Pinson’s Legacy: Historical Perspectives

This month’s article is a bit of a change in that I will be voicing an editorial opinion. I am taking the opportunity to respond to a recent inquiry regarding why some of my monthly articles review broader events in Alabama history that do not seem to be related to either the TCNP or to the Pinson area.

Specifically, in this particular case, what do the events surrounding the Creek War and War of 1812 have to do with the Pinson area? Such inquiries are good ones, and extend beyond the parameters of any given question. Answers to such questions strike at the core of why we study history in the first place. It provides a venue by which we can examine the machinery of life and events, both ordinary and extraordinary, that prompted the actions (or inactions) of our forebears. It also prompts us to reflect on what was going in our immediate vicinity, as well as on a broader stage. It provides a lens through which we can examine the circumstances of historical events and the roles they play; not only in their time, but ours.

First, I will set the stage by acknowledging certain personal biases regarding the history of Alabama, in general, and the history of Pinson and Jefferson County, in particular. Accordingly, the views stated here are totally my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of TCNP (or anyone else for that matter).

First, I admit to being an unapologetic history geek, so I tend to add more detail than many would find useful. I believe that far too many Alabamians (and Pinsonians) do not know, do not appreciate, or do not care about our rich and varied history, both good and bad. There are many who do not have an adequate understanding of our history; why it was important then, why it is important now, and how events in other parts of the state, the country, or the world, affect us.

Now that that is off my chest, I will attempt to answer the original query… If we question what role or impact the War of 1812 or Creek War directly played on the Pinson area, then the answer is probably not much… Based on what we know today, there were no permanent Native-American settlements either on Turkey Creek or near what is now Pinson. In general, battles or skirmishes during the Creek War occurred to the south and to the east of us. Moreover, as noted in earlier articles, the closest events of the War of 1812 to Pinson took place along the Gulf Coast. So, from these facts alone, there would seem to be no definitive impact of the wars on our area. However, if we look at how Pinson was affected indirectly, then the answer is a little more interesting…

Native Americans had lived in the area for millennia. The Pinson area was known to have been a common hunting and meeting area for Native American tribes and related artifacts have been routinely found. Pinson Cave was formally excavated in 1970 as a burial site and ossuary for Native Americans dating from the Late Woodlands period of approximately 1,000 years ago. There was an Upper Creek Village north of what is now Trussville. Other key Native American sites can be found within reasonable travel distance (for their time) in any direction.

By 1815, more and more settlers were moving into what is now Alabama, drawn by the vast amounts of cheap ($2 per acre), available land and rich natural resources, much of which was being forcibly ceded to the United States by Native American tribes. Land speculation and profiteering (Andrew Jackson was a sizeable investor in these endeavors) was at an all-time high. On our end of the state, settlers arrived from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Georgia. While some settlers were already in the area prior to formal hostilities, many travelled down to join Jackson and others in the war effort. As they viewed the lush hills and valleys of what is now Blount and Jefferson counties, they liked what they saw and determined to return and live when the fighting was done. A historical figure, no less than the legendary Davy Crockett, viewed a tract of land near Oneonta and stated that it was “the one spot in the world” he wanted to settle (Bennett, 2008, 27). Crockett and Sam Houston both fought for Jackson during the Creek War in Alabama and went on to make history in the Texas Republic.

Most hostilities ceased by 1815 and soldiers began the long trek home. They returned to this area that they had fallen in love with and established a settlement there. The Huntsville Road, which ran from Fayetteville, Tennessee through Huntsville to Blountsville to Elyton to Tuscaloosa, passed Pinson on its way south. The current name of Pinson comes from the area in Tennessee where a number of these early settlers originated. Prior to that, we were known by a number of names: Murphree’s Valley, Village Springs, and Hagood’s Crossroads. Eventually known as Mount Pinson, the name was later shortened to Pinson.

History does not occur in a vacuum… As such, we need to have a clear understanding of not only what is happening in our own back yard, but also what is happening around us. Pinson does not have a direct connection to either the Creek War or the War of 1812. However, it can be argued that the indirect effects are significant. While it is relatively certain that the area would have been settled eventually, we owe our origins to those returning from the wars and chose to settle here. Moreover, we can be equally proud of the link to our Native American ancestors. Learning and exploration should be continued in these and other aspects of our history, and our younger residents need to share in the adventure.

This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.

E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.

Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.

Leave a Reply