Lauderdale County, Alabama
Excerpted from Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical, pp. 90-91
"Population: White, 15,000; colored, 6,000. Area, 700 square miles. Woodland, all; barrens, 400 square miles; Red Valley land and gravelly hills, 300 square miles. Acres in cotton, approximately, 26,600; in corn, 43,000; in oats, 4,600; in wheat, 8,500; in rye, 250; in tobacco, 100; in sweet potatoes, 450. Approximate number of bales of cotton, 9,5000.
"County Seat--Florence; population, 3,000; located on the North bank of the Tennessee river noted for its maufactures, elegant schools and superior class of society.
"Newspaper published at Florence, Banner, Gazette, Wave--all Democratic.
"Postoffices in the County--Anderson Creek, Arthur, Baily Springs, Centre Star, Comer, Covington, Florence, Gravelly Springs, Green Hill, Lexington, Oakland, Pruitton, Rawhide, Rogersville, Saint Florain [sic], Smithsonia, Sugar, Waterloo.
"Lauderdale is one of the most fertile counties in the State. It is situated in the northwestern corner of Alabama, and is joined on two sides by the States of Mississippi and Tennessee. It was one of the first sections of Alabama settled by the whites, and was organized as a county before the State was constituted. It was established in 1818, and named for the famous Indian fighter, Col. Lauderdale, of Tennessee, who fell in the battle of Talladga [sic], December 23, 1814.
"It has a diversity of soil, as is abundantly indicated in the variety of crops grown. In the northern portion of the county the surface is somewhat more uneven than is that in the southern end. The previaling soil in the northern portion is of a grayish hue, but yields quite readily. In the south the lands are reddish in character. This is due to the presence of iron. These lands are quite fertile, and though some of them have been in cultivation seventy-five years, they are still productive without the aid of fertilizers. West of Florence, in a great bend of the Tennessee river, is a large body of valley lands known as the Colbert Reservation. It is overspread in different directions by some of the finest farms found in this section of Alabama. These valley lands, when fresh, will produce as much as one thousand pounds of seed cotton to the acre. The most of the cotton grown in the county is raised upon the red valley lands, and the product per acre is considerably above the average.
"The chief crops of the county are cotton, corn, wheat, oats, sorghum and sweet potatoes. Apples and peaches are grown in vast quantities in the orchards. These are the chief fruits, though other fruits are grown with success when they receive proper attention. This is especially true of the grape. Wild fruits, such as hickorynuts and berries grow in large quantities.
"The chief pursuits of the people are farming, stock-rising and manufacturing, to all of which the county is admirably adapted. For many years the single pursuit was that of planting; but the superb water power of the county and the abundant fuel suggested the establishment of manufactories long before the beginning of the war. Cotton and wool factories were accordingly established, as well as manufactories of leather. At this period Lauderale was, perhaps, in advance of any other portion of the State in its manufactories. It is believed to be the pioneer county in establishing manufacturing interests. These industries perished amid the ravages of the war, but are now rebuilt to some extent, and in the town of Florence, particularly, manufacturing is assuming important proportions.
"The county is abundantly supplied with perpetual streams of water. Shoal, Cypress, Blue Water, Bluff and Second creeks flow through the county from the north.
"Striking the southwestern boundary of the county is the Elk river. Besides these there are many bold mountain springs, containing both limestone and freestone water. There are springs in several parts of the county that have medicinal property, the most noted of these being Bailey's Springs, but a short distance from the town of Florence; though Taylor's Springs have a local reputation. In every part of the county are to be found local industries, such as gins, and grist and saw mills.
"There are forests of valuable timber in every part of Lauderdale County. These comprise several varieties of oak, poplar, chestnut, beech, hickory, walnut, cherry, and short leaf pine. The forests, in many places, are heavily wooded with these valuable timbers. Facilities for transportation of products to market are already good, but are destined to be grealy increased at no remote period. The Memphis & Charleston Railway runs a branch road into Florence from Tuscumbia; the Louisville & Nashville taps the same town with a road known as the Nashville & Florence, from Columbia, Tenn., and other roads are proposed and in process of construction.
"The educational advantages of the county are superior. Throughout the entire county there are good local schools, affording all the educational facilities ncessary for common school instruction. These schools are supported by all the moral influence that comes of long established and well-regulated society. The people are law-abiding and thrifty, and the tone of society is elevating.
"In the northern portion of the county, adjoining the State of Tennessee, are to be found excellent deposits of iron ore. The extent of the prevalence of this ore is not known, as it has been only partially developed. In the southeastern part of Lauderdale, on Elk River, is a valuable cave of saltpetre.
"The chief towns of the county are Florence (the county seat), Lexington, Rodgersville and Waterloo.
"With water power from the hills and mountains, with a climate, the brace of which cannot be excelled, even in midsummer, with superior society and schools, Lauderdale offers rare advantages to those seeking homes. Land may be purchased at prices ranging from $5 to $15 per acre.
"The population of the county has increased seventy per cent in the past decade and is still more rapidly advancing.
"The coneal artificial mound at Florence, is one of the largest and best preserved of the many left by that mysterious and unknown pre-historic race in so many parts of our country.
"In 1819, voting places were established at the houses of Wm. S. Barton and Thomas barnett, and in 1821, at the houses of Joel Burrows, Andrew McMicken and William Howe.
"Haywood's History of Tennessee says that the portion of Alabama, north of the Tennessee, was organized into a county by the Georgia Legislature in 1785 and called Houstonn, in honor of John Houstonn, governor of that state in 1778 and 1784. A party of eighty men came down the Tennessee shortly after, and effected a settlement at a point on the Muscle Shoals within the present limits of this county. They opened a land office, elected one of their number to the Georgia legislature, and performed other right of citizenship. But within a fortnight the settlement was abandoned in dread of the warlike Chicasas.
"The region now embraced within this country was the scene of several bloody skirmishes between the Tennesseeans and Chicasas about the years 1787-90.
"During the war between the States a cavalry fight occurred two miles east of Florence, in which the cavalary regiment of Col. Wm. A. Johnson, of Colbert, scattered a federal command with some loss to it. Near the same spot the army of Gen. Hood lay encamped for several weeks just before entering on the disastrous campaign which culminated at Franklin and Nashville. Lauderdale, then in common with the other counties of the Tenessee [sic] valley, suffered fearfully in consequence of its exposed position.
"Probably no single county in the State can boast a higher order of citizenship than Lauderdale, while her past history is replete with the names of men whose brilliant achievements illumine the annals of a nation. The brave old soldier, Gen. John Coffee, Jackson's most trusted lieutenant, lived and died here; Robt. Miller Patton, one of Alabama's greatest governors, made this his home, while the distinguished soldier, statesman and citizen, Edward Asbury O'Neal yet resides at Florence. Caroline Lee Hentz, whose memory is so dear to every lover of a pure literature, spent nine years of her life here. Judge John Edmund Moore, Wade Keys, Hugh McVay, Sidney C. Posey, James Jackson, James Irvine, and many others whose names are identified with the history of Alabama, were citizens of this county.