Located near the geographic center of the state in the Coosa River Valley, Talladega County is home to the Talladega Superspeedway race track and the state's highest mountain, Mount Cheaha. The county was also the birthplace and childhood home of actor Jim Nabors, known for his roles as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle USMC television series in the 1960s as well as a substantial recording career. Talladega County is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes the incorporated cities of Talladega, Sylacauga, Childersburg, and Lincoln.
· Founding Date: December 18, 1832
· Area: 753 square miles
· Population: 82,291 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Coosa River
· Major Highways: Interstate 20, U.S. 78, U.S. 280
· County Seat: Talladega
· Largest City: Talladega
Talladega County was created by an act of the Alabama General Assembly on December 18, 1832, from land ceded by the Creek Indians in the March Treaty of Cusseta. The county was named after the Creek Indian village of Talatigi, which means "border town." The earliest settlers came to Talladega County from the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee. Some of the first towns were Talladega, Sylacauga, and Childersburg.
The first and only county seat of Talladega County was established at Talladega City in 1834. Until the first courthouse was built in 1838, the court met in various homes and buildings. The first courthouse was a three-story structure, later reduced to two stories with a clock tower. Repairs and additions were made to the courthouse in 1882 and again in 1905. In 1912, the courthouse was struck by a tornado, and suffered fire damage in 1925. In 1977, the courthouse underwent major restoration. According to the Alabama Historical Commission, the Talladega County courthouse is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in the state of Alabama.
Major Cities and Demographics
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Talladega County was 82,291. Of that total, 65.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 31.7 percent African American, 2.0 percent as Hispanic, 1.3 percent as two or more races, 0.4 percent as Asian, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The largest city in the county is Talladega City, with an estimated population of 15,676. Other significant population centers include Sylacauga, Childersburg, Lincoln, Oak Grove, and Munford. The per capita income was $16,674, compared with $22,732 for the state as a whole, and the median household income was $34,488, compared with $40,547 for the state as a whole.
Like most of Alabama, farming was the prevailing occupation of Talladega County until well into the twentieth century. A number of crops were grown in the county, but wheat was predominant. With its long stretches of upland forests, lumbering was also an important part of the economy of Talladega County. By the early twentieth century, a series of locks and dams along the Coosa River enabled the movement of goods on the river and made manufacturing a greater part of the county's economy. Dam construction in the 1930s and 1940s brought hydroelectric power to the area, and manufacturing boomed. In 1941, the U.S. Army operated the Alabama Army Ammunition Plant, just outside Childersburg, producing chemicals such as TNT and smokeless powder. Shut down in 1945, the plant is now a Superfund toxic clean-up site. Textile manufacturing was especially important until the early twenty-first century, when Avondale Mills closed down in July 2006. Sylacauga is sometimes known as the Marble City because it sits on a solid deposit of hard, white marble. Gantt's Quarry, near Sylacauga, is one of the largest marble quarries in the South. Today, the automotive industry is the largest industry in Talladega County.
The workforce in present-day Talladega County is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (23.0 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (19.7 percent)
· Retail trade (12.6 percent)
· Construction (7.5 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.5 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.5 percent)
· Public administration (5.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.0 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.8 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.8 percent)
· Information (1.2 percent)
The Talladega County school system employs nearly 1,000 teachers and administrators who serve approximately 7,700 students in 18 primary and secondary schools. The Sylacauga City Schools and the Talladega City Schools together employ more than 600 teachers and administrators in 13 primary and secondary schools, serving more than 5,000 students. Talladega College in Talladega City is a historically black four-year liberal arts college offering a variety of academic degrees. Established in 1867, it is the oldest historically black college in the state of Alabama (Alabama State University also was founded in 1867). Founded in 1858, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega consists of the Alabama School for the Deaf, the Alabama School for the Blind, and the Helen Keller School. The institute also includes a series of regional and technical centers to support the development of those with sensory impairments.
The Coosa River and its tributaries run throughout Talladega County. The Coosa is one of the most utilized rivers in the state, so much of the river's diversity is restricted to its tributaries, which fan out throughout the county. A series of locks and dams along the Coosa River provide business and recreational opportunities for the county.
Interstate 20 is one of Talladega County's main transportation routes. It runs east-west across the northern portion of the county. U.S. Highway 78 also runs east-west just north of Interstate 20. U.S. Highway 280 runs northwest-southeast near the county's southern border. Talladega Municipal Airport in Talladega and Merkel Field Sylacauga Municipal Airport in Sylacauga are the county's only public airports.
Events and Places of Interest
There are numerous recreational opportunities for visitors to Talladega County. Talladega National Forest covers 375,000 acres of upland hills and low mountains that provide habitat for a diverse array of wildlife. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and picnicking. Portions of the Cheaha Wilderness and Cheaha State Park also lie within Talladega County. Known for its elevated terrain and panoramic views, the park attracts hikers from all over the Southeast.
Resting at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in Childersburg is DeSoto Caverns, a privately owned cave system that offers guided tours. The park's largest cave is 12 stories high and longer than a football field. The caverns are decorated with thousands of stalactite and stalagmite formations, making it one of the most concentrated collections of such specimens in the United States. Visitors may also enjoy a variety of activities, such as panning for gemstones or navigating the giant Lost Trail Maze.
The Kymulga Grist Mill, Covered Bridge, and Park are located just northeast of Childersburg. Built by a Confederate soldier, the mill and bridge are more than 140 years old and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several of the park's trees are believed to be older than the mill itself. Visitors to the mill and bridge can picnic in the adjacent park with its many animals and plants. Other places in Talladega County of historic significance include the Talladega Courthouse Square Historic District, the Sylacauga Historic District, Swayne Hall on the Talladega College Campus, and the Silk Stocking District in Talladega.
Perhaps the most popular modern attraction in the county is the Talladega Superspeedway, one of the biggest, fastest, and most competitive motorsports facilities in the world. Inaugurated in 1969, the speedway can seat more than 143,000 spectators in the grandstands and thousands more in the 212-acre infield. Adjacent to the track is the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum, which honors the most accomplished men and women in motorsports.
The Heritage of Talladega County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2000.
Jemison, E. Grace. Historic Tales of Talladega. Huntsville, Ala.: Strode Publishers, 1984.
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