Marion County Alabama History

The scenic beauty of the hill country of Northwest Alabama today draws residents and visitors to its forests and streams, much as with pioneer settlers in the early years of the county.

Marion County was created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on February 13, 1818, drawing its name from the great Southern Revolutionary War General, Francis Marion. Initially the county encompassed land along the Tombigbee River that now makes up parts of several counties in the state of Mississippi (Monroe and Lowndes). In fact, before 1821, the first two county seats were located on the Tombigbee in what is now Mississippi. All lands east of the Tombigbee and Southeast of Gaines’ Trace had been considered Alabama territory until the state line was officially determined in 1820-21. Thus, when first formed in 1818, greater Marion County stretched half the North-South length of the Alabama Territory along the Tombigbee to its convergence with the Warrior River.

Indeed, in the initial description of the county drawn up by the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818, Marion was the largest territorial county. Then, by 1819-20 the county was reduced in size by the Legislature and the establishment of the Mississippi state line. However, the county remained extensively large into 1824, retaining most of present day Walker, Winston, Fayette and Lamar Counties within its boundaries.

All the lands that were at one time encompassed in Marion County initially served as “hunting grounds” of the Chickasaw Indian Domain before the vast Indian Cessions across the Alabama region in 1816. The Chickasaws were one of the three “civilized tribes” of the South and played a key role in the pioneer settlement of the county; providing corn to establish new immigrants, and trade goods for early county seats.

A key Indian location is marked by three large mounds on the Buttahatchee River just south of Hamilton, Alabama, at the so-called “Military Ford”, where Andrew Jackson’s Military Road crossed that river. However, Indian arrowheads, grinding stones, and pottery are found throughout the county.

By the winter of 1817-18, just prior to county creation, approximately 1000 pioneer settlers had arrived in what would become “greater Marion County” on February 13, 1818. This sparse settlement was thus scattered throughout what became Marion, Fayette, Lamar, Walker and Winston Counties Alabama; and most of Monroe and Lowndes Counties Mississippi. Most early settlers came from Tennessee, but sizable numbers came from Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas. By the mid 1850’s an extensive number of settlers came especially from Georgia. The earliest initial settlement in what was considered Marion County was along the Tombigbee River, but the hill country received numerous pioneers in the 1820’s. Indeed, in the early antebellum years, Alabama was considered a part of the Western frontier where federal lands could be obtained by grant and reasonable purchase prices, thus settlement came fast.

 

January 19, 1818: The first legislature of the Alabama Territory convenes at the Douglas Hotel in the territorial capital of St. Stephens. Source: Alabama Archives Online Timeline

With the boundaries of the two territories still uncertain, the Alabama Territorial Government moved to establish authority by creating the county of Tuscaloosa in February of 1818. From portions of that county, Marion County, Alabama was formed on December 13, 1818. At that time Marion County, covered land from the Black Warrior River to the Tombigbee River and included lands in modern day counties of Winston, Walker, Sumter, Greene, Pickens, Choctaw, Tuscaloosa, Fayette and Lamar. Because the western boundary of the Alabama Territory was in limbo, the new Marion County also included portions of modern day counties of Monroe and Lowndes in Mississippi. Source: Lamar County A History to 1900 by Rose Marie Smith. 

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