PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) – Columbus, Georgia’s next-door neighbor is known as Phenix City today, but the history of this Alabama town’s name is more complex than some realize.
Perhaps the most obvious oddity about the name “Phenix City” is the misspelling of the word “Phoenix.” According to longtime journalist Mark Clark, who has written for the Citizen of East Alabama since 1972, the reason for this is still unconfirmed.
Despite this, Clark said some think the peculiar spelling stems from “Eagle and Phenix Mills” which existed in Columbus in February of 1897, when Phenix City received its current name.
According to a historical marker which was erected by the Georgia Historical Commission in 1955, the building began as the Eagle Mill in 1851. It was a cotton mill which produced materials for Confederate uniforms, as well as other commodities including cotton jeans and India rubber cloths.
The inscription states the mill was burned by Union Army forces, on April 17 of 1865 but was rebuilt a year later.
According to “The Battle of Columbus, April 16-17, 1865,” by J. David Dameron, a retired Army Green Beret and former professor of American history, Union troops led by Major General James H. Wilson launched a strike on the industrial businesses of Columbus on these dates, coinciding with the destruction of Eagle Mill.
This battle is also known as the Battle of Girard and is largely regarded as the last major battle in the Civil War, although it happened after Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to the then Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virgina on April 9, 1865.
Grant would go on to become president of the United States in 1869.
When the mill was rebuilt in 1866, it was renamed “Eagle and Phenix Mills” to represent its literal rise from the ashes. Today, the mill has been converted into a condominium complex called Eagle and Phenix Historic Riverfront Living and also holds an event space, Power House.
Despite earning the name Phenix City in 1897, the town which exists today has gone by many other names, each with a rich history. Brownvillie, Lively, Sodom and Girard are all encompassed in Phenix City’s past.