The site of numerous Civil War skirmishes, Limestone County is located in the northwest part of the state and is a center of space and technology development in the state. Three Alabama governors once called Limestone County home: Thomas Bibb, Joshua Lanier Martin, and George S. Houston. Limestone County is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes several incorporated communities.
· Founding Date: February 6, 1818
· Area: 559 square miles
· Population: 82,782 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Tennessee River, Elk River
· Major Highways: Interstate 65, U.S. 72
· County Seat: Athens
· Largest City: Athens (largest city completely within county boundaries)
Limestone County was created by an act of the Alabama Territorial General Assembly on February 6, 1818. The county was created from former Chickasaw and Cherokee Indian lands ceded to the United States in 1816. Limestone County was named for the creek that flows through the county and whose bed is made of hard limestone. The earliest settlers came to the county from Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Some of the earliest settlements and towns included Athens, Belle Mina, and Mooresville. Limestone County was host to a number of conflicts during the Civil War, one of the most well-known being Colonel John Basil Turchin's siege and occupation of the city of Athens. The city was destroyed and Turchin was eventually tried for his conduct toward the citizens of Athens. He was acquitted and promoted to brigadier general by President Lincoln.
Athens was chosen as the county seat in 1819. A number of courthouses have been built and used in the county since its inception. The first courthouse, a wooden structure, was built in 1820 and occupied until 1825, when the courthouse was replaced by a second wooden courthouse. This courthouse was in use until 1835, when a third courthouse was built, which in turn was in use until 1863, when it was destroyed in the Civil War. After the Civil War, a fourth courthouse made of brick was built and used until 1916. In 1919, the fifth and present-day courthouse was built. It has undergone minor renovations and updates since 1919.
On April 27, 2011, a massive storm, causing numerous powerful tornadoes, struck the southeastern United States. More than 250 people were killed in Alabama, including four people in the Calhoun County communities of Tanner (3) and East Limestone (1).
Major Cities and Demographics
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Limestone County was 82,782. Of that total, 80.3 percent of respondents
identified themselves as white, 12.6 percent as African American, 5.5 percent as Hispanic, 1.8 percent as two or more races,
1.1 percent as Asian, and 0.7 percent as Native American. Limestone County includes small parts of the cities of Decatur, Huntsville, and Madison. The largest city within Limestone County's borders, however, is Athens, with an estimated population of 21,897.
The median household income was $50,325, compared with $40,547 for the rest of the state, and the per capita income was $24,978,
compared with $22,732 for the rest of the state.
The earliest settlers of Limestone County found the level, fertile land good for farming a variety of crops, and agriculture was the prevailing industry of the county until well into the twentieth century. Early farmers raised corn, wheat, and oats as well as cattle and hogs. By 1820, cotton had become the major cash crop, and cotton plantations sprang up throughout the county. Textile mills and other cotton-related industries soon followed. Industrialization was given a significant boost in the late nineteenth century with the completion of a series of locks and dams along the Tennessee River, which provided communities with an abundance of water power. During the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority constructed a series of dams on the Tennessee and other rivers, bringing hydroelectric power to the county's citizens and industries. Today, as part of the Huntsville-Decatur Metropolitan Area, the principal industries in Limestone County center on the space and technology industries.
The workforce in present-day Limestone County is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing ( 20.3 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (17.9 percent)
· Retail trade (12.0 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (10.4 percent)
· Construction (8.3 percent)
· Public administration (6.2 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (6.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.3 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (2.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.7 percent)
· Information (1.4 percent)
Some of the largest employers in Limestone County include Delphi Steering Systems, the Limestone County Board of Education, and Athens State University.
The Limestone County school system employs nearly 1,050 teachers and administrators who serve nearly 8,000 students in 13
primary and secondary schools. Athens City Schools employ more than 375 teachers and administrators in seven primary and secondary
schools, serving more than 2,800 students. Calhoun Community College, a two-year institution, has campuses in both Decatur
and Tanner, offering degrees in arts and sciences as well as vocational and technical programs. Athens State University is
a two-year senior college, offering the final two years toward a bachelor's of arts or science, located in Athens.
Comprising 559 square miles, Limestone County is located in the northwest part of the state. The county is part of the Highland Rim physiographic section and consists of limestone valleys and uplands. Oak and hickory forests grow along the shoreline of the Tennessee River and its tributaries. Limestone County is bordered by the state of Tennessee to the north, Madison County to the east, Morgan and Lawrence counties to the south, and Lauderdale County to the west.
The Tennessee River and its tributaries run throughout the county. Elk River, one of the Tennessee River's largest tributaries, drains much of Limestone County. The Tennessee River is considered to be amongst the most biologically diverse rivers in the entire United States, with many fish and mussel species at risk. The river offers a range of economic and recreational opportunities for Limestone County.
Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 72 are Limestone County's main transportation routes. I-65 runs north-south through the middle
of the county, and U.S. 72 runs east-west through the middle of the county. There are no public airports in Limestone County.
Events and Places of Interest
There are a number of recreational opportunities for visitors to Limestone County. The Bayhill Village and Marina is one of Alabama's largest inland marinas and offers access to some of the state's recreational and bass-fishing waters. The resort offers campgrounds, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, a swimming pool, and picnic areas. Located in downtown Elkmont, Rails to Trails is a 10.3-mile trail where walkers can retrace the steps of Civil War soldiers. It is open to hikers, bikers, bird watchers, and horseback riders. The Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area is managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and is located in the southwest part of the county. The area consists of 8,870 acres along the Tennessee River and offers waterfowl, small game, and deer hunting. Other outdoor recreational opportunities in Limestone County include Wheeler Lake and the Athens Sportsplex.
Limestone County is home to a number of historical attractions as well. The Antebellum Trail winds through eastern Limestone County between Decatur and Huntsville. The trail is a driving tour featuring 24 antebellum homes, three antebellum churches, and two antebellum working cotton plantations. The Alabama Veteran's Museum and Archives in Athens honors veterans with displays of memorabilia from the Revolutionary War to the present. Visitors to Athens State University can tour Founders Hall, which was built in 1842. Local legend says the building was saved from burning by Union troops during the Civil War when the college president produced a letter written from President Abraham Lincoln. Founders Hall, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, also houses the Altar of the New Testament woodcarving. Other historical attractions in Limestone County include the 1845 Donnell House in Athens and the historic districts of Elkmont, Mooresville, and Ardmore.
Each year, Limestone County hosts a number of annual events and festivals. The Ardmore Renaissance Faire is held each April
and features music, arts and crafts, food, and games. Sam McCracken Days is an annual bluegrass festival held the second
weekend in May. Musicians and dancers compete for more than $10,000 in prize money in 21 competitive categories, such as buck dancing, band
competition, and fiddling. The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention (TVOTFC) is an annual event held the first full weekend in October on the campus of Athens State University and consists
of two days of competition in 18 categories as well as more than 150 booths of activities, food, and arts and crafts. Other
events in Limestone County include Mooresville Biennial Olden Days and the Festival of Trees in Athens.
The Heritage of Limestone County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Donna J. Siebenthaler
Published August 21, 2007
Last updated September 11, 2014