing regions, with many characteristics peculiar to both. Its soil yields cotton, but is most naturally adapted to the raising of grasses, grain, corn and stock.

The average annual yield of cotton is 20,000 bales, but there is a growing disposition on the part of the farmers to forsake cotton, and to adopt stock raising and the production of cereals exclusively. The lands being of red clay subsoil, are susceptible of the highest state of fertility, and being generally level, are easily cultivated. Madison is one of the largest corn-producing counties in the State. The raising of wheat is annually increasing, and twenty-five or thirty bushels per acre is not considered an unusual crop on good land. The soils of the county are especially adapted to corn, cotton, wheat, tobacco, oats, rye, barley, peas, potatoes and millet. Orchard grass, Herds grass, Timothy and all the clovers grow here to perfection, producing as much as three tons per acre. The cotton crop is estimated at $1,000,000 corn crop about the same peas and beans, $50,000 potatoes, $100,000, and horses, cattle and sheep, nearly 81,000,000. Being well watered, with clear running streams the entire year, the county is admirably adapted to the raising of horses, mules, cattle, sheep and hogs all these thrive, and this has proven a most profitable business. Importations of stock of all kinds have been attended with great success, this climate proving remarkably healthy for them. There is in this county now, at least 100 registered Jersey cattle (a recent business), and several head are direct from the island of Jersey. They are as healthy and prolific a herd as anywhere in the United States.

There are also two or three herds of Holsteins in which are represented some of the finest milk strains in the world. They have fine health, and thrive remarkably well. Madison has, perhaps, the finest horses and jacks in the entire country, and stock-raising is becoming a chief and very profitable business. Perhaps in no county in the State is more attention devoted to the matter of education than in Madison. Schools of excellent grade are to be found throughout the county. Men of thrift, energy and enterprise, whether with or without capital, will be cordially welcomed in this county. Adjacent to the mountains, the soils are admirably adapted to the cultivation of vineyard and orchard products. Great and rapid strides have already been made in the direction of horticulture. In this county is the largest nursery in the United States, and its business has proven eminently successful. Its name is " Huntsville Wholesale Nurseries," and as that name implies, the trees grown are intended for the wholesale trade. The tract of land devoted to the business is over a thousand acres. Orders received are mostly from distant nurserymen. The production is confined to pears, plums, cherries and peaches. The plants that will be ready for setting next spring will be over 3,000,000,000, which with the large crops of trees already growing, yield supplies for an extensive business. Shipments of trees are made to all parts of the United States and Canada.

Varieties of fruit trees suited to the most Northern or Southern limits are propagated here. The products of these nurseries have given satisfaction wherever sent, and the demand for them is constantly increasing.

The immense water power of this county, its abounding timber, and its splendid climate are attracting repeated accessions of population. Its various advantages are unequaled. No causes for local disease exist, and the elements of wealth are in close proximity. The timber is chiefly most, black, white, Spanish oaks, and beech, poplar and sugar maple. A world of the finest cedar is in the adjoining county of Jackson, through which the Memphis & Charleston Railroad runs. Labor is abundant and cheap. Lands are cheaper than anywhere in the South, considering their intrinsic value, though they are gradually increasing in value,

There are fine pikes in the county and the public roads are excellent most of the year. Madison county is out of debt, and does not owe a dollar. Taxes are low. There is every substantial indication that this valley of remarkable beauty, unequaled health, and wonderful fertility, will, at an early day, reach the highest state of development, and an era of the greatest prosperity will reign. So high an authority as Commodore Maury states, in his celebrated work on geography, that this valley, all things considered, is the garden spot of the United States. And such is the verdict of all who see it. Coal has been discovered in the Northern portion of Madison, and iron is also believed to exist in valuable and paying quantities. Gas is believed, by experts, to exist in the vicinity of Huntsville, and that if the test was made by boring, it would be discovered in abundance, and of a fine quality. The partial boring of a well near the city developed evidences of oil and gas such as to warrant the above opinion.

Newspapers published at County Seat- Democrat (democrat). Gazette (colored republican), Independent (democrat), Mercury (democrat). New South (republican). Normal Index (educational).

Post offices in the County - Bell Factory, Berkley, Bloomfield, Brownsborough, Carmichael, Cluttsville, Dan, Fisk, Green Grove, Curly, Haden, Hayes' Store, Hazel Green, Huntsville, Lowe, Madison Cross Roads, Madison Station, Maysville, Meridianville, Monrovia, New Market, Owen's Cross Roads, Plevana, Popular Ridge,
Rep, Triana, Whitesburgh, Wiley.

Madison is an incorporated town of about 500 inhabitants, in Madison county, ten miles west from Huntsville on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.

Its prosperity depends mostly upon the fertility of the soil in the surrounding country, and the cotton, of which about 2,000 bales are shipped from its station annually.

It has eight or nine general stores: a post, telegraph and express office Methodist, Baptist, Christian, and three colored churches, and a good academy a very healthful place has fine freestone water, and its society is highly moral.

Source: Northern Alabama - Historical and Biographical by Smith & De Land, Birmingham, Ala 1888 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

Huntsville, in the rolling highlands of the Tennessee Valley, bordered by mountain ranges, is the heart of the most pleasant, healthful and attractive canton on the continent of North America. It is the oldest English settled town in Alabama, and the county seat of the oldest county, Madison. Its early history is for that period the history of the State. In the undulating table-land between the State line, north, and the great bend of the Tennessee River, south, where it breaks through the Cumberland chain, at Guntersville, and turns its course to the northwest, the town lies at the northwest foot of Monte Sano, behind which wild-woods and mountain ridges rise to the east. On the eastern side of a beautiful and fertile valley, extending ten miles southward to the river, it looks out upon long ranges in the distance, and rounded spurs here and there looking up from the broad plateau, while north and west a semicircle of fields and forests is spread, with farm-houses, herds of cattle, horses and mules, crops of grain, clover and blue grass, cotton and corn, in their season, giving variety and life to the exquisite panorama.

Madison County is situated between 9º and 10º of longitude west of Washington, and between 34º-30' and 35º of north latitude. The elevation of Huntsville, at the court-house, is 640 feet above the sea that of Monte Sano, 1,700 feet. The climate, winter and summer, is unrivaled in America, and the air is light, and pure and sweet. The soil is similar to that of the region of Lexington, Ky. With a red clay sub-soil and limestone foundation, it is susceptible of the highest degree of fertility.

Ever since the discovery of Cat Island and Cuba by Christopher Columbus, in 1492, the territory, embracing Madison County and Huntsville, has been included in various grand land enterprises. With shipping furnished by Henry VII of England, and authority to occupy and possess in the name of the King, Sebastian Cabot first discovered the continent of North America at Labrador in 1497, and in 1498-9 and 1500 he made further discoveries as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Upon this basis of right, Queen Elizabeth, in 1585, granted to Sir Walter Raleigh, for settlement and development, the territory of America between 45º and 33º north latitude, which was named by him after the virgin queen, Virginia. But this enterprise soon came to naught, and in 1606 James I granted to "the London Company" the territory from the Potomac River to the Cape Fear, to be called "South Virginia." Under its auspices, the settlement was made at Jamestown, on James River. This company failed in 1624, and surrendered its franchises back to the crown. In 1663-5, Charles II granted to eight of his principal adherents the territory lying between north latitude 36º 30' and 29º, from the Atlantic Ocean "westward to the seas beyond," to be called "the Province of Carolina." Under these charters, Edward, Earl of Clarendon George (Monk), Duke of Albemarle: William, Lord Craven John, Lord Berkley Anthony, Lord Ashley Sir George Carteret, Sir William Berkley and Sir John Colleton, their heirs and successors, were created "absolute Lords and Proprietors" of this magnificent domain, the King reserving only "faith, allegiance and sovereign dominion." These gentlemen of the "cavalier" party sent settlers, many of them relatives, to their colony, of which Charles Town (Charleston), established in 1672, became the chief seat. But in 1719 the people threw off the Proprietary government and placed the Province directly under the Royal Government of England. Within ten or twelve years, the successors of the original proprietors, surrendered for less than $100,000, all title and interest in "Carolina," which included not only North and South Carolina, but the region now occupied by Georgia, the greater part of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and "westward to the seas beyond." In 1732, George II granted to General Oglethorpe and twenty-one trustees, for philanthropic colonization of imprisoned debtors and persons bound to service, the territory from the Savannah River southward to St. Alary River, for twenty-one years, to be called after the King, "Georgia." The period of this charter expired in 1753, and Georgia reverted to the British Crown. The Revolution of 1776, the independence of the colonies, and the formation of the Federal Government of the United States, changed the status. As a sovereign State, Georgia then claimed, under the Royal charter, the territory north of 318, westward to the Mississippi River. In 1783 the British Government ceded all rights to the United States, and in 1802, for the sum of $1,250,000, Georgia ceded to the General Government the whole of her territory between the Chattahoochee and Mississippi Rivers, amounting to 1,000,000 square miles, stipulating that every sixteenth section should be donated for purposes of education.

The commissioners who effected this transaction on the part of the General Government, were James Madison, Albert Gallatin and Levi Lincoln. Those who represented Georgia were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin and John Milledge. North and South Carolina also ceded all claims to territory from the western boundary of those States to the Mississippi River and the boundary of Mississippi Territory was extended northward to the Tennessee State line.

But, previous to this great transfer, two episodes occurred, touching territory, in which Madison County is embraced.

In 1875, out of that portion of the then territory north of the Tennessee River, the State of Georgia, by enactment, created the county of Houston, called after John Houston, Governor of Georgia. Commissioners were appointed to organize it, and, with eighty men, proceeded to Muscle Shoals for that purpose. A land-office was opened, and magistrates were made. But apprehension of the Chickasaw Indians arose. The party broke up and departed, and the enterprise fell through.

In 1794-5, the government of Georgia authorized the sale of 21,500,000 acres of land, now in Alabama and Mississippi, for the sum of $500,000. The purchasers were companies of speculators called "The Yazoo Land Company," "The Georgia Land Company," and "The Tennessee Land Company." The measure was passed by bribery and corruption, and was afterward characterized as "The Yazoo Fraud." The Legislature succeeding obtained ample proofs of bribery, expunged the bill from the journal, and had the official engrossed act burned at Louisville, at that time the capital of Georgia. But, " The Tennessee Land Company" having received a deed over the seal of Georgia and sign-manual of its Governor, Matthews, to that part of North Alabama "from the Tennessee line, extending South to latitude 35º 10', and, with Bear Creek as its western boundary, thence running east one hundred and twenty miles," claimed a good title to all North Alabama for a distance of sixty miles south, including 1,000,000 acres among the richest, in agricultural and mineral resources, in the United States. While the Indians occupied the land, and called it their own, this corporation divided it into townships and sections, or lots, of one thousand acres each, and sold what they could on a credit of one, two, three and four years, without interest, about the years l806-7. Deeds thus given antedate other titles, except a few, and were recorded in 1810-11 - the first that appear on the county deed books. The oldest deed is to Martin Beatty, in 1808, for one thousand acres in a square, including '"the big spring." and nearly all of Huntsville. The consideration was one thousand dollars. Other conveyances were to Freeman Jones, 450 acres, William Campbell, 640 acres. G. Harrison, 200 acres, and to Henry L. Sheffey, 10,000 acres - all at the rate of $1 per acre. The last of these deeds recorded bears date of record in 1811l, to Martin Beatty and Benjamin Estill, 40,000 acres, excepting 6,000 included and already sold at the rate of $1 per acre. This tract covered land in the region of Huntsville, and was one of the finest in the South.

The Indian tribes had been recognized by the General Government as independent communities, and their right to remain in possession of their lands and to sell them when they pleased, was acknowledged, so that all sales of lands by companies or individuals, when the Indian titles were not extinguished, were held null and void and were disallowed by the General Government. And after lands were ceded by the Indians to the General Government, parties had no claims, except occupancy and preemption, the same as other settlers on land, at the time of survey of the public domain for public sale. These just and proper decisions were arrived at in consequence of the claims set up by the cooperators of the gigantic land speculations, mentioned.

In 1814, Congress appropriated 8600,000 of script, known as ''Mississippi stock." for distribution pro rata among the claimants under the Land Company, and receivable in payment of public lands in the territory claimed by the "Tennessee Land Company." Prior to the land sales of 1809, Martin Beatty had relinquished his claim to the land about Huntsville and the spring, and entered other lands. The claims of many others were similarly settled by the General Government. After 1815, the few purchasers from the "Tennessee Land Company '" who had not adjusted or filed their claims were ejected by troops, and the United States had undisputed title to the lands obtained from Georgia.

In 1805, John Hunt first came to the "Big Spring," and, in 1806, brought his family from East Tennessee to that locality. After him the town was named. He failed to perfect his title to the land he occupied at first. One of his descendants was John Hunt Morgan, the distinguished cavalry officer of the Confederate Army, who was betrayed and killed at Greenville, Tenn. A year or two before 1805, old man Ditto was among the Indians at Ditto's Landing, now called Whitesburg: John McCartney, from Georgia, was living near the Tennessee line and Joseph and Isaac Criner built a house near Criner's big spring, on Mountain Fork of Flint River, before the first visit of Hunt.

The land embraced in Madison County was the common hunting-ground of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indian tribes, used by both and settled by neither. These were the finest of their race in physique, intelligence, and courage, and, though savage and cruel, they sometimes exhibited genuine magnanimity. The Cherokees in 1712-13 assisted the colonists of Carolina, under Cols. John Barnwell and James Moore, to defeat the Tuscarora Indians, who had seriously threatened the province, and helped to drive them northward, where they joined the Five Nations under King Philip. The Chickasaws are not known to have ever been defeated in battle. The rugged mountain region, eastward of Madison, with their stronghold at Nickajack, was occupied by the Cherokees and the country, westward to the Mississippi River, north of the Choctaws, who inhabited the prairie section below them, belonged to the Chickasaws.

July 23, 1805, the Chickasaws ceded their claim to the land east of a line run from the mouth of Duck River on the Tennessee line, to the western part of "Chickasaw old fields" on the Tennessee River: and January 7, 1806, the Cherokees ceded their right to land west of a direct line from near the source of Elk River to Chickasaw Island, now Hobbs. in the Tennessee River. This area contained 322,000 acres, about thirty miles north and south. It was three miles wide on the river and twenty-five wide on the State line, and when organized was called "Old Madison." This occurred in 1808. Robert Williams, originally from North Carolina, the Governor of Mississippi Territory, by proclamation created the county of Madison. Here was made the first government survey in the territory, and in 1809, in the land office at Nashville, the first public sale of land in the territory was made of the lands of Madison County.

"The great bend of the Tennessee River," includes the counties of Madison, Jackson, Lauderdale and Limestone. The river crosses the thirty- fifth parallel of latitude about ten miles northeast of Bridgeport and turns southwest, reaching its extreme southern point near Guntersville, at a point about forty-two miles due south of the Tennessee State line, and then turning northwest, again enters Tennessee at the northwest corner of the State, some ten miles down the river from Eastport. The distance from the Huntsville meridian, along the Tennessee line to Mississippi State line, is about ninety miles and from this meridian westward to the Tennessee River, is about fifty miles, and on from the river to the Georgia State line, at the corner of Jackson and DeKalb counties, ten miles. The great bend measured east and west along the Tennessee line, is one hundred and forty miles from entrance to exit of the river, and its greatest extent north and south is forty-two miles. Madison and Limestone counties occupy the middle portion of this territory, extending from the river to the State line. The early settlers of North Alabama were men who had fought the Indians in Western Georgia and Middle Tennessee, and were inured to the danger, privation, and suffering of pioneer life. But when they came to Alabama, they found a land of peace and plenty. Though nearly surrounded by savage tribes, there never was any war or disturbance in Madison County. The white settlers, who came in 1805-6, were never molested by the Indians. The Cherokees and Chickasaws visited it in autumn, and returned to their settlements, as winter set in, laden with game. Their camping-grounds can now be identified by the stone arrow-heads and hatchets, scattered over the fields in certain places. The pioneers who first settled the county, from Georgia and Tennessee, originally came from North Carolina and Virginia. They were enthusiastic in their praises of the beauty and fertility of the county and those who were attracted to it by the glowing accounts of its wonders, said, "the half had not been told them." The beauty of the mountains and valleys, the numerous clear and sparkling streams running over pebbly bottoms, and the magnificence of the primeval forests, decked with the splendor of great giants of the woods, led them to think this the finest region ever trodden by the foot of man. They had at last reached the land of promise. In a climate, free from extremes of either cold or heat, with a deep, rich virgin soil, subject to neither floods nor drouths, a region abounding in game of every description " deer and turkeys, ducks and wild pigeons by the hundreds, thousands and millions, and watercourses full of trout, bream and salmon, the native game fish, the means of living were abundant.

The lands once cleared and fenced, with little labor yielded a generous support to man and beast. Cattle and hogs required little care and multiplied rapidly. The seasons were regular, and good crops could be depended upon.

When the public lands were surveyed and sold, many of these pioneers, since known as "squatters,"' were able to purchase their homes, and, before the close of 1809, the ancestors of a large number of the best citizens were permanently settled on lands now occupied by their descendants. Up to the close of the year 1809, a population of nearly five thousand was in the old county limits but with a few exceptions, the population was of the pioneer type: however, stories of the beauty, fertility and salubrity of the county began to attract a more cultured and wealthy population from the other States, who developed here the refinement and luxury of their former homes. The tide of immigration flowed steadily in this direction, slaves were brought in considerable numbers, and lands were opened for cultivation, good houses were erected, and money became plentiful, with abounding prosperity.

In the year 1807, the general surveyor for Mississippi Territory was authorized to contract for the survey of public lands in his jurisdiction, to which the Indian title had been extinguished. Madison County was the first land surveyed in North Alabama, with the exception of the lands, in Range 2, East, surveyed by T. Roach. The old county was surveyed by Thomas Freeman, of Nashville, Tenn., and his work was well performed.

The first was the survey of Huntsville meridian, from the State line to the Tennessee River. The survey of "old Madison" was reported to the land office in May, and in August, 1809, the lands were offered for sale. The land office was at Nashville, Tenn., Gen. John Brahan being Register. These lands were eagerly sought for and taken up by a class of settlers who were, in intellect, enterprise and energy, the peers of any on the continent, and who, for over a quarter of a century were prominent in the State and National assemblies.

Immigration to the county, previous to 1809, came from the direction of Winchester, crossed into the county near its northeast corner, and followed "the Cherokee line " down Flint River to Brownsboro. The fine water-power at Flint Bridge attracted many settlers, and Bennett Wood entered the lands from the Three Forks down to the Bell Factory, with the intention of erecting a mill thereon. John Hunt had made his way from the New Market country, through the wilderness, to the Huntsville Spring in 1805, and many followed that path. But the larger settlement was by way of New Market to Flint Bridge, and down the old Deposit road to the Brownsboro neighborhood.

At the land sales in 1809, a strong tide of immigration commenced down the Meridian road by persons from Williamson, Bedford and Maury Counties, Tenn., to make purchases in the newly-opened territory. A direct route, via Fayetteville, to Nashville was established and the land office remained in Nashville until 1811, founding close business relations between the capital of Tennessee and Huntsville. The National road, when Natchez was the capital of Mississippi Territory, leading from Tennessee to the lower colonies, was first called "the Natchez trace"' afterwards "the Military road," because the troops from Tennessee and Alabama travelled it in marching to the defense of New Orleans, and is now "the Limestone road." The right of way had been conceded by the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes in 1805.i. In 1809 Wallace Estell entered the quarter section of land where Cumming's Mill now stands, and there built the first mill in the county. Charles Cabaniss located at Powers' Spring, entered the old Tate place above Hazel Green, and built the first cotton factory in the county, on Barren Fork, in Section 8. H. Ford entered the land near the junction of Mountain Fork and Barren Fork, and built a cotton factory at an early period.

Between Flint Bridge and Huntsville, William Moore, Nathan Strong, James Roper, Matthew Weaver and John K. B. Eldridge lived. Down the Meridian road, the land was all taken up in large bodies. Robert Thompson and Thomas Bibb entered nearly all in sections west of the road from Birch Fork to Meridianville and James Manning and B. S. Pope the land south to the Strong homestead. On the east of the road were John Lowry and John and William Watkins. Along the line of the western road from Pope's place. Powell, Richard Harris. Rowland Cornelius and others settled. From Strong's to Huntsville. John Connally, D. Humphrey. P. Cox, John W. Walker, Charles Cabaniss and Hugh McVay entered. Out towards Russell's Hill, George Dilworth, Edward Ward and John Allison located lands and east of Huntsville, in Powers Cave, Charles Cabiniss, Moses Vincent and Allen Christian lived. South and west of Huntsville many purchases were made in 1809, by ancestors of the present owners. Among these early buyers were Dr. David Moore, A. and J. Sibley, J. and S. Acklen, R. Langford, J Withers, William Lanier, Archie McDonald, D. Carmichael, James and Andrew Drake, P. McLemore, J. and W. Blevins, William Simpson, William Robertson, Henry Haynes and the Turners. Large bodies of land were entered for speculation, and Petersburg, Ga., is remarkable for having been the former residence of a large number of the heaviest purchasers of public land. James Manning, R. Thompson, Leroy Pope, John W. Walker, Thomas Bibb. William Bibb and Peyton Cox, were all from that place, and probably purchased nearly one-half of the lands sold in 1809. They were, for a long time, prominent men in the county. Of other large purchasers, C. Kennedy was from Pendleton District, S. C. B. Wood from Tennessee Charles Cabaniss from Lunenburg County, Va. S. Allen, Jacob Priest and William Robertson were living in the county before the land sales. In 1810 Thomas Brandon and Nicholas Reedy entered the Henry Motz farm and John Baker, the Holding Brick house tract below -McDonalds or Baker's Creek. At that time, J. H. Posey, C. C. Clay and Gabriel Moore made their first purchases of land in Madison County. G. Moore settled the homestead west of the brick schoolhouse: Posey, north of Huntsville and Clay, a quarter section of land, south of Andrew Drakes, in Drake's Cove.

December 23, 1809, the Territorial Legislature passed an Act, that "William Dickson, Edward Ward, Louis Winston, Alex. Gilbreath and Peter Perkins, of Madison County, be elected commissioners, for the purpose of fixing on the most convenient place for establishing the public buildings in the said county, and they, or a majority of them, shall have power to procure, by purchase or otherwise, not less than thirty, nor more than one hundred, acres of land, at the most convenient and suitable place, which shall be laid out in half-acre lots, reserving three acres for public buildings, and sold at public auction, on twelve months' credit. The money to be applied by said commissioners towards defraying the expenses of erecting the public buildings of the county."

For the quarter section of land containing the big spring there was no competition at the land sales of 1809, and Le Roy Pope paid over 823 per acre. At that time there were two or three hundred inhabitants, scattered over the ground now occupied by Huntsville. The town was first laid out in 1810, and its plan was probably agreed upon between Pope and the commissioners. There were four half -acre lots in each square, and about sixty acres of ground were embraced in the plan. Pope was a wise and liberal man. The Spring Bluff determined the angle of the streets, which are thirty-four degrees from .the true meridian. The first survey of the town was probably the work of John W. Leake. Hunter Peel came Into Huntsville in 1816. The original plan of the town was not recorded and is not extant. The plat thought to be the original plan was drawn by Hunter Peel, by order of the trustees of the Pope donation, in 1821, and still exists. After the town was first laid out, the commissioners, who all lived in the neighborhood of the big spring, purchased thirty acres from Mr. Pope, paying the nominal price of seventy-five dollars. This deed was not recorded until 1815. They selected the south half of the town, the line running through the court-house square. This portion of the town was sold rapidly in half-acre lots, bringing from two to five hundred dollars each. Ten thousand dollars was realized and applied to public buildings. Pope afterward obtained more than twice as much for the northern portion of the town, which he had retained.

John Hunt, after whom the place was called, was not able to purchase at the sales the land on which he located. He did buy one quarter-section, but failed to make the payments, and it reverted to the United States. In 1811, the town was incorporated by the Territorial Legislature, as "Huntsville," with a board of trustees. The Legislature of 1843-44, granted a new charter to the town, dividing it into four wards, and providing for the election of a mayor and eight aldermen.

The first lot sold in the new town, was sold on the Fourth of July, 1810. The first court-house was commenced soon afterward, and court was held in it in the fall of 1811.

The first trading-house or store was that of Alexander Gilbreath, near the spring, about the corner of Gates and Henry streets. After the town was laid out, Gilbreath and James White formed a co-partnership, and did a large business in 1811-12.

The first houses on the public square were built by John Brown and J. O. Crump, on the north side, called "Exchange Row." Rose, LeRoy Pope and Hitchman built the first stores on the east side. John Reed, a clerk in the land office at Nashville, in 1809, bought the west half of the South Side, called " Commercial Row," and also the corner lot west, across Madison street. On this he built his first house and sold it to Andrew Jamison, who afterward sold it to Allen Cooper. Latterly it has been the property of F. O. Schandies. Reed sold lots on Commercial Row to J. Falconer, James Clemens, Stephen Ewing and Taylor and Foote. Stephen Neal, who was sheriff from 1809 to 1822, purchased the east half of Commercial Row, and sold it, by the lot, to Luther and Calvin Morgan, C. C. Clay, William Patton and Andrew Beirne, who were long and favorably known under the firm-name of "Patton & Beirne." Christopher Cheatham erected a tavern on the Huntsville Hotel lot. Thomas and William Brandon, the builders of the place, came here in 1810, with no property except their trowels and mechanical skill and from a struggling village of wooden shanties, they made a town of brick and stone.

The Creek War began with the massacre of Fort Mims, in Washington County, on the Alabama River, on the 30th of August, 1813. General Jackson appealed at once to the militia of his division and soon found a considerable force at his command. Among his troops were four companies from Madison County, led by captains Gray, Mosely, Eldridge and Hamilton. Organizing his army at Fayetteville, he established a depot of supplies at Deposit Ferry, on the Tennessee River, and opened "Jackson's Trace," the Deposit road from New Market, through New House, to the ferry. Enthusiasm was great, and high prices were paid by some for the privilege of taking the places of the men enrolled. The Madison companies were put into a regiment with Tennesseans, commanded by Col. James Carroll, an intimate friend of General Jackson. Under him they participated in the important battles of Talladega and Emuckfaw, where, being on an exposed flank, they suffered severely. They were also at the battle of Tohopeka, which closed the war. The company of Captain Eldridge was raised in Huntsville and Meridianville, and that of Captain Hamilton in the mountain settlements of Flint River. These companies bore a part in the occupation of Mobile and Pensacola.

On the 8th of January, 1815, the battle of New Orleans was fought, and on the 18th of June the battle of Waterloo. The Treaty of Ghent between England and the United States and the cessation of fighting between the nations of Europe, on the imprisonment of Napoleon at St. Helena, gave rest and opportunities of recuperation to the civilized world.

Cotton came into demand at a high price, and its cultivation, with negro labor, educated to the skillful use of the plow and the hoe, reliable and under control, promised large profits. In 1818 the magnificent lands of the Tennessee Valley of Alabama were placed upon the market. Speculation became the rage. The tobacco lands of Virginia had become worn and the profits of that staple had materially diminished. The price of cotton was high, 20 to 25 cents per pound and in the rich virgin soil of the Tennessee Valley of Alabama, each good hand could make, annually, five or six hundred dollars. Besides, being unlike the sickly lands of the coast region, high and healthy, the increase of the negro slaves equalled the proceeds of the crops. Lands purchased in 1809, at $2 per acre, sold at $15 and $20. For example, in 1817, Robert Thompson sold 640 acres, entered above Meridianville, to Thomas G. Percy, for $10,800 Jacob Pruitt sold 137 acres, north of Mooresville, for $20 per acre James Manning sold the land on which Dr. Hampton now resides, at $18 per acre. These were considered bargains, and shrewd business men like Charles Cabaniss, Dr. David Moore, John Brahan and Samuel Allen, who had purchased large bodies in 1800, considered their lands worth more, and preferred the profits of cotton planting to speculation. The value of town property kept pace with that of farms. For instance: John Reed paid the commissioners $750 for lot No. 42, now Shandies' corner, and in 1815 sold it for $7,500: Reed and Neal paid $500 each for the lots on Commercial Row Neal sold his for $8,400. LeRoy Pope realized $10,000 for the Holding Square, including the storehouse of Pope & Hickman.

On the 2d day of February, 1818, land sales began at Huntsville, then the only town in the valley, but, with the land-office and a bank, and twenty thousand people in Madison County eager to invest in lands, the times were lively. Within two years the counties of Morgan, Blount, St. Clair, Jackson, Limestone, Lauderdale, Lawrence and Franklin were occupied and organized. And the towns of Bellefonte, Somerville, Moulton, Athens, Tuscumbia, Florence, Blountsville, Asheville and Russelville were founded, and nearly all of them incorporated. At that period there were no preemption laws for the benefit of the poorer classes of settlers, and men of means, chiefly from Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, flocked in to buy and to settle. Lands covered with primeval forests sold from twenty, as high as one hundred dollars per acre, and all the best lands in the entire valley were taken up. Fifty thousand people settled in its limits within a period of two years, and the Tennessee River, from its entrance into the State, near the Georgia line, to its exit, near the Mississippi line, had a continuous farming settlement on both sides, with a teeming population.

In 1818, old Madison comprised about three-fourths of its present area (872 square miles) and the population was 20,000. Huntsville was the only town in the valley of the Tennessee, in Alabama: and outside of the county limits not a man owned an acre of ground. Madison received considerable accession of new territory, to which many of its citizens transferred their energies. But numbers of prominent men located lands farther down the valley, and became representatives of the new counties. At the public sales the lands added to Madison sold well. The uplands of the Matthews plantation, west of the Indian line, brought $27 per acre the Donegon place, $20: the lands in Mullin's Flat. $30. Toward Madison station, the Bradford plantation brought $30 the Clemens place the same while the Patton and Stevens plantations, near Swancot, sold at $50 and $54 per acre, all wild woods. West of Madison the bottom lands brought higher figures, some, in the region of Tuscumbia, covered with timber, selling at over $100 per acre.

During 1818 the United States Government laid off three sites for cities, "York Bluff," "Cold Water," and "Marathon," and sold the land in one acre lots. A corporation was also formed under the name of "Indian Creek Navigation Company " and the bluff at Triana was marked off for a city, lots of which, at the first sale by the trustees, realized $90,000. This enterprise was made a failure by the progress in transportation through science, and the changes in the carrying trade effected by steam.

When the laws of the Territory were extended into Madison County in 1810, LeRoy Pope, Edward Ward, Wm. Dickson, John Withers and Thomas Bibb were appointed justices of the quorum, Pope being chief justice. In the year 1814, Wm. Dickson and Edward Ward resigned, and Dr. David Moore and Abner Tatum were appointed. These gentlemen served until 1819. Wm. H. Winston was recorder, and was succeeded by Henry Minor.

In May, 1810, by an Act of Congress, a judge of the Superior Court of Law and Equity for Madison County was appointed, and Judge Obadiah Jones opened court at Huntsville, attired, as customary in the older States, with black gown and cocked hat, the sheriff preceding him, holding in front a drawn sword. Peter Perkins was clerk of the court, and in April, 1811, Francis E. Harris, who remained in office until Alabama was admitted into the Union. John W. Walker served as attorney-general. On the second Monday in December, 1812, Eli Norman was tried for murder, and convicted. Motion for a new trial was overruled on Thursday. The criminal was sentenced on Friday and hung on Saturday. There was no lynch law or lynching in those days. This was the issue of the first trial for murder in Alabama.

In 1812, the Territorial Legislature incorporated the old "Green Academy" for boys in Huntsville, with Wm. Edmanson, John Brahan, Wm. Leslie, James McCartney, Peter Perkins, C. Burns, W. Derrick, J. Neely, Jno. Grayson, H. Cox, B. Woods, S. Allen, A. K. Davis, W. Evans and Nathan Powers as trustees. Woods and Davis were ministers of the gospel. General Brahan donated the land on which the public school now stands and until the establishment of the State University, in 1821, this was the leading institution in all this region. In 1816 the Territorial Legislature appropriated $500 to the academy and in 1818 Lemuel Mead, Henry Chambers, Henry Minor, Jno. M. Taylor, C. C. Clay and J. W. Walker became trustees. In every part of the county there was an effort to keep up public schools, and very few of the early generation raised in Madison County were unable to read and to write. Many of them have scattered to the prairie region of South Alabama and Mississippi, to the Mississippi bottom, to Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas and they have generally held their own.

Among the first ministers of the gospel mentioned in the county are: David Thompson, Thomas Moore. Woodson Loyd, Robert Hancock and William Lanier, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, all licensed before 1814 Bennett Woods, John Nicholson, John McCutchen, John Canterberry and Wm. Bird, of the Baptist Church and A. K. Davis and J. W. Allen, of the Presbyterian Church.

The roll of attorneys who were admitted to practice in the Superior Court at Huntsville, from the year 1810 to 1820, is an exceptionally brilliant one. J. W. Walker became Circuit Judge and United States Senator M. Williams, member of the Legislature and Judge of County Court at Tuscaloosa G. Colter, Circuit Judge at Florence John M. Taylor, Circuit Judge and Justice of the Supreme Court C. C. Clay, Circuit Judge, Member of Congress, Governor, Justice of the Supreme Court, United States Senator and Codifier of the Laws of Alabama: Henry Minor, Circuit Judge and Supreme Court Reporter: John McKinley, Member of the Legislature and United States Senator Samuel Chapman, Judge of Madison County Court for fourteen years and Circuit Judge of Tuscaloosa Circuit for twelve years William Kelly, Member of Congress and United States Senator Henry Chambers, Member of the Legislature and United States Senator Hugh McVay, President of the Senate of Alabama and Governor Wm. I. Adair, Speaker of the House of Alabama and Circuit Judge James G. Birney, Member of the first Legislature of Alabama, and, on removing to the North, the first candidate of the Republican party for the Presidency of the United States Arthur F. Hopkins, Circuit Judge and Justice of the Supreme Court from Mobile, where he moved and James W. McClurg, twice Speaker of the lower house of the Legislature.

In the medical profession, during the early days, were two men of scholarly attainments and eminent skill, both as surgeons and practitioners - Dr. David Moore, elsewhere spoken of, and Dr. Thomas Fearn. The latter served under General Jackson in the war of 1812, and spent 1818 and 1819 in the medical schools and hospitals of Europe. An article he afterward published on the use of quinine in typhoid fever inaugurated a revolution in the treatment of that dread disease. He represented Madison County in the Legislature in 1822, and twice soon after. He was a Presidential Elector and Member of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States in 18G1. He was a handsome man, with a fine mind, great enterprise and public spirit, participating in many of the improvements about Huntsville and in the various projects of the day. Dr. Alexander Erskine came later, from Virginia also, and survived his distinguished confreres. He was popular and beloved, a man of high character. He practiced his profession after Drs. Moore and Fearn had withdrawn, and long did a lucrative business.

After these Dr. Francis H. Newman came to Huntsville from Maryland. He was a physician of scientific attainments and general information. A man of heart, retiring in his disposition, devoted to his profession, and able in diagnosis and treatment, he possessed the confidence of his patients and of the community in which his life was passed.

The first newspaper published in Alabama Territory was printed at Huntsville, in 1812, by a Mr. Parham, and called The Madison Gazette.

The first bank was established under authority conferred by the Legislature upon LeRoy Pope, John P. Hickman, David Moore, B. Cox, John M. Taylor, Thomas Fearn, J. Searcy, C. C. Clay and John W. Walker to open books of subscription for that purpose, in 1810.

Hunter Peel, who came to Huntsville in 1816, was a useful citizen. He was an Englishman, and had served in the British Army as an engineer. He surveyed part of the public domain in 1818, and was an excellent draughtsman. His admirable map of Madison County was lost or destroyed during the sectional war. His map of the old Huntsville corporation is extant and, in connection with J. Barklay, he constructed the Huntsville Water-Works, which have furnished pure, cold water, by iron pipes, throughout the town, for sixty- five years.

Alabama Territory had the pre-requisites to constitute a State. A convention of the people was called to frame a constitution and to apply for admission into the Union. This body convened at Huntsville, July 5, 1810, and was composed of forty-four delegates from twenty-two counties. Madison County was entitled to eight, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa to two each, and Mobile and Dallas Counties to one each. John W. Walker, of Madison, was made presiding officer. A Territorial Legislature also met at Huntsville, October 25, 1819. On the 14th of December, the same year, Congress, by joint resolution, approved by President Monroe, admitted Alabama as a State into the Union. The first Legislature of Alabama assembled at Huntsville, on the first Monday in August, 1820. And the first Governor of the State was Wm. W. Bibb, of Madison County, who on his death was succeeded by Thomas Bibb, his brother, President of the Senate, also of Madison.

In the history of Alabama as a State, nine of its Governors have been identified by residence or by birth with Madison County, to-wit : the two Bibbs, Gabriel Moore, C. C. Clay, Reuben Chapman, John A. Winston, before the sectional war and Robert Patton, D. P. Lewis and E. A. O'Neal, since the war - Eight United States Senators, and two Confederate Senators, have hailed from Huntsville, namely : John W. Walker, who served from 1819 to 1823 William Kelly, from 1822 to 1825 : Henry Chambers, from 1825 to 1820 John McKinley, from 1820 to 1831 Gabriel Moore, from 1831 to 1837 C. C. Clay, from 1837 to 1843 : Jere Clemens, from 1840 to 1853, and C. C. Clay, Jr., from 1853 to 1861 in the Confederate States Senate, C. C. Clay, Jr., served first and afterward Richard W. Walker. Gen. L. P. Walker was Secretary of War of the Confederate States, in 1861. In 1842 Dr. David Moore was defeated for the United States Senate by four votes from his own section of the State, influenced by personal or local motives otherwise Huntsville would have had an unbroken succession of Senators in the Congress of the United States.

Before the war, in the Conventions of the Democratic party in Alabama, the basis of representation was the white vote in each county, and North Alabama, being overwhelmingly Democratic, was called "The Avalanche," because, going down solid from this region, it overran the more Whiggish counties below. Colonel Galloway, a native of Madison County, Ala., started an important newspaper at Memphis, Tenn., and mindful of this soubriquet, called it -'The Avalanche," known and respected to-day. Under the new system of representation in Democratic Conventions, since the redemption of the State, the white counties of North Alabama have lost the power they formerly had in the counsels of the party, and, through the material used in State elections. Democrats of "the black belt" dominate. There is no disposition to jeopardize the peace, safety and conservative influence of that section of the State. But the party is organized on Federal politics, not on State, county, town or personal issues: and the election of the Presidential electors is the most unfailing, unmixed and important criterion of party allegiance. In the distribution of party power in the State, its fairness and squarenesss can not be questioned. When the Democracy of North Alabama require representation on that basis, it will be conceded as right: but not until a firm and decided stand is taken. In the mean time this section is dwarfed of the power justly belonging to it.

In 1823, the great thoroughfares of the country here were opened in various directions for convenience and to facilitate communication and the business interests, superseding the old Indian trails. The streets of Huntsville, many of them graded by Hunter Peel, were also macadamized with blue limestone rock from the mountain base. Drains were opened next to the sidewalks and deciduous trees set out for comfort, health and adornment.

Between 1820 and 18.30, houses of worship were built in Huntsville by the different denominations of Methodists. Baptists, Presbyterians and Cumberland Presbyterians. They were occupied by large and liberal congregations, as they are now. Later the Episcopalians raised a gothic structure, and for several decades have had a full and prosperous church. Since the war the Roman Catholics have built a stone edifice for their services, on main street. ''The Christian" sect have recently completed a modest building. And the colored people of different persuasions have their churches. Among all, the spirit is liberal and harmony prevails, with absence of bigotry and jealousy.

In 1830, the population of Madison County was 27,990. In that year the Pre-emption Law was passed, having been earnestly advocated by C. C. Clay, Representative in Congress.

In 1832, great land sales took place in this valley, with additional influx and settlement by farmers of moderate means.

In 1831, the Female Seminary was established by Presbyterians, and has continuously sent forth young ladies of high education.

In 1832, "The Bell Factory" was incorporated, as " Patton, Donegan & Company," for the manufacturer of cotton cloths. It ran 100 looms and 3000 spindles, and for many years under direction of Dr. C. H. Patton distributed its excellent products at a handsome profit.

In 1836, the last remnants of the Indians were removed from Madison County to the Indian Territory.

In 1838, the present court-house was built by Wilson and Mitchell for $52,000: and at the same time the structure of the National Bank was erected by George Steel. The streets were extended and graded, drainage was improved: and many private residences were put up.

In 1843, the Female College was inaugurated by Methodists, and has since been an admirable institution, popular throughout the South.

In the same year a new charter for Huntsville was obtained from the General Assembly, dividing the town into four wards and providing for a government of a mayor and eight aldermen.

In 1850, the Memphis & Charleston Railroad was projected by men of Huntsville, and soon constructed. The second president of the enterprise was George P. Beirne, and the third Archibald Mills, of this place.

In 1872, "The Huntsville Agricultural and Mechanical Association" was organized, for giving Fairs every fall, with exhibitions of farm produce and fine stock. It has greatly promoted the objects sought, has been well managed, and is undoubtedly the most prosperous and substantial Fair association in the Cotton States. In 1886, it had the best exhibit of farm produce at the State Fair in Montgomery, and last fall took the first premium of $400 there.

In 1883, the population of Madison County was 37,625: White, 17,561 colored, 19,034. Acres in cotton, corn, oats, wheat, rye, tobacco and sweet potatoes, 213,221. The production of cotton, 29,879 bales. The rich, red valley lands constitute 300 square miles the coal measures tablelands, 150 square miles and sandy lands on the mountains, 50 square miles.

The latitude, the elevation, the configuration of the mountain chains, and the direction of the valleys and of the prevailing winds combine to create a climate, the finest throughout the year to be found in the United States. The beauty of the t women of Huntsville is as proverbial as their culture. And the numerous ruddy children and robust, athletic men give the most substantial proof of beneficent surroundings.


Before and during the Civil War, Huntsville was a center for railroad and river-based trade and commerce. The Tennessee River remains a favorite local spot for summertime fun. Even now, we boast one of the nation’s oldest existing railroad depots where Civil War-era graffiti still marks the walls from the Confederate soldiers who were held captive there.

Antebellum Homes and Mills

Unlike many Southern communities during the Civil War, Huntsville&aposs buildings were mostly spared from destruction – leaving the Rocket City with one of the largest concentrations of antebellum homes in the South. The heart of this historic area is called Twickenham – a nod to the city’s original name given by wealthy landowner and capitalist, LeRoy Pope.

Over time, Huntsville was inhabited by wealthy cotton growers and land speculators in search of frontier property. The growing town turned toward textile manufacturing, establishing several mills that helped organize the town into distinct districts that still exist today as local landmarks of industry and creativity.


Look at the structures across town and you’ll see a beautiful collection of antebellum homes, renovated manufacturing mills, iconic Greek Revival-style buildings, a perfectly preserved down-home hardware store – the oldest in the state – and even a few spaceships! Where else can you find that combination?

Space Exploration

In the middle of the 20th century, our bustling town became a critical support line for the U.S. Army before helping to launch the Space Race with the establishment of NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center. Space exploration is celebrated across all of Huntsville – we are known as “Rocket City USA” after all –਋ut it’s especially celebrated at Alabama’s most popular attraction, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  

Science and Research

Academia has thrived since the early days of Huntsville thanks to Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s continued development into premiere research facilities.

Expanding further into science, technology and other industries is Cummings Research Park, the second largest in the nation. Established in 1962, this impressive consortium of more than 300 companies adds a bustling population of engineers, doctors, students and creatives. #EmbraceTheGeek.

The history of Huntsville has seen numerous influxes of new faces from all over the world, which makes our history and identity an ever-changing tapestry. From humble beginnings, the “Rocket City” has grown into a future-minded place to live, work, play. and, of course, to visit!

In celebration of Armed Forces Week and in appreciation of all U.S. service.

Come get a behind-the-scenes look at beautiful Toyota Field! For just $10.

The concerts are held in downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park on the.

Use the Marker app or download a trail map to explore local history, 6 feet.

Helpful Hints:

— Most of the museums have websites.਌heck them out for additional research.

— Download the Explore Huntsvilleਊpp which will give you lots of extra tips and tricks to maximize your Huntsville experience! 

— Bring a handful of quarters to use Friday for the downtown parking machines. Downtown parking on Saturday and Sunday are free. (You may want to grab a few extra so you can buy a couple of handfuls of duck and goldfish food at Big Spring Park!)

— Wear comfortable shoes!ਊnd bring lots of water.਎xploring history is hard work!

Some of their stories have been left out of our history books.” – William Hampton

“It’s an honor anytime your city recognizes you, but also just an honor for me to be able to come and share the stories of these prominent citizens,” he said. “Some of their stories have been left out of our history books.”

Huntsville Revisited’s legacy

Since starting the Huntsville Revisited Facebook page, Hampton has gained nearly 21,000 likes from people of all ages and backgrounds.

While lauding the rocket scientists and “well-to-do” who made Huntsville great, he also acknowledges the lesser-known individuals and groups who quietly helped build the city we know today.

“Our ancestors who were the common folk, the ‘Everyday People’ if you please, had just as much to do with the growth and successes associated with Huntsville-Madison County, Alabama,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Devyn Keith, currently the youngest-serving Council president in Huntsville’s history, is one of Huntsville Revisited’s fans. Keith, 31, hopes the presentation will shed light on our past, present and future as Black History Month comes to a close.

“We have to represent and recognize the good and the bad of our history and the beauty that we are progressing ever more,” he said. “Mr. Hampton gives us an opportunity to have a real-life historian who can help us recognize the strides we’ve made and those individuals in our community who are continuing to make strides currently.”

Remember the Ladies: Marking the Places where Huntsville Women Made History

On the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, the Historic Huntsville Foundation, the Twickenham Town Chapter of the DAR, and the Councill High School Alumni Association are creating a lasting tribute to Huntsville’s pantheon of suffrage heroes through four historic markers that recognize the Black and white Huntsville women whose fight for [&hellip]


Please join us on Friday, June 25th at 4 PM for the opening of Rooted in History: Interpreting Alabama’s Folk Art Traditions. The show will run from June 25th – September 7th at Harrison Brothers Hardware.

Harrison Brothers Hardware is located at 124 Southside Square, Downtown Huntsville, Alabama.

The Historic Huntsville Foundation is proud to offer FREE DOWNLOADS of our kid-friendly, information-packed, imagination-challenging Huntsville History Projects that will keep your kids busy for hours!

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19 th amendment, the Historic Huntsville Foundation is offering a FREE Color Me, Huntsville coloring sheet of the historic YMCA Building on Greene Street, a place where Huntsville women made suffrage history. Kid-friendly text explains how Huntsville suffragists helped create a country where women have the opportunity to be whatever they wish to be.

Finding Huntsville: A Kid-Friendly Field Guide to Huntsville Historic Architecture

Take a virtual tour of Huntsville’s courthouse square and explore the architecture of five historic buildings.

Color Me, Huntsville

Six sketches from our wildly popular coloring books will entertain your kids for hours a story that explains the history of each building accompanies each sketch.

About the History of Huntsville, Alabama

The City of Huntsville is located in Madison County, Alabama. It is the third largest city in Alabama with a population of 194 585 people.

Stay with us, Tycon Roofing, the best roofing company Huntsville AL, and learn more about this beutiful town.

The area of Huntsville was home to the native Americans known as the Muscogee tribe. However, the Chickasaw claimed to have settled in this area around 1300 after they came east across the Mississippi. Before 1805, the land was depopulated due to a combination of factors, including disease, land disputes, and pressures from the United State governments.

During 1805, John Hunt, who was a Revolutionary War veteran, settled around the Big Spring. The area was first named Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman. The name was eventually changed to Huntsville due to anti-British sentiment during this time. The name “Huntsville” was in honor of John Hunt. Huntsville was first incorporated as a town in Alabama in 1811 even though it was founded in 1805 by John Hunt.

The David Wade house was built by David Wade who arrived in Huntsville in 1817 and it was recognized as a significant property across the country. This house was measured as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey to be included in the government’s Archive during the Great Depression. During 1952, the house was torn down and today, only an antebellum smokehouse survives on this property.

The cotton and railroad industries helped to expand Huntsville as many wealthy planters moved to the area. Furthermore, a constitutional convention was hosted in Huntsville in 1819, where the 44 delegates meeting wrote a constitution for the new state of Alabama. This led to Huntsville becoming Alabama’s first capital when the state was admitted to the Union. Later on, the capital was moved to other central cities.

The first railway to link the Atlantic seacoast with the lower Mississippi River was the Memphis and Charleston Railroad that was constructed through Huntsville in 1855.

During the Civil War, Huntsville was seized by Union Troops in 1862 to gain access to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Huntsville became the control point for the Western Division of the Memphis and Charleston during that time which gave the Union direct connection to Charleston South Carolina.

The Union officers occupied many large homes in Huntsville while other Union men camped on the outskirts of Huntsville. The town of Huntsville was treated more civilized during the war comparing to other surrounding towns that were burned or pillaged.

Some months later, the Union Troops were forced to retreat, but by fall in 1863, they returned and used the city as a base of operations for the remainder of the war. Because of the house elements of the Union Army that were present in Huntsville, the town was spared while other homes and villages around the countryside were burned in retaliation for the active guerrilla warfare.

Huntsville became a center for cotton textile mills after the Civil War. Around each mill company, schools, churches, grocery stores, theaters, and hardware stores got developed as well as worker housing.

The industry in Huntsville declined during the 1930s when the Great Depression rolled around. The city still had an abundant harvest and therefore was known as the Watercress Capital.

The city of Huntsville was still small by 1940 with a population of 13 000 residents. However, when the U.S. Army selected 35 000 acres of land in 1941 for building three chemical munition facilities, the population of the city increased rapidly. The Huntsville Arsenal, the Redstone Ordnance Plant, and the Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot were established in Huntsville and operated throughout World War II. The munitions facilities were no longer needed at the end of the war in 1945.

Senator John Sparkman persuaded the U.S. Army Air Force to use Redstone Arsenal as a site for rocket and missile development. The Ordnance Guided Missile Center was formed at this site during 1950 after 1000 personnel were transferred from Fort Bliss, Texas to Redstone Arsenal. This led to 200 scientists and engineers from Germany to settle in the area of Huntsville with their families.

The Redstone Rocket was developed by the OGMC when the Korean War started. After this, the United States space program and major Army missile programs got centered in Huntsville. The Army Ballistic Missile Agency was formed in 1956.

Huntsville got the nickname “The Rocket City” as it had a close association with the U.S. space missions. Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville were recognized as major centers for high technology after the first satellite of America was set into orbit in 1958.

Many new companies joined the Huntsville industrial community during 1960, as well as the Cummings Research Park.

In 1970, the growth of Huntsville almost stopped, and its economy almost failed as the Apollo program came to a closure. But the emergence of the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and research in space sciences insured that activities from NASA could continue.

Reader Interactions


I have lived in Alabama my entire life and had never heard this story until today. Please post the rest of this history soon.

Wow! Great story! I can wait to read about #195. If � were unknown”, was the identity of 195 known? I’m intrigued & so looking forward to the rest of the story.

Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any recommendations for inexperienced blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.|

Amy Jones

Hi Dept of Education – I’m Amy with Our Valley Events. Sorry that your first comment is MIA! I’m sure the blog’s author will chime in, but as the editor of this site, my best advice is to keep writing. Write often and consistently. So many great writers stop when it gets hard or they get bored. Don’t stop. Write!!

Great story! Please keep writing, I can’t wait to read what is next!

Watch the video: The History of Huntsville!! (January 2022).