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One of the oldest cities in Alabama, Athens was founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John Carroll, and John Read. Originally named Athenson, its name was shortened to Athens. The first and second governors of Alabama were residents of Athens. During the Civil War, Athens was taken by Union forces on May 2, 1862, after which it was plundered in actions that became known as the Rape of Athens. Initially a cotton and railroad town, Athens has more recently become an industrial center.

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