Newton was created as the county seat of Dale County in 1841; its location was chosen by a five-member commission. The town was named Newton in 1843. The first courthouse was built in 1841, and was replaced in 1857 by a new building. During the Civil War, Newton men joined the 33rd Alabama Infantry Regiment, Company I. Near the end of the war, in March 1865, Union officer Captain Joseph Sanders and his men attempted a raid on Newton, probably intending to burn the county courthouse. Confederate veteran Jesse Carmichael organized a group of local men and the Home Guard to ambush the Union forces and successfully repelled them. After the war, Newton was occupied by the U.S. military.
In 1868, Geneva County was created from the southern third of both Coffee and Dale counties. The town of Ozark then became the community closest to the center of Dale County, and town leaders began advocating that the county seat be moved there. In 1869, the courthouse in Newton burned, possibly from arson. In January 1870, the state legislature authorized a vote in Dale County to decide whether to mover the county seat. The vote took place on January 30, 1870, with Ozark winning. Although Newton citizens contested the election, the legislature authorized the move on January 31, 1871, and Ozark became the new county seat, with several Newton business relocating to Ozark as a result. Newton incorporated in 1887. In 1898, the Baptist Collegiate Institute was established and for years it was the only post-secondary institution in the Wiregrass region; it remained open until 1930.
According to the 2010 Census, Newton had a population of 1,511. Of that number, 83.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 13.0 percent as African American, 1.5 percent as Hispanic, 2.1 percent as two or more races, 0.7 percent as Native American, 0.5 percent as Asian, and 0.2 as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The town's median household income, according to 2010 Census estimates, was $33,750, and the per capita income was $21,781.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Newton was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (15.3 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (14.4 percent)
· Retail trade (11.9 percent)
· Manufacturing (11.7 percent)
· Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (10.3 percent)
· Construction (7.8 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, and recreation and accommodation and food services (6.4 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (6.2 percent)
· Public administration (5.5 percent)
· Wholesale trade (4.0 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (2.8 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.1 percent)
· Information (1.6 percent)
Newton has one public elementary school overseen by the Dale County Schools; the school enrolls approximately 250 students and employs approximately 15 teachers.
Newton is served by U.S. Highway 231, which runs north-south along the town's eastern edge; State Highway 134, which runs east-west through the southern half of the town; and State Highway 123, which runs north-south through the western half of the town.
Events and Places of Interest
Newton is the site of one of several ghost stories relating to the Civil War. In this version, a man named Bill Sketoe was
wrongfully hanged, and the hole dug by his executioners to accommodate his height was said to remain after the hanging, despite
all attempts to fill it in. The original site of the hanging was destroyed by a flood in 1990, but the town has erected a
replica on the banks of the Choctawhatchee; Sketoes gravestone is located in nearby Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
McGee, Val L. Claybank Memories: A History of Dale County, Alabama. Ozark, Ala.: Dale County Historical Society, 1989.
James P. Kaetz
Published February 17, 2013
Last updated February 18, 2013