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United States Gotoarrow.png Migration Gotoarrow.png Trails and Roads; Gotoarrow.png Federal Horse Path


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Federal Horse Path - The Story

Back in 1806 no one had an idea about an interstate or freeway but as the nation grew a horse path for postal riders was carved through the woods of the Creek Indian nation from the middle of Georgia to the coast of Alabama. What started as a postal horsepath through a malaria-infested wilderness occupied by Indians was widened into a military road for use during the War of 1812 and became a primary thoroughfare for pioneers. The accessibility to Indian land provided by the road was a principal cause of the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814; moreover, it expedited the exodus of the Creek Indians and permitted English-speaking settlers to enter western Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.[1]

Historical Background

In 1798, the United States formed the Mississippi Territory which included a large portion of present day Alabama and Mississippi. When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, an access route was needed to this new territory. The First Treaty of Washington, more formally known as the Treaty with the Creeks 1805, was an agreement between the U.S. government and the Creek Nation in which the latter ceded a large swath of territory in central Georgia. The U.S. Government got the Creek Nation to give permission for a "horse path" from the Ocmulgee River to the Mobile River, through the Creek Nation. The “horse path” became the Federal Road. By this route, thousands of settlers would enter the Mississippi Territory (present-day Alabama and Mississippi), creating tensions with the Creeks in east Alabama that resulted in conflict and their eventual removal west. .[2] [3]

With construction at last beginning in 1811, the “Old Federal Road,” was built from west to east connecting Fort Stoddert, Alabama, to Fort Wilkinson, Georgia. (Several spelling variations include Stoddert, Stoddart, etc.) Constructed in 1799, Fort Stoddert was named for the Acting Secretary of War Benjamin Stoddert. Fort Stoddert was located at the Mount Vernon Landing on the Mobile River in Mobile County east of current day Mount Vernon. Located at the Federal Road's other end, Fort Wilkinson was near Milledgeville on the Oconee River in Baldwin County, Georgia. At that time, Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia.

The Old Federal Road successfully connected Fort Stoddert to the Chattahoochee River. At that point, the Federal Road merged with the earlier postal riders’ horse path that linked Athens, Georgia, to New Orleans, Louisiana. Unlike the old horse path, the Federal Road went eastward making a connection with lands ripe for the recruitment of soldiers and obtaining supplies for the military. This path quickly became a major travel route for pioneers to the area once known as the Old Southwest.

From its start as a narrow horse path used to carry the mails, the Old Federal Road underwent great development and became a major military road connecting early American forts in the Creek Lands and the Mississippi Territory. Acting as the interstate highway of its day, when “Alabama Fever” raged through the Carolinas and Georgia, the Old Federal Road carried thousands of pioneers to the Old Southwest. As such, the Federal Road directly contributed to the dramatic increase in Alabama’s population between 1810 and 1820 - with Alabama’s population growing far faster than that of either Mississippi or Louisiana during this time. Alabama continued out-distancing both Mississippi and Louisiana in population growth through 1850.

The Federal Road became a well traveled stagecoach route for those going through Alabama. In 1824, Adam Hodgson wrote Letters from North America Written During a Tour in the United States and Canada wherein he described his 1820 travel along the Federal Road from Chattahoochee to Mobile. Hodgson found adequate over-night lodgings and described one stop as having three beds in a log building with a clay floor. Noting the ground formed a “perpetual undulation,” Hodgson concluded that “[t]he road, which is called the Federal Road, though tolerable for horses, would with us be considered impossible for wheels.”

Nearly two centuries later, the Federal Road remains visible. For those interested in making a modern daytrip along this important historical path, the Monroe County Heritage Museums has marked the portion of the Federal Road through Monroe County with eight monuments along its route from Price’s Hotel near the Monroe and Butler County lines through Mac David’s Hotel where the Federal Road continues through Escambia County, Alabama. [4]

Internet Sites

References

  1. The Federal Road Through Georgia[[1]]
  2. Burnt Corn, Alabama[[2]]
  3. First Treat of Washington (1805)[[3]]
  4. Migration Paths of our Ancestors[[4]]

 

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