Days Gone By - stories from the past

Do you believe this account of DeSoto’s march across Alabama is correct?

SEQUOYAH, CHEROKEE inventor of the Cherokee syllabary
SEQUOYAH, CHEROKEE inventor of the Cherokee syllabary

Note: The following  has been transcribed from original text written in late 1800s. Please make allowances for the harsh language used.

The Cherokee Indians were the earliest settlers of our county of whom we have any knowledge. They occupied, once, from Cane Creek, below Tuscumbia (where their domain joined that of the Chickasaws), up the Tennessee river, to its head-waters; and their scattered towns spread far into the Northern parts of Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Cherokees were the Mountaineers

The Cherokees were the “Mountaineers” of aboriginal America, and extended over the most picturesque and salubrious region east of the Mississippi. — (Bancroft’s History of the United. States.) This powerful and extensive tribe came from the Eastward; and first had settlements on the Appomattox river, and were allied to the Powhatans.

The Virginians drove them thence, and they retreated to the head-waters of the Holston river. Here, after having made temporary settlements, the Northern Indians compelled them to retire to the Little Tennessee river, where they established themselves permanently. About the same time a large branch of the Cherokees came from South Carolina (near Charleston), and formed towns on the main Tennessee, extending as far as the Muscle Shoals. They found all that region unoccupied, except upon the Cumberland, where was a band of roving Shawnees. — (Pickett’s History of Alabama.)

Earliest Account dates back to Spanish invasion

Of the Cherokees in North Alabama, the earliest authentic account we have dates back to the invasion of the Spanish under De Soto, in 1540, just 340 years ago. In his wonderful march he crossed the branches of the winding and historic Coosa river: remained some time at Chiaho, where stands Rome, in Georgia; then marched down the right bank of the Coosa to Costa (the site of Gadsden, in Alabama), where lived the Cherokees. Never before had our soil been trodden by European feet. Never before had the natives beheld white faces, long beards, strange apparel, glittering armor, and, stranger than all, the singular animals bestrode by these dashing cavaliers (Pickett).

The De Soto Chronicles: The Expedition of Hernando de Soto to North America in 1539-1543 (Two Volume Set)

De Soto’s men burn Mabila, illustration by H.Roe


The country of the Cherokees was described by the early historians as the most beautiful and romantic in the world ; as abounding in delicious springs, fertile valleys, lovely rivers and lofty mountains ; the woods full of game and the rivers of fish. But none of these early writers had ever seen the country about the Muscle Schoals, which was last settled and most highly valued by these Indians. The buffaloes roamed over the plains in countless numbers.

Paths radiated in every direction

As late as 1826, at the licks in this county, their paths, knee deep, radiated in every direction. In 1780, the small colony which made a crop of corn that year at Nashville, Tenn., had to leave three men to prevent the buffaloes from destroying the crop, whilst the rest returned to East Tennessee for their families.Guild’s ” (Old Times in Tennessee.)

“Deer, wild turkeys and the smaller game continued abundant, even after the whites took possession of the country. As many as sixty deer were counted in a single herd. The Tennessee river and its affluents swarmed with fish, for there never was anywhere a better inland feeding ground for them than the Muscle Shoals. Its shallow waters stretch for fifteen miles along the channel, and spread out two or three miles wide, and produce a thick growth of aquatic plants (called moss), which come to the surface and sport the tips of their leaves on the swift, sparkling current.”desoto-westward

These plants, roots and leaves are freely eaten by fish, and wild fowls also. Of these last, swans, wild geese and ducks (which annually visited their feeding ground in old times) the number was fabulous. Added to this, the bottom of the river was strewn with mussels and periwinkles, which were not only highly relished by the fish and fowl, but by the Indians, who had in them a sure provision against starvation in times of scarcity. I could well imagine that the last prayer of the Cherokee to the Great Spirit, when he was leaving this scene of beauty and abundance, would be that he might, when he opened his eyes in the next world, be permitted to see such another hunters’ paradise as this.

Cherokees males were larger and more robust

The males of the Cherokees, in ancient times, were larger and more robust than any other of our natives; whilst their women were tall, erect and of a delicate frame with perfect symmetry (Bartram). And on account of the pure air which they breathed, the exercise of the chase, the abundance of natural productions which their country afforded and the delicious water which was always near, they lived to an age much more advanced than the other tribes (Adair).

“I saw a good deal of them from 1815 to 1834, when they were removed to the West, and also had a personal knowledge of other Southern tribes, and I think this pre-eminence was maintained to modern times.”(James Edmonds Saunders)

Sir Alexander Cumming, in 1730, sent an envoy who was guided by Indian traders to Neguasse, on the Little Tennessee, which was the seat of empire of all the Cherokee towns. A general assembly of the chiefs took place. They offered a chaplet, four scalps of their enemies and five eagle tails as the records of the treaty ; it was proposed to them to send deputies to England.

Seven Chiefs sent  – Treaty concluded

Seven chiefs were sent and a treaty was concluded, in which they promised that “love should flow Wee a river and peace should endure like the mountains,” and it was kept faithfully for a generation (Bancroft). Again in 1761 this peace was confirmed, when Timberlake, a lieutenant in the Royal service, descended to the Holston in canoes and visited their towns. He returned to Charleston with three of their chiefs and sailed for England (Timberlake).

This peace, however, did not last for many years. The extension of the white settlements to East Tennessee and shortly afterward, to Middle Tennessee roused the animosity of the Cherokees, and the Revolutionary War coming on, the emissaries of Great Britain turned their arms against the colonies they had planted, and a conflict ensued which continued nearly twenty years.


  1. Above has been exactly transcribed from Recollections of North Alabama by James Edmonds Saunders. Born in Virginia 1806, Died 1896

Check out genealogy and novels by Donna R. Causey

Read more about DeSoto and other Alabama explorers in  ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)

Some stories include:

  • The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
  • The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  • Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  • Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
  • Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement

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

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. […] resident Sequoyah devised the phonetic, written alphabet of the Cherokee […]

  2. The victor always writes the History.

  3. I found no disagreeable language contained herein.

  4. they claim to be related to the Jews, they have a lot in common

  5. Bought a pack of cigs once with that alphabet on them. I was at a pow-wow on the Univ. Of Ala. Quad. It was stupendous and a great, great event.

  6. […] an author ever had, or could desire. I mean by the authority of eye-witnesses. Among the expedition of Desoto were Five men, learned and reliable, each of whom kept a daily journal of the directions which the […]

    1. Did you ever read the dates that each came out about the so-called eyewitnesses?

      300 years later isn’t much of an eye witness and more than 25 years by an anonymous source not found till much later does not count either…

      I’ve discounted them entirely.

      The Carolinas and Georgia were still in OLD Alabama and the point of entry to find the boats has to make sense as well.

      No boats, no maps, not a single luxury – it’s as primitive as can be…

  7. […] county lies within the domain of the Creek Indians. It was traversed by De Soto in 1540 on his way to Cosa. Three miles southwest of Jacksonville on Tallaseehatchee Creek was the […]

  8. I know a Spanish Lancer was found in Lauderdale County. I have a picture of it.

    1. Where are you from, Alabama? My husband’s great grandmother was from Chilton County and last name Thames, she is a poach Indian I believe. I have Cherokee in me.

  9. I have been told that Sequoyah was one of my great grandfathers. My Grandfather was a Gist from Lauderdale County. Wish I could find out more!

  10. First DeSoto’s journey was 475 years ago not 340.
    If one truly wants to learn about his journey then read the account written by “the Incan”
    DeSoto and his men spent a good amount of time with Cosa, declined his invitation to take as much copper as he wanted, then as a going away gift left them small pox which decimated the population which had been quite large.

  11. Yes and no. Watch for the upcoming movie.

  12. There is a myth that he traveled warrior river in blount co??????

  13. […] Maubilla, the head town of Tuscaloosa’s domains was located within the borders of Greene County. DeSoto entered the county, crossing the Black Warrior River at or near old Erie, in the fall of 1540, […]

  14. The truth is Alabama History has always been littered in Fraud and Misrepresentation.

    That is, the State only exists as as long as it’s own ULTRA VIRES is allowed to persist.

    That said – the tale of DeSoto after years of research appears to be a made up yarn.

    Did you ever read the dates that each came out about the so-called eyewitnesses?

    300 years later isn’t much of an eye witness and more than 25 years by an anonymous source not found till much later does not count either…

    I’ve discounted them entirely.

    The Carolinas and Georgia were still in OLD Alabama and the point of entry to find the boats has to make sense as well.

    No boats, no maps, not a single luxury – it’s as primitive as can be…

    The simple reality is that the history of the US is told quite simply by John Marshall is Worchester v. Georgia.

    The story by A. B. Meeks is muddied by the Supreme Court casement was later involved with which provided the basis for his work which is claimed to be written about 30 years later about the TUSCALOOSA Chieftans.

    More people should do more research more of the time…

    Continuing the spread of fairy tales as actual history in the Age of the Internet is an interesting page to turn.

    The facts are due.

    Reality is stranger than fiction.

    No one ever considered what little good slaves are at $500-1000 each in a world that had no use of money yet since there were no fields to be plowed in the swamps of Alabama which was the only land that Georgia or the Carolina’s ever consisted of at such an early time…

    Nor the fact of the actual population which has always been overstated during these times are simply impossible.

    Then we have the number of English names attached to Native Americans or else people of other nationalities to makeup the difference.

    Example: In 1810 the entire Mississippi Territory consisted of 2250 people only and 450 white males.

    So… How many slaves would allow themselves to remain slaves under the control of 450 white males scattered over 100 milion acres of Alabama and Mississippi?

    Ok even if we reduce it to just 7 counties versus the entire MIss Territory…

    How many slaves will tolerate being slaves?

    How many men could afford to be soldiers?

    Where did this excess wealth come from?

    Since there was no road worth bein called a road just yet – how we’re thing moved from A to B effectively?

    Anyone have a clue yet?

    Look it up.

    Now history supposes the US started on the East Coast – Look it up…

    Have fun with it.

    There were only 2 towns of they can be called that up to a point and there records were not really burnt up in a fire….

    I understand there was some water damage once but not entirely destructive.

    1. There are not any dates on this page so I have no idea when you wrote this.

      I’d be interested in reading these things you mention if I knew where.

      I found this page because years ago, and I was looking for some mention again, I read a description written by someone who read the ancient Spanish logs of De Soto (or the guy Juan ??? after him) had wrote describing that they found natives with blue eyes.

      Since it looks VERY possible the vikings went down the east coast and down the Lawrence for maybe hundreds of years and that the Appalachians start in Nova Scotia, I bet those blue eyed vikings have descendants here and this is where the blue eyed natives possibly came from.

  15. This is the million dollar question. I’ve seen many variations of his route. Two things that strike me with this route is it showing he entered the state just east and slightly north of Attalla vs entering in the far north-eastern corner following the TN river near Bridgeport. Also, this shows Maubilla being much further west and slightly south of Selma. Until there is credible evidence, there will always be speculation. We may never know this answer.

  16. A Spanish lancer was found in Lauderdale county. I have a picture of it,

    1. Mary Carton you’re kidding!?

  17. “The Gold Disk of Coosa” by Virginia Pounds Brown is the story of a sixteen-year-old Indian boy during De Soto’ s travel across Alabama. It’s story is based on careful research and filled with authentic details. I read this book to several fourth grade classes and it never failed to make the few cold and boring facts in a textbook come to life.

    1. i don’t know of that’s the best or worst name I’ve ever read.

      I am going to look the book up though.

  18. Have now completed a veritable treasure trove of research on this matter.

    Most of these inconsistencies become irrelevant when classed with documentation that is certified by notarization of Federal and State documents that cover well over 240 years of history and then those same names are sometimes derived or are similar to those same names mentioned in the DeSoto Expedition.

    I’ve questioned the DeSoto tales for a while now – but I have not discounted the tale as a whole which does tie back to some names which miraculously still exist 200 plus year after 1540 and yet still exist the other 280 or so years till 2020.

    An odd thing to happen but coincidences are coincidences until such time as they are no longer coincidences.

  19. Intuitively, a lot of this historical narrative sounds like a mixture of some real history and pure BS, especially the parts about Cherokee Native Americans being all over Alabama. Most truthful historical and anthropological narratives confine the Cherokee to East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and North Georgia. However, I am open to correction—-but the sources and evidence had better be of the highest academic quality and undeniable in nature.

  20. Absolutely not !! He went North of the river, not South !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.