Days Gone By - stories from the past

Many early settlers to Alabama were trying to get away from the Revolutionary War

The first wave of migration to the Alabama area began in the Mississippi Territory around 1798. Around 4,500 people, including slaves, were living along the lower Tombigbee at the time. Many of these early settlers moved to the area to get away from the Revolutionary War taking place in the North.

Early Mississippi TerritoryMap of 1798 settlement (Library of Congress)

Traveled by horse, wagon, boat and on foot

Immigrants traveled by horse, wagon, boat and on foot to the Territory. In 1808, a large number of people from the states of North Carolina and Tennessee settled north of the Tennessee River. The population was around three thousand.

“The majority of these early settlers were from good circumstances, and hence the aggregate of wealth was great. The immigrants brought with them all the means and appliances of civilized life—their ministers, their physicians, their merchants, their lawyers, and mechanics—and every department of business flourished.”1 The settled regions in Alabama consisted of the three counties of Washington, Baldwin, and Madison. The total population was 3,481 white inhabitants

Even the rich lived in log cabins

Even the richest families lived in homes of two log cabins which were divided by a hall and low attics.

Men often traveled alone. Their wives and children remained at home to be educated and attend to their plantations.

There was no shortage of men looking for wives. A lack of marriageable women resulted in young girls marrying around the age of sixteen.

First Alabama Schools

The first American school taught in Alabama was established by John Pierce, a native of New England at the Boat-Yard on Tensas River. In 1811, the first academy was incorporated by an act of the Territorial Legislature. This was Washington Academy at Saint Stephens in Washington County on the Tombigbee River. Green Academy was incorporated at Huntsville in Madison County and flourished for fifty years.

In the early days, the Mississippi Territorial Treasury appropriated one thousand dollars for the benefit of Washington Academy and Green Academy.2

During the War Between the States, some buildings of the two schools were burned by the United States troops. Afterward, the schools merged with the public school system of the city of Huntsville.


The first newspaper published in Alabama was established in Huntsville by a Mr. Barham in 1812. Thomas Eaton, who became the first public printer of Alabama Territory, established a paper at St. Stephens in 1814. Mobile’s first newspaper was printed by a Mr. Cotton in 1816, and Thomas Davenport printed a paper in Tuscaloosa in 1818. In 1820, newspapers were printed in other parts of the State as follows: one in Florence, two in Cahaba, one in Montgomery and one in Claiborne.3

1Saunders, James Edmonds, Early Settlers of Alabama, Part I, p. 43

2Circular of information, United States Bureau of Education Government Printing Office, 1889

3Deland, T. A. and Smith, A. Davis Northern Alabama Historical and Biographical, Illustrated, 1888: SMITH& DE LAND. Birmingham, Alabama, Chicago 1888 DOSOHUE 8 HENNEBERRY, PRINTERS And BINDERS, p. 44

This story and more can be found in Alabama Footprints – Immigrants

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ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 5) (Paperback)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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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. The McLeods, Calhouns, Matthews and many others of Clarke county fled the Carolinas as they were loyalists.

  2. Do you have any information about Gees Bend (Boykin) Alabama. My sister and I just recently visited there. We are from the Boykin family and went to Gees Bend to quilt and we have not been able to find out why the name was changed to Boykin , Alabama. Thanks Suzie Boykin Cottrell

    1. We have some stories and photographs of Gees Bend at this link.

      I’m not sure why the name was changed though.

  3. Never heard this before! I’m from Alabama and most our ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.

  4. Many early setters in Alabama were Loyalist who lived in the Alabama portion of British West Florida. They didn’t flee the Revolution, they refused to participate.

  5. And many were patriot war heros who came to find new fertile land to make a new prosperous life. I keep hearing this over and over about Torries and loyalists coming here like they were the only ones who went west . Our ancestors were very proud of their contributions in defeating the British . Many in Jackson’s army also settled here. Yes, well over a hundred thousand torries were chased away from the original colonies back to England , to Canada , to the edge of civilization and beyond (and killed). But many thousands were given land grants for their service to our new nation) in TN, GA, then FL and AL etc (as the “Indians” were conquered in each area) .

  6. Michael Hyland I feel like you would like this Facebook page. It’s very cool!

  7. Do you have any information about the town of Chunchula in Mobile county, I live here and my family has been here for over 175 years, but don’t have nothing but old folk tales and a little I’ve found about the Mobile, and Ohio Railroad, if there’s anything that you can send me about my home to I would greatly appreciate it, because our history is slowly being lost, thank you!!

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