The Paths of Our Ancestors to South Alabama
By Larry E. Jordan

There were many decisions that the founding fathers of our country made that significantly changed the course of history for our great county. We have the advantage of 200 years of history that gives us a wealth of knowledge against which we can judge the quality of those decisions. However, we do not have to use much of that knowledge to realize that we would not be who we are today or perhaps even exist if they had not made them.

Before Thomas Jefferson persuaded Congress to negotiate a treaty with Napoleon Bonaparte and purchase the Louisiana Territory in 1803,  the land that is now in Covington County was entirely occupied by Lower Creek Indians. There were French, Spanish and British traders living in what is now Alabama, but few of them came through this area. Their focus was further north. The French created this focus by building Fort Toulouse. The site they chose was near the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers on the Lower Creek Trading Path. The traffic created by that fort and the movement of the Spanish and British in their efforts to thwart the power and influence of the French turned many Indian trails in Alabama into migration routes for white men. These migration paths eventually transported the first white settlers to Covington County and gave them the opportunity to be our ancestors.

Between the construction of Fort Toulouse in 1714 and the arrival of our first ancestors to this area around 1818, our founding fathers made the two critical decisions that enabled that settlement.  They decided to make the Louisiana Purchase and to improve mail transportation between Washington City and New Orleans through the land acquired in that purchase. By 1805, there were two ways to get to New Orleans by land from Washington City. You could travel southwest down the Great Valley Road through Virginia and North Carolina to Nashville where you could pick up the Natchez Trace that led to New Orleans. You could also depart from the Great Valley Road at Salem, VA and travel southwest along a Postal Horse Path through Georgia and on to Fort Toulouse in the newly-created Mississippi Territory. From there you could continue your southward trek to New Orleans.

The problem with these two routes was the time it took mail to get through. The Postal Horse Path was 320 miles shorter than the route through the Natchez trace, but the condition of the path and the presence of hostile Creek Indians along the route made it a poor alternative. In 1805, Congress chose to fund the construction of the Federal Road to replace the Postal Horse Path so they could reduce mail transport time by 10 days. The politicians and business folks in Washington City and New Orleans were driven by a motivation that still exists today -- the need for speed. Satisfying that need would take six years and would precipitate the War of 1812, but it provided the path by which many families sought greener pastures and cheaper land in Alabama.

A series of Indian trails called the Pensacola Trading Path was the first migration route from the Federal Road to Covington County. Beginning near the Indian village of Tuckabatchie east of the present location of Montgomery, this path ran southwest near the present location of Troy and through Covington County on its way to Pensacola. Many Creek Indians used this path to transport goods for trade and to escape to Pensacola after raids on white settlers before their removal to Oklahoma. Eventually a branch of the path on the east side of Conecuh River became the Three Notch Road. Main roads in Andalusia and Troy got their names from this pre-1830 Indian trail.

By 1819, an east-west military road from Fort Gaines in Georgia to Fort Crawford in southwest Alabama also provided a migration route across the area that became Covington County. This Gaines Military Road provided access to the Montezuma settlement on the Conecuh River that later became Andalusia. County Road 32 now follows the same route from Onycha on Highway 331 through the Blue Springs Community and connects with Highway 55 south of Andalusia. Both the early military road and the later county road have played a major part in the lives of many residents of Covington County. I was born in 1947 on a farm located near this road.

Completing the matrix of roads and paths that have since become the main roads through Covington County was another Indian trail that connected Lake Jackson with the Pensacola Trading Path between the present locations of Rose Hill and Brantley. This path followed the north-south ridge line between the Yellow and Pea Rivers. By the time the township of Andalusia was surveyed in 1846 and 1847, this path had emerged as a major wagon road and provided access to southeastern Covington County. When my mother was six years old that same road was paved and became Highway 331, erasing forever the remains of the path the Indians no doubt traveled for centuries.

Our forefathers were visionaries. They made decisions that enabled this country to become a great place to live. They also made decisions that resulted in the migration of my ancestors to Covington County. If not for those decisions, the people who became my ancestors would probably never have met.

Supporting documentation: Early History of Covington County, Alabama 1821-1871 by Wyley Donald Ward; The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836 by Henry DeLeon Southerland, Jr. And Jerry Elijah Brown; Alabama, The History of a Deep South State by William Warren Rogers, Robert David Ward, Leah Rawls Atkins and Wayne Flynt; Covington County public records; Jordan family records.