AUTHOR SUNDAY: Huntsville could have been named Dittosville!

In history books, John Hunt has been credited with being the first white settler of Huntsville, but there was another white settler in the area before him by the name of James Ditto. Here is some information about James Ditto emailed to AP by a descendant.

The True Story of Ditto’s Landing


Sherry Hughes Garner

Cecil, Alabama

This was my great grandmother’s great grandfather.

This story was told to me by my cousin, Ralph Garrison (now deceased) who lived in Decatur, AL and spent 30 years researching this side of our family. Ralph, by the way, was instrumental in providing the history of Ditto’s Landing to the city of Huntsville when the landing was being developed into a recreational area and there was a movement to change the name.

ditto's landing

Occupied a cabin alongside a spring house

James was one of the first white settlers in the area.  In this history info about the city’s namesake you’ll find the sentence “ Pioneer John Hunt, for whom the city is named, occupied a cabin alongside a spring here in 1805.”  You’ll notice it doesn’t say built – because it’s probable that cabin was originally built by James Ditto. James brought his family with him and built a cabin “by a lake” but recognized that he could make a living ferrying people across the Tennessee river and resettled into what is now known as Ditto’s Landing. John Hunt (“the squatter”) moved into James’ abandoned cabin and Huntsville is named after him. If the world were a fair place, Huntsville would now be Dittosville!

Tennessee River, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, AlabamaTennessee River, Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama

Approached by Andrew Jackson

James was approached by Andrew Jackson (either him or his people) about using the ferry to transport the US army on their way to what turned out to be the Battle of New Orleans.  According to Ralph, there is a letter in the Smithsonian inquiring how much he would charge.  And he did ferry them over.

Additional sources:


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS: Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories is a collection of lost and forgotten stories of the first surveyors, traders, and early settlements of what would become the future state of Alabama.

Read about:

  • A Russian princess settling in early Alabama
  • How the early setters traveled to Alabama and the risks they took
  • A ruse that saved immigrants lives while traveling through Native American Territory
  • Alliances formed with the Native Americans
  • How an independent republic, separate from the United States was almost formed in Alabama

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS: Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories



  1. Recently found out my 4th ggrandparents also had property in Madison County about this time. They were Samuel W. Jordan 1766-1834 and his wife Elizabeth Mills Jude. They were from Campbell, Virginia, moved to Giles, Tennessee and had property just inside Madison, Alabama. This was before Alabama was a state. They are buried in the Jordan-Mattox Cemetery in Giles, Tennessee.

    1. False alarm. This Samuel Jordan of 1766 did not have a son named Samuel Jordan born 1807. Back to researching.

  2. Ditto’s Transmission Service Ditto Landing Marina Aymie Ditto

  3. Blah…

  4. I went to school in Morgan/Marshall Counties with a James Ditto and know of several around the area but never dreamed he was named for the earliest settler of the region. Hats off to all the James Ditto fellow around north Alabama. You have my respect now.

  5. My 4th great grandfather owned 280 acres near Dittos Landing. His name was Osburn Locklayer and he was a Free Person of Color originally from North Carolina. He sold the land and bought acreage in Lawrence count where many of his descendants still reside. We believe his land grant near Dittos Landing may have come as a result of an association with Andrew Jackson – perhaps he fought with him in war.

    1. Osburn Locklayer was my 6-great-grandfather. I’m a descendant of his son, Andrew Jackson Locklayer.

  6. […] area was reached by two important Native American trails, one leading from Ditto’s Landing (now Whitesburg) across Brindley Mountain, the other being the “Creek Path,” a noted Indian […]

  7. My great grandmother was Elizabeth Ditto from Huntsville Alabama. Gabriel Rodden from North Carolina went to Sonora calif during the gold rush. After settling there he returned to Alabama to bring out his bride Elizabeth. I had an uncle named Robert ditto Rodden named after her.

  8. John Hunt was my great great grandfather.

  9. That would make it a hootersville to everyone with a town name like that!

  10. Ditto was Dito. The phonetic sound of Dachau, Bavaria and settled in Penn. to start a new country based on The New World of the Ages in freedom, knowledge, human rights. They married with the tribal people. That is my understanding of it. In the 1600’s is what I believe is when groups were coming over from the Eastern part of Europe. Everyone has their own story. I would not believe the history books.

    1. My Great Grandfather was Joseph Ditto. (Mary Thomas Ditto, might have been Thomas from the treaty of 1817)

  11. My sixth great grandfather was James Ditto from North Carolina and likes the same James Ditto from Ditto’s Landing. I wold appreciate any info that would help confirm this.

  12. At the time Ditto landing was a day ride from Huntsville