Goodwater: Tiny city was as soon as busy rail hub

By KELLY KAZEK – Associated Press – Saturday, January 13, 2018

GOODWATER, Ala. (AP) – Goodwater, with fewer than 1,500 residents, is the largest city in Coosa County. It has an unusual-but-quaint downtown strip that curves along 9 until crossing the bridge over railroad tracks that were once the town’s hub.

A beautiful Victorian mansion sits atop a hill overlooking the town. It now houses administration offices of the Goodwater Healthcare Center. The town is also home to a National Guard Armory.

Goodwater was initially named Adkins Gap, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama. It became “known as Goodwater because of its location near the spring that is the source of Hatchett Creek.”

In 1874, the Central of Georgia Railroad built its Birmingham to Columbus, Georgia, line through the town. The next year, the town was incorporated.

Goodwater Depot was built in 1887. It had a coal chute that was the only refueling stop along the route, meaning most trains stopped in the town.

“Goodwater also became a shipping center as area farmers and other communities brought goods to be sent throughout the state,” the Encyclopedia said. “A number of businesses sprang up to serve the railroad and passengers, and the town had several doctors and dentists.”

Tragedy struck the town in 1891 when a trestle caught fire and was so weakened by the heat that a passing Columbus and Western Railroad train was derailed. Three people died in a fire in the caboose after being trapped inside.

According to a transcription of an 1891 article on gendisasters, 12 cars and their occupants fell 60 feet into the creek below. The article said the railroad bridge was over Hatcher’s Creek, but it likely meant Hatchett (or Hatchet) Creek. The lengthy article from the Columbus Enquirer said, “The most disastrous wreck ever known on the Columbus and Western railroad, between this city and Birmingham, occurred at 6:20 o’clock yesterday morning, at Hatcher’s creek, ninety miles from Columbus and seventy miles from Birmingham. Those burned alive were: Conductor R. Wylly Rice, Trainman Leon R. Crawford, Thomas McCaffrey, a tramp printer.”

The next day, the rail company’s cabooses were draped in mourning, the article said. “Never was there such a gloom over the railroaders about the Union depot and in the yards. They stood about in groups, speaking of the awful affair, and were greatly depressed.”

As coal fueling was phased out, trains no longer stopped in Goodwater but the historic depot was preserved and now houses the Ruritan club. The building was moved from its spot beside the railroad to a spot along 9.

Two Goodwater natives who gained fame are:

-Robert Daniel Carmichael (1879-1967) is a mathematician known for his research in the field, including the Carmichael Numbers, which are named for him.

-Jamario Moon, born in 1980, is a professional basketball player who has played for the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers, among others.

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