Historic Blakeley State Park
City Disappears, Beauty Remains
Blakeley is one of the oldest cities in the state of Alabama and the oldest in Baldwin County. The city was originally chartered in 1814 when the area was still part of Mississippi Territory. The charter was renewed in 1818 by the new Alabama Territory. A third charter was issued in 1820 by the state of Alabama. The municipality still remains on the books if not in reality.
Blakeley grew quickly at its start. Its heyday was the 1820’s when the city contained about 4,000 inhabitants, more than its nearby competitor, Mobile that lay on the other side of the broad bay. The bustling metropolis contained hotels, blacksmith shops, churches, and stores. The city had the first courthouse in Baldwin County sited along the banks of the Tensaw River. It was considered an important ocean port for the region.
No structures are in evidence in Blakeley today. Forest has reclaimed the streets and buildings. The site has been called “the South’s loveliest ghost town” for the magnificent job nature has done in reestablishing forest cover. Great horned owls nest in large oak trees and issue spectral cries as they fly over what used to be. It can be hard to imagine that an important city once lay where now deer wander among stately trees.
The setting marks the terminus of the Appalachian Range. From the final hill, the land levels out into bottomland that is designated a National Historic Register Site that runs clear down to the moss strewn banks of the Tensaw River. At 3,800 acres, Blakeley is the largest Historical Register Site located east of the Mississippi. The area contains numerous Indian burial mounds. The last major battle of the Civil War was fought here at Fort Blakeley. 28,000 men engaged in combat along five and one half miles of breastworks.
Originally Settled by New Englanders
The city was first inhabited by Josiah Blakeley and a group of New Englanders back in 1814. A grid was established with avenues named after presidents and streets named after trees. The city newspaper, the Blakeley Sun, was one of the first printed in Alabama. Blakeley thrived at first, but began to falter in the 1830’s. An epidemic of Yellow Fever decimated the population, and rampant land speculation drove more of the inhabitants across the bay to Mobile.
The population dwindled down to fewer than 100 inhabitants. There was something of an uptick during the Civil War when Fort Blakeley was established on the site. About 4,000 men were stationed at the site. The final battle of the Civil War erupted here in 1865 involving over 20,000 troops. After the war, Blakeley lay uninhabited, and the land lay idle for more than a century.
In 1981, Historic Blakeley State Park was established as an Alabama Historical Site. In 1991, the site was added to the sites that can be found along the Civil War discovery Trail. This path provides a link to over 300 spots in 16 states that played a prominent part in the Civil War.
Historic Blakeley State Park information provided by Jason Will Real Estate 251-866-6464.