It was in the late 1830s when the early settlers began to dig coal from the river and creek bottoms of Warrior River. In early 1840, Jacob Gibson, who had settled across the river from Cordova, began digging up coal with crowbars and loading it on boats.
Jacob Phillips, the Sanders, the Bartons and the Gravlees were also mining coal. William Gravlee, the elder, continued running his transportation line of boats. Judge William Hewlett shipped coal from Benchfield, on the Cordova side, while the Bordens shipped from this neighborhood.
Even though all this activity was in progress, the community was not established until 1859. At this time, Benjamin M. Long came in from Carrollton, Ga. He opened a mercantile store and started the town, which he named Cordova after a town in Mexico where he had been stationed in the Mexican War.
The first church was organized in 1861. The Baptist Church started with very few members. The building was a log cabin and was situated a short distance from where the present building stands. “Uncle” Joseph Nations was one of the first ministers.
The Civil War followed closely behind the establishment of the community. Cordova had no means of growing during the war period or the dark days of reconstruction that followed. By 1884, it had grown sufficiently in importance to justify opening a post office. The early mail was received from Jasper two times weekly. Tibe Johnson carried the mail, which usually consisted of one paper and four or five letters. The first postmaster was J.A. Jones, better known as “Bud.” The office was located in the general store of B.M. Long.
In 1886, with the building of the railroads, Cordova began its growth. The Georgia Pacific (later the Southern) and the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham (later Frisco) laid their rails into Cordova. This gave the town direct rail connection with Birmingham, Memphis and Columbus, Miss. This event attracted people to the town.
In 1887, the Methodist Church was established. It was organized by D.W. Ward. The charter members were, Captain B.M. Long and his wife, Amanda; Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Stagg; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Nations; Mr. and Mrs. M.W Root; Mrs. C.L. Carmack; Alex Chamblee and W. Stagg. The first building was a two-room dwelling with the partition torn out. This humble structure served as a house of worship for several years, and then an attractive frame building was erected.
Growth did not come as quickly as expected, and in 1895, Captain Long offered to donate a site for any industry that would locate in Cordova. The offer was accepted by the Indian Head Mills of Boston, Mass. The mill was completed and started operations in 1898. This brought several hundred employees into the town raising the population count in 1900 to 567. This number justified the incorporation of the town that year.
The cotton mill had an influence of the agricultural growth in the adjoining countryside, which in turn increased business opportunities in the town. Several coal mines were opened nearby causing the population to treble in size in 10 years to 1,747 in 1910.
In 1912, the old frame building of the Methodist Church was removed and the heirs of B.M. Long erected a $12,000 brick structure in memory of Captain Long. Known as Long Memorial Methodist Church, it has been a central landmark of the town and the man who gave his all to establish a town.
I am asking for help for a reader: Does anyone have a picture of Pleasant Field School? It was located down below Parrish. If you have one and would loan it to me, I will copy it on my computer for him and return it to you.