WASHINGTON COUNTY, FIRST COUNTY IN ALABAMA WHERE ALABAMA BEGAN
Named after George Washington, first president of United States, Washington County, Alabama is rich in history! It was established as a county in the Mississippi Territory June 4, 1800, making it the first county government to be established in what we now know as Alabama. The original boundaries of the county encompassed 25,000 square miles and twenty-six counties in Alabama and Mississippi have been carved from the initial geographic region.
Several events of historical significance have also contributed to a colorful heritage. In 1807, fleeing arrest for a treason charge in Natchez, Mississippi, Aaron Burr was captured near McIntosh Bluff. The former Vice-President of the United States was returned up north to stand trial.
Over the last two centuries, the County has been home to people of many cultures. In the early years, before the arrival of settlers from the Carolinas and Georgia, Native Americans and European colonials lived within the boundaries of the present county. The relationships between these three groups were sometimes cooperative, though often tense. Many episodes in the annals of Washington County are rooted in these initial years of interaction.
Washington County has a tradition of firsts--in 1811, Washington Academy, Alabama’s first chartered (private) school was established. Also, the first bank in the State, Tombeckbee Bank, was established. Several years later, St. Stephens, the site of its school, would also witness the building of the State’s first steamboat, the “Alabama”.
The State of Alabama and Mississippi was carved out of the Mississippi Territory. On March 3, 1817, Congress established the Alabama Territory and Washington County gave birth to our first and only territorial capital, St. Stephens. It is the oldest of Alabama’s five capitals.
Washington County is located in southwest Alabama and enclosed by the Mississippi state line, Choctaw County, the Tombigbee River and Mobile County. The county is about 60 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, and exceeds 682,000 acres and about 1,065 square miles. About 88 percent of the land area is situated in forest and pine plantations. Urban areas encompass about 7,900 acres of the towns of Chatom (which is the county seat), McIntosh, Millry, and Leroy.
Approximately 16,694 people live in Washington County, primarily in the municipalities of Chatom, Fruitdale, Leroy, McIntosh and Millry. There are many communities that branch out of the areas named above.
Effort is under way by the Washington County Historical Society, Washington County Museum Board and the St. Stephens Historic Commission to preserve the artifacts and legends that reveal the historical treasures within the county. The archaeological excavations at Old Fort St. Stephens are a great interest to historians. Washington County’s role in the history of Alabama and the United States is one of its most distinguishing features. The heritage of the county is one that is worthy of preservation!