Tri-state (TN-GA-AL) Rail Stops - Memphis and Charleston Railroad

Friday, September 30, 2016 - by Chuck Hamilton



Chartered in 1846, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad (M&C) junctioned with the line of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad (N&C) at Stevenson, Alabama, in 1857, and through a lease with the latter reached Chattanooga the same year.  At the time, it was the sole east-west railroad existing in the South.  It was also the first railroad to include sleeper cars, and was unique in making more money from passenger service than by hauling freight.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Military Rail Roads operated the line of the M&C that came into Chattanooga as the Memphis and Charleston Railroad (Eastern Division), which ran from Decatur, Alabama, to Chattanooga.  The western portions were almost entirely destroyed, or at lest rendered unusable.

In 1877, the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad leased the M&C but continued to operate it as a separate line.  In 1883, the M&C became part of Baron d’Erlanger’s Queen and Crescent Route.  In 1887, the railway company went into receivership and was purchased by the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railway (ETV&G).  With ETV&G, the M&C became part of Southern Railway (SOU), its assets becoming SOU’s Chattanooga and Memphis Division.


Scottsboro was both a schedule stop and a coupon station as well as a town literally created for the railroad.  After Bellefonte, the seat of Jackson County, Alabama, refused the railroad’s offer to have a depot in or near its town, one of its more progressively inclined citizens, Robert Scott, moved a few miles away to build a depot called Scott’s Station.  The brick freight depot built by the M&C at the corner of North Houston and East Maple Streets now serves as the Scottsboro Depot Museum.  It is one of three antebellum railroad depots left in Alabama.  The courthouse was moved here from Bellefonte in 1868.

During the Civil War, Scottsboro was established as the headquarters for the 15th Corps of the (Union) Army of the Tennessee.  The only engagement here took place late in the conflict on 8 January 1865, when Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. Hylon Lyon attacked the Union garrison in an attempt to seize the town but were driven off.

Scottsboro became well-known during the Great Depression as the site of the trial of the Scottsboro Boys.  After they had been convicted by an all-white jury of the rape of two white women (who had hopped the same Memphis-bound train) and some sentenced to electrocution, Amy Licht, chairperson of the Unemployed Council in Chattanooga, learned of their plight while in jail awaiting trial for sedition (of which she and her fellow defendants were exonerated).  The Unemployed Councils across the country were set up by the Trade Union Unity League, the labor arm of the Communist Party USA.  Licht contacted the party’s legal arm, the International Labor Defense, and it was the lawyers of that organization who provided the bulk of the legal work which ultimately led to their freedom.

The post office of Scott’s Mill was established here in 1854, changing to Scottsboro in 1859.


In 1857, the M&C established this schedule stop under the name Bellefonte Depot two miles northwest of the county seat by that name, which had voted against the railroad.  In the 1880s, the railroad changed the name of its station to Hollywood.

The town of Bellefonte’s fortunes rapidly declined after their refusal of the railroad.  Citizens such as Robert Scott moved away.  The courthouse burned in the early years of the war, and in 1868 the county seat moved to Scottsboro.  Its post office, established in 1822, closed in 1895.  It is now a noted ghost town.  The town was named after the Removal era internment camp here, Camp Bellefonte.

When the M&C first built their depot, a post office briefly operated in 1857 under the name Bellefonte Depot but did not survive until the end of the year, probably due to its proximity to the town and post office of Bellefonte.  Postal service was reestablished at this station under the name Samples in 1883 when the residents incorporated as a town by that name.  The name of the post office changed to Hollywood along with that of the town in 1887.


This schedule stop was at the unincorporated community of Jackson County, Alabama, by that name and was the reason for this community’s beginning.

During the Chattanooga Campaign of the Civil War, the 90th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was based out of here.

The post office of Fackler was established in 1869.


When the M&C made the connection to the N&C here, it joined with the latter to build a larger joint depot.  That depot was destroyed during the Civil War, and the Government House between the tracks of the two railways was used instead.  After the war, it became the official Stevenson Depot until 1872, when the two railways built another joint-effort depot, the one that now stands in the heart of town.

For more information, see the entry for Stevenson under section for the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.


In Chattanooga, the M&C used Union Depot until coming under the control of the ETV&G.

For more Chattanooga information, see that entry under the Western and Atlantic Railroad.

Chuck Hamilton


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