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Cahawba Chapter, NSDAR
Birmingham, Alabama



State Capitol designation markerWhen Cahawba Chapter was organized in 1945, the founders took its name from the first capital of the State of Alabama, located below Selma at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahawba Rivers. The name “Cahawba” comes from a Choctaw Indian name meaning literally “water above.” The Choctaw Indians who settled in the territory knew of the river’s rage. They called it “OKA ABA.” When white men heard the Indians say “OKA ABA,” they interpreted the words as “Cahawba.” It is also possible that the name originated from a Creek word meaning “extensive canebrakes,” an apt description of the land bordering the Cahawba River.

Carved out of the wilderness in 1819, the city of Cahawba was a fully functioning capital city by 1820 and was visited by Lafayette in 1824. However, the city lost the designation as state capitol when the state government was moved in 1826. The town continued to prosper and became the cultural and commercial center for central Alabama’s wealthiest cotton planters. Many gracious antebellum homes and businesses were built, only to be suddenly and mysteriously abandoned shortly after the Civil War. Once home to thousands, Cahawba is now a ghost town, a place of picturesque ruins, and an important archaeological site. Referred to as “Old Cahawba” the site is managed by the Alabama Historical Commission and a park has been established to provide extensive research and restoration.


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Revised: September 13, 2010