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French - first successful European colonizers in Alabama


Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne
Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne

The first successful European colonizers in Alabama were the French. In 1682 they claimed the huge land they called Louisiane (in English, Louisiana), which extended from the Gulf Coast to Canada and included Alabama. The first French settlements were fortified trading posts. The first one in Alabama was Fort Louis de la Louisiane, commonly called La Mobile, built in 1702 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, on the Mobile River at Twenty-Seven Mile Bluff. This fort was the seat of French government for Louisiana until 1711, when Bienville moved the colony downriver to the site of present-day Mobile.

Called Fort Condé, this settlement was the capital until 1719, when the seat of government was moved into present-day Mississippi. Meanwhile, settlers arrived from France and Canada. Black slaves were introduced to clear the fields after 1719. Through their hard labor, large areas of land were cleared to raise food for the soldiers and settlers as they searched for products that could be sold to support the colony.

French traders moved inland, building Fort Toulouse (1717) at the meeting of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers and Fort de Tombecbé (1736) on the Tombigbee River. Traders from Great Britain, who were rivals of the French and disputed the boundary of Louisiana, arrived in Alabama from South Carolina and later from their new colony, Georgia. The British built Fort Okfuskee on the upper Tallapoosa. French influence waned as the Native Americans learned that British traders offered better products than the French and demanded fewer deerskins in exchange.

Shifting Boundaries


Great Britain and France fought a series of wars in the 18th century that climaxed with the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Great Britain was the decisive winner and concluded a peace treaty that removed the French from the North American continent. Mobile was incorporated into West Florida, a colony that Spain ceded to Great Britain in 1763. All of Alabama north of West Florida became part of the Lands Reserved for the Indians, administered by a British superintendent for Native American affairs. White settlement in this reservation without the permission of the Native Americans was forbidden by the king’s order. British colonists who lived on the frontier resented the ban on settlement. They felt this was an arbitrary infringement on the original colonial grants, most of which had vague or unlimited western boundaries.

During the American Revolution (1775-1783), the Cherokee and Creek supported the British against the Americans. The Spanish, who supported the Americans, captured Mobile in 1780 over British and Native American resistance.

At the end of the revolution, West Florida was returned to Spain and interior Alabama was turned over to the United States. Georgia claimed most of Alabama as part of its original grant. Settlers from Georgia encroached on the lands of the Native Americans, who sought Spain’s help to keep them out. Spain, however, was reluctant to support them against the growing power of the United States.

MFor several years the United States and Spain disputed the southern boundary of the United States. Finally, in 1795, the two countries agreed on a boundary at latitude 31° North. That line still forms most of the border between Alabama and Florida. Three years later, the Congress of the United States created Mississippi Territory, comprising most of present-day Mississippi and Alabama. The Mobile area remained Spanish until U.S. General James Wilkinson captured it in 1813. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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