Colbert Historic markers

American Indian History

Oka Kapassa (Ococoposa), meaning "Cold Water," was the Chickasaw name given to Spring Creek and to a trading post established near the Tennessee River about 1780. About 1817, Michael Dickson and others were greeted at what by then was called Big Spring by Chief Tuscumbia, a Chickasaw rainmaker. The settlers named the new town in his honor in 1822. Colbert County, formed in 1867 from the northern half of Franklin County, was named for Chickasaw Chieftains George Colbert, operator of an inn and ferry on the Natchez Trace at the Tennessee River, and his brother, Levi Colbert, who ran an inn on the Trace at Buzzard Roost Spring.
Sponsored by Alabama Indian Association and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation


---------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------

American Indian History

Prehistoric "hunters and gatherers" lived in the area along the Tennessee River and its tributaries, including Spring Creek, more than 10,000 years ago. When early white settlers arrived, the area was occupied by Chickasaws to the west and Cherokees to the east. Other tribes, including the Creeks, occasionally hunted or lived briefly in the area. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, thousands of Native Americans passed through Tuscumbia on the "Trail of Tears." The Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad transported Indians to Tuscumbia Landing where they boarded steamboats for removal to new homes in the Indian territory (now Oklahoma).


Sponsored by Alabama Indian Association and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation 
[2008: Water St. in Tuscumbia at Big Spring Park 34.72976 N    87.70509 W]


Cherokee High School


Cherokee High School began here in 1921 as a grammar school with two teachers in a new frame building.  The building was erected by African Americans using a Julius Rosenwald Grant with additional funds from the local community. The county school board agreed to operate the school after it was built.  The cost of the school was $2,900 -- $1,200 from the African American community, $800 from the Rosenwald Grant, and $900 from public donations raised through nickel and dime donations, individual church gifts, picnic sales, and ball-game admissions.  Some farmers planted and gave an acre of cotton or donated lumber or labor.

---------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------

Cherokee High School

Cherokee was one of seven Rosenwald schools in Colbert County and one of 5,357 such schools, workshops, and teacher homes built in the South.  As it grew, more teachers and classrooms were added.  Grammar school graduates from Lane Springs, Barton, and Pride attended the school plus additional students from Carter Branch, MS.  The first class graduated in 1938 and the last class in 1969.  Total graduates exceeded 500.  Five principals served the school: Alfred Carter, Amanda Bailey, E.Z. Matthews, C.K. Calloway, and P.B. Reynolds.  Due to integration, the school closed and students moved to Cherokee Vocational High School.  Later, after renovation, the school reopened as a middle school.
Sponsored by the Cherokee High School Alumni and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation
[2010: ¾ mile east of Main Street & Hwy 20, Cherokee]

Chickasaw Indian Agency


Was moved by Benjamin Smith from Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1825 to this site, known as Bennkhinah, where it remained until 1837. Bennkhinnah Post Office, established at the Agency in 1829, was named Newport in 1837. In 1856 with D. C. Oates as postmaster, it was moved to Cherokee, Alabama. 


Benjamin Reynolds replaced Smith as Indian Agent in 1830. From this Agency he worked with Indian leaders arranging for the removal of the Chickasaw nation from Alabama and Mississippi in 1837.

[1982: Mulberry Lane, Cherokee. From US Hwy 72 east of Cherokee, take Bugle St. north to Old Lee Highway. Turn east on Old Lee Highway, then turn north on Moody Rd. Turn right on Mulberry Lane. Marker is 1/2 mile on left. 34.77842 N    87.92774 W]


Civil War Skirmishes at Barton


In 1862-63, Confederate forces fought several sharp skirmishes near Barton as they sought to repel or delay Union expeditions invading the Tennessee Valley from the Federal stronghold at Corinth, Mississippi.

Dec. 12, 1862 -- Col. T. W. Sweeney, USA vs Col. P. D. Roddey, CSA
Apr. 17, 1863 -- Gen. G. M. Dodge, USA vs Col. P. D. Roddey, CSA
Oct. 20, 1863 -- Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, USA vs Col. Jeff Forrest, CSA
Oct. 26, 1863 -- Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, USA vs Gen. S. D. Lee, CSA

--------------------------------------------------(Reverse)----------------------------------------------


Civil War Skirmish at the Barton Cemetery


Bullet-marked tombstones in this cemetery show evidence of a brisk skirmish here October 26, 1863, when Gen. P.J. Osterhaus' first division of Sherman's Corps came under fire from Gen. S.D. Lee's Confederate troop. CSA artillery on a hill near a frame church (now Zion No. 1) opened fire at dawn and Union artillery replied from the cemetery. CSA forces retreated to Little Bear Creek. USA forces briefly occupied Tuscumbia, then retreated to Cherokee and abandoned attempt to advance along the railroad.
[1997: JB Minor Road at Old Lee Highway (CR 20), Barton 34.73645 N    87.88239 W]


First Baptist Church


This congregation was organized in July 1823 as Concord Church, later known as Union Church, then as Tuscumbia Baptist. Jeremiah Burns was the first pastor. It began meeting at this site about 1845 in a plain wooden building. The New England-style sanctuary of the present building was erected in 1892. The belfry and rear cross-section, including two balconies, were added about 1903. The entrance was moved from the belfry to the center and a third balcony added in 1954. The stained glass Gothic windows were imported from Czechoslovakia about 1906. The original pipes from the early Moller organ are still visible from the cross-shaped sanctuary and heard in worship today. The Educational Building (north) was built in 1962 and the Fellowship Hall (south) in 1974. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
[2006: 203 N. Dickson St., Tuscumbia 34.73371 N    87.70223 W]


First Presbyterian Church


First Presbyterian Church was organized April 13, 1824, by Scots-Irish settlers. The sanctuary, erected in 1827, is the oldest in continuous use in Alabama. Its Georgian Gothic style remains essentially unchanged. The brick walls are laid in Flemish Bond and massive hand-hewn beams are joined with wooden pegs. A rare feature is the original wrap-around slave gallery, supported by two levels of columns. The walls were reinforced with iron bars after the 1874 tornado and stained glass windows were added in 1904. The church is listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey and the National Register of Historic Places.


Erected by the First Presbyterian Church, Tuscumbia, Alabama and the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation 


----------------------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------------


First Presbyterian Church


Notable Tuscumbians who were members include: the Arthur Keller family, whose infant daughter Helen Keller was baptized here in 1880; Brig. Gen. James Deshler, CSA; Alabama Governor Robert Burns Lindsay; Judge John Anthony Steele, delegate to the State Secession Convention; and Thomas Limerick, first mayor of Tuscumbia and original trustee of the church. Revivals led by Presbyterian evangelist Daniel Baker in 1839 and 1843 added over 100 members. Committed to Biblical and confessional belief and a deep desire to share grace and truth to all, the church has been a recipient of God's grace working in godly leaders.


Erected by the First Presbyterian Church, Tuscumbia, Alabama and the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation

[2005: 103 N. Broad St., Tuscumbia 34.73324 N    87.70046 W]


Howell Thomas Heflin
1921 - 2005


Howell Thomas Heflin retired from a lifetime of distinguished public service in 1997, having served Alabama in the U.S. Senate for three consecutive terms. There he was known as a national leader on judicial, agricultural, defense, and space issues. As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from 1971 to 1977, he modernized the state's court system. Heflin was a Marine Corps officer during World War II, attaining the rank of major and awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. Howell T. Heflin's legacy - his words, life, character, and progressive leadership - serves as a compass for leaders seeking racial reconciliation and harmony on Alabama and the nation. 
[2005: 201 N. Main St., Tuscumbia 34.73421 N    87.70372 W]


Howell & Graves School


Muscle Shoals City was incorporated on April 24, 1923. Among the leading developers were New York realtors A.L. Howell and C.T. Graves. Their interest in Muscle Shoals was inspired by the vision of Henry Ford to use power from Wilson Dam and the Nitrate Plants to "employ one million workers and build a city 75 miles wide." Although Ford's vision remained unfulfilled, Howell & Graves helped develop the town by building the first City Hall, bungalows, a service station, and Howell & Graves School. Cast iron street lights, fire hydrants, and drinking fountains were placed along Wilson Dam Road near the school. The streets, constructed through farmland, were edged with concrete curbing and sidewalks. Other real estate speculators also came into the area buying land, parceling it in 25-foot lots and selling them, sight unseen, to people across the United States and from foreign countries.


------------------------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------------


Howell & Graves School


The Howell & Graves Junior High School was designed by architect Harry J. Frahn and built in 1927 in the neoclassical style and the neo-Tudor Gothic tradition, symbolically associated with the Ivy League schools. Decorative brick work, which originally crowned the building, gave it a castle-like appearance. It was known as one of the finest buildings in the region and was often the scene of political rallies and other special events. The state-of-the-art auditorium, with a seating capacity of 500, had elevated floors and opera-style seating. The stage had hand-painted canvas backdrops and lighting. In 1959, for a sum of $300, this school was transferred from the Colbert County School System to the newly formed Muscle Shoals City Board of Education. 
[2006: 3200 Wilson Dam Rd. at Kimberly Ave., Muscle Shoals 34.73346 N    87.63533 W]


St. John's Episcopal Church


This congregation was organized in the 1830s, with services being held in private homes and the Methodist meeting house. The present building was first used in October 1852 and completed the following year. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied the church and destroyed some of the parish records. St. John's is an early example of the "Carpenter's Gothic" style popular for many Episcopal churches during the mid-19th century. Damaged by a tornado in 1874, the church afterward was refurbished and strengthened with iron tie-rods spanning the nave. Memorial windows also were installed. Concrete buttresses were added in 1956. A tall spire originally topped the belltower.
[1995: 300 N. Dickson Street, Tuscumbia 34. 73444 N    87.70193 W]


Side 1
Old Railroad Bridge


In 1832, the Alabama legislature authorized the Florence Bridge Company to construct this bridge across the Tennessee River.  In 1840, it opened as a toll bridge.  Twice damaged by storms, it was reopened in 1858 as a double-decked bridge by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.  Additional piers were added to support the large wooden superstructure with trains using the upper deck while the lower deck served as a toll bridge.  In April 1862, the Confederate army burned the bridge. Later in the Civil War, the piers were used to assist in ferry crossings and to anchor a pontoon bridge built by Gen. John B. Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee in November 1864.  After the war, both decks of the bridge were rebuilt and returned to service in 1870.


-----------------------------------------------Reverse-----------------------------------------------


Side 2
Old Railroad Bridge


In 1892, an engine and five cars crashed through both decks into the river.  The superstructure was replaced with steel spans which are still visible.  A turn span crossed the navigation channel until 1962 when a lift span was installed and used until 1992.  Trains used the upper deck until 1988, as did streetcars from 1904 to 1933.  The lower deck served as a toll bridge until O’Neal Bridge opened in 1939.  In 1993, the Norfolk-Southern Railroad Company donated the bridge to the Old Railroad Bridge Company.  The 1560-foot long lower deck was restored to serve as a walking trail.  With the original piers a part of the present structure, it is the oldest river bridge in Alabama.


Sponsored by the Old Railroad Bridge Company and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation

[2010: On the south bank of the Tennessee River, accessible only by a walking path. From US 72 and US 43 in Sheffield, turn east on 16th St., then turn north on Ashe Boulevard. Park in small lot at the end of Ashe Boulevard and walk toward river. 34.78051 N    87.66776 W]


Jackson's Military Road


After the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, General Andrew Jackson proposed this road as a shorter and improved route for military movements between Nashville and New Orleans. The U.S. War Department authorized Jackson to appoint an engineer and procure equipment on August 15, 1816 and Congress appropriated $5,000 to begin construction. The Military Road was built by about 300 American soldiers over a three-year period at a construction cost of $300,000. When completed on May 17, 1820, the new road was 483 miles long and 200 miles shorter than the old Natchez Trace route. Crossing the Tennessee River at Florence, it entered Sheffield (first known as York Bluff) at "Jackson Hollow." The road then passed near Atlanta and Columbia Avenues as it moved southwest. The Military Road entered Tuscumbia on Dickson Street and passed near this site.


------------------------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------------


Jackson's Military Road


From this location, the Military Road continued south and crossed Spring Creek, then ascended Colbert Mountain, and passed just west of present-day Littleville. It proceeded to Good Spring in Franklin County, and on through Russellville. Jackson Highway (old U.S.#43), built in the 1920s, followed the same basic route. The nearby single-pen hewn-log cabin is a vestige of Tuscumbia's pioneer period. It originally stood on the opposite side of the street and reputedly served as a stagecoach stop on the Military Road. Dickson Street was named for early Tuscumbia settler Michael Dickson. A U.S. Mail line was established and John Donley Sr. of Tuscumbia was given the contract for carrying the mail. Stagecoaches could travel the Military Road in 17 days and stands were built along the way to accommodate travelers. The road became the route over which pioneers poured into northwest Alabama and Mississippi. 
[2007: South Dickson Street at East 7th Street, Tuscumbia 34.73009 N    87.70235 W]


William Leigh – Founder of Leighton


The town of Leighton was named in honor of the Reverend William Leigh, son and grandson of Revolutionary War veterans. He was born in Amelia County, Virginia, Oct. 4, 1790 and moved to Alabama about 1823. Leigh settled nearby at “Jeffers Cross Roads” and became a large landowner, pioneer merchant, postmaster, and La Grange College trustee. He was a charter member of Leighton Masonic Lodge No. 43 and served as Grand Master of the Alabama Masons (1833-1835). Leigh was a Missionary Baptist preacher for 63 years and served as pastor and leader in the Muscle Shoals Baptist Association. In 1836, he donated land and helped build a brick meeting house in Leighton for joint use by the Masons, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Cumberland Presbyterians, and others.


-----------------------------------Reverse-----------------------------------------


William Leigh – Founder of Leighton


William Leigh was the first postmaster of Leighton (1824-1847) and, with William Gregg, operated a storehouse at the cross roads under the firm name of William Leigh & Company. He ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature on the Whig ticket in 1840. In 1847, Leigh sold his store, 1800-acre plantation, livestock, and 30 slaves and moved to Kentucky. He soon returned to Alabama, living in Moulton a few years before moving to Florence where his wife served as matron at the Florence Synodical College. Leigh died there in Florence, July 31, 1873, and was buried here in the Leigh family graveyard. The Masons erected a monument at his unmarked grave in 1931. The old brick church that he helped build a century earlier was razed about 1948.
Sponsored by the Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation
[2009: County Road 22 east of Leighton, 34.69836 N    87.51389 W]


The Old Brick Presbyterian Church 
1820


Old Brick Church began in 1820 as the Mt. Pleasant Cumberland Presbyterian Church and met in a frame building which burned in 1824. The present building has undergone few changes since its construction in 1828 when the congregation was officially chartered. In 1906 the congregation joined with what became the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It officially took its present name in 1961. In 1983 Old Brick became part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Sunday services have been conducted regularly since 1820, except during the Civil War. 
[1995: Mount Pleasant Road near County Line Road (CR 48) Muscle Shoals 34.77091 N    87.52453 W]


Side 1
Old Railroad Bed


Ashe Boulevard was built on the early railroad bed which connected Florence and Southport to the main railroad line in Tuscumbia.  Trains first traveled along the railroad bed and across the Tennessee River in 1858 after the Memphis and Charleston Railroad replaced the old Florence Bridge with a double-decked bridge.  The upper deck was used for trains to transport passengers and freight.  The lower deck was open to the public as a toll road.  Large warehouses once lined both sides of the railroad bed to accommodate a busy cotton trade.  In 1864, over 29,000 Confederate troops camped and assembled around this site before crossing the Tennessee River, prior to the Battle of Franklin in Middle Tennessee.


-------------------------------------------------------------------Reverse-------------------------------------------------


Side 2
Old Railroad Bed


In 1904, the Sheffield Development Company replaced local passenger train service with streetcars which utilized the railroad tracks until 1933.  The railroad was abandoned in 1988 by the Norfolk-Southern Railroad Company and was donated in 1993 to the Old Railroad Bridge Company with the adjoining right-of-way.  In 1995, this property, minus the bridge, was given to the City of Sheffield.  The railroad bed was paved by the city in 1999 and named Ashe Boulevard in memory of Laughlin Ashe, Mayor of Sheffield from 1992 until his death in 1995.


Sponsored by the Old Railroad Bridge Company and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation

[2010: Ashe Drive, Sheffield. From US 72 & 43 in Sheffield, turn east on 16th Street, then turn north on Ashe Boulevard 34.77939 N    87.66725 W]


Side 1 

Sheffield Colored School


Public education for Sheffield’s black children began in 1889 in a frame building at E. 20th St. and S. Atlanta Ave. with Henry Hopkins as teacher.  Professor Benjamin J. Sterling (1847-1941), a former slave, became principal in 1896 and continued to teach until 1936.  Sheffield Colored High School began in 1920 with 13 students.  Grammar and high school classes were taught in the frame building and in several churches.  In 1921, P.B. Swoopes and Marion C. McDaniel became the first high school graduates.  By then the old building was dilapidated and overcrowded.  Supporters of the school donated land on E. 19th St. and the Sheffield Board of Education erected a modern brick building in 1923 at a cost of $20,227.50 to house all 12 grades.  The architect was D.L. Sigmon and the contractor was the Florence Lumber Co.


---------------------------------------------------------Reverse---------------------------------------------------


Side 2
Sterling High School


Sheffield Colored School was renamed Sterling High School in 1942 in memory of the late Benjamin Sterling.  The Board of Trustees worked diligently with school officials to obtain equipment and qualified teachers to make Sterling an accredited school.  Land for an athletic field and playground was acquired in 1946.  A gymnasium and dining room were added in 1950, and the entire building was renovated when grades 1-6 moved to a new school in 1959.  Rev. Richard A. Stewart served as principal, 1944-1968.  The Sterling band greeted President John F. Kennedy as he arrived at TVA in 1963.  Sterling closed in 1968 under federal court orders and its 225 pupils and 12 teachers were absorbed into Sheffield Junior and Senior High Schools.  The vacant building was razed in 1978 and 19th St. was renamed Sterling Blvd.


Sponsored by City of Sheffield, Sterling Alumni, and Colbert County Historical Landmarks Foundation

[2010: 1006 Sterling Ave. (E. 19th St.) at 11th Avenue, Sheffield 34.75349 N    87.69301 W]


Tuscumbia Railroad-First Railroad West of Alleghenies


1832: Began here; completed to Decatur, 45 miles east, in 1834. Cotton shipped by this line around nearby Muscle Shoals, then by boat down Tennessee-Mississippi River to world markets. 1851: Expanded to Memphis-Charleston Railroad. A vital line in the Civil War, it changed hands several times. 1898: Became part of Southern Railway. 
[1956: W. 5th Street at South Water Street, Tuscumbua 34.73253 N    87.70516 W]


Village One


In 1918, during World War I, the U.S. Government built this unique village of 85 bungalows, school, and officers barracks to house personnel at nearby Nitrate Plant #1. Prefabricated and standard size materials were used in construction along with red tile roofs and stucco exteriors. Streets were laid out in an unusual "Liberty Bell" design. 


-------------------------------------------------Reverse-------------------------------------------------


Village One


The village was owned by TVA from 1933-1949. Its employees occupied the houses and their children attended a progressive school in the barracks building 1934-1941. TVA sold the houses at auction and gave and the school and parks to the City of Sheffield in 1949. 
[1990: Pickwick St at Guntersville Ave., Sheffield 34.74633 N    87.71769 W]


Winston Cemetery


The Winston family settled this area in the early 1820s. Andrew Jackson purchased the property at the U.S. government land sale and conveyed it to Col. Anthony Winston (1782-1841) who lived nearby in a two-story brick Federal-style house (razed 1945). It later became a part of William H. Winston's plantation. Capt. Anthony Winston (1750-1827) and his wife, Kezia Jones (1760-1826), were the first burials. Other early families buried here include Abernathy, Armistead, Burt, Cooper, Figures, Goodloe, Jones, Lindsay, Nathan, Sherrod and Steele. Veterans from the American Revolution through the Vietnam War are interred here. The cemetery is owned and maintained by descendants. 


--------------------------------------------Reverse------------------------------------------


Winston Cemetery


Capt. Anthony Winston, a cousin of Dolly Madison and Patrick Henry, commanded Virginia troops in the Revolutionary War. Isaac and Catherine Jones Winston bought Belle Mont Plantation southeast of Tuscumbia, in 1833. William H. and Judith McGraw Winston bought the Winston House (campus of Deshler High School) in 1833. Mary M. Jackson, wife of Edmund C. Winston, was a granddaughter of James Jackson of the Forks of Cypress near Florence. Robert Burns Lindsay, Alabama's only foreign-born (Scotland) governor, was the father of Maud Lindsay, an esteemed teacher, writer, poet and storyteller. Capt. John Anthony Steele was a lawyer, legislator, probate judge and Confederate soldier. Judge Joseph Nathan was a prominent citizen of early Sheffield.
[2004: 14th Ave. at 7th St., Sheffield 34.74599 N    87.70988 W]


William Winston Home


Construction on the home which became the center building of Deshler High School was begun in 1824 by Clark T. Barton, William Winston purchased and completed the Georgian-style dwelling in 1833. The largest remaining antebellum house in Tuscumbia, it features a winding staircase, eight fireplaces, and ten original closets along with an inscription on the cellar wall written during the Union occupation saying: "It is a damn shame to destroy this mansion." Original log kitchen placed at N.W. rear corner to avoid having fire too close to the house. Listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1982. 
House and property purchased by the city of Tuscumbia in 1948 for site of new Deshler campus, relocating from property bequeathed by Major David Deshler (from his Main St. residence, 3 blocks north) memorializing his son, Brig. Gen. James Deshler, C.S.A., killed leading charge at Battle of Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863. 
William Winston (1789-1857)-father of Gov. John Anthony Winston; grandfather of Maud Lindsey, famed educator and author of children's books; father-in-law of Robert Burns, only foreign-born governor of Alabama. Winston family cemetery located approximately one mile N.W. of the house.
[1996: N. Commons Street E., at Deshler High School, Sheffield 34.73841 N    87.70124 W]


Yellow Fever Epidemic 1878


Responsible for taking 31 lives in Tuscumbia. Citizens Relief Committee included: F. H. Aydlett, H. M. Finley, J. L. Davis, James Jackson Chmm., J. W. Rand, Jr., P. A. Ross, F. W. Ross, J. N. Sampson, Sec., and C. A. Womble. 
This committee, together with volunteers, both white and black-assisted by trained nurses brought from Memphis, Tennessee-nursed the sick, carried supplies, prepared the bodies, dug graves, and buried the dead. 
Doctors serving around the clock: Robert T. Abernathy, Samuel J. Cooper, William C. Cross, William Desprez (who gave his life), and E. P. Rand. 


The 31 Victims of Yellow Fever who died in Tuscumbia in 1878 included: Crabtree Belcher, Mrs. Amy Boldman, Anna C. Christian, Mr. Clark, W. A. Clark, DeWitt Cooper, Dr. William Desprez, Samuel Finley, Mrs. W. A. Gilbert, Mrs. Bettie Halpine, Miss Bartie Jones, Mrs. W. H. Jones, L. King, F. Manush and wife, Tom Morton, Alexander Newsome, Sandy Osborne, Edward Prout, Mrs. G. T. Rather, Mrs. F. A. Ross, Helen Smoot, Mrs. T. L. Smoot, Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Stamps, Robert Ventress, Mervyn Warren, Charles Williams, Mrs. Yohnka and child, William Young.

[1977: 511 N. Main Street, Tuscumbia 34.73768 N    87.70357 W]