The study of history is one of the best ways to predict the future. The history of Decatur is one of profound hardship, the perseverance of its people—and the triumph of a city. Decatur has endured yellow fever epidemics in 1878 and again in 1888 (the “coronavirus” of its day) that brought the city to its knees—only to see it rise again bigger and stronger than before.
The town was virtually totally destroyed by the ravages of Civil War with only four buildings remaining. We rebuilt the architectural crown jewels found in our commercial and residential districts today. We lost our major industry (The L&N Shops) which employed more than 50% of the workforce near the beginning of the Great Depression then endured through the remaining years of that Depression. Undefeated, we recruited new industries to take the place of this loss—an entire riverfront of major industries. We suffered floods, poverty and unchecked mosquitoes until the TVA Dams were built in the 1930s-- which replaced pestilence with electricity and prosperity. We lost the General Motors- Saginaw plant to the Great Recession of 2008-09 and are now seeing the potential for explosive growth with Polaris, Mazda-Toyota and related industries just outside of our city’s boundaries.
There are many more examples of how we have dealt with “hard knocks” throughout our history. The point is this: We HAVE successfully dealt with whatever we have faced in the past—and we WILL do so again.
I am a Decatur native and a life-long resident by choice as well as the city’s Director of Historic Resources and Events, so I am speaking from a knowledge of this city and its people and the wonderful experience of having lived here for many years.
We are winners and we persevere—and we will continue to do so. It is perhaps ironic that the current challenge presents itself during our 200th year as town—almost as a challenge to prove ourselves once again. So let’s resolve to do what it takes in coming days to remain safe, to help others to do so by caring for our neighbors, and most of all, to resolve that we will carry on and write the NEXT chapter in Decatur’s successful history.
David Breland, Director of Historic Resources and Events
City of Decatur, Alabama
David Breland is kind of a big deal in Morgan County. His memory goes WAAAAY back (check out his picture), but he also is a local expert in Morgan County history. David is Director of Historical Resources and Events for the City of Decatur in Morgan County, Alabama.
While this site was developed to share our local treasures with our own community and armchair visitors from around the world during COVID-19, please visit our museums, attractions, hotels, shops, and restaurants in person when all of this craziness is over. Plan your visit to Decatur-Morgan County and Downtown Decatur, Alabama.