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Decatur City

Decatur City Hall is located at 402 Lee Street Northeast, Decatur, AL 35601; phone: 256-341-4500.

City of Decatur viewed from the Tennessee River.
Photo: Decatur viewed from the Tennessee River, photographed 2006 by user:AlabamaGuy2007, en.wikipedia.org, accessed September, 2011.

Decatur as described in the 1920s [1]

County seat of Morgan County, situated on the south bank of the Tennessee River, in the northwestern corner of the county, on the Southern Railway and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 122 miles south of Nashville, 188 miles east of Memphis, 122 miles west of Chattanooga, and 182 miles north of Montgomery. The city proper was first embraced within sec. 18, T. 5, S., R. 4 W. with irregular boundary lines. Altitude: 591 feet. Population: 1870—671; 1888—2,500; 1892—2,700;1900—3,114; 1910—4,228. The present charter was granted by the legislature, February 18, 1891. It has a city hall, jail, and fire department in one building, erected in 1912, at a cost of $31,000; privately owned gas plant, electric light system, and waterworks; 10 miles of sewerage, installed in 1902 and extended 10 miles in 1913, costing $41,000; 20 miles paved streets; 24 miles of concrete sidewalks; a Carnegie Library; and electric interurban street-car system. The city has a total tax rate of 5.3 mills and a bonded indebtedness of $60,000 maturing in 1927 and $25,000 public building bonds, maturing in 1941. Its financial institutions are the City National Bank, and the Tennessee Valley Bank (State). The Decatur Weekly News, an Independent weekly, established in 1870, and the Guardian (Negro), a monthly, established in 1910, are published there. Its industries are a box and basket factory, stave plant, lumber mills, planing mill, ice plant, foundry and machine plant, fertilizer plant, and the public service companies mentioned above. The Methodist Episcopal, South, Baptist, Presbyterian, Primitive Baptist, and Episcopal, and several colored organizations have churches in the town.

The city had its inception in 1820 when. President Monroe directed the Surveyor General "to reserve the site for a town to be called Decatur." The project was turned over to the Decatur Land Co. in 1820, but was still a part of the Cherokee Reservation until 1826, when the Alabama Legislature issued a charter, December 8, to the town of Decatur. The first settlement was made by Dr. Henry Rhodes at the eastern end of Muscle Shoals, "at the western terminus of Tennessee river navigation to Chattanooga." At the old Indian crossing of the river, Dr. Rhodes established a ferry. This circumstance accounts for the first name of the town being Rhodes Ferry. In 1829 he built a rope and bagging factory, supplying it with raw material from a field of hemp, planted on the north side of the river. He was later joined by Gen. Jesse Winston Garth, Simon Sykes, and Dr. Dancy, all men of considerable wealth, who had been the promoters of the land company formed in 1820. The first conveyance was issued by the company in July, 1821, and transferred to Amos Hardin for $51, the lot now located on the corner of Water and Canal Streets, fronting the river.

The first banking institution was a branch of the State bank, established in a log cabin in 1832. Its first money was $2,000 in silver, brought from New Orleans to Florence by steamboat and thence to Decatur by wagon.

The first railroad, properly so-called, in the State, was built in 1832 to connect Tuscumbia and Decatur and to avoid the Muscle Shoals. Upon its completion in 1834, thousands of people came, some of them many days' journey, to see the wonder. A Masonic Hall was built in 1834, the lower floor being used for school and church purposes. The first church was built by the Methodists in 1835. In 1836 the first brick store-building, known as the Hines Building, and a brick warehouse at the river, were erected. In 1838 a large cotton factory was built and in 1839 the Baptists erected a brick church.

  1. Thomas McAdory Owen, LL.D., History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume I, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1921.
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