The first white man to settle in this area of Alabama was John Gunter, born in 1765, a Scotsman who migrated from North Carolina after the Revolutionary War.
Gunter came to the great bend of the Tennessee River around 1785, where he was fortunate to find a salt deposit. He decided to settle near the river. The town that emerged around his land, originally called Gunter’s Ferry, and then Gunter’s Landing, because his son, Edward, operated a ferry here, is present day Guntersville. He traded his salt with the Indians, the majority of whom were Cherokees.
A Cherokee by the name of Chief Bushyhead, head of the Paint Clan, brought his beautiful 15 year old daughter, Ghe-go-he-li, to exchange for Gunter’s salt. (That is good use of a daughter.) Gunter accepted the bargain and changed his bride’s name to Katherine. Chief Bushyhead and Gunter signed a treaty stating “as long as the grass grows and the waters flow, the Indians can have salt.”
On January 15, 1865, Federal Troops burned the town of Guntersville. One of the few buildings that survived was that of Montgomery Gilbreath, a Colonel in the confederate army, who fought at Shiloh. The board-and-batten house was built about 1858, and still stands today.
As you can tell from reading my blog, I am interested in the town where we actually set up our camp. These towns, like Guntersville, are small and usually not familiar to everyone, like the big name cities, or well known historical places. To get the history of these towns, I go to the local historical society, chamber of commerce, or local museum. Guntersville’s Museum is located in their old National Guard Armory. Made of local rough limestone in the castellated style, this historic rock armory was built in 1936 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The armory was to provide storage and drill space for the local National Guard, Company E of the 167th Infantry, Second Battalion. They are famous for being part of the Rainbow Division of WWII. (Douglas MacArthur, a major then, cherry-picked the best national guard units from coast to coast and put four regiments together from 26 states like a rainbow. Alabama was selected.)
We walked along the Tennessee River.
And then Lake Guntersville. The lake was created when the Tennessee Valley Authority damed the Tennessee river.
Why are we staying in this remote place? FREE CAMPING. When we bought the RV, they gave us a voucher for free camping at one of the properties of Ocean Canyon Properties, a membership only community. The only requirement was we had to listen to their spiel. In addition to 5 nights camping on Guntersville Lake, they gave us $100.00 cash.
We drove around the lake, and had dinner on the mountaintop which had a spectacular view of the lake.
Look for us down the road:
Bowling Green, Kentucky to Guntersville, Alabama: 221.5 miles.