Not long ago, my young son and I visited the Alabama Department of Archives and History building, which is just across the street from the State Capitol in Montgomery. We took our time exploring the building and eventually found ourselves on the second floor in the Hands-On Gallery for children. It’s here that young visitors to the state archives can learn about state history through touchable history-related items and history-themed activities.
While my son busied himself with all the things this sizeable room had to offer, something on one of the walls caught my eye. It was an old poster that carried the banner, “Curious & Forgotten Places in Alabama: A Brief Glimpse at Bygone Days and Early Times in Alabama.” Printed by Down Home Designs in Selma in 1979, this old poster featured a large map of the state and pinpointed “curious and forgotten” places in each of the state’s 67 counties.
These places included old ghost towns like Claiborne and Cahaba as well as the old Middleton Cemetery in Monroe County and Turk’s Cave down in Conecuh County. My attention was naturally drawn to Wilcox County, and the only location designated within its borders was the former county seat of Canton Bluff.
Elsewhere on the poster, it offered this short description of that “curious and forgotten” location – Canton Bluff (A DESERTED STEAMBOAT LANDING) This early steamer landing site and county seat died when county government moved to Camden in 1832. Little evidence of the town exists today. It was on the west bluff of the river, a short distance east of Miller’s Ferry, and near the present Canton Bend.
On the drive home, as my son napped in the passenger seat beside me, I began to think about Canton Bluff and what it must have been like years and years ago. Later, I turned to my trusty, dogeared copy of “Place Names in Alabama” by Virginia O. Foscue to see what that book had to say about Canton Bluff. According to Foscue, Canton Bluff was a community on the high west bank of the Alabama River in Wilcox County and served as the Wilcox County seat from 1819 to 1832.
Foscue noted that the Canton Bluff post office was established in 1824 and that the town was probably named for either Canton, North Carolina or Canton, Georgia. Today, if you visit the vicinity of the old town of Canton Bluff, you’ll encounter a number of places that will remind you of the community’s heyday. Those locations include the Canton Bend United Methodist Church and antebellum homes like the Beck-Bryant-Talbot House, the Bethea-Strother Home and the Matthews-Tait-Rutherford Home.
In the end, I’m sure that some of you have likely seen copies of the old “Curious & Forgotten Places in Alabama” poster, and I’d be interested to know what other “curious and forgotten” places in Wilcox County, besides Canton Bluff, you would have added to the poster?