Franklin County was created on 4 Feb 1818. It was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin County originally had more than 1200 square miles. Its boundaries started at what is now Marion County and extended all the way to the Tennessee River. At that time there were only two towns, Russellville and Big Springs, now known as Tuscumbia.
The first county seat was in Russellville, which was incorporated on 27 Nov 1819, three weeks before Alabama became a state. This area was first called Russell's Valley. When the town was laid out, a public square was created in the center of town. If you come to Russellville, the old square is the fourth block on the west side of Jackson Avenue. This is the block that borders Lawrence, Franklin, Washington Mid Jackson Streets. The Courthouse square was 384 feet by 468 feet. The first Courthouse and jail were built of logs. The county seat stayed in Russellville from 1818 until 1849, when an election was held to move the courthouse to a more central location. The town was named Frankfort and the county seat remained there until 1879. The courthouse and jail there were built of brick that were made in Frankfort. During this time a group of citizens in the northern section of the county petitioned to the state legislature to create a new county. On 6 Feb 1867 the creation of Colbert County was granted by an act of Alabama Constitutional Convention. It was carved from the northern portion of Franklin County. Colbert County consists of 570 square miles, with 190 square miles in the Tennessee Valley and 380 square miles of mountain land. Franklin County has 647 square miles.
After a little more than 8 months, on 29 Nov 1867, Colbert County was abolished and returned to Franklin County. Two years later, on 9 Dec 1869, it once again was organized into Colbert County.
Did you know that all the streams in Colbert County that flow directly into the Tennessee River flow north?
After the split of the two counties, an election was held to determine the new county seat of Franklin County, it was decided that Belgreen would be the site of the new courthouse. This time a wood frame courthouse was built by a Mr. Dooley and the jail was built by Mr. William M. Rollins. The streets in Belgreen were just 99 feet wide. The first court was held in the street where the lawyers reportedly laid their law books on tree stumps. The county seat remained in Belgreen until 4 Dec 1890 when the courthouse and all the contents were destroyed by fire. All records were lost, except for one old land record book that was at the home of one of the court clerks the night of the fire.
So once again another election was held to select a new county seat. Two towns were selected, Russellville and Isbell. After a very heated race between the two towns, Russellville won out with 1228 votes, while Isbell received 1147 votes. After some 50 years, the county seat returned to Russellville.
Mr. Rosseau was the architect of the new courthouse and the contractor was Mr. John Barrett. It was a beautiful three story brick building with a steeple that housed a bell and a four sided clock. It was erected on the comer of Limestone Street on the east side of Jackson Avenue. Construction began on 4 March 1892, and was completed in 1893. It was the first courthouse in the county to display the American flag on a pole.
On the morning of 13 Jan 1953 the courthouse was once again destroyed by fire. This time, though the records were saved. The roof and upper floor were hardly damaged so it was soon demolished by a crew and a new building was built from the basement up on the same site. It was made entirely of native limestone. It has 52 rooms and 5 vaults. The original bell is now displayed on the northern side of the building.