Annual project captures the essence of who we are
The first section of THE DAILY'S annual February project is part of today's newspaper and promises quick, easy reading about the people who history says first lived here.
The project extends over four days, each divided into half a century of stories that make history real.
Today's section tells the struggles of early settlers who wrestled land from Indians, either by being squatters, by treaty or by purchase.
In whatever ways land changed hands, the land first belonged to Indian tribes, but most of it wound up in the possession of the early settlers.
They were brave, hardy people who continued the tradition set by the first Europeans who settled along the East Coast. They continued to push South and West as the newly formed United States slowly began to unfold.
Read about some of these people, their transactions with the Indians and their ability to survive.
Before the series ends on Wednesday, articles will march readers through the tragic Civil War, the devastating malaria outbreaks in Decatur, two world wars and the coming of the Tennessee Valley Authority that made this section of Alabama thrive.
For all the big companies and military installations that located here, the area is still sprinkled with descendants of the early settlers, the Indians who found a way to co-exist and slaves who contributed so much.
For instance, slave Toney Davis' descendant Sonny Davis has a successful barbecue business on Alabama 20. Butch Walker, who directs Lawrence County's Indian Education Program, is a descendant of Irishman John Melton who married a Cherokee woman. Melton's Bluff received its name from this 1780 pioneer.
And there is Paul Smith Jr. who continues to live on land in Limestone County that came into his family more than a century ago.
The project took weeks to plan and more than a month to write, edit and print.
We are proud of this work and hope readers will keep the sections so they won't miss seeing any of the articles and the advertisements that pay homage to a melting pot of people who are part of the Valley's rich history.