The History of Southside
Southside was first settled in 1850. Southside began as a small rural community with townships such as Green Valley, Cedar Bend, and Pilgrims Rest. The communities banded together to form the town of Southside.
Southside’s dominant source of income was farming. Green Valley was the early center of Southside’s industry. The grist mill, blacksmith, and the sorghum mill were located there. Southside’s cotton gin was located at Brannon Springs and Highway 77.
Southside is sometimes referred to as “Smokeneck.” Many stories offer an explanation for the name. One legend passed down through time is that early settlers, possibly Creek Indians, who once lived in the area, made charcoal by burning old pine stumps. The burning gave rise to a great deal of black smoke. The smoke would settle on the collars and necks of the Creek Indians, leaving a black smoke ring or a “smokeneck.”
Southside was the first city in Etowah County, outside of Gadsden, to have a telephone system; The Cedar Bend Telephone Company. The first post office in the area was in Markton, a nearby community now called Green Valley. Later another post office was built in Cedar Bend.
Electric lights came to Southside in 1931 and in 1957 the city received its own water system.
Ferries were a big part of Southside’s history because of the need to travel across the river into Gadsden and other areas. Gilbert’s Ferry, the largest ferry, was used until 1939. Lister’s Ferry traveled to Rainbow City, Fowler’s Ferry traveled from Pilgrims Rest to Whorton’s Bend, and the McCartney’s Ferry made its journey to Riddles Bend.
According to several articles, the Southside Bridge, then called Gilbert’s Ferry Bridge was opened on June 17, 1939. The bridge was 864 feet in length with sixteen 27 foot pans, one swing span 232 feet in length, and one fixed span 200 feet long. The bridge was supported with three concrete piers with the foundations resting on solid rock.
Schools have been a strong part of the history of Southside. The first school in Southside was Burns Academy. In 1923 the name was changed to Southside School and became a part of the Etowah County School System. In 1944 Southside School was completely destroyed by fire. In 1948 the first unit of the new school was completed. In 1956, Southside had the smallest high school in the county with only 411 students in grades one through twelve. Southside Elementary School, built in 1979, educates students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Grades six through eight attend Rainbow Middle School in Rainbow City.
Southside is now home to the largest school in Etowah County. In January 2007 the doors of the new Southside High School were opened with 719 students being enrolled. Enrollment for the 2007-2008 school year began with 743 students. Enrollment for the 2008-2009 year began with 771 students. Southside Elementary School has a student enrollment of 608.
The City of Southside was incorporated in 1957. The estimated population at that time was 535. Southside has experienced rapid growth in recent years and the population is now estimated at 8118.
The city has become one of the fasted growing areas in the Northeast section of the state. With its location on the banks of the Coosa River, Southside is a beautiful community with a promising future.