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Early Alabama History
and County Data
(County Data at end of Page)

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Alabama, one of the southern states of the United States, is largely rectangular in shape 
and is landlocked except for a short coastline along the Gulf of Mexico.  It is bordered 
by Tennessee on the north, by Georgia on the east, by the Florida panhandle on the south, 
and by Mississippi on the west.  The state was visited by Spaniards in the early 16th 
century, but the first permanent white settlement (present-day MOBILE) was not 
established until 1711.  Alabama became a state in 1819, and during the Civil War it was 
a member of the Confederacy. The state was profoundly affected by the civil rights 
movement of the 1950s and '60s.  Long a primarily agricultural area, Alabama in the late 
1980s had a diversified economy, dominated by manufacturing and service industries.  The 
state is named for the Alabama River, whose name was derived from the Alabama Indians, a 
small Muskogean-speaking group that formerly lived on its banks.  The word Alabama 
probably means "I make a clearing."


About two-thirds of Alabama is made up of a low-lying coastal plain, which merges, toward 
the northeast, into regions of medium-altitude hills and mountains.  The highest point in 
the state is Cheaha Mountain (733 m/2,405 ft), in the east, and the lowest elevation is 
sea level, along the Gulf of Mexico.

Physiographic Regions

Alabama may be divided into four physiographic regions.  A vast coastal plain covers the 
southern half of the state and much of the northwest.  The plain includes the famous 
Black Belt, an area of productive black-clay soils that forms a narrow east-west band 
across the middle of the state.  The southeast also has good farmland, but the soils of 
the rest of the coastal plain are generally deeply weathered and are of limited 
agricultural value.  A second region, separated from the coastal plain by the FALL LINE, 
is the PIEDMONT PLATEAU, located in the east central part of the state.  It is rolling to 
hilly, with highly eroded red soils.

The Appalachian Region encompasses much of northeastern Alabama.  The eastern portion of 
this region is an area of sandstone ridges, separated by fertile limestone valleys.  The 
western portion, a continuation of the CUMBERLAND PLATEAU, is a hilly, forested area of 
poor soils.  The fourth region is the Highland Rim, a section of smooth, rolling plains 
located in the north, astride the TENNESSEE RIVER.  Underlaid by limestone, the Highland 
Rim, as well as the eastern Appalachian Region, has formed sinkholes and caverns as a 
result of the solution of the limestone in the humid climate.

Rivers and Lakes

Alabama has several major rivers.  The main rivers flowing north to south are the Alabama 
River (507 km/315 mi long), formed by the confluence, near Montgomery, of the Coosa and 
Tallapoosa rivers, and the TOMBIGBEE RIVER, which rises in Mississippi.  The Alabama and 
Tombigbee meet in the southwestern part of the state and then form the Mobile and Tensaw 
rivers, which continue south to Mobile Bay (an arm of the Gulf of Mexico).  Other 
important rivers are the CHATTAHOOCHEE, which forms part of the eastern border of 
Alabama, and the Tennessee, which flows west across nearly all of the northern part of 
the state.

Alabama has no large natural lakes.  Dams on rivers, however, have created several 
extensive artificial lakes, the largest being Guntersville Lake (272 sq km/105 sq mi), on 
the Tennessee River.


Alabama has a humid, subtropical climate.  Summers are hot (average July temperature, 27 
deg C/80 deg F) and humid, with frequent heavy thunderstorms.  Winters are cool (average 
January temperature, 7 deg C/45 deg F), with considerable precipitation, including some 
snow in the north.  The amount of annual precipitation generally increases from north to 
south, ranging from 1,321 mm (52 in) at HUNTSVILLE to 1,600 mm (63 in) at Mobile.  
Southern Alabama is occasionally affected by hurricanes in the late summer.  Tornadoes, 
which are associated with cold fronts, are most common in the months of March and April.

Vegetation and Animal Life

About two-thirds of Alabama is covered by forests, largely made up of southern yellow 
pine, red cedar, and other conifers.  The most common deciduous trees are hickory, sweet 
gum, and several species of oak.  Alabama has a varied wildlife population with numerous 
deer, foxes, bobcats, game birds, and other animals. Large numbers of migratory ducks and 
geese winter in the state.

Mineral Resources

Alabama has significant deposits of several important minerals. Coal, iron ore, and 
limestone--all used in the production of iron and steel--are found in the north central 
part of the state, notably around Birmingham.  Major crude-petroleum fields are in the 
southwest, and bauxite deposits are in the southeast.


Alabama has a population of 4,040,587 (1990 resident census), giving the state an average 
population density of 30.7 persons per sq km (79.6 per sq mi).  In the decade from 1980 
to 1990, Alabama's rate of growth was 4.3%.  In 1990 about 74% of the population were 
white, 25% were black, and there were small numbers of American Indians, Hispanics, and 
Asians.  After several decades of considerable net out-migration (mainly a result of 
blacks leaving Alabama for better opportunities elsewhere), the state had a modest net 
in-migration between 1970 and 1980.  After an out-migration in the early 1980s, there was 
again an in-migration from 1985 to 1988.  About two-thirds of the people live in areas 
defined as urban;  the largest cities are BIRMINGHAM, MOBILE, MONTGOMERY, HUNTSVILLE, and 
TUSCALOOSA.  The great majority of all Alabamians were born in the United States of 
American parents.  The majority of the people are Protestants.


Alabama established a statewide public school system in 1854, but schools received 
inadequate financial support until the 20th century.  Almost all black and white children 
attended separate public schools until the 1960s.  By 1980, slightly more than 55% of 
Alabama's residents of 25 years of age or more were high-school graduates.  Alabama's 
more important institutions of higher education include Auburn University (founded 1856), 
main campus at Auburn University;  Jacksonville State University (1883), at Jacksonville;  
Samford University (1841), at Birmingham;  Troy State University (1887), main campus at 
Troy;  Tuskegee University (1881), at Tuskegee University;  the University of Alabama 
(1831), campuses at Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville;  the University of North 
Alabama (1872), at Florence;  and the University of South Alabama (1963), at Mobile.

Cultural Institutions

Among the museums of the state are the University of Alabama State Museum of Natural 
History, at Tuscaloosa;  the Alabama Space and Rocket Center, at Huntsville;  and the 
Birmingham Museum of Art.  The decommissioned World War II battleship Alabama, now 
anchored in Mobile Bay, also contains a museum. Large libraries include the University of 
Alabama Library (1,244,000 volumes), at Tuscaloosa, and the Birmingham Public and 
Jefferson County Free Library.  Huntsville, Montgomery, and Birmingham have symphony 
orchestras, and Birmingham supports a ballet company.

Historical Sites

Russell Cave National Monument (at Bridgeport) contains archaeological records of human 
habitation dating from at least 7000 BC.  At Mound State Monument (near Moundville) are 
several large mounds of the Indian MOUND BUILDER culture, and Horseshoe Bend National 
Military Park (near Dadeville) was the site of a decisive defeat (1814) of the Creek 
Indian Confederacy by Andrew JACKSON.  At Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site 
(Tuskegee) are early buildings of the noted college founded (1881) for blacks.  The first 
capitol (the present state capitol) and the first White House of the Confederacy are both 
in Montgomery.  Alabama has many historic homes, some built before the Civil War.


Alabama has plentiful radio stations and a number of commercial and educational 
television stations.  Cable television systems also are available.  Among the more 
influential daily newspapers are the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, and the 
Montgomery Advertiser.  The state's earliest newspaper was the short-lived Mobile 
Centinel [sic], which is the Mobile Register, founded in 1813.


Until the late 19th century, when iron and steel mills were established at Birmingham, 
Alabama's economy was mostly agricultural, and cotton was the only major cash crop.  By 
the 1930s industrialization was well under way, and manufacturing eventually became the 
dominant sector of the economy.  By the 1990s manufacturing was still the single most 
dominant sector, but various service industries combined accounted for a greater portion 
of Alabama's gross state product.


Among Alabama's primary crops are soybeans, peanuts, hay, and cotton.  Large numbers of 
hogs, cattle, and broiler chickens are raised for market, and many productive dairy farms 
operated throughout the state.

Forestry and Fishing

Alabama's extensive forests are used to produce much pulpwood and lumber.  A small 
fishing industry operates mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, and the catch includes shrimp, 
croakers, red snappers, and catfish.


Alabama's mineral output, valued at slightly more than $2 billion a year, consists mainly 
of bituminous coal, crude petroleum, natural gas, limestone, stone, sand and gravel, and 
bauxite.  Until the 1960s considerable quantities of iron ore were produced in the state.


Manufacturing firms in Alabama employ about one-fourth of the state's labor force, and 
the manufacturing sector accounts for about one-fourth of the gross state product.  
Principal manufactures include paper, chemical, rubber, and plastic products;  clothing 
and textiles;  food products;  and iron and steel products, long of importance to 
Alabama's economy. Important manufacturing centers in the state are in GADSDEN, 
Birmingham, Anniston, Bessemer, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa.


Alabama has a substantial tourist industry.  Many vacationers stay at beach resorts along 
the Gulf of Mexico, notably on Dauphin Island, at the entrance to Mobile Bay.  Hunters 
and anglers are attracted by the state's ample opportunities for such activity, and many 
tourists visit Alabama's historic sites, state parks, and national forests.


Extensive transportation facilities exist in Alabama, with Birmingham the hub of the 
state's road and rail systems.  Major interstate highways that intersect there include I-
65, I-59, and I-20.  The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which opened in 1985, provides a 
barge route partly through Alabama to Mobile, the state's only seaport, which also has 
easy access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.  The Alabama-Coosa and Black Warrior-
Tombigbee river systems are also navigable through a system of locks and dams.


About half of Alabama's electrical capacity and production comes from private sources.  
The Alabama Power Company, a private utility, operates a number of hydroelectric projects 
on the Alabama, Black Warrior, Coosa, and Tallapoosa rivers.  Much of the remaining 
electric power comes from the federally owned TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY through its 
Guntersville, Wheeler, and Wilson dams.  Nuclear power plants and coal-burning or other 
fossil-fuel-burning plants also operate in the state.


Alabama is governed under a 1901 constitution, as amended; previous constitutions had 
been adopted in 1819, 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1875.  The chief executive of the state is a 
governor, popularly elected to a 4-year term;  a governor may not serve more than two 
consecutive terms.  The state has a bicameral legislature, consisting of a 35-member 
Senate and a 106-member House of Representatives;  all legislators are elected to 4-year 
terms.  The state's highest tribunal is the Supreme Court, made up of nine judges elected 
to 6-year terms. The 67 counties of Alabama are each governed by a board of 
commissioners.  The state is represented in the U.S. Congress by two senators and seven 
representatives.  It has nine electoral votes in national presidential elections.

The Democratic party dominates Alabama politics at the state and local levels.  In 
contests for U.S. president, however, the Democrats after World War II lost their 
traditional firm hold on the state's electoral vote.  Since 1948, the state's 
presidential electoral votes have often gone either to the Republicans or to minor-party 
candidates, as in 1968, when Alabama governor George C. WALLACE carried the state as the 
American Independent party candidate.


Excavations of archaic Indian remains indicate that people lived in the region of Alabama 
at least as early as 7000 BC. During the Mound Builder, or Mississippian, cultural period 
(AD 700-1700), large temple mounds were built along the major rivers of the state, 
notably around Moundville.  By the early 16th century this remarkable culture was in a 
state of decline. At that time, the principal Indian groups in the state were the 
CHICKASAW, in the northwest;  the CHEROKEE, in the northeast; the CREEK, in the center 
and southeast;  and the CHOCTAW, in the southwest.

European Exploration and Early Settlement

European contact with the Alabama area began when the Spanish navigator Alonso Alvarez de 
Pineda explored Mobile Bay in 1519. In 1540 another Spaniard, Hernando DE SOTO, led an 
army of about 500 men through Alabama;  on Oct. 18, 1540, they crushed a large force of 
Choctaw under Chief Tuscaloosa.  The Spanish failed to establish a firm foothold in 
Alabama, and the French founded (1711) the first permanent white settlement, at present-
day Mobile.  The French also established large farms, and in 1719 the first black 
Africans arrived to work as slaves on the farms.

In 1763 France ceded Alabama to Great Britain, and in 1783 most of it became part of the 
United States.  The region around Mobile had been taken by the Spanish during the 
American Revolution, and it was captured by the United States in 1813, during the War of 
1812.  Also during that conflict, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Mar. 27, 1814), the 
power of the Creek Indians was broken by U.S. troops under Andrew Jackson. In the 
following 25 years nearly all of Alabama's Indians were removed to the western United 


Alabama was organized as a separate territory in 1817, and on Dec. 14, 1819, it was 
admitted to the Union as the 22d state. Huntsville was the first capital;  the capital 
was moved to Cahaba in 1820, to Tuscaloosa in 1826, and, finally, to Montgomery in 1847.  
The state's population grew from 127,000 in 1820 to 964,000 (435,000 of whom were slaves) 
in 1860.  The economy was dominated by large plantations (mostly in the Black Belt) that 
produced cotton for export.  The rivers were the prime means of transportation, although 
the state's first railroad began operations in 1832, and by 1860 about 1,100 km (683 mi) 
of railroad track had been laid.  The state was overwhelmingly rural;  Mobile, a growing 
seaport, was the only sizable city.

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Most white Alabamians viewed slavery as an integral part of their economic and social 
systems, and they opposed attempts to abolish it.  Soon after the election of President 
Abraham LINCOLN, perceived by Alabamians as a particularly strong opponent of slavery, 
Alabama seceded (Jan. 11, 1861) from the Union, the fourth state to do so.  In February 
1861, the Confederate States of America was organized at Montgomery, and Jefferson DAVIS 
was inaugurated as its president at the Alabama state capitol.  Montgomery remained the 
Confederate capital until May 1861.  Alabama contributed about 100,000 troops to the 
Confederacy, and perhaps 25% of them died during the Civil War.  No major land battle was 
fought in the state, but the Union admiral David G. FARRAGUT won an important naval 
engagement at Mobile Bay in August 1864.  Union armies captured the Tennessee Valley in 
1862 and took Montgomery in early 1865.

The Reconstruction period, which followed the Confederate surrender in April 1865, was 
one of confusion in Alabama. Because it refused to ratify the 14th Amendment to the U.S. 
Constitution, Alabama was placed under military rule in 1867. After the amendment was 
ratified, and blacks were assured citizenship, Alabama reentered (June 1868) the Union.  
During the next few years black and white Republicans exercised considerable power, but 
by 1874 white Democrats, including numerous former supporters of the Confederacy, had 
regained control of the state.  In the following years racial segregation was written 
into many state and local laws.

Economic Recovery

Although Alabama began large-scale industrialization in the late 19th century, the 
economy continued to be dominated by cotton culture.  Cotton was grown mainly by small 
farmers, largely tenants or sharecroppers, many of whom became debt-ridden because of the 
low prices paid for the crop. Alabama was fertile ground for agrarian reformers, and the 
POPULIST PARTY had numerous adherents in the state during 1890s.

In the early 20th century cotton declined in importance, partly because boll weevil 
infestations made farming more precarious; many rural Alabamians left the state, 
especially for cities of the northern United States.  The state's economy was rejuvenated 
by the demands of the American effort during World War I;  steelmaking boomed, and Mobile 
developed an important shipbuilding industry.  The state was severely affected by the 
Depression of the 1930s;  many banks failed and unemployment increased drastically.  
World War II marked the beginning of a long-term economic upswing.

Civil Rights

Race relations were a major issue in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s, as civil rights 
advocates worked to end racial segregation in the state.  During 1955-56, Martin Luther 
KING, Jr., organized a black boycott that ended racially separate seating on municipal 
buses in Montgomery.  In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled racial segregation in 
public schools to be unconstitutional, but white officials in Alabama avoided 
implementing the decision until 1963, when, after tense confrontations between Gov. 
George C. Wallace and federal officials, integration was begun.

In 1963 four black children were killed when a bomb destroyed part of their Birmingham 
church.  The incident, widely deplored in the nation, helped create the atmosphere for 
passage of the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In 1965 King led a march from 
SELMA to Montgomery to protest discrimination in voter registration.  The U.S. Congress 
responded with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which helped add many blacks to the voting 
rolls in Alabama and thereby encouraged white politicians in the state to moderate their 
views in order to attract black votes.

By the early 1970s most of Alabama's schools had been integrated.  Progress continued for 
blacks through the 1970s and into the 1980s, and by 1984 Alabama had 25 black mayors. 
Governor Wallace, whose tenure had spanned the civil rights movement, retired in 1987 
after four (nonconsecutive) terms in office.  His successor, Guy Hunt, was the state's 
first Republican governor in 112 years;  Hunt was removed from office in April 1993, 
after being convicted of a felony charge of violating an Alabama ethics law.  Lt. Gov. 
Jim Folsom, Jr. took the oath of office as governor on Apr. 22, 1993.

David W. Icenogle
Bibliography:  Clayton, L. A., and Badger, R. R., Alabama and the Borderlands:  From 
Prehistory to Statehood (1985);  Dodd, D.  B., Historical Atlas of Alabama (1974);  
Fleming, Walter L., Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (1911;  repr. 1978);  Flynt, 
Wayne, Mine, Mill, and Microchip:  A Chronicle of Alabama Enterprise (1987);  Hackney, 
Sheldon, Populism to Progressivism in Alabama (1969);  Hamilton, Virginia Van der Veer, 
Alabama:  A History (1984);  Lineback, Neal G., ed., Atlas of Alabama (1973);  Martin, 
David L., Alabama's State and Local Governments, 2d ed.  (1985);  Peirce, Neal R., The 
Deep South States of America (1974);  Richard, Jesse M., and McGraw, E. L., Geography of 
Alabama:  Her Land and People (1975); Summersell, Charles G., Alabama History for Schools 
(1975); Wiggins, Sarah W., comp., From Civil War to Civil Rights: Alabama, 1860-1960 
Facts About Alabama
Area: 135,775 sq km (52,423 sq mi); rank: 30th.
Capital: Montgomery (1990 pop., 187,106).
Largest city: Birmingham (1990 census, 265,968).
Counties: 67.
Elevations: highest--733 m (2,405 ft), at Cheaha Mt.; lowest--sea level, Gulf of Mexico.
Population (1990 resident): 4,040,587;  rank 22d; density: 30.7 persons per sq km (79.6 
per sq mi).
Distribution (1990): 60.4% urban, 39.6% rural.
Average annual change (1980-90): +0.4%.
Public enrollment (1990): elementary--527,097; secondary--194,709; higher--195,939.
Nonpublic enrollment (1980): elementary--20,600; secondary--3,900; combined--38,100; 
higher (1990)--21,611.
Institutions of higher education (1988): 89.
State personal income (1989): $56.1 billion; rank: 25th.
Median family income (1989): $28,688; rank 41st.
Nonagricultural labor distribution (1989): manufacturing--384,000 persons; wholesale and 
retail trade--349,000; government--315,000; services--302,000; transportation and public 
utilities--80,000;  finance, insurance, and real estate--71,000; construction--76,000.
Agriculture: income (1989)--$2.6 billion.
Fishing: value (1989)--$38 million.
Lumber production (1991): 1.9 billion board feet.
Mining (nonfuel): value (1988)--$459 million.
Manufacturing: value added (1987)--$18.65 billion.
Services: value (1987)--$12.2 billion.
Governor: Jim Folsom, Jr., Democrat.
U.S. Congress: Senate--2 Democrats;  House--4 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
Electoral college votes: 9.
State legislature: 35 senators, 105 representatives.
Statehood: Dec. 14, 1819; the 22d state.
Nickname: Heart of Dixie, Cotton State, Yellowhammer State; bird: yellowhammer;  flower: 
camellia; tree: Southern pine; motto: "Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere ("Wedare maintain 
our rights"); song: "Alabama."

Concerned County Data

Escambia County was created by the Alabama legislature on 1868 Dec. 10, from parts of Baldwin and Conecuh counties. The word "Escambia" is believed to come from the Choctaw Indian language, meaning "cane-brake" or "reed-brake." Escambia County is located in the southern part of the state, and lies on the northern boundary of Florida. It is bordered by Monroe, Conecuh, Covington, and Baldwin Counties. The county seat was originally located at Pollard; in 1880 it was transferred to Brewton, which was named in honor of William Troupe Brewton, a great-nephew of the first settler of the area. Other towns and communities include Atmore and Flomaton.

Jefferson County was created by the Alabama legislature on Dec. 13, 1819 . It was carved out of Blount County and named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. The county is located in the north-central portion of the state, in the center of the iron, coal and limestone belt of the South. The county seat was at Carrollsville from 1819-1821, at Elyton from 1821-1873, and since 1873 has been at Birmingham.

Macon County . Nine months after the final cession of territory by the Creek Indians, the Alabama Legislature established Macon County on 18 December 1832. The county seat is located in Tuskegee, which is also the site of Tuskegee University. Portions of the Tuskegee National Forest are located within Macon County.

Shelby County
One of ten counties created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on 7 February 1818, Shelby County was formed from land ceded to the United States by the Creek Indians. The county was named for Isaac Shelby, first governor of Kentucky. In 1992, the population was 107,261 in a land area of 646 square miles, an average of 166 people per square mile. The county seat is located in Columbiana.

St. Clair County
Named for Revolutionary War general, Arthur St. Clair, St. Clair County was created from Shelby County on 20 November, 1818. On 20 December, 1820, a part of the county was added to Jefferson. The county seat is located in both Ashville and Pell City.

Talladega County
Talladega County was created on 18 Dec. 1832, from land ceded by the Creek Indians. The county seat, also Talladega, is named for a Creek Indian village.

Bibb County
On 7 Feb 1818, Cahawba County was created from Monroe County by the Alabama Territorial legislature. The name was changed to Bibb County on 4 Dec 1820 to honor the first governor of Alabama, William Wyatt Bibb. In 1992, the population was 17,175 in a land area of 625 square miles, an average of 27.6 people per square mile. The county seat is located at Centreville.

Coosa County
Coosa County was created in 1832 from lands ceded in the Creek Indian Treaty of Cusseta and from parts of Montogomery County. It is named for the Coosa River which forms the county's western boundary. The county seat is Rockford.

Welcome to Covington County, Alabama
Covington County was created on December 17, 1821 with bouundary changes in 1824, 1841, and 1868. It was named for War of 1812 veteran Brig. Gen. Leonard Wailes Covington. The county's name was changed to Jones in 1868 but restored to Covington a few months later. The county seat was originally at Montezuma, later named Covington, and later moved to Andalusia. In 1990, the population was 36,783 in a land area of 1,035 square miles, an average of 35.5 people per square mile.

Welcome to Crenshaw County, Alabama
Crenshaw County was created on November 30, 1866 from parts of Butler, Coffee, Covington, Lowndes, and Pike Counties. It was named for early settler of Butler County, Andrew Crenshaw. The first county seat was established in Rutledge in 1867 and then moved to Luverne in 1893. In 1990, the population was 13,460 in a land area of 611 square miles, an average of 22.0 people per square mile.

Geneva County was created by the Alabama legislature on 1868 Dec. 26. The county was named for Geneva, its principal town and county seat. The town of Geneva was named for Geneva, Switzerland, by Walter H. Youge, a native of Switzerland, who served as the town's first postmaster. Geneva County is located in southeastern Alabama and is drained by the Choctawhatchee River. It is bordered by Coffee, Covington, Dale, and Houston counties and the State of Florida. Other towns and communities include Samson and Hartford.

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