Why did they choose this location? There was little or no government resistance to white men encroaching upon Indian land. The Paint Rock and Flint provided easy access via the Tennessee River. There was an overland trail opened through the wilderness, in 1813, by Gen Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee Volunteers. Willis Carpenter was a surveyor for these Creek Indian fighters, and he helped build a road from Manchester to the Tennessee River. Their objective was a supply fort on the river to be named “Fort Deposit.” No matter how Cloud entered the territory, he took advantage of one or all of these three: unsettled land, water access, and overland trail. He located a trading post by a spring fed by numerous limestone caverns in the area. Cloud’s Trading Post was undoubtedly profitable as a settlement grew up around his business.
Many squatters now called this land home, having cleared the land and built cabins. On Oct. 1, 1830, the federal government began to grant patents on this land. Robert Owen was the first to be granted a patent. His 80 acres included Cloud’s Trading Post and reached down to the Paint Rock River. That was Oct. 5, 1830. Cloud left and relocated on the Flint River where it empties into the Tennessee. That cove is still identified by his name: Cloud’s Cove. Mr. James McCartney, a land developer and politician in Madison County, purchased 80 acres adjoining Owen on Oct, 18, 1830. Their quarter section was in Section 11 Township 6, Range 2 East. On July 11, 1831, Littleberry Stone purchased 80 acres in the same section. These tracts became the nucleus of a new town. Owen and McCartney hired William B Fant to survey and plat lots for their town. Incorporation began in 1832 with the first recorded town elections in May 1837. George Russell, Aaron Harrison, William Allison, Thomas Vann and Jason L. Jordan became the first to own surrounding tracts of land. Vienna, Alabama was a reality!
There was a problem. The postal department would not use the name “Vienna” for the new mail delivery location. There was already a “Vienna”, Alabama, post office! Rather than using the established name “Cloud’s Town”, the name “New Hope” was chosen. Robert Owen’s first 80 acre purchase had included a hill where locals had been burying their dead for over a decade. He saw his hillside cemetery as a natural location for a church. Being Methodist, the church built on his hill was “New Hope Methodist Church.” If the post office could not be “Vienna”, why not “New Hope”? And so it was for over 40 years. Residents lived in “Vienna” and got their mail in “New Hope”.
In 1834, Owen sold 21.5 acres of his original 80 acres to a local merchant, John Kinnebrugh. Owen later acquired Cobb’s Mill on the Flint River. He and his son Thomas Hobson Owen operated a sawmill there. Hobson’s family settled in the Cobb-Owen house with a thriving community forming at the cross roads: Owens Cross Roads. Probated records show a donation of part of John Kinnebrugh’s 21.5 acres to the New Hope Methodist Episcopal Church Trustees in 1845.
By 1840, mercantile businesses were operated by Kinnebrugh. I. D. Wann, and John Ledbetter. William Stone had a tan yard by the Spring Branch. Thus a town with homes, a church and cemetery, and businesses was firmly established in the original Cherokee School Land by 1845.
Why the county term “New Madison”? Madison County had been formed from the Mississippi Territory by December, 1808. Lands reserved to Cherokee Indians were not included in the original area that made up Madison County. After the 1830 land sales, the county line extended southward to the Tennessee River, Marshall County had been formed from lands taken from Blount and Jackson counties in 1836. A legislative act on December, 23, 1837, detached a small portion of Madison County in the southeast region, adding it to Marshall County. The new county boundary became the Paint Rock River. It was the only time Madison County lost territory. But what about the eastern boundary between Jackson and Madison counties? From 1821 to 1825, land on the west side of the Paint Rock had been in Decatur County, with a county seat in Woodville. With the abolishment of Decatur County, this “no man’s land” went into Jackson County. Act #47, January 29, 1836, added the part of Jackson County west of the Paint Rock River to Madison County. It was not until December 14, 1841, that an eastern boundary line between Madison and Jackson was finally resolved. Hence “New Madison” was used to designate lands north and west of the Paint Rock River for the remainder of the 19th century.
After the Civil Was all that was left of Vienna was a few chimneys marking the locations of homes and stores, the Methodist Church on cemetery hill, the post office/tavern, and the building housing the Masonic Lodge. After Brig. Gen. O. M. Mitchel’s troops occupied Huntsville in April of 1862 during the Civil War, Fort Osterhaus was built in Vienna as a stockade and outpost. The 12th Indiana Calvary manned the outpost. There was no shortage of Confederate soldiers from southeastern Madison County. Capt. Thomas H. Owen’s 37th Tennessee Infantry, Co. E. was organized on 1861 and was comprised almost entirely of men from Owens Cross Roads, Berkley and Vienna. Capt. Owen was replaced by Capt. John W. Grayson when the regiment was reorganized on May 10, 1862. This regiment and Mead’s Battalion, 25th Alabama Calvary, commanded by Lemuel G. Mead of Paint Rock, took most of the able bodied men from the area. Vienna was especially prey to the foraging of federal troops. As a matter of local protection, Milus “Bushwhacker” Johnston and his band of guerilla fighters constantly harassed the federal troops. When the 12th Indiana pulled out of Fort Osterhaus on Dec. 15, 1864, they torched all but the three named buildings, leaving a burned out Vienna. Judge Thomas J. Taylor recalled in his 1890 History of Madison County, “a forest of chimneys marking the site of Vienna……suggestive of tombstones in a grave yard.” No houses, no stores, no schools, and no barns, cribs, or fences——desolation!
John Calvin Drake’s plantation north of Vienna had previously been burned. In fact, much of the land to Wood’s Mill was laid waste. Keels, Ikards, Whitakers, Vanns, and Staplers returning from the war found less destruction in the Great Bend of the Paint Rock. Butlers, Maples, Moons, Taylors, Woodys and Dilworths were separated from Vienna by miles of uncleared land. Hamers, Hannahs, Vanns, and Lemleys resettled west of Vienna. Slowly, stores and homes were rebuilt. Alvis Whited, “Big A” as he was called, was one of several Confederates with rebuilding the town as a prime objective. In 1869, he filed his first request for reincorporation of Vienna. For ten years, there was progress. Three of Canada Butler’s sons, James Edward, Francis Taylor, and George Washington, established Butler Bros. General Merchandise on Main Street in 1872. Nineteen residents signed a petition for reincorporation again in 1879. “Vienna” was reincorporated as “New Hope” and “Big A” Whited was elected mayor. The Walnut Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church of 1848, burned during the Civil War, was rebuilt and thriving. Fellow merchants J. F. Ellett and Frank Stone began a congregation of the Church of Christ in the 1880’s. Schools were serving the communities of New Hope, Poplar Ridge, Nebo, Cave Spring, Oak Grove, Cedar Point, Vann, Yellow Bank, Owens Cross Roads and Cloud’s Cove. Drs. William Rivers, Davis Moore, Isaac Sullivan and Robert Cochran tended the sick. With businesses, doctors, churches and schools, New Hope entered the 1890’s as a boom town.
Having survived the great floods of 1886 and 1896 and again in 1916, New Hope began a relatively calm period of growth and prosperity. Merchants were finding the need to rebuild stores hastily thrown up after the Civil War. Butler Bros., then known as James E. Butler General Merchandise, had opened a two-story brick building on the west side of Main Street. There was an adjoining facility for the new Bank of New Hope. This move by 1909 from east to west side of the street gave room for expansion: new cotton ginning facility and warehouses, tractor shed and garage, grocery and furniture stores and funeral services. This gave rise to the “cradle to grave” slogan for the business. A population increase of 208 in 1910 to 411 in 1920 proved New Hope was growing in size and in needs. The decade of 1910 through the 1920’s could boast of 2 hotels, 2 boarding houses, a café, a newly accredited 12 grade school, a weekly newspaper, telephones, 4 general mercantile stores, a bank, a garage and filling station, 2 millinery shops, 2 barber shops, a blacksmith shop, watch and shoe repair shop, gristmill, sawmill, insurance salesmen, an attorney, 3 subdivision with building lots to sell, 3 drug stores and doctors’ offices, a livery stable and several other small shops. The “Who’s Who” of merchants read from one end of town to the other as follows: Ikard, Lewis, Drake, Mann, Whited, Branum, Hughes, Harris, Owen, Hamer, St. John, Walker, Dickey, Young, Martin, McKinney, Hunt, Keel, Colburn, Johnson, Butler, Stapler, Moon, Taylor, Davis, McDonald, Bell, Whitaker, Ellett, Howard, Hodges, Dalton, Vann, Smith, Rice. Hayden and even a Schiffman added to the mix. Being geographically hemmed in by rivers and mountains, lacking railroad service, and dealing with inadequate road travel, New Hope merchants needed to provide everything from seed, feed and plows to hats, shoes and caskets. Butler Bros. even offered the latest in entertainment, “a Pathe’ phonograph with grand selection of recordings.” It must have been hand cranked for electricity did not make it to New Hope until 1928!
Untangling the history of city government, or lack of it, can be a challenge. According to James Record, A Dream Come True, Vol I, New Hope has been, “the most incorporating’ city in Madison County.” Documented dates of successful incorporation are 1832, 1879, 1900, 1920 and 1956. Known mayors in order of elected terms are: Alvis Whited, Charlie Owen, James Dickey, John Wilson, J. C. Mann, Leon Martin, R. A. Carpenter, John D. Mann, Sr., James W. Duncan, Sr., Charles R. Ealy, William Houston Key, James Nolan Hill, Billy G. Jones, John D. Mann, Jr., William B. Beasley and John Howard. Between the 1930’s and 1950’s, New Hope had done without a telephone system, banking facilities, police and fire protection and city water and sewer services. Before reincorporation in 1956, community growth was spearheaded by a single civic organization: New Hope Lions Club, chartered in Nov. 1948. After securing telephone service in 1953, Lions worked for over eight years to finalize the opening of a State National Bank Branch in New Hope in July, 1965. In the meantime, Lions manned the new telephones to get out the vote in the Sept. 4, 1956, mayoral election.
With stable city government came fire and police protection, the first police car in 1957, and reduced insurance rates. In 1960, the water system was completed just in the nick of time. Fire broke out in the old frame McKinney building on Friday, Jan. 13, 1961! The new water tank undoubtedly saved the entire downtown from destruction. As it was, the majority of the east side of Main Street went up in flames. Growth in municipal services in the 1960’s was highlighted by two unique events: the rapid expansion of the New Hope Telephone Cooperative and the establishment of the first rural Y.M.C.A. in the nation. Lions, Civitans and Jaycees worked to secure a 17 acre tract for a gymnasium, swimming pool, tennis courts and ball fields. By this time, New Hope had changed from a mostly agricultural community with many thriving businesses to “bedroom” community for larger surrounding cities. City residents soon demanded and got the following: new city hall on Main Street, 1965, expanded city limits, 1965 and 1983; medical clinic for doctor, 1968;financial support for Y.M.C.A.,1968-1972; town park and improvements, 1972,1985 and 1989; improved roads and traffic light on U. S. 431, 1980’s-1990’s; sewer system, 1980;financial support for branch of public library, 1988 and ongoing; cemetery board, 1994; new fire department, 1994; natural gas, 1997-1998; a new high school, 1999; Kid’s Zone at City Park, 2000-2001; street clean-up (Street Walkers) joint project of Lions Club and City of New Hope,2007; New Hope Beautification Committee, 2008 and ongoing;
The facts speak for themselves. According to the 2000 federal census, New Hope is now:
8.8 square mile, within city limits
2, 539 population
0.39 % African-American
1.81% Native American
0.67% Other Races
2.46 persons average household size
$31.458 Median income per household
A present day stroll through downtown New Hope provides a glimpse into a thriving past and presents possibilities for renewed growth. Since 1996, New Hope has revitalized the century old Butler Bros. building. The Elizabeth Carpenter Public Library, city hall, and an office of the Madison County License Department now occupy the historic building. New Hope City Hall was dedicated as the James Nolan Hill Building on Aug. 24, 2008, to honor the former mayor who spearheaded the relocation of city hall. Furlough Land Development has renovated the Taylor Texaco building, Doran’s Hardware and New Hope Drug Company. The Care Center, a non-profit service provider for area residents, is located in one of their reclaimed buildings. A bakery and eatery and salon are recent additions to a revitalized downtown. New Hope Historical Association is headquartered in the former Frances Maples Beauty Shop, a gift from the family. Since 2004, NHHA has encouraged the city and other area residents to remember and preserve the past and build for the future.