|City of Evergreen historical marker.|
Tuesday, March 28, was a significant day in the history of Evergreen in that it marked the 142nd anniversary of the City of Evergreen’s official incorporation. In other words, it was the city’s birthday.
According to the historical marker that was placed in front of the Old L&N Depot in downtown Evergreen by the city and the Alabama Tourism Department in October 2010, the City of Evergreen was officially incorporated as a municipality on March 28, 1875. However, the marker also mentions that what is now called Evergreen was originally settled in 1819 by James Cosey, George Andrews and the Clough (or “Cluff”) brothers. At that time, Evergreen was known as “Cosey’s Old Field.”
According to B.F. Riley’s 1881 book, “History of Conecuh County, Alabama,” what is now Evergreen was a “tangled wildwood, reveling in dense thickets of briar and cane, with the jungles infested by the native deer, wolf, bear and wildcat. The tiny streams, that still wind their way through different portions of the village, were then strongly barricaded on either side, with impenetrable brakes of cane. And such was the nature of the soil, which skirted the streams, that it was peril to man or beast to tread upon it.”
When Cosey, an old soldier from Georgia who’d been wounded in the Revolutionary War, and the Cluff brothers, also from Georgia, first arrived, they located within what’s now Evergreen’s city limits, but Andrews, who was from South Carolina, pitched a tent on a hill beyond a small branch west of Evergreen. Other settlers soon followed with their families, including William Jones Sr. of Georgia and George Foote of South Carolina.
“Living contiguous to the vast swamps which border Murder Creek, this settlement was peculiarly exposed to the inroads of the bear, the wildcat, the deer and turkey,” Riley wrote in his book. “The bear and wildcat preying upon the pigs, and the less offensive deer and turkey riotously assailing the ripening grain of autumn.”
Conditions began to improve in the young town as more settlers moved in, including Blanton P. Box, Chesley Crosby, John Crosby, Benjamin Hart, Nathan Godbold, Garland Goode, Churchill Jones, Jephtha V. Perryman, James Tomlinson, Nicholas Stallworth and the Reverend Alexander Travis, who was the uncle of William Barrett Travis, from the famous Battle of the Alamo.
The Rev. Alexander Travis is credited with changing the name from Cosey’s Old Field to Evergreen. Early citizens wanted to name the town after Perryman, but he declined the honor and Travis recommended that they call the town Evergreen because the “verdant foliage that abounded.”
In those days, Sparta was the county seat, but the county seat was moved to Evergreen in 1866 after much of Sparta was burned during the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, Belleville and Sparta were both larger than Evergreen, but the completion of the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad, which later became the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, changed all that.
It goes without saying that much has changed in Evergreen since those early days, but the city has managed to maintain much of its early charm. Its residents still enjoy a laid back atmosphere, and, for the most part, folks get along just fine. Only time will tell if the city will hold a special event in 2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of Evergreen’s first settlement or if they’ll have something in 2025 to mark the 150th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.