Continued TOWNS IN THE ALABAMA TERRITORY
(The following story is the third section of a news article written in 1817 which is descriptive of early towns in Alabama. It was published in 1817 when Alabama was still a Territory and first printed in the New York Herald, then copied in the Alabama Republican, and finally published in the Huntsville newspaper. This is the section on St. Stephens located in present-day Washington County which eventually became the first capital of Alabama. The article has been transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol 03, No. 01, Spring Issue 1941 – and will be continued in parts over the next few days. See all sections currently published of the article at: Towns in the Alabama Territory)
St. Stephens is a flourishing place and promises to become a town of considerable importance. It is situated on the west bank of the Tombigbee, about one hundred miles from Mobile by land, and much farther by water.
St. Stephens, Washington County, Alabama – State park today by Carol Highsmith 2010 (Library of Congress)
Though this place is marked on many maps as the head of tide water, still the. effect of the tide is never perceptible except when the river is at its lowest stage, during dry weather. No river can, however, be better adapted to large barges and steamboat navigation, not only to St. Stephens, but at least four hundred miles above there.
More trade than Mobile
This town has at present more trade than the town of Mobile. A few miles above St. Stephens there is a shoal across the bed of the river when it is very low; but the obstruction is a soft chalk stone, which can with small expense, be shaped so as to turn all the water into one channel, and render it passable at all seasons with five feet water. At the falls of the Black Warrior, (the east branch of the Tombigbee) a very flourishing town, in all probability, will ere long be erected. This place being the natural head of boat navigation on that river in the heart of a fertile country, and being a village of some trade, no doubt can be entertained of its immediate prosperity.
Surveyors at St. Stephens Bluff 1908, Steamship in background- Tombigbee River (Florida Geological Survey, Florida State Library and Archives)
The lands, however, are not yet surveyed, and it is not certain therefore, when they will be in market. It may be remarked that merchandise destined to Huntsville in Madison County, passes through this place overland to Tennessee River. I think these falls are three hundred miles by water from St. Stephens. On the main Tombigbee no place is yet located for a town as I recollect.
At fort CLAIBORNE, on the Alabama river, one hundred miles from Mobile by land, and forty miles east of St. Stephens, a considerable village has been made since the war, where there is a brisk retail trade to the settlement in its vicinity. It lies on the east side of the river, on very elevated ground, called the Alabama heights.
Street in Claiborne during the 1850s (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Map of Alabama during the War of 1812. Fort Claiborne is located in the upper right (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Masonic Hall Claiborne County still exists, built 1824, visited by Lafayette in 1825, moved to Perdue Hill and restored – by photographer W. N. Manning 1935 Library of Congress
James Dellet House, ca. 1930 U.S. Highway 84 (State Highway 12), Claiborne, Monroe County, AL – Only original house remaining in Claiborne (Library of Congress)
Additional information from Wikipedia: Fort Claiborne, was established at the site by General Ferdinand Claiborne. He used the fort as a base for the invasion of the Creek nation with the Regular Army of the United States, the Lower Tombigbee Militia, and friendly Choctaw. The community of Claiborne began in 1816, on the former fort site. Situated near the Federal Road, Claiborne began during the Mississippi Territory period with a ferry over the river. During the Creek War a large stockade fort, named Fort Claiborne, was established at the site by General Ferdinand Claiborne. He used the fort as a base for the invasion of the Creek nation with the Regular Army of the United States, the Lower Tombigbee Militia, and friendly Choctaw. The community of Claiborne began in 1816, on the former fort site. Claiborne is now a ghost town on a bluff above the Alabama River in Monroe County, Alabama.
- [film & old pictures] Can you believe the Masonic building where the Marquis de Lafayette was hosted in 1825 is still standing?
- Remarkable story of Old St. Stephens by Mary Welsh born 1823 with picture of the steamboat she rode
- Washington County…..where the State of Alabama began
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: Lost & Forgotten Stories includes the following stories
- The Yazoo land fraud
- Daily life as an Alabama pioneer
- The capture and arrest of Vice-president Aaron Burr
- The early life of William Barrett Travis, hero of the Alamo
- Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh
- Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama.