The river shoals at Tuscaloosa represented the southernmost site on the
river which could be forded under most conditions. This site of the future
City of Tuscaloosa on the "Fall Line" of the Black Warrior River had long
been well known to the various Indian tribes whose shifting fortunes brought
them to West Alabama. The pace of white settlement increased greatly after
the War of 1812, and a small assortment of log cabins soon arose near the
large Creek Indian village at the Fall Line of the river.
In honor of the legendary "Black Warrior", a great chief who had had a
fateful encounter with explorer Hernando DeSoto centuries before somewhere
in Southwest Alabama, the settlers named the place Tuscaloosa (from the
Choctaw words "tushka" meaning warrior and "lusa" meaning black). In 1817,
Alabama became a territory, and on December 13, 1819, the territorial
legislature incorporated the town of Tuscaloosa, exactly one day before
Congress admitted Alabama to the Union as a state. Thus, the City of
Tuscaloosa is one day older than the State of Alabama.
From 1826 to 1846 Tuscaloosa was the state capital of Alabama. During this
period, in 1831, the University of Alabama was established. These
developments, together with the region's growing economy, raised the number
of the town's inhabitants to 4,250 by 1845, but after the departure of the
capital to Montgomery, population fell to 1,950 in 1850. Establishment of
the Bryce State Hospital for the Insane in Tuscaloosa in the 1850's helped
restore the City's fortunes. Tuscaloosa shared fully in the South's economic
sufferings which followed the defeat in the Civil War.
The construction of a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River by
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890's opened up an inexpensive link
to the Gulf seaport of Mobile, stimulating especially the mining and
metallurgical industries of the region. By the advent of the 20th Century,
the growth of the University of Alabama and a strong national economy fueled
a steady growth in Tuscaloosa which continued unabated for 100 years.