Down Home in Cherokee County, Alabama
The Rise and Fall of Bluffton

Nowadays, if you should ask your average Cherokee County resident to direct you to Bluffton, he would reply:
a) "You must mean Cedar Bluff,"
b) "It got covered up by Weiss Lake back in '61,"
c) "You got me confused with two other fellers," or
d) "Who?"

The correct answer, of course, is "none of the above." Bluffton was Cherokee County's only boomtown, and at one time appeared destined for greatness, or near-greatness.

In the late 1800's the eastern section of the county supported three of the State's earliest blast furnaces ,and provided them with what seemed to bean inexhaustible supply of iron ore. The Rock Run, Stonewall, and Tecumseh Furnaces all operated within a few miles of each other, with another furnace , Aetna, just across the state line in Georgia. These furnaces burned charcoal, which was in abundant supply in the area, and employed several hundred men. Because of the heavy demand for charcoal iron, the town of Bluffton grew, in the period from 1889 to 1892, to a population of nearly 8,000. Within a few years, however, the demand for charcoal iron evaporated, and the town of Bluffton"went busted."

It should be noted, however, that in its short time Bluffton made quite an impact. It supported a newspaper, "The Mascot"; plans were laid for a munitions and car wheel factory; the first electric lights in Cherokee County were installed there, and ground was even broken for the "University of the Southland", which would have undoubtedly rivaled the University of Alabama by now, had it ever been built. There was a fine old Victorian hotel built there, the Signal Hotel, which stood, more or less, until the early 1950's. Rudyard Kipling, tradition has it, stayed at the Signal Hotel, and there were several reports that Edgar Allen Poe had also spent the night there. Since the hotel was built in 1890, however, and since Poe died in 1849, most historians agree that it was probably not Poe, but a Poe look-alike, who slept at the Signal.

Only a row of stately old oaks and a few remnants of the ancient foundation now mark the location of the old Signal Hotel, and little or no evidence remains of Bluffton. The once thriving village has gone the way of the buggy whip, the crank telephone, and red flannel underwear.

There were other Cherokee County communities left behind or lost in the wake of progress. There were places like Frog Creek, Jumpers Knob, Polecat Ford, Black Ankle, Possum Trot, Wallopsburg, Gnatville, Sheepskin, Billy Goat Hill, Lick Skillet, Open Crack, Hell's Half Acre, Speckled Hen's Nest, Waterloo,Loop, Congo, Dixon Shop, and Piano. These places may have sported interesting names, but none boasted a more interesting history than Bluffton.

from the book "Cherokee County, Alabama - A Pictorial History 1836 - 1986. Sesquicentennial History Book Committee, Centre, Ala. 1986, page 72.

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This page last updated 13 Jan 2009