History begins with you-who your mother, father, and grandparents are. It begins with your family…..This community has a rich history dating back to 1540 and we need to preserve it.
-Billy Atkinson, Sr.-Talladega County Probate Judge
Talladega County can be divided up into Alpine, Bon Air, Childersburg, Fayetville, Gantts Quarry, Ironaton, Lincoln, Mignon, Munford, Oak Grove, Oxford (mostly in Calhoun County), Providence, Sycamore, Sylacauga, Talladega, Talladega Springs, Vincent, Waldo, and Winterboro.
Talladega is derived from the Muscogee (Creek) Native American word TVLVTEKE which translates to “border town.” The county was established December 18, 1832 after the original gold discovery in 1830 that helped many surrounding counties gain their start as well. It was then founded in January of 1834 and the following year incorporated. The county seat was established as Talladega in 1834 and two years later the county courthouse was built. It still remains there today as the oldest working courthouse in the state.
The city of Talladega known as “the city of heritage” is known for the “silk stocking district” which is the 19th century stately mansions that decorate the city. Tourists are welcomed every year in April to take a pilgrimage tour of these antebellum and turn-of-the-century homes.
In the heart of the Coosa River Valley sits the neighboring city of Sylacauga derived from the Native American name “Chal ak-ge” meaning “meeting place of the Chalaka tribe.” This “progressive community where all the pieces fit” was originally incorporated in 1838 with the name Syllacoga and then again in 1887 as present day Sylacauga. This city sits upon a solid deposit of the hardest, whitest marble in the world, naming it the “marble city of the south.” This Sylacauga marble has been used in many important buildings throughout the country including the United State Supreme Court, the Al Jolsin Shrine in California, and the Woolworth Building in Houston, Texas. Sylacauga is thought to date back for quite some time, originally being occupied by Creek Indians close to the Coosa River. These Native Americans were first recorded in 1540 by Hernando DeSoto and then later in 1759 the French noted the area called Chalakagay as inhabited by 50 Shawnee Indian warriors.
Childersburg is a town thought to allow one to take a “stroll through history.” It is the oldest continually occupied city in the United States dating back to at least 1540. This town goes back to being known as “Coosa Village” occupied by the Coosa Indian Nation and is still full of Indian lore and artifacts. It is the home of DeSoto Caverns which is the site of the oldest recorded cave in the state. The city has an annual birthday celebration in the Fall named “Coosa Fest.” The city is also thought to be “a sportsman’s paradise for fishing and hunting” due to its lakes and wildlife.
One of the newer cities of the county, Lincoln is known to Talladega countians as “a city that is moving fast.” The city was originally known as Kingsville and was incorporated in 1911. The name Lincoln came from the Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln. The city website offers a wonderful explanation of the population for the city stating, “population of the city varies with when you ask, ask in the morning about 8:00 and the answer would be 12,000 as the Honda workers would be at work, ask on race day and the answer would be more like 250,000 and on most nights around 6,000 which is what we expect the next census to reflect.” This quote touches on the fact that Lincoln is the proud home to the Talladega Super Speedway that many NASCAR fans flock to twice a year.
A smaller area of the county, known as the town of Oak Grove became a nationally recognized town in 1954 as word spread of it being the first location of a meteor striking a human being. Mrs. Ann E. Hodges was lying on her sofa when she heard a crashing noise from her roof-top. Shortly afterwards some unknown object struck her hip. It was determined that this unknown object was a meteorite. The town is also the home of the “official state Christmas tree of 2004″ displayed in the governor’s mansion that same year. It was grown by the present day mayor, Bloise Zeigler in the middle of the two hills of the community at his cut-your-own-Christmas tree farm. The site of this farm is now known as “Comet Grove”, the first community garden in Oak Grove.
Gantt’s Quarry, now a ghost town, according to Wikipedia had a population of seven. There was of course a mayor. Also running the town was a five member city council leaving one resident as the town clerk.
There are so many wonderful places to go and things to see in Talladega County. Here is a list I have compiled:
- The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind is a fully accredited institute started in 1858 by Joseph Henry Johnson in hopes of helping his deaf brother overcome obstacles he faced. This school that offers free tuition to Alabama residents has served those with sensory impairments for over 140 years and offers many extracurricular activities such as social clubs, field trips, music, and a variety of sports. There are five campuses in Talladega: Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf, Helen Keller School of Alabama, E.H. Gentry Technical Facility, and Alabama Industries for the Blind.
- Alabama U-Pick Farms:
- Craft’s Blueberry Farm, 4060 Eastaboga Rd, Talladega. Open June, July, August, Wednesday-Sunday 7AM-7PM (256) 362-7350
- Comet Grove Community Garden, 1475 Odens Mill Rd, Sylacauga. All produce. Opens May 22, on Saturdays only 9AM-5PM (256) 245-5674
- “April in Talladega” is a pilgrimage tour of antebellum and turn of the century homes throughout the city of Talladega.
- Tour Blue Bell Creameries in Sylacauga
- Butler/Hariss/Rainwater Museum in Childersburg. The “Rainwater house” thought to date back to 1870s, was given to C.H. Butler by his parents as a wedding gift in 1984. In 1993 the house was bought by the city to develop into a house-museum for the city’s history. A popular annual event held at the museum is the Victorian tea in the month of October.
- Central Alabama Community College of Talladega
- Comer Museum in Sylacauga
- The Davey Allison Memorial Walk of Fame/Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame is a one block memorial for the champion in NASCAR voted on by the fans.
- DeSoto Caverns is the first recorded cave in the United States filled with onyx draperies and some of the largest free hanging formations up to 30 feet long. Originally used as a Native American burial ground or “copena”, the cave was rediscovered in 1965 by a team of archeologist from the University of Alabama. They found the skeletons of five Native Americans, one of which was a child. There was one skeleton believed to have belonged to a man more than 7 feet tall! Several years ago a group of Native Americans reburied the skeletons in an undisclosed portion of the cave.
- “Gravity Hill” in Oak Grove where cars appear to coast uphill. On old Highway 280 on what is now known as Gravity Hill Road towards Childersburg.
- Jemison-Carnegie Heritage Hall in Talladega is an exhibition of both local and national artists. They also maintain a collection of historic photographs.
- Kymulga Grist Mill and Park in Childersburg offers the only set of such structures in Alabama that still stand where they were originally built over 140 years ago on the Talladega Creek. Ran today as a tourist attraction by the Childersburg Heritage Committee.
- Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area. Near Talladega Scenic drive, this location offers camping, fishing, boating, and hiking activities.
- Lake Howard in Sylacauga has a 15 mile mountain bike and hiking trail through the Talladega National Forest.
- Lincoln Visitors Center in Old Towne Lincoln offers the history of Lincoln. Call Mildred Trammell for an appointment (205) 369-3519.
- The Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrians Program offers therapy “to enhance physical and mental skills, aid in mobilization and promote socialization and communication.”
- The Motor Sports Hall of Fame is a self guided tour of the awards given in motor sports. Also access to the McCaig-Wellborn Motorsports Research Library, namely “the most comprehensive collection on motor sports information on earth.”
- The Ritz Theater in Talladega offering many different scheduled acts is considered one of the best surviving examples of the Art Deco Main street theaters of 1930s, this one dating to 1936.
- Selwood Farm’s in Alpine. This 1,000 acre plantation and licensed hunting preserve is Alabama’s first sport clays course.
- Slot City Dragway in Childersburg offers slot car races Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Call for times (256) 455-1321.
- Talladega Scenic Drive. Stretch of US Highway 78 near Heflin through Adam’s Gap is the perfect drive for a Spring of Fall color tour.
- Talladega SuperSpeedway is said to be the “biggest, fastest, and most competitive super speedway in the world.” Originally opening in 1969 as the “Alabama International Speedway” and changed to its present name in 1989, this NASCAR tract is 2.66 miles long, four lanes wide and has hosted many of the “greats” including the Allisons and the Earnhardts. In April the speedway holds the Aaron’s 499 and in October both the Craftsman Truck Series Mountain Dew 250 and on Sunday the Amp Energy 500.
- Talladega College, a four-year university, is “Alabama’s oldest (private) historically black liberal arts college” having been founded in 1867. Originally started by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant who helped build the building originally used as the Baptist Academy. The academy was purchased and renamed Swayne School and in 1869 changed to Talladega College.
- The Talladega National Forest, spread over 375,00 acres, is a protected environment of wildlife of the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains
- Ten Fun Things to Do in Sylacauga
- Waldo Covered Bridge, behind Old Mill Restaurant. Built in 1858, one of the oldest covered bridges in the state built at the site of an old Socopatoy Indian Trail.
- YMCA Camp Cosby in Alpine that was established in 1922. This camp offers boys and girls the opportunity to build their self-esteem as well as to grow, learn, and challenge themselves.
Haunted Places in Talladega County according to the Shadow Lands:
- Old downtown Lincoln near the old gas station at the bar supposedly haunted by two men that were fighting when one was pushed in front of a train.
- Bethlehem Methodist Church and Cemetary in Munford. Late at night it is said one can see a yellow orb of light floating in cemetery and across McElderry Road. Also if one drives around the church three times then parks in front of the church and turns off lights the window blinds will rise.
- Gravity Hill
- Cemetary Mountain in Munford has many stories including sites of a ghost man and his dog. Also about a book that gets heavier as you carry it that is rumored to be the devil’s bible.
- Hill Elementary School in Munford is said to be haunted by a former principal that was struck by lightning outside the school.
- The Foundry in Munford is thought to be haunted by children killed on the property.
- Cemetary Road in the Talladega National Forest where one is said to see ghost of the people underground.
Places to Eat in Talladega County:
- White Villa Restaurant, 300 E 3rd St, Sylacauga. An old Victorian frame home with wrap around porch and marble patio that offers many dishes.
- Pier 59 in Vincent offers many different live bands each night.
- Fincher’s in Talladega offers dish number 104 (grilled catfish) from 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die
- Dish number 129 is Muscadine Wine from Bryant Vineyards in Talladega.
- The Marble City Grill in Sylacauga is home to dish number 165 (Spinach Mushroom Quesadilla).
- Also in 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die, Dish number 101, Fudge from DeSoto Caverns.
As a county full of heritage, history, and who can forget NASCAR, there are numerous places to stay in the county:
- Cedars Plantation Bed and Breakfast in Munford is an old plantation home with 15 foot ceilings, balconies, antiques, a civil war library, swimming pool, and tennis court.
- Chateau Toots ”A castle of friends” on Lay Lake is Alabama’s premier bed and breakfast and featured in Alabama Weddings Magazine.
- Historic Oakwood Bed and Breakfast in Talladega is an Antebellum home with pure, federal style architecture. Named on the National Historic Register.
- River Rest Bed and Breakfast in Talladega offers a country atmosphere overlooking the lake and a 100 foot porch.
- Numerous RV Parks in and near Lincoln suited for race fans.
- Somerset House a colonial double veranda house built in 1905 and renovated in 1993 for a bed and breakfast.
- Treasure Island Bed and Breakfast Inn in Talladega on the shore of Lake Logan Martin offers a plantation-style breakfast.
Notable People from Talladega County:
- Jon Hand, American football player from Sylacauga
- Jim Nabors, actor from Sylacauga. Played Gomer Pyle in the Andy Griffith Show.
- Governor Lewis E. Parsons
- Wayne Ray, author and poet from Talladega
- Robert Smith Vance, Federal Judge from Talladega
- Gerald Wallace, basketball star
Books and Other Resources Related to Talladega County:
- “A Brief History of the Marble Industry in Sylacauga”, article in Alabama Heritage Magazine, Magazine #20, by Ed Dodd
- A Brief History of Sylacauga Marble, by Ruth Beaumont Cook
- Geology of Gantt’s Quarry and the Sylacauga Marble, by A.S. Glover
- Historical Tales of Talladega, by Grace Jemison
- Passion of A Soul and For Your Eyes Only by Lincoln born Alice M.T. Walker
- Talladega Daily Home Newspaper
- Talladega, Pathways to the Past by Walter Belt White
Other useful Talladega County Websites:
- Alabama Travel
- Discover Our Town
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
- Fayetteville Community News
- Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce
- Sylacauga Recreation
- Talladega Chamber of Commerce
- Talladega County
Information from this post comes from Wikipedia and the above stated websites. The opening quote by Mr. Billy Atkinson, Sr. came from Childersburg Magazine found on the city website. Thanks to all those working to compile information on this historic county!