In the early 1800's a land purchase was made that was to be the beginning of one of the oldest and most progressive towns of Clarke County -- Jackson, Alabama. The history of the town traces back to the old French and Spanish times. The earliest settlers were two of the original five commissioners of the board that made the Pine Level land purchase; David White of South Carolina and David Taylor of Georgia. Records show that White came in 1809 and Taylor in 1812. Settlements were made all along the Tombigbee River, one of them being Republicville, later called Pine Level and in July 1816 was incorporated as Jackson. The Town of Jackson was named in honor of General Andrew Jackson.
Early officers of the town were the five Commissioners, a Constable, a Treasurer, a Collector, a Town Clerk and when necessary, a Clerk of the Market. The town became a thriving, prosperous place with 1500 inhabitants. The main thoroughfares of the town were Carrol Street, Washington Street, Commerce Street, Broadway Street and Florida Avenue and other smaller streets. There were many small shops in the town and many traders came from within 100 miles to sell their goods. At one time, it was a manufacturing and commercial town.
Population in Jackson in 1816 was 1500. The Pine Level Land Company sold lots to start the town and the original plat of the town shows that they planned for a big city: A number of lots were set aside for public use. There was a plot for a large public square, a lot for a market place (this was located where the old downtown Vanity Fair Mill was located on E. Church St.), three church lots, a school and a cemetery (now known as Pine Crest Cemetery located on Commerce Street). Soon after this a school was built with a tall spire. Other public buildings were built and the town began to grow.
There was a large tannery with auxiliary shops to manufacture saddles, boots, shoes and other articles for household use and shops of tin ware. When steamboats started on the river, there were repair shops for them. There were three saw mills and four grist mills. David Taylor, as late as 1878, owned a flour mill as wheat was grown in the area.
Many nationalities were blended here. There were Pennsylvania Germans who operated and owned the tannery and French and Quakers who came and operated small shops. Historians say that among the wealthiest was L. Hatch who was said to have the "handsomest residence in Jackson". His residence later became the residence of Captain Wainwright, a steamboat captain. This house is still standing and is located on East Church Street down from the Presbyterian Church.
The early families of Jackson were the Whites, Stringers, Duboses (3 brothers who were French Hugenots), Daffins (also of the French Hugenots), Parkers from South Carolina and David Taylor who came in 1812. Other early settlers were the Chapmans, Walkers, Bradleys, Joiners and Gills.
River traffic was essential to this part of the country. Not only for travel, but for the delivery of supplies. The Jackson Ferry began operation in the later part of the 18th century and was used until a bridge was built in the late 1920's. General Jackson and Claiborne used this ferry to transport their armies. The ferry was owned by the Stringers and later by David Taylor. Later, Isham Kimbell and his heirs operated the ferry until the bridge was built.
In 1888 the railroad was built and Jackson really prospered. The railroad was an essential growth element to this area.
There were also several minerals mined in this area: Yellow ochre and china clay used for building blocks, bricks drain tile, flower pots, jugs, churns and other novelties. The Williams Clay and Color Company operated the mines and manufacturing near the Clarke-Mobile Gas District Office. That is how Ochre Avenue obtained its name. They also owned 93 acres on hte North end of town, now North College Avenue.
In 1862, while boring in search of salt, a white sulfur well was discovered near the Southern Railroad Track, about a mile from the Depot. The water was a cure for stomach and kidney ailments and rheumatism. Nearby, there was an iron well noted for building blood tissues of the body. So, there developed a pavilion, bath rooms, swimming pool and a modern "up to date" hotel and many cottages. All of this was located on a high hill overlooking the wells. It was all built by Mr. Savage and later sold to T.B. Pace. There was also a Choctaw Inn, which burned in 1924.
The first Agricultural College in the State of Alabama was located where Jackson Middle School now sits. The first President of the College lived at the corner of E. Clinton St. and College Avenue (present home of Mayor Richard Long). College Avenue was named for the college and the Jackson Aggie mascot was derived from the Jackson Agricultural College.
What started over 195 years ago as Republicville, then Pine Level, and then the Town of Jackson has prospered into the present City of Jackson. We owe much to those first pioneers who settled here. As we ride up and down the streets of our home town, many of the old land marks are still present and, if not, they are ever present in the minds of many.The City has prospered greatly over the years with a new Library, Police Station, Fire Station, Recreation Center, Senior Center and new schools. From the first Officers of the Town to our present Mayor and Council, they have left us a great heritage - The City of Jackson. We have a wonderful place to live, work and play due to our Fore Fathers.