Winston County Introduction & Pre-1900 Timeline
From The Heritage of Winston County, Alabama
By: Tom Bartlett
Winston County is located in northwest Alabama at the very southeastern end of the Appalachian Mountains. The terrain varies from low rolling hills covered with evergreens to spectacular gorges, picturesque rock bluffs, and hardwood forests. Streams often cascade over rock faces into deep canyons to form beautiful waterfalls. The natural shelters beneath overhanging bluffs often contain evidence such as arrowheads and spear points of early inhabitance by Indian hunting parties. The area that is now Winston County was originally included in Walker County just after the State of Alabama was formed in 1817. In 1850, the northern part of Walker County was divided to form Hancock County, named after John Hancock of Revolutionary War fame. In 1858, Hancock County was renamed Winston County to honor Governor John A. Winston, the first Governor of Alabama to be born in the state.
The earliest permanent settlers to Winston County came primarily from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. One early settlement seems to have been near the present town of Lynn about 1814. Undoubtedly the early settlers had different reasons for coming to this area. About this time a gradual movement westward was taking place as settlers sought out affordable land. The most fertile river bottom land such as that found in the Tennessee River flood plain was taken first with the steep hills and deep ravines taken last. One historian points out that Winston County had the highest percentage in the state of families residing on their own land. The earliest settlers to Winston County purchased their land under the terms of the 1820 Land Act, with the majority purchasing land in segments of eighty acres or less. The Homestead Act also drew many early families to the area as the more valuable land to the east was already made claimed. Because so much of the land was rocky and hilly and not suitable for crops, subsistence farming became a way of life for the early settlers. The survivors of these early times who managed to eke out a living from the poor soil were hardy, independent souls. The craggy hills of Winston isolated the settlers from the rest of the state. This isolation was to later prove pivotal in the lives of its citizens. In the words of one historian, they were "outside of the mainstream geographically, economically, and politically."
Just attempting to travel the terrain was a difficult undertaking. That is the reason the first roads - to stretch a definition to its limits - assumed such significance in the lives of the early settlers. Alabama's first state road, the Byler Road that ran from Nashville to Tuscaloosa, passed through Winston County from north to south, entering near the present site of Haleyville and passing near the present site of Lynn. Another early road traversing Winston County was named the Cheatham Road from its builder, Wyatt Cheatham, and ran from Moulton to Tuscaloosa. This road traveled through the present site of Double Springs.
Records indicate at least four churches were organized prior to 1850: two Methodist and two Baptist. The first church in the county seems to have been New Prospect Baptist Church, which was chartered in 1824 near the present site of Haleyville. The Methodist Churches were located at Littleville and Falls City. The Federal Census of 1850 reports four schools with a total of seventy-four pupils out of a total county population of 1,542.
After the Civil War, numerous new Alabama counties were created, including Cullman County being carved out of the territory between Winston and Blount. Since this left the county seat at Houston no longer in the center of the county, an election was held in 1883 and the decision was made to establish a new county seat in the geographical center of the county. July 23, 1883 saw the founding of the new county seat in Double Springs. The first courthouse built in the center of town burned on August 5, 1891, and the center of the present stone courthouse was completed in 1894. Several additions have been added since that time.
About 1880 Godfrey High School was located near the Cheatham Road just south of Double Springs. The school was active until about 1892. The state legislature in 1907 authorized the funding for a high school in each county, so Double Springs was selected for the location of the Winston County High School. At about the same time the citizens of Haleyville built their own high school.
Winston County has several features including Lewis Smith Lake, Natural Bridge, William B. Bankhead National Forest, and other small places of interest including Clear Creek and Kinlock Falls.
County Officials and Post Office Info are not listed here