Tuscaloosa was founded on December 3, 1819 and was named for the chieftain of a Muskogean-speaking people. Chief Tuskaloosa, Black Warrior, and his people were defeated by Hernando De Soto at the Battle of Mabila in 1540. Tuscaloosa’s first permanent settlers were Thomas York and his family, who settled along the Black Warrior River which now flows between Tuscaloosa and the city of Northport, in 1816.
The site of the future City of Tuscaloosa on the Fall Line of the Black Warrior River had long been well known to the various Indian tribes whose shifting fortunes brought them to West Alabama.
In 1817, Alabama became a territory, and on December 13, 1819, the territorial legislature incorporated the town of Tuscaloosa, exactly one day before Congress admitted Alabama to the Union as a state. Thus, the City of Tuscaloosa is one day older than the State of Alabama.
Tuscaloosa was the third of four state capitals to Alabama, serving for twenty years before it was permanently moved to the present site in Montgomery in 1846. W.M. Nichols designed the Tuscaloosa capitol building, which held the first session of legislature in 1829. Being the State Capital enabled the University of Alabama to be established in the city soon after in 1831. During the last weeks of the Civil War, a brigade of Union troops led by General John T. Croxton, raided the city and burned the campus of the university. Only four of the buildings were saved and still stand today: Maxwell Hall, The Little Round House, The Gorgas House and the President’s Mansion. Amazingly, the mansion was saved from burning by the heroic and unyielding stand the University president’s wife made in the front door defying the union troops. They could not follow through because of her fierceness to save the beautiful home (inset).
The construction of a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890’s opened up an inexpensive link to the Gulf seaport of Mobile, stimulating especially the mining and metallurgical industries of the region.
By the advent of the 20th Century, the growth of the University of Alabama and a strong national economy fueled a steady growth in Tuscaloosa which continued unabated for 100 years.
The presence in Tuscaloosa of manufacturing plants of such large multi-national firms as Michelin Tires, JVC America, and Chrysler-Mercedes has established the city as an economic pillar of the global economy.
Tuscaloosa has traditionally been known as the Druid City because of the numerous water oaks planted in its downtown streets in the 1840s. Since serving as the capital city from 1826 to 1846, it has been the regional center of industry, commerce, healthcare and education for West Alabama. Tuscaloosa is home to a vast array of remarkable sights that are known only inside its bounds. With hundreds of restaurants, activities, museums and parks, it has managed to become one of Alabama’s most progressive cities. Visitors come to enjoy the refreshing atmosphere, historic features and bustling nightlife that Tuscaloosa has to offer. With its great energy and eyes on the future, Tuscaloosa continues to thrive on being everyone’s one and only.
Facts About Tuscaloosa
Tuscaloosa is the county seat of 1,340 square mile Tuscaloosa County (the second largest county in Alabama), which also includes the municipalities of Northport and Brookwood.
The City’s 98,322 inhabitants represent 46% of Tuscaloosa County’s 198,596 population. It is the home of the University of Alabama (over 36,000 students), Stillman College (historically black college with a rich history) and Shelton State Community College (the second largest junior college in Alabama.
Tuscaloosa looms large in the educational and institutional infrastructure of Alabama. Its diversified industrial base is anchored by the Mercedes-Benz International assembly plant which commenced production in 1997.
In 2005, Mercedes completed a $600 million expansion that doubled its work force to 4,000 employees and added another vehicle assembly line at the plant, now 3 million square feet. Today, this billion-dollar MBUSI facility plant produces three vehicles — the M-Class, the C-Class, the GLE coupe and the GL-Class luxury sport utility vehicles. This year (2017) Mercedes celebrated 20 years of production in the state.
State Capitol Ruins in Tuscaloosa
The river shoals at Tuscaloosa represented the southernmost site on the river which could be forded under most conditions. Inevitably, a network of Indian trails converged upon the place, the same network which, in the first years of the 19th Century began to lead a few intrepid white frontiersmen to the area. The pace of white settlement increased greatly after the War of 1812, and a small assortment of log cabins soon arose near the large Creek Indian village at the Fall Line of the river.
The “Amp” Amphitheater on the River
The Federal Courthouse
Shelton State Community College
The University of Alabama
The Dam Spillway on Lake Tuscaloosa