History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography/Montgomery
MONTGOMERY. The capital of the State of Alabama. It is situated on the south bank of the Alabama River, in the north part of Montgomery County. It is located 40 miles southwest below the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, and has water communication, all the year round, with Mobile 400 miles southwest. Montgomery is 96 miles southeast of Birmingham, and 175 miles southwest of Atlanta.
Altitude: 160 feet. Population: 1850—4,728; 1860—8,843; 1870—10,588; 1880—30,000; 1890—21,883; 1900—30,346; 1910—38,136; 1916—50,000.
History.—Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama, marks its organized beginning from December, 3 1819, on which date it was incorporated, and was so named by the first Legislature of the State of Alabama. The first settler on the site of the present city, of whom record is preserved, was Arthur Moore, who in 1814 erected his cabin on one of the bluffs of the river, just below or near the present union passenger station. In 1815 and 1816 other settlers drifted in, and by 1817 the locality had been visited by many enterprising home-seekers. At Milledgevile, Ga., in 1817, the lands of Montgomery County were put on sale. The lands in the immediate vicinity of the present city were purchased by a number of enterprising men, who foresaw the advantages of the location. Among these were Andrew Dexter, who founded "New Philadelphia," George R. Clayton and associates, who founded "East Alabama," and General John Scott and associates founded the town of "Alabama." These rival villages grew apace until 1819, when New Philadelphia and East Alabama were incorporated under the name "Montgomery." Later Alabama town was added.
Prior to the coming of the white man, and for generations, the region on the east side of the Alabama river embracing the capital city, was inhabited by an Indian tribe, known as the Alabamas or Alibamons. On the west side of the river were living their neighbors the Coshatties, who spoke the same language. These peoples, as is learned from linguistic evidence, were more nearly akin to the Choctaws and Chickasaws than to the Muscogees. Like other Indians, they were mound builders. In the vicinity of Montgomery, are many relics of ancient Indian occupancy, as shell mounds, arrow-points, potsherds, etc. Within the historic period six Indian towns were situated on the east side of the river, two of which are to be especially noted. One of these was "Towassa," located three miles below the present city, on the site of which the army of De Soto rested, September 6 to 13, 1540. The other was "Ikanatchati," which signifies red earth, so called from the red soil of the lands. The capital city of Montgomery occupies the site of this ancient Alabama village.
Reference has been made to the invasion of De Soto, and of his sojourn at Towassa. Without doubt he and his men were the first Europeans whose eyes ever rested upon the site of Montgomery, for they passed directly by Ikanatchati on their way to Towassa, three miles below. It is not unlikely that the Spanish expedition of 1560 from Nanipacna to Coosa passed by this point.
More than a century passed before there is any record of the site of Montgomery being again seen or visited by European travelers or adventurers. In 1697 three adventurous and hardy Englishmen from Carolina went down the Alabama river in boats to the Mobilian Indians, on Mobile Bay, and it may safely be conjectured that they spent a brief season at the Indian village Ikanatchati. In 1714 Bienville came up the Alabama river, and founded Fort Toulouse, near the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, as a remote French outpost against the British on the east. From this time forth this section, as indeed all Alabama, has a well-defined place in the historic development of the old Southwest.
The region of which Fort Toulouse was the center, was known among the French as "Aux Alibamos." The Alabamas, to which previous reference has been made, were a component part of the Creek Confederacy.
The first white man to locate in all this section as a permanent resident was James McQueen, a Scotchman, born in 1683, and who came to the Creek Nation in 1716. He died in 1811 at the great age of 128 years, and is buried on the west side of Eufaubee Creek, in Montgomery County. Years after the advent of McQueen, other white people came, and among them Abraham Mordecai; a white woman named Milly, widow of a deserter from the British army; and Colonel Tate, a British officer, who during the Revolutionary War, is said to have drilled squads of tories at Ikanatchati.
At the outbreak of the Creek War in 1813 the Alabamas were among the most hostile of all the towns of the Creeks. The result of this war, was disastrous to the Creeks. The Battle of the Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814, broke the power of this great aboriginal Confederacy. On August 9, 1814, by the treaty of Fort Jackson, their lands west of the Coosa River and of a line drawn approximately from Fort Jackson to the present Eufaula, were ceded to the Americans.
The year of the cession found Arthur Moore, previously referred to, in his lonely cabin, on the site which had come to be known among the traders and hunters as "Hostile Bluff."
With the close of the Creek War, and the throwing open of the new lands to settlement, hardy pioneers were not wanting, and when the new town received its charter in 1819, the population of both the town and the county of Montgomery was very considerable. The citizens were not wanting in enterprise. Andrew Dexter, the leading spirit, foresaw the metropolitan importance of the town and promptly laid aside a square, on which the State Capitol was subsequently to be erected, as he confidently believed. By 1821 steamboats were making regular trips from Mobile to Montgomery, and in the same year the Montgomery Republican was issued by Jonathan Battelle.
The first framed storehouse and dwelling were erected in the fall of 1817, by Jonathan C. Farley, at the present Madigan corner, Dexter Avenue and Hull Street. Dr. James Mitchell was the first practicing physician in the town. The earliest teacher was Samuel W. Patterson, 1818, and the next was Neil Blue, 1819. The first lawyer was Nimrod E. Benson. The earliest merchants were Messrs. Klinck and Dice, Mr. Farley above referred to and John Falconer. The first postmaster was Mr. Falconer, and the postoffice was located in a store, near the present Capitol square. In 1821 a stage line, one trip each week, was established from Montgomery eastward. Mr. Jonathan Battelle, above mentioned, was the founder of the Montgomery press. Mr. James Vickers was the first innkeeper.
Courts for Montgomery County were first held at Fort Jackson, within the limits of the present Elmore County. In 1817, however, the courts and county offices were removed to the present county seat, and in 1822, the court house was located on Court Square, the site of the present artesian basin. Here it remained until 1855, when it was removed to its present commanding position, corner Washington and Lawrence Streets.
The first Christian minister to hold religious services in the City of Montgomery was the Rev. James King, a Methodist minister from North Carolina. The first church services were held in the county court house, and in private residences. Near and south of the town, about 1819, the Methodists had erected a meeting house, which seems to have been the first in the vicinity of the city. In 1825 a union church building was erected on the site of the present Court Street Methodist Church, which was used by all churches until 1832, when it went into the hands of the Methodists.
Although not marking the first appearance of the members of the several denominations, the following are the dates of the formal institution of churches within the city limits: Presbyterian, as a congregation, January, 1824, and as a church, November, 1829; Methodist Episcopal, September 15, 1829; Baptist, November 29, 1829; Methodist Protestant, 1830; St John's Protestant Episcopal, January 9, 1834; St Peter's Catholic, April 25, 1834; a Universalist Church, June, 1834; and Kahl Montgomery, June 3, 1849.
Montgomery from the beginning has been the home of many of Alabama's most distinguished public men, and many of the State's representative families. Among the latter are the Bibb, Graves, Hall, Caffey, Pickett, Harris, Jackson, Elmore, Fitzpatrick, Blue, Oliver, Ware, Baldwin, Goodwyn, Abercrombie, Goldthwaite, Yancey, Holt, Graham, Martin, Seibels, Clayton, Wyman, Farley, Winter, Gindrat, Thorington, Gayle, Bell, Boiling, Blakey, Gunter, Scott, Taylor, Crommelin, Henry, Semple, Maclntyre, Lomax, Watts, Troy, Benson, and Sayre families.
The early settlers were enthusiastic patriots. Independence Day, and the birthdays of distinguished Americans were celebrated by feasts, balls, and the firing of cannons. Volunteer militia companies were early organized. In 1835, a company from Montgomery entered the service of the Republic of Texas; in 1836 another company volunteered for the Seminole War in Florida. Captain Rush Elmore carried a company to the Mexican War, and Col J.J. Seibels raised a battalion, which did service at Orizaba. Hundreds of Montgomery's noblest young men saw service in the armies of the Confederacy, while many of her sons were general officers of high rank. William Lowndes Yancey, the great leader of Secession, resided in Montgomery. Montgomery was the home of Thomas Hill Watts, Attorney General of the Confederacy, and third War Governor of Alabama.
As stated, at the time he laid off New Philadelphia, Andrew Dexter, reserved a square at the head of what was first known as Market Street, later to bear his name, as that of the real founder of Montgomery, on which he anticipated the ultimate placing of the State Capitol. The Capitol had been removed from Cahaba to Tuscaloosa, in 1826, and from time to time thereafter discussion arose as to its removal from the latter point. At the session of the Legislature, 1845-46, the subject was again advanced, and in January, 1846, Montgomery was chosen. The news was received in the city on January 30, 1846, and at once there was wide spread rejoicing. A building was soon erected, paid for by the City of Montgomery. The Legislature of 1847-48 held its sessions in the new building. On December 14, 1849, during the sitting of the second biennial session of the Legislature, the building was destroyed by fire. It was at once rebuilt. From time to time additions and enlargements have been made.
On the Capitol grounds is placed a handsome monument to the memory of the Confederate dead of Alabama. Its erection is due to the Ladies' Memorial Association of Montgomery. It is said to have cost forty-six thousand dollars. The corner stone was laid by Jefferson Davis, first and only President of the Confederate States of America, on April 26, 1886. It was completed and dedicated December 7, 1898.
In 1861, when the Southern States were planning for the formation of a new Confederacy, Montgomery was chosen as the place for the meeting of delegates to a Provisional Congress. It is therefore, appropriately known as the first Capital of the Confederacy. In the Senate chamber of the State Capitol, on February 4, 1861, the deputies from six seceding States assembled, and after solemn deliberation, organized the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America. There they adopted a provisional constitution, and elected Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice-President, respectively, of the new Confederation. On the portico Mr. Davis was inaugurated February 18, 1861, in the presence of thousands of people. A brass star marks the spot where he stood. The government offices were located in what is now known as the Clancey Hotel, near the corner of Bibb and Commerce Streets. This fact is commemorated by a marble tablet, placed on the Commerce Street side of the building by the Sophie Bibb Chapter, U.D.C. President Davis, while in Montgomery, occupied the two story residence, corner Bibb and Lee Streets, now know as the first White House of the Confederacy.
During its history, the city has been visited by many distinguished men and women, including LaFayette, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, General Jacob Brown, Capt. Basil Hall, Washington Irving, the Siamese Twins, Gen. E.P. Gaines, John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, Henry Clay, Tom Thumb, Gen. David Twiggs, Gen. James Shields, Gen. John A. Quitman, James J. Kolb, Mrs. Zachary Taylor, Sam Houston, Millard Filmore, "Ole" Bull, besides many others in more recent years.
It is proper to note that in Montgomery the first electric trolley car ever known in the world's history was operated. The story of the discovery of electricity as a motive power and its practical application as a means of rapid transit is a thrilling one. To Charles Vanderpoel, a Belgian chemist working in an improvised shop in Detroit, Mich., is due the distinction of the discovery. The initial trip of the car was made on the morning of April 7, 1885, in the City of Montgomery, the whole work being done by Mr. Vanderpoel, under the direction of J.A. Gaboury, then the chief owner of the Montgomery street car lines.
The location of Montgomery at the head of navigation on the Alabama River, gave the place from the beginning a commanding position. The main line of travel from Georgia and the East passed through or near it. The removal of the Indians, and the consequent opening up of all East Alabama to settlement, increased its commercial, social and political importance. With the coming of railroads, the most important trunk lines of which ran through the city, its commercial ascendency [sic] was still further emphasized.
More Recent Facts.—The city administration since January 1916 has been run by a commission form of government Montgomery is one of the largest distributing centers in the south for farm products and agricultural implements and fertilizers Six trunk line railroads with river traffic competitive rates give the city a mercantile advantage The city water system supplied from artesian wells is a great asset the quality being so pure that it is shipped to other points and used on trains for drinking purposes There are a number of handsome churches of all denominations a good public school system with a modern high school building named for Sidney Lanier the Georgia poet who at one time resided in Montgomery
Woman's College of Alabama; (q. v.).—Built by the Methodists of the State is located south of Cloverdale and is a growing institution of A grade rank.
Negro Schools, of the public school system, include among others the Swayne school erected in 1867 by Northern contributions and named in honor of Gen Wager Swayne who at that time was in charge of the Freed man's Bureau in Montgomery The State Normal School for Negroes is also located there the ground having been donated by Jim Hale ex slave and wealthy Negro contractor.
Park System, includes Oak Park a natural woodland of thirty acres within the corporate limits and several small parks or playgrounds.
Points of Interest, in the city are the State capitol the central portion of which is historic especially for having been the meeting place of the provisional government of the Confederacy the Confederate monument on the capitol grounds the cornerstone of which was laid by Jefferson Davis St Margaret's hospital the west building of which was the former home of Thomas H Watts Alabama's war governor the building on Dexter Avenue whence was sent the telegram from LeRoy Pope Walker Secretary of War of the Confederate States of America to Gen PGT Beauregard commander of the Confederate forces in Charleston SC the immediate incident that precipitated hostilities between the sections the Exchange Hotel successor of the old Exchange Hotel which was the official headquarters of the Confederacy while Montgomery was the seat of government Oakwood and Greenwood cemeteries where many distinguished Alabamians are buried the Governors Mansion on Perry Street tho First White House of the Confederacy which was rented hy the Confederate Government as a residence for the President of the Confederacy and occupied by Jefferson Davis and family for the few weeks of their stay in Montgomery before the removal of the seat of government to Richmond Va Woman's College the County Club and its line golt links.
Mayors.—Samuel D. Holt, 1838; Jack Thorington, 1839-1840; Hardy Herbert, 1841; Perez Coleman, 1842-1846; Nimrod E. Benson, 1847; Edwin B. Harris, 1848-1849; Robert T. Davis, 1850; Thomas Welsh, 1851; Samuel D. Holt, 1852; Charles Hansford, 1853-1859; Andrew J. Noble, 1860-1861; J.F. Johnson, 1862-1863; Walter L. Coleman, 1864-1868; Thomas O. Glasscock, 1868-1870; H.E. Faber, 1870-1875; M.L. Moses, 1875-1881, J.B. Gaston, 1881-1885; W.S. Reese, 1885-1889; Edward A. Graham, 1889-1891; John G. Crommelin, 1891-1895; John H. Clisby, 1895-1899; E.B. Joseph, 1900-1903; Thomas H. Carr, 1903-1905; W.M. Teague, 1905-1909; Gaston Gunter, 1909-1910, W.A. Gunter, Jr., 1910-1915; W.T. Robertson, 1915-1919; W.A. Gunter, Jr., 1919—.
Clerks of the City Council.—Moseley Hooker, 1838-1839; Richard A. Colclough, 1840; Marton Pond, 1841; Nathaniel H. Wright, 1842; Leonidas B. Hansford, 1843-1860; Stephen Hooker, 1860; Augustus Underwood, 1861-1865; A.J., Noble 1865; William B. Hughes, 1866-1875; R.B. Snodgrass, 1875-1897; C.P. Hardaway, 1897-1906; W.F. Black, 1907-1911-15; E.J. Deviney, 1915-17; C.J. Fay, 1917-19; Brooks Smith, 1919—.
See State Capitals; Davis, Jefferson; Confederate Monuments; Montgomery Federal Building; Confederate Government at Montgomery.
REFERENCES.—Rand and McNally; Official and Statistical Register; Mss. in Department of Archives and History.