Known as "the Emerald City," Evergreen is located in southwestern Alabama and is the county seat of Conecuh County. Evergreen is governed by a mayor and a five-person city council. The town suffered damage from a tornado and several fires in its early years but managed to recover and thrive each time. The town became nationally known in 1885 when greenery from the area surrounding the town was used to decorate the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland.
Richard Shipp was one of the first settlers to arrive from Georgia in 1818 and at one time owned most of the land where Evergreen is located today. Other early settlers also came from Georgia as well as South Carolina. Evergreen was founded officially in 1819 when Revolutionary War veteran James Cosey and several other men settled within the present limits of the city on what today is known as South Main Street. The area was referred to as "Cosey's Old Field"; Reverend Alexander Travis first called the town by its present name of Evergreen for the abundance of surrounding green foliage, plants, and ferns.
Conecuh County's first seat was Hampton Ridge in 1818, and it was moved to Sparta in 1830. Because Sparta was burned in a federal raid during the Civil War and because Evergreen was more centrally located in the county, the county seat was moved to Evergreen in 1866. Isaac Griffith and his wife, Julia Ann Hammond, donated the land for the new county courthouse on June 20, 1866, and the legislature authorized the construction of the courthouse. Evergreen was incorporated as a city on March 28, 1873. The town at one time was home to a Baptist orphanage and a 500-seat opera house.
In 1882, a tornado hit the city, destroying every building except for the Episcopal Church. On November 7, 1895, fire destroyed every business and house located on the east side of the railroad. Five days later, fire destroyed every business and house on the west side. The Conecuh County Courthouse itself burned in 1868, 1875, 1885, and 1895.
Evergreen’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 3,944. Of that number, 62.4 percent identified themselves as African American, 34.8 percent as white, 2.3 percent as Hispanic, 0.7 percent as two or more races, 0.2 percent as Asian, and 0.2 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $22,985, and per capita income was $11,482.
Evergreen remained relatively small until the Mobile and Montgomery Railway (now the L&N Railroad) was built through the town in 1861, making Evergreen accessible to rapid transportation. Evergreen today is served by Interstate 65 and U.S. Highways 31 and 84.
In 1818, Malachi Warren established the first general store in what was then called Sparta. The first newspaper in the county was published in Sparta beginning in 1856. Decorative greenery became a unique industry during the late nineteenth century. English immigrant George Caldwell recognized a market in northern states for greenery and established his own business in Evergreen. Caldwell earned the nickname "The Woodsman" and shipped smilax vine and other local greenery to the White House for the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland. Thus, Evergreen adopted the motto "Evergreen Decorates America."
The workforce in present-day Evergreen is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (18.8 percent) · Manufacturing (18.8 percent) · Retail trade (16.0 percent) · Educational services, and health care and social assistance (10.2 percent) · Public administration (10.2 percent) · Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (6.2 percent) · Other services, except public administration (5.4 percent) · Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.8 percent) · Information (4.1 percent) · Construction (3.3 percent) · Wholesale trade (1.9 percent) · Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.3 percent)
Leading businesses in Evergreen include Conecuh Sausage Company, Inc., which has produced hickory smoked sausage and ham since 1947; Guyong Technology Co., LTD, which produces and supplies automobile parts such as engine and transmission mounting brackets; and Knud Nielsen Company, Inc., which is now the largest company in the world devoted specifically to producing dried flowers and other decorative materials. Knud Nielsen currently employs more than 350 people and has more than 550,000 square feet of production and warehouse space in Evergreen. The town also hosts the Evergreen Medical Center and Pulmonary Associates, which is the largest pulmonary center on the Gulf Coast.
Records indicate that the earliest school in Evergreen was established around 1821 by George Andrews. Today, the Evergreen Public School System includes three schools: Evergreen Elementary School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, and Hillcrest High School, which combined total approximately 1,049 students. Evergreen also has one private school, Sparta Academy, which has approximately 270 students in grades K-12. Reid State Technical College is located in Evergreen and was created by the Alabama State Legislature on May 3, 1963.
Events and Places of Interest
Evergreen hosts an annual Fall Festival, Christmas Parade, and Sausage Day Festival. An original marker beacon for the Atlanta to New Orleans Contract Air Mail route and a historic airport tower are located about five miles west of Evergreen on Highway 84. During World War II, the U.S. Navy used the site as a training field for the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
The Heritage of Conecuh County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
Riley, B. F. History of Conecuh County, Alabama. 1881. Reprint, Blue Hill, Maine: The Weekly Packet, 1964.
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