|St. Stephens Visitor Center and Museum|
Prior to Mississippi becoming a state in 1817 St. Stephens had been the eastern most city of the Mississippi Territory. Upon Mississippi gaining statehood, Alabama became its own territory and St. Stephens its capital. Alabama's first Governor, William Wyatt Bibb, presided over the first meeting of the Territorial Legislature at the Douglass Hotel on St. Stephens' High Street. After taking the oath of office, swearing to uphold the constitution, the next order of business was to create the charter of Alabama's first bank, The Tombecbee Bank. "The sitting of the first legislature at St. Stephens was right. For here, where McClary hoisted the American flag, was the beginning of Alabama." (Peter J. Hamilton, 1899)
In 1853 the Alabama Legislature authorized construction of the St. Stephens Courthouse to serve as governmental headquarters for Washington County. When completed in 1854, the courthouse was home to the probate office and record rooms for the entire county.
The St. Stephens courthouse served the county seat for 53 years until the county seat was moved to Chatom in 1907.
The St. Stephens Courthouse is now open to the public as a Visitor Center and Museum. The St. Stephens Courthouse features fully restored siding, beaded board and heartpine flooring throughout, and much of the original 1853 windowpane glass. The museum displays portraits of early St. Stephens residents Thomas Eastin, William Crawford and Temperance Crawford (painted by Thomas Sully, a well-known artist from Philadelphia, and one of the foremost 19th-century portrait painters in the US). Also on exhibit is a large dugout canoe of the prehistoric Indians, a collection of ancient fossils from local limestone deposits, and artifacts from the historic town of Old St. Stephens and Fort St. Esteban.