The boom had been almost exclusively controlled and managed by New England people, while southerners, knowing little of the "Yankee" business methods, had served as interested observers. Only a few native Alabama citizens had lost fortunes, as most of the older residents of the city had sold their property on a rising market.
However, two local men, Milford Howard and Dr. W. E. Quin, did lose fortunes. Howard had been a rather flamboyant speculator and had amassed a sizable fortune which he had reinvested in a mercantile business and real estate. The collapse left Howard unable to meet his financial obligations and he lost all his holdings.
Dr. Quin's losses were not as great as Howard's, but he had the added misfortune of being left $10,000 in debt. His creditors, however, allowed the doctor to pay back the money as he was able to do so. He repaid most of the debt from profits made by buying property at a low price and selling it after its value increased. Among Dr. Quin's purchases were a house formerly valued at $2500, which he bought for $50, and another which had cost $1500, but which he acquired for $25.
Many of the large boom houses were sold for the lumber used in building them. Farmers often purchased houses to salvage the lumber, rather than cut their own timber. Some families who had never lived in anything but log huts moved into the large houses and lived in one section of a house while using the rest for fuel.
On December 8, 1892, the city of Fort Payne sold and bid in for the city taxes the property formerly held by the Fort Payne Coal and Iron Company. But the city itself was also faced with indebtedness and warrants used to pay city obligations were often used by citizens to pay their taxes.
When the panic of 1893 rocked the nation, its full force was not felt in Fort Payne where people had already suffered the effects of depression for over a year.
In July 1893 when the third municipal election was held, it was the first time that New England boom promoters were not in control. Dr. Quin was elected mayor, along with councilmen S. E. Dobbs, A. B. Green, Jr., Charles Landstreet, John A. McCurdy and C. M. T. Sawyer.
Fort Payne's population at the beginning of the new century was approximately 1700, as compared with over 3500 in 1890. Most of its citizens realized that the city's future prosperity would depend upon small industries and the surrounding agricultural area.
Early in 1900 the North Alabama and Georgia Telephone Company was granted a franchise by the city council, thus adding a telephone system to the water works and sewage system already established. But several years were to pass before electric service was again provided for the town's residents.
In 1910 the DeKalb County High School was built and five students graduated the following year. In 1957 the school became a part of the city school system and was renamed Fort Payne High School. A new addition, costing $170,000, was added to the school in 1959. A new high school, consisting of a complex of seven buildings, was completed at a cost of over $2,000,000 in 1969 at the north end of Fort Payne.
A city library had been established during the boom and located on a second floor in the Opera House block. But during the depression years there was no money available for library service. Although various women volunteered their services as librarian during these years, no new books were purchased. Old books were lost or destroyed and interest waned.
Later, through the efforts of a very remarkable Fort Payne woman, a library was again established in the depression year of 1930. Mrs. Mary C. Weatherly, wife of G. I. Weatherly, president of the First National Bank, scoured the county for books and, with 400 volumes donated by interested citizens, started the Fort Payne Library on October 1, 1930. This date was to mark the beginning of 40 years of library service to the citizens of DeKalb County by Mrs. Weatherly, a period during which she neither received nor desired any compensation.
The city council having agreed to pay the $5.00 per month rent for the upstairs room of the Masonic Building, F. E. Ladd donated coal for the open grate which heated the room. The initial supplies were purchased from a $100 loan made by Mrs. Georgia McFarlane, who was reimbursed in a month from small charges collected for the rental of books. Every day of the week Mrs. Weatherly ascended the stairs to the library, carrying her infant son in her arms, and proceeded to build and tend the fire and to serve as librarian, janitor and handyman.
By 1940 the little room was not large enough to hold the 4,000 volumes Mrs. Weatherly had accumulated through donations and careful buying. Fortunately the W.P.A. was at this time providing funds for small libraries, and $11,000 thus obtained was matched by the state and county. But as federal and state money could be used for county libraries only, the name was changed to DeKalb County Library when it was moved to the basement of the new City Hall.
The industry for which Fort Payne became best known first came in 1907. In that year the W. B. Davis Hosiery Mill became the first of numerous hosiery mills which have brought Fort Payne the title of "Sock Capital of the World". Steel-fabricating plants, home-fabricating plants and many other diversified industries add to the financial well being of the town. A new and lucrative tourist industry is also being developed in Fort Payne, where the many natural scenic wonders of the area are a great attraction, as well as the historical sites of the boom era.