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Early History

Prior to Scottsboro's founding, the area surrounding the present-day city was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians. While the Tennessee Valley did not have large Native American settlements at the time of the first white settlers, there was a Cherokee town named "Crow Town" near where Scottsboro is located today.

As settlers began pouring into the Tennessee region, they found the Tennessee River to be an excellent source of food, water, and a way of shipping goods to the big cities. John Hunt, in 1805, decided to migrate to the area and built a small log cabin in the woods near the river. More people settled in the area and Huntsville was formally incorporated in 1811.

More settlers moved into the Mississippi Territory, resulting in the statehood of Mississippi, and the creation of the Alabama Territory in 1818. Delegates from Tennessee and the newly formed Madison County met in Sauta Cave and decided to admit a new county.

On December 13, 1819, Jackson County was formed. Then, only one day later, the State of Alabama was admitted into the Union as the 22nd state on December 14, 1819.

The first county seat of Jackson County was at Sauta Cave, in the Northern part of the county, nowhere near the Tennessee River. Sauta did not survive after the courthouse was moved to Bellefonte in 1821.

Since Bellefonte is closer to the Tennessee River than Sauta, and closer to the future site of Scottsboro, more settlers started moving to the area, since they wanted to be near the county seat.

Scottsboro’s founder, Robert Thomas Scott, served in the Alabama Legislature for almost 20 years and later ran a hotel in Bellefonte. Since he and his wife, Elizabeth, wanted a place to call their own and were not very fond of Bellefonte, they moved to Scottsboro around 1850-53. The town was called Scottsville, Scott's Mill, or Sage Town until 1868. In 1853, the newly formed Memphis and Charleston Railroad (a stretch of railroad that starts at Memphis, TN, and ends in Charleston, SC) decided to build a station at Scottsboro and did so in 1857. In the same year, passengers started disembarking at Scott’s Station. On January 20, 1870, Scottsboro was incorporated by the Alabama Legislature. A. Snodgrass was the first mayor. Scottsboro got its first telegraph office in 1872.

Bellefonte citizens rejected the railroad because they did not want train travel to interfere with the town’s thriving river trade.

In 1861/1863, the Bellefonte courthouse was set ablaze and charred. The area was heavily damaged during the U.S. Civil War.

Selection of the new county seat began in 1860 by having a contest to see which towns were suitable.

Many of the county’s towns pushed for their selection, but the leading candidates were Hollywood, Stevenson, Larkinsville, and Scotts-borough (Scottsboro). To narrow the nominees, the county council decided that:

  • The town must be within 8 miles (13 km) of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad line.
  • The town must be near the center of the county.

The second requirement eliminated Stevenson and Larkinsville, and the County Commissioners ultimately selected Scottsboro as the county seat. Courthouse construction began in 1868 with the jail following two years later. County commissioners sited the courthouse at its current location in the public square.

The 20th century would bring great changes to Scottsboro. In 1902, two cases of smallpox were found but fortunately the disease did not spread more widely. In 1903, the first car that came to the town drove through the square en route from Ohio to Florida. In 1906, local blacksmith H.C. Payne built Scottsboro’s first homemade automobile, which was made with a wooden frame, four sprocket wheels, and hand-powered cranks. In 1911, the courthouse was set ablaze and was rebuilt. In 1912, the courthouse was demolished and an election was held to determine whether the courthouse would be moved to Stevenson or stay in Scottsboro (some Stevenson residents did not think Scottsboro deserved the role of county seat). Scottsboro won the vote and the present courthouse was built (before the renovation and expansion in 1954.)

Modern History

In 1900, Scottsboro was home to about 1,000 residents.

Beginning in 1908, a ferry began transporting passengers and automobiles to and from Sand Mountain. In 1928-1931, the Kansas City Bridge Company built the B.B. Comer Bridge, a long steel bridge that now connects the county seat to Sand Mountain, almost tripling the town’s population. The bridge entered use in July, 1930. By 2007, the aging structure was classified by the Alabama Department of Transportation as being a structurally deficient bridge with an overall rating of 7.7 out of 100. Construction of a replacement bridge commenced in October 2007, and is expected to be complete by 2012. In 1932, a couple were wed on top of the bridge. The newlywed wife commented “I wanted to be married where the light-blue water touches and meets with the light-blue sky…” In the 1980s, a second bridge was built to increase travel and reduce traffic on the B.B. Comer bridge.

In 1913 the city purchased approximately 30 acres (120,000 m2) for a water system on Sand Mountain. The first electric lights in Scottsboro became operational on January 21, 1916. Scottsboro's first hospital was established in 1923.

In 1927, aviator Charles Lindbergh performed stunts in his famous plane the Spirit of St. Louis. In 1932, Scottsboro officially became a "city" when an act of the Alabama Legislature bestowed that title on towns with more than 2000 inhabitants. Scottsboro's population at the time was about 2304.

In 1954, the courthouse was starting to deteriorate, so it was renovated and all the wooden walls were replaced with marble. Because of the growth in population and demand, more rooms were added to expand offices for services such as automobile tags and land records.

Since the early 1980s to the late 2000s, Scottsboro has seen substantial population growth and an economy moved away from its rural agrarian post to a more diversified one. Real estate in a small town environment and competitive state business tax rates both appealed to newcomers who bought homes and/or commute to jobs in Chattanooga and Atlanta.


Scottsboro is located at 34°39′5″N 86°2′33″W (34.651368, -86.042570).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 51.7 square miles (134.0 km²), of which, 47.3 square miles (122.6 km²) of it is land and 4.4 square miles (11.3 km²) of it (8.47%) is water. The water areas are the Tennessee River and its backwaters.

The section of the Tennessee River Valley that includes Scottsboro is geologically related to the Sequatchie Valley.


As of the census of 2000, there were 14,762 people, 6,224 households, and 4,201 families residing in the city. The population density was 311.8 people per square mile (120.4/km²). There were 6,848 housing units at an average density of 144.6 per square mile (55.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.11% White, 5.34% African American, 1.02% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.56% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. 1.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,224 households out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.8% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 25.9% from 45 to 64, and 15.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,654, and the median income for a family was $42,509. Males had a median income of $32,318 versus $21,965 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,430. About 9.9% of families and 14.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.1% of those under age 18 and 20.5% of those age 65 or over.