Coosada, Alabama: The Beginning
By Kaytie Simpson
University of South Alabama
I am Coosada: the beginning, but like most beginnings, I have been forgotten. I have been overshadowed by my siblings, Mobile, Huntsville and Montgomery. Their great accomplishments draw people to them, making them forget that I exist, what my name is, and my unique story. From the pitter patter of Native American footsteps to producing the state’s first governor, I will tell you of the beginning of Alabama’s history, and how it all started with me.
They were led here by the sun. The shadow of the pole guided Native American footsteps to my mighty Coosa River. Traveling from the west, they were tired and weary by the time they reached my land. The freshness of the waters and the easiness of its banks welcomed their stay. As the sun began to descend into the late afternoon sky, streaks of purple, pink and gold warned them that night was fast approaching. Digging the pole into the soil, they set up camp for the night, expecting to keep traveling when they arose. The subtle sounds of water running lulled the tired little ones to sleep, while creating background noise as the leaders prepare plans to the next morning’s leave.
They arose to the sun rising above the Coosa River, bringing with it the orange, pink and blue colors of morning. Looking toward the pole for guidance, there appeared to be no shadow on the ground; their quest for a place to live was over. They named me “Alabamos” meaning “Here we rest.” The Native Americans also took that name and were referred to as the Alabamos Indians. Needing a name for their village, they chose the name Koasati, White Cane
In 1714, French Explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Bienville, the founder of New Orleans, visited the Alabamos Indians and built a fort near their village, naming it after them. As these eager pioneers began to setting in the area, many of the Native Americans moved onto reservations. With the arrival of William Wyatt Bibb, came the town of Coosawda in the very same spot of the Native American village of Koasati. Bibb was appointed the role as the only governor of the Alabama territory, and later the first governor of the state of Alabama. A sign painter misspelled the name given to me by Bibb, spelling it Coosada instead of Coosawda, where it has remained ever since
Many years have passed since the day the Alabamos Indians landed upon my banks. Changes were made, bringing about new cities, towns, and people. Yet, I am still here, sitting proudly in the middle of the state of Alabama. I am here, proud to be a place full of history. As the poet T.S. Elliot said
“I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;”
Today, tourists can still visit the quiet, beautiful cemetery where Alabama’s first governor and his family are buried. Coosada also offers a wonderful wedding venue in The Elms, a gorgeous historic southern home built in 1836. To learn more about the town of Coosada, visit the town’s website. The nearby Coosa River is still a major attraction in the 21st century, including activities like kayaking, fishing, and hiking. To get a feel for what it’s like to kayak down the Coosa River today, check out the SELTI short story “Moccasin Gap.”
“Coosada: The Beginning” is part of a special cooperative writing project between SELTI and the University of South Alabama’s English Department. Dr. Sue Walker, professor at USA, is challenging her English students to compose creative literary works about places that have inspired them. SELTI is publishing those works online with photo tourism guides. Dr. Walker’s work in promoting literary tourism through SELTI was recently honored in Congress by U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne, of the First District in Alabama, who invited his colleagues to look at these works as a model for many other universities and states to follow.