Located in south Alabama, Covington County is the birthplace of Luther Leonidas Terry, Surgeon General of the United States during the 1960s, whose educational efforts persuaded millions of Americans to quit smoking. The county is also home to most of the Conecuh National Forest. Covington County is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes three incorporated communities.
· Founding Date: December 7, 1821
· Area: 1,038 square miles
· Population: 37,765 (2010 Census)
· Major Waterways: Conecuh River
· Major Highways: U.S. 84, U.S 331
· County Seat: Andalusia
· Largest City: Andalusia
Covington County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on December 7, 1821, and was named for General Leonard Covington of Maryland, who fought in the War of 1812. The county's earliest settlers came from Georgia and the Carolinas. The county's boundaries changed in 1824, 1841, and 1868. In 1868, the name was briefly changed to Jones County, but reverted to Covington that same year. The first county seat was established at Montezuma on the banks of the Conecuh River in 1824 but was moved to Andalusia in 1844 after repeated flooding. The county remained relatively isolated until the Louisville & Nashville Railroad completed lines across the county, resulting in the creation of several towns, including Opp, Red Level, and Florala. At the turn of the century, the county's vast acres of pine forests led to a boom in the timber and turpentine industries. During the early twentieth century, the county experienced several acts of racial violence. Between 1901 and 1920, five African Americans were lynched for allegedly raping or attempting to rape white women.
Major Cities and Demographics
At the time of the 2010 Census, Covington County recorded a population of 37,765. Of that total, 84.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 12.5 percent as African American, 1.4 percent as two or more races, 1.3 percent as Hispanic, 0.6 percent as Native American, and 0.4 percent as Asian. The median household income was $33,691, compared with $40,547 for the state as a whole, and the per capita income was $19,899, compared with $22,732 for the state. The county seat, Andalusia, had an estimated population of 9,015. Other population centers in the county include Opp, Florala, River Falls, and Red Level.
Covington County's economy was largely agricultural during the nineteenth century, with cotton and corn being the staple crops. Prior to the arrival of the railroad, products were transported to nearby markets via wagon or flatboat. At the turn of the twentieth century, the abundant timber in south Alabama attracted land speculators who purchased large tracts of timberland, and several sawmills were opened in the county. Covington County's vast yellow pine forests also spurred development of the turpentine industry. During the 1920s several textile mills, including Opp Cotton Mill, Andala Company, and Micolas Cotton Mill, opened in the area. MFG/Alabama, a division of Molded Fiber Glass Companies of Ohio, recently announced that it will open a manufacturing facility in Opp.
The workforce in present-day Covington County is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (17.3 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (17.3 percent)
· Retail trade (13.6 percent)
· Construction (8.7 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (8.7 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (6.7 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (6.2 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (4.9 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.4 percent)
· Public administration (4.2 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.7 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.2 percent)
· Information (1.1 percent)
The Covington County School System currently employs approximately 190 teachers who serve more than 3,200 students in eight
schools. In addition, the Andalusia City School System employs approximately 115 teachers who serve more than 1,700 students
in three schools, and the Opp City School System employs approximately 90 teachers who serve nearly 1,400 students in three
Encompassing approximately 1,038 square miles, Covington County lies wholly within the Coastal Plain physiographic section. It is bounded to the north by Butler and Crenshaw counties, to the east by Coffee and Geneva counties, to the south by Okaloosa and Walton counties in Florida, and to the west by Escambia and Conecuh counties. The Conecuh National Forest, established in 1935, covers a large portion of the southwestern corner of the county. The Conecuh River runs through the western area of the county, and its tributary, Patsaliga Creek, runs through the northwestern section. In addition, Gantt Lake, created in the 1920s, impounds the Conecuh River. The Blackwater, Yellow, and Pea Rivers also feed into the county via the Five Runs, Clear, Dry, Panther, and Corner creeks. U.S 84 runs east-west through the center of the county, and U.S. 29 and U.S. 331 run north-south in the eastern and western sections of the state, respectively.
Events and Places of Interest
Every year the town of Opp stages Oppfest, an arts and antiques festival held during the last weekend of October. Opp is also home to the W. F. Jackson State Park, which includes 2,050 acres and a 1,000-acre lake stocked with bass, bream, crappie, and catfish. Opp also holds an annual Rattlesnake Rodeo. The Conecuh National Forest features a 20-mile hiking trail, as well as camping, fishing, and swimming. Florala State Park, located on the Alabama-Florida line, offers swimming, fishing, paddleboating, and picnicking. Gantt Lake, created in the 1920s by the River Falls Power Company, features largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill and is known for its red-ear sunfish, more commonly known as shellcrackers.
Heritage of Covington County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 2003.
Ward, Wyley D. Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871. Huntsville, Ala.: Ward, 1976.
Patricia Hoskins Morton
Published August 29, 2007
Last updated March 21, 2013