The Natchez Trace (Cornerstones of Freedom)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. The Natchez Trace runs between which two locations?
a) Nashville and Natchez
b) Missouri and New Mexico
c) Missouri and Oregon
d) San Antonio and Abilene

a) Nashville and Natchez. The Natchez Trace runs from northeast to southwest between Nashville, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi. Some of the locations along this route are Columbia, Hohenwald, Colbert Ferry, Muscle Shoals, Bear Creek Mound, Tupelo, Tupelo National Battlefield, Chickasaw Village, Bynum Mounds, French Camp, Ridgeland, Jackson, Clinton, Grindstone Ford, Port Gibson, Mount Locust, Emerald Mound, and the Grand Village of the Natchez State Historic Site. Did you know "trace" is another word for trail?

More than 12,000 years ago, grazing animals (such as bison and deer) created a path through the lower Mississippi region. When American Indian tribes came to this area about 12,000 years ago, they followed the animals from the high ground. These tribes consisted of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez.

In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to walk the Natchez Trace. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and trapper Louis Joliet traveled down the Mississippi River and landed near the Natchez Trace. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the land along the Mississippi River for France.

In the mid-1700's, the Ohio River, the Mississippi River and the Natchez Trace were important trade routes. Explorers, shopkeepers, and pioneers transported their goods down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez, Mississippi. They then used the Natchez Trace to travel back home. This allowed trade to increase because people in the central United States could sell their goods to people in the lower Mississippi region.

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2. Is the Natchez Trace located east or west of the Mississippi River?
East of the Mississippi River. Most trails connecting the United States to its frontiers are located west of the Mississippi River. These trails were used by explorers, pioneers, and traders to explore the West. The trails start in Missouri and travel to the West. For example, the Santa Fe Trail runs from Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Oregon Trail runs from Missouri to Oregon.

The Natchez Trace, however, runs from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. Both of these cities are located east of the Mississippi River. In the 1700's, the Natchez Trace connected the United States with its newly acquired frontier along the lower Mississippi River. This region was called the Southwest, and it consisted of present-day Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and eastern Texas. The Natchez Trace helped the United States control trade in the Southwest.

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3. True or False: In 1783, the United States gained control of Natchez, Mississippi, after defeating Britain in the American Revolution.
True. Before Natchez, Mississippi, came under control of the United States, three other nations controlled this town. They were France, Spain, and Britain.

In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to walk the Natchez Trace. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and trapper Louis Joliet traveled down the Mississippi River and landed near the Natchez Trace. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the land along the Mississippi River for France. He thought France should build forts along the river to defend their land.

In 1716, the French established Fort Rosalie at present-day Natchez, Mississippi. This fort was the first European settlement near the Natchez Trace. The Natchez Indians lived near the fort in the Grand Village of the Natchez. By 1743, the French wiped out the Natchez. A settlement near Fort Rosalie took the tribe's name. Today, this town is called Natchez, Mississippi.

Natchez was an important town because it was located on the Mississippi River. First France ruled the town, then Spain, and then Britain. In 1783, the United States gained control after defeating Britain in the American Revolution. On April 7, 1798, the U.S. Congress established the Mississippi Territory, and Natchez became the territory's capital.

In August, 1798, Winthrop Sargent became the first governor of the Mississippi Territory. He was appointed by President John Adams. In 1801, Sargent asked the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes to allow the U.S. Army to build a road through their lands. This road linked Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France which doubled the size of the United States. This is known as the Louisiana Purchase. It also gave American traders the right to sail the Mississippi River for free. These two events (the road linking Natchez to Nashville and the Louisiana Purchase) contributed to the success of the Mississippi Territory.

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4. How long is the Natchez Trace (in miles or kilometers)?
450 miles or 724 kilometers. In the late 1700's, it took nearly a month to travel from Natchez to Nashville. The Natchez Trace was narrow and difficult to travel. People and animals had to walk in single file to avoid the swamps, creeks, and rivers.

Travelers had to face the elements when traveling the Natchez Trace. They endured rains, hurricanes, and floods.

Travelers also had to be aware of robbers. Some of the notorious villains were Joseph Thompson Hare, the Mason gang, and the Harpe Brothers. Hare dressed like American Indians so people would suspect the Choctaw and Chickasaw. Some people who survived the journey along the Natchez Trace called it "The Devil's Backbone."

Despite the dangers, people continued to travel the Natchez Trace. In some places, the pathway sunk up to 20 feet from the constant use.

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5. What year did the entire path become known as "The Natchez Trace?"
1826.
Between 1801 and 1809, General James Wilkinson was in charge of improving the road. He directed federal troops to cut trees and underbrush, widen the path, build bridges across creeks and rivers, and raise roadways through the swamps. In 1826, the entire path became known as "The Natchez Trace."

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6. True or False: The Natchez Trace was used as a postal route.
True. In 1800, people began to recognize the trail was an important communication link between the Northeast and the Southwest. It took longer for a letter to travel from Philadelphia to Natchez than it took for a letter to travel from Philadelphia to Europe. U.S. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and the Postmaster General proposed using the Natchez Trace as a postal route between the United States and its southwestern frontier.

In early 1800, Abijah Hunt carried the mail between Nashville and Natchez. In April, 1800, Congress designated the Natchez Trace a post road. John L. Swaney was one of the first post riders. It took him about one month to make the round trip. He delivered newspapers, personal letters, and government dispatches to the territorial governor. Swaney used "a deerskin pouch well treated with oil to prevent water from ruining its contents."

The postal schedule had one rider leave Nashville every second Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Another rider left Natchez at the same time. These riders met at Hoolky Creek (just south of present-day Tupelo, Mississippi). They exchanged mail and rested for one day. Then the riders returned to either Nashville or Natchez.

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7. Which of the following inventions decreased the importance of travel on the Natchez Trace in 1812?
a) Light Bulb; b) Steam Engine; c) Cotton Gin; d) Airplane

b) Steam Engine. In January, 1812, the steamboat New Orleans arrived in Natchez, Mississippi. More steamboats followed in the coming years.

Before the steam engine, it was difficult for people to travel upstream. With the steam engine, steamboats could travel north up the Mississippi River and northeast up the Ohio River. Travel on the rivers was now easier, faster, and safer. People could return to the northeast on the rivers rather than traveling the Natchez Trace.

Stretches of the original Natchez Trace disappeared. This happened partly because it was not used as often so trees, brush, and grass covered the route, and partly because people living along the trail built better roads.

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Depot: A place where people store or sell supplies

Dispatch: An important official government message

Ford: (noun) The place where a river or stream is crossed; (verb) to cross a river or stream

Port: A town that has a harbor for ships taking on or delivering cargo

Stand: A place where travelers could eat and rest

Territory: Part of the United States that is not yet admitted as a state

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. Name ONE of the other names for which the Natchez Trace is known.
"The Path to the Choctaw Nation," "The Choctaw-Chickasaw Trail," "The Chickasaw Trace," "The Natchez Road," and "The Nashville Road."

The name of the Natchez Trace has changed throughout the years. In the late 1700's, it was called "The Path to the Choctaw Nation," "The Choctaw-Chickasaw Trail," and "The Chickasaw Trace." In the early 1800's, it was called either "The Natchez Road" or "The Nashville Road" depending on which way the people were traveling.

In 1826, the entire path became known as "The Natchez Trace."

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b. Describe the importance of stands along the Natchez Trace.
Stands gave people a place to eat and rest. Between 1800 and 1820, more than twenty stands were built along the trail. Although the stands were mostly shacks, they gave people a place to eat and rest. Smaller stands served greasy food and provided soggy cots. Travelers preferred to stay in these stands rather than eating nothing and sleeping on the ground.

The best known stands were Doak's Stand, French Camp, Mount Locust, and Red Bluff. Doak's Stand later became a stagecoach stop. French Camp was opened by Frenchman Louis Le Fleur in 1810. Mount Locust and Red Bluff were large enough to be called inns. Today, Mount Locust is the only restored stand remaining along the Natchez Trace.

The stands were still a dangerous place because of robbers. Did you know travelers tried to protect themselves by burying their valuables before entering the stands or taking turns sleeping?

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c. What is the Natchez Trace Parkway?
It is a scenic highway from Natchez to Nashville. In the 1930's, the Natchez Trace was resurrected. This project was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's programs to create more jobs during the Great Depression. In 1934, the National Park Service began constructing the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is a 443-mile scenic highway from Natchez to Nashville. Advertising billboards, commercial vehicles, and business are not allowed along this parkway. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour.

The Natchez Trace Parkway has historical markers identifying historical sites. Near Hohenwald, Tennessee, a sign marks the grave of Meriwether Lewis. Lewis was one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1804 to 1806 which traveled from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. In 1809, Lewis died along the Natchez Trace while traveling to Washington, D.C.

Along the Natchez Trace Parkway people can visit Colbert Ferry, Tupelo, and Port Gibson. Colbert Ferry is located in Alabama. It is the location where George Colbert reportedly charged part of Andrew Jackson's Tennessee army $75,000 to transport them across the Tennessee River on the way to the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Tupelo is in Mississippi. It is the site of Civil War battle in 1864. Today, there is a Tupelo National Battlefield. Port Gibson is also located in Mississippi, and is a site of a Civil War battle. On May 1, 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant's Union army marched through Port Gibson, defeated the Confederate army, and continued to Vicksburg.

Visitors can also see Indian mounds along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Some of these mounds date back to prehistoric times. These sites include Bynum Mounds (southwest of Tupelo) and Emerald Mound (near Natchez). Emerald Mound covers eight acres and is one of the largest Indian mounds in the United States.

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d. Describe ONE of the following people or groups of people:
Hernando de Soto: In 1540, Hernando de Soto was the first European to walk the Natchez Trace. De Soto was a Spanish Explorer. He and his expedition crossed the Natchez Trace in present-day Mississippi, and they spent the winter of 1540-1541 near the trail. Did you know de Soto and his men eventually traveled through much of the present-day southeastern United States?

Father Jacques Marquette and Trapper Louis Joliet: In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and trapper Louis Joliet traveled down the Mississippi River and landed near the Natchez Trace. Marquette was a French Jesuit missionary and explorer, and Joliet was a French-Canadian explorer. Read about Marquette and Joliet in Papa Report #6.

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle: In 1682, he claimed the land along the Mississippi River for France. He thought France should build forts along the river to defend their land.

Winthrop Sargent: In August, 1798, he was the first governor of the Mississippi Territory. He was appointed by President John Adams.

John Adams: He was the second President of the United States. He served one term from 1797 to 1801. In August, 1798, he appointed Winthrop Sargent the first governor of the Mississippi Territory.

Thomas Jefferson: He was the third President of the United States. He served two terms from 1801 to 1809. In 1803, Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France which doubled the size of the United States. This is called the Louisiana Purchase.

Francis Baily: He and his party traveled the Natchez Trace from July 4 to July 31, 1797.

Louis Le Fleur: He was a Frenchman who opened a stand along the Natchez Trace in 1810. This stand was called French Camp.

Andrew Jackson: He traveled the Natchez Trace in 1791, and he urged the road to be improved. He was also the seventh President of the United States. He served two terms from 1829 to 1837.

Timothy Pickering: He was the U.S. Secretary of State from 1795 to 1800. He proposed the Natchez Trace be used as a postal route between the United States and its southwestern frontier. Pickering was the third Secretary of State. Did you know Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State?

General James Wilkinson: He directed federal troops to improve the Natchez Trace between 1801 and 1809.

John L. Swaney: He was one of the first post riders along the Natchez Trace in 1800. It took him about one month to make the round trip. He delivered newspapers, personal letters, and government dispatches to the territorial governor. Swaney used "a deerskin pouch well treated with oil to prevent water from ruining its contents."

Lorenzo Dow: He was a preacher who established a church in the Kingston settlement (near Natchez) in 1803.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: He was the thirty-second President of the United States. He was elected for four terms, and he served from 1933 to 1945. In the 1930's, Roosevelt started a project to construct the Natchez Trace Parkway.

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e. Describe the trip made be Francis Baily and his party in 1797.
Francis Baily and his party left Natchez on July 4, 1797. They traveled the Natchez Trace towards Nashville.

Thirty horses carried the party's supplies. The party brought food to last them for the intended three week trip. They killed an ox and dried the meat. They baked 25 pounds of hard biscuit. They packed 6 pounds of flour, 12 pounds of bacon, and 3 pounds of rice for each person. They also brought some coffee and sugar. Each person took a small bag of cornmeal. In case food ran out, they could survive on cornmeal mixed with water.

Baily and the party traveled 60 miles up "The Path to the Choctaw Nation." It was a long, uneventful walk. Then they came to Grindstone Ford (near present-day Port Gibson, Mississippi). Here, Natchez Trace became wild country, and the party encountered danger. They crossed creeks carrying their supplies while the horses swam. They could not see some sections of the trail. Fortunately for the party, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes gave them help.

The party had a daily routine. After packing the horses, they traveled to mid-day or until they found water. They unpacked the horses, and rested for two or three hours. They then repeated the routine.

It was difficult to find water along the Natchez Trace. The water they did find was dirty, and it often made people sick. The sick were left behind. When Baily reached the next Chickasaw village, he sent Chickasaw to help the sick travelers.

Around July 20, 1797, Baily and his group reached Bigtown, near present-day Tupelo, Mississippi. It was a Chickasaw village with several clusters of four or five huts. The Chickasaw grew corn, vegetables, apples, and peaches. It was tradition for the Chickasaw and the travelers to trade items.

After leaving Bigtown, the party crossed branches of the Tombigbee River, and they walked through poison ivy. It was called "poison vine." They continued walking with itchy, swollen legs.

Baily and his party had been walking three weeks when they came to the Tennessee River. It was one mile wide. They cut wood and built rafts. Cherokees helped the party across the river, and they shared a meal. The party hauled their supplies 20 feet up the steep river bank near present-day Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

At this point, the group was 125 miles from Nashville. They heard from a person on the trail that the Creek were on the warpath. To avoid detection by the Creek, the party whispered and did not build fires. They ate a spoonful of cornmeal a day because they had eaten all of their food.

A few days later, Baily and his party met two Chickasaws they had met earlier. The Chickasaws gave the travelers food. The party continued.

On July 31, 1797, the group reached Nashville. It had taken them twenty-seven days to make the trip from Natchez to Nashville. Baily wrote, "The sight of [Nashville] gave us great pleasure."

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f. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
The pioneers got their goods from a depot.

Postal riders carried important dispatches from Washington, D.C. to Natchez, Mississippi.

This is a good place to ford the river because it is narrow and shallow.

There are many port towns along the Mississippi River.

Weary travelers would spend the night and eat in stands along the Natchez Trace.

Mississippi was a territory before it became a state.

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g. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about The Natchez Trace:
Natchez Trace Parkway (NPS)
Natchez National Historical Park (NPS)
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (NPS)
Natchez Trace Parkway
Natchez Trace Compact

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