Below is the monument about Lafayette’s visit at Claiborne, Alabama in 1825 (Carol Highsmith 2010 Library of Congress)
Today, Claiborne is a ghost town on a bluff high above the Alabama River in Monroe County, Alabama, but in the early 1800s, it was a busy place.
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(Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Fort Claiborne was used to invade the Creek Nation
“During the Creek War a large stockade fort, named Fort Claiborne, was established at the site by General Ferdinand L. Claiborne. He used the fort as a base for the invasion of the Creek nation with the Regular Army of the United States, the Lower Tombigbee Militia, and friendly Choctaw. The community of Claiborne began in 1816, on the former fort site.
Claiborne became a fast growing community
“Following the Revolutionary war Claiborne became one of the largest and fastest growing communities in what would become Alabama. Early settlers included three future Alabama governors: John Gayle, John Murphy, and Arthur P. Bagby. William B. Travis, a hero of the Alamo, lived in Claiborne for many years before leaving for Texas in 1831. Other prominent politicians included James Dellet and Charles Tait.” James Dellet’s house is the only original residence remaining in Claiborne.
Deer’s Store in Claiborne, Alabama was built in 1850. The post office was in the building for over three quarters of a century.
Lafayette visited in April 1825
Marquis de Lafayette visited Claiborne in April 1825 during his famous tour of all 24 US states. He was entertained in the newly built masonic hall, a building which, along with the William B. Travis house, still exists but was later moved to the nearby community of Perdue Hill.
Disease Stemmed the town’s growth
Outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera stemmed growth and after the Civil War, the town quickly lost importance in the new economy. By 2008 the site contained only the James Dellet House and three 19th century cemeteries.
Sketch of Fort Claiborne
Note at top of transcribed article below in The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 02, Summer Issue 1957 — Mr. Wyman was living at “Fort Claihorne in 1817, and may be accepted as Alabama s first historian. He compiled an historical sketch of the new State just before he moved, in 1820, to Montgomery. Dr. William S. Wyman, the distinguished historian, long time at the University, was a grandson.
transcribed Sketch by JUSTUS WYMAN
Fort Claiborne is situated at the head of schooner navigation on the Alabama River, about 130 miles from Blakely by water, and 180 by land.
Town stands on a bluff
The town stands on a high bluff of land called the Alabama Heights, about 180 feet above the level of the river. The first settlement commenced in this town towards the close of the year 1816; since that time it has increased with a rapidity scarcely paralleled. The whole number of inhabitants which one year ago did not exceed 800, is now rising of 2,000.Steamboat John Quill at Deer’s Landing in Claiborne, Alabama by Stanley Paulger ca. 1920s (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
In point of health and commercial advantages, Ft. Claiborne, as an inland town, stands unrivaled, and little doubt can be entertained of its being eventually one of the first commercial and political places in the territory. There is a claim laid upon the site of this town, by Wetherford (sic), a half-breed Indian, which has prevented settlers from making any permanent or expensive establishments. The houses are merely of a temporary nature, built of logs, and put up for present use only.
It is generally believed that this claim is valid, and that he will recover the place. Should this be the case, government will probably purchase it of him, as he will not hold in fee simple, but by a special act of Congress, will be permitted to sell to government, and to no one else. If he should recover the claim, and government should not make the purchase, the settlement will probably be broken up, which will be a very serious injury to the country.
Below is a photo of the Lower Warehouse” in Claiborne, Alabama, This is not the original building as the warehouse burned several times. On the other side of the building, 365 steps lead down to the boat landing on the river. Ida Henderson’s name is on the back of photo, but her connection is unclear (Alabama State Archives)
1814 FIRST ALABAMA RIVER SURVEY
By HOWELL TATUM
—So. 60 Wt. 20 ch To Fort Claibourne situated on a high pine bluff of 150 feet perpendicular, on the left side the river—A rich bottom to the right and a spring under the Fort in the river bank to the left.
West 30 ch—Bluff continues, lower but still poor & piny—rich bottom on the right.
No. 55 Wt. 60 ch—Bluff decreasing & piny—rich bottom on the right & largely improved.—landed on the left at John Weatherford’s ferry, at the end of the bluff at 45 minutes after 3 o’clock P.M. & encamped at 41 m. 20 ch.
Notei-The road of communication between Fort St. Stephens & Milledgeville in Georgia crosses the Alabama at this ferry, the property of a friendly Creek Indian, brother to the noted chief who was a principal leader in the destruction of Fort Mimms.
The bluff on which the Fort is situated is called the Alabama heights. It overlooks an extensive, valuable bottom on the right bank, which is said to be backed with a bluff of high pine lands from the foot of which run many fine springs that will prove of great uttility in the future settlement of this part of the country-above this place lies large and extensive bodies of prime bottom, and, as is said, high lands—the situation & water good & healthy of course will become a valuable acquisition to the United States. It is by lands from 20 to 30 miles above Fort Mimms & 50 miles above Fort Stoddard and 90 to 100 above Mobile.
Fort Claibourne is a strong built Stockade Fort nearly a square on the centre of three squares are built Blockhouses which have the effect Salient Angles, the outer ends of which are shaped so as to have the face of Bastions in defence (sic) there is also one of them in the line of an irregular off set in the work, made to avoid including part of a ravine.
Proceeded at 40 minutes after 10 o’clock A.M.
No 60 Wt. 30 ch-Weatherfords Improvts. on the left, commences at the ferry, & contains a part of an excellent piece of bottom land-The improved lands opposite, are also claimed by him-A swamp on the back part of the Improvt. on the right.
Additional information about Fort Claiborne
The remains of the fort are still visible. It was built by General F. L. Claiborne in November, 1813, as a base of supplies on his invasion of the Creek country from the southwest. The best description of the fort is that here given by Tatum. The white bluff and long steps of Claiborne are prominent objects on the Alabama River.
Nothing can be found in the existing War Department records as to the founding, occupancy, or abandonment of Fort Claiborne, Gardner’s Dictionary of the Army of the U. S., p. 578, says that it was named after Brig. Gen. F. L. Claiborne, as is generally stated. That publication also gives Fort Montgomery, opposite the Cut Off, at three miles distance, as named for Bvt. (sic) Maj. E. Montgomery, 7th Infantry.
There is no plan of either on record, but the location of Fort Claiborne, as well as of other posts, is given on the early printed Map of Alabama, constructed from surveys of the General Land Office, &c., by John Mellish, 1818-19.
After the Creek treaty of Aug. 9, 1814, Gov. David Holmes, of the Mississippi Territory, by proclamation dated June 29, 1815, created Monroe County to embrace all the ceded lands. On Dec. 9, 1815, the Territorial Assembly designated Fort Claiborne as the place for holding the Courts of the County. It remained the seat of Justice until 1832. In its early days it was “a place of fame,” and many of the leading public men had residences there. It was very unhealthy, however, and this was one cause of its downfall, Railroad competition destroyed its commercial importance. (See Pickett’s Alabama, vol. ii, p. 320, Brewer’s Alabama, pp. 434-5; and Ball’s Clarke County, p, 458.)
iThe route crossing here from St. Stephens merged to the east in the Federal Road. It is noteworthy that Sam Dale in carrying the news of the victory at New Orleans did not at Mims Ferry and pursue the Federal Road but took a more northerly route and crossed the Alabama at Randon’s, mentioned by Tatum lower down. This may have been during high water at Nannahubba Island. See Claiborne’s Dale, p. 160. The brother refered (sic) to is John Weatherford, of the preceding paragraph. (Tatum’s Journal in Transaction of the Alabama Histo Society 1897-1898, Vol.. II. pp.158-160.
- The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 02, Summer Issue 1957
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