Marengo County was created by the Alabama Territorial legislature on February 6, 1818.
Marengo County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of a battlefield near Turin, Italy, where the French defeated the Austrians on June 14, 1800. As of 2000 the population was 22,539. The largest city is Demopolis, the county seat is Linden.
Marengo County was created by the Alabama Territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, from land acquired from the Choctaw Indians by treaty on October 24, 1816. The name of the county commemorates Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Marengo over the Austrian armies on June 14, 1800. This name was chosen as a compliment to the first Caucasian settlers, exiled French Bonapartists who in 1817 settled the area around Demopolis in an effort to establish a Vine and Olive Colony. The county seat was originally known as the Town of Marengo, but in 1823 the name was changed to Linden. Linden is a shortened version of Hohenlinden, scene of another Napoleonic victory in Bavaria in 1800.
Situated in Alabama’s Black Belt and having a naturally rich soil, the county became home to numerous cotton plantations and consequently a large number of slaves. In 1860 the population consisted of 24,409 slaves, 6761 free whites including 944 slave owners, and just 1 “free person of color” for a total combined population of 31,171. At this time there were 778 farms in the county. Demopolis was home to the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in Alabama, B’nai Jeshurun. It was established in 1858. After the American Civil War, the economy continued to be based on agriculture with the former plantations turning to sharecropping.
The population began to diminish rapidly after World War II, with people leaving the farms for manufacturing jobs elsewhere. The former cotton fields were gradually converted to pastures for cattle and horses, woodlands for timber, and commercial catfish ponds for grain fed catfish. Beginning in the 1960s industry began to move into the area and the working force came to be employed by paper mills, lumber mills, and chemical plants. Courthouse fires occurred in 1848 and 1965, the courthouse records were largely saved in both instances.
In 2000 there were 22,539 people, 8,767 households, and 6,277 families residing in the county. The population density was 23 people per square mile (9/km²). There were 10,127 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 51.71% Black or African American, 47.28% White, 0.08% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.25% from other races, and 0.47% from two or more races. 0.97% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 8,767 households out of which 34.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.40% were married couples living together, 19.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.40% were non-families. 26.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.08.
In the county the population was spread out with 28.50% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 26.00% from 25 to 44, 22.90% from 45 to 64, and 14.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 88.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $27,025, and the median income for a family was $35,475. Males had a median income of $36,053 versus $19,571 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,308. About 22.20% of families and 25.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.70% of those under age 18 and 25.30% of those age 65 or over.