(Scroll to the bottom to see a film of Wetumpka from around the 1930s)
The county seat of Elmore County, Alabama is Wetumpka. Located on the Coosa River, at the head of navigation, it is 12 miles northeast of Montgomery. The population of Wetumpka in 1880 was 1,500; 1890—619; 1900 —562; 1910—1,103. one hundred years later by 2010, the population was 6,528.
West Wetumpka and East Wetumpka
Wetumpka was incorporated by acts of the legislature approved January 17 and 18, 1834, which referred to the portions of the town situated on the east and the west side respectively of the river. The charter has since been amended by legislative enactments. In 1910, the banks were the First National, and the Bank of Wetumpka (State).
First National Bank in Wetumpka, Alabama. ca. 1910 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
The State of Alabama’s 5th District Agricultural School was built in Wetumpka ca. 1896/7, but sadly it burned in 1902.
Construction of the fifth district agricultural school in Wetumpka, Alabama ca. 1896 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
In 1839, the State of Alabama’s first prison was built in Wetumpka for a price of $30,000. The former tenants named it “The Walls”. The prison was used until 1923 when it was replaced by Kilby Prison.
Alabama Penitentiary, Wetumpka, Ala ca. 1900 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Home of the prison warden in Wetumpka, Alabama ca. 1910 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Land belonged to Upper Creeks
The area around Wetumpka was the heart of the Upper Creek lands. The Creek named Wetumka, Oklahoma, the same name as their historic village in Alabama after being forced west to Indian Territory in Oklahoma by United States soldiers under the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
The town was settled by white pioneers before on the west side of the Coosa. “Settlers, mostly from Georgia and the Carolinas, flooded into the fertile land that the Creeks had been forced to abandon. With its strategic location at the river confluence, Wetumpka quickly became an important center of agricultural trade.”1
When steamboats came up to Wetumpka, Alabama (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Old Tavern, Broad & West Bridge Streets, Wetumpka, Elmore County, AL ca. 1934 (Library of Congress)
As early as 1820, Jacob House, Charles Crommelin, Howell Rose, Phil. Fitzpatrick, E. S. Ready, and the Trimble family had established plantations. Later settlers were Seth P. Storrs, Sampson W. Harris, and the Beman, Yancey, and Green families.
Wetumpka was left untouched by the Civil War. Union soldiers were more interested in reaching Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy.
When Elmore County was established in 1866, Wetumpka became the county seat. Before the war, the population had reached more than 3,000. By 1879, it had declined to 619. The town had formerly occupied territory belonging to Autauga County.
Flood of 1886 – bridge washed away
In 1886, the worst flood in the history of the city inundated the west bank and most of downtown. The bridge connecting the city’s two halves was washed away, and more than a year passed before Wetumpka was able to replace the bridge.
Home of Alexander McGillivray
Four miles above Wetumpka is the birthplace and home of Alexander McGillivray, chief of the Muscogees. Gen. LeClerc Milfort resided at that point for years. It is now included in the old Howell Rose plantation. Four miles below the town is the site of old Fort Toulouse, later Fort Jackson.
Wetumpka has the nickname of “The City of Natural Beauty.” Among the notable landmarks are the Wetumpka crater and the Jasmine Hill Gardens, with a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera of Olympia, Greece. This outdoor museum was built in the 1930s on the estate of the Fitzpatrick family, who spent many years in Greece collecting replicas of ancient statuary to adorn their formal gardens at Jasmine Hill. Today the gardens are run as a non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the arts and Greek culture.
Kelly Fitzpatrick house ca. 1934 (Library of Congress)
Historic downtown Wetumpka was developed on both sides of the Coosa River, and Fort Toulouse was built near it.
When the Alabama state capital was to be moved from Tuscaloosa, Wetumpka was a lead contender for its location since it was centrally located in the state, but it lost to nearby Montgomery, Alabama
- History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume II, Thomas McAdory Owen 1921
Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:
- Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
- Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
- Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
- Hillabee Massacre
- Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
- Red Eagle After The War
Richard Cumbie another interesting one!
Shouldn’t it be “Wetumka, Oklahoma”?
Yes! Thank you for the correction.
Susan Davis Shelton
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Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site
is something that is needed on the internet,
someone with a bit of originality!