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Franklin County Bicentennial begins with kickoff ceremony

A little rain couldn't wash away 200 years of history as a crowd of more than 200 gathered outside the Franklin County Archives Tuesday morning to celebrate Franklin County's Bicentennial.

Along with six other Alabama counties, Franklin County was formally created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1818. Lauderdale County also celebrated its Bicentennial that same date.

Tuesday's Bicentennial kickoff was emceed by Russellville attorney Roger Bedford, Jr. The Russellville High School Marching Hundred performed the National Anthem, with members of American Legion Post 31 of Tuscumbia posting the colors.

Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) read a resolution congratulating Franklin County from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. A special song, Franklin County, written by the late Betty Starnes, was played before the commemorative marker recognizing Franklin County's 200th birthday was unveiled.

The marker reads: “The Alabama Territorial Legislature created Franklin County on February 6, 1818, from lands ceded two years earlier by the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations. The county was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. The first sheriff was James Frazier. The first probate judge was John S. Fulton, appointed in 1821. At its creation, Franklin County consisted of more than 1,200 square miles and just two towns, Russell's Valley (Russellville) and Big Springs (Tuscumbia). The creation of Colbert County in 1867 from the northern portion of Franklin reduced greatly its original size. Tuscumbia became the seat of the new county.

In 1818, Joseph Heslip constructed Alabama Iron Works, the state's first iron ore furnace. Iron produced at the Franklin County facility, which was later renamed Cedar Creek Furnace, aided in both the Mexican War and Civil War. In July 1864, Union Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau destroyed the furnace during his raid through Alabama.

Franklin County has made several notable contributions to the area of higher education. The origins of Alabama's first state-chartered college are in the county. The Methodist Church established LaGrange College there in 1830. The first graduate, J.D. Malone, was a native of nearby Limestone County. In 1855, the college relocated to Florence, Lauderdale County. In 1974, it was renamed the University of North Alabama. John Nooe, the first graduate of the University of Alabama, was a son of Franklin County. Russellville native Luther Noble Duncan served as Auburn president from 1935 until his death in 1947.

In 1881, 25 residents of Franklin county organized Alabama's first chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Members of the group had previously attended meetings of the order in neighboring Mississippi. Alabama Charity Chapter #1 received its charter a decade thereafter. When a fire destroyed the original lodge, located in Burleson, it relocated to Vina and then Red Bay.

The oldest marked grave in Franklin County is that of Maj. James Dorman, a veteran of the War of 1812, who died on April 11, 1819.”

A set of 45 books, each chronicling a famous Alabama native, will be donated to each Franklin County and Russellville school after a grant was obtained by Ozbirn. Colbert County schools also will receive the book collections, as a result of efforts by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Bedford reflected on the people and places of Franklin County and how fortunate he is to have spent most of his life here.

I think about the history of Franklin County, from Pogo to Trapptown and back, and realize how beautiful a place this is to live and how we are truly blessed,” Bedford said.

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