by Denise Weimer
|Portion of Federal Road in AL|
Old road beds have always fascinated me. Sometimes modern roads pave over them. Sometimes the merest trace of a narrow lane under arching trees seems to wander off to nowhere. Don’t you want to follow?
Traveling around my home state as a young person, I noticed numerous historical markers mentioning “The Old Federal Road.” Turns out, there were actually two such roads in Georgia. Around the time the century turned from eighteenth to nineteenth, the U.S. government used treaties with Creek and Cherokee Indians to widen existing trails to Tennessee and Alabama. One followed the Lower Creek Trading Path, and the other followed the Cherokee Trading Path.
Prior to 1806, travelers fed down the Upper Road from the Carolinas to 1797 Ft. Wilkinson, situated on the Indian Boundary where the Creeks were supplied under the 1790 Treaty of New York, near current day Milledgeville. They continued through Athens, Watkinsville and High Shoals (near my current home!) on a postal trail used to carry mail from Washington City. This path continued to Fort Stoddert north of Mobile, Alabama, and on to New Orleans.
|Lower Creek Trading Path Old Federal Road Map|
On April 12, 1806, at the request of President Jefferson, Congress appropriated $6400 to clear the brush to a width of four feet, remove fallen trees, and construct five-foot log causeways over bogs and creeks. The government hoped this 1,152 mile route would prove more efficient than using the Natchez Trace (being 320 miles less and gaining ten days), but the many water ways dissecting the Georgia route eventually meant mail carriers found the Natchez route more efficient.
Creek Indians provided houses of entertainment along the southern Old Federal Road where stagecoaches stopped and relay riders changed. These cropped up every sixteen miles or so – considered an average day of foot traffic.
In 1811, the government rerouted and widened the road to eight to sixteen feet in preparation for war with Great Britain. The route headed southwest from Ft. Wilkinson, entering the lands of the Lower Creeks at present day Macon and crossing the Chattahoochee River nine miles south of Columbus.
The 1813 Creek Indian War led to the removal of the local Indians westward.
My next post will discuss the Old Federal Road on The Cherokee Trading Path. I’d like to research other early American routes. Does one of those pass near your home?