Leeds steers course to being an Alabama Community of Excellence

Leeds is an old railroad town, and its leaders are careful to preserve and honor that history while welcoming new businesses. (Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter) By Cary Estes for @Alabama Newscenter Leeds is a mere 15 miles east of the ever-sprawlin …

About Leeds

The City of Leeds was incorporated in 1887 as the primary population center of an area known as the Cahaba Valley, a region of fertile bottomland nourished by the Cahaba and Little Cahaba rivers. At first, the War of 1812 and its politics brought families to the Cahaba Trail at Leeds. By 1820, the Cahaba Trail became a road and a major stagecoach route through three counties.

The discovery of rich and valuable natural resources accelerated the region’s growth in the mid- to late-1800s. The discoveries of ore and minerals and the arrival of the railroads brought the Industrial Revolution to Leeds’ doorstep. In fact, as a newly incorporated city, Leeds was named for the noted industrial city of England where a bricklayer invented the Portland cement process.The mineral findings brought Leeds Standard Portland Cement Company as well as population growth to Leeds. Known today as Lehigh, this company has continuously operated since 1906.

Today, nature enthusiasts can enjoy Leeds’ scenic setting. From Lake Purdy to Leeds/Moody 411, bicycling, canoeing, horseback riding, nature photography, and fishing abound at copious sites of opportunity for recreation. Canoe launches, and boat landings are available near lake Purdy. Canoes, flatboats, and small houseboats can be rented. Local horse farms allow horseback riding for those who make prior arrangements. Bank-side fishing is free along the way to Leeds. Leeds parks offer picnic sites on the Little Cahaba River where monuments, flags, and interpretive exhibits tell some of the local stories. More exhibits are planned; Bass House at the edge of the park is a middle-class antebellum home that is to become a local history museum.

Alabama’s Stagecoach Route Through Leeds began as an Indian trail traversing a vast watershed. As a trail, it served as a staging ground for three emerging Alabama cultures. Early Christian Cherokees along with European circuit riders used it to plant Methodist churches. The Christian Indian culture arrived from North Carolina before 1812. Andrew Jackson’s scouts (1812-13) widened the trail as they sought roadways for supply wagons. When Europeans, largely veterans of the Creek Indian War, entered the valley in Leeds (1820), the widened trail became a stagecoach route that lay in its original bed when the first black settlers arrived in the late 1880’s. Studies by John Garst place the legendary John Henry in Leeds at the Oak Tunnel of the C&W Railroad in the 1880’s, and descendants of original Black-American settlers concur with Garst’s conclusion–the Leeds, Alabama, claim that Henry was a real person and that he performed his famous contest with the steam drill in Leeds.

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