“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.” – Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
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Why Visit Cahawba, AL, You Ask?
Cahawba, AL – If you’re the type of person who gives plenty of attention to detail, you might ask yourself what the correct way to spell the name of this ghost town really is. Some do it the way we did, others say “Cahaba,” but the fact to the matter is – it’s not really all that important. What is important, however, is the fact that we’re talking here about one of the most impressive and beautiful ghost towns in America. How can ghost towns be beautiful, you ask? Bear with us and learn the answer.
But, let’s go back in time for a moment and explore why the ghost town of Cahaba is so important today. Firstly and historically speaking, it was a hugely important cotton distribution center used for shipping down to the port town of Mobile via the Alabama River. Between 1820 and 1825, it was also the capital of Alabama, which is to say it was a staple of development during the antebellum period. What’s more, it experienced another short-lived financial boom in 1859 with the construction of the railroad.
Despite Its Untimely Demise, The Town Is As Beautiful Today As It Ever Was
Hence, it can be said that its heyday was twofold: it thrived between 1820 and 1825, and then again between the 1840s and 1850s. However, it’s as though it had always been destined for doom. The loss of rail transportation, floods and, most notably, the Civil War, all resulted in a steady decline in the economy as well as the importance of Cahaba. Eventually, it had become a true ghost town by 1900.
With a home in Dallas County, Alabama, where the Cahaba River flows into the Alabama River, today there is little to be found here of the old times. We’re referring, of course, to the old residences, businesses and government buildings that once comprised the bustling town. Today, Cahawba is a historical park, and a beautiful one, at that. We say that because it greets visitors among what remains of its former landscape of chinaberry trees, flowering vines, gracefully flowing Spanish moss and, of course, roses.
Maybe You’ll Have Better Luck Than Us
The Alabama Historical Commission maintains the town, which is now a protected historic site. What’s more, it also happens to be a rich archeological site as well. And because the town was abandoned so abruptly, it has become very popular among ghost story enthusiasts. This is mostly related to the horrors of the Civil War. Namely, Cahaba’s economy was devastated by the Union blockade of the coast. This prevented cotton from being shipped to overseas ports; a tragedy greatly amplified by the fact that the Confederate government had also seized the railroad and removed the iron rails for use elsewhere.
It was during this time that Old Cahawba’s most famous ghost story originated. Namely, a couple was walking near the home of Colonel C.C. Pegues when they witnessed a ball of white light floating in the air ahead of them. The strange apparition moved side to side, but disappeared into the brush when they tried to touch it. However, it soon returned and followed them for the duration of their walk. The strange phenomenon became known among Cahawba residents as Pegues’ Ghost. This was because the colonel had been mortally wounded a short time before at the battle of Seven Pines, Virginia. We don’t know about you, but Cahaba definitely made it to our spooky list.
(Sorry for the long post – here’s a picture of StarBucks).