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Early History of Lexington


In 1816 the Chickasaws ceded land north of the Tennessee River to the government and in 1817 the Cherokees ceded Doublehead’s Reserve. These land acquisitions opened the area around modern-day Lexington to early settlers. Lauderdale County was created February 6, 1818, and land sales began at Huntsville in March 1818. The presence of a number of free-flowing springs north of here attracted those early settlers. Thomas Gresham, Revolutionary War veteran, settled west of Lexington prior to 1810. His brother, John, also a veteran of the war, entered land in the same section in 1818. Another veteran, Benjamin French, settled in the same general area. Beginning in March of 1818, 21 families entered land in and around Lexington, resulting in settlements throughout the area. A forerunner of Lexington was Dugout, (so named because settlers live in shallow caves dug into the hillsides) which was established north of here about 1820 on land holdings of Edward Poteet, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, He settled near the Alabama-Tennessee line in 1818. This community had a gristmill, blacksmith shop and later, a cotton gin. Porter Town was also north of Lexington and near Dugout. It was named for several Porter families who settled here during the 1820’s. A gristmill and blacksmith shop were established in this community. Belew was an early Bluewater Creek community a few miles northwest of Lexington. Also, in that area was the post office of Cotton Gin. These settlements contributed to the development of Lexington. Some believe the town took its name from Lexington, Maryland, because of its ties to the American Revolution. Lexington emerged first as a crossroads village and later as one of the largest towns in East Lauderdale County. In 1832 the post office was established near the Tennessee line at Asbury, with Felix A. Westmoreland as the first postmaster. Other early citizens were: John W, Briggs, owner of the tanning yard; John W, Davis, Will Derit, George Cox, and Edward B. Westmoreland were merchants. Charles Clark was owner of the shoe shop and Samuel LeMay was a wagon maker. Before the Civil War, the present business district was moved from its original location which as on Mill Creek in the vicinity of the A. L. Philips Park. During the Civil War, the three Lexington churches, Primitive Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian, and Methodist, were destroyed by Union Forces. These churches had also been used as schools. The Lexington Cemetery was located adjacent to the Primitive Baptist Church. After the Civil War, temporary facilities were used by the churches. A crude one-room dwelling was used for the school; later, a house was built and used for several years. Growth after the Civil Was slow until around the turn of the century. Andrew Lee Phillips established a general merchandise store here in 1888. He later owned a gin, gristmill, and flour rolling mill. Phillips was responsible for the formation of the town’s first bank in 1917 and served as the first president. In 1907 the citizens built a two-room frame school building and later added two rooms. This building was used until 1922 when a brick building was constructed for a junior high school. The school was accredited in 1926. Lexington was incorporated on May 7, 1959.

Historic Marker located in Phillips Park