The following excerpt has been transcribed from Clarke County, Alabama, and Its Surroundings, Timothy Horton Ball, Clarke County Historical Society, 1879
Near Suggsville, Alabama, John Slater erected one of the first grist-mills (in the vicinity of Clarke County) and in 1813 Jonathan Emmons started the first cotton gin in the vicinity on Smith’s Creek, two miles south of Suggsville. Robert G. Hayden had one of the first tanneries. He also started a small shoe factory about three miles south of Suggsville. The probable date of this new enterprise is 1815. “Hayden’s tanner was a colored man named Solomon. Robert Caller had a mill and a water gin, and an iron screw for packing cotton by hand or horse power, on what became afterwards the Barnes’ place, as early as 1816. To the year 1816 may be assigned Walker’s mill on Bassett’s Creek, five miles east from Jackson and six west of Hickory Hall, near the Dale Ferry and Jackson road; also Jackson’s mill, some six miles south from Suggsville on a little stream.”
Suggsville Historic Marker (Jeffrey Reed, Wikipedia)
The Mud Tavern
To the same period belongs The Mud Tavern. This house of entertainment was some seven miles from Suggsville between Dale’s Ferry and St Stephens. The name is said to have been given, not from any peculiarity of the building, but from the fact that some mud was found in a bale of cotton sent off from this primitive hotel.
The first goods were taken to in January 1817. The earliest towns and villages in Washington County west of the river have been named. The town of Jackson was incorporated in 1816, Coffeeville, by legislative act, was incorporated in 1819, and Claiborne in 1820. These three places were named in honor of three of the generals in the Creek War, but there is no evidence that Jackson was ever at the place which bears his name, or that Coffee ever camped at Coffeeville. The question whether General Jackson was ever in Clarke County, will by and by receive due notice.
Older families date back to 1818
Families were now beginning to locate on some of the streams in the northern part of the county, a few having settled along Bashi and Tallahatta before the Creek War. Many of the older families of Clarke date their residence from the year 1818.
Millwrights and some carpenters now came, physicians and ministers came, civil, social, educational, and religious institutions were established, and the foundations in the newly organized territory were rapidly laid, for a large, prosperous, and vigorous State. At this time a large part of the county was covered with a dense growth of canes.
Cane was as high as a man on horseback
Along the bridle pathway from Claiborne to Suggsville in 1808 the saddle-bags of the travellers had worn the canes on each side of the trail, so narrow was the track, so dense the cane. This cane was as high on each side of the trail as a man on horseback could reach with an umbrella. Pasturage was excellent, and for many years the county was a great stock region.
McGrew in 1818 had a drove of about one thousand head of cattle. In the dense cane deer and bears were abundant, and also wolves, yellow and black, and catamounts or panthers. Game of various kinds abounded, droves of hogs and flocks of sheep were brought from Kentucky and the Carolinas, cotton, corn, and sweet potatoes were cultivated, and food was abundant.
Loading cotton onto the steamboat Magnolia (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
St. Stephens was a cotton market. “Supplies” could be obtained there, although many sent to Pensacola, to Mobile, and also to New Orleans. Barges from forty to fifty feet in length were running on the rivers, propelled by long poles furnished at one end with a spike and at the other with a hook. Such was the beginning of transportation facilities in the heart of the cotton-growing belt when the second decade of the Nineteenth Century was about to close. The census gives for Clarke County, mentioned first in 1820, three thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight white inhabitants.
In 1810 Washington and Baldwin in the south, and Madison in the north were the three counties in what soon became Alabama. When the Alabama Territory was organized, in 1817, there were seven counties, Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Clarke, and Madison, Limestone, and Lauderdale. When the first Territorial Legislature met in January 1818, with one senator and about a dozen representatives, eleven new counties were established. The Governor recommended the advancement of education, the construction of roads and bridges, and the establishment of ferries. St. Stephens did not long continue to be the Alabama capital.
The second session of the Territorial Legislature met there in the fall of 1818. New counties were formed. The St. Stephens Bank was authorized to increase its capital stock by selling shares at auction. Ten percent of the profits were to go to the stockholders, and the excess, if any arose, was to be appropriated to the St. Stephens Academy.
New temporary capital
The next session was appointed to be held at Huntsville, Governor Bibb being empowered to lay out a seat of government and elect a temporary capital at the mouth of the Cahawba. One “Seminole War” had just ended, and in the words of Pickett, “The flood-gates of Virginia, the two Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, were now hoisted, and mighty streams of emigration poured through them, spreading over the whole territory of Alabama. The axe resounded from side to side, and from corner to corner. The stately and magnificent forest fell. Log cabins sprang, as if by magic, into sight. Never, before or since, has a country been so rapidly peopled.”
Alabama would soon be a state
In 1819 a convention assembled at Huntsville to form a state constitution, twenty-two counties were now represented, and soon Alabama was a state. This was a noted period for the admission of states. In 1816 Indiana was admitted into the Union, in 1817 Mississippi, in 1818 Illinois, in 1819 Alabama, in 1820 Maine, and in 1821 the state of Missouri. In 1819 also, the Republic of Columbia in South America, took a place among the powers of the earth, General Bolivar being President, the man whom some have called the Washington of South America. In 1821 Peru and Guatemala became independent, in 1822 commenced the Empire of Brazil, and in 1823 the Mexican Republic. States and nations in America were now rapidly taking upon themselves the prerogatives of sovereignty.
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) – A novel inspired by the experiences of the Cottingham family who immigrated from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Alabama
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