Natchez TraceEdit This Page
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Original trace south to north:
- Natchez, Adams, Mississippi
- Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi
- Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi
- Williamsville, Attala, Mississippi
- Tupelo, Lee, Mississippi
- Tishomingo, Tishomingo, Mississippi
- Florence, Lauderdale, Alabama
- Collinwood, Wayne, Tennessee
- Duck River, Hickman, Tennessee
- Leipers Fork, Williamson, Tennessee
- Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee
- Tompkinsville, Monroe, Kentucky
- Harrodsburg, Mercer, Kentucky
- Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky
- Maysville, Mason, Kentucky
The "trace" was first created by animals like bison to reach salt licks in the Nashville area, and their grazing areas near the Mississippi River. American Indians, developed the trace further for trading mostly, and also as a warpath. An unknown Frenchman was the first European to write about traveling the full Natchez Trace in 1742. But earlier Europeans such as Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto may have come across parts of the trace in 1540 while being guided by Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The trace followed a natural ridge and, at first, was only a narrow footpath or horse trail unsuitable for wagons because of trees.
In 1801 the United States signed a treaty with the Choctaw Indians allowing construction of a mail road by the side the the old footpath. The path soon became an important road for settlers. Eventually inns known as "stands" were built every few miles to offer travelers a room and refreshment.
Midwestern farmers called Kaintucks often used flatboats to float their agricultural goods, coal, or livestock down the Mississippi River to market in Natchez, or New Orleans. Once downriver, their boats were of little use, so they often sold them as well, and the boats were dismantled for their lumber. One of the ways they could return to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, or Indiana was by way of the Natchez Trace. An estimated 10,000 Kaintucks used the Natchez Trace in 1810. However, because their pockets were loaded with money they were frequently preyed upon by gangs of robbers along the trail.
The road not only carried settlers, but also their ministers. Methodist circuit riders were working the Trace as early as 1800 with many converts. Baptists and Presbyterians soon joined them. The Presbyterians worked their way from the south end, and the Cumberland Presbyterians from the north extention of the Trace.
Meriwether Lewis, Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, and a former leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was traveling on the Natchez Trace in 1809 when he died near Grinder's Stand, Tennessee. During the War of 1812 the ferryman at the Tennessee River, George Colbert, charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his army across the river.
The rise of steamboats that could easily return upriver, and rival roads such as Jackson's Military Road resulted in the decline of the Natchez Trace after 1816.
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