Hamilton is located in the center of Marion County along Andrew Jackson’s Military Road which was carved out of the wilds of Alabama by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee in order to create a short cut between New Orleans to Nashville. The soldiers were returning home from victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815. Once constructed, the Military Road shortened the route by 200 miles and made the movement of supply and artillery wagons easier.
The Military Road and Gaines Trace, (the road to Cotton Gin Port), intersected at one point and gradually people began to settle in the area. William Ragsdale was the first in 1818 and more settlers soon followed. Other early settlers included John D. Terrell, Robert Clark, Morris Hall, and the Crenshaw, Holloway, Mackay, Meadows and McFadden families.
Since both roads were traveled frequently, the Alabama Legislature selected the site of the intersection as the first toll gate to help maintain the road in 1821. “Judge John Dabney Terrell Sr. (Marion County’s founding father and framer of the Alabama constitution), was the President of the Alabama Senate during selection.”i
Map of location of Hamilton, Marion County, Alabama (Wikipedia)
According to the city of Hamilton, “Tolls included: 75 cents for each wagon and team, 50 cents for each 2-wheel pleasure carriage, 12 cents for each man on horse, 4 cents for each head of cattle, and 2 cents for each hog or sheep. There was no charge for the U.S. Mail, people traveling on foot, and for those going to mill or preaching. The toll house became a rest station for the stagecoaches that where traveling between Washington, DC and New Orleans. The stage sounded a horn for each passenger before arriving to let the station know how many passengers where needing refreshment.”
Soon the community became known as Toll Gate and a post office was established there in 1838. The change in name occurred when Captain Albert J. Hamilton (Judge Terrell’s son-in-law) donated 40 acres to be sold in lots to the town of Toll Gate. The money used by the sale of lots was then used to construct a new county courthouse in Toll Gate. The town was re-named Hamilton in his honor in 1882.
With the assistance of W. C. Davis, Captain Hamilton also secured the location of the Sixth District Agricultural School. Among other early builders of Hamilton were Col. Helvingston, Gen. Gholsan, Dr. M. H. Key, David Hubbard, and the Frazier and Sargent families.
About 3 miles south of Hamilton, a number of Indian burial mounds are located on the Buttahatchee River. Judge Terrell is buried in the Chickasaw burial mounds. Before being “demolished in the 1970’s the toll house and the stage station became the Bolin House. One partially burned timber (rescued from a cleanup fire in 1974) is on display at the Nix Library in Hamilton.”
Students in a farm mechanics class at an agricultural school in Hamilton, Alabama ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
On October 31, 2015, the Chamber of Commerce of Hamilton hosts their 10th annual Butthatchee River Fall Fest starting at 9:00 A. M. in downtown Hamilton, Alabama. Highlighting the annual Buttahatchee River Fall Fest is the living village of the Echota Indians. Indigenous to northwest Alabama and specifically to Marion County and the Buttahatchee River region, the descendants of the original tribe members demonstrate the activities of daily living of their forefathers.
- Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
- History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume 1 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen 1921