Roads in Mississippi
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Source: Rowland, Dunbar, ed. Mississippi, Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form, in three volumes. Vol. 2. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing Association, 1907. pages 566-571

This section begins near the top of page 569.

Natchez to New Orleans. Early in the 19th century two public roads were opened up, which ran south from Natchez to New Orleans. One ran by way of Madisonville, La., to the head of Lake Ponchartrain and thence across the lake by water to New Orleans, a total distance of 156 miles; the other followed the river south by way of Baton Rouge and the levee. Marschalk's Almanac for 1819 gives the stations on the Madisonville road, together with the distance of each from Natchez as follows: St. Catharine Creek 4 miles; Second creek 14 miles; Homochitto river 20 miles; the 31st degree N. Latitude 55 miles; crossing at Amite river 59 miles; Spillers 73 miles; Court house, St. Helena bridge over the Tickfoha river 88 miles; Springfield on Notalbany creek 98 miles; Ponchatoola creek 103 miles; Tangipao river 112 miles; Madisonville 127 miles; Mouth of Chifuncte 130 miles; over Lake Ponchartrain, to Ft. St. John, mouth of Bayou St. John 150 miles; St. John's Suburb (Fauxburg) 154 miles; New Orleans 156 miles. The stations and distances on the Baton Rouge and Levee road were as follows: St. Catharine creek 3 miles; White Apple Village 12 miles; Homochitto river 18 miles; Ferry over Buffalo river 29 miles; Woodville 37 miles; Sligo 46 miles; Bayou Sara creek 53 miles; St. Francisville in New Feliciana, La., 68 miles; Buller's Plains 79 miles; Baton Rouge 95 miles; New Orleans 219 miles.

Gaines' Trace. This old road ran from "Colbert's Ferry," a few miles below the Mussel Shoals on the Tennessee river, to St. Stephens on the lower Tombigbee. The Federal Government had established a large trading house at St. Stephens, to encourage trade with the Choctaws and other Indians, and as an offset to the Spanish and French trading posts at Mobile and Pensacola, which maintained close trade relations and intercourse with the Choctaws and Creeks. George Strother Gaines, brother of Gen. E. P. Gaines, held the posts of U. S. assistant factor and factor at St. Stephens, from 1805-1825. It appears that he experienced constant trouble with the revenue authorities at Mobile, who exacted duties and delayed his vessels, so that the Federal authorities resolved to send supplies down the Ohio and up the Tennessee river to Colbert's Ferry. Major Gaines, in his Reminiscences of Early Times in the Mississippi Territory, written for the Mobile Register, says: "In October, 1810, I received instructions from the Secretary of War to proceed to the Chickasaw Nation and endeavor to obtain permission of the Indians to open a wagon road from Colbert's Ferry to Cotton Gin Port, on the Tombigbee, and make arrangements to transport the goods thence to St. Stephens. I set out immediately, in obedience to my instructions, had an interview with the leading chiefs of the Chickasaws, who objected to opening the wagon road, but promised me facilities and safety for the transportation of goods for the Choctaw trading house, on pack-horses, at a very moderate expense. Lieut. Gaines, by order of the War Department, had six or seven years before this time, surveyed and marked out the road I was instructed to open." After purchasing his supplies, Mr. Gaines says: "I then returned on horseback to Colbert's Ferry, on the Tenn., made arrangements for receiving and 'packing' the goods to Maj. Pitchlyn, at the mouth of the Octibbeha, below Cotton Gin Port. I proceeded to Major Pitchlyn's and with his aid, arranged for transporting the goods down the Tombigbee to St. Stephens."

The trace is thus referred to in the treaty of Chickasaw Council-House, Sep't. 20, 1816: The Chickasaws relinquish their claim and title to the lands "east of a line commencing at the mouth of Caney creek, running up said creek to its source, then a due south course to the ridge path, or commonly called Gaines' road, along said road southwestwardly to a point on the Tombigbee river, well known by the name of Cotton Gin Port, and down the west bank of the Tombigbee to the Choctaw boundary." The Huntsville survey, a short time after, adopted the western boundary of the above Chickasaw cession, and the road can be readily identified today.

George J. Leftwich, in writing of this old road, says: "It will be observed that this trace road leaves the Tombigbee river on an elevated plateau and follows the 'divide' through to the Tennessee, thus avoiding water courses. . . . From Cotton Gin Port this raod ran nearly due west about ten miles to a kind of tavern kept by Major Levi Colbert, a Chickasaw chief. There the road forked, one branch leading northeast (northwest?) to Pontotoc, whence it intercepted the Natchez Trace running to Natchez and New Orleans. The other branch turned southeast through the prairie, running not far from Muldon and West Point to Waverly, in Clay county. There is a strong probability that DeSoto in 1540 followed this same path through the prairie. Gaines' Trace is still a public road and we are told that Col. J. B. Prewett, of Monroe county, traveled over it in 1824, with his father."

Old Military Road. In accordance with an act of Congress passed April 27th, 1816, a thoroughfare known as Jackson's Military Road was built through Mississippi. It extended from Madisonville, Louisiana to a point twenty-one miles north of the Mussel Shoals. The work, which was done under the direction of the War Department occupied a period of over two years. June 1817, to January, 1820." (Riley's History of Mississippi.)

Special Acts. By act of the General Assembly, December 5, 1809, "John Hanes, Benjamin S. Smott and James Caller be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners to employ a fit person to open a road from Pearl river, where the present Choctaw boundary line across the same, the nearest and best way to the Chickasawhay river, so as to intersect the same at, or near the lower end of the Higawana Reserve, and they are hereby empowered to contract with said person, for the payment of such sum as may appear reasonable, for the performance of said work, to be paid out of the Territorial treasury, after the fulfillment of said contract: Provided, nevertheless, That the sum to be expended for making and opening said road, shall not exceed three hundred dollars."

By act of Dec. 18, 1811, sec. 31, "The old road leading by or near St. Albans to the Walnut Hills, as laid out by the Spanish government, be and the same is hereby declared a public road, and shall be used and worked upon accordingly, until altered by order of court, or as hereinafter directed."

By act of Dec. 12, 1812, sec. 1, the following rates and tolls for ferriages across the river Homochitto, where any public road may cross the same were established: "For every wheel carriage twelve and one-half cents per wheel; for every man and horse, twelve and one-half cents; for every foot passenger, six and one-quarter cents; for each and every head of horses or horned cattle, more than one, four cents; if but one, six and one-quarter cents; and for each and every head of hogs, sheep, etc. the sum of two cents.

By act of January 6, 1814, Harry Toulmin, Burrel Pitman, Eugena Chastang, James Taylor, Lewis Blackman, William Patton, George Evans, and William Powe shall be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners to lay out and establish a road from the town of Mobile to M'Cray's ferry on the Buckatanny."

In November, 1816, Micajah Davis, Daniel M'Gahay, Daniel Williams, Jr., Nathan Swazey and Janathan Thompson were appointed commissioners to lay out, open, and keep in repair, a road thirty feet wide, from the city of Natchez to the Louisiana line, following the general direction of a line from Natchez to the river Amite, just below the mouth of Beaver creek.

Huntsville Road. In 1823 a road was marked from Huntsville, Ala., by way of Columbus to Doak's stand, on the Robinson road. As this terminus of the new road was thirty-five miles from Jackson, and the nearest point on the Robinson road was the Choctaw agency house, ten miles north of the capital, Governor Leake sought to have the Columbus road changed, but it remained for some years the only line of communication between the capital and the populous and prosperous Tombigbee country in northeast Mississippi.

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Page last updated onWednesday, 14-Oct-2009 14:05:16 EDT