This story is typical of many immigrants to Alabama in the early days.
The Curtis Sisters and ‘On to Alabama’
(public story contributed by r1988l1 to Ancestry.com)
The four Curtis daughters were all married in Wake County to men who were close friends and associates.Twenty-year-old Burchet Curtis was married to Hartwell Richard King on April 24, 1805; two months later, fifteen-year-old Martha Curtis married John Walter Rand on June 19, 1805; the following year, eighteen-year-old Anne Curtis married Aldridge Myatt on December 27, 1806, with John Walter Rand as surety; and the youngest sister, Mary Curtis, married Drury Vinson on December 26, 1811, when she was nineteen, with Hartwell King standing as surety.
Between 1817 and 1826, these brothers-in-law bought and sold considerable property in the area southeast of Raleigh, on both sides of Marlow’s Creek, near Orr’s Mill Branch, and on the north side of Swift Creek.
They traveled 650 miles west
By 1826, they had dissolved themselves of all their North Carolina properties and the four sisters with their husbands, families, slaves, and possessions, organized a wagon train of ten (some histories indicate as many as twenty) Wake County families to migrate the 650 miles west to the Tennessee Valley of northern Alabama.
Other members of the wagon train included the parents of Hartwell King (Richard King and his second wife Edith Jones King), the Fennels and Forts (cousins of the Curtis sisters), Liles, Maddings, Preuits, Crooms, and Delonys.
Immigrant wagons traveling south were always in sight
It has been said that, during the early eighteenth century, the Great Highway from Virginia via North Carolina to Alabama was more like that of an army of occupation rather than of an ordinary public highway. Travelers returning northward on the route stated that they could journey for many days without being out of sight of immigrant wagons tramping southward, accompanied by large files of negro slaves.
The procession of the Curtis sister’s families and friends traveled several months through the relatively undeveloped country of the South with their wagons, slaves, and other possessions. They finally arrived in the Tennessee Valley in northeastern Alabama, with the Tennessee River being the last obstacle between the pioneers and their final destination, which lay on the south side of the river. The crossing was located a few miles north of what is now Courtland, Alabama at a point now known as Lamb’s Ferry, but at the time it was a part of Muscle Shoals.
Lamb’s Ferry was between Giles County, Tennessee and the Tennessee River
The Shoals were dangerous to cross
The task of crossing the shoals seemed quite a dangerous one, so it was finally decided that lots would be cast to see who would be the first to risk his life in crossing. After the lots were cast and the man selected, it was then decided that they would have a prayer. The only part of that prayer that has been preserved is: “Oh Lord, when we have settled on the other side, cleared our ground and raised our corn, may the harvest be so large that no mill, save for John Rand’s, be able to grind it.”
And so the settlers crossed the Tennessee River and passed through ten miles of the south bank of the Tennessee Valley to their final destination at the foothills of the Cumberland Mountain. The pioneers all settled within six miles of each other on what was then the county line separating Franklin and Lawrence Counties, near the small community of LaGrange. Here they all purchased property with “No Car” money.
Half of the settlers located on the Franklin County side of the line and the other half fell into Lawrence County territory. LaGrange was located in Franklin County on the spur of the Cumberland Mountain, four miles south of the village of Leighton. The road from Leighton to the Franklin County seat of Russellville passed through the community. A close bond remained between these Franklin/Lawrence County settlers and their friends and families in Wake County.
At the time of the arrival of the Wake County settlers, Lafayette Academy for girls was being established in the area of LaGrange. The settlers were all serious Methodists and, as such, were able to convince the Methodist Conferences to establish a College at LaGrange.
The citizens of the LaGrange community subscribed $10,000 to establish the school and, so, the first college in Alabama was opened in 1830 at Lawrence Hill in LaGrange, in conjunction with the Lafayette Academy.
Students from some of the most prominent families in Alabama attended the college, which was completely destroyed by Yankees during the occupation by Union soldiers in 1863. The 1830 census for Franklin County reflected that approximately 5,000 whites resided in the county, with a total of 23,000 slaves.
The village of La Grange was incorporated as a town in 1832. By 1850, LaGrange grew to a village of 400 inhabitants with over 200 students enrolled at the college. The residences, which were built on the hills overlooking the valley, extended for more than a mile east to west. The village extended from what was known as “Sandy Rock” to “Sledge’s old field” and contained a post office, a blacksmith shop, two wood shops, two boot shops, a tannery, a tailor shop and two dry good stores.
Colbert County was subsequently created in 1867 from the eastern portion of Franklin County, with Tuscumbia becoming the new county seat. In 1897, the western portion of Lawrence County was ceded to Colbert County in order to form a “white county”.
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