Days Gone By - stories from the past

Amazing story of courage of some early settlers of Alabama

Reconstructed Bastion on Fort Charlotte in Mobile, Alabama

Reconstructed Bastion on Fort Charlotte in Mobile, Alabama.


Early Alabama

“The territory now called Alabama was but sparsely settled in 1792, except by the natives, and they occupied only some of the principal water-courses. Fort Charlotte, at Mobile, 1792 was garrisoned with Spanish troops. The old French Tombecbe,” which, in Spanish times, was called Port Confederation, contained also a Spanish garrison. The English trading post, near the present Stockton, then called Tensaw, was repaired and occupied. A Spanish garrison occupied Fort St. Stephens, which was built upon a bluff on the Tombigby, called by the Choctaws, Hobuckintopa.

Spanish held Pensacola

A considerable Spanish garrison held the fortress at Pensacola. West Florida and Louisiana were governed by the Captain-General at Havana. The next person in authority was the Governor of Louisiana, to whom all the commandants of the posts in Alabama and Mississippi were subordinate. The whole territory of Alabama was then an immense wilderness, with American trading-posts on the east upon the Oconee, and those of Spain upon the south and west, while it was uninhabited by whites as far as the distant Cumberland settlements on the north.

Mobile was settled by whigs and royalists

The most populous settlement, with the exception of Mobile, was upon the Tensaw river and lake of that name. It was composed of both whigs and royalists. The latter had been driven from Georgia and the Carolinas. Added to these, were men, sui generis, appropriately called old Indian countrymen, who had spent much or’ their lives in Indian commerce. The most conspicuous and wealthy inhabitant of this neighborhood was Captain John Linder, a native of the Canton of Berne, in Switzerland. He resided many years in Charleston, as a British engineer and surveyor. There General McGilivray became acquainted with him, and, during the revolution, assisted in bringing here his family and large negro property.” (Pickett)

Rachel Donelson who immigrated to  Alabama with her father was later the wife of President Andrew Jackson

As early as 1777, some expeditionary trips by hopeful settlers through what is now Madison County occurred in north Alabama. Thomas Hutchins  led a group into what was then the Indian Territory through Madison County towards Muscle Shoals. However, the Indians attacked and drove them from the area. Colonel John Donelson led a band of some 160 persons by Madison County along the Tennessee River to settle where Nashville, Tennessee stands today. Some of the men in the party were James Cain, Isaac Neely, Benjamin Porter, John White, and John Cotton.

Rachel (Donelson) Jackson

Rachel Donelson when she was first lady
Rachel Donelson who immigrated to  Alabama with her father was later the wife of President Andrew Jackson

“It was arranged that General Robertson should proceed, first, with a number of young men to raise the necessary buildings, and that Col. John Donelson  should follow with another party of emigrants, including the women and children. To avoid the toil and peril of the route through the wilderness,  Col. John Donelson conceived the idea of reaching the new settlement by water, down the Tennessee and up the Cumberland rivers. No man, white or red, had ever attempted the voyage, which was really more dangerous than the overland route. while there were equally as many Indians to be encountered.  At the suck one of the boats hung upon a rock, and a hot skirmish with the Cherokees on the mountain side took place before they could extricate her.

John Donelson (1718-1785) frontier man

John Donelson (1718-1785) frontier man

Among those who shared the dangers of this voyage was Rachel Donelson, the daughter of the leader, a black-eyed, ‘black-haired brunette, as gay, as bold, and as handsome a lass as ever danced on the deck of a flatboat, and took the helm while her father took a shot at the Indians. (Guild.) This lass became the wife of Gen. Andrew Jackson. The partv of Colonel Donelson boldly shot the Muscle Shoals without a pilot. They were the first whites who ever set their eyes on the soil of Lawrence county of whom we have any account. After a voyage of four months they reached their new home, and there was a happy meeting of husbands and wives, parents and children.” Thomas Green, along with two sons and Cato West traveled by boat along the Tennessee in 1782. (Saunders)

Tennessee Belle pleasure boat at Muscle Shoals dock ca. 1925

TENNESSEE BELLE pleasure boat at Muscle Shoals dock ca. 1925

Hon. Felix Grundy shares what early Alabama was like

To give the reader some idea of the manner in which early settlers were harassed by the Indians, it has been stated that for fifteen years they killed within seven miles of Nashville one person in about every ten days.” Then, woman and children were slaughtered indiscriminately, and this ruthless warfare extended to all the settlements in Middle Tennessee.

“The Hon. Felix Grundy, who passed amidst these these perils, once alluded to them, in the United States Senate, when he spoke with touching eloquence’ I was too young to participate in these dangers and difficulties, but I can remember when death was in almost every bush, and every thicket concealed an ambuscade. If I am asked to trace my memory back, and name the first indelible impression it received, it would be the sight of my eldest brother, bleeding and dying under the wounds inflicted by the tomahawk and scalping knife.

Another, and another went in the same way. I have seen a widowed mother plundered of her whole property in one night; from affluence and ease reduced to poverty in a moment, and compelled to labor with her own hands to support and educate her last and favorite son-him who now addresses you. Sir, the ancient sufferings of the West were very great. I know it. I need turn to no document to tell me what they were. They are written upon my memory-a part of them on my heart. Those of us who are here are but the remnant,the wreck of large families lost in the settlement of the West.”(Saunders)

“At length the patience of the settlers was completely exhausted. Moreover, they had become gradually stronger, and they determined to strike a blow which would reach the heart of the enemy, and to pursue them to their stronghold, Nickajack, from which point the Cherokees, with their allies, were accustomed to make their incursions. This was their great military station, where the warriors from the Little Tennessee above and the Muscle Shoals below, concentrated when they meditated mischief. And here, in. riotous drunkenness, they consumed the fruits of their victories. The whites had never crossed the Tennessee, and they felt secure. Suddenly General James Robertson had collected a force of 600 men, with much secrecy, and burst upon them like a thunderbolt. They had reached the north bank of the river after dark, constructed small rafts for their guns and ammunition, and pushing them before them-sometimes wading and sometimes swimming-they reached the southern bank early in the morning, surrounded their enemies, and gained an overwhelming victory. From the numbers of the Cherokees killed, I judge there was not much quarter asked or given. The power of the tribe was completely broken. The Cherokees for the first time sued for peace, and never afterward molested the whites.” (Saunders)



  1. Pickett, Albert James HISTORY OF ALABAMA and incidentally of MISSISSIPPI and GEORGIA, 1896
  2. Saunders, Col James Edmonds EARLY SETTLERS OF ALABAMA Notes and Genealogies,1899
  4. Record, James A DREAM COME TRUE The Story of Madison County and incidentally of Alabama and the United States

First Families of Lawrence County, Alabama Volume I

Lawrence County was created by act of the Territorial Legislature of February 4, 1818. Formed from territory acquired by the Cherokee and Chicasa cession of 1816.

The early settlers of the county came from Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. Many of the early settlers of Lawrence County were veterans or children of veterans of the Revolutionary War.




By (author): Donna R Causey
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. […] Court. His home is believed to be part of Oakland Plantation and the oldest home in Mississippi. Rachel Donelson, wife of Andrew Jackson was related by marriage to the Hutchins family and often visited them to […]

  2. Gary Todd

    go back to thier own country

  3. Michael Stallings

    the indians did”ent want them here..they should have gone back where they came from

  4. Anne Terry

    Rachael Donelson may have travelled to Ala. , but I do not believe she settled there.

  5. Alabama Weaver

    Fort Charlotte or Charlestown or whatever we want to call it. Fort Conde or Fort Louis.

  6. When Jackson lived – he was a Georgian not Tennessee.

    Georgia was Alabama.

    It’s just a matter of reference

    Read the American State Papers.

    The mobile River has been the center of American s

    Not sparsely populated till after the fever hit.

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