First Capital of the State ofAlabama
An Act to authorize the Governor to pay to the TownCouncil of Cahawba two thousand dollars on accounts of the Bridge whichthey are now building in the town of Cahawba.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representativesof the State of Alabama; in General Assembly convened, That the Governorbe, and he is hereby authorized, to pay or cause to be paid to the TownCouncil of Cahawba, the sum of two thousand dollars, part of the sum heretoforeappropriated out of any monies which may have arisen from the sale of lotsin said Town, for the purpose of enabling the said Council to carry on,and completethe Bridge now erecting across the Cahawba River, so soon asthe said Council shall have executed a bond to the Governor for the sumof four thousand dollars conditioned, that the said sum of two thousanddollars, with all legal interest thereon, shall be returned to the Governorof the state within twelve months from the passage of this act, if thesaid Bridge shall not be completed within that time.
[Approved, Dec. 15, 1820.]
An Act authorizing a Lottery for the building of a Bridge overClear Creek within the limits of the town of Cahawba.
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives ofthe State of Alabama, in General Assembly convened, That it shall and maybe lawful for Henry Hitchcock, Alexander Pope, Thomas Casey, Uriah G. Mitchell,and Edmund Lane, or a majority of them, to raise by Lottery in one or moreclasses as to them may seem most convenient and necessary any sum of moneynot exceeding two thousand dollars to be appropriated in building and completinga bridge over Clear Creek within the limits of the town of Cahawba, andthe said Henry Hitchcock, Alexander Pope, Thomas Casey Uriah G. Mitcheland Edmund Lane, or such of them as may choose to act, shall before theyenter on the duties of their office enter into a bond in the penal sumof ten thousand dollars, payable to the Governor and his successors inoffice, with such security as shall be approved by the governor; conditionedfor the faithful discharge of the several duties imposed upon them by thisact; which bond may from time to time be put in suit in the name of thesaid state by any person injured by a breach thereof; and it shall be theduty of the said manages within ninety days from the completion of thedrawing of the said lottery to pay to the fortunate persons or persons;or to his, her of their, order, all such prizes as may be due agreeableto the scheme which they may have determined upon and published by them,the said lottery shall be drawn in the Town of Cahawba or at such otherplace as may be most expedient, giving due notice of the time and placeof such drawing; each of the said managers and each clerk that may be employedshall before the drawing commences take oath to act fairly and im-
partially in the discharge of this several duties, which oath may beadministered by any Justice of the Peace. If the said lottery or any classthereof be not drawn within one year after the scheme of the same may havebeen published the same shall cease and said managers shall refund on demandthe price of the ticket to the holder of the same.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the aforesaid managers herebyrequired and authorized to contract for the building and completing theaforesaid Bridge at such place and on such plan as they may deem most convenientand proper out of the funds that may be raised by the lottery. It shallbe the duty of the said managers within six months after the passage ofthis act and at all such times thereafter, as they may be required, toreport to the Intendant and Town Council of the Town of Cahawba, the progressmade in the sale of the tickets, the drawing of the lottery and the erectionand completion of said Bridge.
[Approved Dec. 11, 1820.]
An Act to authorize the Governor to sell lots on the public lands eastof Alabama river and opposite the town of Cahawba.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representativesof the State of Alabama in General Assembly convened, That the acting Governorbe authorized, and he is hereby required, to cause to be laid out and exposedto sale on the public lands on the east side of the Alabama river, oppositethe town of Cahawba, under the same rules and regulations that lots inCahawba have been sold, a number of lots containing one half acre each,and not exceeding the number of fifty.
[Approved December 20, 1820.]
Lightning fire sparks new interest in Old Cahawba
By Leigh Anne Monitor
OLD CAHAWBA — A lightning bolt flashed, and a little white woodenhouse deep in the countryside caught on fire.
It burned to the ground in late July — potentially a strike of goodluck for the house and for the area for which it served as a gateway.
The house, a welcome center, led visitors into the once thriving, nowvacated town of Old Cahawba. All that remains of the first permanent capitalof the state is now called Old Cahawba Archaeological Park.
Before the fire, the walls of the welcome center displayed the historyof the capital taken from reprinted photographs and old drawings depictinglife more than a century ago. Artifacts dug from the area sat in a glasscase at the center, from pottery dating to 1540 from Pensacola Indiansto earthenware dating to the 1820s.
Park officials may use the fire as a chance to acquire a historicalbuilding for a new, bigger welcome center.
About 50,000 visitors come to see the town annually, even though theview doesn’t go beyond trees in large grassways, the Alabama River andthe 1,000-square-foot welcome center site. The town itself also featureswide boulevards, a couple of cemeteries, 27 artesian wells and a boarded-uphouse and a boarded-up antebellum-style slave residence, two of the remainingstructures among hundreds lost to time.
One building that was lost was a Civil War prison that housed 3,000Union soldiers. Such structures were either moved or, more often, fellapart.
Despite the lack of structures, the site still draws visitors. But beforethe fire, Victor H. and Clara Price of Shelby brought their friends, Jackand Minnie Shaw of Chelsea, to see the sights there. All in their late60s, they were camping in their RV at Prairie Creek, between Selma andMontgomery.
“What’s amazing, they laid those blocks (parcels of land) out,” VictorH. Price said. “There had to be some smart engineers.”
“It’s a ghost town,” said Linda Derry, site director of the park, whichis owned by the Alabama Historical Commission. “The footprint of all theselives is still buried here, undisturbed. This is Alabama’s story.”
The town already had a history of flooding and neglect that ended itslively times more than a century ago. The town’s modern and most prominentbuilding was the welcome center, built in the mid-1990s to look like itwas constructed in the 1800s.
“We had been struggling along — we can’t always give guided tours, butyou (could) come into the welcome center and you had a great.. tour ofthe area,” said Jonathan Matthews, cultural resources specialist and assistantdirector of the park.
Another obstacle has been acquiring land for preservation. Descendantsof people who once lived in the township still own some of the land itself.But land acquisition has hit an obstacle: The annual $300,000 appropriationfrom the state legislature was eliminated earlier this year.
Now, land acquisitions will depend on donations, Derry said.
At issue are privately owned, dilapidated hunting cabins and trailersremaining in several places in the park.
If these purchases are completed, the park will offer 1,000 acres forevents such as public archaeological digs, Derry said.
The park provided Old Cahawba with $312,000 this fiscal year. The fundinglasts through the end of this month, park officials said.
The budget for fiscal year 2006 will be $271,000, said Mark Driscoll,director of historic sites for the state; the cut is from state funds.
That funding cut will eliminate three employee positions: an educationcoordinator, a museum aid and a maintenance worker, Derry said.
A historic welcome center new to the site could help draw interest tothe area and likewise support for such necessities, supporters said.
“Rebuilding, that’s where things get interesting,” Matthews said. “Wemay not rebuild. We may do something even better.”
The township is awaiting word from the state risk management officeabout how much insurance money will be available from the fire. Fundingwill be used for the new welcome center.
The new center would be a four-room house with more space for exhibits,Matthews said.
Temporarily, a small educational building behind the destroyed welcomecenter will serve as a substitute.
“Hopefully, we can ride this wave,” Matthews said.