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Powhatan (formerly Atwood Ferry) is a former coal mining community north of Port Birmingham, at the Atwood Ferry Bridge which carries Birmingport Road (Alabama State Highway 269) over the Locust Fork River.

John Gillen was the first to settle in the vicinity of Powhatan, with 80 acres on the south side of the river, in 1819. Two years later he was joined by Nathaniel Williams on a parcel downstream. Brothers Joseph and Manoah Atwood arrived in 1843. Joseph began operating a trading post where the Oake Hollow Road forded the river and soon began operating a ferry. When he died in 1867 his son, Samp Atwood continued operating the ferry. Later it became known as Golden's Ferry when it was operated by Fletcher Golden.

The Powhatan Coal & Coke Co., organized in 1917, gave the community its present name when it began mining operations there. The name honors the people native to eastern Virginia, and translates as "village at the rapids."

The Powhatan partnership dissolved within its first year and sold the mine operation to the Franklin Coal Company in 1918 and hired J. H. Tidmore as superintendent. The Powhatan Post Office was established in the new commissary building in 1919. The company also constructed a Powhatan School. Powhatan Baptist Church was organized in 1925, followed by a Methodist congregation that met in the school.

In 1946 ownership of the mine was briefly turned over to Adams, Rowe & Norman before Franklin re-acquired it. Nevertheless the mine closed in 1947. Philip Feigelson purchased the former commissary and continued to operate a store. The school closed in 1949. Some mining activity resumed in the 1950s. In 1978 the Powhatan Fuel Company began to strip mine in the area.


  • Foscue, Virginia O. (1989) Place Names in Alabama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 081730410X
  • McCleney, Barry (n.d.) "Journey Into The Past", cited in The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama (2002) Clanton: Heritage Publishing Consultants. ISBN 1891647547, p. 61–62

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