by Dan Fulenwider
The Black Warriors' Path, shown on several early maps,
recorded historically by General John Coffee, and written
about and traveled by the famous frontiersman Davy Crockett,
is an important part of the history of present-day Cullman
An ancient Indian trail, the Black Warriors' Path began
at Melton's Bluff, located at the head of Elk River Shoals
on the south bank of the Tennessee
River near Florence, Alabama. Melton's Bluff was the first town established
in present-day Lawrence County. It was laid out by General Andrew Jackson,
who owned land there and served as the county seat while Alabama was a territory.
Melton's Bluff was named for John Melton, an Irishman who married a Cherokee
Indian girl and settled among the Cherokees.
In her "Letters From Alabama", Anne Newport Royall told of her stay
in Melton's Bluff in January of 1818.
"...with the assistance
of the Indians, he (John Melton) used to rob the
boats which passed
down the river,
and murder the crews. By these means he became
immensely rich; owned a great number of slaves; most of whom he robbed
from these boats."
According to Royall, the bluffs
at Melton's Bluff were:
"the highest I
have ever seen. Here is a very large plantation ... worked by about
sixty slaves owned by General Andrew Jackson ...
can convey an idea of the beauties
of Melton's Bluff. It is said to be the handsomest spot in the world,
off the seaboard; and rich as it is beautiful."
Royall also described seeing General Andrew Jackson at
was dressed in a blue frock coat, with epaulettes, a common hat with
a black cockade, and a sword by his side. He is very
tall and slender."
to early documents, several military crossings took place at Melton's
Bluff during the Creek Indian War.
Leaving Melton's Bluff, the Black Warriors' Path traveled
southeast through present-day Lawrence County, proceeding
east of Courtland,
Oakville Indian Mound, just west of Oakville, and entered present-day
County west of the Battleground Community.
In Cullman County, the old Indian trail traveled through
Battleground, just west of West Point, through Spring
Hill, Grandview, Dodge City,
the county near Arkadelphia at the old Baltimore Ford, on the Mulberry
Fork of the Black Warrior River.
Several historic events took place on the Black Warriors'
Path in Cullman County. In 1813, Creek Indians massacred
several hundred pioneers at
Fort Mims, near
Tensaw, in south Alabama. As a result, General Andrew Jackson marched
into Alabama with an army of men to fight what became known as the
War. In October of 1813, General Jackson, while camped south of Huntsville,
Alabama, dispatched Colonel John Coffee and 800 men to hunt for a war
party of Creek Indians, Once of Colonel Coffee's men was the famous
frontiersman Davy Crockett.
Colonel Coffee and Crockett crossed the Tennessee River
to the north of Ditto's Landing, located south of Huntsville,
and traveled to the
of Elk River
Shoals. In his report to General Jackson, Colonel Coffee wrote:
to cross the river at the upper end of the shoals, all my efforts
failed to produce a pilot. I took with me one of John
Melton's sons, who said he knew
not the road, he showed me a path that had been reputed the Black
Davy Crockett wrote that while crossing the Tennessee River
at Melton's Bluff, several of the horses became stuck
in the rocky crevices and
had to be left
there while the military command moved on to their destination.
Coffee and Crockett and the 800 Tennessee Volunteers marched
down the old Indian trail through present-day Cullman
County, crossed the Mulberry
Black Warrior River at what became known as the old Baltimore Ford,
then turned west on another Indian trail known as the Black Warrior
This trail led
to a large Creek Indian village known as Black Warrior Town, located
at the confluence of the Sipsey River and the Mulberry Fork. Arriving
Town, Coffee's men pillaged and burned the village after finding it
deserted. Taking the Creeks' corn, dried beef and beans, Coffee and
up the Black Warrior Road through Blount Springs, Bangor, Bear Meat
Cabin (Blountsville), and Summit to General Jackson's camp at Warrenton,
Gunter's Landing (Guntersville).
During this expedition, Colonel Coffee's men carried few supplies and
did not manage to forage very well. Davy Crockett often provided his
Tennessee Volunteers food with his backwoods tracking skills and his
After the construction of Fort Mitchell in 1811 on the
Chattahoochee River in present-day Russell County, Alabama,
the Black Warriors' Path
known as Mitchell Trace. The old trail became a post road connecting
a Cherokee/Chickasaw Indian outpost located near the forks of Elk River
and the Tennessee River in Limestone County, to Fort Mitchell, a Creek
Fort Mitchell was named after David Brady Mitchell, an Indian agent.
After General Andrew Jackson's army defeated the Creek
Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (near present-day
Alexander City, Alabama),
ceded their land to the United States at the Treaty of Fort Jackson
Fort Mitchell played a major role during the final days
of the Creek Indian Removal during the 1830s. By 1835,
many Creek Indians had been
west or were in he process of being removed from Alabama. The Cherokee "Trail
of Tears" took place in 1838-39. The Choctaw and Chickasaw also faced
removal to the west. In December of 1835, a detachment of Creek Indians traveled
from south Alabama up the old Black Warriors' Path through present-day Cullman
County during the Creek Indian removal. Led by Lieutenant Edward Deas, the
Creeks traveled twelve miles a day, from Wetumpka to Tuscumbia, where they
were put on boats to continue the trip west. In September of 1836, another
party of Creek Indians followed the Black Warriors' Path through present-day
Cullman County during removal.
Later, on April 30, 1863, the Civil War troops of Confederate
General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union Colonel Abel
D. Streight followed
the old Black
Warriors' Path through the county and fought two major battles on
the trail in what is
now Cullman County, during the Forrest-Streight Raid.
The Black Warriors' Path/Mitchell Trace was the most
historic road to pass through Cullman County.
The Black Warriors' Path intersected with another major
Indian trail, the High Town Path, at the Battleground
Community in Cullman
went from Chickasaw Bluffs (Memphis, Tennessee) to Charles Town
(Charleston, South Carolina). The trail was named for an Indian
High Town, located at present-day Rome, Georgia. This trail followed
Old Corn Road
and old 31 Highway through Cullman County. The High Town Path,
shown on early maps, was one of the most famous Indian trails
in the Southeastern
States. The trail was 1,000 miles long and completely crossed
the Southeastern United
States in an east-west direction.
In the Turkey Town Treaty of 1816, which ceded land from both
the Chickasaws and the Cherokees, the High Town Path was used
for the land cession of both Indian nations. Turkey Town was
located just northeast
of present-day Gadsden, Alabama.
Early settlers moving into present-day Cullman and surrounding
counties from east Tennessee and north Georgia often traveled
the High Town
Path into the
These two Indian trails were heavily used for centuries by
Indians in prehistoric times and were later used as hunting
routes. Today, parts of
the old trails are paved and are still in use in Cullman County.
Many residents who live along the old trails are unaware of
what took place
on the roads
front of their homes during those long ago days .