“A place of picturesque ruins”
Alabama's first state capital is now a deserted ghost town. Cahawba(also spelled Cahaba) served as the capital from 1820 to 1825 during the antebellum period and was a thriving town prior to the Civil War. The town was a major distribution center for cotton that was shipped down the Alabama River to the port town of Mobile. When the railroad line was built in 1859, Cahawba experienced another financial boom. During the war, the town boasted a population upwards of 3,000 people. The town meeting house was used as a prison for Union POWs. The Confederate government used the railroad that ran through Cahawba in order to extend the rail lines for military supplies. A cotton warehouse came to be known as Castle Morgan during the war when it was established in 1863 and used as a prison. A horrifying event occurred when the town was flooded in 1865, many of the 3,000 Union soldiers suffered as water filled the prison, and the townspeople suffered much economic hardship as business were destroyed. After the war the courthouse was used as a meeting place for newly-freed men to discuss politics. The town became a community for former slave families during Reconstruction. These families transformed the once-bustling town into a rural town with blocks upon blocks of fields and gardens. Around 1900, a former slave bought much of the town for $500 and repurposed the materials from many of the abandoned bulidings for sale in Mobile and Selma. Located in Dallas County, a bit southwest of Selma, Cahawba is now a protected state historic site. Today, the Alabama Historical Commission maintains the town, which is a rich archaeological site as well. In 1973 the town was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, visitors can meander through the streets and see abandoned cemeteries as well as several prominent ruins. Because the town was abandoned so abruptly, it's since become popular amongst ghost story enthusiasts. During the 19th and early 20th centuries it was reported that a ghostly apparition in the form of a glowing orb would wander the garden maze of one of the town's prominent citizens, C. C. Pegues. The book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh claims discuss this folklore in the tale “Specter in the Maze at Cahaba.” -Roadtrippers Cahawba was once Alabama's state capital (1819-1826) and a thriving antebellum river town. It became a ghost town shortly after the Civil War. Today it is an important archaeological site and a place of picturesque ruins. Nature has reclaimed much of Old Cahawba, but historians and archaeologists from the Alabama Historical Commission are working hard to uncover Cahawba's historic past and to create a full time interpretive park. Visitors are welcome at Old Cahawba. Enjoy the wildflowers. Take the time to roam the abandoned streets, view the moss-covered ruins, talk with an archaeologist, read the interpretive signs, and contemplate Cahawba's mysterious disappearance.
I've been here a few times. It's so quiet and peaceful, but full of energy. You can take guided tours during specific times on certain weekends. Any other day, stop by the visitors center, grab a map, and start exploring!
AMAZING! There was so much information. Everywhere you looked was a new piece of history to discover. We feel that you could visit ever few years or so and there will be more and more uncovered.
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Old Cahawba Archaeological Park
- Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
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