Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Indian Treaties of the Warrior Mountains

Indian Treaties of the Warrior Mountains

Indian people utilized the area of the Warrior Mountains for thousands of years before the coming of the white man.  Shortly before the first settlers arrived in the Warrior Mountains, many treaties had taken the last remnants of the native lands.  The following are some of the major treaties and events that impacted Indian people in north Alabama.

Chickasaw Boundary Treaty – January 10, 1786

The Chickasaw Boundary Treaty of January 10, 1786, recognized the High Town or Ridge Path along the Continental Divide in north Alabama as the Chickasaw’s southern boundary and Creeks northern boundary.  This early boundary between the Creeks and Chickasaws lay primarily along the present day Old Corn Road, Leola Road, Cheatham Road, Ridge Road, Byler Road, and other roads lying along the Tennessee Divide of the northern portion of the Warrior Mountains.  The backbone of North Alabama or divide was also the boundary line between the Cherokees and Creeks.  The boundary line along the divide with Chickasaw claims extending eastward to a north-south line drawn between the Path and Hobb’s Island or Chickasaw Old Fields just south of present day Huntsville, Alabama.  The north-south line lay along the Huntsville Meridian and formed the eastern boundary of the Chickasaw Nation until the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816.  From Ditto Landing or Hobbs Island, the Chickasaw boundary crossed present day Madison County about 45 degrees toward the northwest toward the Tennessee State Line.

North Alabama Indian Land Cessions
Colors represent different treaties!

Cotton Gin Treaty – January 7, 1806

The Cotton Gin Treaty of January 7, 1806, was between the Cherokee Indians and U.S. Government.  The treaty identified the tract of land that Moses Melton, the grandson of John Melton, lived on and declared the land to be equally shared property of Melton and Charles Hicks in equal shares.  Charles Hicks was noted in Cherokee history as being the first person to show Sequoyah how to write his name in English.  In addition, Chickamauga Cherokee Chief Doublehead controlled the Muscle Shoals area and directly benefited from the treaty that placed a cotton gin at his brother-in-law's John Melton.  The treaty gave up Cherokee claims to Indian land north of the Tennessee River, except for Doublehead’s Reserve, and placed the cotton gin at Melton’s Bluff in Lawrence County, Alabama.  Doublehead was killed because of the terms of this treaty.  Doublehead’s Reserve lay between Elk River (Chu wa lee) and Cypress Creek (Te Kee ta no-eh) in present day Lauderdale County.  The Cotton Gin Treaty with the Cherokees did not relinquish the Chickasaws claims to the area; therefore, Ft. Hampton was established to remove squatters from Chickasaw land, located primarily in the area of Limestone County known as the Simms Settlement.

Fort Hampton Historical Marker

Treaty of Fort Jackson - 1814

The majority of the new frontier in north Alabama was taken from the Creeks at the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.  The Creeks did not receive monetary compensation for their vast sections of land from the Tennessee Divide or High Town Path to the south near Montgomery, Alabama.  This large tract was taken after Jackson’s defeat of the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  This 1814 cession of land was from the High Town Path or Continental Divide in north Alabama and extended south for nearly 200 miles.

High Town Path Historical Marker

Turkey Town Treaty – September 14-18, 1816

The Turkey Town Treaty of September 14, 1816, gave up Cherokee and Chickasaw land in the northern portion of the Warrior Mountains.  Both tribes had legitimate claims to the land by previous treaties.  According to the terms of the Turkey Town Treaty, the last Indian lands of the Warrior Mountains were bought from the Chickasaws and Cherokees on September 14 and 18, 1816, respectively.  The Chickasaws were paid $125,000.00 with the Cherokees being paid $60,000.00 for land that now makes up Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties.  The Chickasaws and Cherokees had overlapping land claims with the Cherokees claiming land west to Natchez Trace some 10 to 15 miles west of Caney Creek in Colbert County.  The Chickasaws claimed land east to the old official Chickasaw boundary, which runs from the Chickasaw Old Fields (Hobbs Island) south to the High Town Path then west along the High Town Path to Flat Rock in present day Franklin County.  From Hobbs Island, the boundary ran northwest diagonally across Madison Counties.  The Chickamauga Chief Doublehead and the Cherokees farmed and controlled the Tennessee Valley to Natchez Trace by agreement with George Colbert.  

The Turkey Town Treaty signed by the Cherokees on September 14, 1816, ceded Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, and Morgan counties; however, the U.S. Government established the Chickasaw’s new eastern boundary from Franklin County’s Flat Rock to Caney Creek in Colbert County until 1832.  The High Town Path was recognized as the southern boundary of the cessions for both the Chickasaw and Cherokee, until the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816.  The 1816 treaty identified the new cession boundary as a straight line drawn from Flat Rock in Franklin County to Ten Islands on the Coosa River.  Previous treaties recognized the Continental Divide along which ran the High Town or Ridge Path.

Depiction of Cherokees on Trail of Tears

Indian Removal Act - May 28, 1830

On May 28, 1830, congress passed an act authorizing the exchange of lands in the west for those lands east of the Mississippi River held by Indian tribes. President Andrew Jackson was intent on seeing all Indian people removed from the eastern United States.

Treaty of New Echota – December 29, 1835

On December 29, 1835, the Treaty of New Echota was signed by a small number of Cherokees.  The U.S. Congress ratified the treaty on May 23, 1836.  The treaty ceded the entire Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi River.

Trail of Tears – October 1838 to March 1839

The Cherokee people were given two years to move at which time the forced removal known as the “Trail of Tears” began in the Spring of 1838.  The forced march began in October 1838 and ended in March 1839.  An estimated 4,000 Cherokees died on the forced march to the west.  Many of the Cherokees from the east passed through north Alabama during 1838 by railroad from Decatur to Tuscumbia, Alabama.  By the time of the “Trail of Tears” in 1838, much of the land of the Warrior Mountains had already been claimed by the Celtic-Indian mix-bloods who denied their heritage in order to remain in the “Warrior Mountains”, the land they loved.


Many of north Alabama's Indian people were already mixed with white settlers and stayed in the hill country of the Warrior Mountains.  They denied their ancestry and basically lived much of their lives in fear of being sent west.  Full bloods claimed to be Black Irish or Black Dutch, thus denying their rightful Indian blood.  After being fully assimilated into the general population years later, these Celtic-Indian mixed-blood descendants began reclaiming their Indian heritage in the land of the “Warrior Mountains.”

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