Blountsville: The first 200 years

Blountsville Courthouse about 1888 before it burned in1895. -courtesy of Blount County Memorial Museum

Blountsville Courthouse about 1888 before it burned in1895. -courtesy of Blount County Memorial Museum

While Blountsville officially turns 200 years old this year, ancient burial grounds and petroglyphs document people traveling through the site of today’s Blountsville even before the first settler, Caleb Fryley, made his home at what was then identified as Bear Meat Cabin (Blountsville) in 1816.

So much rich history, as well as some fun facts, have evolved since that first settlement. Today begins a series of articles that will provide readers with some of the rich knowledge of Blountsville history.

Blountsville College football team ca. 1900 -courtesy of Blount County Memorial Museum

Blountsville College football team ca. 1900 -courtesy of Blount County Memorial Museum

Since its inception as Bear Meat Cabin in 1816 and being named after the Creek Indian chief to the first church being founded in 1818, Blountsville has had many other milestones over the past 200 years.

Some of these milestones are revered as great, while others are simply just milestones that have allowed Blountsville to develop into a town with the presence of its important past to be maintained even today.

Tennesseans began trading at Bear Meat Cabin Village in 1816. The name was officially changed to Blountsville and it was made the county seat in 1820.

The first post office was established in 1821, and a brick courthouse and jail were erected in 1833. The foundation of the courthouse and jail still exists in the town’s business district despite it burning in 1895.

Maps as early as 1825 show Blountsville as being an important and early crossroads and stagecoach stop for those traveling. The roads that came together just north of Blountsville allowed easier access for those traveling northwest to Huntsville and those traveling northeast to Tennessee.

This intersection allowed Blountsville to prosper greatly.

By the 1860s, Blountsville stood at the intersection of eight roads, including five major highways through northern Alabama. Merchandising, liquor sales, and blacksmithing continued to boost Blountsville’s economy. Several boarding houses, including The Nation House, Copeland Inn, and Barclift House, took in tenants during the stagecoach days.

George Powell, one of the earliest settlers of the area, who became one of the first surveyors of Alabama, and who later authored the first historical account of Blount County, wrote this of Blountsville in 1855:

“Blountsville, is the county seat of Blount, and contains twenty-five families. The courthouse and jail are brick – all of the other buildings are of wood. It has two churches, a Temperance and Masonic Hall, and a good schoolhouse called an Academy. Of the inhabitants, three are physicians, two are preachers, two lawyers, four dry-goods merchants, one tavern-keeper, two grocers, four blacksmiths, two wagon makers, one cabinet maker, two tailors, and one tanner. Blountsville has no shoemaker – no saddle or harness-makers.”

Holding a strategic position during the Civil War, Blountsville operated a depot there for refurbishing horses. It also was the site of the cemetery scene of the Forrest- Streight Raid in May 1863, when Confederate and Union forces briefly collided in the town.

The county seat was moved to Oneonta in 1889, after a diverse struggle among the citizens. Records were taken secretly at night across Graves Creek Covered Bridge, which is located just above the present-day Mardis Mill.

Despite no longer being the county seat, being bypassed by railroads and interstates, Blountsville survived.

Banking, documented as early as 1923 when the Bank of Blountsville was established, has been a major industry, as well as chicken and egg processing plants during its history. Blountsville still houses a major chicken processing plant today.

Throughout its great history, Blountsville has had an atypical tradition in education. Blount College was located on the town square from 1890 until it burned in 1895. The Ninth District Agricultural School was housed in Blountsville from 1895 to 1917. At that time, it became a State Secondary Agricultural School. Today’s J. B. Pennington High School is the successor to the Ninth District Agricultural School.

Blountsville’s population has grown from the initial 25 families in 1855 to 1,684 persons in 2010. It now covers a total area of 5.49 square miles.

Blountsville United Methodist Church is the town’s oldest building. Built in 1818, it remains in use today.

Celebrating 200 years is a remarkable time to share some of the town’s monumental history. Blountsville Historical Society member Jane Wright said, “We are just trying to preserve and appreciate our history.”

Society member Betty Alexander said she believes the phrase, “Where the past stirs the soul,” puts everything into perspective as everyone works together to preserve Blountsville’s profound history.

The Blountsville Historical Society, the Town of Blountsville, and other community members are working on several events throughout 2018 to highlight this historic era.