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De Kalb County, Alabama 1888
From Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical

Population: White, 12,125; [non-white], 416. Area, 740 square miles; coal measures, on Lookout and Sand Mountains, 490 square miles.

Acres — In cotton (approximately), 7469; in corn 23,929; in oats, 5115; in wheat, 6846; in rye, 383; in tobacco, 19; in sweet potatoes, 218.

Approximate number of bales of cotton, 3100.

County Seat — Fort Payne; population 350; on Alabama Great Railroad.

Newspaper Published at County Seat — Journal (Democratic)

Post Offices in County — Andrews Institute, Black Oak, Brandon, Chavies, Chumley, Collinsville, Cordell, Cotnam, Crossville, Crumly, Deer Head, Denton, Floy, Fort Payne, Geraldine, Gladney, Grove Oak, Henagar, Ider, Laurel, Lebanon, Lookout, Loveless, Luna, Lutterell, Lydia, Mahan, Musgrove, Nicholson’s Gap, Pea Ridge, Portersville, Rodentown, Sand Mountain, Sandy Mills, Skirum, Snake Creek, South Hill, Stella, Sulphur Springs, Ten Broeck, Thirty-Nine, Valley Head, Whiton, Wills.

De Kalb County took its name from the famous Baron De Kalb. It was constituted in 1836. De Kalb lies in the extreme Northeastern corner of the State, and is bounded by Georgia on the east, its extreme northern point touching the line of the State of Tennessee. It shares largely in the fertile lands and mineral deposits, both of which abound in this section of Alabama. Its climate, healthfulness, favorableness of location, and natural resources of wealth make it one of the most desirable counties in the State.

De Kalb has almost doubled within the last ten years [about 1878-1888], which serves to indicate quite fully the estimate which is paced on the county by immigrants and investors. This is due to the peculiar advantages offered in climate, diversity of productions, mineral deposits, and cheapness of lands, all of which are chief factors in the prosperity of the county. De Kalb County is occupied in great part by the two plateaus of Sand and Lookout Mountains. The former of these constitutes a high plane, whose surface rocks are those of the Coal Measures. These two plateaus, of which that of Sand Mountain is the greater, are separated by Wills Valley, which cuts entirely across the county from the northeast to the southwest. This valley embraces the most productive lands of De Kalb. It is here that almost all of the cotton of the county is produced.

The land along the valleys was very highly prized by the first settlers of the County, and but little regard was had for that which lay along the plateaus. Later, however, the uplands were brought into use, and the result of their tillage has been particularly gratifying.

They are not only cultivated with far less effort, but are found to be almost equal in production to the lower soils, when assisted some with fertilizers.

The lands of the county may thus be divided in a general way between the dark, stiff soils of the valley and the lighter soils of the plateaus. The staple productions are cotton, corn, wheat, oats, rye and sweet potatoes. Grasses and clover flourish also, and the attention which is being given their production is tending to the improvement of stock. As is true throughout the entire section of the State, the lands upon the plateaus are those devoted to fruit culture. Apples, pears, and peaches, and indeed, all fruit grown in this latitude attain perfection. Fruit trees thrive here for many years, and the crop is rarely killed or injured by frosts. Perhaps no section of America can display finer specimens of plums than grown in this region. The principle timbers of the county are oaks, hickory, cherry and short leaf pines. These exist in sufficient quantities for all domestic purposes.

De Kalb County has the amplest water supplies for all purposes. Streams of rapid and deep currents offer inducements for the erection of machinery, while cool and everlasting springs issue from the hills in every section of the county. Lookout Mountain plateau is drained by Little River and its tributaries, while Sand Mountain is drained by Tom Creek and the numerous streams which empty into it. Prominent among the streams are Long Island, Scarham, Black and South Santa Creeks.

Near Valley Head, in Lookout Mountain plateau, is where the beautiful falls of Little River occur. They are nearly 100 feet in height, with a deep, rocky gorge below them.

Iron and coal largely prevail in the county. In Will’s Valley there is found a superb quality of fire clay, which has become famous. It exists also in other parts of De Kalb.

The kaolin of the county is very fine. Specimens displayed at the New Orleans Exposition took the first premium in 1885, and beautiful crockery manufactured from these porcelain clays was exhibited there.

Railroad transportation is enjoyed by the people of the county as the Alabama Great Southern Railroad penetrates it from northeast to southwest. Fort Payne, the county seat, Collinsville, Lebanon and Portersville are the principle towns of the county. Public school system is good, and churches abound.

Lands can be secured upon the most reasonable terms possible. There are many Government lands yet unsettled, being 32,600 acres, and vast quantities of railroad lands, which can be had at a marvelously low rate. In other sections, where land is purchasable, it can be had for from $2 to $25 per acre.


A. Davis Smith and T.A. Leland, Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical (1888; reprint, Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Co., 1976), 135-136. Books published before 1923 have expired copyrights and are in the public domain.