Gadsden, Alabama - The History, Then and Now
The City of Gadsden, Alabama, known as the " City of Champions", began as a dream. The dream began with three men who had moved to the small stage stop on the banks of the Coosa Rive, known as Double Springs.
Double Springs, was a small settlement that consisted of several log buildings, a store, a small school, a post office, and the stagecoach hotel where weary travelers could rest while traveling between Jacksonville, Ala. and Huntsville, Ala. A man named John Riley, built the first log structure in Double Springs, before he sold it to Gabriel Hughes in the spring of 1840. The coming of the Hughes brothers eventually brought about the founding of a new town. John S. Moragne, soon joined the brothers,and surveyed the lay out new town that would soon become known as Gadsden.
The new town began to grow when the first steamboat made it's voyage slowly down the Coosa River. The USM Coosa, piloted by a Caption James Lafferty, passed though the area and stopped near the site of the new town. An attempt was made to name the new town after Caption Lafferty, but he declined the offer. The name Gadsden was chosen in honor of James Gadsden, a former soldier, and statesman who had passed though the area with the legendary Andrew Jackson in the war of 1812 - 1814 during Creek Indian War. Gadsden, was at the time associated with the railroad and it was thought that this would bring in new business to the area with a major railroad line to town.
The town of Gadsden grew at a slow pace until the out break of the Civil War struck the area. It was at this time that a young girl by the name of "Emma Sansom", wrote her name in the history books. On the famous raid carried out by Gen.Abel Straight in the Union Army onApril 28 - May 3 1863. After a long running skirmish with Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest, over hills, and though open fields. Gen. Straight made it Black Creek, in the town of Gadsden. He burnt the only bridge in to town, trying to hold off the advances of Gen. Forrest. After seeing no other way to cross Black Creek, he rode off to a near by log house, the home of Emma Sansom.
Gen. Forrest ask if therewas another way to cross the creek, and she replied " Yes, just the creek a ways, ther is a cattle crossing with shallower water. Gen. Straight, thinking he had bought his army of 1500 men some time. He commenced to burning the town of Gadsden, all of it's supplies, cotton, and all of the grains.
He left about 50 men to hold the rear flakes, watching closely for Gen. Forrest. Just a short distance from the burning bridge, Forrest crossed his men, and came under fire from a hill side a hundred yards from the creek. It was here that the valor of Miss Emma Sansom shined. Under heavy fire from sharp shooters on the hill. She was shot at numerous times, having her dress riddle with bullet holes, and pointing to the direction of the ford for Gen. Forrest's men to cross safely. Giving Gen. Forrest the chance to catch up to Gen. Straight's rear guard. After almost 5 days of running battles, Gen. Straight, surrendered his army over to Gen. Forrest at the Lawrence Farmhouse, 12 miles from the town of Gadsden.
Following the end of the Civil War, the town began the to grow and rebuild at an accelerated rate. Several astute businessmen, including Colonel Robert B. Kyle, brought in some major business to Gadsden. Kyle had a hand in most of the large companies in Gadsden during the late 1800's and early 1900s.
After the turn in the century, Gadsden had many industries, including steel plants, railroad car factories, along with the many farms and orchards. Gadsden has changed, it stands the test of time. It has endured many tragedies, including several downtown fires that crippled the economy, the loss of the Republic Steel plant, the cities largest employers, the downtown business district with the invention of the Strip Mall, and many small local businesses over whelmed by the big super stores like Walmart.
Despite all of that, Gadsden continues to grow even today with new automotive manufacturing companies popping up all over the county, and brand new companies with smart GREEN ideas. Gadsden will not forget there past, nor will it loss it's hope for a brighter future.
For more information on Gadsden, Alabama, check out my website about this great city.