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Google Map of Cahaba - first Alabama capital

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Cahaba, Alabama (sometimes spelled Cahawba), now a ghost town and state historic site, was the first permanent state capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1825, following Huntsville being designated as the Constitutional Convention Capital on July 5, 1819, upon the formation of the state legislature. It was located near the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, not far from the city of Selma. Cahaba's low elevation next to the river gave it a reputation for flooding and an unhealthy atmosphere. Those people who were opposed to Cahaba being the capital used these arguments to persuade the legislature to move the capital to Tuscaloosa in 1825 (then to Montgomery in 1845. Within weeks, Cahaba had been nearly abandoned.

In later decades, the area recovered and reestablished itself as a social and commercial center. Cahaba became a major distribution point for cotton shipped down the Alabama River from the fertile "Black Belt" to the port of Mobile. The addition of a railroad line in 1859 triggered a building boom in the town of Cahaba. On the eve of the American Civil War, more than 3,000 people called Cahaba home.

During the Civil War, the Confederate government seized Cahaba's railroad, reappropriated the iron rails to extend another nearby railroad of military importance. The cotton warehouses on the riverbanks were stockaded for use as a prison.

In 1865, a flood inundated the town, and in 1866 the Dallas County seat was removed to nearby Selma, Alabama. Businesses and families followed. Within 10 years, even the houses were being dismantled and moved away.

Although the area is no longer inhabited, the Alabama Historical Commission maintains Cahaba as a state historic site. Visitors to this park can still see the abandoned streets, cemeteries, and ruins of this former state capital.


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