Friday, April 26, 2013

Alabama’s First Birmingham

Two Birminghams on Colton's Alabama, 1873
A recent examination of Colton’s 1860 map of Alabama revealed a community in the northeast corner of the state called Birmingham. Say what?!?! That’s right. Our very own city, founded in 1871, was not the state’s first Birmingham. A history of the state’s first Birmingham can be found in Birmingham, as it was, in Jackson county, Alabama by James F. Sulzby, Jr.

According to Sulzby, Birmingham was the name of a post office in Jackson County opened in 1845 by Anthony Crockett Austin who served as its postmaster. The surrounding community never incorporated, but had a store, a blacksmith shop, a gin, a tannery, two churches, two doctors, and approximately 75 families. The post office closed in 1853 because governmental services became concentrated in the neighboring town of Stevenson when a railroad was constructed through the area.

Ironically, the community first showed up on maps in 1853 as Birmingham, the year the post office for which it was named closed. It was known as Birmingham up until the Coffee’s Store post office opened in 1875, named after R.A. Coffey, its postmaster. You can find Birmingham in Jackson County on some maps as late as 1886, while other maps of the time show Coffey’s Store. Both Birminghams first appear on Colton’s 1873 Alabama map and appear on Colton’s maps for many years afterwards.

Coffey's Store on Gray's New Map of Alabama, 1878
The Coffey’s Store post office closed around 1904 due to the death of its second postmaster. Another post office opened within a year, named Rash after another community member. The area has been known as Rash ever since.

You can view the full maps on BPL's Digital Collections.

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