See Rock City

See Rock City

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gadsden, AL

Gadsden is a city in and the county seat of Etowah County, northeastern Alabama, United States, approximately 60 miles northeast of Birmingham. It is the principal city of and is included in the Gadsden Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 103,459. As of the 2006 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 37,291.

It was at one time the state's second most important industrial center, trailing only Mobile. The two cities were important shipping centers: Gadsden for riverboats and Mobile for international trade. Up until the 1980s, Gadsden was almost totally dependent on heavy industry, including Goodyear Tire, and Republic Steel. After virtually crumbling in the 1970s and 1980s, Gadsden decided its best course of action was to stop being dependent on industry, and shedding its "company town" image. In 1991, Gadsden was awarded the honor of "All-America City" by the National Civic League, an award that honored the way Gadsden's citizens, government, businesses, and voluntary organizations work together to address critical local issues.


The first substantial white settlement in what is now Gadsden was a tiny town called Double Springs. It was begun by a mixed Indian-white settler named John Riley when he built his house near two springs around 1825. It became a stagecoach stop on the Huntsville-to-Rome route. The original house still stands today as the oldest house in Gadsden. The house changed hands to a couple named Gabriel and Asenath Hughes in 1840. Shortly thereafter, they began to purchase much of the land between Lookout Mountain, the Coosa River, and down to the mouth of Wills Creek. Their land, plus that of John S. Moragne and Joseph Rhea, became the first part of the city of Gadsden. Double Springs was transformed on July 4, 1845, when one Captain James Lafferty piloted the first steamboat to the area, aptly named the Coosa. He landed near the site of the current Memorial Bridge on that date. The Hughes brothers offered to name the town "Lafferty's Landing" in his honor, but Lafferty declined. Instead, the name Gadsden was chosen, in honor of Colonel James Gadsden of South Carolina, famous for the later Gadsden Purchase.

Perspective map of Gadsden in 1887.

The Spirit of American Citizenship Monument on Rainbow Drive (US 411), just before the Broad Street Bridge. The Coosa River and East Gadsden are visible in the background.

After the civil rights movement and the closing of most of Gadsden's major industries in the 1970s and 80's, the city began to crash. A 1989 Rand McNally article listed Gadsden as one of the "Seven Worst Cities to Live in the United States." Spurred to action by these reports, efforts like the Cultural Arts Center and downtown redevelopment earned Gadsden first place in the 2000 City Livability Awards Program.


Citing statistics from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations and the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority reports that approximately 12,000 residents of Etowah County are underemployed and 2,179 residents are unemployed as of 2008.


The Gadsden City Board of Education oversees fourteen schools: eight elementary schools, three middle schools, one high school, and two specialty schools (one alternative center and one technical center).

Coosa River Bridge

A new high school, Gadsden City High School, replaced the three former city high schools (Emma Sansom High School, Gadsden High School, and Litchfield High School) via merger for the 2006-2007 school year.

Gadsden is home to three institutions of higher learning: Gadsden State Community College, which is the second largest among the 27 two-year institutions comprising the Alabama College System, Jacksonville State University, and the University of Alabama, although the latter are small satellite institutions.

Points of interest

Noccalula Falls Park

The Legend of Noccalula

The LEGEND OF NOCCALULA came from these early times. Originally known as Black Creek Falls, the legend as written by Mathilde Bilbro says that "long ago, on a mountain summit within sight and sound of a rushing waterfall, lived a great Indian Chief whose young daughter, Noccalula, was famed far and wide for her beauty and loveliness of character. Many gallant braves sought the old chief for the hand of Noccalula, but only on was favored by the girl's father, a rich chief of a powerful neighboring tribe, who had much to offer in exchange: wampum, horses, blankets. Vainly Noccalula pleaded that her heart was already given to a young brave of her own tribe. But this young warrior, though noted for his skill and valor, possessed but little in worldly goods.

"The old chief refused to listen and ordered his daughter to make ready for the marriage he had arranged. What was a maiden's silly fancy against many horses, much wampum, and union with another strong tribe? The girl's lover was driven from the tribe, and a marriage agreement was made with the neighboring chief.

"The wedding day came and a great feast was prepared. In silence Noccalula allowed herself to be arrayed in festive wedding robes. It was incredible!......To be sold to a stranger by the father she loved! Her chosen lover forever banished! Overcome with grief, she quietly slipped away from the merrymakers during the festivities.......the soft rhythmical rush of waters called her.....a moment she stood poised upon the brink of the yawning chasm. One leap--and her troubles were over.

"Heartbroken, the remorseful father gave the great cataract his daughter's name and since that day the falls has been called Noccalula.

Noccalula Falls Park will open for visitors on March 1, 2008. Tickets will be sold at the Entry and Pavilion for walk-in as well as for the train rides.

Princess Noccalula

Renovations on the Park were completed in 2006, now visitors will be able to walk or ride the train through the Park. The Habitat area and Petting Zoo are also open.

Gilliland-Reese Covered Bridge

Coosa River

Downtown Gadsden

James D. Martin Wildlife Park

Notable natives and residents

James B. Allen, Former United States Senator

Ron Billingsley, Retired American football player

Marion Blakey, Former United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator

Brodie Croyle, Quarterback for Kansas City Chiefs

Holley Ann Dorrough, Former Playboy Playmate

Danny Ford, Former American college football coach

Gold City, American Southern gospel group

Beth Grant, American actress

Steve Grissom, NASCAR driver

La'Donte Harris, Former Wide Receiver for the Clemson Tigers

Linda Howard, Romance novelist

Mathew Knowles, Father of Beyoncé Knowles,

Britt Leach, American actor

Theodore J. Lowi, Cornell University professor, author, and past president of the American Political Science Association

Eric Martin, lead singer for rock group Mr. Big

James D. Martin, Former United States Representative

Aimee Mayo, Songwriter

Jerry McCain, Blues artist

Roy Moore, Controversial "Ten Commandments" judge

B. L. Noojin, Athlete and businessman

John Perkins Ralls, Gadsden physician who served in the First Confederate Congress

Emma Sansom, Aided the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War

Steve Shields, Retired American baseball player

Ted Sizemore, Former major league baseball player

Warren Smith, Former professional golfer

Carnell Williams, Running Back for Tampa Bay Buccaneers