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Etowah Historical Society

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QUEENS OF THE COOSA

 

The fourth of July is not only the anniversary of the founding of our nation; it is also the date that Gadsden became a brain storm of some of our founding fathers.

On July 4, 1845 the people who lived at Double Springs heard sounds that were new to them. Rushing to the banks of the Coosa River they saw a sight that many years was to become common. Coming up the river was a steamboat, the first to have been seen here. As they lined the bank of the river they waved to the crew and it moved toward them and docked at the site of the present Broad Street Bridge . The Hughes bothers, Gabriel and Joseph as well as John S. Moragne were among those witnessing this grand occasion. The arrival of the "COOSA" with its captain, James Lafferty, brought forth the dream of a city on the banks of the beautiful Coosa River . Lafferty remained for a short visit, and a proposal was made to him for him to establish a dock at this location, and a town to be laid out to become Lafferty's Landing. He agreed to the establishment of a dock, but declined the offer that the town bear his name.

The Coosa had been built in Cincinnati , Ohio , and made its way down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans . From there, she made her way to Mobile and up the Mobile , Alabama and Coosa Rivers to Wetumpka where the river became too shallow for the boat. It was dismantled and hauled by wagons to Greensport where it was reassembled and launched on her first journey up the river.

This marked the beginning of the era of the steamboats what was to last for more than fifty years. King Cotton reigned supreme in this area and provided a means of getting the harvested cotton to markets.

Marvin B. Small in "Old Steamboat Days" gives us the following view of Lafferty's Landing. "In the years long gone Broad Street extended all the way to the river. In order to make this extension, a deep cut was made in the bluff, slaves with pick and shovel performing the arduous work.

"The road extended from First Street down to the foot of the bluff. There it branched; to the right it led to the steamboat warehouses and wharf. The left branch led to John Wisdom's ferry. The road was always rough and rocky and there were deep ruts cut by the wheels of the heavily loaded wagons hauling freight to and from the landing. At the north side of the road was a wide board walk for the convenience of the foot passengers."

The Civil War and its effect on the Southern economy caused a decline in steam boat activity, but they rebounded, and by 1873 some six boats carried 30,000 bales of cotton from Rome in a single season.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, several steamboats were constructed in Gadsden . In the early 1880's, The City of Gadsden was completed on the west bank of the Coosa near where the old bridge now stands. It was followed shortly after by, The Willie C. Wagnon, built by Rev. Peter Wagnon, a prominent lumber and timberman of the Ball Play area, and named for his daughter. The Willie C. Made her maiden trip from Gadsden to Rome in November 1898.

Other steamboats on the Coosa were: The Etowah Bill, The Dixie, The Hill City, The Clifford B. Seay, The Joel Marable, The Sidney P. Smith, The Conasauga, The John J. Seay and The Magnolia, at 333 tons was the largest and finest of all the boats. Two other unique were The Hercules, a side-wheeler, and The Wanderer, which had a propeller instead of the traditional stern paddlewheel.

Most of the boats had square sterns with curved bows and averaged 150 feet in length. The primary purpose was to haul freight, but they were often chartered for the day by organizations for all-day social functions, particularly the church groups for Sunday school picnics.

The last commercial freight carrier on the Coosa was The Cherokee III, it sank at the wharf in Gadsden in 1922. The name of the Annie M was changed to the Leota

 

 

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ducational Programs- Presentations of historical interest. Current programs of history in the making.

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The Etowah

Historical Society

 P.O. Box 8131

Gadsden, AL 35902

(Physical address at

2829 W. Meighan Blvd.)

 

Danny Crownover

President

256-613-6844

E-mail:

 

 

Officers & Board Members

President ...........................Danny Crownover

1st Vice President ..................Traci Pondick

2nd Vice President ............Sharyon Ramsey

Recording Secretary ...........John McFarland

Corresponding Secretary ..Molly Cheatwood

Treasurer ............................Gorden Maddox

Historian .................................Patsy Hanvey

Devotional ...........Gennie McDaniel Dawson

 

 

NOTICE

The Society meets every 2nd Friday night each month at Elliott Community Center, corner of 29th Street & Meighan Blvd. at 6:00pm.

Each month we have an enjoyable presentation and refreshments.

Come and enjoy!!!

 

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