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Gadsden-Etowah

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EARLY GADSDEN HISTORY

 

HISTORY - THE EARLY YEARS

Forty-eight years after Columbus discovered America, sixty-seven years before the first English settlement at Jamestown, and eighty years before the Pilgrim fathers stepped ashore at Plymouth the white man in force traveled down the Coosa river and through what is now Gadsden. De Soto in 1540 led a group of Spaniards into Alabama, consisting of more than six hundred men, including noblemen, soldiers, priests, carpenters and smiths. De Soto found a beautiful valley in all of its un­disturbed virgin grandeur. It was inhabited by a happy, contented group of Cherokee Indians who had probably been in the valley and surrounding mountains for many hundred years. He did not find a fabulous kingdom of gold for which he was seek­ing and similar to that which he and Pizarro had found and taken by force from the Incas in Peru six years before. Four hundred years later men were still seeking for gold in Gadsden and strange to say they claimed-to have discovered it on school grounds. Two experienced prospectors claimed in 1949 to have discovered a vein of gold bearing ore on a school site and sought to purchase the property. On another occasion a high Iy nervous and excited person wanted to dig immediately and at night on school grounds for the elusive metal. The writer witnessed an afternoon of digging at a spot that the superstitious person had located with a divining rod. What he found was hard labor, clay, and probably a satisfied mind.

De Soto left the friendly Cherokees of the Gads­den area and traveled south along the Coosa where later he came into contact with the unfriendly Creek Indians who engaged him at Maubila in one of the bloodiest battles ever to take place between the whites and Indians in North America.

After the visit of DeSoto the Indians of Gadsden were not disturbed by white men for about two hundred years. Between 1717 and 1812 the French in Mobile and the British in the Carolinas and Georgia carried on trade with the Alabama In­dians. It is likely that occasional white traders and adventurers visited the Gadsden area during this period. The Cherokee Indians who inhabited north Alabama, north Georgia, east Tennessee, and the western Carolinas were the most intelligent of North American Indians. The men were usually tall, hand­some, and alert. The women were graceful, attrac­tive and frequently beautiful. Inter-marriage with the white was not unusual. During the French and In­dian war General George Washington sent into the Cherokee nation his friend Nathaniel Gist to win the friendship of the Cherokees for the British against the French. Gist may not have accomplished the main purpose of the mission but he won the friend­ship of a Cherokee maiden which resulted in the birth in east Tennessee of one of the world's most remarkable men. Sequoyah, or George Gist, the son of Nathaniel Gist and the Cherokee maiden moved in his youth to Willstown about forty mile~ north of Gadsden and the home of Chief Big Will. Sequoyah lived there for about forty years and during this time completed one of the most difficult intellectual tasks which the mind of man may at­tempt. In twelve years Sequoyah invented an al­phabet for the Cherokee language. Among all the alphabets which the mind of man has invented and developed Sequoyah's alphabet is ranked second only to the English which required three thousand years to develop.

The white men returned in force to the Gadsden area in October 1813. The Creek Indians went on the war path in 1813 and in August of that year massacred about four hundred men, women and children at Fort Mims above Mobile. Appeals for help immediately went out to General Andrew Jack­son in Tennessee. He soon recruited a force of Tennessee regulars and volunteers which was in­creased by volunteer north Alabamians when Jack­son arrived at Huntsville. Leading his men by what is now Guntersville, Sand Mountain, and Gadsden, he established Fort Strother on the west bank of the Coosa about thirty miles below Gadsden. In No­vember of 1813 he attacked and defeated a large group of Creeks at Talladega and returned to Fort Strother. Two months later in January of 1814 Sam Houston, a young man of twenty-one, was one of the leaders of a group from east Tennessee who came down the Coosa and through Gadsden to re-enforce Jackson. In front of Houston was a scout­ing party of friendly Cherokee Indians led by John and James Rogers, half breed Cherokees, friends of Houston, and members of that Rogers family that later produced that great American humorist, Will Rogers. Will Rogers is a direct descendant of Tiana Rogers, half sister of James and John. Houston with the Tennesseans and about three hundred Chero­kees joined Jackson at Fort Strother on February 8, 1814.' Thus re-enforced Jackson marched against the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa where they had concentrated their forces under the leader­ship of the half breed Weatherford. Here on March 27, 1814 Jackson defeated them decisively and broke forever the power of the Creek nation in Alabama. Jackson went on from there to Mobile, from which place he rushed in December 1814 to the relief of New Orleans, which was threatened by a British army of 10,000. On January 8, 1815 he decisively defeated the British, killing more than 2,000 and losing only 17 of his own men. This battle was fought about two weeks after the treaty of peace had been signed ending the War of 1812.

On the 29th of September 1816 General Jackson returned to Gadsden but this time on a peaceful mis­sion. The meeting was educationally important be­cause the Cherokee nation for the first time gave permission for the establishment of schools in this area. At Turkey town, on the edge of Gadsden, a great Indian council assembled, attended by all the chiefs of the Cherokee and Creek nations. To this meeting came General Andrew Jackson and Cy­rus Kingsbury of the American Board of Foreign Missions. The object of the meeting was to settle the boundaries between the Cherokee and Creek nations, and to ratify a treaty between the United States and the Cherokee nation. After three days the treaty was ratified and the boundary line agreed upon. The line was to run westward from a point on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta to the mouth of Wills creek at Gadsden. The Cherokees were to occupy the territory to the north of the line and the Creeks to the south. The Cherokees had such a keen sense of direction that later an Indian hunter stood on the banks of the Chattahoochee and pointed westward to Wills Creek. The line indicated was run by ranging and so accurate had been the pointing of the Indian that the western end of the line missed the mouth of Wills creek by only a few hundred feet.

Late at night on the third day General Jackson very skillfully brought up the question of schools and told the Cherokees of the importance of educat­ing their children and asked permission for Mr. Cyrus Kingsbury to address the council. Mr. Kings­bury told them that the society he represented would take their children freely, without fees, but that if the parents were able to pay for the food of the pupils that more could be taught. He stated that the young people would be taught to speak, read and write English, and that instruction would be given in other basic subjects. An important part of the school program would be to teach the pupils their duty to parents, their fellowman, and to the Great Spirit. That it was the intention to establish one school now and then others throughout the nation. Although it was past midnight when the talk was finished the chiefs stated that they would give him an answer that night. After consultation the head chief, Pathkiller, called The King, took Mr. Kingsbury by the hand and told him they had heard and understood through an interpreter his proposal and that they desired to have the school established and hoped it would prove of great benefit to the nation. They appointed The Glass, one of their prin­cipal chiefs to go with Mr. Kingsbury to select a suitable site. Mr. Kingsbury had previously talked with President Madison and the Secretary of War about the project and they had promised to have the Agent of Indian Affairs provide a suitable school building and house for the teachers. The site select­ed for the first school was what is now Chattanooga, and was purchased from a Scotch trader who had married a Cherokee maiden. The school which started in January, 1817, was called Brainerd. In April, 1820, a mission and school were established at Creek Path, present day Guntersville, forty miles northwest of Gadsden. Willstown school and mis­sion forty miles north of Gadsden in Will's valley was founded in 1823. Haweis mission and school, east of Center, and thirty-five miles northeast of Gadsden was founded in 1823. Within seven years after the great council at Turkeytown three schools had been established near Gadsden and the education of the Cherokees was on its way. But this educational pro­gram was to be cut short. Fifteen years later in 1838 all Cherokees were forcibly removed from northeast Alabama. The advance of the white man westward from the Atlantic was a part of the build­ing of America. The manner of the removal of the Cherokees from north Alabama and north Georgia is a tragic story not to be related here. The Chero­kees did not wish to leave the beautiful mountains, valleys and streams of northeast Alabama. By means of the schools and through more frequent contact with the white man they were rapidly becoming civilized. In 1835, at New Echota, Georgia, now Calhoun, Georgia, a few of the Cherokee chiefs signed the removal treaty. The paramount chief of the Cherokee nation at that time was John Ross, who was born at Turkey town and lived there for many years. He refused to sign or recognize the treaty because the preliminary agreement had pro­vided that any Cherokee who so desired could re­main in this region. The treaty as passed by the Senate of the U. S. and approved by President Jackson required all Cherokees to be removed. In 1838 U. S. soldiers under the command of General Winfield Scott rounded up several thousand Chero­kees from north Alabama, north Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and western Carolinas and forced them to go to what is now Guntersville, Alabama, Chatta­nooga and Hiwassee, Tennessee, where they were loaded on flat boats for removal to the territory beyond the Mississippi. The total number removed was about seventeen thousand. All were removed except a remnant who escaped to the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina where their descendants have been permitted to remain.

LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS

Northeast Alabama was the last section of the state from which the Indians were removed, consequently it was the last area in which permanent settlements were established. Although Alabama was admitted to the Union in 1819 this section of the state belonged to the Cherokee Indians until 1835. The first road to be built through the region was about 1812, from Georgia. The road was rough and ungraded and was simply a passage through the forests from which the trees had been cut but leaving the stumps and mud holes. It crossed the state line near Cave Springs, Georgia, and passed through the present site of Center, across Lookout Mountain to Collinsville, across Raccoon (Sand) Mountain to Guntersville, thence to Huntsville. In 1813 General Andrew Jackson hacked a military road from Huntsville to Gadsden and south along the Coosa. Huntsville was the first permanent settlement in North Alabama, having been founded in 1805 by settlers moving down from Tennessee. The Cherokees ceded to the U. S. Government in 1806 that portion of their lands consisting approximately of what is now Madison and Limestone counties.

The area through the central part of the state, lying west• of the Coosa and South from Huntsville to Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Cahaba, and Mobile was the region next relinquished, after the Huntsville area, by the Indians. In the northern part of the state Madison was the first county created, followed by Blount and St. Clair. Madison County was created when the Alabama region was still a part of the Mississippi Territory. The Mississippi Territory was divided on March 3, 1817 by an Act admitting Mississippi to the Union and creating the present Alabama as a territory. At the first meeting of the Alabama Territorial Legislature on January 19, 1818, thirteen new counties were created, one of which was Blount County. At the second session in November, 1818, St. Clair County was created. Etowah County was created by Act of the Legislature on December 7, 1866, as Baine County. The name did not prove popular and the Constitutional Convention of 1867 abolished the name and county. It was recreated by the Legislature of 1868 and given the name of Etowah County. It was created from parts of Blount, St. Clair, Cherokee, Calhoun, DeKalb, and Marshall Counties. Calhoun (Benton) County was created in December, 1832, from lands of the Creek Indian session. Cherokee, DeKalb, and Marshall counties were all created by the Legislature on January 9, 1836, from lands ceded by the Cherokee Indians in 1835.

The present site of Gadsden was in the Cherokee Indian Nation until January 9, 1836. From 1836 to 1866 Gadsden was in the extreme southwest corner of Cherokee County. It was the junction point of Cherokee, St. Clair, and Calhoun counties. The point at which Wills creek empties into the Coosa was a very important boundary control point. We have previously described how a line drawn from this point east toward Atlanta and northwest to Guntersville became the Cherokee/Creek boundary line. This line on the west side of the Coosa formed the boundary between St. Clair and Cherokee counties and on the east of the Coosa the line divided Cherokee and Calhoun counties. These lines were, of course, obliterated in 1866, upon the creation of Baine County.

The rivers were used as the principal routes of travel and transportation during the early years of the Republic. A few brave and energetic pioneers came early to develop the river trade. The most prominent river man to settle in this area was Cap¬tain John Lay. About the year 1820, John Lay, an able man of character and some means built a substantial house on the Coosa near what is now Cedar Bluff, twenty five miles northeast of Gadsden. The Lay family has contributed greatly to the cul¬tural, industrial, and commercial progress not only of Gadsden but of the State and Nation. John Lay built the finest flatboats that were used on the Coosa. He became the most successful boat Captain on the river.

Commerce from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, moved down the Holston River into Tennessee, down the Tennessee to the Hiwassee, up the Hiwassee to the Ocoee, up the Ocoee to a point where it was unloaded and carried by portage twelve miles to the Conasauga, where it was reloaded on flat boats which moved down the Conasauga to the Oostanaula, thence into the Coosa and down the Coosa into the Alabama, and down the Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico. Merchandise thus moved about seven hundred miles by water from the western boundary of Virginia to the Gulf with the exception of only twelve miles of land transportation. No wonder that proposals for connecting the waters of the Tennessee and Coosa with a canal were seriously considered and pressed as early as 1820. It is said that John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of War, advocated such a canal. In 1822 the Governor of Tennessee wrote the Governors of Alabama and Georgia urging joint efforts for the construction of the canal. Flatboats from the upper Coosa and its tributaries frequently assembled at John Lay's where convoys were formed and put under the command of Captain Lay who took them down the Coosa and over the one hundred miles of dangerous rapids between Greensport and Wetumpka which could only be navigated during high waters and even then it required extraordinary skill and knowledge of the river to prevent loss of the boats. Captain Lay rarely lost a boat. He guided the boats safely to their destination at Montgomery, Selma or Mobile. Cummins Lay, the son of John Lay, made many trips with his father and became equally as famous as a river Captain.

In 1853 there was born to Cummins Lay a son, William Patrick Lay, who was to become one of America's great Captains of Industry. As a young man he was also an expert river Captain but on steamboats. The steamboats replaced the flatboats in 1845 on the Coosa. Patrick Lay moved from the ancestral home to nearby Gadsden when he was a young man. He understood the river. He knew that flowing water had the power to be either beneficial or destructive. Under his plan conceived and developed in Gadsden the river was to be controlled and made to serve man in a triple manner. The plan seems simple now, but in Pat Lay's time it was for a long time rejected as impractical and visionary. His plan was to build high dams for the triple purpose of flood control, improving navigation, and the generation of electricity by water power. The Government was committed to the principle of building low lift dams on its river systems for the single purpose of aiding navigation. It was an extremely expensive method because numerous such dams were required. The struggle of Captain Lay to secure the capital to put his plan into effect is perhaps unparalleled in America. The Government repeatedly rejected his plan and refused aid. Undaunted, Captain Lay organized the Alabama Power Company with the meager capital of five thousand dollars and undertook to interest private capital in his venture. The difficulties and disappointments he experienced would have broken the heart of anyone not possessed of the high courage, faith, and persistence of Captain Lay. The capital was finally obtained from British sources and a high dam was built on the Coosa bringing into reality and fully justifying the plan and all of its benefits. This high dam helped to establish the pattern for all future river developments. Since that time similar dams have been built on many rivers resulting in untold blessings to all phases of American life.

Another river man, Captain James Lafferty is connected with the early history of Gadsden. It is probable that he settled on the Coosa a few years after Captain John Lay. It is known that he brought the first steamboat to the Coosa in 1845. The boat was constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Captain Lafferty took it down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, then through the protected coastal channels to Mobile, then up the Alabama to Wetumpka where it was taken apart and transported overland to Greensport. At Greensport it was re-assembled and steamed up the Coosa to Gadsden, thus ending the period of the flatboats and ushering in the steamers on the Coosa. Captain Lafferty arrived on July 4, 1845 and was to play an important part in the naming of Gadsden.

Soon after John Lay located on the banks of the Coosa a settlement was started about twenty-five miles down the river which grew into present day Gadsden. Two brothers, Gabriel and Joseph Hughes, selected the site with' care and with the expressed intention of building a city. John S. Moragne preceded the Hughes brothers by a few years and in the early eighteen thirties he staked out a claim on the west bank of the Coosa and south of what is now Broad Street. In 1838 Gabriel Hughes came to the Gadsden area looking for a gap in the mountains through which a railroad could be built. He found the gap, which is also the southern terminus of Lookout Mountain. After this exploratory visit he returned to Dahlonega, Georgia where he and his brother Joseph had come in 1836 from North Carolina and purchased land upon which they started the mining of gold. So impressed was Gabriel Hughes with what he had seen that he and his brother sold their gold mines and made plans to move to the Gadsden area. Gabriel Hughes had probably witnessed in 1830 at Charlestown, South Carolina the operation of one of the first steam locomotives on a railroad. Under consideration at the time was the building of a railroad from Savannah to Nashville. Gabriel Hughes wanted this railroad to be located by the way of the gap at the southern end of Lookout Mountain. He decided to locate permanently at this beautiful spot. There was only one well-built, substantial house existing in the area at the time. It had been built about 1830 by John Riley a half breed Cherokee. In 1836 John Riley sold the house to William Walker who opened the first post office in the building in 1836. The house was also used as an inn and stagecoach stop. William Walker owned and operated a ferry on the Coosa River near the house, which was known as Walker's ferry. The small settlement was called Double Springs, so named because of two bold springs near the house and at the foot of Shinbone Ridge. The first mention of Double Springs in the national records is in the Acts of Congress of July 2, 1836 establishing a mail route as follows: From LaFayette in Chambers County, via Randolph county courthouse, crossing Tallapoosa River at Sawyer's ferry, via White Plains, Jacksonville in Benton (Calhoun) county, thence crossing Coosa River at Walkers ferry, by Double Springs, by Bennettsville, to Ashville in St. Clair county. Two other mail routes passing through or near Double Springs were established by Act of Congress at the same time. One starting at Columbus, Georgia, via Chambers County courthouse, Randolph County courthouse, Benton County courthouse, through Double Springs, to Huntsville, Alabama. The other route, "Starting from Dallas in Hamilton county Tennessee, through Lookout and Wills valleys, via Reason, Rollins, the seat of justice of DeKalb county, to Bennettsville in St. Clair county. While Double Springs is not mentioned in this route it is altogether likely that it did come by Double Springs. No other mail route relating to this area is mentioned until the Act of Congress of March 3, 1845 which established a route from Elyton (Birmingham) in Jefferson County, by Ashville, St. Clair County, thence to Rome, Georgia. The route could hardly have missed passing through Double Springs.

In 1840 Gabriel Hughes bought the house owned by William Walker and brought his wife and brother Joseph to the frontier home. He had planned from the beginning that this would be the site of a great future city. He and John S. Moragne invited their friends from the Carolinas to come here, and among those who came the most prominent was General Daniel C. Turrentine who came in 1842. These four were well educated men of ability, courage and sound character. Here in a beautiful spot where the river and the mountains meet, possessing an ideal climate, rich in natural resources of iron ore, coal, limestone, lumber, and waterpower, these early pioneers, undergoing extreme hardship and working with meager resources bequeathed to us a heritage upon which the greatness of Gadsden has been built. The conquering spirit of the pioneers, suffering much, complaining little, pressing ever forward, has been transmitted to each generation, and is the never changing factor present at each period of Gadsden's growth.

 

A NAME IS CHOSEN

Shall the future city be given a name of Indian origin, Old World origin, a prominent American, the first permanent settler, or of a physical feature? Double Springs was a physical feature, but Gabriel Hughes did not consider the name suitable for the great city that would grow from his initial planning. Trade and commerce were the basis for the growth of early American cities. Transportation was the key to expanding commerce. Gabriel Hughes foresaw the tremendous importance of the new method of transportation-the railway with the steam locomotive. The period of initial railroad expansion was 1830-50. Gabriel Hughes was determined to 'try and secure the location of a trunk line railroad through the site he had chosen. He gave much of his time and fortune for this purpose. He became thoroughly familiar with the topography for many miles in all directions. The two Hughes brothers, General Turrentine, and John S. Moragne had friends among the most prominent and influential men then living in Georgia and the Carolinas. Among the friends was a man of national importance, James Gadsden of Charleston, South Carolina. Because of his position and the nature of his activity, the support and influence of James Gadsden was extremely important to Gabriel Hughes when he founded the city.

James Gadsden was born at Charleston, South Carolina on the 15th of May, 1788, the grandson of Christopher Gadsden, who had been a member of The First Continental Congress, General in the Revolution, and prominent in state and national affairs. James Gadsden graduated from Yale in 1806 and became a merchant in Charleston. In the War of 1812 he was a lieutenant in the U. S. Army. In the Seminole War of 1818 he was a Captain on the staff of General Andrew Jackson. In 1820 he became inspector-general of the Southern Division of the Army with the rank of colonel, and was made adjutant-general in •1821. In 1822 he resigned from the Army and became a planter in Florida, continuing as such until the Second Seminole War of 1836, during which he served as Quartermaster-general. In 1839 he returned to Charleston and a year later was made president of the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston Railroad, in which he had been financially interested since 1835. The railroad had become involved in financial difficulties during the panic of 1837, and was re-incorporated in 1842 as the South Carolina Railroad. Gadsden came into power and prominence with his dream of building missing railway links to join the small disconnected railway systems of the South into one great system, and of connecting the whole with the Pacific coast with a line to be constructed through the southern and southwestern states. His plan was to bind the West with the South and develop a direct trade between the South and Europe, thereby breaking the dependency of this region upon the North and East. He organized Conventions in southern cities and worker tirelessly in advocating the plan. He was chairman of the Augusta Convention of 1838 which issued a statement to the South and Southwest emphasizing the advantages of direct trade with Europe. He was prominent in the Charleston Convention of 1839. He became the leading promoter of the Memphis Commercial Convention of 1845, where he served on several committees and was chairman of the Committee on Railroads. At this Convention he continued to urge the construction of a railway to the Pacific. During the next five years he devoted all of his time and energy to bring about the connection of sufficient southern railroads to form a continuous line from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River; Lines had been built from Savannah and Charleston to Atlanta by 1845 but a line westward from Atlanta to Memphis or Nashville had to be built to complete the project.

It is here that Gabriel Hughes entered actively in to his great effort to have the line from Atlanta to Memphis located so as to pass through the present site of Gadsden. Gadsden would thus be on the great trans-continental railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. That he had cause for optimism is apparent, because a straight line drawn from Atlanta to Memphis passes near Gadsden. Gabriel Hughes in all probability attended the Memphis Convention. He was in touch with James Gadsden and other promoters of the project. He had numerous conferences with W. S. Brown, the chief engineer who was engaged to survey the Tennessee & Coosa Railroad which was planned to become one of the connecting links in the great system proposed by James Gadsden. Upon completion of the railroad survey in 1846, Hughes invited Brown to make a survey of the future city, and to layoff the streets and lots. What is now Broad Street was established as the central street, and at the request of Hughes it was laid off much wider than the customary practice at that time, because it was his intention for the anticipated railroad to run down the center of the street. The area surveyed was rather small, being about seven blocks long (east and west), and four blocks wide (north and south). The western boundary was a line about half-way between what is now Sixth and Seventh Streets, which is the point where Broad Street now changes direction; the northern boundary was a line about two hundred feet north of Locust Street; a!1d the southern boundary about the present Duncan Street extended. The site of Double Springs was thus not included in the original survey. Most of the land within the survey was owned by Gabriel & Joseph Hughes and John S. Moragne. They reached an agreement that the property within the survey would be distributed by lot among certain parties. Those parties were, Gabriel Hughes, John S. Moragne, W. S. Brown, and Captain James Lafferty. W. S. Brown apparently received his lots as compensation for making the survey. Captain James Lafferty had agreed in 1845 to stop his steamboat at the foot of Broad Street (originally Railroad Street) and to make that point a permanent landing. This would be a big boost to the new town and as a result he was made a participant in the lot drawing, receiving about one-fourth as many lots as the other parties.

The next step was to name the new city. A small group consisting of Gabriel & Joseph Hughes, John S. Moragne, General D. C. Turrentine, and Captain James Lafferty, met for the purpose of selecting a name. The name of Lafferty's Landing was suggested. Captain Lafferty refused the honor, perhaps because he detected that there was not too much enthusiasm for the name. Lafferty was a river man; Hughes was interested in railroads. The most influential railroad man in the South at the time was James Gadsden. Naming the new city Gadsden might result in James Gadsden using his support and influence to bring about the location of a main line railroad through the site. It is probably true that friendship played some part in the selection of the name, but the' most important consideration must have been the influence James Gadsden possessed in railway circles.

The name did not produce the result that Gabriel Hughes had expected. Before 1850 the railroad line from Savannah to Atlanta was extended to Chat¬tano09a, Tennessee, and later from that point a line was built to Nashville and also to Memphis. Thus tile Atlantic and Mississippi River were connected via Chattanooga rather than via Gadsden. This was a serious disappointment to Gabriel Hughes but he never relaxed his efforts to bring rail facilities to Gadsden. The War Between the States interrupted railway construction and it was not until 1871 that a line was built to the city.

In 1853 James Gadsden had an opportunity to further advance his plan for a trans-continental railroad system. In that year he was appointed Minister to Mexico through the influence of his good friend Jefferson Davis. Mr. Davis at that time was Secretary of War, and chief counselor to President Franklin Pierce. Santa Anna, Dictator of Mexico, was in great need of financial assistance to prevent the collapse of his Government. James Gadsden had determined several years before 1853 that the best route for his trans-continental railroad would be through the area south of the Gila River. The Gila River at the time was the boundary between Mexico and the U. S. Territory which later became the states of Arizona and New Mexico. Gadsden thought that he would be able to purchase from Mexico all of Lower California and a considerable part of northern Mexico. President Pierce and Congress approved the plan, and an appropriation of $50,000,000.00 was made available for the purpose. However, in the final negotiations Mexico refused to sell Lower California and only a part of the area hoped for in northern Mexico. Gadsden finally purchased for $10,000,000.00 an area of 45,535 sq. mi., lying south of the Gila River and forming the southern section of what is now the states of Arizona and New Mexico. The area is slightly less than that of Alabama (51,998 sq. mi). It was much less than Gadsden had desired but it was more than sufficient through which his beloved railroad system could be built. However he did not live to see his dream become a reality. A railroad was not built through the area until after his death. This purchase marked the culmination of Gadsden's career. He remained in Mexico as Minister until 1856 when he returned to Charleston, where he died in 1858.

  

 

 


 

Gadsden-Etowah County Alabama

 

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