Old Cahawba Site

Governor Bibb Graves designed the town of Cahawba and the capital - on land donated by the federal government. According to Linda Derry, Old Cahawba Site Director, Governor Bibb sold off the land to raise money for the state's treasury. "He sold the land to finance the new state of Alabama," Derry said.

Cahawba was the state capital for only 6 years - from 1820 to 1826. Derry said, "It was more like Gunsmoke than Gone With the Wind" She calls it a rough-and-tumble place with lots of shootouts.

In fact, an archeological dig behind the state house site unearthed whiskey bottles and broken window glass. "We hypothesized that they drank the 25 bottles of whiskey, got drunk and broke out the windows," said Derry.

During the 30 years after the capital was moved, Cahawba flourished. But then came the ravages of the Civil War, the loss of the town's railroad, moving the county seat to Selma and a devastating flood in 1865.

And then town literally vanished.

Today all that remains are the footprints of the town. Like three brick columns from a mansion that once overlooked the merging of the Cahawba and Alabama rivers.

Still standing nearby, the once upscale slave house that stood behind the Kirkpatrick mansion.

A slave cemetery creates a lasting reminder of the end of an era for the southern plantation system.

Despite the lack of period buildings and tangible evidence of its past, lots of people are working to save the site of the first capital. Derry says a group called Cahawba Concerns is working to raise money to buy the remaining property around the historic site to make sure it returns to the state of Alabama.

The site suffered a major setback when fire destroyed its welcome center.  It's believed a ligthning strike started the blaze.  But, not to be outdone, Linda Derry and her staff set up the welcome center in the education building next door.