I don't have much to add in today's post. Keep reading to see the transcription of the large stone historical marker standing on the grounds of the Elmore County Courthouse in Wetumpka, which gives a pretty thorough overview of the town's past and founding.
As we've discussed in a previous post, country music legend Hank Williams was born in Alabama, and spent the majority of his short life here. In September 1952 he was staying in a cabin on Lake Martin and writing songs. One of the local place names was Kowaliga, named after a former Creek town. There was also a life-size wooden carving of an Indian near the lake that locals called Kowaliga, and the statue inspired Williams to write one of the last songs of his career, "Kaw-Liga".
The story names the statue Kaw-Liga, and has him falling in love with another statue of an Indian maiden in the local antique store. "Kaw-Liga" was recorded during the last recording session of Williams' life, at Castle Studio in Nashville, Tennessee on September 23, 1952. That sessions also produced "I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You", "Take These Chains From My Heart", and "Your Cheatin' Heart". While "Your Cheatin' Heart" is now widely considered Williams' masterpiece, it was actually released as the B-side to "Kaw-liga", which was Williams' first posthumously-released single. "Kaw-liga" also spent 14 weeks at number one on the country charts, compared to only 6 weeks for "Your Cheatin' Heart".
In 1990, the area around the cabin was dedicated as the Lake Martin campus of Children's Harbor. If you're not already familiar, click the link and check out their website. Children's Harbor is a great non-profit that was set up to provide a recreation area for long-term seriously ill children and their families. In 2001 they restored the old cabin, but more importantly opened a second facility at the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children in Birmingham, Alabama.
The historical marker dedicated to the cabin, along with a transcription of the text and a map showing the location of the marker, are included below. The actual cabin is inside the entrance to Children's Harbor.
Located on a pronounced eastward bend in the Tallapoosa River about 20 miles east of downtown Montgomery, Tukabatchee was once the major Creek town in what has now become southern Alabama. One legend says Tukabatchee is the birthplace of the Green Corn Ceremony, a harvest ritual practiced throughout Creek and Seminole society. Tustanagee Thlucco (Big Warrior), principal chief of the Upper Creeks in the early 1800s, lived in Tukabatchee until his death in 1826. Opothleyahola (Good Shouting Child) was born in Tukabatchee in 1798, and eventually rose to the position of Speaker of the Chiefs. But Tukabatchee is most remembered for a famous visit.
Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa came to Tukabatchee in 1811 to convince the Creek Nation to join their pan-tribal campaign against encroaching European society. Tecumseh's ideas met with some support, but the combination of Big Warrior and Benjamin Hawkins, Indian Affairs agent, was successful in keeping the Creek Nation out of Tecumseh's machinations. Tukabatchee remained a thriving town until the Treaty of Cusseta ceded all Creek lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government.
In 1929, the Alabama Anthropological Society commissioned a plaque to mark the spot of what they called Tukabahchi. That stone can be seen below. It current sits in from of City Hall in Tallassee, but presumably it was originally placed much closer to the actual site of the town.
The Alabama Historical Association placed a modern marker honoring Tukabatchee just west of its home bend in the Tallapoosa in 2011. The reverse side of the marker contains the exact same message as the front, but this time written in Muskogee.
This post is going back. Way, way back. 83 million years back, by some estimates. You may have already guessed from the title of the post, but if not I'm going to go ahead and spill the beans. There's a huge crater just east of downtown Wetumpka. It's really, really big. The crater is almost five miles across, it was created in the late Cretaceous period, and best estimates put the object that crashed at about 1000 feet wide. Don't believe me? Check out these maps.
First, we have a normal topographical map of the area. Can you make out the crater?
If your imagination needs a little nudge, here's another view, with the ridges around the crater highlighted.
People have noticed that something weird was happening in Wetumpka, geologically speaking, for nearly 150 years. In 1891, University of Alabama professor Eugene Allen Smith was the first to note the abnormalities.
It would be almost a century before anyone even considered the possibility that the abnormalities near Wetumpka could be explained by an impact event. H.J. Melosh wrote the first major work on impact cratering in 1989, and the following excerpt from the preface helps explain why that was the case.
A team of geologists, led by Thornton L. Neatherly, visited the site in 1969, and they were the first to hypothesize that the structure was the result of a meteorite impact. They published a paper in 1976 where they dubbed it the "Wetumpka Astrobleme", astrobleme being Greek for "star wound". Another team led by Neatherly finally had the opportunity to prove the hypothesis in 1998, when they drilled 630 feet into the center of the crater. Their findings were published in 1999, and the report showed that the samples of iridium and shocked quartz proved the impact theory. The historical marker was erected three years later.
Unfortunately, I spent several hours on two separate occasions looking for a spot to take a photo that really conveyed the size and existence of the crater, but I came away empty handed. The crater is huge, and the entire structure is covered by trees on all sides, so it really just looks like hills. I suspect that there are a few backyards up on those ridges that might have excellent vistas where you can get a real sense of the circular feature, but I wasn't willing to trespass to find out. If you know anyone who owns property with that kind of view, let me know and we'll re-visit the topic.