A new educational exhibit detailing Morgan County’s transformation from a rustic post-Civil War agricultural community into a modern industrial economy opens today, Friday, October 30 at the Morgan County Archives in Decatur. The permanent exhibit, Morgan County Comes of Age, brings historical accounts and stories to life using descriptive panels, photography, artifacts and videos.
Morgan County Comes of Age tells the story of Morgan County’s transformation from a rustic post-Civil War agricultural community into a modern industrial economy. The exhibit illustrates the arrival of newcomers from across the nation and around the globe who contributed to the County’s development. Decatur’s wild days as a riverboat town, the impact from the booming railroad industry, the development of a strong African American community during segregation, and the arrival of the Tennessee Valley Authority are all depicted through photographs, artifacts and video.
“This exhibit highlights the industriousness of Morgan County’s people in the face of the numerous challenges of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It reveals the diversity of the many contributors to our County’s success,” said Morgan County archivist John Allison.
Morgan County Comes of Age features photographs and artifacts from the collections of the Morgan County Archives. Artifacts include Mayor H.A. Skeggs’ derby hat, a whiskey decanter from “Miss Kate” Lackner’s bordello, Barrett Shelton Sr.’s typewriter, a four-foot-long model of the ships built by Ingalls Shipyard during World War II, and many others for guests to peruse. Thirteen of Decatur’s most influential men and women are introduced to guests, including Ellen Hildreth, founder of Alabama’s first women’s suffrage society, and T.W. Bridges, Morgan County’s first black Agricultural Extension Agent. Themes explored in the displays include “The Changing Land,” “Joining the World Market,” “Immigration,” “Old Town and Segregation,” “Saints and Sinners,” and “Taming the Tennessee.” A 45-inch ADA-compliant monitor shows photographs and maps from the period.
The exhibit was made possible through a grant from Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers and Valleys RC&D Council.
The Archives is located at 624 Bank Street in historic Old Decatur. Admission is free. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and by special appointment.
The Archives is also the place to research all aspects of Morgan County history, with documents, manuscripts and photographs dating back to the county’s beginning in 1818. Call Archivist John Allison at (256) 351-4726 for more information on the new exhibit or on programs and services offered at the archives.