Did You Know Dothan AL?


Dothan is a charming and hospitable city in the Wiregrass Region of Alabama.

Established in 1885 on the site of a trading community called Poplar Head, Dothan takes its name from a Bible verse (Genesis 37:17) which says, For I heard them say, "Let us go to Dothan."

The growing city owes its existence to Poplar Head Spring, a small freshwater spring long used by the Creek Indians. When early traders and settlers entered the region after the Creek War of 1813-1814, the little spring offered a source of fresh water and became a popular camping spot. A trading post was established there.

The site of the original spring can be seen today at Poplar Head Park on East Main Street near the Dothan Civic Center. A mural, historical markers and fountain pay tribute to the site where Dothan was founded.

By the time of the War Between the States (or Civil War), the Poplar Head community was home to nine families. They were terrorized by organized gangs of deserters and draft evaders who rode freely through the region robbing and destroying.

Confederate forces tried to put a stop to these "raiders" in 1863 by launching a campaign down Cowarts Creek to their secret headquarters just across the Florida line. The raiders drove them off, but were defeated themselves at the Battle of Newton in 1865.

The little community at Poplar Head Spring grew slowly during the 1870s. The timber and turpentine industries moved into the area, bringing with them more settlers.

The growth led to a decision to form an actual town, but when residents petitioned for the establishment of a post office they were informed that another community in the state, also named Poplar Head, had beaten them to it. A minister suggested the name Dothan and Poplar Head was incorporated as the Town of Dothan on November 10, 1885.

One of the most violent incidents in the city's history took place just four years after it was founded. Remembered today as the "Dothan Riot," it is memorialized by a large scale mural in the downtown area.

Town leaders had passed a tax on cotton wagons that passed through Dothan. The Farmers' Alliance protested and the debate intensified to the point that violence erupted and a gun battle and brawl were fought in downtown Dothan. Three people were killed in the riot, which was widely covered in newspapers of the time.

The arrival of the Alabama Midland Railroad that same year did much to ease tensions between city residents and area farmers. The railroad connected Dothan with the state capital of Montgomery and the Georgia city of Bainbridge. The result was an economic boom that benefited both farmers and the merchants of the new city.

The growth of Dothan and its environs led the Alabama Legislature to create Houston County in February 1903. The name honored former governor George S. Houston and the 18-year old city of Dothan was designated as the county seat.

Although Dothan grew into a transportation and mercantile hub, it owes its modern prosperity to a remarkable scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver.

As the boll weevil destroyed cotton crops in the South, Dr. Carver experimented with peanuts at his Tuskegee Institute laboratory and developed so many profitable uses for the legume that he almost single-handedly created the American peanut industry.

The soils of the Wiregrass region - so named for the wiregrass plant that lives in the pine forests - were well suited for peanut farming and by 1938 Dothan was able to proclaim itself the Peanut Capital of the World. Dr. Carver spoke to 6,000 guests in Dothan that year, initiating what is now called the National Peanut Festival.

Dothan had not existed as a city in the days of the Antebellum South and as a result often was more focused on the future than many communities. In 1949 it became the first city in Alabama to hire African American policemen.

Dothan today is a growing, progressive city located where U.S. Highways 84, 231 and 431 meet. Its population is approaching 70,000 and it is home to Wallace College, Troy University - Dothan and the new Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Popular attractions include Landmark Park, which is a living history and science museum on US 431 North; the Dothan Area Botanical Gardens; the Wiregrass Museum of Art; Water World at Westgate Park, the stunning collection of large scale murals in the downtown area and a variety of other parks and outdoor attractions.

Major annual events include the Dogwood & Azalea Trail each spring and the National Peanut Festival in the fall.