Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Post Creek War Settlement

This month’s blog will continue our exploration of the early history of northeastern Jefferson on the “triangle” in and around the Pinson area made up of the respective parts of Jefferson, Blount and St. Clair Counties. Anyone with a weather radio can attest to the aggravation that occurs when you adjust your settings to include all three counties… During a good round of thunderstorms, it is hard to get any peace and quiet. In the same way that weather is no respecter of county lines, neither were our forebears to Pinson and surrounding areas.

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1818 Map of Alabama depicting county arrangements

            The Treaty of Fort Jackson effectively ended the Creek War in 1814 and opened what is now the state of Alabama to settlement by the soldiers and settlers who had come from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia to fight in the Creek War of 1813-14. When the war ended, they returned to take advantage of lands ceded to the United States by Native-Americans. As the population grew, the need for governmental infrastructure led to more counties being created in a relatively short period.

Blount County was created by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on February 6, 1818, formed from land ceded to the federal government by the Creek Nation on August 9, 1814 and was named for GovernorWillie Blount of Tennessee, who provided significant assistance to settlers in Alabama during the Creek War. Blount County lies in what is known as the mineral region of Alabama. Last month’s blog introduced Caleb Friley and John Jones, who established Jonesborough, near current day Bessemer. As with other settlers coming into the area, Jones and Friley first came down the Huntsville Road from Tennessee into what is now Blount and Jefferson County. They established Bear Meat Cabin in 1816. In April of 1816, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn preached his first sermon here, signaling the beginning of Methodism in central Alabama. A post office was opened in 1821, and the settlement was incorporated as Blountsville in December of 1827.

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Ole Bear Meat Cabin.  (Junior Blount County Historical Society/BhamWiki)

            Originally part of Blount County, Jefferson County was established on December 13, 1819, named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson. The following day, December 14, 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state in the Union. The county is located on the southernmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains and lies in the center of what was the iron, coal, and limestonemining belt of the Southern US. Long before Birmingham was founded in 1871, the county seat of Jefferson County was located in Carrollsville (near Princeton Hospital on Birmingham’s west end) from 1819 to 1821. Elyton was the county seat from 1821 to 1873, when it was usurped by the new city of Birmingham.

Village Springs, the first settlement in the Pinson area, more or less straddles the Jefferson and Blount county lines. Along with Palmerdale, Remlap is also named for the area’s Palmer family. Remlap is “Palmer” spelled backwards (some stories tell of some alleged disagreement that forced the communities to separate). Clay and Argo meet near where Jefferson and St. Clair counties meet.

St. Clair County was established on November 20, 1818 by splitting off from Shelby County. The county is named in honor of General Arthur St. Clair, who came to America from Scotland as an officer in the British Army in the French and Indian War and later served as a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

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General Arthur St. Clair

            Originally called St. Clairsville, Ashville, the county seat, was named for John Ash, a senator in the state’s first General Assembly. In 1836, a portion of St. Clair County was separated to establish Cherokee County and DeKalb County. In 1866, after the Civil War, a northeast section of the county was used to create Etowah County. St. Clair currently has county seats in both Ashville and Pell City, making it one of two counties in Alabama, and one of 33 in the US, with more than one county seat.

 

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.

 

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Early Settlements

The history of what we now know as Pinson extends beyond the borders of our town… Geographically, it encompasses the entirety of the northeastern part of Jefferson County. When we examine the footprint over time, we see that it existed before there was a Jefferson County (Jefferson County was originally part of Blount County) actually; even before there was a state of Alabama.

These neighboring communities and Pinson developed from the same pages of US history – soldiers and settlers moving through the area as they moved southward from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. Predominantly, they came first with military or volunteer forces joining the Creek War effort or later, taking advantage of lands forcibly ceded to the United States by Native-Americans.

Indian Cessions 1830-1834

In what was termed the “Great Migration”, veterans and others surged into Alabama. They were awed by the plentiful natural resources, rich soil, clear water, and moderate weather that bode well for future farming and settlement. In addition, what is now northeastern Jefferson County enjoyed an abundance of raw materials needed for the forging of iron and steel. The state’s population swelled from approximately 9,000 in 1810 to over 145,000 in 1820.

alabama settlers

Among the first settlers to our area were John Jones and Caleb Friley. Relatives by marriage, these ironsmiths from Tennessee traveled down the Huntsville Road in about 1815 with the throngs of others looking for opportunities in this new land. Jones and Friley had both been with Jackson’s West Tennessee Militia that marched through the territory in 1813. Jones and his family eventually settled in what is now Bessemer, near to where Splash Adventure Water Park now stands. After planting crops, several members of the Jones family built cabins and a stockade to protect them from Indian raids. Called Fort Jonesborough, the settlement that developed came to be known as Jonesboro. Jones Valley is also named for John Jones and his family.

map-old-jonesborough-alabama-18881888 Map showing Jonesboro

Shortly after its founding, Williamson Hawkins another veteran of the War of 1812 and reputed to be a relative of David Crockett (he hated to be called “Davy”), made it to the Jonesboro settlement in May 1815 after being detained in Tennessee “on personal business”. Hawkins drove some cattle with him, bringing “all the supplies he could pack on a horse”, including using a “drag” behind the horse to carry some of the goods. Hawkins eventually built a 2,000 acre plantation near Elyton, then the county seat of Jefferson County. Possibly at Hawkins’ urging, a colony of settlers from Rutherford County Tennessee moved into the area now known as Woodlawn. Other settlers came from South Carolina. In these groups of settlers came many of the names associated with northeast Jefferson County, including, but not limited to: Wood, Barton, Reid (Reed), Tarrant, Green (Greene), Brown, Cowden, Montgomery, and Cunningham.

Woodlawn takes its name from the Wood family, headed by Obadiah Wood and his son Edmund. The town of Rockville was established on Edmund’s twelve hundred acre plantation in 1832. A group of houses sprang up along what was known as the Georgia Road. When the Alabama and Chattanooga railroad was built in 1870, the town became known as Wood Station, and later Woodlawn.

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Obadiah Washington Wood, 1815-1893

Another resident of the area was George Roebuck, who built a home on Georgia Road near where the Boys’ Industrial School is located. Roebuck was named for George. His brother, Alfred Roebuck had a “stand” (an early combination rest area, truck stop, bed & breakfast, curb market, and used animal lot) at the intersection of the Huntsville Road and Stout’s Road in Norwood.

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.

Exploring Pinson’s Legacy: Alabama Fever

By the early 19th century, there was increasing American pressure for Indian tribes to relinquish their ancestral lands so that it could be opened for settlement, sparking a land frenzy known as “Alabama Fever”. Looking to profit from cheap and plentiful tracts of fertile land, some speculators pushed for ways to force native relocation while others went so far as to advocate eradicating the Native-American population in order to force the ceding of land to the US. However, attempts to make the tribes comfortable with US presence by way of assimilation was the most prevalent. Tribes were assured that they were the “red children” of the “Great Father” in Washington and, as his “children”, he wanted them to be happy and satisfied. Appointed “Indian Agents”, notably Benjamin Hawkins, acted as go-betweens between the tribes and the US Government that actively worked to facilitate this approach. Native-Americans were encouraged to “buy in” to western European ways through use of iron tools, agricultural practices which minimized the “footprint” of land acreage required for agriculture, and acceptance of western culture, laws, and practices. In some cases, self-serving Native-American leaders were given “sweetheart” deals (or bribes) to make concessions of native lands (without approval of other tribal leaders) to the US in exchange for incentives such as land, slaves, military rank, and government pensions.

benjaminhawkinsBenjamin Hawkins

            While some Indians genuinely sided with the Americans and were receptive to innovative approaches for making life better and more comfortable, others were outraged at the US attempt at prying ancestral lands away from the tribes. Bolstered by the fortuitous 1811 comet (visible with the naked eye for upwards of 260 days) and a series of four earthquakes centered in New Madrid, MO (two in December, 1811 and one each in January and February, 1812), each with a magnitude of 7.0 or more, ringing church bells in Charleston, SC, and toppling chimneys as far as Cincinnati, OH, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh used prophesy to spread his message promoting violent resistance to American encroachment.

220px-Tecumseh02Shawnee leader Tecumseh

            The Creek nation occupied the majority of lands in Alabama. Cherokees lived in the northeastern part of the state, Chickasaws in the northwest and Choctaws in the southwest. Aside from being individual tribes within a confederacy, Creeks were further categorized as living in either Upper or Lower towns, determined by where they were located relative to “upper” and “lower” trade paths connecting the Creeks to South Carolina. In Alabama, this dividing line ran very roughly from east central Alabama (south of Sylacauga) diagonally below Montgomery, running parallel to I-65 South and then westward along US Highway 84 at Evergreen on to Mobile. Towns effectively served as capitals or county seats and were important centers of tribal culture and politics. They also reflected differing views regarding the flow of settlers into Creek tribal lands. Many of the Upper Towns of the Muskogee, took up the banner for resisting the increasing American presence, while many of the Lower Towns believed the influx of settlers brought opportunities for increased trade and profit. These differing points of view between Upper and Lower Towns resulted initially in a civil war between opposing factions of the Muskogee Nation, which exacerbated each side’s position and escalated into what has become known as the Red Stick War or Creek War with the US, usually considered as part of the War of 1812.

creek nationWilliam Bonar’s map of the Creek Nation

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.