Located in Barbour County, along the border with Georgia, Eufaula was an important shipping and trade center prior to the Civil War. The town is home to the second largest historic district in the state, with more than 700 historic and architecturally significant structures. At one time situated on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River, Eufaula now lies near the 45,000-acre Lake Eufaula, also known as the Walter F. George Reservoir, created by the construction of the Walter F. George Dam in 1963. Originally settled in 1816, Eufaula is now the most populous city in Barbour County. Eufaula has a mayor-council form of government, with council members elected on a non-partisan ballot for a four-year term.
In the late eighteenth century, three Creek towns occupied an area on both sides of the Chattahoochee River near the present-day city of Eufaula. In 1816, white settlers from Georgia arrived in search of fertile land and established the first permanent white settlement on these high bluffs above the river, adopting the Creek village name of Eufaula. With the opening of the Federal Road, white settlers came in ever-increasing numbers and many lived among the Creeks until the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta forced the Creeks to give up their ancestral claims to the land.
Gen. William Irwin, a hero of the War of 1812, was granted thousands of acres in neighboring Henry County as a reward for his military service and began to promote the area's development. His decision to establish the first steamboat wharf below Eufaula's high bluffs resulted in the town's eventual rise to prominence as a center of trade. In acknowledgment of General Irwin's efforts, the town was renamed Irwinton in 1832. U.S. Army captain Seth Lore and others developed the present-day downtown area beginning in 1834. It featured one long main street crossed by four north-south avenues, designated Livingston, Orange, Randolph, and Eufaula, the first letter of each avenue spelling Captain Lore's last name. In 1843, the town reinstated its original name because its mail was continuously being misdirected to a town in Georgia also named Irwinton.
Eufaula became an important shipping and trading hub for surrounding counties in both Alabama and Georgia, as local planters used the Chattahoochee River to bring their cotton crops to Apalachicola, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico and thence to overseas markets. Eufaula's success as a mercantile and trading center is evidenced by the town's numerous elegant antebellum homes, many of which grace the city to this day. With its economic success, Eufaula also began to aggressively assert its political influence with the formation in the late 1840s of the so-called "Eufaula Regency," a small group of local lawyers and planters, including future Alabama governor William C. Oates, who became instrumental in Alabama's secession from the Union in 1861. John Gill Shorter, an influential member of this group, served as governor of Alabama during the Civil War.
After the Civil War, Eufaula's economy suffered from the interruption in agricultural production caused by Emancipation. Nevertheless, by the 1870s, Eufaula had surpassed Clayton as the most populous and important city in Barbour County. Although Clayton, the geographical center of the county, was able
to retain its status as county seat, the state legislature compromised by establishing a branch courthouse in Eufaula in 1879.
By the turn of the century, with the tenant farming system well established, Eufaula's economy was again fueled by cotton, now supplying local textile mills. Also by this time,
railroads had begun to replace river traffic on the Chattahoochee as the area's major means of transportation. Cotton and
railroads remained important to Eufaula's economy into the 1960s. Light industry and tourism also became important aspects of the city's economy when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Walter F. George Lock
and Dam in 1963, impounding the Chattahoochee River, thus creating the Walter F. George Reservoir, or Lake Eufaula. In 1965,
the Eufaula Heritage Association was formed and began sponsoring the Eufaula Pilgrimage, a tour of its historic homes that
attracts thousands of visitors to the city each spring. More recently, Eufaula became one of two host cities (the other being
Buena Vista, Georgia) for the Chattahoochee Agritourism Project, which was developed by the Historic Chattahoochee Commission to promote organic farming, agritourism, and sustainable land-use practices.
Eufaula's population at the time of the 2010 Census was 13,137. Of that number, 51.0 percent identified themselves as white, 44.6 percent as African American, 4.3 percent as Hispanic, 0.9 percent as two or more races, 0.6 percent as Asian, 0.5 percent as Native American, and 0.2 percent as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The city's median household income was $34,025, and per capita income was $17,515.
The workforce in present-day Eufaula is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Manufacturing (25.4 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (19.7 percent)
· Retail trade (14.2 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.7 percent)
· Construction (7.4 percent)
· Public administration (5.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (4.6 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.4 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (3.9 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (3.1 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.7 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.5 percent)
· Information (1.1 percent)
The Eufaula City School System serves approximately 3,100 students and consists of three elementary campuses, a middle school, and a high school. Eufaula is also served by a private school offering classes from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and a Christian school offering classes from pre-kindergarten through grade six. Post-secondary educational opportunities are provided by Wallace Community College/Sparks Campus and The Bevill Center for Advanced Electronics Technology.
Two major highways intersect in Eufaula; U.S. Highway 82, an east-west artery, and U.S. Highway 431, a north-south route. Weedon Field Airport, located three miles north of the city of Eufaula is a general aviation airport that averages 100 flights per day. Eufaula is also serviced by Greyhound Bus lines with connections to most cities in the United States. Although the Chattahoochee River is no longer a major transportation artery, the Alabama State Port Authority maintains an inland docks facility near Eufaula.
Events and Places of Interest
Eufaula is a haven for both history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. The Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District is the second largest historic district in the state, consisting of more than 700 historic and architecturally significant structures. The district features the state's most extensive collection of domestic Italianate architecture, as well as a collection of intact mid-to-late nineteenth-century small-town commercial buildings. Throughout the year, tourists may take a walking or driving tour through the district, with more than 50 historic structures open to the public. Each April, the city hosts the Annual Eufaula Pilgrimage, Alabama's oldest tour of historic homes. The event also features tours of historic churches, open-air art exhibits, tea gardens, and an antique show. Other annual events include the Eufaula Street Art and Music Festival in August, the Indian Summer Arts and Crafts Festival in October, and a tour of holiday-themed homes and a Christmas parade in December.
One of Eufaula's more recognizable structures is the Shorter Mansion, completed in 1906 by Eli Sims Shorter II, cotton magnate and nephew of governor John Gill Shorter. The mansion was purchased by the Eufaula Heritage Association in 1965 and serves as the organization's headquarters. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has recognized the mansion as an excellent example of neoclassical architecture. It also serves as a museum honoring six Alabama governors from Barbour County, as well as Alabama native Admiral Thomas Moorer, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Another top tourist attraction is Fendall Hall, a historic house museum operated by the Alabama Historical Commission. Completed in 1860 by Edward Young, Fendall Hall is one of the great Italianate style houses surviving in Alabama. The hand-painted murals in three of the first floor rooms, completed in the 1880s, are recognized nationally as among the finest in the country. The historic Greek Revivial-style Hart House (ca. 1850), listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as a visitor information center and is the headquarters of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Eufaula provide year-round activities for visitors. The Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is an 11,184-acre federal preserve providing habitat and protection for such endangered and threatened species as the American bald eagle, American alligator, and wood stork. Many species of native wildlife may be viewed along a seven-mile automobile tour and from two observation platforms and a hiking trail. Lake Eufaula, known as the "Bass Capital of the World," consists of 45,000 acres and has 640 miles of shoreline. It attracts more than 10,000 fishermen each year and has become a tournament stop for the annual Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society (B.A.S.S.) Trail. Situated on the banks of Lake Eufaula, just north of the city, is Lake Point State Park. The park has a lodge, convention center, modern campground, vacation cabins and lakeside cottages, picnic areas, an 18-hole golf course, and a marina complete with launch facilities and boat slips.
In 1998, the Eufaula Parks and Recreation Department opened the Community Center Complex, which includes an eight-lane competitive
swimming pool, two racquetball courts, a fitness center, a gymnasium, and a walking and running track. The city also offers
Old Creek Town Park, consisting of eight lighted ball fields and recently serving as the site of the Dixie Boys World Series.
In addition to the course at Lake Point State Park, other golfing venues include Eufaula Country Club and Red Eagle Golf Course.
Flewellen, Robert F. Along Broad Street: A History of Eufaula, Alabama, 1823-1984. Eufaula, Ala.: City of Eufaula, 1991.
Smartt, Eugenia Persons. History of Eufaula, Alabama. Birmingham: Robert & Son Printers, 1933.
Herbert J. "Jim" Lewis
Published August 13, 2008
Last updated August 28, 2014