Fort Payne was named for the US Army stockade at the Native American village of Willstown, where Cherokee scholar Sequoyah developed his famous alphabet in the 1820s. Following the Cherokee Removal of 1838, known as the Trail of Tears, a farming settlement developed around the stockade site, and the arrival of the Wills Valley Railroad in the 1850s helped shape its early growth. The small town became the county seat in 1878 and quickly boomed into a coal and iron industrial powerhouse filled with the municipal infrastructure, stately structures, and elegant residences that define the city today. By mid-century, Fort Payne was experiencing its second boom and was ultimately recognized as the "Sock Capital of the World."
About the Author
John Alexander Dersham is president and CEO of DeKalb Tourism, Inc. A lifelong photographer and writer, John has a passion for the history of Fort Payne and has lived in the community since 2000. Collins Kirby is a native of Fort Payne and has collected local, vintage postcards since 1980.