Historical Marker Program
A County Older Than the State-Lauderdale County
Created Feb. 6, 1818 by Alabama Territorial Legislature. (Alabama became a state in 1819) Named for Col. James Lauderdale, cavalryman under Gen. John Coffee and Andrew Jackson, War of 1812; killed in battle of New Orleans. Coffee planned Florence, the county seat. Jackson, President Madison owned lots.
[Before 1965: Lauderdale County Courthouse, Florence]
Bettie Anne Highway
The home-place of Bettie Anne Springer-Thornton lies 1.6 miles north on the east side of Lauderdale County Road 51. This home was originally a one-room log cabin, built between 1892 and 1894 by Levi Patrick Thornton. Two rooms and a dog-trot were added prior to 1905. The home was razed and rebuilt in 1945, excluding the south room which remained intact. Bettie Anne Springer, daughter of William Marion Springer (1833-1884) and Rutha Jane Oldham (1826-1896), was born November 17, 1859, in Brooksville, Mississippi, and died May 6, 1932. Bettie Anne was affectionately called “Aunt Bett” by family and friends alike. She donated a portion of property for the construction of the highway, and her son, Samuel Beaver Thornton, donated land for the Old Mt. Bethel Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Levi Patrick Thornton, son of William Henry Thornton (1817-1855) and Sarah Rowsey-Burt (1814-1893), was born August 3, 1850 , in Lauderdale County, Alabama, and died May 14, 1915. Levi and Bettie Anne were married on February 8, 1876, and had twelve children.
They are buried in the Ingram-Thornton Cemetery in Good Springs (old Thorntontown).
Sponsored by Thornton Family Descendants and Benefactors
[2009: Co. Rd. 5 at Co. Rd. 568, Rogersville]
Settled Here in 1818
Daniel White, native of North Carolina, purchased land here in 1818, a year before Alabama became a state. His home and stagecoach stop, "Wayside Inn," was a large two-story log house located on the north side of the highway from this site. In 1834 he set aside the original two acres in this burial ground for a church and cemetery. Daniel White and his wife, Margaret, are believed to be buried here. Also buried here is a son, Sherwood White, who operated a grist mill on Second Creek a few miles west of Rogersville.
Earliest Methodist Congregation in Lauderdale County, Alabama
Organized June 1818 near mouth of Blue Water Creek by Circuit Riders and became part of Richland Circuit of Giles County, Tenn. Church later moved to Center Star (Originally known as Masonville) and named Driskel's Chapel until circa 1893, then relocated one mile east and renamed Center Star Methodist. Six locations have been used by congregation since organized.
Edward A. O'Neal Home
Home of Father-Son Governors
Built in 1840's, acquired 1857 by Edward Asbury O'Neal. Occupied various times during Civil War by Federals and Confederates. Edward A. O'Neal (1818-1890) attended LaGrange College; lawyer; Colonel of the 26th Alabama Regiment, C.S.A.; appointed brigadier general. Governor, 1882-1886.
Emmet O'Neal (1853-1922); lawyer; Governor, 1911-1915; lived in nearby Courtview.
Florence State Teachers College
Oldest state-supported teachers college south of Ohio R. 1830-opened as LaGrange College (Methodist) at nearby Leighton. First chartered college in state. 1855-moved here and re-named Florence Wesleyan University. Flourished until closed by war in 1865. 1872-deeded to State by church; became Florence State Normal School. 1926-present name adopted.
[Before 1965: Ala. Hwy 17]
Florence Wagon Company
Moved here from Atlanta in 1889, this industry made Florence a household word throughout the South. It was the largest wagon factory in the South, reportedly second largest in the U.S., with 250 employees and annual production of 12,000 wagons. World War I army wagons were made here and sent all over U.S. and to France. Increasing use of motorized vehicles caused gradual reduction in activity of factory. The firm was liquidated in 1930's.
General John Coffee
Home site and grave. Cavalry commander under Andrew Jackson throughout War of 1812: (Creek War, Pensacola, New Orleans). Negotiated many treaties ceding Indian lands to U.S. Made original surveys of Tennessee Valley.
[Before 1965: Ala. Hwy 157 north of Florence]
Governor Hugh McVay
Home Site and Cemetery
McVay (1766-1851), South Carolina native, built a three room log house at head of Cox's Creek about 1818. Community later called Mars Hill. He was a member of Mississippi Territorial Legislature, delegate to convention of 1819, which framed Alabama's first constitution for many years member of Alabama House and Senate, briefly Governor of Alabama in 1837. Buried near home.
Grassy Memorial Chapel and Cemetery
Established in 1894 as New Salem Presbyterian Church. Originally affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first recorded meeting was held in 1897, William White, Pastor. The Church became affiliated with Presbyterian U.S.A. in 1907. In 1976, it became the property of the Grassy community under the direction of New Salem Cemetery Inc. Grassy Memorial Cemetery Inc. was formed in 1998 by the Grassy community to direct the operation of the Chapel and Cemetery. May this Chapel continue to serve the families of Grassy in the future as it has in the past.
This is the highest domiciliary mound in the Tennessee Valley. It was build about 1200 to 1500 A.D. by Indians of the Mississippian Culture. Such mounds served as bases for ceremonial temples or chief's houses. This one was originally encircled by an earthen wall, and there were villages and cultivated fields nearby. Height: 42 feet; width at base, 180 feet.
Largest in Tennessee Valley. It stands 42 feet high; served as base for temple. Built by unknown Indians who lived here long before Columbus discovered America. Builders perhaps related to Indians who built mounds at Moundville.
[Before 1965: U.S. Hwy 72, Florence]
Jackson's Military Road
Built by Andrew Jackson 1816-20. Shortened by 200 miles the route from Nashville to New Orleans for movement of supply wagons and artillery. Built with U.S. funds and troops. Followed in part Doublehead's Road from Columbia, Tenn., to Muscle Shoals. After 1819 mail route was transferred from Natchez Trace to pass through Florence via Military Road. A portion of Hood's army followed the road to Franklin and Nashville in 1864. In later years called Jackson Highway.
Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
John McKinley (1780-1852), native of Virginia, prominent attorney, member of Cypress Land Company, built a large three-story mansion near this site in 1820's which later burned.
McKinley served in Alabama Legislature, U.S. Senate (1826-31), U.S. House (1833-35); was appointed Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, by President Van Buren: served 1837-52. Died in Louisville, Ky.
Home of Major John Brahan, veteran of War of 1812, Major General, Alabama Militia, who owned 4,000 acres here. Built of bricks made on the place, marble mantels imported from Italy, boxwood hedge from London. Named for spring nearby. Federals and Confederates quartered here at various times during the Civil War.
Home of Brahan's son-in-law, Robert M. Patton, Governor of Alabama, 1865-1868.
Trail of Tears
Thousands of Cherokee Indians passed through Waterloo in the 1830s when they were forced by the U.S. government to move West on the "Trail of Tears." Most came by boat from Tuscumbia and camped here to await transfer to larger steamboats. During the encampment several births and deaths occurred.
One party of 1,070 Cherokees traveled overland from Ross' Landing in Tennessee due to low water in the upper river. Following the general route of U.S. Hwy.72 to Florence, they arrived here July 10, 1838, in miserable conditions after a 23-day journey.
About 17,000 Cherokees were driven from their homeland in the southern Appalachian Mtns. Most traveled by land through Tennessee and on to Oklahoma. Great suffering and about 4,000 deaths occurred along the Trail, especially during the winter of 1838-39.
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