The history of Alabama is a bit messy. The Spanish arrived in the 16th century, claiming the area as part of their colony of La Florida. In the 17th century England laid claim to it, including the area in their Province of Carolina. And then there were the French, who in 1702 founded Fort Louis on the Mobile River, making it the capital of New France. At the end of the French and Indian war, the 1782 Treaty of Paris gave Britain control of the area. After the Revolutionary War, Britain ceded the the south of Alabama to Spain and the north to the USA. Spain ceded most of that territory to the USA in 1795 and the Mississippi Territory was set up in 1798. In 1812 the USA claimed the Mobile District to be part of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Spanish did not resist. Come 1817 the Mississippi Territory was divided in two with the eastern section becoming the Alabama Territory, which achieved statehood in 1819.


Causeway across Mobile Bay

In the distance can be seen the causeway across Mobile Bay. The picture was taken in May 1982 when we were travelling along Interstate 10 from the Florida panhandle to New Orleans. Until 2009 this was the only time we had set foot in Alabama. The I -10 travels just inland from Alabama’s short coastline but to avoid a detour round Mobile Bay it crosses the bay on the causeway shown in this picture.

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Huntsville from Burritt on the Mountain

Our 2009 trip took us through north western Alabama, staying in the city of Huntsville. There are plenty of historical buildings to  in the city. It was a base for the Union Army during much of the Civil War and hence unlike many other towns in the area it did not suffer the fate of being burned. Huntsville’s other main clam to fame is just visible in the middle of this picture. The tall white spire in the distance is actually a Saturn V rocket at the US Space & Rocket Center. The rockets used in the Space Race were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, and it remains operational working on rockets to replace the Space Shuttle when it is retired. You can find out more on the Huntsville page.

Noccalula Falls, Gadsden

This 28 metre (90 foot) high waterfall was originally known as Black Creek Falls, but it is now known as Noccalula Falls after a local legend.  The legend says that an Indian Chief had a young daughter called Noccalula who was in love with a Brave of her own tribe. Her father wished to make peace with another tribe, so he offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to the chief of that tribe. Noccalula pleaded with her father to allow her to marry the man that she loved, but he would not listen.  On her wedding day Noccalula, dressed in her wedding robes, slipped away and leapt to her death over the edge of the falls. Noccalula Falls Park has a Pioneer Village, Petting Zoo, Botanical gardens and a train ride, but you don’t need to pay to go into the park if you only want to see the falls.

Gunter Avenue, Guntersville

John Gunter was a German immigrant who set up a salt mine in the early 1800s. In order to expand the mine, Gunter struck a deal with the Cherokee Indians, he married the daughter of the chief and supplied the tribe with salt in return for extra land to mine. The town of Guntersville sprang up adjacent to the salt mine. Today, Guntersville sits on a peninsula jutting out into the 121 kilometre (75 mile) long Lake Guntersville, which was formed when the Guntersville Dam was built across the Tennessee River. The lake is used extensively for fishing and water sports.





Piggly Wiggly, Forestdale, near Birmingham

If you saw the movie ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and were puzzled by Hoke Colburn saying ‘I stopped at the Piggly Wiggly and got you another can’, you know little of the deep south. Piggly Wiggly is not just a supermarket with a flamboyant name, it was the very first true self-service grocery store in the USA. The first store was opened in Memphis, Tennessee in 1916 by Clarence Saunders. The format was an immediate success. Today there are more than 600 Piggly Wiggly stores in 17 states, the vast majority in the deep south.  Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly in the early 1920, but he went on in 1937 to design and build a prototype fully automated store. It closed due to frequent mechanical failures.  So, why did Saunders choose the name Piggly Wiggley for his self service stores? Nobody knows.

State Capitol, Montgomery

The first capital of Alabama was Cahaba, but in 1825 a major flood caused the partial collapse of the State Capitol. Tuscaloosa took over as capital  until 1846 when it moved to Montgomery. The first State Capitol in Montgomery was built in 1847 but burned down two years later. The current Capitol designed by architect Barachias Holt was built on the foundations of the old one and it opened in 1851. For a few months at the start of the Civil War it was also  the capitol of the Confederacy until Richmond in Virginia took over. An east wing was added in 1885, a south wing in 1906 and a west wing in 1911. Despite extensions, the Capitol has proved too small for the House of Representatives and Senate, who moved in 1985 to the former State Highway Department Building, now renamed State House.



 Piggly Wiggly, Forestdale, near Birmingham, AL, USA
 State Capitol, Montgomery, AL, USA
Causeway across Mobile Bay, AL, USA



- Through the 1960s and most of the 1970s Alabama had a reputation as a state that fought against Civil Rights. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Alabama is now no different from other southern states.
- All of the places that we visited had some really well preserved historic buildings.
- The residual covert racism that is found in many Southern states.
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We have more pages on Alabama. Click below or on the Minimap:

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© Mike  Elsden 1981 - 2021

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