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Archives preserve county’s history

By Bob Stickley

Over 14 years ago Chris Ozbirn envisioned a place where historic records of Franklin County could be preserved and housed for future generations — a place where researchers from all over the country would be able to come and trace their family history.

In December 2002, that dream became a reality. The Franklin County Commission established the archives as part of the Franklin County government.

That dream has stayed a reality because of the hard work and donations many of many people. The genealogy section contains books from several states with many family histories on file there.

Some southern claims records are there as well as other Civil War materials. There are court records on file from 1890-1959, including wills, marriages and circuit court cases. Old school records can be found at the archive and authentic copies of the Franklin County Times and Red Bay News newspapers are also there.

Everything began in the early 1800s, in fact Major William Russell and his men arrived here as they were building the Jackson Military Highway. These were some of the earliest settlers to the area and it was called Russell Valley. The name was later changed to Russellville.

Major Russell loved this area so much he decided to stay and make it his home and many of his workers stayed on with him. Major Russell died in 1825 and is buried at Denton Hollow Cemetery located in the Newburg community.

The city of Russellville became a reality on Nov. 27, 1819, and it remained the county seat until 1849.

The County seat was then moved to Frankfort, which was then a quickly growing community.

After the split of the two county seats, the county courthouse was then moved to Belgreen in 1879 and later burned down in 1890.

In 1891, the new Franklin County Courthouse was built in Russellville. It too burned down — in 1953 — and was rebuilt as it stands today.

The old post office and hotel that was built in Frankfort when it was the county seat stood there until this past December when it was bought by Greg Smith, a county commissioner, and was torn apart piece by piece. Smith moved and reconstructed the structure his front yard on Shady Grove Road, where it can be seen today just as it was for many years.

Many changes have occurred over the years and most recently the old county jail, which stands behind the present courthouse gave way to a much-needed brand new facility just off of Highway 243. The old jail still stands until a decision is made to what will be done to remove it.

The Franklin County Archives and Research Center is located at 300 East Limestone Street and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Chris Ozbirn serves as its director and she encourages all who wish to stop in for a tour, where you can find many old photos and records on file, and, should anyone have some of their own family history, they are urged to contact the center.