History of Conecuh Chapter I.
Conecuh in the Earliest Times, Derivation of Its Name, Original Appearance, Abounding Game, Ferocious Beasts, Early Battle Scene, etc.
Conecuh is an Indian name, to which, have been given a variety of meanings. But the best translators of the Indian dialect believe its meaning to be “Cane Land,” derived from the vast canebrakes which lined its numerous streams, and which covered its extensive tracts of lowlands.
The original word from which the present name is supposed to have been corrupted was “Econneka,” which, in the Creek tongue, means “Land of Cane.” This is the rendering given by Col. M. H. Cruikshank, of Talladega, to whom the author was referred by Prof. W. S. Wyman, of the University of Alabama. After venturing several conjectures himself, as to the meaning of the word, Prof. Wyman, with genuine good humor, says “The name Conecuh means Polecats Head; being a compound of kono, the Creek word for polecat, and ekuh, head.” “Then,” continues the Professor, ” this is my best conjecture, and if it should turn out that I have hit the right meaning, it is to be hoped that the good people of Conecuh will not be unduly distressed at the unsavory name of their county. As the rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so it stands to good reason that the goodly land of Conecuh, swept, as it is, by the resinous airs of its own healthful pine forests, visited by the fragrant breezes of the peninsula of orange flowers, and wooed by a touch of the sultry breath of old Ocean himself, smells sweet in spite of its ugly name.” After several conjectures, against all of which he raised some objection, Prof. Wyman urged that the whole matter be submitted to Col. Cruikshank, whose practical knowledge of the Indian dialect enabled him to give the meaning presented on the first page. The county took its name from the stream of the same name which penetrates its eastern portion.
To each of these streams the native tribes gave a significant name, derived from some prevailing characteristic, or from some notable event connected therewith. The statement already made as to the meaning of Conecuh, is further corroborated by the glowing description given by the earliest settlers of the appearance of the face of the country. The virgin forests of Conecuh, as described by the pioneer fathers, must have rivalled in appearance the fairest spots of earth. Before one occupying a prominence there was spread oat a scene of panoramic beauty. Vast stretches of land, dipping into occasional basins, ranged visibly in all directions, unbroken by the small undergrowth of shrubbery, which is now a prevailing feature in our forests. The land was radiant with long, waving grass, interspersed with the wild oat and the native pea- vine, and relieved by the monarch pine trees, which stood like so many columns in the great cathedral of nature. Across these smiling landscapes, and through these verdant vales, there roved vast herds of deer and flocks of wild turkeys, together with other game the evident tokens of a beneficent Providence. Here and there these lands of wild beauty were streaked with clear, flowing streams, the track of whose shining currents could be followed for miles by reason of the native cane, which grew in rank luxuriance along their banks. There was not then, as now, a mixture of tangled shrubbery with the cane along the banks of these streams. The streams themselves abounded in the finest fish, while the lakes and ponds swarmed with countless flocks of wild ducks. From out the thicket jungles there would issue, at night, the hideous growls of wild beasts, the ferocious protests of the native denizen to the encroaching civilization of the white man. Such is the description given of Conecuh when the enterprising settlers first occupied its soil.
Tombigbee, having learned that Peter McQueen, with a body of warriors, numbering about 350, had gone to Pensacola for the purpose of obtaining supplies from the British, preparatory to an attack upon the whites, sent Col. James Caller, with a small body of cavalry, to intercept them. Eeturning from Pensacola, ladened with supplies, the Indians had stopped near the banks of Burnt Corn creek, to rest and cook dinner. Having driven their ponies across the stream to a basin of land, thickly overgrown with tender cane, the dusky warriors lay down in the shade to rest, while the squaws prepared dinner. Coming from the opposite direction the advance guards of Caller’s forces found the Indian ponies grazing in the tall cane, and immediately reported the discovery to their commander. With great caution the whites advanced, crossed the stream in single file, and commenced to fire upon the reclining warriors. Snatching up their guns, the Indians ran down under a bluff that overhung the creek. Confident of easy victory, Caller and his men began to plunder the Indian camp and to reap the spoils of success. Meanwhile the brave warriors rallied and returned the fire with vigor, advancing all the while upon the over-confident whites. At the first fire from the savages, the unhitched horses of Caller’s men scampered off in all directions. In much confusion the whites retreated to the top of the hill, and the results would have been disastrous, it is said, had not Capt. Sam Dale covered the retreat with a small body of men. Filled with a new fire of revenge, the Indians, a month later, fell upon Fort Mimms, the horrors of which event were appalling beyond description. When the earliest inhabitants came to Bellville they found the spot where the tribes held their war dance in honor of McQueen’s victory over Caller. Thus was spilt upon Conecuh’s soil the first blood of that terrible series of sanguinary conflicts, which culminated in the removal of the native tribes to the far West. What a melancholy history is that of the Red Man. The narrative of their unchecked dominion, contrasted with that of their rapid dispersion, is sad beyond measure. The history of their undisputed sway is written upon the rills and rivers of our fair land today. As Alabama’s once gifted poet. Judge A. B. Meek, has sung:
“Yes ! tho’ they all have passed away,
That noble race and brave, Though their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave ; Though ‘mid the forests where they roved.
There rings no hunter’s shout, Yet their names are on our waters,
And we may not wash them out I Their memory liveth on our hills,
Their baptism on our shore, Our everlasting rivers speak
Their dialect of yore I
‘Tis heard where Chattahoochee pours
His yellow tide along; It sounds on Tallapoosa’s shores,
And Coosa swells the song; Where lordly Alabama sweeps,
The symphony remains; And young Cahawba proudly keeps
The echo of its strains; Where Tuscaloosa’s waters glide,
From stream and town ’tis heard. And dark Tombeckbee’s winding tide
Eepeats the olden word; Afar, where nature brightly wreathed
Fit Edens for the Free, Along Tuscumbia’s bank ’tis breathed,
By stately Tennessee; And south, where from Conecuh’s springs,
Escambia’s waters steal, The anoient melody still rings,
From Tensaw and Mobile.”