History of Coffee County
Although the county was established in 1841, deed records, probate records, and inventory records from before 1851 are almost non-existent before. Wellborn, Coffee County’s first seat of government, was located near what is now Damascus, approximately twelve miles west of Enterprise. The courthouse, built in 1846, was consumed by fire in March 1851, and all of the early official records of the county were destroyed. The probate judge was required by the legislature to provide suitable record books in order for people to re-record all deeds, marriage licenses, and other documents required by law. However, many of those records were not re-recorded and, thus, were lost forever. The county’s first marriage book has also been lost, possibly in a flood, and no marriages prior to 1877 are on record.
In 1852, Elba was chosen as the new seat of government and in 1853 the first Elba courthouse was constructed on a site which became Courthouse Square. That first courthouse was burned in 1863 by Confederate deserters, but most of the records were saved. Later courthouses were ravaged by floods, but the record books have been dried and although not in the best of condition, many of them remain intact.
In 1907, Coffee County was divided into two jurisdictional sections and a branch seat of government was established in Enterprise, not to replace the county seat in Elba, but rather to meet the needs of residents who lived in the eastern half of the county. The first two courthouses constructed in Enterprise were destroyed by fire, but a third, constructed in 1925, served the eastern division of Coffee County until 1998 when it was razed to make way for a new courthouse, constructed on the same site and dedicated in 1999.
Coffee County still maintains two courthouses. The present Elba courthouse, constructed in 1903, survived the floods of 1929 and the 1990s. Although high water stains remain on the walls, this building continues to serve the western division of the county.
Most of the older records of the county are housed in the Elba Courthouse, but when researching records after 1907, one may need to explore both Elba and Enterprise courthouses. Most of the county records were microfilmed by the LDS Church during the 1970s and are available for viewing in their Family Research Libraries across the nation. These microfilm records, because they were filmed before the 1990 floods, are actually in better condition than the original record books in the Elba Courthouse, and researching through them saves wear and tear on the brittle pages of the old books.
Information obtained from “The Heritage of Coffee County Volume 16”, pages 4-5. Published by Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc. 2002