Marion County and Hamilton
Hamilton is situated almost in the center of Marion County. The roots of the county go
back to the early history of the State of Alabama. Marion County takes its name from the
Revolutionary War Hero Frances Marion, and was created as the largest Alabama territorial
county in 1818. At this time the county stretched deep into what is now South Alabama and
Mississippi. Settlers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and the Carolinas came here to
settle what was then known as the Mid-Western Frontier. Hamilton, in its early history was
first known as Toll Gate, named for a toll-gate on the old Military Road.
Hamilton spans the historic passage known as "Military Road", which was carved out of the
wilderness by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee returning North to their homes from victory
over the British at New Orleans in 1815. The army of General Andrew Jackson - who ordered the
development of the road as a short cut between New Orleans and Nashville - camped at Military
Ford, three miles south of Hamilton, as they ventured homeward. A bike and hiking trail is
underway to commemorate the time-honored road's turn in United States history.
The Pikeville area - located just south of Hamilton - served as the county seat for several years
until Captain A.J. Hamilton offered to donate 40 acres of his land in Toll Gate to the community.
In 1883, the Toll Gate donation from Capt. Hamilton was accepted following referendum, and the name
of the community was officially changed to Hamilton in his honor. His family home and grave-site is
still preserved today.
From a few dozen families and settlers in the 1880's, Hamilton grew rapidly. The first school was
established in 1884, and in 1891 evolved into a high school.
More about Toll Gate and Military Road
Indian history and roots are also deeply established here as well. The Chickasaw Tribe hunted
here and provided corn to the newly arrived immigrants. One of the upcoming restorative efforts
that the City of Hamilton has underway is to re-establish the presence of the Indian burial grounds
and mounds that still remain within Hamilton along the banks of the Buttahatchee River.
One of our community's most notable figures was Hamilton native Rankin Fite, a son of a State
Legislator. Rankin Fite, following in his father's footsteps, was a major figure in Alabama
politics as well and served in both the House and the Senate. He eventually became a powerful
Speaker of the House, leading many advances in the city, such as the county's 7,000 foot airport
and a technical school which is today part of Bevill State Community College.