Friday, December 3, 2010

From Civil War To Civil Rights

Magnet # 408:  Montgomery Letters, Alabama State Capitol Dome

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

You know, I really have learned so much since starting this blog, even about subjects I thought I was pretty much an expert on.  But I don't remember ever hearing that my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama was actually the combination of two rival towns when I was growing up.  Yep, by 1816 Montgomery County had been formed to the southeast of the state's center and before long, East Alabama Town and New Philadelphia were established within its boundaries.  The two settlements butted heads, and even intentionally built their streets at  a 45 degree angle to each other, in the hopes of never being combined.  But they were nonetheless forced to put their differences aside on this day in 1819 when they merged and were incorporated as the city of Montgomery.  It was named after General Richard Montgomery, who died heroically during the Revolutionary War, but never set foot in Alabama.  Interestingly, Montgomery County was named for a different man, Major Lemuel Montgomery, who perished in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, just north of the location that would later bear his name.  Once incorporated, Montgomery grew quickly, built up to a large degree by the cotton industry as well as the steamboat and railroad industry.  And by 1846, it had replaced Tuscaloosa as the state capital.  Less than twenty years later,  Montgomery would receive another greater honor when it was named the capital of the Confederate States of America.  Jefferson Davis was even sworn in as President on the steps of its Capitol Building.  For a time, he and his family lived at what has since been dubbed the First White House of the Confederacy, just a brief walk away from the Capitol Building.  And when the signal to fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and thus begin the Civil War, went out, it was sent from the nearby Winter Building.  It's still standing and was home to a law office, but is empty now.  I even worked there for a short amount of time.  But in 1861, the capital of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond, Virginia.  The action may have been a blessing in disguise for Montgomery, which was pretty much untouched by Union troops during the Civil War.  Richmond, on the other hand, lost a great deal of its most historic sites in battle, along with many other Southern cities.

Life settled down in Montgomery for a time after the conflict came to an end and in 1910, Wilbur and Orville Wright created a flying school there that they used during the winter.  It would later develop into Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, which is now headquarters of Air University.  But Montgomery once again gained the nation's attention in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat there, beginning the Civil Rights Movement and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  This saw the end of bus segregation and helped local minister Martin Luther King, Jr rise to prominence as a leader of the struggle for civil rights.  And Montgomery, along with nearby Selma, continued to be the site of  important events until a greater equality was achieved.  The capital city seems to have quieted down once again.  It's now home to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and finally got is first skyscraper, a 22-story building, in 1996.  For the most part, Montgomery has remained the only city in Montgomery County over the years.  But in 1997, the town of Pike Road was established, and these two entities are now rivals.  I hope they don't take it too far - to this day, driving in downtown Montgomery can be a challenge, with its mismatched streets, and I'd rather not have another something of that nature develop again.

For so many years, Montgomery has been a home to me, and while I won't go so far as to say it's been perfect, I have enjoyed my time there.  It's been fun having the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Montgomery Museum of Fine Art so close by and they really are impressive venues. And the fact that it has two interstates running through it makes the city much quicker to travel through - that's certainly not an option here in Savannah.  It's funny,  I just realized I knew another Montgomery native who's been living in Savannah earlier this week.  I'd known him for awhile, but never suspected we had that in common.  Even though these two places aren't that far apart, I rarely meet anyone here from Montgomery.  Perhaps we can carpool sometime for a trip back home, because I know it's only a matter of time before I'll be back in my old Montgomery home once again.


  1. It is interesting how we can almost always learn new facts about a topic in which we thought we were an expert. There's always more to learn not to mention new developments. This blog must be a real learning experience.

  2. Yes, it's really helped me to learn so much more!