COLBERT COUNTY, ALABAMA
Population: White, 9,203; colored, 6.950. area, 570 square miles, Woodland, all. Gravelly hills and sandy soil, 420 square miles; red valley and other calcareous lands, 150 square miles.
Acres-In cotton, approximately, 25,000; in corn, 31,575; in oats, 3,846; in wheat, 1,704; in rye, 69; in tobacco, 34; in sugar-cane, 15; in sweet potatoes, 286.
Approximate number of bales of cotton, 10,000.
County Seat-Tuscumbia; population, 2,000; located near the Tennessee River, on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.
Newspapers published at County Seat-Dispatch and North Alabamian, both Democratic. At Sheffield-Enterprise, Independent.
Postoffices in the county - Allsborough, Barton, Beeson, Bishop, Cheatham, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Dickson, Dug, Ingleton, Leighton, Littleville, Margerum, Maud, Mountain Mills, Pride’s Station, Rock creek, Saint’s Store, Sheffield, South Florence, Spring Valley, Tharp, Tuscumbia.
Colbert county, named for a famous chief of the Chickasaws, who once lived within its limits, was created from territory cut off from the northern part of Franklin County in 1867. “Though one of the youngest counties in the State,” says a recent writer, “it is rapidly coming to the front as one of the most progressive.” It is one of the most highly-favored counties in Alabama, taking into consideration its climate, soil, farm products, water-powers, timbers, minerals, and transportation by river and rail.
The county lies east and west, in the shape of an irregular parallelogram (twenty by thirty miles), much compressed in the middle by a southward flexure of the Tennessee River, which washes its whole northern border. It contains 570 square miles.
Population in 1870, 12,537; in 1880, 16, 153; in 1887 (estimated), 22,000, of whom fifty-nine percent, are white, and forty-one per cent, are colored.
The principal farm products are cotton, corn (in the production of which, per acre, the county ranks first in the State), oats, wheat, clover, the grasses, sorghum, sweet and Irish potatoes, hay, rye, and tobacco in limited quantities. Peaches grow to perfection in the mountains, and all other kind of fruit and vegetables thrive in the valleys.
A range of hills called the “Little Mountain” runs east and west through the county, north of which lies the Valley of the Tennessee, and south Russel’s Valley, in Franklin county. Toward Russel’s Valley, the hills slope gradually, and are covered with pebble beds of considerable thickness, while toward the Tennessee Valley, the mountain sinks down abruptly, leaving escarpments of rock from 75 to 175 feet in height.
But two geological formations, the sub-carboniferous and the stratified drift, are represented in the county. These, though lying in contact, are divided chronologically by the mighty gap which separates Paleozoic from quarterman time. The sub-carboniferous is composed of limestone and sandstone; the drift of angular fragments of clod sands, clay, and rounded pebbles. The latter is found chiefly in the southern and western part of the county.
The drainage of the county is northward all the streams flowing into the Tennessee River, and all, except Bear River, in the west, having their sources in the Little Mountain. The streams flowing north are Spring Creek, Little Bear Creek, Cane Creek, Buzzard Roost Creek and Bear River. The first four have cut deep gorges or canyons into the sandstone, which forms the upper stratum of the Little Mountain. These canyons abound in mineral springs and are wildly picturesque and beautiful. after leaving the mountains streams flow through a comparatively level valley to the river. The St. Louis or coral limestone underlies this valley.
the most striking topographical features of the county are the bluffs of coral limestone, 50 to 100 feet high, along the south bank of the Tennessee River, the level and beautiful valley, thirty miles in length by ten miles in breadth, lying parallel, and the bold escarpment o the Little Mountain visible from every part of the valley, forming a mighty wall of stone to the southward.
The lads of the county ay be classified agriculturally as follows: fifty-seven square miles of alluvial lands-these are “made lands” along Tennessee and Bear Rivers, subject to overflow, but astonishingly fertile, producing maximum crops of 100 bushels of corn and 1 ½ bales of cotton to the acres; 153 square miles of red lands of the valley lying between the coral limestone bluffs of the river and the limestone escarpments of the Little Mountain-these lands are not subject to overflow, have a red to dark brown soil, a deep red sub-soil, are easily renovated when worn, and are exceeding rich and productive; the bad class of land-380 square miles of “mountain” lands-about on-half of which has a light sand soil, not very productive, but covered with the fine forests of pine and oak, and the other half of caves and rich, rounded hills covered with growth of walnut and poplar, and producing fine crops of corn, cotton and small grain. Lands vary from $5 to 450 per acre in price, according to character, location and surroundings.
The spontaneous and exuberant growth of grasses in Colbert County marks it specially for a stock county. The efforts heretofore made at raising horses, mules, cattle, hogs, etc., and improving breeds of live stock, have been eminently successful. Few counties in the State could make an exhibition of live stock that would rival that of this county.
Colbert is rich in valuable timbers. Forests of short leaf pine, cutting from 400,000 to 500,000 feet, board measure, to the square mile, abound. All varieties of oak are found. Thousands of cords of tan bark are annually shipped by river to northwestern cities. red gums of great height and beauty grow in all parts of the county. chestnut grows everywhere upon the mountains, and cypress is abundant along the streams.
The mineral wealth of the county is very great. Beds of silica, hydraulic limestone, ochre, fire-clay and kaolin are found in various parts, particularly in the west. Good beds of iron ore (limonite) are found near Tharptown in the south east near Chickasaw in the northwest portion of the county. Gray marble, approximating statuary marble in the polish it takes, is quarried at Ingleton near the Mississippi line. Samples of this stone may be seen in the confederate monument at Montgomery, and the soldiers’ monument at Mobile. Sandstone of superior quality abounds. Keller’s quarry, near the center of the county, and Holsapple’s quarry, near Cherokee, are among the best. The cleavage of this stone is perfect, any size and thickness being obtained.
among the industrial and Manufacturing enterprises of the county are the stone quarries above mentioned, the lime works of Dr. Pride, near Pride Station, and of Mr. John A. Denny, near Margerum, the cotton factory of Messrs. Cheney & Brandon, near Barton, and quite a number of steam saw and grist mills in various parts of the county.
At Sheffield, preparations for making and working iron on the most extensive scale are being made, and shipments of ore have begun. Five blast furnaces of a combined capacity of 600 tons of iron daily, are completed, or in process of construction. The limits of this article forbids any enumeration of the various manufacturing enterprises at Sheffield and Tuscumbia, which include plow factories, ice factories, planning mills, brick yards, sash and blind factories, etc.
The first railroad in the south, a horse-car railway, was built from Tuscumbia, in this county, to Decatur, in Morgan County. These points are now connected by the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, which runs through Colbert County from east to west. A branch of the same road connects Tuscumbia with Florence. The Sheffield & Birmingham Railroad runs through Colbert County from north to south, connecting Sheffield with the iron and coal deposits in Franklin, Winston, Walker and Jefferson counties. Besides these roads the following railroads, all to pass through this county, are projected and in process of construction: The Louisville & Nashville extension, from Columbia, Tenn., to Sheffield, Ala.; the Illinois Central extension, from Aberdeen, Miss., to Sheffield, Ala.: the Florence & Tuscaloosa Railroad from Tuscaloosa to Florence, via Sheffield; and the Paducah, Chickasaw & Birmingham Railroad from Chickasaw to Birmingham.
Leighton, lying partly in Lawrence County, Brides, Barton, Cherokee, Dickson and Margerum are stations and thriving towns surrounded by a fine country and have good churches and schools.
Chickasaw, the head of summer navigation on the Tennessee River, is below Colbert shoals. It is the most northwesterly town in Alabama, and during low water stage goods may be billed to it cheaper than any other town in the State. Allsboro is a prosperous village on the Bear River twenty miles below its mouth.
Ninety percent of the population of Saint’s, Camp Smith, wheeler’s and Seygley beats, which constitute the mountain precincts are white. the farmers of this section are the most independent and self-sustaining in the county.
The Tennessee River secures to dwellers on its banks water connection with all the river cities of the north, west and south. The navigation from Paducah, Ky., to Chickasaw, Ala., is equaled in this country only by that of the lower Mississippi and the Hudson. The distance is about three hundred miles. An additional three hundred miles will be added to the navigation of this river as soon as the Mussel shoals Canal is completed and obstructions removed from Colbert shoals, for which work there has been an appropriation of $50,000. [Source: Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical. Illustrated. Smith & DeLand, Birmingham, Ala. 1888. pp. 103 – 105.]