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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Cahaba in Dallas County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Cahawba's Changing Landscape

 
 
Cahawba's Changing Landscape Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
1. Cahawba's Changing Landscape Marker
Inscription.
In 1818, Alabama's first governor carved the capital city of Cahawba out of the wilderness. In less than 50 years, Cahawba grew from a frontier capital full of log cabins to one of America's wealthiest communities, with some of the finest mansions in the state. Then abruptly, after the Civil War, it was abandoned.

Today Cahawba is a ghost town, an important archaeological site, and a place of picturesque ruins. Ironically, in 1818, Cahawba's landscape was also full of ruins—the remains of a village constructed by prehistoric mound builders who abandoned the site in the 16th century.

As you look east down Capitol Street toward the Alabama River, you're looking directly at the site where an immense earthen mound, centerpiece of the mound-builder village, once stood—the same site Governor Bibb envisioned for Cahawba's statehouse. In 1858, Cahawba residents used the soil of this prehistoric mound to build an embankment for their new railroad.

Freeman's 1818 Map

In 1817, settlers were anxious to move into Alabama's frontier, and surveyor Thomas Freeman was responsible for creating maps necessary for orderly land sales. Just below the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers, Freeman observed and recorded the ruins of an old abandoned Indian village. The houses and the
Left side of marker & text. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
2. Left side of marker & text.
semi-circular palisade that surrounded the village had long since turned to dust, but the ceremonial earthen mound in the center of the town and the moat that surrounded the palisade wall were still visible in 1817 (recorded as an "Ancient Indian Work" on this map.)

Governor Bibb's 1818 Map of Cahawba

In 1818, when the federal government granted Governor William Wyatt Bibb land at the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers for Alabama's seat of government, the Territorial Assembly authorized Bibb to layout a town plan. If you compare Governor Bibb's 1818 town plat, to Freeman's 1817 map, you can see that Bibb planned to give the statehouse of his new city prominence by sitting it atop the old Indian mound. He also planned to surround the capitol grounds with the moat that had been dug three centuries earlier. Funding shortages and his untimely death prevented Bibb from fully realizing his plan.
 
Erected 2013 by the Alabama Historical Commission.
 
Location. 32° 19.184′ N, 87° 6.269′ W. Marker is in Cahaba, Alabama, in Dallas County. Marker is at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Cahaba Road (County Route 2), on the right when traveling east on Capitol Avenue. Touch for map. Located under the trees at the parking
Freeman's 1818 Map image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
3. Freeman's 1818 Map
lot of the visitors center at the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 30 Capitol Ave, Orrville AL 36767, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old Cemetery (approx. 0.4 miles away); Alabama's First Statehouse (approx. half a mile away); Kirk-View Farm (approx. half a mile away); Saltmarsh Hall (approx. half a mile away); Cahaba First State Capital (approx. half a mile away); The Duke of Cahaba (approx. half a mile away); Vine Street (approx. half a mile away); Footprint of a Church (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cahaba.
 
Also see . . .  Wikipedia entry for Cahaba, Alabama. (Submitted on August 3, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
 
Categories. Antebellum South, USNotable PlacesSettlements & Settlers
 
Governor Bibb's 1818 Map of Cahawba. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
4. Governor Bibb's 1818 Map of Cahawba.
Freeman's 1818 Map image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
5. Freeman's 1818 Map
Courtesy of Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office
Governor Bibb's 1818 Map of Cahawba image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, July 30, 2014
6. Governor Bibb's 1818 Map of Cahawba
Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History. Montgomery, Alabama, colorized by Guy Arello
View of visitors center and marker area. image. Click for full size.
By Google Maps Streetview, 2008
7. View of visitors center and marker area.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 3, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 359 times since then and 42 times this year. Last updated on May 20, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 3, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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