History of Athens

That was the allure of Athens in the early 1800s.

Rich with nutrients needed for crops, the soil drew settlers after the United States purchased the Mississippi Territory from the Cherokee in 1806. The first white settlement came in 1807. Robert Beaty and John Corriel obtained the first land grant, getting 160 acres from the land office in Huntsville.

The area continued to flourish and draw more settlers, and by 1818, Athens was an incorporated city before Alabama became a state. In 1819, voters made Athens the county seat of Limestone County.

That’s what drew attention to the city during the Civil War.

The city was a strategic site because the railroad became a supply route for Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. 

In May 1862, Union Col. John Basel Turchin reportedly turned a blind eye and let the men under his command sack Athens for two hours. 

More than $54,000 in property, including 200 Bibles, were destroyed, a servant was raped and a pregnant woman was so scared by the soldiers’ antics that she miscarried and died. Turchin underwent a court-martial and resigned. 

President Abraham Lincoln, however, pardoned him and promoted him to a brigadier general.

A historical marker on The Square ensures Athens does not forget the damaged Turchin inflicted on the city.

The city’s proximity to transportation, recreational facilities, and educational centers make it a vibrant spot today. The rich soil still offers farming opportunities but also recreational ones. The Swan Creek Greenway, for example, offers hiking, a covered bridge, and access to an archery course. 

The railroads combined with Interstate 65, major highways, and nearby Tennessee River provide quick access for business and industrial transportation needs. Citizens are within short distances to universities and educational training facilities.

Historic Downtown offers unique shopping and dining opportunities while chain restaurants, stores, and trendy shops are located along U.S. 72, U.S. 31, and at the Interstate 65 exit.