The beginning of Alabama occurred with a proclamation

This story can also be found in the book Alabama Footprints: Immigrants 

Land Is Ceded For The Mississippi Territory in 1735

From 1735, large bodies of unfortunate adherents of the British cause fled from South Carolina and Georgia through the dense and pathless forests in what would become the future State of Alabama. They laid the first foundations of European settlers in the state.

The first wave of the Great Migration to the Mississippi Territory consisted primarily of former British or Spanish citizens. They migrated to the region to distance themselves from the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. Most of the early settlers concentrated in two principal areas—the Natchez District and the lower Tombigbee settlements above and west of Mobile. A population of around 4,500, including slaves, lived at Natchez. Native Americans occupied the central part of the Mississippi Territory.

A man from Massachusetts, Winthrop Sargeant, was appointed the governor of the new territory by President Adams in 1798. The new government was patterned after the 1787 Northwest Ordinance. It established a governor, secretary, and three judges to serve as a ruling council.

Gov. Winthrop Sargeant (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Territory expanded quickly

At the time of its creation, the Mississippi Territory bounded the Mississippi River on the west and the Chattahoochee on the east. The territory expanded twice over the next two decades. By 1804, the northern boundary extended to the Tennessee state line. President James Madison annexed additional land along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in 1812. By 1813, the Mississippi Territory encompassed the boundaries of present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi.

The government faced many difficulties from the start over land claims and Native American relations. The Spanish claimed they still owned land by conquest, treaty, and possession on the land that extended as far north as 32°28′, as well as all the former British province of West Florida. Most of this land that constituted the future state of Alabama was still inhabited by the Native American population. Additionally, political factions within the Mississippi Territory also hampered the first governors.

Pickering and Adams Counties became the northern part of the Mississippi Territory. They bordered what later became Madison County, Alabama. A detachment of federal troops relieved the Spanish garrison at Fort St. Stephens in May 1799. Fort Stoddart (Stodderd) was erected in July of the same year below the junction of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers.

Washington County established by proclamation

In June 1800, Gov. Sargent established Washington County by proclamation. The limits of this county comprised all the territory east of Pearl River as far as the Chattahoochee. This became the first county in what would become the State of Alabama.

The first census taken of Washington County took place in 1800 and consisted of 733 whites 494 black slaves and 23 free blacks. The population of Mobile and Baldwin counties, which were still under Spanish rule, was probably as large.

Early Mississippi Territory Map

For the sum of $1,250,000, the State of Georgia ceded to the federal government all the land within the limits of the present states of Alabama and Mississippi in April 1802. The area was north of the parallel 31°. The federal government commissioners who concluded this purchase were, James Madison of Virginia, Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania, and Levi Lincoln of Massachusetts. On the part of Georgia were James Jackson, Abraham Baldwin, and John Milledge of that State. Thus, after a controversy, the claim made by Georgia to this extensive realm was extinguished.

The boundaries of the Mississippi Territory extended northward to the Tennessee line, whereby it was almost trebled in size. Yet the Indian title remained to all of this area, save to a slip of country above and below Natchez, and the one on the Tombigbee.

A second treaty was concluded October 17, 1802, between the federal government and the Choctas, (Choctaws) at Fort Confederation, on the Tombikbee (Tombigbee). It related principally to the cession made to the British, and was signed by Brig. Gen. James Wilkinson of the federal army on the part of the government, by Okechummee and Tuskamayabee on the part of the northern district, by Tuskana Hopoyo, Mingo Pooskoos, and Pushmataha on the part of the south-eastern district, and by Mingo Homastubbee, Tuskahoma, Latallahoma, and Mooklahoosapoyee on the part of the western district of the tribe.

The following are the two principal articles of the four adopted at this treaty:

Act. I. That the President of the United States may, at his discretion, by a commissioner or commissioners, to be appointed by him, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States, re-trace, connect, and plainly re-mark the old line of limits established by and between his Britanic majesty and the said Choota nation, which begins on the left bank of the Chicasaha river, and runs thence in an easterly direction to the right bank of the Tombikbee river, terminating on the same at a bluff well known by the name of Hatchee-tikibee. [The remainder refers to the appointment of two Indians as joint commissioners.]

Act. II. The said line, when thus re-marked and re-established, shall form the boundary between the United States and the said Choota nation in that quarter; and the said Chocta nation, for and in consideration of one dollar, to them in hand paid by the said United States, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby release to the said United States, and quit claim forever, to all that tract of land which is included by the before-named line on the north, by the Chicasa river on the West, by the Tombikbee and the Mobile rivers on the east, and by the boundary of the United States on the south.

Silas Dinsmore, federal agent to the Choctas, Major John Pitchlynn, and others, witnessed this agreement.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: A Collection of Lost & Forgotten Stories

When independence from Britain was won in 1776, a great westward movement of Americans began. Historians refer to this massive movement west as the Great Migration. Though it was only a territory, Alabama’s population grew faster than any other state in the United States during this time.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS: Immigrants includes some lost & forgotten stories of their experiences such as:

  • The Birth Of Twickenham
  • Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
  • Vine & Olive Company
  • The Death Of Stooka
  • President Monroe’s Surprise Visit To Huntsville


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