Courtland Heritage Museum
Courtland Heritage Museum The Courtland Heritage Museum in Courtland, Lawrence County, is a local historical museum displaying memorabilia and artifacts from Courtland’s agricultural, business, transportation, and military history. It was established in 2009 through a partnership between the town of Courtland and the Courtland Historical Association and officially opened in 2010.
Exhibits in the museum focus on the town’s agricultural, business, transportation, and military history. They include information on the nearby Tennessee River, the nearby former Courtland Army Air Field, the construction of the first railroad in north Alabama through the area in 1832, and the July 1862 Battle of Courtland during the American Civil War. Artifacts include antique clothing, children’s toys, and a bicycle owned by renowned local grocery deliveryman Dinky Davis, among others.
Courtland was settled in 1800 but was originally called Ebenezer. In 1818, the Courtland Land Company purchased the land on which Ebenezer was settled, and the town was incorporated as Courtland the following year. The small crossroads became a stopping point for one of the earliest railroads in the state when local citizens joined together to build the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad in 1832. By this time, Courtland had become a prosperous town and the railroad enabled them to ship cotton to outside markets. In 1942, during World War II, the U.S. Army established an Army Air Force Flying School near Courtland called Courtland Army Airfield. Many years later, it was converted to a civilian aviation facility known variously as the Lawrence County or Courtland Airport. The surrounding land has been used for farming as well as a golf course.
In 2009, the town of Courtland and the Courtland Historical Association established the Courtland Heritage Museum to preserve its local history. The building in which the Courtland Heritage Museum is housed at 252 College Street on the north side of the rail line at the southern end of a commercial block that was likely constructed in the mid-1800s and extensively altered around 1900. Over the years, the location has been home to various businesses and a service club before becoming the local history museum. After almost two years of renovations, the Courtland Heritage Museum officially opened to the public during the town’s annual Picnic in the Park celebration on June 5, 2010.
The museum building is one of many structures included in the Courtland Historic District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The district is largely defined by the numerous domestic residences constructed in town from the 1820s through the mid-1940s and particularly the Craftsmen-style bungalows from the early 1900s. Near the museum is the Federal-style historic John McMahon Home (ca. 1828) known for the prosperous merchant from Virginia who bought the home in 1838 and was the patriarch of a prominent local family. It was donated by his descendants to the Alabama Historical Commission and privately restored under a protective covenant and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage that same year. Open to the public just east of Courtland is Pond Spring, the plantation home of Joseph Wheeler, Confederate and U.S. general and member of the U.S. Congress. Courtland is located in the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, the only one in Alabama. There are also many historical markers in and around Courtland.