The Legacy of Burnt Corn

The end of the Revolution War brought the beginning of pioneer settlement at Burnt Corn. Native Americans and early Scottish, Irish and English had traversed the old trails that met at Burnt Corn, known as Three Notch Trail and the Old Wolf Path. The settlement of the territorial claims of Great Britain and the United States of America were reached on November 30, 1782. The Treaty of Paris established the Southern boundary of the U.S. at the 31st parallel north. Great Britain would retain possession of Florida's.

Spain had won possession of West Florida by military conquest on May 9, 1781. On September 3, 1783, Great Britain ceded both east and west Florida to Spain. No northern boundary was fixed for Florida's under this Treaty of Cession. Spain claimed the northern boundary to be at 32 degrees 28 minutes North latitude as fixed by the British Royal Proclamation of 1767. The United States claimed the northern boundary to be at 31 degrees north latitude, as fixed by the Treaty of Paris.

The conflicting terms of the two treaties led to conflict between the two powers over the territory lying between 31 degrees north and 32 degrees 28 minutes" north latitude. This conflict was settled on October 27, 1795, when, under the terms of the treaty of San Lorenzo El Real, the southern boundary of the United States was again fixed at the 31st parallel.

The United States formed the Mississippi Territory on April 7, 1798, to assure possession of this territory lately in dispute. As created by Congress, the Mississippi Territory embraces all the present states of Mississippi and Alabama lying above 32 degrees 28 minutes north was claimed by Georgia under her royal charter.

Because of the conflict of claims between the United States and Spain over this territory, few white American settlers had ventured into it to make their homes. The only settlements of any importance in Alabama were the settlements of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers on lands ceded to the English by the Chickasaw Indians in 1765.

The Creek Indian Nation was another matter. The Nation had not ceded any territories to the United States government in this region. On June 4, 1800, Governor Winthrop Sergeant, of the Mississippi Territory, consolidated all the territorial lands into one country, which he called Washington. The land in question on the Alabama River actually belonged to the Creek Indian Nation. The Creek Indians controlled access in and out of the nation, requiring passes to travel through their land. Those allowed into the Nation to settle were traders, most of who had married into the Creek Tribe. These men were allowed to stay and build homes; many became trading posts to the Indians and to travelers on their way westward. It was these individuals who first saw the pristine territories of what we now call Monroe and Conecuh counties. These were our counties' first settlers in the area known as Burnt Corn Springs.

When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France on December 20, 1803, it was expedient for the United States to establish a land route between Washington and New Orleans, the capital of the Louisiana Territory, for the movement of troops and supplies, if necessary. Britain and the United States were still sparing; American wanted landlines to the coast.

On November 14, 1805, the Creek Nation met in Washington with representatives of the U.S. Government to give permission for a "horse path" to be established. In the Creeks own words: "It is hereby stipulated and agreed, on the part of the Creek Nation, that the government of the United States shall have a right to a horse path, through the Creek Country, from the Okmulgee to the Mobile, in such direction as shall, by the President of the United States, be considered most convenient, and to clear out the same, and lay logs over the creeks: and the citizens of said States, shall at all times have a right to pass peaceably on said path, under such regulations and restrictions, as the government of the United States shall from time to time direct; and the Creek chiefs will have boats kept at the several rivers for the convenience of men and horses and houses of entertainment established at suitable places on said path for the accommodation of travelers; and the respective ferriage and prices of entertainment for men and horses, shall be regulated by the present agent, Colonel Hawkins, or by the successor in office, or as is usual among white people." With this permission given to the United States government, the Creek Indian Nation would change forever. As travelers followed the "horse path" through the fertile and lush lands of the Creek, many coveted the Indian Territory. This path followed two well known Indian trails, the Chiaha Alibamo Trail that led form Chiaha on the Chattahoochee River, west to the Alabama towns near the present day Montgomery, and the Great Pensacola Trading Path (Old Wolf Trail) that led from the Alibamo towns to Pensacola. Burnt Corn was to be situated on this trail. Burnt Corn has many natural springs making the area a good stopping point on the two trails.

The Horse Path developed into the Federal Road. Peter Hamilton, writing in Colonial Mobile, says of the road: "This first rough roadway at first not more than a glazed path, played for Alabama, the part which the Stone via Appia did for the country south of Rome. But for the Federal Road with its forts, there would have been no Alabama as we know it." This road was paramount to the growth and settlement of Monroe and Conecuh counties.

The Federal road was improved by an Act of Congress of April 21, 1866, as follows: "That the President of the United States be and hereby is authorized to cause to be opened a road from the frontier of Georgia, on the route from Athens to New Orleans, till the same intersects the 31st degree of north latitude: provided, he shall not expend more than six thousand in opening the same."

On March 3, 1805, some months before the convention of Washington, the United States Congress established a post road, from Washington City, by Athens in Georgia, to New Orleans. The post riders followed the Indian trails and passed through Burnt Corn Creek.

With improvement of the Federal Road came more and more white Americans looking for land. The increase of these settlers and their encroachment in Creek Territories helped bring about the Creek Indian War, which forever ended the Creek Indian Nation domination of the areas now known as Monroe and Conecuh counties.

Burnt Corn would play a role in that war with the Battle of Burnt Corn, which many of the participants later would call a "skirmish" and some, according to Pickett's History of Alabama, were ashamed to admit being at the so-called battle, which was considered a victory for the warring faction of the Creek Nation, the Red Sticks.

The town would also watch Andrew Jackson's troops in 1814 move through to Ft. Bowyer to aid in its defense against the British. In the Mexican War, this road saw the movement of troops from the Atlantic states to New Orleans to board ships to Mexico. Confederate troops followed this road through Burnt Corn on the way to the battlefields of Virginia.

Burnt Corn had become the site of the earliest settlement in Monroe County. Even before the defeat of the Creek Nation and the Treaty of Ft. Jackson, settlers of both Native American and white descent were living at the crossroads of the Great Pensacola Trading Path and the Federal Road, which formed the Main Street of Burnt Corn as it, does still today.

Taverns were established along the road as provided by the Creek and United States Convention held in Washington. They were usually located about eighteen miles apart for this was considered a day's journey by stagecoach. Coker's tavern is shown on early maps of Alabama and is generally shown to be in the vicinity of Burnt Corn. Nathan Coker received a patent from the government to lands along the Federal Road in 1819. Garrett Longmire shows up on early maps also with a tavern located approximately two to three miles north of Burnt Corn.

Following the defeat of the Creeks, the Treaty of Fort Jackson forced them to cede their lands to the United States on August 9, 1814. On June 29, 1815, Governor Holmes of the Mississippi Territory created Monroe County, which at that time embraced almost two-thirds of the State of Alabama; it extended from the Florida line to the mountains of Blount and from the Tombigbee to the Chattahoochee.

Natives Americans watched as their former lands were burned, cleared and tilled for crops. They learned quickly what the word "defeat" meant as log structures begin to dot the countryside of their former forest. In desperate attempts, they should form bands or raiding parties and attack lone settlers who risked their own lives to settle here. Colonel Richard Warren constructed Fort Warren near Pine Orchard (approximately 6 miles north of Burnt Corn) for protection of settlers and travelers.

Settlements naturally grew up along the Federal Road. Burnt Corn is first mentioned in the Acts of the Post Roads on April 20, 1818, in an act establishing a Post road "from Fort Mitchell, by Fort Bainbridge, Fort Jackson, Burnt Corn Spring, Fort Claiborne, and the Town of Jackson to St. Stephens. Many people traveled the "Post Road." Francis Scott Key reputedly traveled the Federal Road in a government wagon while on his mission to Alabama. William Bertram, the naturalist, traveled the road collecting specimens. Lorenzo Dow, the Methodist circuit rider, supposedly visited Burnt Corn on his way to St. Stephens in 1804. Aaron Burr passed through in 1807, while under arrest for treason. James Stuart records his journey in a journal which states that his coach turned over eight times coming from Milledgeville, Georgia. He sold his vehicle in Montgomery and finished his journey on horseback.

From 1816 and on, Burnt Corn saw rapid development. Thousands of acres were sold to families coming from Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Dr. John Watkins came from the town of Claiborne and other Alabamians moved to Burnt Corn from other settlements in Alabama. Log dogtrot homes were built, stores opened, postal service began 1817. Jeremiah Austill brought his young bride Martha to the area. He lost her only a few years later when, while sitting on a rail fence, she was startled by a small group of Indians and fell, hitting her head. She died later and Jeremiah buried her behind their home.

James Grace, reputably the first "white settler" came in 1816, then Captain Hayes who bought a thousand acres of land around Burnt Corn. John Green started the first school, "Student's Retreat," probably in the 1820's. In 1822 the first public road was built which cut from what is now Beatrice through Burnt Corn to Belleville. Major Walker opened a store in Burnt Corn in 1822, and the Bethany Baptist Church at Burnt Corn was busy constructing their first building having organized officially in 1821. By the 1840's Burnt Corn was enjoying times as was the rest of Alabama.

Along with these new people into the territory, came African American Slaves. They tilled the land and planted the crops, took care of the children, cooked, sewed, built homes and barns. Today these descendants still live in Burnt Corn, bearing the names of Coker, Grace, Rankins, Lett, and Salter. North of the stores was Mr. Robinsonís blacksmith shop with a gristmill across the street. Homes and farms fanned out around Burnt Corn. According to the R.A. Gray Historical Center in Tallahassee, Florida, Burnt Corn was a rail stop on the Alabama-Florida Railroad in 1862. Railroads do not run through Burnt Corn today, as shown on the map on the linked page. The rail line goes from Repton to Peterman. There may have been a change in town names, rather then railroad realignment. The Alabama-Florida Railway ran form Atlanta, Georgia to Pensacola, Florida and was operational throughout the Civil War. After the war, railroad companies began building and improving many more lines.

By the turn of the century, Burnt Corn was in a "boom period" having recovered form the War Between the States and Reconstruction. The Kyser-Betts Gin Mill was working continuously through cotton season with wagonloads of cotton being brought from many areas in Monroe and Conecuh counties. The Mosley Hariston Store was sitting at the site of the Lowery Store today and many new homes were being built on the main street of Burnt Corn. James and Cora Betts Kyser built their Victorian home next to the Methodist church they also built. The Masonic Lodge #849 had been organized December 3, 1890, and eventually met upstairs in the store known today as Lowery Store. The Burnt Corn Methodist Church also met there until the Methodist church was finished in 1908. A.O. Brantley also opened a store Main Street.

During the late twenties and early thirties, the Depression hit hard in rural Alabama. Farming was no longer as profitable and many families who had been in Burnt Corn for a hundred years lost their land and livelihood to the banks and lending institutions. They left Burnt Corn to move to the more largely populated towns such as Monroeville and Evergreen.

It was also at this time the face of Burnt corn began to change. Samuel Anthony Lowery, a schoolteacher, had come to Burnt Corn in the 1870s to farm and raise jersey cows. In 1876 he married Martha Ann Betts, daughter of James and Cynthia Betts. This union would eventually bring their son, Jacob, to begin the Lowery dynasty in Burnt Corn. Jacob was ambitious and continuously acquired more land to add to the property that had been accumulated already by his father and through his mother's family, the Betts. This included the cotton gin and main store of Burnt Corn.

His son, Sam, became the postmaster at Burnt Corn and continued to acquire land. During the forties the family possessed over thirteen thousand acres of farm and timberland, in and around Burnt Corn. Today Burnt Corn is almost entirely owned by the Lowery Trust, which is made up of many family members, none of whom live in Burnt Corn.

The surviving members of the congregation recently donated the Bethany Baptist Church at Burnt Corn to the Monroe County Heritage Museum. Two homes in Burnt Corn on the main street are still privately owned: the old Robinson Place is owned by the family. The Mosley-Culbreth House is also privately owned.