Washington County, Alabama
|Washington County, Alabama|
The Washington County Courthouse in September 2007
Location in the state of Alabama
Alabama's location in the U.S.
|Founded||June 4, 1800|
|• Total||1,088.54 sq mi (2,819 km2)|
|• Land||1,080.66 sq mi (2,799 km2)|
|• Water||7.89 sq mi (20 km2), (0.72%)|
|• Density||16/sq mi (6.2/km²)|
|Time zone||Central: UTC-6/-5|
Washington County is a county in the U.S. state of Alabama. The county was named in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,581, well below the state average of 71,399. As of 1 July 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the county population to be 17,109—or about 0.35% of the state's population—making Washington County the 51st most-populous county out of Alabama's 67 counties. Washington County is the sixth-largest county in Alabama by area, at 1080 sq mi (2,797 km²). The county seat is Chatom. Washington County is a dry county, with the exception of Chatom. The county's area code is 251 and its license plate county code is 65.
The area was long inhabited by indigenous peoples. In historic times, European traders encountered the Choctaw and later Creek Indians, who were driven southwest from Georgia by encroaching European settlement.
Washington County was organized on June 4, 1800 from the Tombigbee District, by proclamation of Governor Winthrop Sargent of the Mississippi Territory. It was the first county to be organized in what would eventually become Alabama, as settlers migrated westward following the American Revolutionary War. Washington County is the site of St. Stephens, the first territorial capital of Alabama. In 1807 Aaron Burr was captured at Wakefield in the county during his flight from prosecution for treason.
Although in the 1830s the U.S. government removed most of the Choctaw and Creek to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) west of the Mississippi River, some Native Americans remained in this area of Alabama and become state (and U.S.) citizens. They struggled to maintain Choctaw culture through years when the whites imposed a binary culture of white and "all other" people of color, classified as black. In 1979 the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians was recognized by the state. The people are concentrated along the border of Mobile and Washington counties.
In the 19th century, the county was largely developed for cotton plantations, with labor supplied by thousands of African-American slaves. Many were transported by slave traders to the Deep South in a forced migration. During the American Civil War, more than three-fourths of the adult men in the county volunteered and served in the Confederate Army as of 1863. At that time, a group of children petitioned the Confederate government to avoid drafting men, so they might serve as a sort of homeland militia. The petition said the men were needed to protect against potential slave uprisings, inasmuch as the county had numerous plantations with large slave populations.
While the county continued to rely on agriculture into the 20th century, the infestation of the boll weevil destroyed many crops. Mechanization also reduced the need for labor, and thousands of African Americans left the South in the Great Migration to Northern and Midwestern industrial cities, where they could get better jobs and escape the legal segregation of the South.
The county has gradually developed other businesses and industry, particularly petrochemical. Due to damage from Hurricane Frederic, the county was declared a disaster area in September 1979.
According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 1,082.31 square miles (2,803.2 km2), of which 1,080.66 square miles (2,798.9 km2) (or 91.81%) is land and 7.89 square miles (20.4 km2) (or 0.72%) is water. The county is located approximately 60 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, and exceeds 682,000 acres of land. About 88 percent of the land area is situated forest and pine plantations.
The Tombigbee River borders Washington County to the east. From the southern point of the river, the boundary runs diagonally south-west, bisecting the community of Calvert. From there, the southern boundary runs west, roughly following the 31°08' N parallel, towards the Mississippi state line, stopping just short before descending due south into Mobile County and forming part of a rectangle that connects with the state line. The western boundary is defined by the Alabama-Mississippi state line (approximately 88°27' W). The northern boundary runs west from the state line along the 31°41' N parallel until reaching the Tombigbee River.
- Choctaw County (north)
- Clarke County (east)
- Baldwin County (southeast)
- Mobile County (south)
- Greene County, Mississippi (southwest)
- Wayne County, Mississippi (northwest)
The Norfolk Southern Railroad runs north out of the Port of Mobile and along the eastern corridor of Washington County, providing transport of raw materials to several chemical and electrical plants situated along the Tombigbee River.
According to the 2010 United States Census Bureau, the racial makeup of the county is as follows:
- 65.5% White
- 24.9% Black
- 8.0% Native American
- 0.1% Asian
- 0.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- 1.2% Two or more races
- 0.9% Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
As of the census of 2000, there were 18,097 people, 6,705 households, and 5,042 families residing in the county. The population density was 17 people per square mile (6/km2). There were 8,123 housing units at an average density of 8 per square mile (3/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 64.98% White, 26.89% Black or African American, 7.12% Native American, 0.06% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.05% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. 0.88% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 6,705 households out of which 37.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.10% were married couples living together, 12.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.80% were non-families. 22.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.17.
In the county the population was spread out with 28.70% under the age of 18, 8.60% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 22.90% from 45 to 64, and 12.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 96.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,815, and the median income for a family was $37,881. Males had a median income of $35,237 versus $18,337 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,081. About 14.80% of families and 18.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.50% of those under age 18 and 22.70% of those age 65 or over.
Like many rural Alabama counties, Washington County is experiencing rural flight—a steady decline of population due to emigration to cities—since 2000. Factors contributing to this phenomenon include depressed economic opportunity within the county and the ongoing urbanization of the United States. Urbanization, especially urban areas adjacent to a rural area, draws young people out of rural areas, offering more and better public services as well as access to better-paying, white-collar jobs.
Cities and towns
- Deer Park
- Saint Stephens
- Vinegar Bend
The Washington County School system includes:
- Chatom Elementary School
- Fruitdale High School
- Leroy High School
- McIntosh Elementary School
- McIntosh High School
- Washington County High School
- Career Technical Center
- Millry High School
Like much of the Deep South, prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Washington County voters generally supported the Democratic Party in national, state and local elections. After President Lyndon Johnson unveiled his Great Society policies, the county's traditionally small-government, state's rights-oriented electorate began supporting Republican candidates in presidential elections. Following the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the rise of the Moral Majority of the 1980s, Washington County voters increasingly elected Republicans in national elections. Bill Clinton was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win Washington County, doing so in his successful 1996 reelection campaign. While Democrats continue to represent the county in the state legislature, voters have not supported a Democratic candidate for governor since 2002, when the state's last Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, lost reelection to Republican Bob Riley.
Elaine Beech (D-Chatom) has represented Washington County in the Alabama House of Representatives (District 65) since 2009. Marc Keahey (D-Grove Hill) has represented the county in the Alabama Senate (District 22) since 2009.
Places of interest
Washington County has three sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
- Andrews Chapel in McIntosh
- Old Washington County Courthouse
- Old St. Stephens Site in St. Stephens.
The Washington County Museum is located in the courthouse in Chatom.
- Wilmer Mizell (1930–1999) was born in Vinegar Bend. He was a left-handed pitcher in major league baseball who went on to serve three terms as a Republican congressman, representing North Carolina's 5th congressional district from 1969 to 1975.
- Beverly Jo Scott was born in Deer Park in 1959.
- Shawna Thompson, of the country music duo Thompson Square, is from Chatom.
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Washington County, Alabama
- Properties on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in Washington County, Alabama
- United States Census Bureau. "2010 Census Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". Census.gov. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Census.gov. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Schools, Washington County (2008-09). "Welcome to the Washington County Schools Website. ::". Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
||Wayne County, Mississippi||Choctaw County|
|Greene County, Mississippi||Mobile County||Baldwin County|