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History of Athens, Alabama

Athens, named for the ancient city of Greece, is a growing city in the center of Northern Alabama. The city is the county seat of Limestone County, 15 miles north of Decatur near the Tennessee state line along Highway 99. The site of present day Athens was originally a camping ground for Cherokee Indians. Settlers came after the U.S. purchased the land from the Cherokees in 1806. The city was opened to settlement in 1814 and was incorporated in 1818. In 1822, the citizens of Athens formed the Athens Female Academy, which, after several changes in name and a switch from private to public control, became Athens State University in 1998. On January 26, 1864, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Moses W. Hannon's 600-man cavalry brigade attacked the city. In a two-hour battle, Union Captain Emil Adams's 100-man force, although outnumbered and without fortifications, repulsed the invaders. The city was captured for the Confederacy by General Nathan Bedford Forrest the following September. George Smith Houston, elected in 1874 as Alabama's first Post-Reconstruction governor, was a citizen of Athens. The First Presbyterian Church of Athens, organized in 1829, saw its first church building destroyed during the Civil War. The current structure was built in 1885 and its steeple is an Athens landmark. After having been officially "dry" for more than a century, the voters of Athens chose in September, 2003, to allow legal alcohol sales in the city.