Welcome to the Colbert County Alabama Genealogy & History Network website providing free information to genealogical and historical researchers.
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Colbert County was created by an act of the state legislature on February 6, 1867, and was named for brothers George and Levi Colbert, leaders of the Chickasaw Nation who operated a ferry across the Tennessee River. Originally part of Franklin County, Colbert County was created in an effort to increase Democratic representation in the state legislature at a time when Alabama was controlled by Radical Republicans. With a black population of less than 25 percent at the time, Colbert County provided the Democratic Party with a white majority. On November 29, 1867, the Republican legislature repealed the act that brought the county into existence. In January 1870, Gov. William Smith abolished the repeal and Colbert was once again a county.
The Tennessee River made Colbert County an important antebellum trade center in the South, although the Muscle Shoals section of the river was virtually impassable during the early nineteenth century. Numerous flinty, jagged rocks broke the surface, and the sharp fall of the river—some 130 feet over 37 miles—produced extensive rapids. Navigation of the area was restricted to flatboats, keelboats, and other small craft. Efforts to construct canals in the shoals dated back to 1783, but it was not until the advent of the steamboat during the 1820s that the river was seen as a potential major transportation route. In 1831, Congress authorized the construction of a canal around Muscle Shoals, but after six years the project was abandoned. In 1873, the project was revived, under the supervision of Col. George W. Goethals, who would later oversee the construction of the Panama Canal. The final project, completed in 1890, cost more than $3 million. Muscle Shoals was finally made navigable by the construction of Wilson Dam in 1924.
During the early nineteenth century, Tuscumbia served as the area's commercial district and included grocery stores, hotels, blacksmiths, wagon makers, mercantile shops, and a men's academy. The river landing at Tuscumbia served as the trading hub of the county. The Tuscumbia Railway Company completed a rail line to the town in 1832. Two years later a railway from Tuscumbia to Decatur was completed that traversed the rocky Muscle Shoals area of the river. During the 1850s, the railroad was sold to the Memphis and Charleston. The region suffered severe hardship after a tornado ripped through the county, virtually destroying Tuscumbia.
Tuscumbia is the home town of author and activist Helen Keller, who was born on June 27, 1880, at her parent's estate, Ivy Green. She is most famous as the deaf and blind girl who learned to communicate through sign language, a story made popular on the stage and screen in The Miracle Worker. Keller's most important work was as a human rights and labor activist and as an ambassador at large for the United States. Early in the twenty-first century she was chosen as one of two Alabamians whose statues represent Alabama in the national capitol, where she became the first profoundly handicapped American to be so honored.
The town of Muscle Shoals is renowned for its contributions to the music world. In 1959, Rick Hall opened FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) the first successful recording studio in the state of Alabama. Specializing in gospel, soul, blues, and rock & roll, the music studios of Muscle Shoals have attracted some of the most popular musical acts of the past century, including Aretha Franklin, the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wilson Pickett, Rod Stewart, and Little Richard. In 1990, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame was built in Muscle Shoals to honor the achievements and legacy of Alabama musicians.
The county has a total area of 622 square miles, of which 593 square miles is land and 30 square miles(4.7%) is water. The population recorded in the 1870 Federal Census was 12,537. The 2010 census recorded 54,428 residents in the county.
Neighboring counties are Lauderdale County (north), Lawrence County (southeast), Franklin County (south), and Tishomingo County, Mississippi (west). Communities in the county include Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Cherokee, Leighton, Littleville, Allsboro, Barton, Buzzard Roost, Ford City, Hatton, Maud, Nitrate City, and Spring Valley.
Alabama Genealogy & History Network has much information on our county websites - cemetery listings, community data, etc. Please visit the county or counties of interest to you.
Birth Records - The Alabama Department of Public Health maintains records of births from 1908 to present. This was the year Alabama began keeping official birth records. You can obtain official copies of birth certificates by visiting the birth record page on their website and following the instructions. Since there are no official birth records before 1908 for births prior to that date you will need to determine birth information from census records, bible records, baptismal records, cemetery tombstones, etc.
Death Records - The Alabama Department of Public Health maintains death records after 1908 on file. This was the year Alabama began keeping official death records. You can obtain official copies of death certificates by visiting the death record page on their website and following the instructions. Since there are no official death records before 1908 for deaths prior to that date you will need to determine death information from census records, bible records, funeral home records, cemetery tombstones, etc.
Marriage Records - The Alabama Department of Public Health can provide you with information for marriages that took place from 1936 to present by by visiting the marriage record page on their website and following the instructions.
All existing county marriage records for any date not listed above (and for the dates listed above for that matter) may be obtained from the county's Probate Office in which the marriage was held.
Divorce Records - The Alabama Department of Public Health maintains divorce records from 1950 to present. You can obtain official copies of devorce records by visiting the divorce record page on their website and following the instructions. Records for divorces occuring before 1950 may be obtained from the Circuit Clerk in the county where the divorce took place.
Colbert County is located in north-west Alabama on the Mississippi Line.
A list of Colbert County communities & places. Some of these have additional history information.
A list of Colbert County, Alabama Churches with photos and additional information for many.
For a list of Colbert County, Alabama Cemeteries, tombstone photos and more.
A list of Colbert County, Alabama Schools. Some of these have photos and additional information.