Setting Some Migration Boundaries


I am continuing to study how my ancestors arrived in my Clarke County, Alabama homeplace. Because of changes in boundaries as well as other sociopolitical and economic factors, how they arrived cannot be separated from when they arrived and the use of appropriate terminology is logical. 

A number of my ancestors came through Georgia. Founded in 1733 Georgia was the last and largest of the original 13 colonies. When Georgia became a state in 1788, its western boundaries extended to the Mississippi River and the Louisiana Territory. 

Georgia 1795

The Mississippi Territory

In 1798 Congress changed the boundaries of Georgia by organizing the Mississippi Territory and opening the area for settlement.

A few settlers already lived in Mississippi when it became a territory. They were concentrated in two principal areas — the Natchez District and the lower Tombigbee settlements above and west of Mobile. Approximately 4,500 people, including slaves, lived at Natchez, considerably more than the combined free and slave population of 1,250 that inhabited the Tombigbee settlements in 1800.

My homeplace is located in what was “the lower Tombigbee.”  

Mississippi Territory

 Migration 1798 to 1819

 The summary of migration into the area between 1798 and 1819, written by Charles Lowery is suitable for my purposes. 

The Great Migration to the Mississippi Territory, 1798-1819

Lowery indicates that we should consider the time before the creation of the Mississippi Territory as one period of migration (1). He then divides the time between the organization of the territory and Mississippi and Alabama becoming states into two phases, one on each side of the War of 1812.

Mississippi was admitted to the Union as a state on December 10, 1817. Mississippi Becomes State 1819

Alabama was admitted to the Union as a state on December 14, 1819.

Alabama Becomes a State 1819

Lowery sees the end of this “Great Migration” when the impressive economic expansion following the War of 1812 was ended by the Panic of 1819.

The importance of cotton meant that the population of Alabama continued to grow over the next several decades. It should also be clear that after 1820 the term Alabama refers to the state. After 1820 It is no longer the Alabama Territory. After 1820 it is no longer that part of the Mississippi Territory that became the state of Alabama. After 1820, it is no longer part of some English Colonial dream or early American territorial ambition called Georgia. After 1820 it is the state of Alabama. 

Population of Alabama (figures for 1800 and 1810 are taken from that portion of the Mississippi Territory that became Alabama )


(1) My cousins who are the descendants of the indigenous population and/or Spanish explorers will not be satisfied with pre 1798 as a single historical period.

Reading, Reflecting, Writing

Spring 2018 Alabama History Reading List | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

The Old Federal Road in Alabama Has Been Surveyed | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

In 1814 We Took a Little Trip . . . Down the Alabama | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking | Ann Creighton-Zollar, PhD, MHNE

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