Fort Turkeytown location remains an Etowah mystery


 The site of Fort Turkeytown is clouded with the fact that research indicates that there was a council house and village established by Chief Little Turkey on Turkey Town Creek around 1789. This site was located about five miles northeast of Gadsden in Etowah County. 

The site of a later Turkey Town was again located near Pathkiller’s Ferry, but in this case located on the Coosa River as it flowed past what is now the town of Centre. This information provides an excellent opportunity for additional research into the two sites.

The search for Fort Turkeytown has been the most difficult, because other than the fact that the fort was named Turkeytown, thus far we have found no primary source documents naming a specific location that was associated with the fort. Even the exact location of the Cherokee settlement of Turkeytown has long been somewhat of a mystery.

Amos J. Wright, Jr., spent much of the latter part of his life researching maps in order to locate historic Indian towns in Alabama. Wright’s research revealed that seven maps placed the town’s location near Gadsden on the east bank of the Coosa River, and 31 maps placed Turkeytown on the east or west bank of the Coosa River, at or about the mouth of Terrapin Creek near Centre.

Turkeytown has been listed as a town, as a meeting place and as an area all the way from Gadsden to Centre along the Coosa River as an area south of the Coosa River to the Cherokee-Creek boundary line, and as the location of a removal fort.

Fort Turkeytown was not likely used primarily as a post for confinement but probably more of a military base. The following is what the Vagabond has been able to find on Fort Turkeytown:

On May 14, 1838, Colonel William Lindsey issued Order Number 19 from Fort Cass in Charleston, Tenn., that established troop numbers in the various Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina removal facilities. A colonel, major, and six companies of men were ordered to Turkeytown, Alabama.

In his report to General Gibson for the month of August, Lieutenant Steptoe said that some subsistence stores had been received from Lieutenant Hoskins from Turkeytown. The post at Turkeytown had been closed in early July of 1838.

Colonel Hindman of the Alabama Volunteers arrived at Bellefonte on May 14, 1838, to become the acting assistant quartermaster. He reported that there were no troops assembled and therefore had nothing to do. Hindman said he had heard a report that the expected troops were located at Gunter’s Landing. Hindman also reported that he had been directed to Fort Cass, in Tenn., but remained at Bellefonte because “Mr. Rawlings the commissary is anxious to visit his family, and I have been directed to remain in charge of the commissary stores until Mr. R. returns.”

On May16, Colonel Hindman wrote Lieutenant Hetzel and told him that Lieutenant Taylor was going to Fort Cass and had instructed him to remain at Bellefonte until further orders. Colonel Hindman added a postscript to his letter, asking Lieutenant Hetzel to keep him in mind for the post at Turkeytown if it should be supplied with Tennessee troops.

In a May l828 letter to Lieutenant Hetzel, Colonel Hindman said one thousand pounds of lead had been received at Bellefonte Landing, but did not know who ordered it. He said he would “…. have it hauled up and stored.” Rezin Rawlings of Rawlingsville was at this time acting as commissary, and he told Colonel Hindman that he wanted to go to the post to be established at Perkins, Ga. Colonel Hindman wrote Lieutenant Hetzel, saying “I say in confidence he cannot possibly discharge the duties alone for want of qualifications – he is honest but possesses no qualifications for business of this kind.” Colonel Hindman also said he was extremely anxious to be stationed at Turkeytown.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Norwood of the Alabama Volunteers wrote to Governor Bagley on June 21 from Gunter’s Landing, expressing concern over the shortage of troops. He said that while some troops were being mustered in, others were being mustered out of service on the same day, and that only five companies remained at Bellefonte. Norwood added that a battalion was on the march to Turkeytown, where it would be stationed. Colonel Hindman left Bellefonte in late June for Turkeytown to make sure supplies had been received there.

As the acting assistant quartermaster at Bellefonte, Colonel Hindman arrived at Turkeytown in late June to inspect supplies that had been shipped to the fort. He wrote on June 26 to Lieutenant Hetzel at Fort Cass, Tenn., that there was a battalion of Alabama volunteers at the Turkeytown post.

In early July of 1838, Fort Turkeytown was closed down as a removal facility. Colonel Hindman wrote to Lieutenant Hetzel on July 6 and acknowledged his orders to dispose of the public property at the location. There was not much to dispose of. Colonel Hindman said there were 1,900 feet of planks, 50 pounds of nails, a cross cut saw, 19 quires paper, 10 quills, part of a bottle of black and red ink, two public horses and one saddle and bridle and blanket. No forage was left for the livestock

Although the fort was closed, there were still Indians in the area. Lieutenant Benjamin Poole reported on July 31 that he occasionally had to send some of his troops from Fort Payne, some 30 miles away, to Turkeytown in order to protect the rights of the Indians:

“In addition to the duties attending a proper surveillance over the Cherokee camps it is occasionally necessary to send some thirty miles below to the neighborhood of Turkey Town for the protection of Cherokee rights.

These are instances of property belonging to Cherokees having been fraudulently detained from them on their removal from their homes that they now seek to reclaim. Their cases are of so simple and manifest a character that it seems unjust to deny the Cherokees the assistance necessary to enable them to recover their property.”

Fort Turkeytown still remains a mystery. However, it seems impractical, in that because of Centre’s close proximity to Cedar Bluff’s Fort Lovell, the fort would have been placed near Centre, where some sources say Turkeytown was located. There seems to be one hint, though. After the removal, the Wilson family came to Alabama and moved into what was Owl’s Hollow and called their place Wilsonia.

The family often spoke that their land once was the headquarters, or council house, of Chief Little Turkey, and it was here that the Cherokees of Turkeytown were gathered to be removed out west.

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