Days Gone By - stories from the past

John Murrell – Terror of the Natchez Trace

(Transcribed and unedited story from an unknown (possibly Susan Russell) WPA (Works Projects Administration) writer.


Written ca. 1938

The wilderness had its own gangsters, noteably (sic) the old Natchez Trace. The last and most dangerous of these land pirates was JOHN MURRELL, taught by his mother to steal before he was 12 years of age. Over the Trace, with a price on his head, he successfully travelled, incognito as an itinerant preacher, according to old records.

Portrait of John A. Murrell in the Tennessee State Penitentiary, Nashville, Tennessee (Wikipedia)

In the last days of his operations, the Murrell Gang led a conspiracy to arouse the negroes to open rebellion, for the purpose of plunder. Murrell was apprehended and imprisoned. Asked about his operations, he replied: “On that Natchez Trace I robbed only 11 men, but I preached some d___ fine sermons and I had converts too. That should count for something – the good as well as the bad in me.”

While in prison he became an imbecile, dying in a short while. With his passing ended the day of robber gangs and the terror they inflicted upon the old trail.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories

Prior to statehood, Alabama was a vast wilderness with a large Native American population. It is only natural that when new immigrants from other states arrived, conflicts over the land would arise. Soon, these small conflicts exploded into war.

Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:

  • Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
  • Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
  • Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
  • Hillabee Massacre
  • Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
  • Red Eagle After The War

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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 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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  1. How very interesting
    Thank you for the post and share

  2. Donna, where was Muriel from?

  3. Sorry, I meant murrell.

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