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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Ford City, Alabama: The metropolis that might have been.

After I graduated from high school, I was given the ultimatum from my daddy that I could either give college a try or stay at home on the farm and be worked to death. Reluctantly, I chose to give college a try. I had little desire for higher education and no desire whatsoever to live in a city. I ended up going to the University of North Alabama in Florence. This was only about an hour and half drive from my home (much faster now with better roads). For me, at that time, it just as well had of been a thousand. Even though I lived in the dorm, I was always looking for ways to shorten the drive trying various cutoffs, backroads, etc. when traveling to and from Florence. One of these roads cut east just before I got into Muscle Shoals would route me across Wilson Dam and into Florence. Before crossing the dam, I would drive past large cotton fields scratched into the red soil native to to the Tennessee River Valley. I noticed just past these fields and adjacent to crossroads were "abandoned" streets with curbs, gutters, and sidewalks all laid out in grids (city blocks). I honestly thought a super cell thunderstorm with a monster tornado had touched down and swept whatever town that was once here away. It was only after a couple of years of college that one of the professors told the story of Ford City and how it was to have been a modern day utopian brain child of none other than Henry Ford. The Shoals had much to offer for the auto industry. There was the Tennessee River that would provide the electricity and transport raw and finished materials. Also, for transportation was ample rail service. Another thing that appealed to Ford was the serenity of rural living. He envisioned homes with enough land to allow a family to "live" and grow a vegetable garden. After all, healthy minds and bodies would be needed for his factories. I came across this story today about Ford City and how government intervention changed things (whether for good or bad it is hard to say) and thought I would post it here.

                                                                             Henry Ford at incomplete Wilson Dam 1921:Credit The Henry Ford

Amie Beth Shaver: Muscle Shoals could have been a metropolis if not for government intervention

When they were little, our kids knew that sign. “Ford City,” it said.

When they saw it, the are-we-finally-at-the-lake questions stopped, because they knew we had arrived – after a quick stop at the nearby Foodland for groceries … that just might include turkey hot dogs and a locally famous Anna Mary's seven-layer caramel cake, that is.

For the record, the lake I'm talking about isn't Smith, Guntersville, or Martin. It's Wilson Lake, where Muscle Shoals, music's hit recording capital of the world, is on one side and Florence is on the other. Read the rest of the story by clicking here.


  1. At 67 yrs. it seems the government has screwed everything and everyone it was supposed to champion. Greed.

  2. Trivia: There are several prisons located in Florence, Arizona. Plus, Florence, Colorado is home to the Super Max prison where the baddest of the bad go. Knew a couple of contractors who worked on Super Max-their stories of the off-the-charts design and materials made for interesting listening.

    Ford, Edison, Firestone, and another guy got together for over 10 years of yearly outings to get away from the rigors of their other lives. Sometimes their wives would even go. Time frame was around the 1920s or so. There is a recent book that tells of their friendships and fun times together. Edison was at times strapped for cash and Ford would advance him money. A good read.

  3. "We're from the government, and we're here to help." Sure thing, Skippy.

  4. So i had to follow your link and from there look up the damn at Wiki, just to get some of the story. WW1 ended before the dam was done, and funding got cut, even though it was 3/4 done. So Ford and Edison had a vision, but quit when they couldn’t have complete control. Then the clowns in DC didn’t bother to install the generator turbines for several years more. It took FDR to create the TVA and bring electricity and thus jobs to those inbred sharecroppers down in Dixie. Wonder if they all voted D after that? I still don’t see why Ford backed off; the city was probably half built already by the camp town created for the dam builder workers, more than 10000 of them. Just because he couldn’t be king over a factory city full of “16 tons” wage slaves? Maybe it was for the best that he got blocked.


  5. I saw a documentary about the ghost towns of Kansas. (We're out here taking care of my MIL.) There are over 6,000 Kansas ghost towns; many you'll drive through and see a sign identifying someplace that you don't see....cuz it's been overtaken by crops. These were all within ~3-4 miles of each other cuz that's how far farmers could travel to buy food and sell crops. It was surprisingly interesting.


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