Dale County

Located in southeastern Alabama, Dale County is home to the largest section of Fort Novosel Military Reservation, the primary flight-training base for and home of the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center. The county is governed by an elected five-member commission and includes eight incorporated communities.

  • Founding Date: December 22, 1824
  • Area: 561 square miles
  • Population: 49,293 (2020 Census estimate)
  • Major Waterway: Choctawhatchee River
  • Major Highway: U.S 231
  • County Seat: Ozark
  • Largest City: Ozark

History

Samuel Dale Dale County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on December 22, 1824. The county was named for Georgia native Samuel Dale, an early pioneer who led a group of settlers to Alabama. In 1841, the county was split in half to create Coffee County and in 1868, Geneva County was formed from southern portions of Dale County. In 1903, Dale County was further reduced when the state legislature carved Houston County out of the southeastern corner. The county seat was originally located at Daleville but was removed to Newton in 1843 and finally to Ozark in 1870. The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1884 and replaced by an ornate brick structure in 1901. In 1968, the county erected the current courthouse.

Dale County Courthouse In 1936, the Farm Security Administration, in an effort to increase farm prices, purchased 32,000 acres of land on the western border of Dale County to create a wilderness reservation. Under the Resettlement Administration proposal, farmers were paid by the federal government for their poor lands and then were moved to more profitable ones. The Works Project Administration reforested the lands and in 1940 built the 800-acre Lake Tholocco. Known as Bear Farm, the lands were transferred to the War Department in January 1942 to serve as a training ground for soldiers during World War II. Named Camp Rucker for Confederate colonel Edmund Rucker, the training base became Fort Rucker in 1955. Fort Rucker became the centerpiece for training Air Force helicopter pilots in 1971 and U.S. Army's aviation programs when flight training was consolidated at the base in 1973. The facility was renamed Fort Novosel in 2023 after Medal of Honor-winning aviator Michael J. Novosel Sr., a native of Enterprise.

Major Cities and Demographics

City Hall in Midland City According to 2020 Census estimates, the population of Dale County was 49,293. Approximately 71.6 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 20.7 percent as African American, 6.7 percent as Hispanic, 3.3 percent as two or more races, 1.4 percent as Asian, and 0.8 percent as Native American. The county seat, Ozark, had a population of 14,350. Other significant population centers include Daleville, Newton, Midland City, Grimes, Pinckard, Napier Field, and Level Plains. The median household income was $45,644, compared to $52,035 for the state as a whole, and the per capita income was $24,473, compared to $28,934 for the state as a whole.

Economy

Helicopter Maintenance at Fort Novosel During the nineteenth century, Dale County was populated by small farmers who raised corn, cotton, and livestock. In 1888, the Central of Georgia Railroad built a track from Eufaula to Ozark, and in 1889 the Alabama Midland Railroad completed a line from Troy to Ozark. In 1914, the Mutual Cotton Oil Company, originally called the Ozark Oil Mill, was created to process the oil in cotton seed. Other businesses that located to the county during the early and mid-twentieth century were Cowikee Mills, a cotton-processing plant, Columbian Peanut Mill, Tri-Glass Manufacturing, Mass Merchandising, and Frit Industries.

Employment

According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Dale County was divided among the following industrial categories:

  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.6 percent)
  • Retail trade (14.6 percent)
  • Manufacturing (11.6 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.8 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (9.7 percent)
  • Public administration (7.7 percent)
  • Construction (6.8 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (6.6 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (5.7 percent)
  • Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (3.2 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.3 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (2.0 percent)
  • Information (0.4 percent)

Education

The Dale County School System oversees seven schools. The Ozark City School System oversees eight schools, and the Daleville City and Fort Novosel school districts oversee six schools. Dale County is home to the Fort Novosel campus of Wallace Community College, a two-year college system. The Dale County campus merged with the Alabama Aviation and Technical College in 1997.

Geography

Dale County Map Comprising approximately 561 square miles, Dale County lies in the southeastern area of the state, wholly within the East Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic section. It is bounded to the north by Pike and Barbour Counties, to the east by Henry County, to the south by Houston and Geneva Counties, and to the west by Coffee County.

The Choctawhatchee River runs along the county's southern border, and several of its tributaries, including Little Choctawhatchee River and Claybank and Little Judy creeks, traverse the area. U.S. 231, running southeast-northwest, is the county's major transportation route. Blackwell Field in Ozark is the county's only public airport.

Events and Places of Interest

Lake Tholocco Lake Tholocco, located at Fort Novosel, is a 640-acre facility that offers a full range of recreation activities, including swimming, boating, camping, RV parking, volleyball, basketball, and hiking. Ed Lisenby Lake (Dale County Lake) is a 92-acre lake that offers excellent bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and shellcracker (also known as red-ear) fishing. Every year, Ozark hosts the Claybank Jamboree, which features antiques, paintings, food, music, and a 5K race. Other attractions include the Dowling Art Museum, which showcases local art. Fort Novosel is home to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, which houses a large collection of aircraft and other Army aviation artifacts and documents.

Further Reading

  • Heritage of Dale County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 2001.
  • McGee, Val L. Claybank Memories: A History of Dale County, Alabama. Ozark, Ala.: Dale County Historical Society, Inc., 1989.

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