Dothan is a city located in the southeastern corner of the State of Alabama, situated approximately west of the Georgia state line and north of Florida. It is the seat of Houston County, with portions extending into nearby Dale County and Henry County. Its name derives from Genesis 37:17: "let us go to Dothan." According to the 2010 census the city's population was 65,496, making it the largest town in this part of the state.
Dothan is the principal city of the Dothan, Alabama metropolitan area, which encompasses all of Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties; the small portion that lies in Dale County is part of the Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area. The combined population for the entire Dothan metropolitan area in 2010 was 145,639. The city serves as the main transportation and commercial hub for a significant part of southeastern Alabama, southwest Georgia, and nearby portions of the Florida Panhandle. Since approximately one-fourth of the U.S. peanut crop is produced nearby, with much of it being processed in the city, Dothan is called "The Peanut Capital of the World."
The area that is now Dothan was inhabited for thousands of years by successive cultures of indigenous peoples. In historic times it was occupied by the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes who were were hunters and gatherers in the vast forests of pine that covered this region. These tribes had developed complex cultures, and often used to meet and camp for trading near a large spring at the crossroads of two trails.
Between 1763 and 1783 the region that is now Dothan was part of the colony of British West Florida. European-American settlers moving through the area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries discovered the Indian spring, naming it "Poplar Head." Most felt that the sandy soil common to this region would be unsuitable for farming, so they moved on. A rude stockade was constructed on the Barber Plantation, where settlers could take refuge whenever they felt threatened. This fort disappeared by the 1840s, after the end of the Indian Wars in Alabama and the removal of most members of the Five Civilized Tribes to Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi River. Some Indians stayed in the region, becoming state and US citizens by giving up their tribal membership.
The first permanent white (European-American) settlers consisted of nine families who moved into the area during the early 1830s to harvest the abundant timber. Their settlement, named "Poplar Head" after the spring, failed to thrive and was all but abandoned by the time of the Civil War.
After the war, a local Pony Express route was founded; together with other developments during the Reconstruction era, the town began to grow. On November 11, 1885, the locals voted to incorporate, naming their new city "Dothan" after discovering that "Poplar Head" was already registered with the U.S. post office for a town in northern Alabama.
On October 12, 1889, Dothan was the scene of a deadly altercation resulting from a dispute over a tax levied on all wagons operating within city limits. Local farmers opposed this levy and united in a body called the "Farmers Alliance." The arrest of some of the alliance's men led to a riot, and although the violence lasted only a few minutes, it left two men dead and others seriously wounded. Chief of police Tobe Domingus was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to ten years in prison. Appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court resulted in a new trial, and Domingus was acquitted.
Expansion and growth
In 1893, Dothan secured a stop on the first railroad to be built in this region. This development brought new prosperity and growth, as local farmers had a means to market and transport their produce. The pine forests were harvested for turpentine and wood, which was transformed into ship masts, lumber and other wood products. As the pines were cut and land subsequently cleared, cotton was cultivated as a staple of the local economy. The crops were devastated by the boll weevil in the early 1900s.
Farmers turned to peanut production, which was successful and brought financial gain to the city. It became a hub for the production and transport of peanuts and peanut-related products. Today, one-quarter of the U.S. peanut crop is harvested within of Dothan. A two-week fall festival known as the National Peanut Festival celebrates this heritage.
The city also sought out industry, with textile and agricultural concerns being joined by manufacturing plants for the Sony, Michelin, and General Electric corporations in the 20th century. In 1939, Dothan had an exhibit at the New York World's Fair.
Originally part of Henry County, Dothan became the county seat of the newly formed Houston County on May 9, 1903. The city continued to flourish and grow throughout the twentieth century, with an airport being constructed in 1965 and the Wallace Community College in 1969. Troy University in Dothan was established in 1961 and occupies a campus northwest of the city.
The Southern Company constructed the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Generating Station near the city between 1970–81; this 1,776-megawatt facility currently generates approximately 13,000 GW-h per year. In the late 1970s, factories were constructed in the city by Sony and Michelin corporations. In 2010 Sony announced its closure of its Dothan plant. Pemco Aviation declared bankruptcy in March 2012 and in May that year, announced the closing of its Dothan facility.
The city has developed a local arts and music scene. An art museum, several theaters, symphony orchestra, dance troupe and other cultural amenities have been established.