As the 1700s drew to a close, there was no real land route connecting "Washington City" and the rest of the east coast with New Orleans. Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road could get you to Nashville, but that was the end of the line. In 1801 President Thomas Jefferson sent units of the U.S. Army to develop the Natchez Trace into a road he wanted to call the "Columbian Highway". The Trace allowed mail delivery and an established route for extremely adventurous souls, but it was long and treacherous. Jefferson obtained permission from the Creek Nation to build a "horse path" through their territory in 1805, and he saw that as an opportunity to build another road.
Several attempts were made to blaze and survey the horse path, and on November 30, 1811 two groups from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment met in what is now southern Montgomery County, completing the Old Federal Road. The next six months saw nearly 4,000 "immigrants" travel the Road looking for new land and opportunities. The Red Stick religious movement was already underway in the Creek Nation, and when that movement turned to violence the Road became a war path. General Andrew Jackson ended the Creek War at the Battle of Horsheshoe Bend, and the subsequent Treaty of Fort Jackson on August 9, 1814 restarted the big land rush. The next five years of rapid influx and population rise would come to be known as "Alabama Fever".
The next photo shows the marker that was placed near the location of the spot where the trailblazers met and the Road was completed in 1811. The reverse side is dedicated to nearby Manac's Tavern, but that will be the subject of our next post. You can read the text of the marker below in the photo or in the subsequent quote.
There's a much older marker about two miles west, placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1932. I've included photos of that marker and its surroundings next.
My goal in this post was to cover the basic concept of the Old Federal Road. If you're interested in further reading, there's some great stuff at this website maintained by Auburn University-Montgomery, or if you're really adventurous you can dig into the original report that led to creation of that website. My next post (or two) will focus on some of the specific locations in the Montgomery area that played a big part in the existence of the Road.