SYLACAUGA -- Southern historian Dr. Kathryn Braund will bring the story of the Old Federal Road, with special emphasis on the colorful stories of people who traveled through the Creek Nation between Georgia and Alabama during the 1820s and 1830s, to Comer Library on Wednesday.

The program will start at noon and is part of the SouthFirst Bank Adult Lecture Series.

After the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson thought a road between Washington D.C. and New Orleans was an “indispensable necessity.”  

In 1805, the Creeks agreed that the government could “forever and hereafter have the right to a horse path through the Creek country, from the Ocmulgee to Mobile.” The route would facilitate the delivery of U.S. mail.

In 1810, the road was widened, and the flow of settlers increased on this road to the lands along the Tombigbee River and the Tensaw country.

The Creeks began to feel squeezed and became increasingly resentful of white encroachment on their hunting grounds and living spaces.  

What had started as a horse path through Creek Indian territory became a steady flow of white settlers, creating a source of tension leading to skirmishes, downright battles and, ultimately, to the devastating war in 1813-14.

The defeat of the Indians led to the forced surrender of vast acreage by the Creek Nation, ultimately revolutionizing Alabama’s expansion and facilitating unprecedented American immigration.  

In the decade before 1820, Alabama’s population increased more than 1,000 percent, with the federal road continuously filled with the disillusioned easterners who were fleeing worn out lands and seeking cheap fertile land and high cotton prices.  

Settlers came in wagons, on mules and horses, or even walking with gear on their backs.  

Braund has just co-authored “The Old Federal Road in Alabama -- An Illustrated Guide.”  

She is familiar with where the road was and why it was what has been called “both a physical and symbolic thoroughfare that cut a swath of shattering change through the land and cultures that it transversed.”

Braund has spent time gathering the stories of those people who risked much to travel that treacherous road into Georgia and Alabama.

Braund, the Hollifield Professor of Southern history at Auburn University, has a Master of Arts from Auburn and a doctorate from Florida State University. Her research and writing have focused on 18th and 19th century history of the Creek and Seminole Indians.

Books Braund has authored, co-authored or edited include:  “Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815;” “William Bartram on the Southeastern Indians;” an annotated edition of James Adair’s “History of the American Indians;” and “Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812.”

The “Celebrating Alabama’s Storied Past” adult lecture series is sponsored by the SouthFirst Bank and the Coosa Valley Medical Center’s Hickory Street Café. The Hightower Refreshment Room opens at 11 a.m.  Participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.

The program will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium. Working adults are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs.  

Groups wishing to attend should contact Comer Library Director Tracey Thomas at 256-249-0961 or tthomas@bbclibrary.net to inquire about availability of seating.

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