Natchez Trace

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Migration  Gotoarrow.png  Trails and Roads  Gotoarrow.png  Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace started as a footpath before 1742 to connect Nashville, Tennessee with Natchez, Mississippi. This sunken section is near Port Gibson, Mississippi.
Farmers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana could float their goods down the Mississippi River to market in New Orleans, and then return home on the Natchez Trace risking gangs of robbers.
The Natchez Trace, or "Old Natchez Trace" was a 450 mile (725 km) long trail connecting what were originally American Indian settlements on the Cumberland River (Nashville, Tennessee) and Tennessee River ("Wawmanona" Indian site near Florence, Alabama) with settlements near the Mississippi River (Natchez, Mississippi). In the 1796 the trace was extended 275 miles (440 km) from Nashville, Tennessee to Maysville, Kentucky where it connected with Zane's Trace which continued through Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia. This made it possible to go overland from the east coast to the Mississippi River. After the trace was upgraded to a road in 1801, the same could be done in a wagon for the first time.


Original trace south to north:

  • Natchez, Adams, Mississippi
  • Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi
  • Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi
  • Williamsville, Attala, Mississippi
  • Tupelo, Lee, Mississippi
  • Tishomingo, Tishomingo, Mississippi
  • Florence, Lauderdale, Alabama
  • Collinwood, Wayne, Tennessee
  • Duck River, Hickman, Tennessee
  • Leipers Fork, Williamson, Tennessee
  • Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee

1796 extension:

  • Tompkinsville, Monroe, Kentucky
  • Harrodsburg, Mercer, Kentucky
  • Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky
  • Maysville, Mason, Kentucky

Historical Background

The "trace" was first created by animals like bison to reach salt licks in the Nashville area, and their grazing areas near the Mississippi River. American Indians, developed the trace further for trading mostly, and also as a warpath. An unknown Frenchman was the first European to write about traveling the full Natchez Trace in 1742.[1] But earlier Europeans such as Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto may have come across parts of the trace in 1540 while being guided by Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The trace followed a natural ridge and, at first, was only a narrow footpath or horse trail unsuitable for wagons because of trees.

In 1801 the United States signed a treaty with the Choctaw Indians allowing construction of a mail road by the side the the old footpath.

Midwestern farmers often floated their goods down the Mississippi River to market in New Orleans. One of the ways they could return to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, or Indiana was by way of the Natchez Trace. However, because their pockets were loaded with money they were frequently preyed upon by gangs of robbers along the trail.

Meriwether Lewis, Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, and a leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was traveling on the Natchez Trace in 1809 when he died near Grinder's Stand, Tennessee.[2] During the War of 1812 the ferryman at the Tennessee River, George Colbert, charged Andrew Jackson $75,000 to ferry his army across the river.[3]

Settlers and Records

There is no known list of settlers who travelled the Natchez Trace. However, some of the early residents of Tennessee may have used the Natchez Trace to reach their destination, as well as several other routes like the Great Valley Road, Wilderness Road, Avery's Trace, or Georgia Road. For early Tennessee settlers see:

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Natchez Trace

Internet Sites


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Natchez Trace," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 24 July 2010).
  2. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, "Natchez Trace Parkway" in at (accessed 1 August 2010).
  3. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, "Photos & Multimedia" in at (accessed 1 August 2010).