Baldwin County Has Been the Theatre of Some of the Most Striking Events in Alabama History
Created by the Mississippi Territorial Legislature, December 21, 1809. Baldwin County was the third county formed in the State, and its territory was taken from Washington County. As originally constituted, it lay wholly west of the Tombigbee River, east of the Mississippi line, north of the 31st parallel, and south of the fifth township line, including all the country south of that line in the present Clarke County.
The Alabama Territorial Legislature, February 7, 1818, enlarged its boundaries by adding to it so much of Greene County, Mississippi, as was thrown into the Alabama Territory by the location of the boundary line.
The first State legislature, December 13, 1819, still further enlarged it by adding all the country south of Little River as far east as the line between ranges seven and eight, and north of the 31st parallel.
On December 16, 1820, all that Fish, Blackwater, Styx and Little Rivers, and White House, Horseneck, Bay Minette, Turkey, Majors, Pine Log, and Hollinger Creeks.
Away from the river and creek bottoms, longleaf pine is the principal timber. There are some cuban pines in the southern part of the county. In the river and creek bottoms, white oak, ash, cottonwood, sweet gum and hickory are the prevailing trees.
At the advent of the French, Mobilian Indians were found settled on the east side of Mobile River in the northern part of the county, and the name Tawasha Creek may evidence a transient settlement of the Touacha Indians at that place, during some period of the French dominion.
About 1715 Bienville settled the Taensa Indians on Tensaw River, where they remained until 1764, when they followed the French across the Mississippi River. Apart from these settlements the county seems to have been without Indian inhabitants, and to have been used as a common hunting ground by the contiguous tribes.
But the mounds and numerous shell banks found along the Gulf coast, Mobile Bay, and the river banks, are sufficient witnesses of occupancy by a prehistoric population. Remains are to be found on Mobile, Perdido and Bon Secour Bays, on Tensaw, Battle, Bon Secour and Fish Rivers, and on the islands and bayous along the gulf coast, as well as on some of the large creeks flowing through the inland plantations.
Mounds have been located at the following points: burial mound near Josephine on Perdido Bay; a burial mound on extremity of Bear Point in Perdido Bay; burial mounds and sites on Tensaw River; burial mound one mile from mouth of Perdido Bay, and half mile inland; large mound, 40 feet high, near a creek, on the McMillan place, 8 miles from Stockton; mounds at and above Stockton on Tensaw River on the plantation of Maj. Robert Farmer, British commandant; a mound 50 feet high, the largest in this section, on island at Battle Creek; mounds on Simpson Island, also near Starke’s Wharf, near Fish River and on Seymours Bluff.
Shell-banks and shell-heaps, containing aboriginal remains are found on Simpson Island at mouth of Mobile River; on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, one mile from Point Clear; on east bank of Tensaw River near old Blakeley in T. 3, S., R. 1, E.; extensive banks near Gasque on Bon Secour Bay; deposits at Blakeley; on Bon Secour River and at Strong’s Bayou. These shell heaps are in the nature of kitchen middens and in most cases contain pottery and broken artifacts.
Settlement and Later History
The history of Baldwin County is inseparably associated with two great Indian tribes, the Alibamos and Creeks, with three great European nations, France, Spain and England, and at different times and under peculiar circumstances, with the Americans, as friends or enemies. The first American settlements in the county were made on Lake Tensaw and on Tensaw River, mostly by Tory families which migrated from Georgia and South Carolina during the American Revolution, although some came after that struggle, leaving their homes in consequence of Whig intolerance.
Intermingled with these Tensaw settlers, however, were Whig families. Some of the family names of the settlers have been preserved Byrne, Easley, Hall, Kilcrease, Linder, Mims, Pierce, Sibley, Steadham, Stockton and Holmes. Of these, Captain John Linder was the most prominent. He was a native of Switzerland, and was in the British service for several years as engineer and surveyor. During the Revolution, Gen. Alexander McGillivray assisted him in removing his family and numerous negro slaves, and in settling them on Lake Tensaw. The settlers were later reinforced by the arrival into their midst of several Indian countrymen, with their Indian wives and halfbreed children. Benjamin Durant was a type of these newcomers. He was a Carolinian who had married Sophia, a sister of Gen. McGillivray.
The first saw mills in the county were owned by Byrne and by Joshua Kennedy. They were in existence in 1813, but no doubt had been erected several years previously. The first cotton gin was established in 1803 by John and William Pierce at the Boat Yard on Lake Tensaw. Another cotton gin was built at McIntosh’s Bluff on the Tombigbee, but the year of its erection is not known.
Baldwin County has been the theatre of some of the most striking events in Alabama history. Across its northern border in 1560 marched the Tristan de Luna expedition (4. v.) from Mobile Bay on its way to found the short-lived colony of Nanipacna, located most probably on Boykins’ Ridge in Wilcox County.
About a century and a half later the soldiers of Bienville passed through it in their campaigns against the Alibamos.
In August, 1813, near Tensaw Lake the Fort Mims massacre (q. v.) took place, the most fearful tragedy in Alabama history.
The next year, in September, 1844, occurred the investment and bombardment of Fort Bowyer by Col. Nichols in the extreme southwest part of the county, in which Col. Nichols was driven off with great loss by the American garrison, commanded by Major William Lawrence, of the U. S. Army. Fort Bowyer was occupied later by Gen. Packenham’s army and fleet, after their defeat at New Orleans, followed by its surrender February 12, 1815.
But it was held but a few days, as news came of the declaration of peace.
The site of Fort Bowyer was subsequently used in the erection of Fort Morgan, noted for its heroic defense by the Confederates against a powerful Federal force and fleet in April, 1864, contemporary with and paralleled by the equally heroic defense of Blakeley.
See Bay Minette; Blakely; Bowyer; Fort; Daphne; Daphne State Normal School; Fort Mims Massacre; Little River; McIntosh Bluff; Mobilians; Montgomery Hill; Montrose; Morgan Fort; Spanish Fort; Stockton; Tensas;. Tensaw River.
Toulmin, Digesť (1823), index; Brewer, Alabama, p. 114; Berney, Hand. book (1892), p. 268; Riley, Alabama as it is (1893), p. 205; Northern Alabama (1888), p. 230; Alabama, 1909 (Ala, Dept. of Ag, and Ind., Bulletin 27), p. 73; U. S. Soil Survey (1911), with map; Alabama land book (1916), p. 28; Ala. Official and Statistical Register, 1903-1915, 5 vols.; Ala. Anthropological Society, Handbook (1910); Geol. Survey of Ala., Agricultural features of the State (1883); The Valley regions of Alabama, parts 1 and 2 (1896, 1897) and Underground Water resources of Alabama (1907).