John Alexander Dersham, President & CEO of DeKalb Tourism, Inc, is a life long photographer and writer with a passion for the history of Fort Payne. He has lived in the community since 2000 and has compiled this book of vintage post card images documenting the history of this Northeast Alabama town through photography.
Fort Payne was named for the US Army stockade at the Native American village of Willstown, where Cherokee scholar Sequoyah developed his famous alphabet in the 1820s. Following the Cherokee Removal of 1838, known as the Trail of Tears, a farming settlement developed around the stockade site, and the arrival of the Wills Valley Railroad in the 1850s helped shape its early growth. The small town became the county seat in 1878 and quickly boomed into a coal and iron industrial powerhouse filled with the municipal infrastructure, stately structures, and elegant residences that define the city today. By mid-century, Fort Payne was experiencing its second boom and was ultimately recognized as the “Sock Capital of the World.”
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In his new book, Master Photographer John Dersham celebrates Alabama with over 200 beautiful images covering every corner of the state