Autauga County, Alabama



Autauga County History in Alabama As It Is by B F Riley - 1887

Auguata County History In Northern Alabama by Smith and DeLand - 1888

Watermills of Autuaga County in 1886

Source: Alabama As It Is by Benjamin Franklin Riley, D. D., 1887 , Transcribed by C. Anthony


Autauga county was created in 1818, and named from the Indian word autaugi, signifying a dumpling, meaning plenty. This is quite as suggestive to-day as it was when the Indian rudely cultivated his patches about his wigwam, realizing plenty from the generous soil in which this region abounds. From the first settlement of the county, in the earliest days of the present century, to this time, many of the best soils of Autauga have been subjected to the most exhaustive means of cultivation, and yet they seem as fruitful today as at any time in the past. Not only has Autauga held her place amid the most progressive agricultural counties, but it was one of the pioneer counties of the State in the manufactures.

The county has an area of 660 square miles.

Population in 1870, 11,623; population in 1880, 13,108. White, 4,397; colored, 8,711.

Tilled Land: 81,388 acres.—Area planted in cotton, 30,474 acres; in corn, 20,417 acres; in oats, 2,153 acres; in wheat, 700 acres; in rye, 63 acres; in rice, 43 acres; in sugar-cane, 22 acres; in sweet potatoes, 540 acres.

Cotton Production: 7,944 bales.

The surface of Autauga is undulating. In the northern portion there is a pine district, which is broken into hills and valleys. The forests are thronged almost altogether by the towering yellow pine, in the midst of which is slightly interspersed a stunted growth of black-jack oaks. The commercial value of this yellow pine is enormous, and will, one day, be a source of great revenue to the county. The lands of this region are thickly overspread with luxuriant herbage, embracing various wild grasses, clovers, and other plants, which afford superior pasturage. The deep subsoil of clay makes this a region favorable to the growth of fruits. The lands which skirt the streams in this portion of Autauga are good farming lands. Further down in the county the lands increase in their fertility, and one finds the farms multiplying the further south he goes. Sandy surface soil is still a predominating feature, but many of the lands lie well and are favorable to cultivation, both because they are level and because they are easily tilled. In this portion are found hummock lands, which lie along the streams. The table-lands are valuable for fanning because of their deep clay foundation. In the Southern portion of Autauga the lands grow more prolific, and in some places exceedingly fertile. Here are found what are called second-bottom or river-hummock lands. Here again is found a district of that fertile land which follows the deep rolling Alabama in its windings to the sea. That famons river forms the southern boundary of the county, and its rich alluvial bottoms yield splendid harvests. The lime lands in the southwestern part of the county are superior for the production of cotton. Thus it will be seen that the soils of Autauga range from the richest alluvial to those found upon the surface of the pine hills, including the red or brown loam table-lands of the county. The soils favor a diversified field industry, and. perhaps, no county furnishes a more thrifty and contented population than does Autauga. They produce for commerce and home consumption cotton, corn, oats, wheat, rye, rice, potatoes, sorghum, and sugar-cane. Many of these were at first planted only cautiously and as experiments, but they are productive and contribute so much to the happiness and welfare of the people that they are rapidly becoming staples. All the garden and orchard products that flourish in southern soil are easily produced in this county. Peaches, apples, plums, pears, grapes, figs, and pomegranates are ordinary luxuries. Principal among its timbers are white and chestnut oak, shell-bark hickory, ash, poplar, sweet gum, beech, maple, cedar, cypress, and vast districts of pine.

The water supply of the county is abundant, there being many streams, springs, and wells in every part of its territory. The main streams are the Alabama river, Big and Little Mulberry, Swift, Beaver, Nolan's, Whitewater, Bear, and Autauga creeks. Flowing through such lands as have been described above, these streams enhance their value for the production of stock. This industry is assuming greater prominence every year. Wool-growing is fast resolving itself into one of the industries of the county. These swift and deep streams are favorable also to the manufactures. For many miles along Autauga creek there are the most favorable locations for manufactories. This is true of other streams in the county. Appreciating this fact, Daniel Pratt, one of the pioneer manufacturers of the South, built a cotton mill upon one of the streams of the county as early as 1846. This has been followed by others, and to-day there are the following manufacturing interests in different parts of Autauga: Prattville Mills, Autaugaville Factory, Planters' Factory, and Lehman Mills. The Alabama river flows along its southern border, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia railroad also penetrates it in the west, and the Louisville and Nashville railroad cuts across the northeastern portion of the county; and these furnish the means of transportation. With an increase of such facilities, the county is in position to take a long stride forward. Principal among the thrifty little towns that dot the county over may be mentioned Prattville, the county-seat, with a population of 1,400, Autaugaville, Kingston, and Mulberry. These are thrifty centers and have good educational and church advantages. Common schools are sustained throughout the county.

Lands may be purchased at as low figures as $1-50 per acre; or, in highly-favored localities, it will cost from $S to $15 per acre. Since the recent discovery of marl deposits, the lands are more highly prized. These marls have not as yet been developed, but should they prove of no commercial value, they will be of great practical advantage in the enrichment of the surface soils. Immigrants would meet every encouragement in seeking homes in Autauga county.

There are 13,040 acres of government land to be had in the county.

 Source: Northern Alabama - Historical and Biographical by Smith & De Land, Birmingham, Ala 1888 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney


Population: White 4,760; colored 8,105. Area 660 square miles. Woodland 660 square miles. Gravelly hills 560 square miles. Calcareous lands, 100 square miles.

Acres - In cotton 30,120; in corn 20,750; in oats 2,910; in wheat 940; in rye 110; in rice 37; in sugar-cane 62; in sweet potatoes 500. Approximate number of bales of cotton, 7,700.

County Seat - Prattville: population, 1,625; located fifteen miles northwest of Montgomery.

Newspapers published at County Seat - Progress and Southern Signal (both Democratic).

Post offices in the County - Autaugaville, Billingsley, Bozeman, Independence, Jones Switch, Kingston, Milton, Mulberry, Prattville, Statesville, Vine Hill, Wadsworth.

Prior to 1818 this was a part of the territory of the county of Montgomery. In the fall of that year the Legislature at St. Stephens, assembled, by statutory enactment, created the new county of Autauga. It was named for Autauga Creek, a stream rising among the northern hills of the county, and meandering in a southerly direction, empties into the Alabama river.

The exact significance of the word "Autauga" is not now known. By some it is claimed to have meant "dumpling," an article of food, indicating a land of plenty. By others it is thought to mean "Clear Water. " The latter is probably more nearly correct.

The county is bounded on the east, west and north by Elmore, Dallas and Chilton Counties, respectively, and on the south by the Alabama River. Skirting the entire southern line of the county, the Alabama River affords ample transportation for its products to Montgomery, Selma and Mobile. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad crosses the northeast corner of the county, and the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia traverses nearly the whole of its western boundary. There are also several other railways contemplated and surveyed, whose routes will penetrate the interior section of the county, and give outlet to the inexhaustible minerals of Bibb, Tuscaloosa, and Walker Counties, and to the magnificent lumber of Autauga and Chilton.

The soils of Autauga County are of every variety. They are the isinglass lands and rich alluvial river bottoms, occasional patches of prairie, sandy surfaces with clay subsoil, rich hummock, and elevated red or brown table-lands. The surface of the county is generally broken and undulating, and yet in that portion bordering on the river, and even in the northern section where the hills predominate, there are extensive level plateaus well adapted to the purpose of agriculture. Indeed some of the most attractive farms to be found in Central Alabama maybe seen in this county. In the upper or northern section the soil is comparatively thin, and yet in many of the valleys and creek bottoms there is considerable productiveness, and the people often make good crops of the cereals, besides cotton, and are happy and content. It is in northern Autauga that the tall yellow pine, which is of so much commercial value, towers to perfection; and acres of this valued growth remains to-day in virgin ignorance of the sound of the woodman'. axe or saw. In the lower or southern section there are endless kinds of trees, the black, red and white post oaks, hickory. including shell bark, chestnut, walnut, persimmon, ash, sassafras, dogwood, poplar, gum, cedar, and cypress, with pines interspersed. The procuring of cypress and other valuable timbers for shipment is becoming an industry. The woods and forests at seasonable periods abound in fruits and flowers. There the wild grape and muscadine nourish in the greatest profusion, and when spring comes and touches nature with her verdure the most fragrant and lovely flowers, from the expansive magnolia to the modest violet, regale the senses and laden the air with the sweetest perfume.

The soils of Autauga, under judicious cultivation respond in abundant crops of cotton, corn, peas, potatoes, rye, oats, barley, wheat, chufas, rice, millet, milo-maize, sorghum, and sugar-cane. Perhaps in no section does the scuppernong grape grow in greater profusion in proportion to its cultivation. Pecans are also successfully produced. The gardens and orchards, under proper management, return all vegetables and fruits known to the climate, embracing, in the line of the latter, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, quinces, prunes, dates, plums, pomegranates and figs.

Perhaps no land is more favored with bright, running streams than Autauga. From north to south her territory is traversed with a number of bold and beautiful creeks, whose waters in many instances skirt rich productive bottom lands. Among these may be mentioned Big and Little Mulberry, Ivy, Swift, White Water, Hear. Autauga, Beaver. Pine, Big and Little Mortar. Upon the courses of these streams may be found many eligible locations for the founding of manufactories and industrial institutions.

This was one of the pioneer counties of the State in manufacturing. Located at Autaugaville are two cotton factories; at Prattville, one cotton factory, one sash, door and blind factory, and one cotton-gin factory. The Prattville Cotton Gin Manufactory is the largest of the kind in the world. It employs upwards of one hundred men, turns out over one thousand gins annually, and the "Pratt Gin " is known throughout the civilized world. Near Prattville, also, is a cotton factory, and scattered throughout the county is the usual number of grist-mills, shoe and blacksmith shops, public ginneries, etc. In the eastern part of the county is an earthenware establishment, manufacturing jugs, churns, urns and other articles of clay.

Ochre, fire-clays, paints and pigments abound in the county, while many of her magnificent springs are pregnant with healing and health-giving minerals.

Land is worth from one dollar to fifteen dollars per acre, and fine farming land can be had for three dollars per acre. Government land in the county, about 12,000 acres.

Rate of taxation, forty cents on the $100; county debt, none.

The people are law-abiding, hospitable, industrious and patriotic. The public-school system is but indifferently developed, though popular enough with the masses, and growing in importance, general health of the county, good. 






The following is a list by counties of the water powers that are utilized. The most of these powers are small, but they make a large aggregate, and they represent only an insignificant part of the power that is capable of development.


AUTAUGA COUNTY........................................................................................... H.P.


Charity P. Carter, Billingsley, flour and grist mill ....................................................... 15

Montgomery's Mill, Prattville, flour and grist mill ...................................................... 30

Public Grist Mill. Billingsley, flour and grist mill ........................................................... 9

Parker's Mill, Milton, flour and grist mill ................................................................... 20

Dawson's Mill, Netezen, lumber and timber mill ....................................................... 20

Ellis Mill, Jones Switch, lumber and timber mill .......................................................... 4

Long Leaf Yellow Pine Saw Mill, Autaugaville, lumber and timber mill ..................... 15

Ray's Saw Mill, Jones Switch, lumber and timber mill .............................................. 10

Swift Creek Mill Co. (Swift Creek), Autaugaville, lumber and timber mill ................. 70

John H. Herod, Netezen, lumber and timber mill ........................................................ 6

Prattville Cotton M. & Banking Co. (Autauga Creek), Prattville, cotton goods.

Continental Gin Co., (Autauga Creek), Prattville, cotton gin

Prattville Ice Factory (Autauga Creek), Prattville, ice factory

Doster Ginnery (Autauga Creek), Prattville, cotton gin

G. H. Roy, Vine Hill, cotton gin

The water power at Prattville was first developed about 1830, when it was used by a man named May to operate a small saw mill. About 1833 this water power and the adjacent lands were purchased by Mr. Daniel Pratt, who then erected a cotton gin factory, which was driven by the water power. The dam at that time was about eight feet high. A number of years after the purchase of this property by Mr. Pratt he increased the dam so that it now has a height of 16 feet, and is built of brick. At present it is used jointly by the Prattville Cotton Mills & Banking Company and the Continental Gin Company, thi former using about 255 horse-power and the latter about 100 horse-power. About half a mile below the dam above referred to is another dam affording about 8 feet head, and owned by the M. E. Pratt estate. This power operates a gristmill, cotton ginnery and ice factory, and the water wheel at that point has a rated capacity of 54 horse-power. About one mile above the dam of the Cotton Mill and Gin Company, there was formerly another dam 12 feet high, which afforded power for a cotton mill. This mill, however, was burned a number of years ago, and the dam has been allowed to go to ruin. It would probably afford 200 horse-power, or possibly a little more, should it be rebuilt.
     There is also a dam about two miles below Prattville known as the Montgomery mill property. This dam is about 12 feet high and affords power for a grist mill and ginnery. Only a small portion of the available power is used. It could afford, easily, 250 horse-power if the proper wheels were installed.


Source: Bulletin, Geological Survey of Alabama, by Truman H. Aldrich, 1886 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney



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