· Area: 643 square miles
· Population: 31,704 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Bear Creek
· Major Highways: U.S. 43
· County Seat: Russellville
· Largest City: Russellville
Franklin County was created by an act of the territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, almost two years before Alabama became a state. The county was named for Benjamin Franklin and originally contained parts of Colbert County. Franklin County is located in what was once territory occupied by the Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Creeks. In 1806, former vice president Aaron Burr hid for two weeks in Dismals Canyon, located in the town of Phil Campbell in the northeastern part of the county, after killing political rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Between 1816 and 1820, Andrew Jackson and his troops built Jackson's Military Road, which shortened travel time between Nashville and New Orleans, through portions of Franklin County. In 1840, the county became one of the leading iron manufacturers in the state. Iron produced at the Cedar Creek Iron Works aided both the Mexican and Civil War efforts. The furnace was destroyed in July 1864 during Union general Lovell H. Rousseau's raid through Alabama.
Major Cities and Demographics
As with most of Alabama during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the economy in early Franklin County revolved around cotton, corn, and livestock. But the county's early economic history also included mining operations along the banks of Cedar Creek near Russellville. Spurred by the abundance of iron, the Cedar Creek Furnace became one of the leading centers of mining in the state. Iron produced at the furnace was shipped to Mobile and used in the Mexican War and later was used for the manufacture of munitions during the Civil War. The largest industries in present-day Franklin County are poultry processing and durable-goods manufacturing, including Leisure Creations, which manufactures patio and pool furniture. Other industries include farming, livestock, timber, and stone.
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (17.5 percent)
· Retail trade (10.2 percent)
· Construction (6.9 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (5.3 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.1 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (4.1 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.6 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (3.1 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (3.0 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.8 percent)
· Public administration (2.5 percent)
· Information (0.8 percent)
Comprising approximately 643 square miles, Franklin County lies in the northwestern area of the state, wholly within the Highland Rim physiographic section. It is bounded to the east by Lawrence County, to the south by Winston and Marion counties, to the west by Tishomingo and Itawamba counties, Mississippi, and to the north by Colbert County. A portion of the William Bankhead National Forest is located on the southeastern border of the county.
Events and Places of Interest
Franklin County's rural location offers several outdoor activities and attractions. Bear Creek is popular with canoers and kayakers and is bordered by scenic rock cliffs and challenging Class I to IV rapids at its upper end. Bear Creek Lake offers 8,000 acres of some of the cleanest recreational waters in the state and excellent bass fishing, with the average fish weighing in at 10 to 12 pounds. In addition, the lake offers skiing, swimming, boating, and campsites in more than five campgrounds. Dismals Canyon, a Registered National Natural Landmark, has been voted one of the country's most secluded and beautiful areas. The canyon includes waterfalls, more than 350 species of flora, and what are known colloquially as "dismalites," strange glowing insects called fungus gnats. In addition, a small portion of the William Bankhead National Forest is located along the eastern border of the county. Bridge Canyon is home to Alabama's largest rock formation, a giant sandstone cliff embedded with quartz deposits that rises 285 feet. Located near Hodges in the northern area of the county, the canyon also contains caves, springs, waterfalls, and an 82-foot-long natural bridge. Every August, the town of Russellville hosts the annual Watermelon Festival, which features a pageant, a 5K race, arts and crafts, and tennis tournaments.
Heritage of Franklin County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 1999.