Located in southeastern Alabama, Dale County is home to the largest section of Fort Rucker Military Reservation, the primary flight-training base for and home of the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center. The county is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes eight incorporated communities.
· Founding Date: December 22, 1824
· Area: 561 square miles
· Population: 50,251 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterway: Choctawhatchee River
· Major Highway: U.S 231
· County Seat: Ozark
· Largest City: Ozark
Dale County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on December 22, 1824. The county was named for Georgia native Samuel Dale, an early pioneer who led a group of settlers to Alabama. In 1841, the county was split in half to create Coffee County and in 1868, Geneva County was formed from southern portions of Dale County. In 1903, Dale County was further reduced when the state legislature carved Houston County out of the southeastern corner. The county seat was originally located at Daleville but was removed to Newton in 1843 and finally to Ozark in 1870. The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1884 and replaced by an ornate brick structure in 1901. In 1968, the county erected the current courthouse.
In 1936, the Farm Security Administration, in an effort to increase farm prices, purchased 32,000 acres of land on the western border of Dale County to create a wilderness reservation. Under the Resettlement Administration proposal, farmers were paid by the federal government for their poor lands and then were moved to more profitable ones. The Works Project Administration reforested the lands and in 1940 built the 800-acre Lake Tholocco. Known as Bear Farm, the lands were transferred to the War Department in January 1942 to serve as a training ground for soldiers during World War II. Named Camp Rucker for Confederate colonel Edmund Rucker, the training base became Fort Rucker in 1955. Fort Rucker became the centerpiece for the U.S. Army's aviation programs when flight training was consolidated at the base in 1973. In addition, the Air Force has trained its helicopter pilots at the base since 1971.
Major Cities and Demographics
According to the 2010 Census, the population was 50,251. Of that total, 74.1 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 19.3 percent as African American, 5.6 percent as Hispanic, 3.0 percent as two or more races, 1.1 percent as Asian, and 0.7 percent as Native American. According to 2009 Census estimates, the median household income was $43,657, compared to $40,547 for the state as a whole, and the per capita income was $22,092, compared to $22,732 for the state as a whole. The county seat, Ozark, had a population of 14,907. Other significant population centers include Daleville, Newton, Midland City, Grimes, Pinckard, Napier Field, and Level Plains.
During the nineteenth century, Dale County was populated by small farmers who raised corn, cotton, and livestock. In 1888, the Central of Georgia Railroad built a track from Eufaula to Ozark, and in 1889 the Alabama Midland Railroad completed a line from Troy to Ozark. In 1914, the Mutual Cotton Oil Company, originally called the Ozark Oil Mill, was created to process the oil in cotton seed. Other businesses that located to the county during the early and mid-twentieth century were Cowikee Mills, a cotton-processing plant, Columbian Peanut Mill, Tri-Glass Manufacturing, Mass Merchandising, and Frit Industries.
The workforce in present-day Dale County is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.4 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (11.1 percent)
· Retail trade (10.7 percent)
· Manufacturing (10.4 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (10.3 percent)
· Public administration (9.8 percent)
· Construction (8.0 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (6.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.5 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.7 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.4 percent)
· Information (1.4 percent)
The Dale County school system currently employs 170 teachers who serve more than 2,500 students in seven schools. The Ozark City School System employs 179 teachers who serve approximately 2,800 students in eight schools. The Daleville City and Fort Rucker school districts include 180 teachers who serve approximately 2,700 students in six schools. Dale County is home to the Fort Rucker campus of Wallace Community College, a two- year college system. The Dale County campus merged with the Alabama Aviation and Technical College in 1997.
The Choctawhatchee River runs along the county's southern border, and several of its tributaries, including Little Choctawhatchee River and Claybank and Little Judy creeks, traverse the area. U.S. 231, running southeast-northwest, is the county's major transportation route. Blackwell Field in Ozark is the county's only public airport.
Events and Places of Interest
Lake Tholocco, located at Fort Rucker, is a 640-acre facility that offers a full range of recreation activities, including swimming, boating, camping, RV parking, volleyball, basketball, and hiking. Ed Lisenby Lake (Dale County Lake) is a 92-acre lake that offers excellent bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and shellcracker (also known as red-ear) fishing. Every year, Ozark hosts the Claybank Jamboree, which features antiques, paintings, food, music, and a 5K race. Other attractions include the Dowling Art Museum, which showcases local art.
Heritage of Dale County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 2001.
McGee, Val L. Claybank Memories: A History of Dale County, Alabama. Ozark, Ala.: Dale County Historical Society, Inc., 1989.
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