Dothan is a city located in the southeastern corner of the US 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 Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties; the small portion that lies in Dale County is part of the Enterprise–Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area. The combined population for the entire Dothan metropolitan area in 2000 was 137,916. 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 originally inhabited by members of the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes. Within the vast forests of pine that covered this region, a glade surrounded by poplar trees sheltered a large spring at the crossroads of two trails, where local Indians used to meet and camp. White settlers moving through the area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries named the spring "Poplar Head," but 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, with the end of the Indian Wars in Alabama and the removal of the Native Americans further west.
The first permanent white 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, the establishment of a local Pony Express route coupled with other developments during the Reconstruction era to finally allow the town to bloom. 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 incarceration. 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 further growth, as local farmers now had a means of marketing 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 became a staple of the local economy, until cotton was devastated by the Boll weevil in the early 1900s. Farmers turned to peanut production, experiencing remarkable success and bringing financial gain to the city, which 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, and the city refers to itself as "the Peanut Capital of the World." 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 later in the century. In 1939, Dothan took part in 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 currently occupies a landscaped 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. More recent decades have seen factories constructed in the city by Sony (now closed) and Michelin Corporations, together with the emergence of a local arts and music scene complete with an art museum, several theaters, symphony orchestra, dance troupe and other cultural amenities.
In 2010 Sony announced its closure of its Dothan plant which had been in operation since the late seventies. In May of 2012 Pemco Aviation announced after declaring bankruptcy in March 2012 it would close its Dothan facility.