Attila History

Attila, now just a cluster of houses in section 4 of Crab Orchard township, was for nearly fifty years an important post office and trading center. The old Path south from Frank Jordan’s fort met the Galatia-Marion state road there, while the Worthen trail ran along a ridge a short distance west.

Attila Google view

Attila Google view

The name was inherited from the post office established July 29, 1854 in William N. Mitchell’s farmhouse, a short distance southeast of the settlement that became Corinth. Postmaster Mitchell enjoyed reading ancient history, and suggested for his office name that of the Scourge of God, king of the Huns who invaded the Roman empire in the fifth century. When Postmaster Mitchell entered Civil war service as captain of Company E, 60th Illinois infantry, Mrs. Mitchell handled the mail. The captain was wounded, and moved his family to Marion when he returned to civilian life. The post office passed into the hands of Enos A. Phillips January 24, 1866, the first of the moving days that ended with its establishment at the point now known as Attila.

William Nazareth Mitchell (1814-1879) came from Wilson county, Tennessee about 1830 to Frankfort, where he taught subscription schools. His brother, Sion Hunt Mitchell, was school commissioner for Franklin county. The younger man studied surveying, and at the time of the division ran the line between Franklin and Williamson counties. Mrs. Mitchell was Rachel Roberts, daughter of John Sutton Roberts the benefactor of Zion church. Their sons were James Cafield Mitchell (1852-1927) and Edward Everett Mitchell (1858-1938). At Marion, Mr. Mitchell established a drug store in which the sons began their business experience. The father was county clerk from 1865 to 1869, the older son served in the same office from 1886 to 1894, while the younger was state treasurer in 1911-1912. Both sons were bankers, the older at Marion, the younger at Carbondale.

Captain Mitchells nephews, George L. and Sion F. Mitchell, administered the post office at Attila after Postmaster Phillips’ term ended.

When Richard P. Dodds married Frances O’Neal, they opened a store at Attila, buying and prizing (or packing) tobacco for the Shawneetown-New Orleans market. Mr. Dodds was a veteran of three years’ service in Company C of the 31st Illinois infantry and he was named postmaster March 19, 1872. The little town became a thriving tobacco center, where long wagon trains pulled by oxen and loaded with tobacco hogsheads weighing 1,500 pounds each started on their way to the Ohio River or the railroad at Marion. Tobacco cultivation began in the county about 1840, and forty years later 700,000 pounds were grown in one year. But a pessimistic neighbor thought Fanny and Dick Dodds made a poor choice of location and business, and from his remarks Attila was nicknamed “Poor-Do.”

William T. Bird took over the post office October 18, 1875 when the Dodds moved to Stonefort, then west. The teacher at Attila that winter was James W. Turner, who organized Crab Orchard academy ten years later.

Attila post office passed rapidly from hand to hand, often two postmasters in one year. Edward L. Welborn was appointed February 28, 1894 and served until the office was closed April 30, 1902. Mr. Welborn had a store at Attila, just as his brothers did at Dwina and New Denison.

See also, Poor Do History

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939)