Days Gone By - stories from the past

First highways in Alabama were only beaten trails and sometimes travelers were entangled in vegetation

First highways in Alabama were only beaten trails and sometimes travelers became entangled in vegetation as the two men did.


Conecuh County was initially part of Monroe County

Conecuh did not become a separately organized county until January 1818. Prior to this time, it was embraced within the limits of Monroe county, which then embraced an extensive tract of territory, extending from east to west, from the Chattahoochee to the Alabama. But after the organization of Conecuh into a county, it was bounded on the north by Monroe and Montgomery counties, on the west by Clarke and Mobile, on the east by Georgia, and on the south by Florida—-then a Spanish province.

Richard Warren became the first representative of the county In the Territorial Legislature, which met then at St. Stephens, in Washington county. Ransom Dean (brother-in-law to Col. J. R. Hawthorne), was the first sheriff, and by virtue of his office, was tax assessor and collector, as well. Joel Lee (the father of Rev. David Lee), was the first justice of the peace appointed in Conecuh. He was appointed by Gov. William Bibb.

Highways were beaten trails

For a long time after the settlement of this portion of Alabama,  inhabitants had to adopt for their highways the beaten trails of the Red Man, which threaded the forests in all directions, and led through the dense cane that skirted the streams, at the only points where it could be penetrated, and where the streams themselves could be forded.

wooded trail wilcox

They were entangled in a glade of cane

To form some estimate of the density of these brakes, which prevailed with uniform impenetrableness along the banks of all streams alike, the present inhabitant of Conecuh has only to be told the following anecdote:

On one occasion a gentleman living near Burnt Corn, Captain Hayes, accompanied by his young friend, Jere Austill—afterwards celebrated because of his connection with the famous Canoe Fight—was traveling in lower Conecuh, exploring the fertile lands which lie along Murder Creek.

canoe fight marker

 

canoe fight marker2

Returning after nightfall, they attempted to cross Bellville branch, just where the road now crosses between the village and the house of James Straughn, and became entangled in the glade of cane. After wading through the mud for some time, and finding no relief, in their perplexity they set up a yell of distress, which was promptly answered by Joshua Hawthorne, who hastened to their relief, with several negro men, bearing lighted torches, and extricated them.

First public road ran from Cahaba to Pensacola

In 1822 the first public road that ever penetrated any portion of the county, was cut by order of the Legislature. It was then about the most important thoroughfare in the State. It ran from Cahaba, via Old Turnbull and Bellville, to Pensacola, and was afterward known as “the Old Stage Road.”

 Note by AP:” The “Old Stage Road” was once an Indian horse path which the Creek Indian Nation gave the United States Government permission to use to allow passage through for settlers on their way westward.  The path later used for wagon trains and stagecoaches.  Burnt Corn was a stop over for Stage Coaches.  The Isaac Betts house located on the Old Federal Road was one of the Stage’s stopping point.

SOURCE

(Transcription from History of Conecuh County, Alabama: Embracing a detailed record of events…pub. 1881 By Benjamin Franklin Riley)

Read more stories in ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration 

Some stories include:

  • The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
  • The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  • Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  • Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
  • Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)


Features: Alabama Footprints Exploration Lost Forgotten Stories
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 www.daysgoneby.me
All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com 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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24 comments

  1. I have read that the Indians followed the paths made by our native Bison, the Woods Buffalo and enlarged by the native Americans and finally the native peoples. Even when I was young some of the roads there were still small dirt roads. Where there was cane I’m sure it was a difficult job. We grew a lot of cane and it can be almost impassable. Maybe the large animals like bison would find it easier to eat through than people could without modern tools. The “old federal road” book available on the net still is a great read. Love the story, Donna.

  2. Greg Hollis

    Smoother than tar and gravel in Blount co

  3. Hughie Wylie

    Thanks for these stories of the past.

  4. Alabama Weaver

    So how did Andrew Jackson move thousands of troops and heavy canons and all those horses in 1813-1815 and later? Help me please. I don’t understand.

    1. Margaret Roy

      By boats on ye River for the most part!

    2. Alabama Weaver

      That’s not what history reads. A ferry now and then and those roads they SAID they cut. If the Federal Road was started in say 1806…. And the first roads were in 1822….

    3. Alabama Weaver

      Where does that leave Ft. Mims?

    4. Alabama Weaver

      What about Aaron Burr’s arrest?

    5. Alabama Weaver

      Time to rewrite Alabama history again…. It does not line up with recorded facts.

    6. Anita Garner

      Well the original quotation says ‘county’. We know there were other well travelled thoroughfares in the state that well predate 1822. The Natchez Trace cuts through North Alabama, for example. Thomas Jefferson had it greatly improved from Nashville to the Muscle Shoals, so it was definitely more than merely a buffalo migration trail by the late 1700s, and it had ferries that predate 1822 by a couple of decades at least. So my guess is that comment does indeed refer to that specific county .

    7. Alabama Weaver

      I know write – funny how the trace missed Natchez.

      You see the treaties place the Eastern Natchez District in Southwest Alabama in 1801.

    8. Alabama Weaver

      Conucuh was originally Monroe County like most of Alabama at the time.

    9. Alabama Weaver

      Funny that Thomas Jefferson was so concerned about a portion of the country that wasn’t quite pet of the country yet….

      Highly suspect history.

    10. Alabama Weaver

      Buffalo Lick – a Salt Trace is in Southwest Alabama.

    11. Alabama Weaver

      Natchez means Salt to some…

    12. Alabama Weaver

      Walnut Hills – Juglin’s Nigra.

      The Juzan’s still own some of the land today.

      So does the DuPont family.

      Again Southwest Alabama

    13. Alabama Weaver

      Loftus Heights Mississippi – great Lofton Road is right there across from old Louisiana.

      Southwest Alabama and the Lofton/Loftus etc owned the land directly across the river.

    14. Alabama Weaver

      No such thing as coincidence?

      Did Alabama mimic Mississippi?

      Alabama was Mississippi?

      Think about it.

    15. William Craig Mann

      This “first road in the county” reference would have referred to the first road constructed after the formal creation of Conecuh County. The Federal Road (which formed the boundary between Monroe and Conecuh Counties) had already been in use for years.
      And, Alabama Weaver, the Natchez Trace did not miss Natchez. Natchez was the western terminus of that road.
      On the “Note by AP” in the article, there may be some confusion. Construction of the stage road from Cahaba to Pensacola, if done in 1822, was eight years after the Treaty of Ft. Jackson. That part of the state was ceded by the Creeks in the treaty, so their permission would not have been needed. They gave permission for the construction of the earlier Federal Road, a different route that ran northeast to southwest through the Tombigbee District (the Cahaba/Pensacola stage road ran northwest to southeast).

    16. Alabama Weaver

      Have you read the treaties and more importantly the letters from the agents. Permission was not given for any roads nor was it in any way ambiguous. The Treaty of Ft. Jackson was actually contested due to the manner by which it was obtained. Something about letting Chief Reed (you have to know the back story taken from newspapers to obtain the English name) go join the Seminoles down in Mount Vernon aka Florida… And using some of the food that was supposed to have been allowed for the so-called Creeks who was actually the Natchez Chief. The list goes on.

    17. Alabama Weaver

      History has a lot of obscurities and coincidences that all revolve around Southwest Alabama and Mobile/Louisiana/Mississippi/Florida -> all the exact same place.

  5. This “first road in the county” reference would have referred to the first road constructed after the formal creation of Conecuh County. The Federal Road (which formed the boundary between Monroe and Conecuh Counties) had already been in use for years.
    And, Alabama Weaver, the Natchez Trace did not miss Natchez. Natchez was the western terminus of that road.
    On the “Note by AP” in the article, there may be some confusion. Construction of the stage road from Cahaba to Pensacola, if done in 1822, was eight years after the Treaty of Ft. Jackson. That part of the state was ceded by the Creeks in the treaty, so their permission would not have been needed. They gave permission for the construction of the earlier Federal Road, a different route that ran northeast to southwest through the Tombigbee District (the Cahaba/Pensacola stage road ran northwest to southeast).

  6. Philip Alexander

    Now you see why the rivers and waterways were so important…

  7. Randy Cordell

    My ancestor Benj. Franklin Goodson b .1751 Revolutionary soldier from SC supposedly was involved in the buildings of the roads after the war. Does anybody know how I can verify the family story? The Goodson families settled just Northeast of Natchez,Ms from early 1800s til present day.

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