Setting Some Migration Boundaries


I am continuing to study how my ancestors arrived in my Clarke County, Alabama homeplace. Because of changes in boundaries as well as other sociopolitical and economic factors, how they arrived cannot be separated from when they arrived and the use of appropriate terminology is logical. 

A number of my ancestors came through Georgia. Founded in 1733 Georgia was the last and largest of the original 13 colonies. When Georgia became a state in 1788, its western boundaries extended to the Mississippi River and the Louisiana Territory. 

Georgia 1795

The Mississippi Territory

In 1798 Congress changed the boundaries of Georgia by organizing the Mississippi Territory and opening the area for settlement.

A few settlers already lived in Mississippi when it became a territory. They were concentrated in two principal areas — the Natchez District and the lower Tombigbee settlements above and west of Mobile. Approximately 4,500 people, including slaves, lived at Natchez, considerably more than the combined free and slave population of 1,250 that inhabited the Tombigbee settlements in 1800.

My homeplace is located in what was “the lower Tombigbee.”  

Mississippi Territory

 Migration 1798 to 1819

 The summary of migration into the area between 1798 and 1819, written by Charles Lowery is suitable for my purposes. 

The Great Migration to the Mississippi Territory, 1798-1819

Lowery indicates that we should consider the time before the creation of the Mississippi Territory as one period of migration (1). He then divides the time between the organization of the territory and Mississippi and Alabama becoming states into two phases, one on each side of the War of 1812.

Mississippi was admitted to the Union as a state on December 10, 1817. Mississippi Becomes State 1819

Alabama was admitted to the Union as a state on December 14, 1819.

Alabama Becomes a State 1819

Lowery sees the end of this “Great Migration” when the impressive economic expansion following the War of 1812 was ended by the Panic of 1819.

The importance of cotton meant that the population of Alabama continued to grow over the next several decades. It should also be clear that after 1820 the term Alabama refers to the state. After 1820 It is no longer the Alabama Territory. After 1820 it is no longer that part of the Mississippi Territory that became the state of Alabama. After 1820, it is no longer part of some English Colonial dream or early American territorial ambition called Georgia. After 1820 it is the state of Alabama. 

Population of Alabama (figures for 1800 and 1810 are taken from that portion of the Mississippi Territory that became Alabama )


(1) My cousins who are the descendants of the indigenous population and/or Spanish explorers will not be satisfied with pre 1798 as a single historical period.

Reading, Reflecting, Writing

Spring 2018 Alabama History Reading List | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

The Old Federal Road in Alabama Has Been Surveyed | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

In 1814 We Took a Little Trip . . . Down the Alabama | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE




My ancestors who were early landowners in Isle of Wight County, Virginia account for a very large proportion of my 23K matches on Ancestry. Using the trees of these matches, I was able to identify books that mention and journal articles about these European ancestors.

I have poured over dusty fragile tomes and read journal articles so old that JSTOR offers them free. Unfortunately, these works from the 1930s and 1940s offer a “whitewashed” view of Colonial American history. If you did not already know that Africans were present, you would not learn that they were from reading these works. These works include “abstracts” of wills rather than complete listing of estates. I think that additional study requires a visit to the County Clerk’s office, which I am unable to make.

The County Clerk’s office has found records related to the enslaved unbound in boxes. These records have supposedly been digitized. However, I have not yet found records online that provide information on the enslaved prior to the late 1700s. The ancestors that I am able to follow moved from Isle of Wight County Virginia to North Carolina. They did not move far from the ocean. Therefore, I am switching my focus from the Tidewater and coastal plain of Colonial Virginia to the coastal plain of Colonial North Carolina (1).


“When King Charles II conveyed the Carolina grant by a charter to the eight Lords Proprietors in 1663, the Albemarle region had been settled for at least five years by planters, who had on their own initiative traversed the Dismal Swamp and created a backwoods frontier settlement patterned on tidewater Virginia” (Butler, 1998)


The European ancestors that I am following did not move from Isle of Wight County Virginia into the Albemarle region of the North Carolina Coastal plain before 1700. I am following a set of my fourth great grandparents who were born in Bertie, North Carolina around 1730 (2). They left North Carolina around 1790 (3). This means that my initial focus has both geographical and chronological limits: the North Carolina Coastal Plain between 1700 and 1790 (4).


It appears that there were relatively few Africans, enslaved or otherwise, in North Carolina during the 1600s. It has been estimated that in 1700 there were fewer than 500 African Americans in North Carolina. By the time of the 1790 census that number had grown to more than one hundred thousand slaves (Butler,1988).

I don’t know if I had ancestors among the estimated 500 in 1700. I believe that some of my unidentified African fourth great grandparents were in North Carolina by 1790. I believe this based on the fact that several of my African American third great grandparents were born in North Carolina.


I have identified an African American third great grandfather, Henderson Rivers, who was born in North Carolina about 1814. His wife Jane, one of my third great grandmothers, claimed in the 1880 census that she was born in North Carolina and so were her parents. On another line my African American third great grandmother, Clarissa Rodgers, was born in North Carolina about 1815.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ancestry estimates connect me with the African American population of the North Carolina coastal plain (which includes parts of Virginia and South Carolina (5). I tend to believe, as in tentatively hypothesize, that it was on the North Carolina coastal plain that my European and African ancestors first encountered each other.

I have wondered if any of them traveled together into Clarke County, Alabama where most of my second great parents, my grandparents, my parents, and I were was born. Did my slaveholding ancestors and my enslaved ancestors travel together or separately.

The first chronological conundrum is clear. My European American fourth great grandparents left North Carolina around 1790 and my African American third great grandparents were not born until 1814-1815. If the enslaved traveled as part of a household migration, then it was with people who left after 1815.

I am fascinated by the fact that these three African American third great grandparents were born in North Carolina around the same time. I am learning some interesting things about the enslavement of Africans in North Carolina. The first thing I learned is that North Carolina had no natural harbors like Virginia and South Carolina did. So the enslaved were either brought up from South Carolina or down from Virginia or they were North Carolina born. I have a great deal more to learn.

Butler, L. S., & Watson, A. D. (1988). The North Carolina experience: An interpretive and documentary history. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Kay, M. L. M., & Cary, L. L. (1995). Slavery in North Carolina, 1748-1775. University of North Carolina Press.

Powell, W. S. (1990). North Carolina through four centuries. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Crow, J. J., & North Carolina. (2001). The Black experience in revolutionary North Carolina. Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources.

(1) “The North Carolina Coastal Plain is bordered on the ocean side by its drowned partner, the submarine Continental Margin, and on the inland side by the fall line that separates the Coastal Plain from the Piedmont and Appalachian provinces.” Riggs, S.R. and Ames, D.V. NORTH CAROLINA’S “LAND OF WATER” COASTAL SYSTEM in Tise, L. E., & Crow, J. J. (2017). New voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina history. The University of North Carolina Press.

(2) You can locate Bertie on the map by looking in the northeast. It is just west of the Tidewater.

(3) They were not alone in leaving North Carolina. “North Carolina was the third most populous state in the Union in 1790, but by 1860 it had dropped to twelfth in population. Hundreds of thousands of White North Carolinians fled the state during those years, seeking cheap, fertile land in Tennessee, western Georgia, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, and other trans-Allegheny states and territories. Thirty percent of North Carolina’s native-born population, amounting to more than four hundred thousand persons, was living outside of the state in 1860. NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF HISTORY

(4) The North Carolina Museum of History offers an online geography workshop that I found very helpful.

(5) There is no overlap between the North Carolina coastal plain and Georgia. So the long lived border disputes between the two are not an issue in this discussion. They are interesting –

“Carry me back” to the coastal plain

My homeplace is in the Alabama Blackbelt (1). According my DNA story, as told by Ancestry estimates, many of my African ancestors started the American leg of their journey on the coastal plain of North Carolina (that includes parts of Virginia and parts of South Carolina). I share a North Carolina connection with more than 1000 of my 23,000 matches on Ancestry (2). It is my intent to share this “interim report” and reading list with those matches who are interested in the journey.

I am interested in learning more about the experiences of my African ancestors in the English colonies and in the United States. Some of my DNA Cousins share this goal. In order to achieve this goal, I must learn more about the Europeans who enslaved them, including those Europeans who are also my ancestors.

I have, of course, studied Colonial Virginia. I have read books and articles and I have spent great days in Virginia’s historic triangle – While I have stood on Point Comfort, looked at the Atlantic, and contemplated what the voyage in the hold of a slave ship meant for my African ancestors, I have never looked at the history of Colonial Virginia from a personal perspective. Beyond Richmond, beyond Nat Turner, I have never focused on any location in Virginia that did not make it into the tourist attractions (3).

That is changing. Using data from DNA to help construct my “family tree,” I have followed one European ancestral line back to Colonial Virginia. The earliest English immigrant in the line that I am following arrived in Virginia in the 1630s. Being a descendant of these early arrivals in Virginia, who came from Scotland as well as England and Wales, helps to explain why I have so many DNA matches. It also explains why such a large proportion of these matches are connected to me through a specific line.

One estimate is that an immigrant to Colonial America who was born in 1650 had 67,108,864 descendants by 1980. I will never know how many of my “distant cousins” are connected to my family tree and I am content with that. Calculating the estimated number of a descendants an ancestor is likely to have me to understand the difficulty of that task –

The components of the line I am studying came together in Isle of Wight County, Virginia

“Isle of Wight County was established in 1634. Much of its history can be traced because its records were not destroyed during the Civil War. Charged by the Clerk of Court to take the records into hiding, Randall Boothe, an African-American slave, took them by wagon to Greenville & Southampton. After the war he returned them, was freed, and asked to serve as Caretaker of the Courthouse.”

The lines from which I am descended moved from Isle of Wight County, Virginia to that part of Edgecombe County, North Carolina that became Halifax County. I know even less about Colonial North Carolina than I do about Colonial Virginia. I have started to read.

It was interesting to look at maps of the two states and see that it was a relatively short distance from Isle of Wight – – to Edgecombe/Halifax –

It was even more interesting to read Boddie’s (1938) claim that the first permanent settlement in North Carolina was established by people from Isle of Wight County and Nansemond County, Virginia in 1660 or 1661. Boddie describes one of the early North Carolina settlements as including 27 families and 427 servants. I really want to learn more about the “servants.”

It appears that the primary line I am following moved to Edgecombe/Halifax after 1699. This suggests that by the time I had European ancestors born in Edgecombe/Halifax, the pathway from Isle of Wight was well worn. After I have studied the records of Isle of Wight County, Virginia and Edgecombe/Halifax, North Carolina, I will follow the migration of this line into Georgia and the Mississippi Territory.

The earliest African ancestored person with whom I am connected, thanks to my DNA COUSIN Angelis Robinson-Smith – – is Clarissa, my third great grandmother, who was born in North Carolina about 1810.

Cousin Angelis tasked me with understanding how my ancestors traveled to Indian Ridge. I have now done enough reading to say with confidence that many of my African American ancestors walked from North Carolina to the Mississippi Territory. They traveled the “Slave Trail of Tears”

Several questions about my African American ancestors’ journey from the east coast remain.

For how many, did the trip take place over generations and for how many did it occur over a few months?

How many traveled west from North Carolina to Georgia and then to the Mississippi Territory with white settler families and how many came in coffles?

I don’t know if I will find the answers to these questions in the documents that I plan to study. I do know that I will learn a great deal in the process (5).


Billings, W. M. (Ed.). (2007). The old dominion in the seventeenth century : a documentary history of virginia, 1606-1700. Retrieved from

Boddie, J. Seventeenth century Isle of Wight County, Virginia. (1938). Wilmette, Ill: Wilmette Press.

Kulikoff, A. (1988). Tobacco and slaves : the development of southern cultures in the chesapeake, 1680-1800. Retrieved from

Isaac, R. (1999). The transformation of virginia, 1740-1790. Retrieved from

Samford, P. (2011). Subfloor pits and the archaeology of slavery in colonial virginia. Retrieved from

Tise, L. E., & Crow, J. J. (2017). New voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina history.

McIlvenna, N. (2009). A very mutinous people: The struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713

Butler, L. S., & Watson, A. D. (1984). North Carolina Experience: An Interpretive and Documentary History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina

Beale, G. Nathaniel Pope and his descendants. The William and Mary Quarterly 12(3)

Heath, O.A. The Popes of Northumberland County The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jan., 1914), pp. 209-215 Stable URL:

__. Pope Ancestry. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jan., 1916), pp. 194-198. Stable URL:

__ Isle of Wight County Records.The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Apr., 1899), pp. 205-315.


(1) The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking –, The Old Federal Road in Alabama has been surveyed –, In 1814 We Took a Little Trip –

(2) Soon after I started studying my family history, my DNA Cousin with expertise in this area used Gedmatch to estimate my Native American ancestry. She discovered that I shared slightly more than 5 cMs with the Lumbee reference group. The Lumbee are also associated with North Carolina. One of the surnames associated with the Lumbee is the surname of my maternal grandfather. The Lumbee are not important to my identity and I am definitely not interested in being a member of the tribe.

(3) This does not mean that my perspective on Colonial Virginia is romanticized. I know that around 1660, chattel racial slavery was codified in Colonial Virginia and Maryland through court decisions. When I visit Colonial Williamsburg, I think about the Founding Fathers who sat in a tavern and talked and wrote about the equality of all men while denying the humanity of my African ancestors. When I visit the battlefield at Yorktown, I think about how the hopes of Africans who fought with the Colonials in the war were betrayed.

(4) I have traced a second European line that entered South Carolina more than a century after those who entered Colonial Virginia and converged in Isle of Wight County. This line entered through Charleston, but before moving westward to the Mississippi Territory, settled in Kershaw County, South Carolina, which is on the coastal plain and closer to North Carolina than to Charleston.

(5) I can no longer afford my book habit. Each of these books was borrowed from a library. The early articles are in the JSTOR free online collection and/or the Internet Archive.

Ancestors as Early Settlers of Isle of Wight County, Virgina

A recent attempt to discover how I am connected to another member of a DNA genealogy working group lead me to Isle of Wight County, Virginia. My DNA indicates that I am a descendant of three Europeans who were early landowners in isle of Wight County: Jeremiah Exum, Michael Mackquinney, and William Pope. These are the ancestors of my paternal grandmother, Mary Aquilla Pope. Her grandfather, a white slaveholding Lewis Pope gave his name to his only son, Lee Pope. Lee’s mother was an enslaved African descended Melvina Hill (aka Melvina Pope). Lewis Pope was involved in making sure that Lee Pope was a landowner. I inherited some of that land and relatively large amount of Pope DNA. Isle of Wight County was established in 1634. Much of its history can be traced because its records were not destroyed during the Civil War.
Charged by the Clerk of Court to take the records into hiding, Randall Boothe, an African-American slave, took them by wagon to Greenville & Southampton. After the war he returned them, was freed, and asked to serve as Caretaker of the Courthouse.
I plan to interrogate these records in order to learn as much as I can about the African Americans enslaved in early Isle of Wight County. I want to know if they too are my ancestors. I cannot find my African ancestors without learning about my European ancestors. Their records hold the key to my family history. I started the study of my family history in my Alabama Blackbelt homeplace. I then expanded my study to the entire Mississippi Territory. I am now following the migration of both sets of ancestors from the coastal plains of Virginia and Maryland into North Carolina and through Georgia, and into the Mississippi Territory. If you share these ancestors, take the journey with me. There are more resources, but these are a great place to start.,_Virginia_Genealogy  

Hashimoto’s, Antidepressants, and My Philosophy as a Health Educator



I was born with a genetic predisposition for thyroid disease. I knew this before I saw reports generated by analyses of my DNA. Both my father’s mother and my own mother had thyroid disease. My paternal grandmother’s goiter is clearly visible in the picture below. I saw my mother’s goiter with my own eyes but have no pictures from that period of her life.


As a child I hypothesized that their goiters were the result of insufficient levels of iodine. (Yes, I was that child. I spent my early childhood in a segregated community in the U.S. South without routine access to physicians.  My maternal grandmother was a healer. She allowed me to follow her around until I started asking inappropriate questions about sexual and reproductive issues. I paid attention. I think this is where I was introduced to the value of traditional knowledge and self-care. The more I learn from modern medical science, the more I know that my grandmother was a brilliant woman, even though she thought my curiosity about reproduction required an exorcism.)


My own experiences, as I spent decades coping with undiagnosed and misdiagnosed thyroid disease, do not support the “lack of sufficient iodine” hypothesis. Those were very difficult years characterized by a wide array of painful and energy draining symptoms. My thyroid disease was not diagnosed until the gland stopped functioning, knocked out by a medication prescribed for a condition that I do not have.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Many people with lupus have stories about the horrors they experienced before being diagnosed correctly. My initial lupus diagnosis came quickly. My horror stories revolve around years of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis. I lost my left knee to Hashimoto’s at age 40. But the most nightmarish part of the experience was being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder when the changes in my energy levels and moods were in fact caused by the Hashimoto’s.

Is it Mental Illness or Hashimoto’s Disease

These experiences also highlighted my genetically based hypersensitivity to antidepressants. Several years ago, decades after I knew better, I succumbed to pressure from a pain management physician to try Duloxetine as a treatment for neuropathic pain. I expected to experience a brief period of hypomania which would convince my physician that it was not a good idea for me to take the drug.


Instead, the side effects were devastating. Not only did I experience a very unpleasant period of hypomania. I also experienced lightheadedness and a loss of balance. It was during this process that I fell and traumatically injured my brain. Even though I went to urgent care the day after my fall, it was more than a month before my traumatic brain injury was diagnosed.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Then I tried stopping the medication. The effects of Duloxetine withdrawal sent me into a life altering downward spiral. The “brain zaps” hit me hard. I reached out on Facebook. Instead of offering me help, most of my friends and relatives ignored me. A few made fun of me. (BUNDLE UP CHILDREN: SOME OF US LIVE IN A COLD, COLD WORLD).

Cymbalta Side Effects

The physician who had prescribed the medication told me that what I claimed to be experiencing was impossible. He lashed out at me by telling me that I needed a psychiatrist. Since I am always open to that possibility, I called the psychiatrist who had been with me through the process of establishing that what appeared to be a mood disorder was in fact an autoimmune disorder of the endocrine system.

My former psychiatrist returned my call even though he was retired and was in the process of closing his office. His response was empowering.

“Ann, you do not need a new psychiatrist. You need a new pain management physician. You are an intelligent woman. No good physician is going to ignore what you have to say about your own medical history.”

I decided to tough the withdrawal out on my own. After talking to my daughter, who works in a microbiology laboratory, I bought myself a set of Norpro Mini Stainless-Steel Measuring Spoons – and some Micro Scoops –  While dealing with a traumatic brain injury, the side effects of Duloxetine, and Duloxetine withdrawal symptoms, I used these tools to titrate off the drug by gradually removing beads from the capsules.

One of the things that I learned from this experience is to never take drugs prescribed by a physician who has not thoroughly studied and accepted  my medical history. This experience has also played an important role in the philosophy that I bring to my work as a health educator. I believe that people should know as much of their family health history as possible. They should be able to present that history in ways that health care professionals must respect. And they should be able to provide themselves with appropriate self-care. Maybe they need to consult with someone who has a graduate degree in health and nutrition education and some first-hand experience.


To assist people with claiming their own health history.

To assist people with understanding the value of appropriate self-care.


My health history dictates that each morning, as soon as I climb out of bed, I take my thyroid hormone replacements. The failure to take them has such severe repercussions that I have put a great deal of effort into building this habit. I require a replacement for T3 as well as the standard prescription for T4. And of course, I have my favorite books.

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A revolutionary breakthrough in understanding Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism 


Stop the Thyroid Madness: A Patient Revolution Against Decades of Inferior Treatment



I still have pain and fatigue. I visit an ophthalmologist for routine hydroxychloroquine toxicity screenings. That is why my cataracts were diagnosed prior to surgery and why I was recently lectured on the need to provide better care for my dry eyes. Sjogren’s adds to the pain and fatigue and to steps in the daily routine of self-care.

However, given that I was born with several skeletal defects and that my genetic propensity for autoimmune diseases was triggered in 1956, I am grateful to still be alive, upright, and moving under my own power. This has been a life long war. I survive by confronting the issues realistically. I will not be bullied into a conspiracy of silence and denial. I will not be seduced in telling lies. I will speak my own truth.

If you think that every mention of pain is indicative of powerlessness, failure, and negativity, I could probably help you too.


Spring 2018 Alabama History Reading List

My homeplace is in Clarke County, Alabama. The specific location is known to residents as Indian Ridge. I was taken away from my homeplace at age seven. I became a refugee child in Chicago, Illinois. I have lived and been educated in three other states in which little was taught of the history of the Mississippi Territory or the part of that Territory which became Alabama.

In 2016 I decided to study my family history and to join a group working to construct a community wide genealogy. I eventually figured out that I could not work effectively without filling in some of the gaps in my historical knowledge. This is a partial record of the works that I have used to reduce the size of my historical knowledge deficit.

Clarke County, Alabama

Knowing nothing of the history of the county, I started with this work, which is now in the public domain and therefore freely available to anyone with an internet connection. It is more of a reference than a read.

BALL, T. H. (1882). A Glance into the Great South-East, or Clarke County, Alabama, and its surroundings, from 1540 to 1877. [With a map.]. Grove Hill, Ala.

My Assignment

The DNA cousin who leads our working group gave me the assignment of learning how “our ancestors” reached the location on which I was focusing. I found that assignment to be overwhelming, at least partially because as a professor of comparative family systems, I have issues with identifying “our kin” in a bilateral kinship system.

Therefore, I starting working on the narrower goal of discovering how my ancestors arrived on Indian Ridge. To date, I have only identified ancestors who were of African descent and enslaved and ancestors who were white slaveholding settlers. Therefore, I started with a focus on these two population groups. People with Native American ancestry or a history of descent from free people of color will need to consider different population subgroups.

The Internal Trade in Enslaved Africans and Forced Migration

There are a number of books that helped me to understand the general forced migration patterns of the internal slave trade from the eastern seaboard of the US into the Mississippi Territory.

Pargas, D. A. (2015). Slavery and forced migration in the antebellum South. New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Baptist, E. E. (2014). The half has never been told: Slavery and the making of American capitalism, New York, NY: Basic Books.

Deyle, S. (2006). Carry me back: The domestic slave trade in American life. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press.

Some of the ancestors that I have successfully identified entered the area around the time of the Creek Civil War and the War of 1812. I have already focused on the importance of the Old Federal Road for those who came to my homeplace from or through Georgia.

Hudson, A. P. (2010). Creek paths and federal roads: Indians, settlers, and slaves and the making of the American South. Chapel Hill (C.: University of North Carolina Press.

My childhood fascination with a marker on Old Line Road led me to focus on Andrew Jackson’s line of March from Tennessee to the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson’s line of march demonstrates how those who followed him from Tennessee could have ended up in my homeplace.
Remini, the most widely known of his biographers, mentions that Jackson’s troops widened the roads through the mountains and that some of them were scouting Alabama lands for themselves. This is not the first time in history that “war roads” became settler roads.

The Rivers

One of the reasons that Jackson was so determined to take Alabama from the so called “Creeks” was the richness afforded by its rivers. The borders of my home county are formed by the Alabama river on the east and the Tombigbee on the west. My home place is to be found in the triangle formed by these two rivers before they merge to form the Mobile River. They are a reminder of what it means to be “sold down the river.”

Sledge, J. S. (2015). The Mobile River. Columbia, S.C.: University of Carolina Press.

Ward, R. (2010). The Tombigbee River steamboats: Rollodores, dead heads, and side-wheelers. Charleston, SC: History Press.

While some of my ancestors arrived in the area of my homeplace around the time of the Red Stick War (Creek Civil War) and the War of 1812, others did not arrive until It was possible to travel more easily “up the river” or after October 22, 1820.

October 22: The steamboat Harriet reaches Montgomery after ten days of travel from Mobile. This was the first successful attempt to navigate so far north on the Alabama River, and it opened river trade between Montgomery and Mobile.



Population of Ala

I have reason to believe that these figures represent an important undercount of the African American population The figures do not include those who lived in Alabama as runaways or maroons and they do not include those who lived among Native Americans.

The Maroons

It is possible for ships designed to sail the ocean to go up river, but in the case of the Mobile River, it makes much more sense to not do so. Some of the problems with trying to sail up this river were brought to my attention when I read Sylviane A. Diouf’s Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America.

Reading Dreams of Africa in Alabama is what brought Diouf’s work on marronage in the United States to my attention. This work forced me to wonder why there were few documented cases of long settled maroon communities in the swamps of Alabama. It also reminded me that the campaigns led by Andrew Jackson prevented the British from becoming a choice in the gulf borderlands the way they had in the Chesapeake.

Africans and Native Americans

From the expedition of Hernan de Soto until the present, the relationships between Native Americans and people of African descent in the Southeastern United States have been dynamic and complex. In order to increase my ability to understand that dynamic, I added works published in different time periods by those with diverse theoretical and philosophical orientations.

I added works that deal with the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, as well as Seminole Nations. These groups were once referred to by historians as the “Five Civilized Tribes.”
I think for me the largest “take a ways” were how the concept of slavery and the relationships with people of African descent changed in these groups over time. I know that enslaved Africans used wars among whites as opportunities to steal themselves. I have read about how some of them used this opportunity during the War of 1812.

I now have a better understanding of why my African descended ancestors who came late to the Mississippi Territory could not runaway from enslavement by whites to freedom among Native Americans. By 1860 even the Seminoles who lived in “Indian Country” were holding African descended people as slaves. It is a complex story beyond my current explanatory goals.

Doran, M.F. (1978) Negro Slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes. Annals of the American Association of Geographers , 68(3), 335-350.

Jeltz, W.F. (1978) The Relations of Negroes and Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The Journal of Negro History, 33( 1), 24-37.

Snyder, C. (2007). Conquered Enemies, Adopted Kin, and Owned People: The Creek Indians and Their Captives. The Journal of Southern History, 73( 2), 255-288.

Twyman, B. E. (2001). The Black Seminole legacy and North American politics, 1693-1845. Washington, D.C: Howard University Press.

Krauthamer, B. (2015). Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South. University of North Carolina Press.

Katz, W. L. (2012). Black Indians: A hidden heritage. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Miles, T. (2015). Ties that bind: The story of an Afro-Cherokee family in slavery and freedom. Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Zellar, G. (2007). African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Littlefield, D. F. (1979). Africans and Creeks: From the Colonial period to the Civil War. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Wasserman, A. (2010). A people’s history of Florida, 1513-1876: How Africans, Seminoles, women, and lower class whites shaped the Sunshine State. Sarasota, Fla.: A. Wasserman.

Giddings, J. R. (1858). The exiles of Florida, or, The crimes committed by our government against the maroons, who fled from South Carolina, and other slave states, seeking protection under Spanish laws. Columbus, O: Follett, Foster and Co.

Belko, W. S. (2015). America’s hundred years’ war: U.S. expansion to the Gulf Coast and the fate of the Seminole, 1763-1858.

Guinn, J. (2005). Our land before we die: The proud story of the Seminole Negro. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Penguin.

Frontiers and Borderlands

I admit to becoming fascinated with historians defining and debating the concepts of “frontiers” and “borderlands.” I added a few books that allowed me to look at my homeplace from that perspective.
When I return to the study of Alabama history, I will start with modern text that reflects the changes in models of historiography since I was in school.

Dupre, D. S. (2018). Alabama’s frontiers and the rise of the Old South. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

For the time being, I am reading some science fiction and taking my historical study over into Mississippi.


In 1814 We Took a Little Trip . . . Down the Alabama

I have interrogated biographies of Andrew Jackson. My primary question has been how did Jackson get from Tennessee to New Orleans. This question first troubled me with the 1959 release of Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.”

“In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans”

I sang along with great relish, while recognizing that the historical inaccuracy in the song was a geographical impossibility. I “knew” that Jackson (and his troops) marched into Alabama from Tennessee before heading to New Orleans.

The historical marker that I found as a small child gave me reason to believe that they camped overnight on Old Line Road, near my family’s homeplace on Indian Ridge. I did not know exactly what route they had taken.

In a Chicago classroom, my insistence that Jackson did not reach New Orleans by way of the Mississippi River was considered to be “off topic” and I was warned to “stay on subject.” That meant focusing on the “Indian Wars” and the War of 1812 as they played out in the Illinois Territory and the Great Lakes region. So, I turned my attention back to the Fort Dearborn Massacre and Tecumseh’s War.

The question of Jackson’s route through Alabama resurfaced in March 2018 as I worked on my genealogy and family history. Finally, the Red Stick War and the War of 1812 in South Alabama and along the Gulf coast were central topics in my studies.

I approached the topics like a middle school student. I read biographies of Andrew Jackson and drew a timeline emphasizing his “line of march” through Alabama.

Jackson’s line of March from Tennessee to New Orleans is clearly rendered in Remini’s Andrew Jackson and the Course of the American Empire 1767-1821. That presentation is repeated in Remini’s Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars. 





In addition to biographies of Jackson, I read other books about the Red Stick War and/or the War of 1812. The books that I read focused on how this period in U.S. history played out in the Mississippi Territory, including what was to become Alabama.

In reading these works, as well as uncited reviews of them, I have been exposed to competing theories of history and models of historiography. I have been reminded that knowledge is socially constructed. People in different social positions ask different questions and these inform the possible answers.

In attempting to construct my genealogy, I have identified several ancestors who arrived in Alabama during and just after this time period. This time period has become personally relevant.  The works that I read help me to understand the context of their arrival. This provides a basis for me to better understand my ancestors.

Braund, K. E. H. (2012). Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Jackson, H. H. (2015). Rivers of History: Life on the Coosa, Tallapoosa, Cahaba, and Alabama. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Meacham, J. (2008). American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York, N.Y: Random House.

Remini, R. V. (2001). The Battle of New Orleans. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.

Remini, R. V. (2001). Andrew Jackson and his Indian wars. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.

Remini, R. V. (1998). The Life of Andrew Jackson. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row.

Remini, R. V. (1977) Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row.

Waselkov, Gregory A. (2009). A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

If you use the links above to purchase books from Amazon, I may receive a small commission. This would not increase your price and would help defray my costs. 

In the meanwhile sing along with Johnny Horton while trying to replacing the Mississipp’ with “Coosa and Alabama.”

The Old Federal Road in Alabama Has Been Surveyed

In an earlier post I mentioned the importance of the Old Federal Road in the settling of Indian Ridge: The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking. After the Louisiana Purchase, the road was built to speed the delivery of mail between New Orleans and Washington.

The road became a major route for people who decided to settle in Alabama, often on Creek lands. This encroachment led to the Red Stick War 1813-1814. The road was a major military road during the War of 1812. However, by 1860 the road, a major link to our history, was gone (

A Driving Guide is Forthcoming

The story of the Old Federal Road in Alabama is still being told. Yesterday one of my cousins asked about the path of the Old Federal Road because of a highway marker she had seen. That marker may be the result of efforts to position the Old Federal Road (at least those parts of it on public land) as a tourist attraction.


Archeologists from the University of South Alabama have surveyed the 250 miles of this first interstate highway into and through Alabama. The public version of their 300+ page report is available here.


The survey was designed to uncover the precise ground location of Old Federal Road, which was still unknown when a collaborative effort produced the interactive website housed at Auburn University.

The Old Federal Road in Alabama

The archeologists were able to pinpoint the location of a number of historic sites. They are expected to produce a guidebook that can help tourists with an interest in history drive to these sites.

I look forward to the publication and promotion of a guidebook for driving tours of the Old Federal Road in Alabama. The guidebook will be supported by other  projects designed to enhance economic development in counties near the Old Federal Road in Alabama.

Eleven Projects Selected for Extension’s nOld Federal Road Rural Development Initiative

I am still trying to understand why the Old Federal Road fell into disuse. I think the report from the USA faculty will make a contribution to my understanding along with the other books that I am studying.

Hudson, A. P. (2010). Creek paths and federal roads: Indians, settlers, and slaves and the making of the American South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Southerland, Henry deLeon., Brown,Jerry Elijah,,. (1989). The federal road through georgia, the creek nation, and alabama, 1806-1836.


I am already annoyed that the report does not mention Clarke County and Suggsville.

What Does “Our Ancestors” Mean in a Bilateral Kinship System

Ours is a bilateral kinship system in which we reckon our descent through both our mother’s side (maternal) and our father’s side (paternal). In the study of comparative family systems, the group formed through this pattern of descent is referred to as a “kindred.” Kindreds have several characteristics that distinguish them from the kin groups formed in unilineal or bilineal descent systems (

A kindred is a group of relatives who are linked together by a single individual who can trace descent and/or marriage relationships to every other member. Our kindreds typically include spouses and in laws (affine) as well as those to whom we are related by blood (consanguine). Clans do not include spouses or in laws.

The concept of a kindred captures the essence of the group we are attempting to identify when we consider DNA contributed by both parents and look for our DNA cousins on both sides and down multiple lines. Understanding that bilateral kinship systems lead to the formation of kindreds rather than clans also helps to explain why need to search for our ancestors. During the search process it is important to remember that our cousins only share some ancestors with us.

Our kindreds are unique, idiosyncratic, and personal. For example, even though my mother has three children, I am my father’s only child. This means that while I share some of my ancestors with many people, my complete list of ancestors, as well as my kindred, is unique to me. I am the only individual who is linked to every other member of my kindred by descent and/or marriage. I do not share all my ancestors with any other person.

My daughter has both a kindred and a set of ancestors that are not identical to mine. My sister has a kindred and set of ancestors that are not identical to mine. There is not a single person on the planet with whom I share a single set of ancestors. Being the only child of my parents makes me an extreme case. It is only full siblings that have a common set of ancestors. Cousins  only share some ancestors. For that reason, I find that in some discussions the concept of “our ancestors” is ambiguous.

I have been given an assignment that includes the concept and I am not sure what it means. I need concept clarification. What exactly do people in our bilateral kinship system mean when they say, “Our ancestors.” To what group are they referring? Are they referring to the relatives that we do have in common? Are they using the term as a rhetorical tool with no actual referent? In discussions of genealogy and family history the concept of “our ancestors” needs clarification.


The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking


Last week I was asked an interesting question. “When was Indian Ridge founded?” I do not have a simple answer, at least partially because I don’t think that it was ever founded. Therefore, I set out to answer a different question. When did European and African descended people first settle on Indian Ridge? Once again, I have no simple straightforward answer.

In my attempt to arrive at an answer, I looked at several types of information. I looked at the original and updated federal surveys of the area. I looked at the dates that the first land patents were granted. I looked at the dates when nearby towns were founded. Finally, I looked at different versions of how Old Line Road came to be the boundary separating the land of the Choctaw from the land of the Creek. My references do not all agree and some of them are questionable. Therefore the purpose of this post is to start a conversation with those who have a better handle on the history of the area. Please offer corrections where my efforts go wrong.

Indian Ridge is located in Clarke County, Alabama. The current post office for Indian Ridge is Whatley, Alabama. Whatley appears to have been founded in 1897 ( This would be decades, if not entire centuries, after the first European and African descended people entered the area.

An earlier post office was located in Suggsville, Alabama which “is an unincorporated community in Clarke County, Alabama. It was laid out as a town in 1819 at the crossing of the Old Line Road and Federal Road (,_Alabama).” Old Line Road is a central feature of Indian Ridge. 

This date is consistent with the 1820 date that the Bureau of Land Management gives for the sale of land that I would now consider to be part of Indian Ridge ( It is the St Stephens Meridian Township 8N Range 4E.

Search Results – BLM GLO Records

The original survey maps available from the Bureau of Land Management indicate that the survey of the area was completed in 1811. THESE FILES ARE VERY LARGE AND YOU WILL NEED TO BE PATIENT IN ORDER FOR THEM TO LOAD.



However, there were European squatters at Choctaw Corner by 1802-1803. It is quite likely – highly probable – that these squatters were accompanied by enslaved people of African descent.The presence of these squatters played a role in triggering the Creek War, also known as the Red Stick War. The dates of this War overlap those of with the War of 1812 at least partially because of the Red Stick Creek alliance with the British.


As a student living in other states, I was never required to learn much about the Creek or the Choctaw. I was definitely under the impression that African descended people did not reach that part of the Mississippi Territory that became my home until after the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In retrospect, I clearly did not give the issues the consideration they deserved.

I am now reading both early and contemporary histories of this area. My adult mind notices that African descended people are not mentioned in the early works and recognizes it to be an inaccurate presentation of history. My child mind was unsure. It sometimes thought that it was an inaccurate presentation and sometimes it concluded that the absence of African descended people from the discussion was a real historical absence. This is ironic because as a small child I was so fascinated by the Old Line Road historical marker that I learned to spell Andrew Jackson, Choctaw, and Creek before I learned to spell Creighton.

I found a marker provided by the DAR in 1938. It triggered a flood of questions that subsided once I moved out of the state.

Captain Andrew Jackson passed near the site of this marker on the Old Line Road north of U.S. 84. He and his troops rested here for the night in 1813. The marker was erected by Clarke Co. D.A.R.

There is a more recent marker (And Yes, I post both markers over and over again)

Old Line Road marker is located at the intersection of U.S. 84 and the Old Line Road, three miles east of Whatley. The road follows the watershed between the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers and ends at Choctaw Corner; it was the dividing line between the Creek and Choctaw Indian lands as established about 1808. The marker was erected in 1978 by the Clarke County Historical Society.

There are some interesting stories about how Old Line Road became the boundary between the Choctaw and the Creek. The one repeated most often is that it was decided in 1808 by the outcome of two ballgames, one played by the men and one played by the women and both won by the Choctaw.

The initial Old Line was simply a trail. The Federal Road started out as a narrow one horse track for postal riders. By 1811, however, it was a road built from West to East, promoting travel in both directions, and migration largely from East to West. I am not claiming that all who came to Clarke County or to Indian Ridge were connected with the Federal Road. I am saying that its intersection with Old Line Road should probably not be ignored.

The chances are good that all who trace their ancestry to anywhere in Alabama south of the Tennessee Valley have a forebear who came over the Federal Road. During its period of maximum use, when “Alabama fever” was epidemic in the Carolinas and Georgia, the population of the territory (later, the state) increased by over half a million (Southerns and Brown, 1989, p.2)

I “suspect” that migrants might have started squatting on Indian Ridge in the early 1800s. The federal survey was completed in 1811. I have not been able to find any notes from the surveyors suggesting that they found settlers in the area. We know that the increasing size of the settler population coming over the Federal Road played a part in starting the Red Stick War which included battles close to Indian Ridge:between the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. By 1819 the nearby population was large enough for Suggsville to be laid out as a town. By 1820 settlers were definitely buying land on Indian Ridge from the federal government.


Ball, T. H.,. (1994). A glance into the great south-east = or, clarke county, alabama, and its surroundings, from 1540 to 1877. [Place of publication not identified]: Clarke County Historical Society.

Graham,John Simpson,,. (2012). History of clarke county. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books.

Hudson, A. P. (2010). Creek paths and federal roads: Indians, settlers, and slaves and the making of the American South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Southerland, Henry deLeon., Brown,Jerry Elijah,,. (1989). The federal road through georgia, the creek nation, and alabama, 1806-1836.