Today, Claiborne is a ghost town on a bluff above the Alabama River near Perdue Hill in Monroe County. Situated near the Federal Road, Claiborne began during the Mississippi Territory period with a ferry that transported settlers across the Alabama River. During the Creek War 1813-1814, a large stockade fort, named Fort Claiborne, was established at the site by General Ferdinand L. Claiborne. He used the fort as a base for the invasion of the Creek nation with the Regular Army of the United States, the Lower Tombigbee Militia, and friendly Choctaw. The community of Claiborne began in 1816, on the former fort site.
Following the Creek War, Claiborne became one of the largest and fastest growing communities in what would become Alabama. Early settlers included three future Alabama governors: John Gayle, John Murphy, and Arthur P. Bagby. William B. Travis, a hero of the Alamo, lived and practiced law in Claiborne before leaving for Texas in 1831. Other prominent politicians included James Dellet and Charles Tait. The community was surveyed in 1819 by General John Coffee, with lots being numbered and sold. It was incorporated as a town on December 20, 1820 by the Alabama Legislature.
The first paddle steamer, the Harriet, to reach this far up the Alabama River landed at Claiborne in 1821. At that time the population had reached 2000 people. It had grown to 2500 by the time that the Marquis de Lafayette visited in April 1825. He was entertained in the newly built Masonic Hall, a building which, along with the William B. Travis house, still exists but was later moved to the nearby community of Perdue Hill. The town continued to expand during the 1830s, with the population peaking at near 5000 people. Claiborne served as the first county seat of Monroe County until 1832, when it was moved to the centrally located Monroeville. By then the town boasted two large hotels, numerous stores and business establishments, a cotton warehouse, a boarding house, a jail, a school and several churches. At this point outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera stemmed further growth of the town.
Claiborne remained an important shipping port and trading center throughout the 1840s and 1850s. The coming of the American Civil War saw the construction of batteries along the lower Alabama River and at Claiborne. The town was heavily looted at the end of the war. Following the war, the town quickly lost importance. By 1872, the population had dwindled to approximately 350 people. When the new railroad through Monroe County bypassed Claiborne in the early 20th century, the fate of the settlement was sealed. Today, all that remains of old Claiborne is the James Dellet House and three 19th century cemeteries.
The Claiborne Historical Marker that is shown marks the site of old Claiborne. This marker is located beside Highway 84 near the river bridge on the east side of the Alabama River (GPS coordinates 31.544641, -87.513023).