Wills Valley Railroad

Between 1827 and 1832 a rail line had been established from Baltimore to Ohio. In the late 1840’s, William Overton Winston began practicing law in the state of Alabama. His life long passion would become a desire for a railroad line. A rail line running right in front of his newly acquired home in Northeast Corner of Alabama. A little place called Valley Head. On February 3, 1852, his ambition was realized with the Charter for The Wills Valley Railroad and he became the first president. During 1861 to 1863, the War Between the States slowed, but did not deter the building of the rail line. By 1868 the construction of the railway began in earnest. The Improvement Act of 3 Feb 1870 issued bonds to complete the railroad. By the fall of 1870 tracks had been laid from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Birmingham, Alabama. In 1877 Control of the Wills Valley Railroad was granted to Alabama Great Southern Railroad. A very small town became a very big deal.


From the time of the removal of the Cherokee until the Civil War, Valley Head was a farming community. In 1836 DeKalb County was created and the little town would soon play a major roll in the grow of the county. Also, in 1836 , Vance C. Larmore homesteaded an area just south of what would become the town of Valley Head. The first Post Office was established in 1837 and Dr. James Gardner was the first Post Master. William O. Winston, came to town about 1845, he established his home place in Valley Head and proceeded to devote his time to having a railroad built. By 1850 many families had moved to Valley Head and they had professions other than farming. Some of them were: Edom R. Wilkerson, a carpenter from Georgia; Thomas Lovern, a wheel wright from Georgia; Hiram Scroggin, a stone mason from North Carolina; John R. Richards, a minister from South Carolina; Franklin Leach, a merchant from Virginia; John G. Winston, a merchant from Tennessee; James Poe, a brick mason from Tennessee; Joel Jet, a house carpenter from Tennessee; and Samuel Vandike, a tanner from Tennessee.

Progress was being made towards the building of a railroad, but it would soon be hampered by war looming between the states. The Civil War slowed the forward growth of the town. As with other towns, Valley Head had soldiers on both sides. The Union Army had a unit in the area known as the First Tennessee and Alabama Vidette Calvary, they were the home guard, those that hope to hold the fragmenting union together. There were also many units organized for the Confederate States. Not until after the smoke had cleared did the town being again to push forward. The railroad was finished, bringing trade and population growth.

The railroad opened up opportunities in the mining industry which in later years result in the town of Battel being established about four miles north of Valley Head.