Map of early Montgomery, Alabama with names of the earliest settlers

[T.S. Woodward settled was in Alabama at a very early date. In this letter to a newspaper editor in Alabama written in 1858, he tells of some of his experiences]



September 16, 1858.

To J. J. HOOPER, Esq:


Dear Sir — I do not take my pen in hand according to the old custom, but have it between my thumb and forefinger, and you can judge whether or not it improves my hieroglyphics. And as I have at times been detailing to you some few things about Indians and Indian customs, one thing I learned from them that time was never an object with them; and at this time must follow their example — take my time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I received a letter the other day from my worthy friend, the Knight of the Horseshoe I speak nothing but the truth when I say that I am truly glad to hear that he is still living and in good health. I hope he may live as long as suits his convenience. I don’t know that I would care if he could live a thousand years, and die rich, so that.I could be left to administer his estate. But he and myself will settle up long before that time, and put out; and if I continue in these piney-woods and it does not rain more, so that I can make better crops than I am making this year, I may make it convenient to die my own executor; or, at least, leave a very little job on hand for those that would undertake the settlement of my affairs.

1837 map of Montgomery, Alabama


 Your city is improving

My friend writes me that your city is improving and that he is the only one left that settled at Montgomery as early as himself — that, I think, was in 1817. Arthur Moore, the first white man that built a house and lived in it at Montgomery, built it in the latter part of 1815, or early in 1816.

The cabin stood upon the bluff above what was once called the ravine, and not far from where Gen. Scott put up a steam mill. The spot where the cabin stood had gone into the river before I left the country.

And a man by the name of Tom Moore was the first settler at Selma. These are things that I know, and no matter who knows to the contrary. This is not very interesting, but as the names of the first settlers of many places have been handed down, from the first settling of the fruit garden to the present time, it will do no injury to either Montgomery or Selma to know their first settlers.

View of the Capitol of Montgomery, Alabama, an engraving published in 1857


I am glad to learn that your city, as well as the State, is improving. Alabama is very little in advance of what she should have been, when we look back and see who were its early settlers. No State that has come into the Union since the old thirteen, at its early settlement, equalled (sic) Alabama as to intellect or large planting interests.

Alabama ought to lay off a county at least, in some important part of the State, and call it Abner McGehee; and the people of Montgomery particularly should make some mark to show to that posterity so often spoken of, that such a man as Abner McGehee had lived.

Abner McGehee

abner mcghee

I hope Alabama will continue to follow the example of her older sister — my native State Georgia. All hands say they trust in kind Providence; and should it deny me the pleasure of ever visiting Alabama, I shall while I live cherish the kindest feelings for her, and particularly Montgomery and Selma, and more particularly that Queen of country villages, Tuskegee.

Sad that old age he was reduced to destitution

I have received the Columbus paper that my friend Ned sent me. I notice the letter of a person that I recollect to have seen over forty years ago, and think I contributed a little in relieving that person from one of the most pitiable situations that it ever falls to the lot of a human being to be placed in. And I am sorry that one who in early life witnessed so many horrors, should in old age be reduced to destitution. Say to my friend that I hope I know my duty, and had I not learned in early life to sympathise (sic) with and for the widow and orphan, that his many kind examples would long since have taught me my duty.

I not long since received a letter purporting to be written by one George D. Taylor. I know it is not Col. George Taylor, of Coosa, for he is my friend and a gentleman. If there be such a man as George D. Taylor, and he writes to me again, I will beg permission to answer him through your paper, and will pledge myself to give as true a history of a person that he claims to be related to, as any one can give him that now lives.

Yours truly,

T. S. W.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories is 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 setters 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





  1. my gr,gr grandmother was born in1858 in pike alabama

  2. that was very interesting reading of Montgomery first settlers.

  3. Have all the street names been changed? They have Washington, Monroe, Jefferson, Adams and others.

  4. There had to be a Garrett in the group! lol

  5. Donna,
    Thanks for your continued excellent writings. Have you done a history of the Causey family. I’ve been researching our family for many years and would love to see what you have on us.

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