Tuscaloosa became an incorporated town on December 13, 1819, two years after Alabama achieved its status as an American territory and just one day before Alabama was admitted to the Union. But the area’s heritage goes back much further than that. In 1540, Hernando DeSoto of Spain was the first European to explore the area, where he had a fateful encounter with the famed Creek Chief Tuskaloosa (whose name means “Black Warrior” in Choctaw).
Tuscaloosa was the capital of the state of Alabama from 1826 to 1846, a period that saw the establishment of The University of Alabama. In 1831, the University enrolled 52 students. Because of the large water oaks that lined the streets during this time, Tuscaloosa was nicknamed “The Druid City.”
In addition to the area’s heritage of river commerce and gravel and coal mining operations, Tuscaloosa and its quickly growing cross-river neighbor Northport (population approximately 24,000) have in recent years entered the realm of manufacturing centers. Most notably Mercedes-Benz has its first and only U.S. production center in North America right here in Tuscaloosa County.