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Land speculators flocked to Alabama Territory

In September of 1817, when Alabama was still a Territory, land speculators flocked to Alabama due to the assertion of the fertility of the land. A part of the Big Bend, just opposite present-day Montgomery, was sold for $70 per acre. The high land on the Ten mile Bluff, opposite the Big Bend, was sold in part for $50 per acre and town lots were laid off for a town to be named Alabama. (Old Alabama Town). Andrew Dexter, founder of Montgomery, Alabama was one of those infected by land fever. He was a member of the distinguished Dexter family of Massachusetts and a lawyer by profession.

Andrew Dexter

“The mad hunger for land gave rise to various plans for swindling the Government, and it was reported at the time that a favorite scheme of the speculators was to have irresponsible parties attend the sales, bid enormous amounts for land, and then disappear, leaving the would-be owners to secure the land at private sale and on their own terms.

At one of the Cahaba land sales, forty men put up $1,000 each, and agreed not to bid over two dollars per acre. Two valuable townships were bid off, when the Register ordered the sale stopped. The speculators then sold their purchases, clearing $1,980 each by the transaction.”1

Catoma Creek Falls near old Montgomery, Alabama



(Transcribed from the Huntsville Republican, Huntsville, Alabama Territory September 9, 1817)

The public lands now selling here have brought so far good prices. Prime river low grounds average 40 to 50 dollars. A fraction 170 acres, part of the Big Bend of the Alabama, sold as high as seventy dollars the acre. Other parcels adjoining were bid off above 40 or 50 dollars. A large fraction, containing several hundred acres of high land, on the 10 Mile Bluff, which lies opposite the Big Bend, and is said to be an excellent site for a town, sold for 50 dollars an acre. In that Township (No. 15, in range 17) purchasers it is believed were found for every section. Those best acquainted with the choice Alabama low grounds assert that its fertility is inexhaustible, and that it will produce for almost an indefinite term of years, in constant cultivation, 100 bushels of corn to the acre! This assertion is repeated by so many respectable persons who know the land, that great as the product may appear, we cannot suppose there is any exaggeration.

(The following official article was transcribed from the Mississippi Free Trader (Natchez, Mississippi – September 10, 1818)


WHEREAS, by an act of Congress, passed on the 3d of March 1815, entitled, “An Act to provide for the ascertaining and surveying of the boundary lines fixed by the treaty with the Creek Indians and for other purposes, the President of the United States is authorized to cause the lands acquired by the said treaty, to be offered for sale when surveyed; and whereas part of the said lands have been surveyed:

Therefore I, James Monroe, President of the United States, do hereby declare and make known, that public sales for the disposal of certain lands south of the Tennessee river, and in the district of Madison county, shall be held at Huntsville in said county in Alabama territory, viz.

On the first Monday in July next, for the sale of the lands in ranges 1,2, 3, 4, 5. On the first Monday in September next for the lands in ranges 6, 7, 8, 9, and on the first Monday in November next, for the lands in ranges 10, 11, 12, 13, 14: excepting such lands as are or shall be reserved according to law, for the support of schools and for other purposes. Each sale shall continue open for two weeks, and no longer, shall commence with the section, township and range of the lowest number, and proceed in regular numerical order.

Given under my hand at the city of Washington, this 31st day of March, 1818


By the President,


Commissioner of the Gen. Land Office

Copperplate Maps of the above lands may be had at the office of the Surveyor General at Huntsville, or at the General Land Office.

Printers of newspapers, who are authorized to publish the laws of the United States, will insert the above once a week till October next, and sent their bills to the General Land Office for payment.

(Transcribed from The American Mouthly Magazine and Critical Review, Volume 1, H. Bigelow, Esq. editor and proprietor 1817)

The late sale of the Alabama Lands at Milledgeville produced about six hundred thousand dollars. The low lands sold at 40 to 50 dollars per acre on the average, but some as high as seventy. The Hickory lands at 10 to 12 dollars; much of the uplands at less than 3 dollars, and much was struck off without a bidder, and can now be entered by any person at 2 dollars, and doubtless much good land, overlooked at the sale, will be secured in this way. The Ten Miles Bluff on the east side of the Alabama, at the Big Bend, ten miles below the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, sold for 50 dollars an acre, and has been laid out for a town to be called Alabama. Of the eleven proprietors of this town, four reside in Nashville, (TN) three in Huntsville, (AL) and four in Milledgeville, (GA), which shows the avidity and enterprise of Tennessee speculators. An individual who purchased largely of these lands advertises to sell at Milledgeville, to the present occupants, at an advance of 25 per cent.

1Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical, Smith & De Land, 1888


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Volume I – IV: Four Volumes in One


One comment

  1. Ah, this explains the term “Alabama lawyer”.

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