History of Centreville (continued)
The State Capitol moved from Huntsville to Old Cahaba (near Selma) where the Cahaba River merges with the Alabama River for the second territorial legislative session in 1820. Due to flooding problems with the second capitol site there was already a move underway to select a new location for the State Capitol. This may explain why Mrs. Chotard was in the capitol city of Old Cahaba when she unexpectedly died in 1824, before her dreams for Centreville could come to fruition. Centreville's bid to win the State Capitol site fell far short of the necessary votes in the 1826 legislative session and Tuscaloosa became the third seat of State government.
Prior to Mrs. Chotard's arrival in Bibb County the area was shown on the period maps as Falls of the Cahaba and the Cahaba Territory had not been given its familiar permanent name. The designation as Bibb County was bestowed in 1820 by the Alabama legislature after redrawing the county boundaries and the untimely death of Governor William Wyatt Bibb. The famous rocky shoals or falls, clearly visible and just north of the Howard Cooper (Walnut Street) bridge, mark the southern end point of the Appalachian mountain chain. Just south of the falls Frank Chotard (relationship unknown) was believed to operate the first ferry to carry traffic across the Cahaba long before a bridge crossing existed. When Centreville was laid out to form a town the local farmers were already dependent on river barges and flatboats to transport their cotton bales to the Port of Mobile.
Legend has it that Centreville's designer was a glamorous Frenchwoman who first met General Jackson at a celebratory ball after his victory at the Battle of New Orleans. Another version is that she may have served as his French interpreter during his military tour in the Louisiana territory. She later offered the General a tract of land in her new township but Jackson politely declined the offer.
The original land grant awarded to Mrs. Chotard consisted of a 160 acre quarter section of land. Her surveyor divided the land into 265 lots, 105 lying on the West side of the Cahaba and 55 on the East bank. Centreville was incorporated on January 21, 1832 after it solidified as the permanent seat of Bibb County government. Centreville survived the last voter referendum to move the County Seat to Randolph in 1858. In 1890 the City re-incorporated, formed the first formal city government, and adopted a set of Ordinances to manage the growing town.
Source: Ellison, Rhoda Coleman, Bibb County Alabama, The First Hundred Years, 1818-1918, The University of Alabama Press, 1984.
Editor's Note: Rhoda Coleman Ellison was a native of Centreville and Professor Emerita of English at Huntingdon College. The well known and respected local historian authored seven books, three on Bibb County. The daughter of a Bibb County lawyer she taught and chaired the English Department at Huntingdon for over 40 years. She reached the age of 101 years before she passed away in 2005. The Ellison home is a local historical landmark and is pictured elsewhere on this website.