Wetumpka

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.

Wetumpka stone historical marker side 1, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

The land area which now comprises the city of Wetumpka was inhabited by various Indian cultures prior to the inward migration of the white man, at the turn of the 19th century. The largest Indian village near here was located on the east bank of the Coosa River one mile south of this point. This village was known as “Oche-au-po-fau” (Hickory Ground) and was composed mainly of Muscogees. After the 1814 surrender of the Creek Confederacy at Fort Toulouse, there came an influx of settlers to this fertile land, many bringing slaves.

The U.S. Government surveyed the future town site in 1831. A major part of the site east of the river was still Indian territory, but was ceded to the U.S. by the Cusseta Treaty of 1832. That year lots were auctioned to the public. By late 1836, all remaining Indians had been moved to reservations in Oklahoma.

In 1834, the state legislature chartered the town of Wetumpka which was on both sides of the river. The west side was in Autauga County and the east side north of the former Indian boundary line, which ran easterly from the falls, was in Coosa County. The east side south of the Indian boundary line was in Montgomery County, but this latter portion was transferred to Coosa County in 1837.

Wetumpka stone historical marker side 2, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

The name ‘Wetumpka’ was taken from the Indian words ‘we-wau’ (water) and ‘tum-cau’ (rumbling or sounding), in reference to the noise made by the rocky shoals of the river.

In 1837. the legislature divided the town and incorporated the area on the west side of the river as West Wetumpka. In 1939, the two towns were reunited by the legislature as one city known as the City of Wetumpka. That same year, Wetumpka was chosen as the site for the first state prison.

After the destruction of a prior bridge by flooding, a student, covered bridge was constructed in 1844 by the famous builder, Horace King, a former slave who had been freed by the legislature the preceding year. This covered bridge was located on the same site as the Bibb Graves Bridge. This covered bridge was swept away in the Great Flood of 1886, the same flood which altered the course of the Tallapoosa River and formed Parker’s Island.
— Marker erected by BSA Troop 52

Elmore County Courthouse, site of the Wetumpka stone historical marker, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

 

Kowaliga Cabin

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".

Hank Williams Cabin, Children's Harbor, Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama

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.

Kowaliga Cabin historical marker, Children's Harbor, Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama

Kowaliga Cabin historical marker setting, Children's Harbor, Eclectic, Elmore County, Alabama

The Hank Williams Kowaliga Cabin
1952

At this site stands the cabin where country music legend Hank Williams composed he song “Kaw-liga” in August, 1952. The song’s title was derived from the name of a Creek Indian town located on the banks of the Kowaliga Creek until 1836.
Hank’s September 23, 1952 recording of “Kaw-liga” reached number one on the country music charts in 1952 and has since been recorded by numerous country and popular music artists.
Built in 1946 by Darwin and Neil Dobbs, the cabin was restored to its original condition in 2001 by Russell Lands, Inc. as a tribute to Hanks Williams and his music.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2002
 

Tukabatchee

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.

Old Tukabahchi marker, Tallassee, Elmore County, Alabama

This stone placed at the Great Council Tree marks the site of Tukabahchi 1686-1836

Capital of the Upper Creek Indian Nation. Here were born Efau Haujo, great medal chief, and Opothleyaholo, Creek leaders. Big Warrior resided nearby. Here came Tecumseh in 1811 to arouse the natives against the white settlers and was successfully opposed by Col. Benjamin Hawkins, principal agent for Indian Affairs south of the Ohio River. Here in 1823 Lee Compere established a Baptist mission school.
— Placed May 13, 1929 by the Alabama Anthropological Society

Old Tukabahchi marker in from of City Hall, Tallassee, Elmore County, Alabama

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.

Tukabatchee historical marker, Elmore County, Alabama

Tukabatchee

On this bend of the Tallapoosa River, stretching out before you, lay one of the ancient towns of the Muscogee Creek People, called Tukabatchee. Tukabatchee is one of the original four mother towns of the old Creek Confederacy. Tukabatchee served as one of the Creek Confederacy capitals in the Upper Creek region on the Tallapoosa River. In the fall of 1811, Tecumseh of Creek and Shawnee ancestry came here to his mother’s town to persuade the Nation’s warriors to adopt his ideas of rejection of the presence of American intruders and return to traditional ways. Tecumseh’s visit to Tukabatchee represents the beginning of a series of events that resulted in the Creek War. Tecumseh addressed the nation gathered here and gave his war speech where he persuaded some Upper Creek warriors to take the war walk against the intruders. The Creek Confederacy was not totally unified in this nativistic movement which led to the Creeks fighting each other causing the Creek Civil War of 1813-1814.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2011

Tukabatcee historical marker reverse side written in Muskogee, Elmore County, Alabama

Setting of the Tukabatchee historical marker, looking in the direction of the former town, Elmore County, Alabama

 

Wetumpka Impact Crater

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?

Image courtesy of Auburn University

If your imagination needs a little nudge, here's another view, with the ridges around the crater highlighted.

Image courtesy of the Wetumpka Chamber of Commerce

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.

Now when one considers that the Mooreville Chalk sets in ... this range of hills ... these outlying tracts become difficult to explain except upon the supposition of a depression of several hundred feet, the whole thickness of the Eutaw strata
— Eugene Allen Smith - Report of the State Geologist, p. 552

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.

As recently as 1950 most astronomers believed that the lunar craters were giant volcanos, and all but a few geologists derided the idea that the Earth’s surface has been scarred by impact structures kilometers in diameter. A similar lack of appreciation led the eminent geologist G.K. Gilbert in 1896 to reject impact as the process that created Meteor Crater, Arizona. Impact cratering has risen from complete obscurity to become one off the most fundamental geologic processes. One meteoriticist has even suggested that future historians will accord the recognition of impact cratering as equal importance with the development of plate tectonics.
— H.J. Melosh, Impact Cratering: A Geologic Process

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.

Wetumpka Impact Crater historical marker, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

Wetumpka Impact Crater

The ridges located here are the remnants of a six-mile diameter circular feature created some 85 million years ago by an estimated 1,000-foot diameter asteroid. The area at the time of impact was a shallow sea. The ridges consist of a variety of metamorphic rocks and surround a central area comprised of large jumbled blocks of younger geologic strata. Drilling in the central area of the crater recovered fragments of rocks showing characteristic mineral alteration only associated with impact structures. The structure, although known for more than a century, was first identified as an impact crater in the 1970s.
— Alabama Historical Association - 2002

Reverse of the Wetumpka Impact Crater historical marker, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

Site of the Wetumpka Impact Crater historical Marker, U.S. 231, Wetumpka, Elmore County, Alabama

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.