| Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The Franklin County
It is a land that once was called home by several tribes of Indians, most notable the Chickasaws, Creeks and Cherokees. Following the war of 1812, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of a military road from Florence, on the Tennessee River, to New Orleans, to be constructed by the army under the command of General Andrew Jackson. Major William Russell, an officer and scout in General Jackson's army, helped in the construction of the road and, after its completion, returned as one of the area's first settlers. He built a pioneer cabin two and one half miles east of the present city that bears his name, and later added a trading post. Within a few years, most of the pioneers in the small village around his trading post resettled near the intersection of Gaines Trace Road and Jackson Military road, site of the present city of Russellville.
Russellville was incorporated Nov. 27, 1819, and when Alabama attained statehood almost a month later, Russellville became the county seat of Franklin county. Alabama's iron industry had its beginnings on the banks of Cedar Creek, a few miles south of Russellville. Joseph Heslip, who had worked in the iron industry in Pennsylvania, purchased 16 and one half sections of land (10,560 acres) rich in iron ore and established the Cedar Creek Furnace in 1818.
A foundry at the plant produced iron post, skillets and other objects. The furnace was shut down in 1837 and never reopened. When war broke out in 1861, Franklin County citizens had different convictions. Some believed their rights were being threatened by the federal government while many sympathized with the North, and enlisted in Union Military Units. After the war ended in 1865, Franklin County began to rally.
The county's rich limestone deposits that were used in both the steel and building industries were being mined extensively and Russellville received its first railroad in 1886. Farming, mining, timber and stone comprised Franklin County's chief industries. Cotton was its chief staple crop. With diversification of trade, industry and agriculture Russellville began to grow to its position of leadership in Franklin County. Today Russellville is the county's largest city.
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© 2014 Boone Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.