Days Gone By - stories from the past

The Federal Road was the state of Alabama’s first interstate – Do you know where it was? [map and picture]

(Alabama was a busy place in the early 1800s and a simple horse path through the state turned into a major road for early pioneers. Some remnants of this early road are visible today)


The Federal Road

After the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, the United States government realized a way was needed for settlers and troops to access the new areas.  Beginning in 1806 through 1811, a simple horse path was created through the Creek Nation from Georgia to coastal Alabama. The Creek had reluctantly granted access via treaty for this horse path. When West Florida was annexed from Spain in 1810, this added to the need for a road.

Map showing portions of old Federal road

Map showing portions of old Federal road

“The Old Federal Road successfully connected Fort Stoddert to the Chattahoochee River. At that point, the Federal Road merged with the earlier postal riders’ horse path that linked Athens, Georgia, to New Orleans, Louisiana. Unlike the old horse path, the Federal Road went eastward making a connection with lands ripe for the recruitment of soldiers and obtaining supplies for the military. This path quickly became a major travel route for pioneers to the area once known as the Old Southwest.

Old Federal Road became a major military road

From its start as a narrow horse path used to carry the mails, the Old Federal Road underwent great development and became a major military road connecting early American forts in the Creek Lands and the Mississippi Territory. Acting as the interstate highway of its day, when “Alabama Fever” raged through the Carolinas and Georgia, the Old Federal Road carried thousands of pioneers to the Old Southwest. As such, the Federal Road directly contributed to the dramatic increase in Alabama’s population between 1810 and 1820 – with Alabama’s population growing far faster than that of either Mississippi or Louisiana during this time. Alabama continued out-distancing both Mississippi and Louisiana in population growth through 1850.” (from History of the Old Federal Road in Alabama)old federal road

Creeks became increasingly hostile

As the Creek Nation realized that people were doing more than just passing through, and many were settling in their lands, they became increasingly hostile and in 1813-1814 the Creek War began in attempt to drive the settlers out. This is also considered by some to be a continuation of the War of 1812 with Great Britain (the Creeks fought with the British against the United States).

In August of 1814, the Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed with the Creek Nation which ceded nearly half of Alabama to the United States.Treaty_of_Fort_Jackson_Historical_Marker

map_large_popup

In 1817, the Alabama Territory was established with its capitol at St. Stephens, and on December 14, 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state in the Union.federal road marker

In 1830, the United States Congress passed and President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Bill, and by 1835 the Seminole Indians in Florida were fighting for their land.  The Creek Nation in Alabama in 1836 also began fighting for what was left of their land in Alabama, and the Second Creek War began.

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SOURCES

    1. History Of Alabama And Incidentally Of Georgia And Mississippi From The Earliest Period; Annals Of Alabama 1819-1900

Read this story and more 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

Check out genealogy books and novels by Donna R. Causey

 

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


By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price: $11.77 USD
New From: $11.67 USD In Stock

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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69 comments

  1. I enjoy reading about Alabama history, having several ancestors that settled in Cherokee County, and Winston County, AL in the 1840s. Keep up the good work!

  2. […] in Georgia. The gin was built along a trading path that would become part of the route of the Federal Road, near a racetrack owned by Creek leader Charles Weatherford (father of future Red Stick Creek […]

  3. […] Fort, an American trading post, and Mississippi territorial capital as settlers streamed down the Federal Road from the Carolinas and […]

  4. Nancy Davis Fletcher

    I think this is the same road in Alabama. My great, great, great, great grandfather John Purifoy was in charge with some others to build this road. His wife’s (Nancy Williams Purifoy) brother Williams Williams helped also. They lived in Barbour County near Eufaula. There is another newspaper report that states all this.

    1. I read of your knowledge of the Old Federal Road and am interested in presenting an article to the WHIP Magazine which is the official Magazine of the American Driving Society. I am interested in what sort of wagons, carriages, etc and horses they used in settling this country and how they determined the route from Washington to New Orleans to cut down on time and distance and if you have any information that you would share please contact me.

      thank you.

      Bettye Benjamen

  5. Alvin G Rothe Jr

    I live very near the Old Federal Road as it runs by Talking Rock and Jasper, Ga

    1. I used to ride on the old road near Tate with my old long gone friend , Hugh Tatum. That road is a later edition I think and not related to the Federal Road that travelled from near Columbus to North of Mobile at Ft. Stoddart.

  6. […] entered the Creek Nation, at Fort Mitchell, on the Chattahoochee, in Russell County, traversed the Old Federal Road as far as Mount Meigs, detoured to include the village of Montgomery in his itinerary, and taking […]

  7. Phyllis Miller

    Anyone know where I could get a map of the Federal Road

  8. Cindy Hammett Henderson

    Phyllis Miller there are several free ones online…google it!

  9. Phillip Cantrell

    Lafayette traveled this road to Montgomery in 1825 & attended a Ball in his honor at my GGGG Grandfathers Freeneys Tavern & Hotel, which is now the site of the Renaissance Hotel

  10. Susan Bryant Myers

    It ended at Stockton, where my dad nad his ancesters are from. His gggrandmom owned a tavern north of Stockton. I wich I had paid attention when my grandparents were alive

  11. Is this road the same as the old Georgia road that ran thru St. Clair County. It ran thru our home place and it preceded US 11 and I-59. The old telephone lines ran beside it. You can still see traces of it.

    1. Billy Puckett…the Federal road did not run through St. Clair. It entered Ala. (today) near Phenix City, ran along the modern route of US 80 and turned SW after reaching Line Creek…a road called the Upper Federal road ran west through Mt. Meigs to Econchate (later, Montgomery). It passed through Snowdoun, Pintlala, and continued SW through Lowndes, Butler, along the county lines of Monroe & Conecuh, into Baldwin where it ended at Mims Ferry on the east side of the Tensaw….the ferry crossing went on Ft. Stoddard using Mims Ferry, later Hollinger’s Ferry…in Baldwin county, a section ran to Stockton and then to Blakeley. In Monroe, a route known locally as the Ridge road, cut over to Weatherford’s Ferry at the site of Claiborne where many travellers took steamboats to Mobile or crossed the river for places in the Mississippi Territory, Louisiana, and Texas

      1. Think you are right Stacey, from information I heard many years ago. Old Federal Road ran by my place, few miles East of Georgiana, Alabama, and also East of McKenzie. Was told it ended area of Mobile, Al. Least, that was what Grandparents told me.

        1. I’m sorry to butt In On this conversation, but is your location anywhere near what was Aberfoil or Smuteye? I have searched for a long time for the graves of my grandparents. They lived somewhere near Aberfoil. I have receipts where she shopped there. She passed in 1856 and he in 1857. It is my belief they were not as poor as many in that time, but I can find no records of where they we’re buried.

  12. Does anyone know of a map that compares the Old Federal Road route to today’s highways in Alabama?

  13. Sarah-Elizabeth Gundlach

    Chris Gundlach can you find it?

  14. It would be great to know if any parts of this road still exist, with the same appearance as it had back then. I would love for any such parts to be located, and, where possible, made accessible to the public.

  15. There is a remnant of “The Old Federal Road” that is now a street in Montgomery. It parallels Vaughn Road which is US 110 connecting Union Springs to Montgomery. Federal Rd. connects Halcyon Blvd to Halcyon Park Drive, north of Vaughn Rd.

  16. To respond to a few comments: the Federal Road did not end at Stockton; it ran all the way to New Orleans. The east Montgomery street called Federal Road was never part of the real Federal Road. You should be able to view maps of the Federal Road hand-applied to county road maps at Old Alabama Town in Montgomery. I created those maps while on staff at the museum between 1997 and 2006. Fletcher Hale performed an aerial survey of substantial portions of the road in the 1930’s, and his original maps are in the library at the Alabama State Department of Archives and History. Also consider buying a copy of Leon Southerland’s book “The Old Federal Road.” His maps aren’t the most accurate, but the book is still an invaluable source of information.

  17. The First Federally Maintained Road went through what was in 1820-30 Washington Co., AL (at the time the only county in AL. It is now Wilcox County. My Beard line lived there for five generations.

  18. Just to reiterate what Bill Grant says above, “Byler Road”. Look it up! I believe that you will find that to be the oldest “interstate” in Alabama by approximately 5 years.

  19. We have Lucas Tavern at Old Alabama Town in Montgomery. The Tavern is where Lafayette spent the night on April 2nd 1825 before travelling to Montgomery. We have some info on the Federal Road and books in the gift shop

  20. Hey Al! Good to know you’re still kickin’. For all: the map with the Federal Road route in red shows the road going down to Mobile. This is incorrect. The Road turned west north of Stockton and crossed the Tensaw at Mims Ferry (on the northwest side of Ft. Mims. The family whose home became the fort operated the ferry.) and the Mobile/Tombigbee just west of that. Then it turned south toward Ft. Stoddart before heading west again. The Road did not end at Stockton; in fact, did not pass through Stockton. A branch road from Mobile to the Road did pass through that area, though. The actual western terminus of the Road was New Orleans.

  21. Steve Stacey, the road that branched off the Federal Road at Mt. Meigs was not the Upper Federal Road (which was located further east) but was a branch road built after the establishment of Montgomery to connect the town to the Road. That branch is known as Ware’s Ferry Road, because of one of its most noted early landmarks (the road did not actually cross Ware’s Ferry, which was on the Tallapoosa, but led travelers to it). Another branch connected the other end of Montgomery to the Road headed south; that branch is today a stretch of Hwy 31 called Mobile Hwy.
    A couple of folks have mentioned Byler Road, part of a network connecting Tuscaloosa to Nashville. This road was commissioned by the brand new Alabama Legislature in 1819, making it probably the first road commissioned by the state. By the time the Byler road opened in 1823, though, the Old Federal Road had already been in operation for over a decade.

  22. A portion of it runs in front of my grandparents’ house on Highway 185 North in Greenville, Butler County, AL! Historic Fort Dale is right there, too. For those interested, I recommend the book The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836 by Southerland and Brown http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MQO44Q4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00MQO44Q4&linkCode=as2&tag=alabapione-20&linkId=HLHYNOLORLB2ETJJ

  23. Marilyn Watson

    One of the old roads came into Florence and went by what is today Pope’s Tavern I believe…

  24. Cathy Eshmont

    Thank you for this info. It’s incredibly important to understand ancestors’ choices to move around on the frontier back in the day. Just learned of my Alabama roots.

  25. Does anyone have info on the road (old river road) that ran thru Cropwell, AL in St Clair County?

  26. Researching migration path of my ancestors from Moore Co NC to Yalobusha Co MS by 1850. Migrated just prior to taking the census in 1850 in MS. I can’t quite determine what roads were accessed by that era. The Old Federal Road seems to have been less used by then. Any ideas? With the swampy sections of midwestern AL at the border I believe they would have taken a northern or southern route to Yalobusha County. I noted on one map there was a branch that led from the Federal Road over to Natchez Trace. They could have taken the Trace up to areas close to Yalobusha County. It goes right through Webster County where my grandparents lived. Any helpful advice appreciated….they most likely took the Fall Line Road in NC to Augusta GA as we know they migrated from Moore County and this path went straight through there. It’s figuring out their journey from Augusta….thanks! Please email me with any clues….

  27. Millie Wells McQuinn

    The Federal Road passed through Burt Corn, there is a lot of history in that area. I remember going to Pine Orchard with my grandpa when I was very young.

    1. Daniel Steadman

      Nothing has changed since then sad to say

    2. Darren Newberry

      My Mom is from Burnt Corn. That is a name I have seen on several unusual place name lists.

    3. Millie Wells McQuinn

      Darren Newberry My grandparents lived 2 miles from Burnt Corn. Their name was Martin. Relatives that lived in that area were Wells and Waters. My Grandpa Wells owned Wells Mill Pond near Fair Nelson.

  28. Wayne Wells

    I read that the federal road went by Rhama church and Andrew Jackson took his army by there on his way to the battle of New Orleans. The road was not wide enough for wagons, so they had to cut their way through.

    1. Ricky Hill

      I think that is correct, I think my ancestors came with him. The Salter family.

    2. Wayne Wells

      The Wells and Salter families lived near each other and many are buried at Rhama church.

  29. Edna Peirce Dixon

    Author, April Gardener has just released her new historical novel set in this era. Perhaps some here would enjoy an excellent read: https://www.facebook.com/AprilGardnerBooks/photos/a.535489369946817.1073741827.535478303281257/564515803710840/?type=3&theater

  30. David Hermecz

    I remember walking the remnants of the stagecoach road that connected Blakeley to this road with Mike Blake, local historian extraordinaire, in the 1970’s. Great article!

  31. James Smith

    Hope the Creeks don’t become increasingly hostile again and want their land back!

    1. Millie Wells McQuinn

      Mule and wagon, don’t know.

  32. I published an article with photos of this subject in Alabama Heritage Magazine several years ago. Google AUM and Old Federal Road for interactive map.

  33. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s commentary. My 3rd great grandfather moved from Nash County North Carolina with his Mom and older brother to Jasper County Georgia in late 1790’s to 1800. He moved with his wife and family to Conecuh County about 1818 and I suspect used the Federal Road for part of their journey.

  34. interesting article !!

  35. There is a road in North Alabama – that follows the Little River from Desoto State Park to near the Desoto Falls. IT has been called the “Old Federal Highway” by the old timers in the areas. I know nothing more of it than that it is there – you can tell from the lay-of-the-land in that area. I have walked it before – with a metal detector – not finding anything. Noot at all sure of its orgins – or destination.

  36. There is a portion of the old federal road that is still on maps in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. You can get to it by turning east just north of the Magnolia Springs River bridge. It is a little dirt road that wound back through the woods and emerged near highway 98 next to the Baptist Church. We used to play on it as kids.

  37. In 1831, some of my ancestors traveled from Hall County, Ga. to McNarry County, Tenn. I would like to see some maps which show possible roads or trails they used. Areas to cover would be Southern Tenn., Northern Miss., Northern Ala. and Northern Ga. Any suggestions?

    1. The Library of Congress, local colleges from each state and State Archives usually have many maps. Many of them can now be accessed online. Good luck in your research!

      1. Dear Donna Causey,

        I do not know you, but I am VERY grateful to you for your extensive work and your scholarship discovering, elucidating, and publicizing the activities of our ancestors in Alabama, the South, and the Nation. All of us owe you our deepest gratitude for your fine work.

        1. Thank you so much! I enjoy discovering them.

  38. My Great Great Great Grandfather Dennison Darling was one of the first to deliver mail on the old Federal Road. He also married Sarah Mims Daughter of Samuel Mims. Luckily they were safe in Mobile while the massacre was happening, I’ve found Darling’s Landing in Baldwin Co, but have had a hard time finding any info on who Dennison’s Parents were. I was born in Foley and raised by my Great Grandparents John Allen Darling and Hettie Alverda (Warren) Darling in Bon Secour. Those were the best days of my life, Such a wonderful place to grow up, Thanks for any info anyone might have,

  39. I love reading the history of Alabama. That is where I was born and raised till age 19. Marriage and military brought me to California. Most of my adult life has been in California. Raising 2 children and working my way to retirement. Over the years I have been back to Alabama many times. I have the same feelings when I visit that I has growing up there. I was home and at peace. I have always loved Alabama and will always love it. IT’S HOME.

    1. Chris Burgin, you captured many of my feelings about Alabama. Since SO MANY of my family and countless ancestors are buried there, I feel an almost indescribable and powerful attachment to the land. I wish us both long life.

  40. Gene Hocutt

    The road ran roughly from Washington DC to New Orleans, right through the Holy Land. I mean, Alabama. Well, same thing.

  41. Edward Welch

    Read the book, “The Federal Road”.

  42. Faye Belyeu Forbus

    Talladega county part of 77.

  43. […] to my dad, part of the Old Federal Road passes behind my house and serves as part of my […]

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