The Forks of Cypress

Forks of Cypress historical marker

The Forks of Cypress plantation was established in 1818, by James and Sarah Jackson. Its home, believed the design of William Nichols, was one of Alabama’s great houses, featuring perhaps the earliest peristyle colonnades in America. Built by skilled African-American artisans in slavery, the Forks stood until June 6, 1966, when it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Its surrounding brick porch with twenty-three brick columns – once plastered with a mix of lime, horsehair and molasses and topped by cypress Ionic capitals – remains on limestone foundations.

Irish-born James Jackson, engineer, turfman, merchant, financier, planter, statesman, member of the Cypress Land Company, was a founding father of Florence. He was the major figure in establishing the local textile industry. As President of the Alabama Senate, he was its key advocate of the 1832 Treaty of Cusetta.

James Jackson’s most enduring contribution was the mark he left on the thoroughbred horse. With the purpose of improving American bloodstock, Jackson imported some of England’s finest horses, most notably Leviathan, Gallopade, and Glencoe. Peytona, bred at the Forks, in 1843 won the Peyton Stakes, the flushest purse ever, and the Race Between the North and South.  She walked 1200 miles to Long Island. Reel, the leading American broodmare of the 19th Century, was another Forks-bred horse. Both were daughters of Glencoe, as was Pocahontas, England’s all-time pre-eminent broodmare. Jackson’s greatest horse was the immortal stallion Glencoe who led the Stud Book eight years, “a truly epochal animal such as appears only at rare intervals and with whom only a scattering few others of all time deserve to be ranked.”* His successful progeny insured such prevalence of the line that by mid-20th Century virtually no thoroughbred in the world could be found who did not descend from Glencoe of the Forks of Cypress. *James Hervey, Racing in America.

The Forks of Cypress is only open to the public twice a year during Florence-Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau Walking Tours. The next walking tour is Saturday, April 29 at 10 am. Directions to the site are as follows: take Cox Creek Pkwy. to Jackson Rd. and turn right (no traffic signal at intersection) and turn right at the dead end. Please call Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Convention & Visitors Bureau, 256-740-4141 for more information.