HOKES BLUFF

One of the oldest communities in Etowah County, Hokes Bluff is located in the heart of the Coosa Valley on a high bluff overlooking the Coosa River and has been known for almost a century as The Bluff.  This area was a lookout station for Indian tribes since one could see a great distance across, up and down the Coosa River. The Treaty of New Echota in 1835 required the Cherokee to vacate the area. Hokes Bluff was one of the staging areas where the Indians were gathered, sent to Gunters Landing (Guntersville), and then west to Oklahoma.

Settlers began to move into the Hokes Bluff area in 1840 with the majority migrating from the Carolinas and Georgia. These early settlers were mostly small farmers and woodmen who owned or homesteaded little tracts of land.

The greater portion of early Hokes Bluff lay in township 11 and 12 South-range 7 east of Huntsville Meridian as shown in abstract title 6570. Some quotations from this tract and those that first had the location entered are as follows:

W-1/2 of the NW-1/4 in Section 28 Township 11 South of Range 7 East of Huntsville Meridian in Etowah County, Alabama first entered by John Handy, March 27, 1842.

Sixty-three acres in the NW Fractional Quarter, Section 15, Township 12 South of Range 7 East, Huntsville Meridian, Etowah County, Alabama. Known as the Betsy Tidmore dower lands. Entered by Adam Tidmore April 20, 1842. (Later own by Joseph Barnes.)

Forty-two acres lying in NW-1/4 Section 15 and NE-1/4 Section 16, Township 12, South of Range 7 East of Huntsville Meridian, Etowah County, Alabama. First entered by Adam Tidmore, April 20, 1842. (Later owned by J.R. & A.H. Barnes.)

The Northwest part of the NE 1/4 lying west of Coosa River, Section 15 Township 12 South of Range 7 East of Huntsville Meridian, Etowah County, Alabama. First entered by John Tidmore May 20, 1842.

The W-1/2 of the SW-1/4 Section 28 Township 11 S. Range 7 East, except 2 acres off South end sold to E.T. Slack. First entered by John Jones, February 14, 1845.

The NE-1/4 of SW-1/4 Section 28 Township Meridian, Etowah County, Alabama. Entered by Jefferson Alford August 2, 1849.

The Northeast Fraction, Section 29 Township 11 South Range 7 East of Huntsville, Meridian, Etowah County, Alabama, save and except 40 acres sold by Jefferson Alford to Elizabeth Alford.

Among these early settlers was Daniel Hoke, Jr. who arrived about 1850 and built a trading post, general store and blacksmith shop near The Bluff. In May 1853, the name The Bluff was changed to Hoke's Bluff by Major William B. Wynne of Gadsden.  (Just FYI: Major Wynne was a friend of Daniel Hoke and a very close friend of John Wisdom.)

One of this area's first land transactions was that of Daniel Hoke who, in subsequent years, held three land patents in Etowah County:

Patentee Name Issue Date Land Office Doc. Nr. Accession/Serial Nr.
Hoke, Daniel 10 Feb 1854 Lebanon 15321 AL3250__.430
Hoke, Daniel 01 Jan 1859 Centre 19196 AL3320__.013
Hoke, Daniel 02 Apr 1860 Centre 17185A AL3370__.151

NOTE:  **Most of the early deeds show "of Cherokee County" since Etowah County was not established until 1867.**

The first roads and streets in the Hokes Bluff area were narrow trails and usually of a two-rut type; naturally, not charted or paved. The area ranged from level to gently rounded hills with a few conspicuous knolls. The soil is varied.  It has the gravelly loam or "graylands" gumbo, the stony loam and the river bottoms loam which is the richest of the soils in this area.

The highest point, probably, is in the heart of the present city limits where the city water tower now stands and which was once a portion of the old John Wisdom plantation.

After the original virgin pine timber was cut by the early settlers, the second growth consisted mostly of post, white and black oak with a sprinkling of short leaf pine interspersed. The long leaf pine now almost ceases to exist. For years old piles of decaying sawdust was all that remained of the once majestic and lofty pine timber and the fabulous Hokes Bluff timber industry. Forest fires have annually taken their toll of the small amount of timber land available. One big springs was used as a power supply for the earliest mill in Hokes Bluff (Siebert) and later at Ewings Mill. Some remains of that old mill are still visible across the road from Chunn's Lake. The spring furnished the city with its water supply. People who resided outside the city limits continued to use wells as their source of water. However, there are numerous smaller springs which erupt in various localities. Almost any farm of any size had its own springs for a livestock water supply. In recent years several fishing lakes have been built.

The most unusual aspects in and around Hokes Bluff are the four distinct periods, or eras, and the marks they left on the surrounding landscapes. First, the Indian's with their method of occupying the land but doing little to till the soil. Then came the pioneers and early settlers who cut some timber, built their cabins, then cleared more land to farm and cultivate the soil. Next, the timber industry which completely cleared the elements. Today we have the period where beautiful homes are being built and the lands are being restored by pasturing, pine seedlings and varying degrees of small orchards and landscaping of shrubbery covering the soil in the vicinity of the majority of homes. Actually, with the Coosa River development under way, we now have five eras. (The Indians which were predominant in this area were the Cherokees with a few roving Creeks.)

The farm homes in Hokes Bluff were frame, including the barns and storehouses, even up to the early 1930s. The homes were usually large roomy houses - few were painted - all had large wide porches and open hall ways. The larger homes usually had huge oak trees around them. The smaller two and three room houses were now desirable and were usually in need of repair and painting. In many places there were now trees or shrubbery and yards were swept by brush brooms made of dogwood or broomsage bundled together. These smaller types were, in the majority of cases, occupied by tenant farmers. Few orchards of any size existed. The barns, unless built by a large land owner, usually consisted of just a shed, unpainted, to shelter a cow or two with a small loft to store some hay and another small shed to feed the mules with a room for a corn crib.

Hokes Bluff established its first post office on February 23, 1877. 

Postmasters and their dates of appointment were:

James A. Penny February 23, 1877
King S. Steel December 22, 1879
Adam H. Barnes November 29, 1881
James A. Penny December 05, 1891
King S. Steele February 02, 1898
William F. Ford February 12, 1902
William C. Barnes June 19, 1902
Daniel D. Nabors March 25, 1903
George F. Griffith (Declined) January 20, 1904
W.D. Atkins (declined) March 08, 1904
William C. Barnes May 11, 1904
Sarah E. Posey September 13, 1921
Mrs. Lillian B. Griffith February 19, 1925

On July 14, 1890, a mail route from Gadsden to Hokes Bluff was established. The carrier was to make six round trips each week. Before this route was established the Hokes Bluff community and surrounding area had poor mail service. The steamboats, when they ran, did insure promptness but otherwise, this area was sadly in need of delivery.

Adam Wade, a Negro, in 1890 carried the mail from Gadsden to Hokes Bluff Post Office, Ewing, Mayes and Luke for $128 per year. His route was 22-1/2 miles long.  The post office discontinued on October 31, 1931.

On September 29, 1890, the little village of Hokes Bluff was on a boom. Town lots were selling rapidly. John H. Wisdom was quoted by the Gadsden Times that he had sold several lots and much building was anticipated.

J. W. Heaton was the village blacksmith

A.S. White operated a country store

Hokes Bluff incorporated as a town in 1946 with a population of about 1,200 people.  W.B. Ford was the first elected Mayor. Councilmen were: Dr. H.G. Ford, R.A. Pentecost, L.J. Barnes, Frank Wester and M.C. Morris. The first clerk elected by the Council was J.J. Barnes.

In 2000, Hokes Bluff had a population of 4,149 residents.

JUST NOTES:

In 1853, John Wisdom was driving a stage from Rome, Georgia to Blue Mountain and Jacksonville, Alabama.

Daniel Hoke's grave is in a cemetery in Jacksonville, Alabama.

On January 4, 1872, John A. Hoke, son of Daniel Hoke, was married to Lela Goode of Cherokee County, Alabama.

On September 5, 1887, Wiley Weaver of nearby Hokes Bluff, visited Gadsden and told a newspaper reporter about the prospects of the Central of Georgia going to Gadsden through his section. He sold land at $17 per acre and had 600 acres left to see.

On April 24, 1888, Dr. E.P. Landers, who was a practicing physician at Hokes Bluff, returned from Philadelphia, where he had attended a series of medical lectures, to Rome, Georgia by boat.

Also in 1888 the Rev. W.T. Andrews, presiding elder of the Methodist Church, announced dates for the third round of quarterly meetings which were scheduled for Ashville, Mt. Hope, Lebannon, Hebron, Cedar Bluff, Cedar Hill, Hokes Bluff, Valley Head, Lookout Mountain, Centre, Cross Plains (now Piedmont), Ohatchee, Springville, and Attalla.

In 1888, John H. Wisdom purchased a half interest in the Tatum and Eqing grist mill near Hokes Bluff.

On November 13, 1888, word reached Hokes Bluff and Gadsden from the Indian territory that Jim Ables, a native of Hokes Bluff, had shot and killed "Captain" John Miller, his landlord. In doing this act, the Indian territory had been rid of one of the most dangerous men in its history. "Captain" Miller had been credited with killing 32 men. Everyone was afraid of him and they who crossed him in anyway usually died. Jim Ables was the son of Captain Billy Ables of Hokes Bluff. In the early 1880's he had gone to the Indian territory and became a tenant on the Miller farm. One day Miller Miller accused Ables of buying goods and charging them to Miller. This fact Ables denied. Miller attacked him with a knife and Ables killed him with a gun. Then Ables became a hero instead of a killer.

On July 30, 1889, Hokes Bluff lost a long-time citizen and large land owner in Alfords Bend. John Caddell moved to Gadsden where he became very prominent in public affairs.

On June 4, 1889, James Gidley, one of the ablest tanners in the county and owner of a very successful tannery in Hokes Bluff, went to Gadsden every few weeks with a load of leather to ship to Rome, Georgia or other outside points. When he went by wagon to Gadsden he usually returned home with his wagon loaded with hides, many times these loads weighed as much as 1,000 pounds.

On July 21, 1890, Hugh Mayes, of Hokes Bluff, took a raft of 1,000 crossties and 75 telegraph poles to Gadsden by floating them down the Coosa. Hugh was an expert in handling saw logs and other timbers. The crossties were to be used for the Chattanooga Southern Railroad which was then being rapidly built from Gadsden to Chattanooga.

On April 26, 1891, Sam Sibert and Miss Emily Penny were married at her father's home.

On January 26, 1891, Relus Coffey, brother of W.C. Coffey of Ball Play, arrived from Texas with a drove of mules he hoped to sell in Hokes Bluff, Gadsden, and Etowah County.

On June 1, 1891, Peter Wagnon of Ball Play, stated that crops in his community were excellent. He was a farmer, merchant, a preacher, a justice of the peace and operator of the steam boats. He was one of the most popular men of the county.

In 1899, Dr. Reeves, a fine farmer of Hokes Bluff, harvested 149 dozen bundles of wheat or fifty bushels of wheat from six acres. The what that year was slow in coming up but a good growing season helped the yield.

On April 2, 1900, some young people of Ball Play visited Caddells Bend at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Rains. On Sunday morning they drove to East Gadsden on a sightseeing tour. those enjoying the drive were Misses Carrie, Pauline and Lizzie Ivey, and Laura Wood of Ball Play, Berta and Rossa Rains, Fannie and Florence Barnes, Minnie, Beatrice and Alice Sims of Caddells Bend; Misters Willis, Ivey and Tom Laster, Jim Ashburn, Pete Wagnon and John Hook of Ball Play, Will Burnette, Ed Pool, Thomas and Henry Barnes, Albert Rains of Caddells Bend.

On May 26-27, 1890 the Etowah County Singing Convention held its annual session at Hokes Bluff. President was L.L. Herron.

On October 28, 1901, Mrs. Mary E. Wisdom, wife of John Wisdom, captured a horned owl on her plantation. From wing tip to wing tip it measured four feet five inches and was attempting to fly off with a grown chicken when caught.

In 1909, some of the people who had mail boxes in Hokes Bluff and surrounding area, except those living in walking distance of the Post Office, were:

W.J.M. Sims John Mitchell
J.M. Burns Mayes School
J.L. Croft J.C. Bone
W.M. Tidwell W.M.Lane
Mrs. Croft W.J. Simmons
G.A. Graham M.E. Wisdom Plantation
D.B. Adkins M.L. Lee
Mrs. Hodges J.D. Lee
S.H. Hodges J.W. Womack
Hodges School J.N. Young
H.G. Wise Ed Heussel
Miss N.A. Reaves L. Reaves
M.G. Simson V. Reaves
J.P. Patterson R.B. Sims
G.W. Ward W.O. McDonald
S.J. Miller J.L. Walker
J.R. Hodges G.T. Rot
L.P. Miller W.M. Ables
E.G. Thornton J.W. McMahan
H.S. Smith J.D. Turner
W.C. Pearson J.A. McMahan
F.M. McCoy W.W. Williams
Dan McCoy S.H. Boozer
J.H. Dover Ewing School
M.S. Jones D.W. Pinson
W.J. Alford B.F. Turner
G.W. Day Ewing Plantation
J.A. Burnett G.B. Iruins Plantation
R.H. Gulledge C.T. Smith's Place
R.H. Handy D.C. Abel
R.M. Johnson J.H. McLain
Mrs. Laura Mayes M.F. Penny
O.P. Pike T.P. Posey
W.H. Smith R.R. Shields
G.W. Johnson Ewings Mill
A.F. Alford Joseph Gilley

During World War 1 many young men from Hokes Bluff served in the armed forces.  The only known death labeled "killed in action" was Erven L. Landers.