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Tuscaloosa's History and Heritage


The area known as Tuscaloosa has been settled by man since at least the 1500's. Native American (primarily Choctaw and Creek) tribes were the first inhabitants of our lovely city.  The man (Chief Tuskaloosa) for whom Tuscaloosa is named was just such a man. His name is of western Muskogean origin (taska, losa), meaning "Black Warrior". He is described as being very tall and well built, with some of the chroniclers saying he stood a foot and a half taller than the Spaniards. However, he was killed by Hernando DeSoto's army during the Battle of Mabilla after refusing to continue being DeSoto's captive while he and his men pillaged through Tuskaloosa's territory. Also, as was the case with most local Native American settlements, war later reared its ugly head and the Native Americans were driven off their land. This happened in Tuscaloosa during the Creek War in 1813 when General Andrew Jackson ordered General Coffee to attack the Creek village known then as the 'Black Warrior Village'. 


The rest of Tuscaloosa's history is less morbid. The territorial legislature incorporated the town of Tuscaloosa on 13 December, 1819 , exactly one day before Congress admitted Alabama to the Union as a state. The city is actually older than the state. In 1826, Tuscaloosa became the capital of Alabama for 20 years, Montgomery was made the capital in 1846. The population of Tuscaloosa suffered dearly when the state capital was moved to Montgomery, losing nearly half of its inhabitants during the move. The establishment of the Bryce State Hospital for the Insane in Tuscaloosa in the 1850s helped restore the city's fortunes. On April 18th, 1831, the University of Alabama began operations with 52 enrolled students. The University's charter was signed inside of Christ Episcopal Church which is still located in historic downtown Tuscaloosa. During the last weeks of the War, a brigade of Union troops raiding the city burned the campus of The University of Alabama leaving only 3 of 14 buildings standing in their wake.


Then things got better. In the 1890s, The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers constructed a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River. This inexpensive path to the port in Mobile helped spur growth. The mental health-care facilities along with the growth of the University of Alabama helped even further. The growth continued as bigger businesses such as JVC America, BF Goodrich, Westervelt, Nucor Steel, Hunt Oil, and Mercedes found a wealth of talent and skilled labor from the region.


Tuscaloosa's prosperity continues today with a large downtown project that hopes to bring in a classy look to the downtown along with other features (parking) to make the Tuscaloosa experience one to remember.

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