Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Origin of Warrior Mountains

Origin of Warrior Mountains

       For thousands of years, inhabitants of the Moulton Valley have looked south to see a beautiful range of mountains rising from the flat middle plain in the heartland of Lawrence County, Alabama.  This east-west mountain range has represented many things to modern man, but probably was more important and sacred to our red ancestors than any of our European immigrants.  By the time of DeSoto’s visit to our state in 1540, our Muskogee people recognized the range of mountains as a tribal and geographic boundary along the Continental Divide.  The High Town Path or Ridge Path is a prehistoric east-west Indian trail that lies along the Tennessee Divide.  The divide begins separating the Atlantic’s coastal waters from those of the Mississippi drainage in Maine and continues through the upper Tombigbee watershed in the western portion of Alabama and into Northern Mississippi.

       Probably the most accurate and appropriate name for the north Alabama portion of this vast chain of mountains is derived from the Muskogee people who lived along the forest streams hundreds of years before white people came to our country.  The Creek word “taskagu” or “taska and the Choctaw word “tashka” refer to the English translation of “warrior” with the Muskogee word “lusa” meaning “black.”  We know from reading Alabama history, DeSoto encountered a giant of a man known as “Chief Tuscaloosa” or the Black Warrior; therefore, the name was here long before the first European settlers claimed the land in this southern portion of the Tennessee Valley.

       In early days, the stream forming south from the mountains became known as the Tuscaloosa (Black Warrior) River.  In a French map dated March 1733, Baron De Crenay, Commandant of the Post of Mobile, identified the southern drainage from our mountains as the Tuscaloosa River.  On other early maps, the main river, which drains south, was also called the Tuscaloosa.  Later in 1814 a map of north Alabama identified the river draining south of the Tennessee Valley as the Black Warrior River.

       In 1829, a frontiersman and famous rifle maker by the name of John Bull engraved two of his masterpieces from the Warrior Mountains.  One of the rifles was made for John Jarrett and the other was for David Smith.  According to information provided by Mr. Dan Wallace, the exceptional rifle is inscribed on a silver platelet in the stock, “John Bull for David Smith, Warrior Mountain.” The inscription on the silver cheek piece is as the following:
This gun is named Charlotte,
from hills and mountains Came,
made to delight the heart of man,

with Joy, the laboring Swain,
And from the sportsmen of the day
Victorious bear the prife,

       According to Old Land Records of Lawrence County, Alabama by Margaret Coward, David Smith entered 79.92 acres of land in Section 36 of Township 7 South and Range 7 West, near Indian Tomb Hollow on September 12, 1818, and 79.92 acres on September 28, 1818, in Section 35.  He married Charlotte Ann Havens, who was the daughter of James Havens.  According to the Havens family legend provided by Spencer Waters, James Havens was buried next to his Indian friends on the side of the Warrior Mountains where the magnolia blooms in the Spring.  The graveyard is known as Indian Tomb Hollow Cemetery or Gillespie Cemetery.  After the death of James Havens around 1824,  his Indian friend John Brown was made executor of his estate.  Later James' daughter, Charlotte Ann Havens and her husband David Smith moved to Kentucky and carried the famous rifle with them. After the Civil War, one of the Smith's descendants fired the rifle at a turkey but forgot to remove the ramrod; thus, the ramrod became the only missing part of John Bull's masterpiece rifle. 

       In his 1899 book, Early Settlers of Alabama, Colonel Edmonds Saunders refers to the Tennessee Valley’s southern highlands of north Alabama as the “Warrior Mountains.” Later in 1918, when the government began organizing our mountains into a national forest the area was called the Black Warrior.  Today, the state wildlife management area is still known as the Black Warrior.  It is a shame that our forest had a name that could be traced back for over 400 years and has been changed to honor a white politician.  However, with the Indian pride that has grown strong in north Alabama, our mountains will never take second place.  These mountains will always remain the Sacred Land of our ancestors, and be known as the “WARRIOR MOUNTAINS.

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