Photo by Jeffrey Reed
Born: American Indians likely occupied the area for millennia. When Alabama achieved statehood in 1819, President James Monroe set aside 1,620 undeveloped acres beside the confluence of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers for the state's capital. A brick capitol building was erected in 1820. But a yellow fever epidemic swept through, and critics blamed the town's low elevation and complained that it was flood-prone.
Died: Legislators moved the capital to Tuscaloosa in 1826. Soon, the town was almost deserted. But it came back twice: first, as a center for the trading and transport of cotton and then, after the Civil War, as a village for freed slaves. Eventually the residents drifted away to Selma and other nearby cities. Cahawba was permanently abandoned by 1900.
It lives on: Now known as Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, the town is managed by the Alabama Historical Commission. Admission is free. Visitors stroll through the ruins, a cemetery and a nature trail. Guided tours are available for a fee.