History of Enterprise, Alabama
The City of Enterprise has a strong history of growth and progress. Its diversity of people, occupations, lifestyles and interests come together to produce the community spirit that has been passed down for generations. The residents of Enterprise still enjoy the security of a concerned smaller city, even though it has become larger and more progressive. The people are warm and accepting of all who visit or choose to live in Enterprise. The deep South friendliness combined with the new South progressive attitude make Enterprise a wonderful place to visit, to call home and to raise a family. Today’s Enterprise is a far cry from the piney woods with two small wagon roads running through what is now a densely populated area.
The founder of Enterprise, John Henry Carmichael, moved to Coffee County and settled in the area in 1881. Carmichael built a small store on what is now North Main Street. In 1882 as others moved to the area, the post office was moved from Drake Eye, located about 5 miles north, to Carmichael’s new community. Enterprise was incorporated in 1896 with a population of 250. Two years later the Alabama Midland Railway Company located in Enterprise and with it came growth and progress. By 1906 the population grew to 3,750. Because early residents believed so much in their own town, they had a battle cry in the form of a banner stretched across the street saying, “Pull for Enterprise or Pull Out.”
Property was threatened in 1915 as the Mexican boll Weevil found its way into Alabama from Texas and wreaked havoc on the cotton crop. In Coffee County, almost 60 percent of the cotton production was destroyed. Farmers faced bankruptcy and the area economy was at stake. Farmers turned to peanuts and other crops to overcome the damage brought by the boll weevil.
By 1917, Coffee County produced and harvested more peanuts than any other county in the nation. (In 1993, Coffee County ranked fourth in the state of Alabama with 128,000 acres planted in peanuts.) In gratitude for the lessons taught, residents erected the world’s only monument to an agricultural pest, the boll Weevil Monument. The monument, dedicated on Dec. 11, 1919, stands in the center of the downtown district at the intersection of Main and College streets. The Boll Weevil Monument is a symbol of man’s willingness and ability to adjust to adversity. Citizens continue to remind visitors and newcomers to the city the lesson of the boll weevil. The base of the monument is inscribed: “in profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”
The first evidence of human occupation goes back to an archaeological find near Blanket Creek that indicates the area was used as a migration route from approximately 8500 to 700 B.C. In modern times, the region became known as the Wiregrass area, named for the grass that grew profusely in the region. During the European settlement, the Wiregrass area was the border county between the Spanish, British and French. The first federal land sale that was to become Coffee County was in 1812. The county is named after General John Coffee, Alabama commander in the Creek Indian Wars and the Battle of New Orleans.
Other reminders of Enterprise’s beginnings are located throughout the city. The Pea River Historical and Genealogical Society Library is a repository of historical documents. The library and gift shop are of special value to students of history. Books, microfilm, newspaper files and old photographs can be viewed by those interested in investigating their roots or the history of Enterprise.
Today, the broadened and diversified agricultural economy, local industry, and the presence of the Army Aviation Center at nearby Fort Rucker are largely responsible for Enterprise’s relative immunity to economic catastrophe.