Place A Query in "The Choctaw Advocate"
Choctaw County, AL was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on December 29, 1847, by combining the five northernmost townships of what was then Washington County, AL, and the two southernmost townships of what was then Sumter County, AL.
The county was named for the Choctaw Indian tribe which once occupied the area.
In the 1850 Census, the population consisted of just over 8,000 individuals. Ten years later, in 1860, the population had mushroomed to nearly 14,000. The population peaked at nearly 21,000 circa 1920, during the sawmill boom of that time. In 2000, the population had declined to just under 16,000.
Although the early settlers were primarily farmers, the forestry industry soon provided the leading means of economic stability and growth throughout the early history of Choctaw County.
In 1912, the A.T.& N. Railroad was completed through the county. It traversed the county from north to south, connecting the area ultimately to the Port of Mobile and northern Alabama. The railroad reduced the dependance upon river travel for trade. The population, and hence the major communities, moved from areas near the river to the central part of the county.
In 1944, the first successful oil well in Alabama was drilled west of Gilbertown. Though the sawmills and timber industries had waned during the era of the Great Depression, this discovery brought new hope for the area's economy, and oil and gas became the county's cash crop.
Clothing factories in Silas, Toxey, and Butler were built in the 1950's and 1960's, and Marathon Paper Company constructed a paper mill at Naheola in the mid 1950's. These industries produced clothing and paper products sold all over the world.
But again, fate intervened, and the oil and gas industry began to lose profitabilty in the 1970's. The railroad was closed and the tracks were taken up in the 1980's. And, the clothing factories closed their doors and moved their operations to other countries during the 1980's and 1990's.
The forestry indusry, however, had learned valuable lessons about the importance of replenishable resources. The paper mill remained, and was ready to fill the economic void. The forestry industry once again moved to the forefront of the county's economic development.
Meridian & Bigbee still maintains a freight rail line through the northern part of the county from Meridian, Mississippi, to Linden, Alabama, in Marengo County. The rail line serves the paper mill and warehouses at Naheola and Pennington. Barges on the Tombigbee River again deliver chips to the papermill. Economically, it would seem the county has come nearly full-circle.
Although the county has recently had the good fortune of adding a plumbing products factory at Butler and the clothing factory at Silas is producing products for our armed forces, the timber, pulp, and paper industries still provide the primary source of income, directly or indirectly, to the county's inhabitants.