Fort Payne, Alabama

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Fort Payne is a city in DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 12,938.[1] The city is the county seat of DeKalb County. It bills itself as the "Official Sock Capital of the World."

In the 19th century this was the site of Willstown, an important village of the Cherokees who relocated to Tahlequah, Oklahoma during the Cherokee Trail of Tears. For a time beginning in 1989, Fort Payne held the world record for "Largest Cake Ever Baked", for a cake of 128,238 pounds (58,168 kg) baked to commemorate the city's centennial.[2]

A magnitude 4.9 earthquake occurred here in 2003.[3]



The site of Fort Payne was originally the important village of Willstown, Cherokee Nation. For a time it was the home of Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee syllabary, enabling reading and writing in the language. The settlement was commonly called Willstown, after its headman, a red-headed mixed-race man named Will. According to Major John Norton, a more accurate transliteration would have been Titsohili. The son of a Cherokee adoptee of the Mohawk, Norton grew up among Native Americans and traveled extensively throughout the region in the early 19th century. He stayed at Willstown several times,[4]

During the 1830s prior to Indian removal, the US Army under command of Major John Payne built a fort here that was used to intern Cherokees until relocation to Oklahoma. Their forced exile became known as the Trail of Tears.

By the 1860s, Fort Payne and the surrounding area were still sparsely settled. It had no strategic targets and was the scene of only minor skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. About the time of the Second Battle of Chattanooga, a large Union force briefly entered the county, but it did not engage substantial Confederate forces.[5]{[6]

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