The Making of the 50 States: Alabama

• Part 2: The Rest of the Story

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The Making of the 50 States
The 13 American Colonies
Clickable map of the 13 Colonies with descriptions of each colony
American History Glossary
The First European Settlements in America
Colonial Times

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Part 1: In the Beginning

The place we now call Alabama was, of course, first inhabited by Mound Builders and then Native Americans, including the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee, who grew beans, corn, and squash. They also made pottery, stone works, and metal works. The Creek, especially, would organize and be a formidable foe to American expansion.

The first "official" European visitors to what we now call Alabama were Spaniards traveling with Hernando de Soto in 1539. This visit turned ugly the following year, when the largest conflict between Europeans and Native Americans in North America took place. More than 2,000 Native Americans died in the European victory. Many more died from another dreaded enemy: disease. As in other states, the Native Americans living in Alabama had had no exposure to the sometimes simple diseases that the Europeans brought with them and so had built up no immunity. The simplest of common colds could spread through a Native American village rapidly, killing many and disabling many more, making that village unable or poorly equipped to defend itself from determined European settlers and soldiers.

But it wasn't just Spain who claimed Alabama: England and France had competing claims as well. The province of Carolina granted by England's King Charles II included today's Alabama, and English settlers were there as early as 1687. French soldiers, meanwhile, settled on the Mobile River in 1702 and built Fort Louis. The Fort was commonly called La Mobile, and the leader was named Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. This was the beginnings of Mobile, the first white settlement in Alabama.

Not to be outdone, Georgia put in a claim for the northern Alabama as well, since the grant given to James Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia colony, included that land. Oglethorpe visited the area in 1739 and made peace with the Creek living there.

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David White