has a population of about 135 on an ordinary day. But on syrup Sopping Day an estimated 15,000 people make an annual pilgrimage
to Loachapoka for Syrup Sopping Day at Loachapoka.
They come out of the hills, hollows, and cities. They come from
all around -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The Town of Loachapoka
is governed by a mayor and town council who are elected and serve without pay. Loachapoka History
16th century: Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto passed about four miles south of Loachapoka in the 16th century when he traveled
through the area looking for gold.
* Creek Indians: Loachapoka was first settled by Creek Indians who were excellent
farmers. The earliest known village was settled by 1796. Loachapoka's name is derived from two Creek words: "locha,"
meaning turtle and "polga," meaning either killing place or gathering place. Combined, the word Loachapoka means
land where turtles live or are killed.
* 1832 census: According to the 1832 census, about 564 Indians, representing
164 families, lived in Loachapoka.
* Treaty of Cusseta: In 1819 Alabama was proclaimed a state. The March 24, 1832,
Treaty of Cusseta ceded the Creeks' land to the United States, opening it to white settlement. Soon thereafter the Alabama
General Assembly organized counties, forming Macon County which included Loachapoka.
* Square Talley: Loachapoka became
home to its first white man in 1836. Square Talley decided to continue pushing west from the new town of Auburn. About seven
miles out, he and his slaves built a home for his family at a site just off the Indian path. This crossroads was called Ball's
Fork, the first name white settlers gave to land that would ultimately be known as Loachapoka.
* Indian uprising: Talley
was followed by about twenty migrants. Population growth was hindered by an uprising of local Indians who resisted being removed
to reservations in the West. Some Indians, however, were more willing to leave. White settlers purchased their property from
Creek Indians with exotic names such as Hadjo, Harjo, Fixico, Emarthlar, and Yoholo. The Creeks began moving west to allotted
land in Oklahoma by late 1836.
* First store: The crossroads at Ball's Fork became the town's first settlement. Williamson
W. Plant erected the first store, selling whiskey, operating a hotel for travelers, and offering a livery stable for stagecoach
teams. A stagecoach ran through Loachapoka on its route from Montgomery to Tallapoosa County. Wagon trains also embarked west
from Ball's Fork.
* Religion: Churches and schools were quickly established. The Baptists were the first to hold religious
services, using a wigwam and a whiskey keg for the pulpit. The Methodists soon thereafter had a church (in fact the bells
for both churches were cast at the same time in New York in 1859). A circuit rider lived in Loachapoka, tending congregations
* Center of commerce: A trade center (the present-day museum) was built by 1845 when the Western of Alabama
Railroad from Montgomery reached Loachapoka. Loachapoka became the main shipping center for nearby Tallapoosa and Chambers
counties. The settlement at Ball's Fork was relocated closer to the tracks, approximately one-half mile south to what is the
current center of town. Loachapoka citizens could buy a variety of goods such as tools, salt pork, horse collars, guns, clothes,
lobster, oysters, and whiskey in a barrel at the trading center.
* Railroad: A depot was built with a nearby turntable
to reverse engines back to Montgomery. The railroad took two years to reach Auburn, and it extended to Opelika in March 1848.
Passengers could buy tickets to various destinations to and from Loachapoka. At the railroad's peak, 12 trains ran daily.
Currently the track is used only to transport freight.
* Business: Grain was ground and lumber sawed at mills on the
Saugahatchee Creek then transported into town to sell. The thriving town consisted of a millinery shop, dancing school, tanyard,
cotton gin, carriage factory, Masonic Lodge, drugstore, hardware store, dry good store, general store, slave block, finishing
schools, and five saloons. Hitching posts dotted the sidewalks to secure the transportation mode of the times--horses, mules,
and oxen. Seven doctors as well as numerous butchers, grocers, seamstresses, shoe makers, blacksmiths, and tailors plied their
trades. The Trammell family's granite quarry on Saugahatchee Creek produced the granite used to built the Atlanta Terminal
Station in the 1890s.
* Homes: Housing in Loachapoka evolved from log cabins to elaborately designed houses. Herb gardens
were carefully cultivated to add spice to meals and formulate home remedies. The roads, full of ruts and tree stumps, gradually
improved, meeting higher standard grades. More people moved to Loachapoka while others moved West, continuing their quest
for something better.
* Politics: Loachapoka hosted political rallies with silver-tongued orators. In July 1856, several
hundred people rode a train from Columbus, Georgia, to attend a rally and barbecue. Four years later presidential candidate
Stephen A. Douglas spoke from the J.F. Mahone house at Ball's Fork, trying to convince Loachapokans to vote for him instead
of Abraham Lincoln.
* Civil War: During the Civil War, the trading center served as a Confederate armory. Lee, Tallapoosa,
and Chamber county residents came to Loachapoka to enlist. Three regiments (the 34th, 46th, and 47th Alabama) were formed
in Loachapoka in 1862, and the Loachapoka Rifles (Co. B of the 6th Alabama) also contributed men to the southern cause. Loachapokan
John R. Leftwich served General Robert E. Lee as his chief clerk from 1863 to 1865.
* More Civil War: Loachapoka was
twice raided by federal troops during the war. General Lovell Rousseau entered the town with several thousand troops in July
1864, burning the train depot and supplies and heating and twisting the metal rails to render them useless. Warned of the
raiders impending arrival, Loachapokans buried meat and silver wrapped in sheets in corn fields and hid their livestock. In
mid-April 1865 General James Wilson's raiders passed south of Loachapoka.
* Jefferson Davis: Confederate President
Jefferson Davis ate dinner at the Havis Hotel in the 1860s.
* Auburn as a suburb: Nineteenth-century Loachapoka was
much larger than Auburn or Opelika. Loachapoka resident Thomas B. Peddy was a state legislator from 1872-1876. Unfortunately
a fire gutted much of the town in the 1870s, and Loachapoka's trading preeminence ended abruptly when the Central of Georgia
Railroad connected Opelika to Birmingham, offering a better trade route for neighboring counties. Some farmers continued to
grow and sell cotton locally until the Loachapoka Gin Company burned in 1969.
* Post Civil War: Lee County suffered
severe economic conditions during Reconstruction. Boll weevils, exhausted land, and cankerworms blighted any hopes for agricultural
prosperity. By 1896 only 136 voters (white citizens) remained in Loachapoka. A one-and-one-half-minute eclipse on May 8, 1900,
was labeled "the black day" by farmers who witnessed stars during the day and had their chickens roost. The sun's
disappearance symbolized to many their despair and sense of hopelessness.
* Incorporation: In 1903 Route 1, Loachapoka's
first mail route, was established. Two years later the town was incorporated but no records were kept "due to the neglect
of certain county officials." In 1910 Loachapoka's incorporation was filed, including a census of 359 citizens (both
white and black). The town was laid out in a rectangle centered on the town well which was on the present-day syrup sopping
site. The town borders were 1.5 miles north to south and 2 miles east to west. Loachapoka was reincorporated in 1926 and 1974.
A variety of mayors, both male and female, have governed the town. Tink Finley was the first mayor.
* Airplane: In
1917 Loachapokans saw their first airplane.
* World Wars: During the World Wars, residents joined the service while
those at home experienced rationing.
* Depression: The Depression of the 1930s brought back the hard times of the post-Civil
War years, and many farmers were seen with steers pulling their plows instead of mules or horses.
* National Register
of Historic Places: In 1973 Loachapoka was named to the National Register of Historic Places because of seventeen structures
built in the 1840s and 1850s that represented Greek Revival and Victorian architectural influences. Congressman Bill Nichols
remarked that "The Loachapoka Historic District is an excellent example of an antebellum trading center in Alabama."
Five years later an historical marker, declaring "Boom and Change," recalled Loachapoka's days as an historical
trade center. prepared by: Dr. Elizabeth Schafer, Loachapoka Historian