BiographiesDays Gone By - stories from the pastUncategorized

Isaac Briggs Risked His Life To Map A Road

Isaac Briggs risked his life to map a road for mail carriers to Alabama. 

This is an excerpt from the book ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 2) 

continued below….

Once the United States acquired New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory through the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, President Jefferson and other leaders recognized the need for a survey of the Territory and better communication with the settled area along the Mississippi River. Jefferson’s administration developed plans for roads to be cut throughout the Mississippi Territory and the Indian nations.

Painting of Benjamin Hawkins on his plantationPainting of Benjamin Hawkins on his plantation

Benjamin Hawkins served in the Continental Army on George Washington’s staff as his main interpreter of French. He was appointed General Superintendent for Indian Affairs by President George Washington in 1796.

Georgia map 1802Mississippi Territory 1798

In 1804, at the request of United States Secretary of War Dearborn, Benjamin Hawkins was instructed to talk to the Creeks about establishing a road through the Creek Nation.

While the talks were proceeding, President Thomas Jefferson asked the Surveyor-General of the Mississippi Territory, Isaac Briggs, to travel from Washington, DC back to Natchez in the Mississippi Territory “via the Indian paths Hawkins had traveled a few years earlier.” The purpose of this trip was to provide President Jefferson with a true length of a potential mail route based on scientific measurements.

Journey nearly killed him

Briggs’s journey across the Creek Nation nearly killed him. He and “his assistant Thomas Robertson entered the Creek Nation from Georgia on October 6, 1804, without a guide and immediately became lost. They wandered many miles astray in the wilderness” until they came upon the store of a Native American trader. Then severe storms delayed them.

They failed to procure a guide to Hawkins post sixty miles away but decided to set out again. For a second time, they became lost. Briggs stated that they probably wandered at least 112 miles, “frequently climbing over precipices, wading through swamps, and crossing deep and difficult watercourses, many miles without a path, our horses greatly incommoded and fatigued by sensitive briers and other vines. Our provisions were soon wet and spoiled and we were in danger of starving, not having seen a human face except each other for more than four days. On the 15th we arrived at Colonel Hawkins’s on Flint River.”

Stayed with Benjamin Hawkins

They stayed with Hawkins five days to recover and Benjamin Hawkins restocked them with supplies and a guide for their continued trip to Point Comfort which was located south of Tuckaubatchee. Again a heavy rain caused the rivers and streams to be swollen and their horses had to swim the Chattahoochee River from shore to shore.

hawkins, benjaminBenjamin Hawkins

They left Point Comfort and finally arrived at the “house of Nathaniel Christmas, on the west side of the Tombigbee River,” in early November. Word of a yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans caused the pair to delay the last leg of their trip.

Briggs’ difficulties and the calculations he and his partner Robertson made provided some value by mapping a mail route across the Creek Nation that would save about 500 miles compared to the previous Appalachian/Natchez Trace route.

See a list of all books by Donna R Causey at

This story and many more can be found in ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement:: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 2) a collection of lost and forgotten stories of the first surveyors, traders, and early settlements of what would become the future state of Alabama.

Read about:

  • A Russian princess settling in early Alabama
  • How the early settlers traveled to Alabama and the risks they took
  • A ruse that saved immigrants lives while traveling through Native American Territory
  • Alliances formed with the Native Americans
  • How an independent republic, separate from the United States was almost formed in Alabama

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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