History of Randolph
By an act of the Legislature of Alabama, on December 18, 1832, the county of Randolph was created and named for John Randolph of Petersburg, Virginia. It was at that time somewhat larger than it now is. In 1867, an act of the General Assembly of Alabama reduced its size by the creation of Clebume County from the northern portion and Clay County from a portion on the west. As it now stands, it covers an area of 583 square miles, or 272,120 acres. The length from north to south is 25 1/2 miles and the average width is 21 3/8 miles
before the white man came; Randolph County was inhabited by Creek Indians. Just who the first white man was and when he came is not known, but he was probably with DeSoto when his explorations brought him through this region, and that was in 1540. And it took the Creeks more than 200 years to recognize the white man as a problem and a danger. But Andrew Jackson came in 1814 and with the slaughter at Horseshoe Bend, 15 miles from Randolph County, the Creeks were through forever. The survivors were removed to Oklahoma in what is known as the “Trail of Tears”, and Louina was one of them.
This left the region open for new ownership, and Randolph County was created from part of this newly acquired territory. Trading posts overrated by white men were already in existence at McDonough, Louina, High Pine, and Lamar. McDonough was changed to Wedowee. Louina was displaced by Wadley. High Pine became Roanoke, and Lamar moved to Woodland.
The first county seat was at Triplett’s Ferry, on the west bank of the Big Tallapoosa River, about 10 miles west of Wedowee. In 1835, it was moved to Wedowee which was within 1 1/2 miles of the center of the county. Wedowee was already an Indian village, and it was surveyed and plotted by Hodgeman Trivlett that same year. The first courthouse was built of logs in 1836. It had no doors or shutters, no seats for the Judge or Jury, and no table for the clerk. Proceedings were written with pencil on poplar bark, as there was no paper nearer than Wetumpka. In February. 1837. The Commissioners Court ordered the sheriff, William Hightower, to provide shutters, seats, and a desk. A new courthouse was built by Isaac Baker in late 1839 and 1840 at a cost of $2,000. The first jail was built in 1839 at a cost of $1,000. In 1857, a new brick courthouse was constructed but was destroyed by fire in 1896 and all records were lost in the fire. The next court house built in 1897 at a cost of $21,000 and was considered fireproof, but it too burned in 1940; however, the records were saved.
Randolph County was becoming a popular place to live and make a
living. In 1860, the census records show these figures:
Total population – 20,059
White population -18,132
Free Blacks – 23
Slaves – 1,904
Randolph County ranked 5th from the bottom of Alabama counties in percentage of slaves. There just weren’t very many slave holders in Randolph County.
The Alabama State Convention was held on December 24, 1860. Randolph County had 3 delegates to the convention, and when the vote was taken to secede, all 3 voted against secession. However, the vote was 61 for secession and 39 against. So, once Alabama seceded, most of the citizens of Randolph County supported the Confederacy, but a small minority did not. There were some from the Wedowee area who joined the Union Army. and there were some who became scalawags – moved to the North until the war was over and became involved in Reconstruction when they returned Governor William Hugh Smith of Wedowee being one of them.
There were at least 2 raids by Yankee troops into Randolph County that are recorded in the Official Records of The War Between the States. The first was in July, 1864, and was known as Rousseau’s Raid. The second was about 2 week later and was known as McCook’s Raid. Neither of these raids resulted in skirmishes because when they learned that Confederate Gen. Clanton’s 8th Alabama Cavalry was in the area, they left for Atlanta, but there were 8 Yankee soldiers captured. There were no Gettysburg’s or Shiloh’s or Bull Runs in Randolph County, but when those Yankees passed a house, they took the livestock and food and left the women and children to suffer hunger.
For more than 50 years, the chief business center and largest town in the county was Louina, which was located on the eastern side of the Tallapoosa River. More than 1/3 of the taxes that the county received came from Louina. Some of Randolph County’s most famous citizens lived in Louina. But the railroad came through on the other side of the river in 1906.
Which caused the new town of Wadley to displace Louina, and Louina went the way of the wind and became a ghost town.
And the development of Wadley was the wind that blew Louina away. Wadley was actually a vision of Fuller E. Callaway of LaGrange, GA fame. It was the Calloway Development Company that surveyed and plotted the town of Wadley, donated the land for the churches and municipal buildings and parks. Most of Wadley’s early industries centered around land and timber, but in 1957, Jack Clegg built the Clegg Manufacturing Co. which made men’s shirts and was a very successful enterprise which kept growing but Jack Clegg died and it was sold to Bob Rosen, who lived in New York.
It continued to prosper until Bob died – was sold again but failed to DTosver, and it closed. And in 1963, a new plant was built and named Wadley Mann. It manufactured wrought iron furniture. It changed hands a few times but in later years became known as Plantation Patterns and expanded to a size as
big as the rest of Wadley and employed more people than any industry in Randolph County. But it too hit hard times in 2009. The principal landmark of Wadley is Southern Union College which was founded in 1922 by the Congregational Christian Church and was originally known as Bethlehem College, and was built on a 44.75 acre plot of land donated by Mr. John Hodge, in 1928. the name was changed to Piedmont College and in 1930 was changed again to Southern Union College. In 1964, the Congregational Christian Church donated the college to the State of Alabama, and is presently known as Southern Union State Community College. Enrollment in 1923 was 51, and presently is 4,971 and has 3 campuses. The original town of High Pine was burned in an Indian uprising in 1836, but the survivors rebuilt, and in 1840 changed the name to Chulafinee, probably to appease the Indians, but changed the name again in 1842 to Roanoke because that was the name of John Randolph’s plantation in Virginia. The first store in Roanoke was owned and operated by J. M. Baker and Wiley McClendon and was located where the Handley High School gym now stands. The second store was Jim Furlow’s and was where Louina Street begins. The first industry was Waller’s Mill located near what is now the Roanoke Water Works on the Wadley Highway. Roanoke grew little before the War Between the States, and at the end of the war, 2 stores and a post office made up the business part of town. There was some growth between 1865 and 1867, hut it received a boost in t 887 when the Central of Georgia Railroad came to Roanoke, but that’s as far as it went. Schuessler and Company built one of the largest cotton warehouses in the state adjacent to the railroad, and that was really the beginning of prosperity for Roanoke. 20 years later, a Roanoke businessman, Carter Wright expanded the prosperity. By education and previous experience, he was a civil engineer, a land surveyor, and surveyed and established, with the financial aid of Capt. W. A. Handley, another railroad named the A B & A, which came from South Georgia through Roanoke to Wadley and Talladega and on to Birmingham. This was a boon to the farmers of Randolph County because it brought the market to them. Randolph County was primarily agricultural, and prior to the coming of the railroads, there was no way to get the produce to market except by mule and wagon. A remarkable group of men in Roanoke began to look beyond the horizon. In 2 years they saw the town almost double in population – from 350 in 1888 to 631 in 1890. By 1900 they saw it almost double again to 1,155. And 1900 was the year that 5 Roanoke men, W. A. Handley, Z. J. Wright, Henry Knight, R. L. Schuessler and Major Schuessler incorporated the W. A. Handley Manufacturing Co., which became Roanoke’s principal industry for more than 70 years. There were other industries that boosted the economy of Roanoke such as the Roanoke Guano Company, the Cotton Seed Oil Mill, the Ice Plant, and the Goodall Company that made garments. They are all gone now – victims of changing times. But other industries have come, and Roanoke continues to prosper.
There were many other communities in Randolph County’s history. There was Graham and Lamar and Rock Mills and Rock Stand and High Shoals and Pittman and Springfield and Big Springs and Omaha and Swagg and Almond and Malone that are little more than names now. In 1903, there were 52 post offices in Randolph County.
Randolph County continues to prosper in the modem day as well as historically, and that most probably is due to the dedicated efforts of the Chamber of Commerce.