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THE ALABAMA HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

Historical Marker Program

St. Clair County

A County Older Than the State-St. Clair County

Created 1818 by territorial legislature. Named for Revolutionary hero, Gen. St. Clair. First settlers from Tennessee, Georgia-veterans of Creek Indian War, 1813-14. Pell City established as industrial town in 1890 by George H. Pell of New York. Growth of population south of Backbone Mt. and difficulty of crossing mountain led to branch county seat here in 1902. County seat at Ashville since 1822. Old Indian trails through this county used by: DeSoto's Spanish conquistadors-1540. Andrew Jackson's forces-1813-14. General Rousseau, Croxton-1864-65.
[1957: US Hwy 78 (Cogswell St.) at 18th St. North in Pell City. 33.58605 N   86.28698 W ]

 

A County Older Than the State-St. Clair County

Created in 1818 in first session of Alabama Territorial Legislature from lands ceded by Creek Indian Nation in Treaty of Ft. Jackson, 1814. Named for Gen. Arthur St. Clair, hero of Revolution, governor of Northwest Territory. First settlers from Tennessee, Georgia-veteran of Creek Indian War, 1813-14. County seat since 1822 here at Ashville, named for John Ash, prominent settler. Growing population south of Backbone Mt. led to Pell City branch county seat, 1902.
[1957: US Hwy 231 (6th Avenue) on courthouse lawn, Ashville. 33.83657 N    86.25528 W ]

 

Camp Winnataska

Dr. Elwyn Ballard, commissioner of Boy Scouts in Birmingham, and his wife, Florence Aye Ballard, discovered this site in 1914 and became vital forces in the founding and growth of the camp. Boy Scouts and Boys Club members from the area first camped here in tents in 1916. Through Dr. Ballard, the Interdenominational Birmingham Sunday School Association acquired the camp in 1918 and offered sessions not only for boys but for girls as well-the first organization-sponsored camping for girls in Alabama and among the first in the South. Daniel Ray Price, Executive Secretary of the Association, directed the camp 1922-1957. Rosa V. Strickland, educator and church leader, served as girls camp director 1919-1954. Winnataska early received national recognition for excellence of staff, facilities, and programs. In 1986, Camp Winnataska and the Boy Scouts, Birmingham Area Council, formed a joint venture to operate the Camp Winnataska Outdoor Education Center.
[1997: Camp Winnetaska Drive off Winnataska Road south of the Prescott community west of Pell City
33.541785 N      86.442117 W]
(There is/was another St. Clair marker erected by AHA. It was placed in Cropwell on Mays Drive @ Hardwick Road at 33.55534 N, 86.26806 W. While the marker is missing in May of 2010, the post is present and painted. There are several other markers in the well-kept, small park, and it may be that the sign is being refurbished. There is a picture and description of this marker at http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM445G_Cropwell_Historical_Park_Saint_Clair_County_AL)

Site of the Cook Springs Hotel
1884- 1954

Near this site, and founded by entrepreneur Lafayette Cooke, for whom the community of Cook Springs was named, the hotel resort, operated from 1884 to 1954, was a grand example of mineral-springs resorts developed around the nation during that era.  A combination of health retreat and entertainment destination, the hotel catered to upper-middle class and wealthy patrons.  Guests arrived by train directly in front of the hotel.  Patrons enjoyed a wide range of recreational activities and gained alleged health benefits by drinking the mineral-rich water.  In 1930, Lafayette Cooke donated 1,600 acres and his hotel to the American School of Evangelism to be used for good deeds.

[2011: Cook Springs Road]

 

First Baptist Church of Springville
Organized March 22, 1817

Originally chartered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Charter member and first Pastor was Sion Blythe who served for 17 years. The oldest church in St. Clair Association. Presbyterian and Methodist denominations used the church building before turn of the century. Name of church changed to Springville Baptist in 1877 and to First Baptist Church of Springville, 1974.
[Wilson St. at Robinson Street in Springville 33.78149 N    86.47002 W]

 

Fort Strother

Creek Indian War, 1813-14, 12 miles north. Built by Andrew Jackson with Tennessee troops and friendly Cherokees. Used as advanced base of operations on the border of Creek Confederacy.
[Before 1961: at Chamber of Commerce (Old Depot) in Talladega]

 

Harkey's Chapel United Methodist Church

Founded Circa 1829-1830
Original log house of worship built St. Clair Co. near Broken Arrow Creek, six miles from Coosa River. Named Harkey's Chapel for first minister, Rev. David. Harkey of Cahawba Circuit.
Present church built 1904 by A. I. Abels with community helpers. Preserved by members of Harkey's Chapel United Methodist Church.
Entered Alabama Register of Historic Places 1978.
[1979: AL Hwy 144 at No Business Creek Road at Coal City 33.66419 N    86.25627 W ]

 

Historic Downtown Pell City

Founded by railroad investors and incorporated on May 6, 1891, Pell City was named for one of the financial backers, George Hamilton Pell of New York. Nearly disappearing after the Panic of 1893, the town was redeveloped after 1901 by Sumter Cogswell and his wife, Lydia DeGaris Cogswell, along with other local investors and businessmen. Mr. Cogswell influenced the location here in 1902 of the Pell City Manufacturing Company, subsequently, Avondale Mills. The town's prosperity was secured after that time. The Historic District encompasses two long blocks along Cogswell Avenue from Nineteenth Street to Twenty-first Street and several buildings on Nineteenth and Twenty-first Streets North and Twentieth Street South. The only building to survive the earlier period was the Maxwell Building, constructed in 1890. The majority of the historic structures were built in the years between 1902 and 1905. The Downtown District was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 29, 2001.
[2003: US Hwy 78 (Cogswell St.) at Historic Edwin Holladay Place, Courthouse lawn in Pell City. 33.58635 N     86.28604 W]

 

John Looney House
circa 1820

John Looney and son, Henry, served in General Andrew Jackson's volunteer company which built Fort Strother on Coosa River and later fought at Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Looney's family of nine moved from Maury Co. Tenn. to homestead 1817 in St. Clair County. Land patent granted in 1822. The two story log house with double dog-trot is a rare example of pioneer architecture in Alabama. Restored by St. Clair Historical Society in 1972. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1974.
[1978: County Road 24 southwest of Ashville 33.820817 N    86.192364 W ]

 

The Mill Village

The Pell City Manufacturing Company, completed in 1902, was the main catalyst in the growth and development of Pell City. It was the first cotton mill in the South with the distinctive sawtooth roof design. In addition to the mill itself, the mill complex consisted of the adjacent Mill Village of over one hundred houses, the mill office, a community house, a hospital, and a school. In 1919 the mill was purchased by the Comer interests and became part of the Avondale Mills system. The Mill Village continued as the center of everyday life in Pell City for many years. The mill and Mill Village were added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 21, 2000.
[2003: Martin St. North at 26th Street North in Pell City. 33.59146 N   86.28056 W]

 

Pell City's Historic Residential District

The earliest neighborhood in Pell City was the Residential District, located on the northern boundary of the Downtown Historic District. The Residential District was the preferred location for many of the earliest leaders involved in the growth and development of Pell City. The city was incorporated in 1891 and named for George Hamilton Pell of New York, a leading investor in the railroad that influenced the city's location. The town almost disappeared after the Panic of 1893, but due to the vision and leadership of Sumter Cogswell, was revived in 1902. The homes of Sumter Cogswell and Green Evans, Pell City's first mayor, are two of the earliest structures, dating from the late nineteenth century. The district is composed of sixteen full and partial city blocks, centering on First, Second, and Third Avenues North and containing 105 historic structures. The majority of the houses date from 1902 to 1930. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 2001.
[2003: 2nd Avenue North at 21st Street North in Pell City. 33.58872 N   86.28444 W ]


Other St. Clair County pages:

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http://www.archives.alabama.gov/aha/markers/stclair.html

Updated: September 13, 2012