The Town of Blakeley

The Town of Blakeley (HM2FEV)

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N 30° 44.643', W 87° 55.445'

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Inscription
Blakeley was once one of the largest cities in Alabama. Envisioned by its founders as a rival to Mobile as a regional trading center, the town thrived briefly before a combination of factors brought about its decline. Today the site of the city is one of the South's most enchanting ghost towns.

Founder and Founding
Blakeley was named for Connecticut native Josiah Blakeley, who planned the town on a tract of land he purchased from early settler Joseph Chastang. Blakeley had settled in Mobile around 1806 while the area still lay under the control of Spain, and had soon acquired several thousand acres of property in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta region. Blakeley believed the natural deep harbor at this site on the Tensaw River offered several advantages to shipping via the much shallower port at Mobile. Shortly after the area came under American control in 1813, Blakeley hired a surveyor to plot his town and the first lots were sold soon after. The town of Blakeley was formally incorporated on January 6, 1814. Unfortunately, Josiah Blakeley died the following year, before he could see his dreams become a reality.

Explosive Rise
At the time of its founding, Blakeley lay within the Mississippi Territory, which was in 1817 divided into the state of Mississippi and the Alabama Territory. Following Alabama's



admission to the Union in 1819, Blakeley experienced a brief period of explosive population growth. By most estimates, at least 2,000 people lived in the town and immediate vicinity by the mid-1820s—making it approximately as large as Mobile. In 1820 Blakeley became the seat of government for Baldwin County, and two years later the growing city was designated an official port of entry for the the United States. During its heyday, Blakeley boasted a newspaper and several stores and hotels. Some of the earliest steamboats to operate in the state of Alabama were built here as well.

Rapid Decline
A combination of factors brought Blakeley's growth to a halt and ultimately led to its decline. These included rapid inflation of real estate prices due to speculation by investors and navigational improvements to the harbor at Mobile. Perhaps most importantly, recurring epidemics of yellow fever—a deadly viral disease common to riverfront towns and carried by mosquitoes—killed many residents and left the community with a reputation as an unhealthy place. By the mid-1830s, only a small portion of Blakeley's population remained. While the community remained the seat of Baldwin County until the 1860s, it was effectively a ghost town by the 1840s.

Photo captions:
Top left: Plan of the Town of Blakeley, 1823
Bottom left: 1822



map of Alabama (detail). In early records and maps Blakeley was often misspelled as "Blakely"
Middle ads: Advertisements from the pages of the Blakeley Sun, 1818-1819
Top right: Some of the residents who left Blakeley took their homes with them. The Reingard House, which stood in Mobile until the 1960s, was built in Blakeley in 1820. In 1829 its owners had it taken apart, shipped to Mobile, and reassembled.
Bottom right: The ruins of the town remained a popular spot for generations of curious visitors prior to the establishment of the park. In this ca. 1900 image, a visitor stands in front of the lone remaining wall of the courthouse.
Details
HM NumberHM2FEV
Tags
Placed ByHistoric Blakeley State Park & Gulf Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, April 7th, 2019 at 8:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16R E 411544 N 3401601
Decimal Degrees30.74405000, -87.92408333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 30° 44.643', W 87° 55.445'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds30° 44' 38.58" N, 87° 55' 26.7" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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