Wilson Dam was authorized directly by Congress to allow barge traffic upstream above what was known as "Muscle Shoals" a 15 mile stretch of pools and rapids where the riverbed drops ~200' between there and the location of Wheeler Dam. Many in Congress felt the gov't should not be in the dam building business and that's when Henry Ford stepped up offering to purchase the dam with the stipulation he would convert to wartime production in 45 days, if necessary. He was basically going to move everything out of Dearborn and make the stretch between Florence and Huntsville the "Detroit of the South". There are still remnants of sidewalks (in what was platted out as Ford City) in pastures off River Road near where the old Reynolds Metals and Ford casting plants were located. Unfortunately, at the last minute political operatives from the north were able to block the sale. It had only been a bit over fifty years since the War of Northern Aggression and the animus of the north was still in full bloom. Remember, in April of 1865 ~74% of the population in north Alabama and middle Tennessee was listed at or below starvation and many in the north were content to keep us as a place like Bosnia, forever. That's why FDR was so revered by many in this region as he created TVA and with the power production capability that resulted, industrial expansion soon followed. Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville led to the genesis of the (original) space program. There's a reason the civic center there is named after Werner Von Braun. BTW, the area of the muscle shoals before Wilson Dam was completed was known to winter hundreds of thousands of waterfowl as it virtually freeze proof and the open water was a strong attraction for the birds. Also, Florence got it's name by virtue of the city's founders allowing the engineer that platted out the town to name it. His hometown was Florence, Italy, hence.