The Port of Guntersville is the seat of Marshall County, Alabama. It lies at the southern end of the Tennessee River on Lake Guntersville some 69 kilometers (43 miles) southeast of Decatur, Alabama, and 117 kilometers (73 miles) southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 2000 US Census reported a population of almost 7400 people in the Port of Guntersville, over 88% if them white and 8.5% of them African American.
The Port of Guntersville economy is diverse, based on tourism, shipping, manufacturing, and agriculture. Guntersville Lake, formed by the 1939 Guntersville Dam, has 1500 kilometers (950 miles) of shoreline and is a major source of recreation for residents of and visitors to the Port of Guntersville.
One of the first Europeans to visit the future Port of Guntersville was Hernanando DeSoto. In 1540, his expedition found the Indian village of Tall.
The Port of Guntersville was named after John Gunter who arrived here in 1785. Gunter lived and traded with the Indians and married a Cherokee woman. He became a wealthy man speculating in slaves, land, and money. His mixed-blood children were prominent in the Indian Territory and the State of Georgia (Alabama had not yet been formed). World-famous humorist Will Rogers was a descendent of Gunter.
In 1820, John Gunter operated a ferry, the first in the area, on the river. He also had the first painted house at what was then called Gunter's Landing. At the time, there were few white families living in the area. The Indians gave up the land to the United States in 1835. John Gunter passed away in 1836.
After Gunter's death, Louis Wyeth came to the Port of Guntersville from Pennsylvania. Wyeth was instrumental in developing the town and establishing it as the county seat. The State Legislature incorporated the city in 1847. At first, growth of the new community was slow. Most of the settlers, arriving from the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky, were English, Irish, and Scotch laborers who were not heavily invested in the War Between the States.
Even so, the American Civil War touched the Port of Guntersville. Union shelling caused fires that almost burned the Port of Guntersville down. After the war, the Port of Guntersville began to grow as an important river town. When the railroad arrived in 1892, growth increased further.
The Tennessee Valley Authority Dam located just 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) downstream from the Port of Guntersville, and it had a tremendous impact on the town. People who were hired to build the dam came to live in the town. When the Guntersville Dam was finished in 1939, the Port of Guntersville was almost complete surrounded by water.
Since then, the Port of Guntersville has grown in both population and industry. Today, it is an inland port city with the railroad and US Highway 431 running through the Port of Guntersville. There are also two airports within a 64-kilometer (40-mile) radius of the Port of Guntersville, assuring regular commercial air services to the city.
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