How and why did Maycomb become the county seat in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the narrator of To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout details Simon Finch's establishment of Finch's landing and how the family lived off the land until her father Atticus and his brother broke with tradition and went to study law and medicine respectively. On his admittance to the bar, Atticus starts his practice in Maycomb which is "the county seat of Maycomb County." In Maycomb, there is "nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with" (chapter 1) as it is a tired, old town. 

Aunt Alexander is Atticus's sister and she still lives on "the Landing" but comes to stay so that she can help look after the children. She fits in well with Maycomb Society and is readily accepted to the point that it is as if she has always lived with Scout and her family. Aunt Alexander judges others based on her own standards and is not like Atticus who always encourages his children to "climb into another man's shoes" if they want to understand someone else's motivations. She is obsessed with "heredity" and has her own definition of "Fine Folks" and the rights to any land. Scout considers Aunty's theory as it relates to Maycomb, "an ancient town." Ordinarily towns would be situated close to the river but Maycomb which is established as "a seat of government" (chapter 13) is quite isolated. It would have made sense to situate the town close to the river as the river-boat was the main form of transportation but the owner of Sinkfield's Tavern, further inland had other ideas and persuaded the surveyors that his tavern was located within "the territorial confines of the county" and so was the best place to have the county seat.  

The reason for creating this seat was due to the Indians of the "Creek Nation" and the settlers of the "Alabama territory" who lived in "domestic tranquility" which prompted the governor to find a midpoint wherein to establish the seat and Sinkfield's Tavern became the "hub" from which "Maycomb grew and sprawled," thanks to Sinkfield's persuasion. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Simon Finch made the logical decision of building his homestead on the banks of the Alabama River, providing an instant form of transportation by boat to places like Mobile, the founder of Maycomb was not as sensible. "The nimble-wittedness of one Sinkfield" caused the town to be built "awkwardly inland" at the site of his

... inn, where two pig-trails met, the only tavern in the territory.  (Chapter 13)

A team of surveyors showed up one day, revealing that the county seat of Maycomb County would be located in "Winston Swamp, a place totally devoid of interest." In a totally selfish act, Sinkfield plied the surveyors with alcohol and convinced them to alter their charts, to

... lop off a little here, add a bit there, and adjust the center of the county to meet his requirements. He sent them packing the next day armed with their charts and five quarts of shinny..."  (Chapter 13)

Sinkfield bribed the surveyors with moonshine to make sure that the county seat would grow up around his inn.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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