Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Alabama Fever

When last we visited the history of the area near and around Pinson, we had made our way through the war years during which our ancestors fought the War of 1812 and the Creek War of 1813-1814. Some settlers had arrived in the area prior to the wars while others found their way as they traveled to join Jackson and others in the war effort. These new arrivals came into Alabama from Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Of particular note are the volunteers coming into the state from eastern and middle Tennessee to help fight the war (that’s how Tennessee became known as the Volunteer state).

            These settlers traveled by way of the Huntsville Road, a trail originally cleared and used by Native-Americans. The road began in Fayetteville, Tennessee. It was lengthened as soldiers moved southward from Fayetteville to Huntsville (at Ditto’s Landing), then to Mudtown (a Native-American village located on the Cahaba River; Blountsville, down to Elyton (later the city of Birmingham), and then finally to Tuscaloosa. In very general terms, the road moved down what is now US Highway 231, merging with what is now AL Highway 79, passing Pinson on its way south and then moving down what is now Pinson Valley Parkway, into Tarrant and then turning right (approximately where the Cedar House restaurant is today) toward the neighborhoods of North Birmingham and Norwood in Birmingham.

Alabama Trail Map

The Huntsville Road, also known as “Bear Meat Cabin Road” (pictured above), took many early Alabama settlers through modern day Pinson, AL.

            Aside from the natural beauty found in the lush hills (some of the highest points in Jefferson County are found here) and valleys of what are now Blount and Jefferson counties, there were added incentives. As Native American tribes ceded territory after their defeat in the wars, a land rush occurred when settlers and land speculators moved in to establish land claims in Alabama. This influx of settlers driven by the availability of cheap and plentiful land became known as “Alabama Fever”. New arrivals were impressed with the availability of good land with plentiful natural resources where they could hunt and farm. There was plenty of available timber and other materials that they could build their homes from. They liked what they saw and determined to build a new life in the area. Both before the wars (some family histories claim kin living in the area before 1808) and afterward, they traveled to the area that they had fallen in love with and established settlements here.

            Daniel Murphree, from South Carolina, established a settlement that became known as Murphree’s Valley and, later, as Village Springs. The area between Pinson and Oneonta is still known by that name). Dr. Zachariah Hagood and his family settled here after the Creek War about 1816. The Hagood and Anderson families helped to found Oldsides Baptist Church (now Pinson First Baptist) in 1818 and included a slave member, Alfred Hagood. Dr. Zachariah, as he was known, allowed mail service to be operated from his home beginning in 1836. However, it was not Dr. Zachariah that lent his name to the town. The doc’s son, Robert opened a store at the crossroads in town. The settlement became known as Hagood’s Crossroads, and the name stuck until about 1852, when a vote by the townspeople renamed it Mount Pinson. The story goes that the name change resulted from a group of men from Pinson, Tennessee stopping in town for a few days while herding their horses and mules. They camped on a piece of land between Oldsides Baptist and Old Bradford Road that was often used by people passing through and needing to stop for the night. Later settling here, they said the area reminded them of home, so they starting calling the area Mount Pinson, later shortened to Pinson…

murphree_cabin

Daniel Murphree’s cabin was orginally constructed in Murphree’s Valley and later relocated to Palisades Park in Oneonta, AL. Photo Courtesy of http://www.blountcountypark.com

            One of Jackson’s blacksmiths, David Hanby, and his family purchased land here by as early as 1822. The Hanby’s not only farmed, but operated a blacksmith shop (producing horseshoes and household goods) and was also successful in the mining and selling of coal. James Cunningham and Hanby both operated mills on Cunningham Creek and Turkey Creek, respectively. Most of these early mills were designed to grind corn, but could not grind wheat. Other mill owners of the day were Jonathan Moreland, John Click, and a Mr. Revis, among others.

            Our history extends beyond the borders of what we now know as the Pinson area. It extends and includes most of the communities that surround us. We will discuss these communities, the pioneers that settled them, and the ways that we are all connected in the months ahead.

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.

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3 thoughts on “Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Alabama Fever

  1. I would love to know your source for the map of the Huntsville Road. I’m working on finding information about early settlers of what would become Cullman County and I want to see where that road ran exactly. In order to do that I need a larger version of the map and I can’t find it.

    1. Hey Greg, go to the Birmingham Library! You will find a lot of info on the Old Huntsville Road and maps! Including the one u see here! When u get there go across the street to the library’s archive building. You’ll find everything u need their.

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