Prattville and Autauga County, Alabama, have a rich heritage dating to when the Creek Indians occupied the territory. The name Autauga is thought to have been derived from the Indian word Atagi which means water. As a result of the War of 1812 and the defeat of the Creek Indian Nation at Horseshoe Bend, the region was opened for peaceful settlement. Autauga County was established by the Second Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818, a full year before Alabama became a state. Alabama’s first territorial governor and first state governor, William Wyatt Bibb, was a resident of the Autauga County.
Prattville received its name from the early industrialist Daniel Pratt. Born in New Hampshire in 1799, Pratt sailed to Georgia twenty years later and became a builder of homes. He later was associated with the cotton gin manufacturer Samuel Griswold, and became Griswold’s partner. Deciding to expand their gin manufacturing operation into Alabama, in late 1835, Pratt purchased nearly 2000 acres of land in the area that is now downtown Prattville.
Daniel Pratt industrialized the area in less than a dozen years. In addition to the gin factory, he established a sawmill, a gristmill, a cotton factory, and an operation that produced sashes, doors, and blinds. Pratt’s enterprises prospered and so did Prattville.
Pratt once stated that his objective was, “…to give employment to as many operatives as means can justify, and to furnish them with educational and religious advantages.” He was a man of his word. He built small, comfortable homes for his workers and provided them with gardens so that they could grow their own food. He built a Methodist church building at a personal cost of $20,000.00 and was responsible for the 1859 construction of the Prattville Male and Female Academy.
Daniel Pratt was opposed to secession because he believed the South did not possess the resources to sustain the effort to separate and remain separated from the North. However, once Alabama made the decision to secede, Pratt went with his adopted state and became a generous supporter of the Confederacy, and particularly of Autauga County units. He also provided relief to families of the Confederate soldiers during and after the war.
In 1866, after the Civil War, Prattville became the county seat. Because of this new importance, it was concluded that Prattville should have a city government. Daniel Pratt was unanimously elected the town’s first intended (mayor), and he served in that office until his death on 1873.
Prattville’s population remained fairly constant from just after the Civil War until 1940. From 1940 to 1980, the town grew from 2,664 to 18,647. Officials estimate the city’s population approaches 30,000 today.
The preservation of our rich heritage is assured through the combined effort of Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority (HPRA) and Autauga County Heritage Association (ACHA). Both organizations are dedicated to preservation, and both groups help promote local tourism. Many of the projects of the two organizations complement one another.
ACHA was the catalyst in establishing the Daniel Pratt Historic District, which is an area that includes the downtown commercial district and its adjacent residential section. After the District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, its management was placed under HPRA.
In 1995, HPRA accepted responsibility for restoring and revitalizing the Daniel Pratt Cemetery. ACHA assumed oversight and maintenance of the burial ground after it was renovated. The little cemetery is a visual gem that visitors should not miss seeing.
The Historic Prattville Redevelopment Authority is a municipal board with governing authority. Created in 1988 by an act of the Alabama State Legislature, its mission is the revitalization of the Daniel Pratt Historic District. HPRA projects have included development of Heritage Park, another of Prattville’s little gems in the downtown area, the addition of planters throughout the downtown area for seasonal flowers, and placement of historical markers in the district. Another of its projects recognizes individuals for property improvements that benefit the district. HPRA is planning for the future by building on the past and developing the present.
The Autauga County Heritage Association was created in 1978 as a nonprofit organization to preserve the history and the heritage of Autauga County. Its pride over the years has been the preservation and operation of Buena Vista, an ante-bellum home built circa 1830. Serving as a facility for weddings and other social functions, the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. ACHA also operates the Heritage Center in the Daniel Pratt Historic District. Housing the Prattaugan Museum, the County Archives, and a Visitor’s Information Center, the Heritage Center is staffed by an ACHA employee and volunteers. ACHA is also involved with the numerous projects and activities throughout the county. Its motto is “Serving and Preserving.”
Old Prattvillage, a restored area in the Historic District, is a prime example of the private sector’s involvement in preserving Prattville’s past. Residences and other structures relocated to Prattvillage, are restored and rented to various businesses. These buildings range from cotton mill village homes to the Mims Hotel where the famous southern poet, Sidney Lanier, once lived. The little gem of Prattvillage, however, is a small gothic style chapel and its accompanying gardens.
Additional information about HPRA, ACHA or Prattvillage is available at the Heritage Center, 102 E. Main Street, (334) 361-0961.