Submitted by Ruth Teaford
It was in the late 1830’s when
the early settlers began to dig coal from the river and creek
bottoms of Warrior River. In early 1840, Jacob Gibson, who had
settled across the river from Cordova, began digging up coal
with crowbars and loading it on boats.
Jacob Phillips, the Sanders, the
Bartons, and the
Gravlees were also mining coal.
William Gravlee, the elder,
continued running his transportation line of boats. Judge
William Hewlett shipped coal from
Benchfield, on the Cordova side, while the
Bordens shipped from this
Even though all this activity
was in progress, the community was not established until 1859.
At this time, Benjamin M. Long came in from Carrollton,
Georgia. He opened a mercantile store and started the town
which he named Cordova after the name of a town in Mexico where
he had been stationed in the Mexican War.
The first church was organized
in 1861. The Baptist Church started with very few members. The
building was a log cabin and was situated a short distance from
where the present building stands. ‘Uncle” Joseph Nations was
one of the first ministers.
The Civil War followed closely
behind the establishment of the community. Cordova had no means
of growing during the war period or the dark days of
reconstruction that followed. By 1884, it had grown
sufficiently in importance to justify opening a post office.
The early mail was received from Jasper two times weekly.
Tibe Johnson carried the mail which
usually consisted of one paper and four or five letters. The
first postmaster was J.A. Jones, better known as “Bud.” The
office was located in the general store of B.M. Long.
In 1886, with the building of
the railroads, Cordova began its growth. The Georgia Pacific
(later the Southern) and the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham
(later Frisco) laid their rails into Cordova. This gave the
town direct rail connection with Birmingham, Memphis, and
Columbus, Mississippi. This event attracted people to the town.
In 1887, the Methodist Church
was established. It was organized by D.W. Ward. The charter
members were, Captain B.M. Long and his wife, Amanda, Mr. and
Mrs. W.W. Stagg, Mr. and Mrs. Henry
Nations, Mr. and Mrs. M.W Root, Mrs. C.L.
Carmack, Alex Chamblee, and W. Stagg.
The first building was a two-room dwelling with the partition
torn out. This humble structure served as a house of worship
for several years, and then an attractive frame building was
Growth did not come as quickly
as expected, and in 1895, Captain Long offered to donate a site
for any industry that would locate in Cordova. The offer was
accepted by the Indian Head Mills of Boston, Mass. The mill was
completed and started operations in 1898. This brought several
hundred employees into the town raising the population count in
1900 to 567. This number justified the incorporation of the
town in that year.
The cotton mill had an influence
of the agricultural growth in the adjoining countryside, which
in turn increased business opportunities in the town. Several
coal mines were opened nearby causing the population to treble
in size in ten years to 1747 in 1910.
In 1912, the old frame building
of the Methodist Church was removed and the heirs of B.M. Long
erected a $12,000.00 brick structure in memory of Captain Long.
Known as Long Memorial Methodist Church, it has been a central
landmark of the town and the man who gave his all to establish a