Located in south Alabama on the Florida border, Escambia County is home to portions of the Conecuh National Forest and the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation, the only recognized Native American group in the state of Alabama. The county is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes five incorporated communities. The name likely came from the Creek word for "clear water" or the Choctaw word for "canebrake."
· Founding Date: December 10, 1868
· Area: 951 square miles
· Population: 38,319 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Conecuh River
· Major Highways: I-65, U.S. 31, U.S. 29
· County Seat: Brewton
· Largest City: Atmore
Escambia County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on December 10, 1868, from portions of Baldwin and Conecuh Counties. On July 27, 1813, the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek, one of the more significant battles of the Creek War of 1813-1814, took place in what is now Escambia County. In July 1813, Peter McQueen, a Creek warrior of the Red Stick faction, secured a cache of weapons from the British and Spanish at what is now Pensacola, Florida. U.S. troops ambushed McQueen and the Red Sticks on the banks of Burnt Corn Creek but were then routed by a Red Stick counterattack. The Red Sticks considered the act a declaration of war and retaliated with the infamous Fort Mims Massacre. At the time of the battle, the site was part of Conecuh County; although the actual site has not been located, most sources now place it in Escambia County.
Fort Crawford was established in 1816 to monitor the activities of the Spanish in Florida and defend against increasing conflicts with the Creek Indians. The majority of the Creeks were forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland in the 1830s, with those who remained, centered largely around Atmore, becoming known as the Poarch Creek. The only federally recognized tribe in the state, they continue to live in and around their reservation in Poarch, where they operate a series of casinos. In 1861, the town of Pollard was established at the juncture of the Alabama & Florida and the Mobile & Great Northern railroad lines. Steamboats once traversed the Conecuh River carrying cargo to and from Pollard. The town was, in its heyday, an important rail center and was a vital Confederate military post during the Civil War. In January 1865, Pollard was the site of a battle between Confederate troops under Gen. James Holt Clanton and a force of federal raiders. The town was later burned. One of the South's greatest train robberies happened near Pollard on September 2, 1890, when the notorious "Robin Hood of Alabama" Rube Burrow forced the engineer to stop the train on the trestle across Big Escambia Creek. Burrows made his getaway but was trailed through Monroe County into Marengo County, where he was killed in a gun battle. Brewton, the county seat, is the birthplace of the legend of Railroad Bill. Stories about Railroad Bill, an armed African American vagrant who rode the boxcars between Flomaton and Mobile, surfaced in 1895 along the tracks of the Louisville & Nashville line. The legend of Railroad Bill has been immortalized in song, theater, and fiction.
Major Cities and Demographics
According to the 2010 Census, the population of Escambia County was 38,319. Of that total, 62.1 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 31.9 percent as African American, 3.4 percent as Native American, 1.9 percent as Hispanic, 1.5 percent as two or more races, and 0.2 percent as Asian. The median household income was $32,321, compared with $40,547 for the state as a whole, and the per capita income was $16,711, compared with $22,732 for the state. The county seat Brewton, had a population of 5,408. Other population centers include Atmore, East Brewton, Flomaton, and Pollard.
For most of the twentieth century, timber has been the dominant industry in the county, and Swift Lumber Company remains one of the largest employers in the area. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, turpentine was a major economic driver in the region. For many years, Vanity Fair lingerie operated a manufacturing plant in the city of Atmore, but it closed in the late 1990s. In 1952, oil was discovered in the town of Pollard.
The workforce in present-day Escambia County is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (17.6 percent)
· Retail trade (12.7 percent)
· Construction (9.5 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.9 percent)
· Public administration (7.8 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.3 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (3.7 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (2.6 percent) · Information (1.9 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.8 percent)
The Escambia County School system currently employs 304 who serve more than 4,700 students in 14 schools. In addition, the Brewton City school system employs 84 teachers who serve more than 1,322 in three schools. Escambia County is home to Jefferson Davis Community College, a two-year public coeducational institution.
Escambia County lies within approximately 951 square miles in the southern area of the state, within the East Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic section. It is bounded to the east by Covington County, to the south by Escambia County, Florida, to the west by Baldwin and Monroe Counties, and to the north by Conecuh County. Conecuh National Forest reaches into the southeast corner of the county. The Conecuh River flows southwest through the eastern half of the county, as do several of its tributaries: Burnt Corn, Murder, Cedar, and Little and Big Escambia Creeks. Interstate 65 runs north-south in the western part of the county, and U.S. 31 and U.S 29 run east-west through the eastern and southern half of the county.
Events and Places of Interest
Atmore is home to the Poarch Band Creek Indian Reservation, which offers casino gambling. Every November, the reservation hosts the Poarch Creek Band Indian Pow Wow. Every summer, the town of Brewton hosts its annual Blueberry Festival at Burnt Corn Creek Park. The Thomas E. McMillan Museum, located on the Brewton campus of Jefferson Davis Community College, includes displays relating to the culture, archaeology, and history of Escambia County.
Heritage of Escambia County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 2002.
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