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History of Anniston, Alabama

Anniston, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is the seat for Calhoun County. The city was named after Annie Scott Tyler, the daughter-in-law of General Daniel Tyler, one of Anniston's founders. Many of Alabama's older cities were built on the water, which was an essential element of early transportation. Anniston was not founded until railroads had begun to replace water as the most important means of shipping products, so navigable water was not necessary. It was also established after the Civil War, so slavery was not part of its heritage. Founded in 1872 and incorporated as a city in 1879, Anniston was a company town, built by the Woodstock Iron Company. In fact, the town was not opened for general settlement until 1883. Anniston was the first city in Alabama to be lighted with electricity in 1882 and enjoyed the convenience of telephones as early as 1884. The military had an important role in the growth of Anniston. In 1917, the federal government purchased almost 19,000 acres close to Anniston for the development of Camp McClellan, renamed Fort McClellan in 1929. The U.S. Army used the area heavily for training and the Anniston Ordinance Depot became the city’s largest employer with up to 4,800 civilian employees. PCB’s were first manufactured commercially by the Anniston Ordnance Company in 1927. Theodore Swann had founded the company in 1915 to manufacture six-inch explosive shell cases for the U.S. Army. Anniston was the birth place of William Levi Dawson, composer of the Negro Folk Symphony, which was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski in 1934. During the American civil rights movement, Freedom Riders arriving in Anniston on May 14, 1961, were confronted by an angry mob. Deciding not to make a stop, they attempted to leave but the bus's tires had been slashed and not far from town, it had to stop. Someone threw a fire-bomb and the protestors inside were beaten by an angry mob as they fled the burning bus. Such acts of violence prompted President John F. Kennedy to provide federal protection to ensure the riders safety on their journey to Jackson, Mississippi.