(Lawrence County, Alabama)
written ca. 1890s
Col. Edmond Saunders
Melton’s Bluff was the seat of justice for the county (Lawrence) whilst Alabama was a Territory. It was the first and largest town, and located at the head of Elk River shoals, on the south bank of the Tennessee river. It was laid out by Gen. Andrew Jackson and his associates.
The General thought a town above the shoals must succeed, whilst his relative, John Donelson, my father, and others, thought that Bainbridge, at the foot of the shoals, was the very site for a large town, and they cut a broad canal through the river bottom, for a mile, to the foot of the prospective town.
Neither Melton’s Bluff or Bainbridge was a success. There are no remains of a town at either place. The former is now included in the cotton plantation of Mr. Thomas Jones, and the latter in that of Mrs. Kernahan. Decatur far above and Florence below have become flourishing towns.
Railroads changed the facts
Sixty years ago, railroads were unknown, and their introduction overturned all calculations based on pre-existing facts. How the completion of the great canal, now (ca. 1890) being constructed around the shoals, may affect the trade of existing towns, or the location of new ones, remains to be seen. It is probable that the effect of the canal, like that of railroads, may be to diffuse trade and make, instead of a large city, a number of small towns, at points on the river, which have good landings, and good roads, extending into the backcountry. Melton’s Bluff was settled rapidly, and the houses were built on a line parallel to the bluff.
Most prominent citizen Isaac Brownlow
The most prominent citizen in the place then, and for many years after, was Isaac Brownlow, who died at Lamb’s Ferry, in 1828, a brother of Hon. W. G. Brownlow, late United States Senator from Tennessee. They were alike in many respects. They were men of considerable natural ability and were polite and hospitable. Isaac was the brighter and had more wit, but William G. was the more earnest character, and when he undertook an enterprise he pursued it “with an eye that never winked, and a wing that never tired.”
In other respects, they were unlike. Isaac floated down the stream of existence, caring only to cull the flowers of sensual gratification which overhung its banks, and never married. He had lost (as he said) by the use of calomel, the bones of his fingers and toes, and some from his face, and was awfully profane.
On the other hand, William G. had married and had reared and educated a respectable family. It is true that as a polemic and politician his controversies were marred by rude vindictiveness, and he had scattered from his quiver poisoned arrows; yet as a private citizen he was gentle, kind and charitable; so much so that he was the idol of the poor people around him. His violence was so excessive that many considered him a great sinner; but his moral conduct was so free from blame that no grounds could be found to cut him off from the communion of the church to which he belonged, although thousands “ sought for it, carefully and with tears.”